Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rainy Tuesday

It's a very rainy Tuesday and we are absolutely waterlogged here! I'm not complaining...we went too long without rain...but it would be even better if I didn't have to get out in it today. But, alas, I gotta get my roots done and a little trim before we head up to New York City!

Nicole and Kate left early this morning to go to Rosa Scott Middle School, where Nic will be the featured speaker at their morning assembly, then she'll speak to specific classes throughout the day. It's a great opportunity for her as she ventures into her new career as a motivational speaker. Plus, it's a great opportunity for the kids as she tells them her incredible story and how she has come back from such a tragic life event. Bottom line is that we'll all have bad things happen in our lives, but how we choose to deal with affects the outcome. Lucky kids...to learn that lesson so early in life.

Nic has started her own website,www.youcantstopthisdancer.com, where you can see her latest blog posts as well as video blogs. She posted one yesterday, so check it out!

We are all looking forward to our exciting trip to NYC on Friday. We're going straight from the airport to the hospital to reunite with her doctors and nurses. It's the fulfullment of a promise we all made when Nicole was discharged on Sept. 27, 2008 to fly home. We promised we'd be back in one year and that Nicole would dance down the halls of the hospital. It will be a modified dance, to be sure, using her cane as a prop, but I'm sure it will be so fulfilling for them to see the patient they took care of doing so well. They saw her at her sickest--extremely critically ill with a poor prognosis for survival. To see her walking, laughing, smiling will surely make them feel their jobs are so worthwhile. To us, they are angels in disguise. It will be great to go back and give them a huge hug!

I have a great friend in NY as well...Paula Kelliher, who is the marketing director at the White Plains Galleria. She was my rock when we were in NY, coming to visit and making me laugh. Larry wants to visit the same tapas bar we went to with Paula a few days after we got there (not "topless," Brenda!).

We'll also have lots of fun in NY...going to a Broadway show, eating out, and just enjoying the city. Kate, Nicole's personal care assistant, is going with us, which will be fun, especially since she's never been to NY. It will be fun to watch Kate be introduced to Nicole's NY--all her theatre friends and favorite places. Larry and I will be looking forward to seeing her sweet friends again as well. They were so kind to us while Nic was in the hospital, visiting often, bringing snacks for us and the most thoughtful gifts for Nicole. Nicole truly surrounded herself with the nicest people and for that, we are so grateful.

There's lots to do before we go... I'll keep you posted on our big NY adventure!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another day...another step ahead

It's so rewarding to see your children follow their passion and do what they love. Especially when they do it well. Joe is my uber-athletic child. He runs fast, jumps high, trains hard and he's very competitive. Currently, his sport of choice is cheerleading, which he does at Holmes Community College. He is also very serious about weightlifting.

Nicole is athletic, too, but in a drastically different way. Although she played soccer in high school, she's not much of a team sport player. Unless the team is assembled on a stage, with the intention of entertaining an audience. But she has always worked as hard as any athlete, with her training in dance studios and Pilates studios.

Because I know what her body looked like and was capable of before her accident, it's painful to watch her labored steps now. She wakes up stiff, and she doesn't skip and hop from her room to the kitchen in the morning for that first cup of coffee. But she keeps on going. She doesn't roll over in the bed, choosing not to get up because it hurts. She just pushes through, doing what she needs to do so that she can make it another day...taking another step ahead.

Today Nicole will be back in the therapy gym afer five days away. It will be a little harder because of that, but I know she won't give it any less effort. As a matter of fact, she'll probably push herself a little harder.

Yesterday Nicole's new Personal Care Assistant, Kate, was certified by Nic's case manager with the Dept. of Rehab. Services. That's good news all around! After the case manager left, Kate took Nicole to Wal-Mart. I'm convinced that's good for Nicole in many ways...it's getting out of the house, and shopping therapy is always a good thing! But even better, it's good physical therapy, because Nicole actually pushes a shopping cart around the store. It takes us back to when Nic was learning to walk for the first time, around the time she was turning one. We had a little toy shopping cart that she would push. It was so funny to watch her face when she realized she was walking while pushing the cart! It was a look of surprise and great self-satisfaction--the same look I have seen on her face in Wal-Mart as she pushes the cart there!

Overall, Nicole's spirits are good, but she is still battling a little sadness that surfaced around the time of the first anniversary of her accident. A busy schedule and her intense focus on developing her motivational speaking career is helping. Her new website is functional, but doesn't have the graphic design elements she wants--yet. You can see it at www.youcantstopthisdancer.com. Nicole has several speaking engagements scheduled at area schools this month and next, so that will allow her to motivate and inspire hundreds of people while honing her presentation skills. She has joined the Natinoal Speaker's Association and will begin attending Toastmaster meetings. She's as serious about this new career goal as she has ever been about anything else she's put her mind to.

I'm going to take Nicole's coffee back to her room, because it's another day...and for Nicole, another step ahead.

Blessings to all who read this!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lazy Sundays

Rush, rush, rush. Get up. Get ready. Hurry. We're late. Off to therapy...to the gym to work with personal trainer...to the pool for aqua therapy. So much to do every day, and we wouldn't want it any other way. But every now and then, it's nice to sit, relax, reflect, enjoy friends and family, which is what we did today.

when was the last time you had a good, sit-down, non-rushed Sunday lunch? It's good for the soul! I made a pot roast, scalloped potatoes with goat cheese, fresh avacado-red onion-tomato salad, and roasted green beans. Dessert was a fresh fruit cup and cupcakes! At the table was my mom and dad, my sister, and Nicole. Joe went to early church, but found "better" things to do...so he was a "no show." Too bad for him.

