States 24 and 25 of 50 States for Sole
Unmistakably enchanted. There are no accidents. This I believe.
I’m often invited to conduct public speaking engagements that are centered around telling the Girls With Sole story, but that also have an additional topic or theme. One of the topics that I often focus on, and that is one of my favorites, is Gaining POWER by Empowering Others. Usually I do these presentations for corporate meetings and conferences, or colleges and universities, where there is a desire to conjure a positive message of empowerment – not only from sharing my personal experiences with overcoming obstacles and adversity – but from the fact that I use those experiences to help others gain strength as well.
There is great power to be had from empowering others, especially when you provide them with tools they can use to persevere and gain resilience personally – and then pass that empowerment on to even more people in need. It’s a magical ripple effect – a positive cycle, if you will, (as opposed to the vicious negative cycles we are all too familiar with).
New Mexico is nicknamed the Land of Enchantment, which spoke to me as a very purposeful and profound reminder of what I am doing with 50 States for Sole, and why I’m doing it.
The definition of Enchantment is:
a feeling of great pleasure; delight.
“the enchantment of the mountains”
synonyms: magic, witchcraft, sorcery, wizardry, necromancy; More
the state of being under a spell; magic.
“a world of mystery and enchantment”
It isn’t an eye-opening revelation that empowering others can conjure happiness that feels like a spell has been cast upon you and you can take on the world. However, it’s the enchantment that extends beyond the surface level of happiness from helping others that does have me a bit mystified.
There are wondrous events that surround Girls With Sole, and amass daily, which help us reach more and more girls in need.
These are events that I couldn’t have predicted or achieved on my own without a little magic in the universe, or help from a power much greater than myself that already has a plan laid out to bring strength, renewed hope, and empowerment to girls who need Girls With Sole. And because we have set the ripple in motion, there are many life-changing events that occur without my knowing, and will continue to do so – and to me, that is eye opening.
This whole thing goes way beyond me, and I’m often reminded of that during the many miles (both traveling and running) associated with 50 States for Sole.
As I drove my rental car from El Paso, Texas and crossed the border under the Land of Enchantment sign that welcomed me to the beautiful state of New Mexico, I was energized with feelings of new life and excitement. Vigor surged through my body as I thought about the person I was in the past – during my darkest days when I (and everyone who knew me) worried if I would survive, let alone thrive. Yet, here I was making a solo trip into New Mexico to run a 26.2 mile footrace in the desert for the programs that provide empowerment to girls – girls who, in-turn – provide me with the inspiration, empowerment and joy to keep moving forward every day.
Passing under that school bus yellow sign of Welcome reminds me once again that my SOLE purpose on this earth is to raise my loving family and to bring Girls With Sole programs to girls across the country who need them. It’s a bright yellow message that says I need to keep moving forward – so that others can learn to do the same – even when they think they can’t.
I am an enchanted sole – grateful for what I have gone through – so that – I can now help others. Grateful to be able to run and push myself physically to keep my mind, body and soul healthy and thriving. Having run the 24th state of 50 states for Sole in the Land of Enchantment, the 25th in Nashville, as well as the events surrounding both of these race, are the loudest, most magical reminders of the continuous and enchanting effects of Girls With Sole on so many people’s lives. It seems to have taken on a breathtaking life of its own, much like the astounding beauty of the mountains in New Mexico.
Three days before I left for New Mexico, my home became the set of a renovation HGTV show called “Fix It and Finish It”. The star and host of the show is Antonio Sabato Jr., who was a famous Calvin Klein underwear model and appeared in Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” music video. Many people my age would also remember him from his time on the soap opera General Hospital, but most recently he is known for his moves on Dancing With the Stars.
Bright and early on October 28, 2014, Antonio and crews of more than 60 people descended upon my little house in Rocky River for the entire day and proceeded to transform our upstairs loft from an ugly and uncomfortable space into a beautiful and cool place for my kids and their friends to hang out.
This was magical for the obvious reasons, of course, but beyond that – it was the reasons that we were chosen to be on the show in the first place that held the magic. I was contacted by the producers of the show because they saw the piece about Girls With Sole on the TODAY Show in July, and wanted to have the chance to give back to people who contribute great things to their community. They asked me for the name of a family in the area who Girls With Sole programs have served – and made every effort to do a renovation for that family as well. The show has many stipulations, however, with one of the biggest being the need to complete the renovation in only one day. As it turned out, they weren’t able to do the renovations for the family I referred to them because they would have required more than what they could do in one day- but they are hoping to come back to Cleveland to give it another try in the future. This is part of the positive cycle that will continue to unfold – often without my know it.
