Refuse to Contribute Story 5: Wilma Rudolph

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Wilma and her parents.

She was a premie baby, born lighter than a 5-pound bag of potatoes. It wasn’t for another 30-years or so before premature babies began receiving specialized care – in 1940, such babies were not expected to survive. But Wilma Rudolph did.

By the time she was 4, she had pneumonia, scarlett fever, and polio. Her parents were told she’d never walk again. Treatment options for poor, black kids in Tennessee were limited, and yet by the time she was in high school, she was a basketball and track star. By 1956, she was an Olympic Bronze Medalist.  Entering college in 1958, she was a single mom, and a second time Olympic aspirant. In the 1960 Olympics, and a sophomore in college, she won 3-more medals – all gold – and became known as the fastest woman on earth.

After retiring from competition, she began a career of teaching and coaching – protesting segregation, teaching grade school and coaching track. She was mother to four children and by 1992 she had become an executive in healthcare.  In 1994, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away within 4 months.

She wore braces until she was 8. Her parents were manual laborers without much money, yet they supported each other. And that’s the true story of this refuse to contribute story: family. Wilma became an amazing athlete through sheer determination, and lived an amazing life.  Her family supported her through premature birth, disease, educated her and gave her the supports necessary for a black, single teen mom to go to college in the 1960s.  With so much stacked against her at the time, her family made sure she had the opportunity to thrive. When Wilma was a child, her mom would take her twice weekly – a round trip of 100 miles – for treatment for her legs. Her mom taught her siblings the massage therapy for her legs, and for 5 years she received these 4 times daily. It was her will that drove her to succeed, but it was the foundational supports of her family that put her in position to succeed.

To be sure, Wilma was an inspirational person and amazing athlete – people with more supports and greater hands up do not accomplish what she did, but it’s also clear to me that she would not have had the ability to be the true expression of her ability had she not have the love and caring of her family. One can only imagine what she could have achieved had she had the resources available to her more affluent peers.

Wilma’s story should be an inspiration for everyone pushing their boundaries, and her family should be an inspiration for everyone. There’s no telling where the love you show your family will go. There’s no telling where your achievements will reach.

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2018 Race Recap #22: Boston Spartan Sprint (Open)

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Team Mo, rocking the bling at the finish.

Early this week, my daughter texted me and told me that her plans for today had changed and was wondering if there was a race we could do. As it turns out, there was.  Of course, I was already registered for the Sprint and was kind of hoping to rip it up, but I would run with her.  And then it occurred to me that I didn’t have to make a choice.  Since my debacle with the second Beast a couple of weeks back, I really can’t see my way through to getting another one on the calendar (who knows), so my hope of earning a double trifecta this year has been pretty much shot. So since I had a code for a Sprint I decided to just run a second lap: two laps in the same day only count toward the Trifecta once. Groupon had an afternoon entry AND a discount code, so we were able to pick up a couple of late entries for about $60 each – so I got to run with both.

Also of note, since Spartan considers a second lap of the course a separate race – different bib numbers, second full registration fee, second insurance fee, second shirt, medal – I consider it a second race too. A race like FIT Challenge considers multi-laps an add-on so I consider that the same race. That’s the difference between an entity overly focused on profit margin (and not wholly well run either as illustrated below) and a labor of love that’s actually profitable and well regarded (and well run).

As soon as the first race of the day was finished – it began to rain.  And hard too.  So I took up shelter at the facility’s shooting range and waited for the kids to get there.  Which is another story, and since this is my blog, I’ll happily digress and tell you that story.

On Thursday of this week, Spartan announced it was changing up the usual practice of $10 parking and instead would make parking free and charge $5 per person to ride the shuttle.  After the backlash on social media about this – that it was contradictory to the idea of carpooling, and/or that folks would simply drop off at the facility and then park – it became clear that it wasn’t going to work out quite the way the race anticipated and on Friday they announced a clarification that what they really meant was that it would be $5 per person to ride the shuttle, with a max of $10 per car. Now all well and good for me – because the kids were showing up later and were riding in together, it was $15 instead of $20.