After a relaxing afternoon sitting, talking, sharing favorite YouTube video and watching the steady rain outside, everyone left, leaving me at home alone with Roxie for an hour of reading. Heaven!

Nicole spent the afternoon with her friend, Drew, who is helping her put together her new website to promote her emerging motivationl speaking career. Already she has several "gigs" lined up to speak to area schools. Her story is amazing and the way she's handled it is a lesson in perseverance, motivation and overall good attitude. She really has alot to share. To make to official, Nicole has joined the National Speaker's Association and will work towards getting her certification as a motivational speaker. This could be a way for Nicole to be financially independent, and to enjoy one of her passions--travel. But best of all, it's a wonderful way for her to touch other people's lives in a very positive way.

Time was spent with a high school friend--Matt Ward--who was visitng from Nashville. Matt came by to visit with Nicole last night and they both ended up going to another friend's house to catch up on old times. That was good for Nicole's soul. Matt has grown into a fascinating young man and he's doing good work that is helping thousands of people. He's a grassroots coordinator with the Blood-Water Mission. Read about it at http://www.bloodwatermission.com/

It's so good to see Nicole and her friends doing something to benefit others.

We'll be shutting down Caring Bridge the end of this month (after our return trip to New York). I'll print the entire journal and guestbook and put it in a binder. If you'd like to leave a final message for Nicole, I encourage you to do so. Reading them really lifts her spirits and helps her keep moving forward. Don't underestimate the power of a kind word--they have all meant the world to Nicole and our family. Thank you!

Labor day tomorrow...no formal therapy, but Nic and I will be hitting the Pilates machine (thanks again, Carol!) and the Wii Fit (thanks Jef and Brenda!).

Blessings to all who read this!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Megan's Perspective

Last June, we were blessed that God put Megan Poole in our lives. Megan was Nicole's Personal Care Assistant for the summer. Our only concern in hiring her was her age: she was 18, just graduated from high school. But her personality and can-do attitude won out and we hired her. As it turned out, she was a true godsend.

Megan just started classes at the University of Southern Mississippi, and she had to write an essay for her English Comp. class. She shared the essay with Nicole, and now I'm going to share it with you, because I think that reading Megan's perspective is very interesting. Megan is wise beyond her years, and has more compassion than anyone I know. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as we did. Thanks.

Megan Poole
ENG 101

You Can’t Stop this Dancer

This past summer, I had the opportunity to assist and care for Nicole Marquez, a twenty-six year old lady who had her dreams in the palm of her hand, but in the midst of everything had to take a step back. Nicole was a dancer, graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi as a Theatre/Dance student. She moved to New York City a few years after graduating and getting her Bachelor’s to try to take a step further to the professional acting and dancing world of Broadway. One night, she was walking back to her apartment in Harlem and realized she had locked herself out. Being the adventurous, “I’m not afraid of anything” Nicole, she decided to take the fire escape stairs to climb into the window of her apartment to get in. As she approached the sixth floor, she lost her balance and fell six stories onto a bed of dirt. She lay there for eight hours before the tenant of her apartment complex found her, barely alive, gasping for air. She had broken her neck, her back in two places, her pelvis and had punctured a lung due to broken ribs. She coded three times and had a series of strokes. The doctor’s didn’t think she would live, much less ever walk again.
I started working with Nicole in June, not knowing what to expect. She is so full of life and is ready than ever to dance again. I would help her get dressed in the mornings and would assist her throughout the day walking, driving her to appointments, helping her with therapy equipment, and cutting up different foods for her. She now walks with a cane and is working on walking by herself without one at this point. It’s been a year and two days since her tragic accident, and she is ready for challenges she never knew she would have to face. Nicole works harder than anyone I’ve ever met before. She know what living life is like not being disabled, and having this bump in the road just makes her more determined than ever to make her dreams come true. I took her on a trip to Hattiesburg a few weekends before I left for school, and as she was walking from around the sink of the hotel bathroom, she began doing ballet warm ups. It put me to tears seeing how well she’s doing and I know she will be on that stage again one day.
From a stranger’s standpoint, Nicole looks physically disabled- crippled, with 5-inch scars on her neck and back. She gets stares and questions left and right, but little do they know that their looks and questions do not bother her. She knows where her place is in this world and is more than happy to let anyone know. Anyone who ever encounters or meets her falls in love with her witty charm and vibrant personality. She has taught me so much not only about the common love we both share of the stage, but teaching me about life, including patience, focus, and the word I keep using repeatedly, determination. I’ve learned to accept people of different nature’s more easy and have grown a heart for people in need. She is my definition of a hero. Her fierce spirit and loving heart inspires me to be a better person, especially knowing she can do the same in the position she has been put in. I can not imagine being twenty- six years old and having to depend on my parents for everything, or just about everything. I am so thankful for her being placed in my life, knowing I have helped her in ways most people could not have imagined an eighteen-year old girl doing. I suppose one can say both Nicole and I were underestimated.
Although we both barely stand five feet tall, our hearts are as big as lions and our goal as a team (which we liked to call ourselves) is to spread as much love of accepting as possible. I believe I made that happen for Nicole because my biggest fear was to let her down. Although I may have worked ten to twelve hour days, five days a week my whole summer, in the end I would not change in for anything. Knowing I was a part of her life and getting her to where she needs and wants to be means the world to me. You really can not stop that dancer, I have first hand witnessed it. Maybe it will make other people believe in miracles too.