Archive for the In Her Shoes Category

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Megan

Fit for Christ

By: Megan Prentice, Founder & CEO Revive Fit Studio, & Gwen Vogelzang

View More: http://michaellaphotography.pass.us/revive-fit-studio

Have you heard the phrase, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans?”  One year ago, if you asked me if I would ever start a fitness business, I would have laughed. While I loved being an athlete, I had my heart set on something entirely different…what I thought was a God-driven path. I can imagine God smiling down on me as He was completing an incomprehensible mural for my life.

After three years working at a non-profit I was tired of long hours, minimal pay, and a toxic culture.  I wanted to help people, but I repeatedly heard God saying, “This place is toxic, you need to leave.”  I prayed and felt internal peace about moving on. A mentor  took me under her wing with a part-time position in another organization’s “business as missions” department, my true passion. I love the idea of building people up and leveraging people out of poverty through sustainable businesses-here and around the world. Before I knew it, I found myself romping around the country of Mozambique. The original plan was to do work in Uganda and Kenya, but I extended my stay. Mozambique was so amazing (imagine Mexico beaches with Portuguese-speaking Africans). In addition, there was a missionary couple living in the main city, Maputo who were doing exactly what I aspired to do-business with a mission!

I visited Masana, a gym the husband started, and observed the “mission” side of things. Not only does this organization invest in and employ street boys, but they disciple them. They started employing street boys as trainers and turned a profit within the first month with only 35 members (most of which were Mozambican).  Most importantly, they started seeing change.  Masana is an incredible organization with goals to truly raise up a new nation of men.  This is unique in that so many organizations invest in the women in Africa. In the third most poverty-stricken country in the world, if they can make this work, couldn’t this model prove successful anywhere?

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My wheels started turning, not sure what my purpose was in East Africa.  After discussions on the ground and researching needs, there just wasn’t enough funding to support me. Just like that a door slammed in my face.

“Now, what, Lord?  Do you really think I can start a gym like this?”

I started praying about starting a gym in Uganda, only to find that it’s more difficult to start a business in East Africa than America. Much, much more difficult. So, I returned to America with literally no other lead for a career than this silly idea of starting a mission-based gym. I started praying. And talking. And getting encouragement. And more encouragement. And some more. I found myself writing a business plan,  registered my business and prayed for a business partner so I wouldn’t walk this journey alone. God lead me directly to Kati, who excitedly agreed to be my business partner.  She had danced professionally growing up AND was a Biblical Studies major.

We were graciously offered a place to hold our classes free of charge in Centennial, the exact location we had been looking to rent our space.  Out of nothing, Revive Fit Studio was born.

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Revive is a place for holistic transformation of mind, body and spirit. We incorporate Christian and tasteful non-Christian music into our barre, dance fitness, and strengthening and stretching classes. Because unity is our heart, we encourage time for fellowship before, during, and after class. Above all, we invite Jesus to transform people from the inside out.  Empowering women through fitness is a passion and it’s our goal to partner with women coming out of the sex trade industry as we mature in our business model.  Currently, 20% of all of our profits go to an organization called ROWAN to fight AIDS in orphans and widows in Uganda.

By no means, could we have expected to launch this business without the favor of the Lord. He continues trudging the path before us, and we continue following.  We cannot wait to see the kind of healing and transformation that will take place in this space.View More: http://michaellaphotography.pass.us/revive-fit-studio

I asked Megan…”What are your favorite pair of shoes and why?”  and “How has grace played a role in your journey?”
I love my heels…any of them, because I don’t get to wear them much since I work in the fitness industry. I’m also tall and used to slouch when I was taller than the boys. I have grown to love my height instead of apologizing for it. And of course…heels means a fun night out! 
 
Absolutely! I used to be the most self-seeking, self-taking child. It was all about me, me, me. When I met Jesus, I learned that there is a bigger world out there with so many people in need. I’m still learning and still on this grace journey, but I am so thankful that Jesus doesn’t see me as a selfish child anymore and that He sees me as pure and flawless. I don’t deserve that title, but He gave it to me, so I will take it and try to steward it well…starting with giving back. I have a huge heart for Africa and giving people better lives on this earth. I really believe we CAN bring heaven to earth, here and now. 

You can contact Megan at megan@revivefitstudio.com and visit her website at www.revivefitstudio.com.