The following day, October 29, 2014 (two days before I left for NM) I was invited to speak to an Adolescent Psychology class at Cleveland State University by a friend of mine who teaches the class. She told the students ahead of time that I was coming, and let them know what I would be speaking about. It was an evening class, comprised of about 30 undergrads and graduate students. Each student was required to write a Reflection Paper based on what they took away from my presentation. The papers were to be turned into my friend, their professor, but one of the young ladies reached out to me on Facebook to ask if she could share her reflection paper with me, and to tell me that I had changed her life the night I came to speak to her class. I was blown away.
This is the enchantment that is Girls With Sole; the power of empowering others; and the magic that goes way beyond myself to which I keep referencing.
I asked her if I could share her paper, and she said that I could.
Again, I was enchanted.
Reflection #1 by D.M.
I don’t cry. I most definitely do not cry in public, or in this case, in a room filled with peers. Suffice it to say that the words uttered by Liz Ferro did not fall on deaf ears. I must confess that I wasn’t interested in hearing her speak in the slightest. My co-workers can corroborate that story. I whined “you can’t pay me to get on a treadmill, let alone be involved in athletics. There’s no way anything this lady has to say will affect me in the least!” Mostly out of fear of being blacklisted, I made my way in, only to find that my assumption couldn’t have been further from the truth. For the past 5 days all I’ve done is drink, cry, and try to come to terms with the words Liz shared, but more so, the experience that she and I share.
I suppose there is another confession I must make before I can divulge my main confession. I pre-judged Liz as an overly chipper, entirely too optimistic philanthropist with nothing better to do than come talk to a group of disinterested students. It wasn’t long before I was clinging to every word that left her lips. It rapidly became apparent that she wasn’t what I had characterized her to be. No, not at all. She’s me. Twenty years older, wiser, and happier, but still, the similarities were undeniable. Like Liz, I too was sexually abused as a young child. While my abuser was not my neighbor, it was the neighbor of my uncle. Like Liz, I too was found out by a written confession of the abuse. Like Liz, I too was disregarded, and the story of my abuse was swept under the rug, not to be discussed again for years. Everything about our stories were almost exactly the same, down to the fact that both of our fathers were engineers.
This happened when I was seven. It wasn’t until I was twelve that anyone else became enlightened to my secret. It wasn’t until Wednesday that I realized that I’m not alone. I was periodically sexually abused on more than one occasion in the years that followed the first incident. This secret has held me captive for nearly seventeen years. I became the poster child for sexual abuse. All of the signs were there without me ever realizing until I began tirelessly trudging down the path to a career in psychology. I suffer(ed) the substance abuse, the sexual promiscuity, the constant mistrust of everyone I’ve met, and more. I’ve wrestled these demons for far too long, and frankly, they were winning. WERE being the operative word.
Without ever attending a meeting Girls with Sole has changed my life in a way that perhaps nobody would have ever intended. By just hearing her story and the progress she’s made I’ve decided that it’s time to put all of my demons to rest once and for all. I’ve always had this notion that it would be anything but acceptable for a future psychologist to seek psychological counseling. After hearing Liz’s uplifting message, and seeing that it’s possible to win this battle, I’m finally ready to let that stigma die. I’m going to get the help that I’ve so desperately needed for almost two decades, and move forward as a happier and more enlightened version of myself.
The process starts here. I immediately went out and bought a brand new journal- a positivity journal- and have started to write three positive things that happen every day. For far too long I’ve fixated on the negatives and allowed life to happen to me, rather than being in control of my life and the things that occur therein. I’m no longer the same scared little girl that I was all those years ago. I’ll embrace my fears that I’ve been carrying. I didn’t come this far just to fall. From this day forward I will no longer be afraid, or stuck in a cycle of negative thinking. I’m putting down the wine, picking myself up, and I will climb my way out of the grave I’ve nearly dug myself into. Liz Ferro has changed my life for the better. I know I have a very long, emotionally tolling, and tear-jerking road ahead of me, but for the first time in my life I’m ready to begin traveling down it so I too can have my “Finish Line Feeling”.