These guys CRUSHED it, and I’m happy they let me tag along.

However, by the time they arrived for our 12:15 heat, the lot was full and they were now redirected to a secondary lot at a college in the next town over – 15 or 20 minutes away.  Now, there was no mention of this lot on the web site and I’m quite sure I received no email about it.  So the kids find the new place, and wait.  And wait. And wait. Because apparently no one told the shuttle drivers to go there…or how to get there.  5 arrived at once, then another that they got on.  Where they would have been 45 minutes early, they now arrived late.  Inexcusable logistics problems by a company that runs races all year across the country AND, let’s not forget this was not the first time they’d run this specific race in this venue.

Remember, it’s now been about 2.5 hours since my first race ended. I’ve been steadily rained on for two hours, muscles cooling off, and pretty sure my body had gone into full recovery mode – even if I’d only run 5-odd miles, it was longer than it had taken me to run the first race.

The rain made the already muddy course ridiculously sloppy – more than a few of the obstacles were almost impassable, Olympus was exponentially more difficult than it was in the morning; the slip wall was true to its name.  The Sandbag Carry and the Herc Hoist were made more difficult with the water having penetrated the bags.  I used the very same station at the Herc Hoist that I had used in the morning and while it’s safe to say fatigue played a part, I’m quite sure it was also much heavier after sitting in the rain.  The bucket carry was more difficult due to the course itself – thicker, sloppier mud made slipping quite the hazard.

All of which said, it was awesome to run with these guys. “Team Mo” was an experience I wouldn’t give back at all. Watching them help each other and support each other. Not a thing better than that.  On this time around the course, I came up with 5.63 miles and 1375′ of elevation gain.

Results (Open)

1:59:51

OVERALL: 1363/ 4655
MALE: 1028/ 2692
M 45-49: 107/ 272

Favorite Facebook Statuses: The Boy

My son and I have a pretty good relationship. He says and does goofy things – more than you might expect – and when I came across an old status update on Facebook’s “on this day” feature, I decided to go back and find my favorite updates springing from my relationship with him.

This is a pretty good selection of them; I know there are some that aren’t there, I just can’t put my hands on them, but will add them if/when I come across them again.

These aren’t in any specific order, more often than not they just happen to be the order in which they showed up in my search.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did re-living the experiences behind them.

March 27, 2014

The boy lost a tooth tonight. So for our evening story, I felt duty bound to tell him about the “Tooth Ogre” who uses kids’ teeth as a pretext for the opportunity to be invited into their rooms so she can drool on them.

 

March 4, 2015

As he was going to bed, I told him I love him. He then says, “ever since I could understand words, all I’ve heard you say is that you’re going to love me always no matter what.” I consider that a win.

July 23, 2017

Please stop telling the boy that hes my mini-me. It’s preventing me from calling him “Stinky” and “Clown faced dog.” Thank you.

October 1, 2011

The latest bed-time avoidance questions: “Are bunnies enemies of penguins?” and “how long can you let a fan run for 50-days without turning it off?”

July 14, 2010

The Boy said he was supposed to have a date with his girlfriend Melanie today, but she is 16 and decided to go on vacation today. He says she’s a good kisser.

May 27, 2015 ·

The Boy: “You know that awkward moment when you see a pretty girl sitting by herself and you ask her if she wants to sit with you and stuff and she says ‘No, I’m sitting with somebody…’?”

December 22, 2017

The boy is making his lunch with one hand, and holding his phone in the other watching YouTube videos.

“Why don’t you out your phone down and pay attention to what you’re doing?”

Puts phone down face up on the counter and keeps watching videos.

May 4, 2012

Me: “So how come you don’t like her? She likes you.”

The Boy: “She’s mature…and I’m not.”

Me: “So, that’s a problem for you?”

The Boy: “Yeah, I don’t like mature people.”

