MY WHY & MY STORY
I've been inclusive my whole life. I grew up in a small town in Idaho, in a big family of six siblings. We rode horses, swam in horse troughs, camped way up in the mountains and fished out of mountain lakes. We rode Honda 90s and got chased by bulls. We got bucked off horses, watched as our dad got bucked off horses and we water skied at the age of 6 on litte red skis on the Payette lake. Our grandparents were true old school, they grew a humongous garden, canned everything and played cards in the evening. We learned church songs and grandma tried to teach us the piano and we worked hard. My older sister and I helped buck hay and moved pipes at the age of 12. This was what I consider a true Idaho life. Some may call it growing up country.
But, that's not really what this is all about. It's about my little sister Lacey and what she taught me about being inclusive and adaptive and that with encouragement, support, never giving up we can change lives for the better and allow those often excluded a true feeling and sense of belonging.
My sister Lacey was just like the rest of us, WILD! We couldn't help it.
We had freedom and we used up every ounce of it. Due to this wild toughness, my sister was not ever left behind and it gave her the moxie to never stop.
Lacey was in a horrific accident at the age of 16 months, this caused a loss of connection to her lower spine at T12. She was deemed a paraplegic, and Lacey never fit that definition. Due to a combination of low adult supervision, being safe to roam in nature, and sheer resiliency, we siblings took Lacey with us EVERYWHERE to do EVERYTHING.
Yep. Grandpa put her in a milk cart with our baby sister and away they'd go, bumping over dirt roads. She swam in ditches, climbed up rocks and slid down hills to hot springs. She floated rivers, was towed behind the boat on the "surf board" and got bucked off ponies just like the rest of us. She belonged. We were an inclusive family, before it was even a buzz word. This was our life, and it included a sister who needed support, assistance and adapting, and we did it willingly, no matter what. She was never left behind.
In 2010 Lacey agreed to allow me to take her up a 150 foot climb in the City of Rocks. This included me tied to the rope below her pushing her when needed, and a strong guy pulling from the top to accomplish this amazing feat. We did it, and it was monumental!!!
You would have to ask Lacey what she thought about this inclusive image I'm painting in this story, she'd be willing to discuss it. Lacey has gone on to do many amazing things and has traveled the world. She has also endured tremendous challenges. I'm not certain where her drive comes from, but I'd like to think it had a little to do with her knowing she belonged and could do anything with some support and creativity. I learned all I know about what belonging means in a world where I watched my sister excluded from normal society and access denied. It didn't make any sense to me growing up, because we always made sure Lacey could do what we were. It was only later that I discovered that people with disabilities were discriminated against and where not considered in building plans, school activities and the arts were not even on the radar. I also didn't know that my life would be part of wanting to change communities and society about their perspective about people needing adaptations.
Go to Lacey's website. Brave Lace Project, Say HELLO and check out her wonderful talents. Brave Lace Project
This Story doesn't end here, it just gets better!
Flashing forward many years and many Paralympic awards later & A World Cup (earned by Lacey). I was finishing my Dance Minor in college and was choreographing a piece that was unique and had never been done before in the BSU Dance department. This was a dance that included my sister, who happened to need a wheelchair to get around, well, if she wanted to get anywhere fast.
The choreography and rehearsal were going as planned until one night during rehearsal my sister called me over and quietly said, "I can't do this." I looked at her confused not understanding what she meant. Again she said, "I feel gross and disgusting compared to the other dancers. I feel like a lump." My heart sank. I had no idea she was feeling this way and it hurt to know she was having a difficult time with what I was asking her to do. I had requested that she be out of her chair the entire dance. This meant she was dragged, pulled on fabric and at one time lifted in the air by the dancers.
It was as if I saw my sister in a new way for the very first time. She was vulnerable. This was not an image of her I had ever felt. She was tough, full of determination and was brave. And yet at that moment, I had a strong feeling of compassion and tenderness that was so beautiful. I was overcome by a need to protect her and at the same time, I knew in my heart, for no reason I could understand, until now, that it was important for Lacey to be vulnerable and allow herself to be seen, but most importantly to feel in her body what it was like to be this vulnerable and this raw. So, I said, "Lacey, I don't know why but, I need you to trust me, trust this process." She was quiet for a few moments and then looked up and said, "Ok." It was a moment, I've never forgotten. I was going on pure intuitive inspiration and my sister was trusting ME to get her through this very confronting process.
One night after rehearsal all the dancers said their goodbyes and left for the night. While I was slamming my door in the car to drive home, I got a phone call. It was Lacey. She was sobbing and trying to talk through the sobs. I thought something terrible had happened on the way home and was mortified. I shouted, "Lacey, are you Ok?" No reply just more sobbing. I yelled again. "Lacey!" She cried, "Yes, yes. I'm fine." "I just am having the most profound experience!" I was so relieved the crying was from some sort of revelation and not a car accident. She proceeded to tell me how she had some kind of break-through and how she felt amazing and really IN her body and how... "She felt beautiful in her body for the first time in her life."
My heart swelled with love and compassion for my amazing sister and for her trust and ability to go through this challenging process. I was so full of love and hope and amazement at that moment. It was one of those Big Life moments that changes you forever. It was simple and real and full of pure love.
I'm not sure what I said to Lacey, I was to smitten by the moment and by her wonderful realization. What I said and how I felt weren't important to me. It was what the moment had to teach me.
What that moment gave me was greater compassion, clarity, and understanding into the connection between vulnerability, dance/movement, self-compassion, trust, and belonging. It was like a lightning bolt of wisdom shot into my being that said,
"Dance and movement heal people's hearts and minds. And that anyone can have this profound an experience given a supportive and caring environment in which they can move in their unique way."
That moment has become a part of me and has a lovely sweet home in my heart. It is the reason I do what I do today, it is my WHY. It is the reason I continue to expand my understanding between movement and compassion, and why I started a business solely for the purpose of making dance and yoga and movement accessible for everyone and practice dance movement therapy.
I believe, my experiences growing up inclusive and understanding movement as a healing gift, has lead me to who I am today. It's a wonderful place and it just keeps getting better and better. UPLIFTING LIVES THROUGH MOVEMENT IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT.