Wednesday, October 28, 2009

what's in you wednesday

"Carolyn! Elizabeth! Where are your shoes?!" I asked my daughters this past Sunday morning, as we (or rather *I*) rushed to get out of the house before the boys woke up.

"I dunno..." came the reply.

I frustratedly began looking under couches, beds and chairs for my children's shoes. Shoes that they had on the night before. Shoes that I asked them to put away before they went to bed. Shoes that are brand spanking SPANKING new.

Twenty minutes later, I found two right shoes.

As of this writing, both lefts are still missing in action.

So I had to dig up new shoes and load everyone in the car before swinging by my neighbor's house to pick her up. While Charlie and the boys stayed home, the five of us were planning to attend the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) 1/2 Ironman triathlon that was being held in La Jolla. We were going not only because I thought this would be a wonderful spectator event for our children to see, but also to support my neighbor's friend who was riding 56 miles on a tandem bicycle, with a 15-year old boy who is blind.


I've seen information on the CAF before. I know that it is a group that helps to encourage and support athletes who have physical disabilities. But what I didn't expect when I arrived at the race course, is that I would spend the next several hours in absolute awe.


I hear people all the time, who say they can't do things.

They can't do things because they've got a bad knee, back, shoulder ... thumb.

For any one who considers a physical impairment a good reason not to do something, take a look at the little boy on the right. His name is Cody. He's eight-years-old and a bilateral amputee. When we arrived on the race course, he was just crossing the finish line.


This is Cameron. He's also eight-years-old and a bilateral amputee. When we went for a walk on the slick sandstone rocks down by the water, he was running around on his prosthetic legs, after having completed his first race.


This is Rudy, a gold medalist in the Paralympics. He's also a bilateral amputee and an Ironman triathlete. If you're unfamiliar with the Ironman, it's a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride followed by a 26.2-mile run. Rudy's face was not only plastered all over the banners at this big event, last night I happened to notice that he was featured in this month's edition of Triathlete magazine.


So while I walked around this event on Sunday ... while I watched people with prosthetic legs run across the finish line, and swimmers without limbs - brave their way through the ocean waves - and blind people riding tandem on a bicycle ... tears flowed out of my eyes and down my cheeks. And not because I was feeling sad or sorry.


But because WOW. WOW. WOW.


Who EXACTLY is the challenged one?


Cameron's mom told me that she had met Cody's family after Cody had been on the Ellen Degeneres show (and Oprah and Dateline). And through Cody, Cameron became involved with the CAF. Once that happened, Cameron's whole outlook and demeanor has changed. He was outfitted with new prosthetic 'running legs' and almost instantly, gained so much more courage and self confidence. His mother credits his incredible transformation, to his involvement with sports and interfacing with people who have similar disabilities.

It wasn't very long ago, people who had physical disabilities would be severely limited in what they could do. But to see these people participate and inspire one another and excel ... and to see the superstar status that so many of them have achieved for their sports?

It's beyond awesome.


I took the girls up to the jump house and while they waited their turn, a little boy - who was also a bilateral amputee - had taken off his prosthetic legs and was scooting around on the ground, using his strong arms to lift and propel himself through the air.

My children were quite a bit scared. They didn't know what to think. His legs were over ... there ... and he is over ... here ... and he's moving around so fast and ... getting very close to them ... a little too close ... and ... MOMMY!!

Before they started screaming (too loudly) I pulled them in to a big hug and squatting down to their eye level, told them that people come in all shapes and sizes. They weren't entirely convinced, so I asked them, why is it that they have brown hair and William has blond hair? When they told me, "God made us that way!" I explained that God made these people different, too. And while it might seem unusual to us - it's just because it's new and the more we spend time with people who are different - the more we will see that we really aren't that much different at all.


So the girls made another new friend. And then another, and another and another as they stood waiting for their turn on the mechanical surfboard. While I was waiting for Elizabeth to get launched off, a 10-year old boy who had been standing, on one leg, directly behind us in line was called by his mother. She bolted up to us yelling, "Michael! Michael! We need to go! Your teammates are coming across the finish line and we need to get over there and cheer for them! Come on!"


Since he had been patiently waiting and was next up, it was obvious that Michael was pained at the thought of losing his place in line and at that very moment, was more interested in taking one last ride on the mechanical surfboard than seeing his friends cross the finish line. So he stalled for a moment, undoubtedly debating if it was worth asking his mother if he could go one more time.

"Come on!" she yelled over her shoulder as she turned to walk away. But then she stopped and turned back to look at her son with an expression of panic. "Michael," she asked. "Where's your leg? Oh my Lord. MICHAEL! Where's your LEG?!"

The boy didn't answer and instead, looked longingly at the mechanical surfboard. Grabbing at her son's arm she repeated, "Michael. Look at me. Look at me. WHERE IS YOUR LEG?"

Michael shrugged his shoulders and said, "I dunno. I took it off to play. I put it somewhere."

As the mother lifted her arms up in to the air for what looked like a request for prompt heavenly guidance, the people standing in line all began looking around for the young boy's prosthetic limb and a few actually mobilized, searching for this child's leg. After a few tense minutes, it was found resting against a nearby tree.