 

June 1, 2015

He just showed me his persuasive writing paper and I’m now absolutely convinced that robot teachers are bad teachers. I didn’t even know there was a controversy.

 

May 27, 2014

Tonight’s bedtime story was about the boy and me hitchhiking on the moon, en route to the dark side to see if there were aliens on that side. We got picked up by one of those aliens, and he didn’t want to let us out. So the boy distracted him by playing Scrabble while I took over the ship and flew it home. Of course, the only Scrabble board was in the alien’s language and he got all flustered when the boy was making up nonsense words, so when we landed on Earth, the alien simply stormed off. All of which the boy seemed to enjoy, but I lost all credibility when I suggested that I think the alien works at Wal-Mart now. He found everything else believable except that.

 

November 28, 2012

My favorite quote from his letter to Santa – here’s the boy stating his case: “My room is kind of messy, but I clean it sometimes…like last month.

February 26, 2015

The boys words of wisdom while avoiding bedtime:

“What if the toothfairy has a pawn shop?”

“I had to do an opinion paper – I wrote ‘Robot Teachers are bad’”

“Think about a fancy girl wearing a jewel encrusted hat…her head would keep falling down…”

“I had to look up how to spell ‘ironic’ in one of those books with the list of words…”

October 11, 2014

Out of nowhere, he says “I like talking to you, Dad” Me, thinking I’m #doingitright: “Thank you, boy. You know you can tell me anything, right?” The Boy:”Yeah, When we talk I learn all kinds of dumb things…”

May 2, 2015

The Boy: “I’ve got Thor’s bat!”

“But Thor had a hammer”

The Boy “Not when he played baseball…”

 

July 2, 2017

So here’s the latest letter home from camp from the boy:

“I am awesome.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I found expired glue. I got my memory foam pillow and it is good. I went to do riflery. I’m not dead and I’m happy. ”

 

June 1, 2015

“You should play this game. You can get married, get a dream home, and have kids.”

I already got married, have a dream home and have kids…

“Yeah, but this is fun…”

October 11, 2015

“If we get snatched by a ton of bats, I’m blaming it on you.”

No automatic alt text available.

 

December 21, 2015

Scene: At the bus stop

Me: Hey man, how do you put your jacket on inside-out?

The Boy: Same way I put sweatpants on backwards two days in a row. I was in Social Studies and realized I had a pocket in front.

August 12, 2014

The Boy: “This place is really organized”

Me: “Honey, this is a bathroom.”

 

May 21, 2017

The Boy: “You’re bleeding.”

Me: “I know. How manly is that?” He asks, hoping to impress the boy.

B: “How’d that happen?” Questioning further

M: “I stuck my finger on a thorn”

B: “Not very.”

 

October 2, 2011

We’re watching Spongebob, and the boy blurts out, “Yeah, that’s what she said…”

December 31, 2014

Picked up my first pair of glasses today. The boy tells me, “You kind of look like Papa [my Dad] in those.” He had no idea how big a compliment that was to me.

April 20, 2012

“how do you spell ‘Goober Doober’?”. G-o-o-b-e-r d-o-o-b-e-r. “Nice, I DO know how to spell make believe words.”

April 19, 2018

On our way home tonight, the boy says, “I saw this great quote: ‘There are only two days in your life that matter – the day you’re born and the day you realize why.’ I know that I’ve had them both already.”
Suitably impressed, I say “Really. So what have you realized about why you were born?” To which he said, “I dunno.”

April 27, 2014

 More words of wisdom from the boy: “I think the zombies had a pretty good life before the plants showed up.”
May 8, 2009

I told the boy that he needed to learn to poop on the potty. He looked at me and said, “relax.” Oh man…

The Good You Wish To See

It began with a Facebook post and a text message.

A woman had taken to filling backpacks with daily essentials and would leave them in her car.  When she happened upon someone in need panhandling or sleeping on the street, she would give them a backpack.  There may be a blanket, perhaps some lip balm, whatever.  Just something to let the other person know that someone was thinking of them and wanted to help.