Maureen

This post is our longest yet and I’m here to tell you, it’s worth every second you’ll spend reading.  Maureen lives across the street from us with her family of 5.  Being an every day witness to her world of managing and loving a child with Type 1 Diabetes is one of my greatest blessings.  Our eyes as a family have been opened, humbled, and educated through this amazing family.  If you aren’t familiar with Type 1, please read Maureen’s story.  Her shoes are rather remarkable and you’ll be grateful for the chance to walk in them just for a moment.  They’re fundraising for an upcoming 5K to cure Type 1.  Details are at the end of the post.  

Type 1 – by Maureen and Gwen

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I remember people asking, “Are you sure you’re prepared to marry someone with Type 1 Diabetes.”  I was so surprised by that. It was a part of who John was and that didn’t bother me at all.  It wasn’t even a thought.  I was the first person to really work hard at learning about this part of John’s existence and that meant a lot to him.  I had no idea how in depth the world of Type 1 was and how it would shape our lives.

I remember calling John’s mom asking her advice on what foods were good for him to eat and how to count carbs.  It was my job to cook for him and I needed to know how to do it well.  Growing up, John’s parents didn’t test his levels.  The technology wasn’t there growing up and they just didn’t understand how to treat the disease well. His moods have always correlated with his sugar level and much of the time he feels like crap.   They didn’t understand that as he grew up.  During our engagement John got his first Dexcom, which is a device that continuously measures your blood sugar every 5 minutes and gives you a reading.  It was first generation technology – a big deal in the world of Diabetes.  I remember a woman driving to our house in Boone, NC to deliver it and train us on how to use it.  We were so excited.  This was a game changer for John and other diabetics.   

Early in our marriage I remember John getting really low and not being able to get out of his chair. I stood there with juice and a glucagon shot ready and I was scared for the first time.  He couldn’t even stand up.  Another time we were dancing at a wedding and I told him to check his blood sugar.  It was close to 600.  80-160 is normal for someone with Type 1.  He nonchalantly went into the bathroom to take insulin.  I was so scared and he played it off like it was no big deal.  We went back to dancing and having fun and I just kept watching him in fear.  Fear seemed to be sneaking into my days more and more as time went on.    

John and I knew we wanted kids and definitely had multiple conversations about the chance that our kids could have Type 1.  It was a scary conversation.  We talked about adoption, but that also seemed scary.  We ended up deciding to have biological kids.   It seemed okay to us to move forward.  We tried to have kids for 2 years with no success, so we started to look into fertility options.  It was the longest, most frustrating, trying time.  Everyone else was getting pregnant and we couldn’t.  It was hard to be happy for people.  Timed, scheduled intimacy took away so much enjoyment in our relationship.  John felt like a sperm bank rather than a husband and I felt like something was very wrong with me.  Diabetes wasn’t the concern – we just wanted to be pregnant.    

We did Clomid, 5 IUI’s and one round of in vitro.  A nice blond nurse was the one who told us the IVF failed.  She told us she was so sorry and said the doctor would call us the next day to talk next steps.  Another nurse informed me my 30 year old eggs were old and we were running out of time.  Panic set in.  I didn’t feel like I had time to grieve the process.  We had no time to think in that moment.  The doctor didn’t call the next day.  She was just so busy.  

John and I then had to make a big decision to either adopt or go through the IVF one more time.  We took a much needed six month break, got big tattoos and focused on having fun.  We needed fun. My flower tattoo became 50% than it was supposed to be.  Mainly because I wanted to experience the physical pain to quiet my emotional pain. That was the place I was in.  During those six months we decided to have a meeting with a specialist in Denver, where we were living, to see what he thought.  He came in, introduced himself by his first name, sat down, looked through everything and said, “Everything looks fine.  I see no reason why you guys can’t have kids.  I’m almost 100% sure you’ll be pregnant if you choose to do this again.”  I remember feeling like, “Let’s do this now.  Let’s get started now.”  We went through the pre-testing in August and spent 2 months preparing.  Tests, bloodwork, ultrasounds, etc.  The day of the egg extraction I remember John’s blood sugar was incredibly low.  He had to give a fresh sample to fertilize the eggs they extracted and it’s really hard to function in general when your blood sugar is low.   I panicked, but it all went smoothly.      

Two weeks later they called to tell me I was pregnant and I don’t remember anything after that.  We were elated.   I didn’t think anything could go wrong after that call.  I was hopeful and positive.  When they found out there was two, I remember John saying, “I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.   I  knew we were having twins.”   We didn’t think about the kids having Diabetes.There were a lot of dr appointments because it was twins, so we saw development and growth with a lot of reassurance that everything was ok.   At 32 the twins entered our world through C Section.  

