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The one with the short brown hair who smiles and works hard? She called us in July and asked us to help her get strong enough to lift her 9 year old son in and out of his wheelchair, because he’s getting bigger. She’s been a member at Camp Rhino since then, and when I sat down with her for a happiness meeting on Friday, I had no idea what I was getting into.
I only knew about her son in a wheelchair, because that was her main goal in coming to Camp Rhino. Her manner was stoic and resilient. She was not there to talk about her problems, she was there to hopefully figure out how to keep coming to classes. Her day starts at 5am where she gets her 9 year old son up, tube feeds him and changes his diaper. Then, she gets her 11 year old daughter up, gives her a shower, changes her diaper, feeds her, and gives her meds (She has tuberous sclerosis, with tumors throughout her body and epilepsy.) She gets them ready for the bus and then goes to Camp Rhino at 7:40. When her kids get home, she changes their diapers, feeds them, gives them snacks and makes dinner. She has 5 kids, 3 of whom are still at home.
First, we talked about how she is now able to lift her son in and out of his wheelchair with ease thanks to her consistency in her training. Hooray! We celebrated this. Then she told me that she fights to get to class, even with all her responsibilities. I asked her what keeps her from going to class. That’s when she told me about her anxiety and her difficulties with her 15 year old daughter. Her daughter has PTSD, ADHD, and Depression. Her daughter is on her 2nd expulsion in school and is going to court for the first time on drug possession. Her daughter is with her all the time until her hearing. She said the classes have helped with her anxiety, but it’s still a struggle to get there daily.
Next, we talked about how she can pull a 1:30-1:40 on the rower and how she can run an entire mile now! We celebrated this! She had never been able to run a mile before.
With a soft voice and bright, intelligent eyes she said to me “I can love my daughter, but I don’t think I can help her; but for the first time, I do feel like I can help myself. I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. People are blown away by the change in me since I started the classes. In the beginning I had such big limitations on what I could and could not do.  But now, those limitations have been surpassed. Now I’m starting to look at things differently.  I have started thinking ‘maybe I can do this.’ I’m not limiting myself as much as I used to. I can do the monkey bars now.”
Her Mom was skinny her whole life, but she was curvy like her grandma. People would make her feel bad about her weight, and now that she has lost weight (50 lbs), she still struggles with her self-image. She shared this because she wanted me to know how nice it is to be encouraged daily at the classes. She said that some people grow up without ever being encouraged by their parents, and having Bob (the 64 year old Ninja and one of my personal heroes) encourage her daily has been such an amazing experience for her.
By this time, I was entranced by her. I asked her to read the book recommended by Mark Orshoski called ‘The Body Keeps Score.’ And then I asked her to message me her timeline so I could write about her. It wasn’t until she messaged me the timeline that I learned her two oldest children are her stepchildren, she adopted the two girls in 2009, and adopted her son in 2012. He was a shaken baby with a traumatic brain injury. She gives herself daily to her 5 kids without any thought for herself. Her two youngest are a lifetime commitment, but she says they are happy every day so she counts it as a blessing. I was to happy to learn of her loving husband and his care for her and their children.
I always tell our new members that when they walk into Camp Rhino, they are loved. During this happiness meeting, it hit me once more that we do not know who we are in class with. We don’t know each others stories. We don’t know how much a smile, or a word of encouragement can lift up one of our fellow classmates. We don’t know who suffers from anxiety, depression, or trauma. This is a crazy, unpredictable life and we need to help each other get through it with love and care for each other.
<3 Julie