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Rich O’Connell of the O’Connell Valor Fund, Keith Howard Executive Director of Liberty House, and the Mo’s.

My daughter thought this was a good idea, and wondered about ways to do this in bulk.  She took the time to build a shopping list: doing research to find where she could get certain items she could distribute and for how much for how many.  After compiling her list and deciding she had a workable idea, the text came.  She wanted to demonstrate good citizenship to her younger brother and to make a difference in the world.

How to do this? The list she had put together, a relatively bargain priced list at that, still priced the project at about $25 per backpack (including the pack) or about $600.  Then the issue of distribution: how to distribute the packs?  After all, it’s not the safest thing in the world to approach random people on the street and offer things.

This is where some things clicked together.  The O’Connell Valor Fund – one of the subjects of the Morrisseyweb 28 Days of Inspiration – has a ready made network of entities seeking just this kind of support for needy and homeless veterans.  By leveraging the OVF network, we would have a prescreened means by which we could distribute the packs, meaning no potentially unsafe encounters, and a disadvantaged group to support: the Veterans community.

According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (or HUD)  estimates 39,471 veterans are homeless on any given night and the Veterans Administration estimates veterans comprise about 11% of the homeless population.  Their top priority for homeless vets?  Secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.

16431588_1481156662-2162Concurrent with the coordination work with the OVF, we began a fundraising campaign to raise money to help offset the cost of building these backpacks: it was clear that the price tag was going to be a little more than we could pull off in short order.  Before the fundraiser was 8 hours old, we had raised enough to know that we could pull this off and began ordering the packs and buying supplies.

On November 30 the idea was hatched.  On December 1 the connection to the OVF had been set in motion to identify the appropriate place(s) to deliver the packs and the fundraising page had gone up, by December 6 most of the supplies had been purchased and the packs had arrived and on the evening of December 9, we set about packing the 24 packs with goods. And on December 10, we arrived at the Liberty House door to deliver them.

We had raised far more than our initial goal, and that allowed us some flexibility with the contents.  To our original list, we added higher quality blankets (this was the big plus!), wash cloths, candy, tooth brush holders, handwritten notes and made 4-female bags with feminine hygiene products: Women comprise 11% of the homeless veteran population, although oftentimes their particular needs go overlooked.

Chic 2 Chic Consignments of Foxborough, MA donated brand new hats, gloves and scarves to each backpack.

The average value of each pack grew from an estimated $25 each, to easily more than $50 with our additional supplies and Chic 2 Chic’s generous donations.

The OVF referred our donation to a small Veterans organization called Liberty House, of Manchester NH. They do terrific work with the homeless Veteran population of Manchester, but more than that they work with the community at large.  What’s more is that they do this in the context of drug and alcohol free housing – just what the Coalition of Homeless Veterans says is the top concern.  They have refused federal funding – and the requisite regulations – because doing so would compromise their mission and purpose: they would have been required to allow drug and alcohol use if a resident came in using.

In the time we were there, several homeless folks came to their door – knowing that if it can be avoided, no one gets turned away.  This was exactly the partner we were looking for – we didn’t want to turn anyone away.  And these packs were exactly what was needed: they can’t give everyone a place to stay, but they can try to help everyone.  There wasn’t anything in our packs that they program didn’t already have – we had perhaps nicer and new supplies, maybe, but the program had toothbrushes, and toothpaste, and spare clothes. What they didn’t have was the packs, already made, that they could offer to others in need.

In addition, we were able to write a $300 check to the O’Connell Valor Fund to help financially support other Veterans in need – not everyone in need is homeless, and not everyone needs a backpack of supplies.

We took some time with Keith Howard, the Executive Director of Liberty House when we dropped off the packs.  He was genuinely touched that these two kids had conceived and built the program themselves.  “How did you come up with this idea,” he asked.  “I saw a post on Facebook” came the answer.  Keith was not satisfied, “How many others saw that post and while they thought it was interesting did nothing?”  In that moment of having her modesty rebuffed, it became clear just how important this project was.  They did something where others did not, and in so doing they affected the change they wanted to see in the world, AND encouraged others to do so as well.