Our sweet Riley girl was born first.  Owen came out and they brought him to me, wrapped in a tiny blanket.  I gave him a quick kiss, but Riley wasn’t breathing so I didn’t get to see her. John left with the babies and I was sent to recovery, shaking uncontrollably.  No one was there.  The nurse would come in and out, but it felt like forever.  I didn’t see my babies for 24 hours.  I remember thinking how incredibly tinyand fragile they looked.  The nurses do check blood sugars in the NICU and one of the twins had a 50, which is low.  John and I looked at each other in panic before the nurse explained that was normal for a newborn baby.

 

Every moment I looked at my kids I couldn’t believe they were mine.  It was incredible.  The first year was tiring and awesome.  They were super healthy.  No ear infections, so sicknesses, perfect.  I remember knowing it was so so so important they had breast milk for at least 1 year. The milk is supposed to help to push back the potential onset of Type 1 if they had the genetic make-up.  It could protect them from getting it at any early age.  And so it was my full time job.  8 hours per day.  I fed them every 3 hours and pumped in-between that.  I had 1.5 hours off in-between to sleep for the first 8 months of their life.  Day and night.  But it was still awesome.   

At year 1 we had them tested for the antibodies and genes for Type 1.  It’s just best to know early.  The results came in the mail.  Owen had a moderate risk based on his genetic makeup and Riley had all the genes and was in the highest risk to get it.  We cried.  We were so sad.  It made us truly scared for the first time.  I looked at my little Wiggy and couldn’t imagine it could be a part of her make up.  It’s difficult for females especially and I so didn’t want that for her.  It made us more emotionally vigilant of Riley and we made sure we monitored the signs which show up as extreme thirst, heavy urination, and weight loss.  The next year was nerve wracking and  sad.  John felt guilt seeing the results.  He naturally viewed it as his fault.  As if he did this.  We weren’t good at talking about it.   

Owen started getting irritable and needy later that year.  He napped and peed through his clothes every day we were in North Carolina on vacation, but Diabetes wasn’t on our radar.  It wasn’t Riley peeing through her clothes.  She was our high risk child.  When we got back home I got the kids up from their afternoon nap and Owen drank 40 oz of milk, asking for more and more and more.  By the 4th one I thought it was weird. I changed his diaper, full and heavy, every half hour.  When John came home, I mentioned this to him and he said, “Let’s just check.” He spent the next half hour looking for a clean needle.  I sat on our couch with the kids as Owen was happy and playing. I kept thinking, “Don’t find the needle.  Don’t find the needle.”  

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John had the kids sit on the kitchen floor and he checked Owen’s toe.  I was paralyzed on the living room couch, watching from a distance.  John looked at the results and said, “I have to check again.”  I slowly walked over and it read 564.  Again, 80-160 is normal for someone with Type 1.    Riley was sitting next to him, happy.  Owen didn’t cry.  He didn’t feel it.  John just picked Owen up and said, “We’re taking him to the hospital.”  I started to cry and freak out and Riley noticed, so I pulled myself together.  John called his parents as he packed a bag for Owen and himself. I went to the van to pull out Riley’s car seat and as I got outside I fell to my knees screaming, “NO!  NO!  NO!”   I quickly picked myself back up and went back inside.  John stayed collected and called ahead to the hospital and I stayed home and put Riley to bed.  That was the first time as a parent I had to suck it up and pretend that everything was okay.  My friend Suzie came over and I drove as fast as I could to Children’s Hospital.  I cried as I tried to drive.  I called my parents.  I hoped it wasn’t real and I was afraid that Owen was going to die.  We had just buried a friend’s 12 year old with Type 1 and I was afraid he was gonna die.  

I ran in.  Security stopped me for ID.  I didn’t have ID on me and it felt awful to be held up.  I finally got back to the room.  John and Owen were just sitting together, calm.  It was quiet, which was the opposite of how I felt.  I picked Owen up and hugged him.  John said, “We were right.”  They tested him for ketones, which are toxic to your body.  If they’re high enough they can cause your brain to swell and can kill you.  We were waiting on those results, which came in fine.  They said they were going to send us home and wanted us to wait for a week to go to the Barbara Davis Center.  John refused to leave the hospital until Owen got insulin.  He was adamant and persuasive and was able to figure out a way to stay in the observation unit overnight.  We got admitted and Owen was given insulin.  John made them tell him with their mouth that Owen had Type 1.  He needed them to confirm it verbally to believe it.  That was our first night of not sleeping.  