When the mother ran over to grab her son's leg, I said to my bug-eyed girls, "Just think, I was mad at you because you lost your shoes."


So what is your impairment to getting out and doing something active?

As for me, it would have to be the 12-hour work days I've been putting in for the past few weeks. But hopefully, I'll be able to get back in to a good exercise routine, soon. Not only do I have a 60-mile walk coming up in a few weeks, but two weeks after my walk, I registered to compete in the Muddy Buddy race, which will benefit the CAF.

I can't believe how much I have going on right now and I'm a little stunned to think that I'd sign up for another race in the midst of it all. I truly think I might have lost my mind somewhere.

Chances are, it's with my daughters two left shoes.


  1. I truly feel inspired. Thank you for sharing all of your adventures.

  2. Your posts are always so inspiring and thought-provoking. What a great event to bring your girls to, and I love how you explain things to them. This is going to stay in my mind for quite a while : ) Thank you!!

  3. WOW! And now I am totally ashamed because I am guilty of both procastination and lazyness AND not exposing my children to "different" children enough.
    I was crying when while reading your post but not (only) because I was sad for the children but I was SO SO PROUD of them. And their parents. Because it is the parents who gave them wings of courage and just look at them soar! Well done!

  4. THANK you for helping me snap out of my morning funk. Silly me...


  5. You are trully an inspiration to me. I am a stay at home mom with a 2 and half years old. I would love to get more active and involved because of your posts. No even sure how and where to start. We live in NJ.

  6. I have done the shoe search about a million times. Thank you so much for the leg search story. Sheesh! Kids!

  7. WOW is right. What amazing children and what an inspiration. Very, very inspiring!

  8. What a great post.

    I've gone to the CAF event many times. A couple of years ago I did the 13-mile run portion with a team. Up up up Torrey Pines Road. OMG.

    It is a truly inspiration event.

    Thank you for sharing this. Your post is a wonderful way for other people to get a look at these incredible stories.

  9. No impairment. I am just LAZY. Yikes.


  10. Very inspiring post! Love your blog:)

  11. Wow. That's amazing.

    You'll have a great time doing the mud run. I did it here with 4 of my girlfriends. Did you see the pictures? We definately had a great time - but beware you'll find mud in places you never knew existed!!

    It took me about 3 hours to get sorta cleaned and several weeks to get really cleaned! Mud was falling off for days each time I got in/out of the shower.

    If you can't make it to the one in San Diego - the one in Greenville is the first weekend in May! Okay. Sure. I'll sign you up for it today!! ;-)

    Love, Marg.

  12. There is no way I could go to that. I would be doing the UGLY cry all over the place. For the same reason as you of course. The only thing "sad" about it is I have a "typical" body and do nothing with it!

    Love the leg story, I will have to remember that one:)
    You live a very exciting life thanks for sharing it!

  13. I agree with you....everyone should experience a CAF race. It is one of the most amazing things EVER!

    My husband did it YEARS ago and we met Rudy; I think he was 8 or 10yrs. old. lol! I thought he was amazing back then teamed up with Robin Williams but HOLY COW look at him now. GO RUDY!

    I'm doing a New Years Day 5K in Arizona with my friend Sandee. That's my first step :)

  14. I loved this post. It is inspiring and I laughed out loud at the story about the boy and his leg. Boys will be boys no matter what. What a blessing his mother is.

  15. The shoe/leg comparison is pretty hilarious, but I have to say - if I was some amputee kid, running my race, and some random stranger was standing on the sidelines bawling her eyes out about what an "inspiration" I was ... I think my reaction would be closer to "damn, just trying to run here" than "oh, yes, my life is here to be inspiring to others - keep staring!" No-one else seems offended, but I'm just saying - I could definitely see how someone would be?
    (I haven't commented in months so I feel like a total loser being all "you know, this is maybe troublesome". I DO enjoy reading :D)

  16. I think my father would give this one 3 WOWS!!!

    WOW! WOW! WOW!

    Now that is amazing!!! No more excuses, no more complaints.


    WOW! WOW! WOW!

    So? Did you ever find the shoes?

  17. Annie - I wasn't "bawling".

    I'm pretty certain no one was offended by me (or the other awe-inspired 'undisabled' spectators) watching these athletes compete. If I'm painting a picture of me sobbing on the sidelines, I obviously painted the picture quite poorly.

    It wasn't a sob fest, there were tears of amazement - when I first arrived. Kind of like the tears of amazement I had watching the Red Sox come back from a three game deficit and win the ALCS in 2004.

    There's a HUGE difference.

    Lisa - nope, shoes are still MIA.

  18. Het, I was in boston at some irish bar for the 2004 comeback! From whay I actually remember, It was really fun!!!

    These kids are amazing! I so don't feel sorry for myself anymore...not that I did really, but I won't even allow myself to try to feel sorry for myself!

    Yay...thanks for the post!

  19. Just saw your comment on my sisters blog. I didn't realize how long it had been. It's time to come home Jen.

    Please Come Home. Love, Marg ;-)