It warms my heart, this holiday season, to know my kids have been raised to be good, caring people.  It warms my heart that so many people thought enough of their idea to help fund it – it never would have become as awesome as quickly without the support from our community.  It warms my heart that people I’ve known better than 30 years thought enough of the idea to join the effort to see it to fruition.  And more than anything it warms my heart that there are 24 people who are likely to be in much better shape than they may have been otherwise.  In short, the world is just a little better because of my kids.

MORE INFORMATION:

For Information on the O’Connell Valor Fund: https://twitter.com/ocvalor
For Information on Liberty House: http://libertyhousenh.org/
Visit Chic-2-Chic on the web at http://www.chic2chic.com/

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 28

Over the last 28 days, I’ve explored 27 different stories, themes, principles and acts I find inspirational.  These things, people, ideas help me want to be a better me.  I would love to report to you, dear reader, that I always succeed in that endeavor, but alas I do not.  Nor, I think, do most people.  There is ALWAYS room to grow and change and be better.  This isn’t an exercise for the young, it’s an exercise for the living.

I’ve endeavored to take what I found to be a Presidential election race devoid of inspiration, and to find some for myself with the hope that by sharing these pieces of daily inspiration I could help influence someone, anyone to grow and change and be better no matter to what degree.  It’s been a remarkably fulfilling journey for me: I’ve spent the last month literally working to see the good in situations, seeking out stories I could discuss, culling life lessons from less than ideal situations.  It forces a shift in perspective.  I’ve learned that there really is plenty of good out there, an amazing amount of inspiration in the every day if only you look and WANT to see it.

Thus, for my last entry in this series, I want to share with you what I consider to be one of the most selfless, life affirming and loving things anyone can do for another person.

Families By Choice: The DiBonas, Servellos, Sheilds’, Shapiros

On Day 12, I shared the idea of Foster Parenting as a support and a hand up for kids who may not have another shot. Kids so disadvantaged they have no idea where they’re going to sleep otherwise, where they’re going to go to school, where they have someone who legitimately cares for them.  It’s a caring and often thankless avocation.

On Day 28, though, I want to share with you the people who take another person into their lives, and make them their own.  Adopting a child, taking another person into your life and home, and binding them to you as a member of your family has to be one of the most amazing, loving things a family can do for another human being.

The adoption journey is a different one for every family that goes through it.  I’m fortunate to have close friends and people I’ve known since I was a child – maybe even grew up together – who have taken this step.  They’re all inspirational people with inspirational stories, so much so I couldn’t just focus on one and felt singling each out on their own day would miss the mark.  They’re inspirational stories not only because they share the ultimate goal of accepting someone into their family, but because they all had to accept their futures weren’t necessarily theirs to decide – they were at the whim of the fates to which they submitted themselves.

Michael and Julie DiBona shared with me that while having a family was something they always wanted – indeed ever since she was a little girl Julie wanted to adopt a child – time just kind of got away from them.  We’ve shared some challenges together, and we’ve shared positives together – that’s kind of what friendship is, I guess – so when they asked me to write a reference letter for their adoption effort, I was humbled that I was chosen to help them in completing their family; even more humbled when I could help notarize their documents at some weird hour as they were preparing their trip across country.

Outside of a couple of minor false alarms, it was a matter of waiting for them.  Then on one random day, a call came.  There was a birth mother that had chosen them…but they had to decide more or less now.  Within 24 hours they had started their plans in motion – kitty care, airline tickets, everything – and were en route to Texas.  With so much that could conceivably go wrong, everything went right.

The birth mom of their beautiful little girl had them in the delivery room, had them cut the umbilical cord, they were the first to hold her.  They had planned for this moment, organized their lives around this moment, and after a frenzied 12-hour dash to the finish line, their story book was ready.