Later, I walked in on the tail end of the endocrinologist talking to John.  They told us that it was going to be okay with the technology and kids were living long lives.  My response was, “But it’s a shitty way to live.”  They had nothing to say.  We stayed another couple nights in the hospital.  I don’t remember talking very much.  When we weren’t with the kids we were crying. I wanted to be with Owen and Riley.  That pull between the kids was like when we brought one home from the NICU and not the other.  So much guilt.  The next day John had to go get a laser treatment on his eye for diabetic retinopathy, which is a long term complication of having Type 1 and is the leading cause of blindness for people with Type 1.  With every laser treatment you lose vision.  This was his 8th surgery.  I stayed with Owen while John had to lay there getting this awful treatment.  I can’t imagine what went through his mind and heart that day.    

I don’t remember doing anything fun with the kids that next year.  We were trying to get used to living and taking care of a Type 1 kid.  I felt scared every day.  There were so many times during naps that Owen’s blood sugar would get low.  I would squeeze cake gel beside his pacifier and watch his Dexcom to make sure his blood sugar went up.  Cake gel became survival.  If someone can’t swallow juice or eat a glucose tab, you use cake gel to rub on their gums.  It’s known as “Keep me alive gel.”  Sitting in the hallway was agony.  The dexcom only picks up every 5 minutes and it’s 5 minutes behind.  I’d sit there for 15 minutes worrying and stressing if it was enough and what his body would do.  And not wanting to interrupt a 2 year old’s nap because he needed it so bad.  

The kids ate really healthy until diagnosis day.  Fruit became difficult because of it’s natural sugar content so it disappeared for a while.  Pre-packaged food became common because it told me what the carb content was.  Home made food was and still is hard.  They had never had juice before and juice boxes in our house became the norm.  I constantly felt like they were so much more unhealthy because it was easier.  But it was easier.  I gave Owen shots in his arm while he  played and he handled it like a champ.  He was so happy.  Riley got less attention and I’m sure she felt that way.  It wasn’t a choice.  We had to keep Owen alive.

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Fast forward 3 years and our now 1 year old, Adalaide, being born.  We weren’t sure we wanted more kids because we didn’t want another chance of passing on the disease and she came as a surprise gift.  It was exciting, but the pregnancy was terrifying.  I was scared I would lose her.  And constantly thinking that we increased our chances of having more kids in our family with Type 1.  She came, healthy, but that year was survival.  I had told myself that even if Adalaide was screaming to eat, if Owen was low, I had to stop and take care of him first.  The newborn couldn’t have first priority.  It was so much harder to do that than I thought it would be.  She was a tiny, helpless baby.  His blood sugars were more out of control the first 3 months of her life than ever.  It felt too hard most days.  I was doing 5 things at once and none of them well.  I didn’t have help other than my parents.  I couldn’t expect them to be there every day.  Owen was still happy and the twins loved Adalaide more than I could have imagined.  They were elated she was here and never got jealous.  Every day felt like an uphill climb.  A lonely uphill climb.  

The twins are 5 now.  A typical day, if there is such a thing in the world of a Diabetic is constant monitoring.  There’s no break. At 7:00am Owen gets up and I have his glucometer and the ketone tester out.  We test immediately for both and put it in the dexcom.  Based on what numbers I see, I’ll adjust either his pump, which gives him insulin so he doesn’t have to take shots multiple times per day, or give him insulin based on what he wants for breakfast.  He eats two chocolate chip pancakes with milk every morning.  I know exactly how many carbs it is.  The only cereal he can eat is cheerios with fruit in it or an Ego waffle with peanut butter. The girls eat what he eats for the most part, but Riley’s allowed to have different cereals.  Sometimes Owen’s okay with Riley eating different items and sometimes he’s not.  

I wait and see over the next 2 hours what his sugar will do for the day and watch it on the dexcom.  There’s no typical day since every 5 minutes is different.  Snack is at 10 and every time I feed him I poke his finger to check his blood sugar.  Based on that number, I decide what snack he can have and what time he can get it.  It it’s high and he’s hungry he can have cheese, pickles, or pepperoni right away.  But not sugar or carbs.  If he’s low I give him fruit snack or healthy sugar.  If I have to change his site (every 2-3 days), I numb his bottom with cream for 30 minutes and insert a little needle in his bottom for the new site.  He’s typically screaming, “Mommy, don’t do it, don’t do it” and crying, “It’s gonna hurt.”  I feel a mixture of frustration and complete sadness that he has to go through this and awful that I’m the one who has to do it every time.  Will he hate me some day for always being the one who hurts him every time?

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We go through the same process for lunch.  Calculate the carbs, see how long we have to wait, hope he eats it, which is hard because he’s a kid.  He’s just a kid.  Between meals I check him if the dexcom says he’s low and if he’s over 300 we do another finger poke to get an exact real time number.  Most often he can now tell me when he feels low, which is helpful.  Highs are trickier because he might feel hungry and thirsty.  He typically wants salt when he’s high and will say, “I don’t feel good” without knowing why.  There’s so much listening that needs to happen between Owen and me each and every day.  

John and I sleep with the dexcom between us on a pillow as it’ll alert us if Owen’s blood sugar gets high or low.  We have alarms set at certain times at night to check the dexcom in case we’re sleeping through it or it stops registering.  If he has a night that he’s high we’ll go through multiple pull ups and changes of sheets.  And then there’s John’s dexcom which beeps when he’s high or low.  Owens dexcom also reads to John’s phone, so that beeps too.  I look at my fourth child, the dexcom, at least 5-6 times per night on my own.  And then I have a baby.  I haven’t slept since the day of diagnosis.  No more than 3 hours straight.  I never have days when I don’t worry.  I don’t have hours when I don’t worry.  When he gets sick, his chances of brain swelling are high, so we get crazy nervous when he’s sick.  Kids get sick.  It’s a part of life.    

I constantly say in my head, “Please don’t get my girls.”  I often wonder if I could mentally handle it if another child got Type 1.  I can jokingly say, “I would have to be put in an institution.”  But it feels that overwhelming.  I worry about Owen’s future more because of the little things kids do.  Drinking, drugs – those things can alter his ability to feel his levels and check himself.  It feels far more dangerous.  I want him to be responsible with his Diabetes and take care of himself so he can live a long, healthy life.  It’s more possible now than ever but it takes a lot of effort. Riley knows what it’s like to NOT have it.  If she gets it, she’ll know the difference.  We check her every year at Children’s and at home every month.  Again, we live in constant fear.

With all things, if people don’t understand the breadth of Type 1 Diabetes, they don’t have a glimpse into life for our family.  If people assume Type 1 is like Type 2, they assume we’re dealing with a manageable, tame disease.  There’s nothing tame about Type 1.  There’s nothing tame about the minute to minute life we have to live to keep Owen alive and monitor our girls for signs.  Play dates can’t happen for Owen.  Sleepovers are out of the question.  School is the most frightening reality we’re currently dealing with.  Placing Owen’s life in the hands of people who just don’t understand is an emotional nightmare.  But we have to live.  Owen has to live.  And so we keep fighting to make that possible and to offer all our kids the chance to laugh through the struggles they face being a part of our family.  It’s my full time job to be Mom to these kids and I don’t know that I could find a more difficult and more fulfilling one than the one I’m tasked with.

Below is a video featuring John and Owen.  Get your Kleenex ready.  Please join in the fight against Type 1 and contribute to John and Maureen’s 5K fundraiser HERE.  This is a disease that CAN be cured in Owen’s lifetime and you can play a part.  

 

Anne

Ladies, there are forces to be reckoned with in this world and I’m honored to be in community with one of those forces.  Anne Griffith is a force of strength, dignity, hilarity, beauty, wisdom, boldness, determination, and heart.  In this woman’s presence people find themselves agreeing to do things they later stop and wonder how on God’s great earth they ever agreed to.  The number of women around the planet living in confidence and empowerment because of Anne’s devotion to The Enlighten Foundation is something to behold.  I’ve been a part of this community of change makers for 4 years.  I’m oh so proud to introduce you all to Anne with an “e.”
Eva and Anne

 

Written by:  Anne Griffith

Strike the set! That’s what I thought about my life. Surely this was not what it was about. I spent years and years raising kids, being the little Mrs.: cooking, cleaning, doing dioramas, researching schools, summer activities, on and on. Who the heck am I? Whoever I was or thought I would be was buried deep in Pop-Tarts and juice boxes.

During those years I wondered why God made an entire gender that could only be assistants; never the leader, never the driver. It seemed like being a “wife” was cloaking me in a different body. Why, in the Bible, does God ask us to look to God for guidance, but the church was telling me to look to my husband for direction and answers? Are you kidding me? I love my husband, don’t get me wrong, and we are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year! But I wore fingernail polish for five years before he ever noticed. “Oh, do you paint your nails? That’s nice.” How could he possibly give me any direction when he couldn’t remember what month my birthday was in? “I know it’s between January and June! Can you give me a clue?” His decision making focused on which tennis court to play on that evening to practice for the next tournament. That’s okay and all, but he didn’t have a clue how I ran my days. Whatever I was doing was all good with him, and I just needed to keep doing it.

Interestingly, I was also a “director” of missions at a church, but had no decision making authority. The all-male elder board, who had no idea what missions we were even serving, made the decisions for the church’s missions. My input was never even requested. When I inquired about that system, the answer I received was that I “just didn’t know everything about how the church ran,” and therefore my input would be irrelevant.

What’s up with that, Lord?!!

Statistics show that women make up the greater percentage in church pews (60%).  We are clearly very committed to the Lord, and we are quite able to preach, teach, and further the Word. I started studying the Word, talking to other women about their faith – counselors, women theologians – and I was completely amazed at how so many other women felt confused about their role in the family and in the church and how it seemed contrary to the commissioning Jesus requested of us. But they were just too reticent to say anything that would anger the pastor or minister, to say nothing of their husbands.

“Well, no problem,” several of us thought. “Let’s let them be for the time being.  What if we just did something to further the Kingdom of God? What if we found an area that needed God’s love and we brought a few nickels of our own together and bought school supplies and toys?” So after we pooled our missions experience together and did a little research, we landed on an area in Romania to visit and take our supplies. And off we flew. It changed our lives. The trip was hair-raising! We came back with a lot of should-haves and could-haves, but one thing we all agreed on: If we can work in third world areas for the Lord, we can just about do anything for the Lord here in our families and communities.

Sixteen years later we have grown by leaps and bounds. I won’t kid you, this work can be brutal. It’s 95% nose to the grindstone, research, program development, testing, budgets, fundraising, on our knees sweating and pleading to the Lord. 5% of the time I look around and think oh gosh, how grateful that am I to do this work for the Lord. And then it’s back to the grindstone. I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t want The Enlighten Foundation to dally. There are 1.2 billion Christian women in the world wondering what their purpose is and just what God wants them to do with their lives. I’ve learned the lesson that if you focus 100% on the Lord, the rest of life falls into place. The minute you take your eyes off the Lord, the world becomes a mess around you again.

Don’t take your eyes off the Lord.

Anne and Bedouin woman

We have just a small amount of time in our lives. The Lord asks us to be messengers and ambassadors of his Life. We’re called to be light on earth as it is in heaven. We know life can be tough, but we also know the Lord is with us. The Lord asks us to share the yoke with him; share the burden, walk the mile, and help carry the load. And while we may not be strong enough to do this load by ourselves, The Enlighten Foundation Community is the go-to place for us, the faithful, to work together. Oh and I forgot to mention, it’s a community of life-long friends who also like to have fun working together! Why, just the other day one of our Women of Impact Chairs noticed my nail polish. “Hmmmm,” she said, “I’m not so sure about that color. That’s sort of a young person’s color… I mean you are in your late 50s right?” Ha, if she only knew! Okay, I’ll go get black instead of green (just kidding, I put on teal blue …!) I mean I am a crazy Founder, right?

Come join us, I promise you, it will be one of the best decisions you ever make.  Onward and Upward we go – together.

Love, Anne

Anne’s favorite shoes?  “My shoes are my Lucchese cowboy boots! They are tough, comfortable, and stable, and I know I can count on them when I need to travel. I’m actually on my second pair… my luggage was lost in Armenia, and I had to go to the Kurdish village in my traveling clothes (and boots) and lived in those clothes for a week.  During that week we had a torrential rain, and all the sheep dung that they heat their homes with was puddling in the roads. I stepped in a puddle and my boots sunk and filled with watered-down sheep dung. I stunk to high heaven and had to leave my boots outside our room. Finally, when I got my luggage, I bundled up my boots in a bag and took them home. I took them to Dardanos shoes to see if they could be cleaned, but when I opened the bag, they smelled so bad all the employees backed away covering their noses! “That smells like s—!” one of them exclaimed and I said, “Well, actually it is, and I was going to talk to you about that…” But they told me to get out immediately and throw them away. So reluctantly I did and got another pair.  So off I go!”