Compare Debbie and Sean Shields’ story.  They tried to build their family through egg donation and through three attempts, and they made the decision to adopt. Their adoption journey was no less harrowing.  They had their share of failed matches when they got the call, much like Michael and Julie, that they should go to California.

Its there, though, that their stories diverge.  After welcoming and accepting this newborn into their lives, the birth mother changed her mind.  The story is unknown as to how that will work out for that family, one hopes it was ultimately the right decision, although one can only think about the family they know and can only feel the empathy and pain they must have felt on that lonely flight home.

Upon reflection, they came to the decision that upon the expiration of their home study, they would not seek to renew their application.  Yet, fate intervened.  An email the day after they had decided they would no longer hold out hope of a midnight phone call, informed them there had been a baby boy born a day prior and they could be under consideration. Perhaps a bit defeated from previous experience, and some delay between the two of them, they learned from the agency that their profile had been submitted even without their having decided – and the mom had chosen them.

After having come so close an entire continent away, their baby awaited them two hours away on the other side of the state – one of the small north east states.  The birth parents signed the paperwork 72 hours after the baby boy was born – mom had discharged herself from the hospital by the time they arrived. To have Debbie tell it, they had gone to work on Wednesday a couple and on Monday they were a family of 3.

Unlike the surprise call Michael and Julie received, or the heart-wrenching false alarms Debbie and Sean had to experience before their families were complete, Chrissy Shapiro already had a son when she and her husband David married and began their journey to grow their family.  After several miscarriages, and IVF, they welcomed their daughter to their family.  After some consideration, though, it became apparent that their daughter’s life would be enriched by having a sibling closer in age.  David, having been adopted himself, suggested that as an option to further their already blended family.  They chose to adopt internationally and their initial excitement quickly evolved to confusion, sadness and guilt.

Beyond the considerations of choosing a world of children looking for a family, they had more than a few stumbling blocks: In India, they couldn’t adopt because they were both previously divorced; in Columbia we couldn’t adopt because David was 40 .  They were finally left with Ethiopia and Guatamala. At that time, there was concern with children being abducted and put up for adoption in Guatamala, so Ethiopia was the choice by default, but perhaps that was because there was a child for them that needed them more than anyone else in this world.

11-months after their agency meeting, they were matched with a one month old male who was abandoned and wrapped in a yellow and black blanket under a bush. Today their son thrives in their suburban community – consider what life may have had to offer him as an abandoned baby half a world away.

Diana and Sergio Servello had similar but not the same journey; theirs was built on faith.  Before they were married they talked about adopting children – Diana herself was adopted.  They had 3 biological children when they decided the time was right to adopt.  Our other families were seeking babies, infants to join their families.  Diana and Sergio were looking for an older child – specifically they did not want a 2-year old in diapers because their youngest was 12, so they were looking for someone 5-8.  They were rewarded with their two year old in diapers.  Diana tells her family’s story through the lens of faith in God, the God that has given her and Sergio 7 children – biological and adopted – between the ages of 3 and 23 in a large racially blended family.  In so doing, they have affected the lives of their own biological children and the lives of these children they didn’t have to know to love.

Today would have been Michael’s father’s birthday – the man in whose memory he went forward to take on the challenge of fatherhood.

So much influence and inspiration from so many places; and most of all their own families. Different journeys, different circumstances, but the same result.  Children who may have otherwise had few others, if anyone at all, to love them and help them fulfill their potential, have found solid loving families.  Children from across the state, across the country, across the world.  Babies.  Older kids.  The common theme is a desire for family – that connection with and between another person.  Some of the parents here were adopted themselves – giving back to the universe that gave to them.  And so the story of kindness and giving and love continues in their adult families.

Their families have chosen them and given them all the greatest possible gift a person can give another – Love.  In a world where it’s so easy to see the negative and the worst in human nature, where we see families pulled apart and in need, it’s so important to take a step back and see how special family is – so special in fact these families wanted to share it with someone who may not have had one without them.

As it happens, November is adoption month.  Take some time and learn some more about adoption.