You can find Anne and become a community member with her foundation at The Enlighten Foundation.

In Her Shoes

inhershoeslogofinalWomen around the world experience life in remarkably distinct ways that scream out for connection and community. The paths we walk, the secrets we uncover, the wisdom we inhale, the joy we radiate, the suffering we endure…it simply can not be understood or valued if the opportunity to “walk in our shoes” isn’t granted to fellow women. We all walk through trenches and flowery fields unique to us.  Unique to our history, our loved ones, and our location on earth.  Unique to our talents, our bodies, and our economic status.  Unique to who we were created to be and who we’re finding ourselves becoming.  The reality of living in a jagged, cracked, and yet beautifully shimmery world results in obtaining unique truths we hold dear.  Truths many of us long to share and uncover with other women.

In Her Shoes was born from a desire to share, give breath to, and grow from stories of women around the world.  It was born to shed light on universal truths we can all connect with and to highlight grace from angles both foreign and familiar.  Read with us and walk a mile in the shoes of beautifully created women brave enough to offer them up.

Jacquelyn

Jacquelyn’s story isn’t an easy read friends.  It took deep reaching for her to re-tell this experience and we’re so grateful for Jacquelyn’s bravery and willingness to connect with our readers through tragedy.  We’re all familiar with the horror that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords lived through years back, but Jacquelyn’s is a perspective none of us been navigated through. Jacquelyn is a yoga instructor and freelance writer in Tucson, Arizona.  Thanks for allowing us to walk in your Nikes.  

I wore Nikes that Saturday morning, dove gray with hot pink streaks on the sides and soles. I had just run five miles with a group of friends along the dry Rillito River in Tucson, Arizona, and had stopped at the Safeway to pick up a bottle of Goddess salad dressing, a red onion and rye bread.

Those Nikes, I am certain, helped save my life that day. In ancient times, Nike was the Winged Goddess of Victory, and that Saturday, she flew me to safety. I had parked my car just four slots from the front of Safeway, and sweet Nike ran me to my car an instant before an insane gunman opened fire.

His target: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who had been my boss and was still my friend. She was the one he wanted to kill, but he did not stop there. Thirty-three rounds; 19.06 seconds. Had he opened fire a split second earlier, or had I moved more slowly toward my car, one of those bullets would have found me.
I had been surprised and happy to see my friends when I came to Safeway, not realizing there was a Congress on Your Corner. I had worked for the Congresswoman as her director of outreach and had staffed many of these events. That Saturday, I never made it into the store, instead talking, hugging and laughing with my friends. Ron, Gabby’s district director, had asked me if my husband, the news director at our local NPR station, was going to cover the event. I told him I would call, and fished inside my purse for my cell phone.

I had left it in the car.

I talked with Gabe who told me he was getting married in a year; I squealed and hugged him. And then moved to Pam, who told me about her son’s recent New York wedding and that her daughter had shaved her armpits for the special event.

“Go hug Gabby,” Pam said to me, from where we stood, just a few feet away from the congresswoman.

“She’s busy,” I said. “I’ll go say hi in a minute. But I gotta go get my phone so I can let Ron know.”

At just that moment, had I looked behind me, I would have seen the killer moving toward us, gun hidden beneath a baggy jacket, shaved head glinting in the crystal clear January sunlight. I dashed to my car in my fleet Nikes, and he began firing just as I hit the unlock button.

I spun around and watched him calmly moving the gun back and forth, like he was watering the lawn, pumping bullets into people I loved. I froze for a second but then ran back in to help my friends, bullets still firing, keenly aware of their sound moving away from me.

Pam lay on the ground, rigid, inert and I felt certain she was dead. I moved toward Gabby, and looked down at her bright red jacket, blonde hair lit by the sun, head slumped toward her left shoulder. I heard a voice beside her say, “She has a pulse; she has a pulse.” She was alive, I thought to myself, and someone was caring for her.

As I stared down on Gabby a distinct voice inside of me sternly warned, “Do not turn your head to the left.” I listened.
Had I turned my head the slightest bit left, I would have seen Ron on the ground, hit by bullets in the cheek and groin and on the verge of bleeding out; Gabe dead beside him. I would have seen blood, and watched people struggling for life, succumbing to death.

Thirty-three rounds; 19.06 seconds; six dead, 13 wounded.

I turned right, deep in shock, and stumbled away from the scene, sitting down on a small ledge on the outside of the store, rocking, rocking. My blood pressure, always quite low, shot sky high. Wanting so much to help, I walked again toward the scene but again turned away. The bullets had stopped. I felt wrapped in a deep bubble of shock that shut down all my senses. I heard no moans or screams, no sirens. My body, trying to protect me, erased my peripheral vision, blotted out any sight or scent of the flat metallic stench of blood, silenced all sound.

Kind souls came to my aid, wrapping their arms around my shoulders, urging me to drink water. At least twice, an EMT strapped a blood pressure band around my arm. I had avoided being shot, but witnessing the murder and wounding of my friends felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck, leaving me seared, tattered.

In the months that followed, I clambered through layers of grief and fear. I came to know I could remain mired there or do the hard work of moving forward. I wanted desperately to feel safe again inside my own body, to not let the vulnerability and helplessness that blossomed in me that day freeze me in place.

A leading expert in the treatment of PTSD, Besel A. van der Kolk, M.D. has written, “As long as people simply sit on their ‘tuchas’ and move their tongues around, they will never release their deepest level of trauma.”

That movement for me was yoga, with which I not only moved my ‘tuchas’ but dove into the healing power of breath, sounds and imagery. Yoga became a moving, breathing prayer of hope.

Yoga taught me that prayer is most powerful when it springs from the deepest parts of our body. It is not restricted to the spoken word, but unfolds also from the breath that forms the words we speak. Prayer can be danced, run, moved and sweated; it shows its face in imagery and sound. Prayer, in all its aspects, served as a conduit through which spirit-outside and spirit-within flowed, merged, rooted and soothed. Yoga became my deepest prayer, an ongoing conversation between God, nature, spirit and my body.

A month ago, five years after the shooting, I went to Urgent Care desperately seeking antibiotics for a bad case of bronchitis. A young female technician came to draw blood to see if my germs were viral or bacterial. She tied a rubbery band around my right arm very tightly and went to fumble with needles. “Can you untie this until you are ready?” I asked, my arm swelling under the tight band. She untied it and it took another three minutes to get her needles in order. She retied the band, struggled to find a vein, took forever drawing the blood. She was obviously new at this game. When she had her vial, she untied me and left me alone in the room to wait for the doctor.

I glanced down at the white tile floor and saw a small drop of my bright red blood. A huge wave of panic welled up in me. I looked around the room for a tissue to wipe it up. Get rid of it. Please make it go away.

Nothing. Heart pounding, ragged breath, sweaty palms. A therapist I had worked with right after the shooting had told me that it was impossible to predict what might incite PTSD symptoms. My peripheral vision may have shut down during the shooting, she said, but the images were in there, lodged in my brain, always ready to be triggered into consciousness.
When another nurse came into the room I asked her to please wipe it up. I am sure she thought I was crazy but my panic subsided as soon as the floor was again bright white.

I know I will never fully recover from what I witnessed that day. But it is comforting to know the tools I need for self-comforting are always with me. Deep breathing, yoga poses, the healing vibration of sound in my body. I also have a different pair of Nike tennis shoes that are always nearby for a quiet run through the Sonoran Desert. I know I will again be triggered but I also know a wing and prayers are there to soothe my tattered soul.

Jacquelyn by Creston

If you’d like to get in touch with Jacquelyn you can follow her at storiesfromourbodies.com.  I think we can all make an educated guess about our guest’s favorite pair of shoes and why.  We’ll leave it at that.  

Jen

Welcome Jen to In Her Shoes.  Jen’s story is one that sends palpitations into every Mama heart and resonates with our truest intentions of protection and safe guarding our littles.  Jen spoke her story at a women’s conference and the link for the video is also below.  Thank you to Jen for sharing a bit of your journey and wisdom with us.

Let Him Live – written by Jen                 

Jay ECMO

Bonus!  Watch Jen speak her story here.

The evening of August 12, 2010, I went to bed in a strange hotel just a few miles away from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia but many, many miles away from home. Earlier that day, my two year old son Jay had open heart surgery to replace his own leaky, too­-small heart valve with an artificial one. This particular surgery was so rare and so very risky in a small child that we had traveled hundreds of miles to one of the best pediatric surgeons in the world.

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