Speaking of being on the road and moving forward toward the Finish Line Feeling, it is now Halloween, and I’m on my way to New Mexico to do the Day of the Dead Marathon in Las Cruces. My flight leaves at the ass crack of Dawn, but I’m so excited about this adventure at to run 26.2 miles in my 24th state! Everything goes swimmingly until I begin to feel a migraine coming on, which escalates into a full-blown-up-all-night-barfing-four-or-five-times kind of migraine. It was truly horrible. I was worried about being able to do the marathon – but worrying always proves to be silly, wasted energy – especially when a plan has already been set before you, and you’re in the Land of Enchantment!
The next day, November 1st (All Saints Day) I got up and still felt the debilitating headache and nausea. I took a shower and then ventured out to look for a pharmacy and coffee shop. I took some over-the-counter migraine medicine and ingested some caffeine to open the blood vessels, and then proceeded to take in as much of Las Cruces as I could. Everyone was celebrating Day of the Dead, and I was determined to be part of it in any small way that I could.
The Day of the Dead is a holiday that I am drawn to and really love – for reasons that I don’t know – but the reasons for things don’t always matter. The facts are that I love everything about it. I love the sugar skulls, the colors, the masks and the alters. I love that it’s a celebration of life and focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is an enchanting holiday and a beautiful one, in my humble opinion.
I even celebrate it when I am in Ohio!
As the day went on, I became one hundred percent better, and ready to take on the race. On Sunday, November 2nd I ran 26.2 miles with a Cheshire Cat grin plastered on my face the entire time. It was all too magical and beautiful to believe, including the hand-made and hand-painted finisher’s medal depicting a the sugar skulls that I love so much.
The magic of the race course was a surreal, yet highly enjoyable experience. Positive childhood memories were quickly awakened with every dusty foot strike. As if they were trying to keep pace with the sunrise, these buried mind-treasures became warmer and brighter as the morning matured.
I took in the sky and marveled at the scenery around me, allowing myself to fall into a trance-like hypnosis brought on by the crunchy rhythmic sounds of my feet accented by roosters shouting their good morning hellos.
It was as if I were transported into one of my favorite videos from Seasame Street- back in the 1970’s. It was a video that sucked me in and held my interest like nothing could at that age, because only a land of enchantment could have that kind of power over a super hyper kid like me. The narrator was a boy named James who lived in New Mexico. In the most mesmerizing way he talked about his pueblo and what a day in his life might look like there. As a child I was super-glued to that video, and as I watched it I longed to play shimmy stick with James and his friends, and to go to the only store in his town to get candy. I wanted to pet the happy dogs that ran around free in the dusty dirt roads, and to make corn necklaces with his mom and eat the tortillas she made, instead of the Millbrook I had everyday for lunch.
The story told by James seemed so completely magical and free. Everything about it had an innocence and beauty that captivated me back then, and simply elated me as I ran the Day of the Dead Marathon for Girls With Sole.
You might think the magic ends there – but this is Girls With Sole we’re talking about here – it has no end, and will continue to produce its ripple effect long after you finish reading these words.
I got home from New Mexico and on the following day, I had the privilege of including a group of girls that I do programs with in a photo shoot for the January 2015 issue of RUNNERS WORLD Magazine. It was for a piece they were doing on Girls With Sole as part of their hero runner issue. The positive energy, happiness and empowerment that was generated at that shoot extends beyond the term magical. To see the pride and ownership of Girls With Sole that exuded from every girl there was to witness the embodiment of what our programs can do for a young women’s self-esteem and her mind, body and soul.
A few days after the photo shoot, I was off to Nashville to complete my 25th state and achieve the half-way point of my goal. This was an enchanting point in my quest. I was about to run my 18th marathon in a year, six short days after completing my 24th state. The Nashville Marathon was fantastic in every way. Although the course was fairly hilly and challenging, I loved it – as well as the town, and the the people I met with whom I shared the GWS story. Somehow I ended up placing 3rd in my age group in Nashville at the Hard Rock Marathon on Saturday, November 8, 2014, with a time of 4:11:00. I have never placed in a marathon before, and frankly have never cared if I did or not. For me this isn’t about my speed of completion. It’s about the journey and purpose behind the journey. Completion of each marathon, in and of itself, is enough for me. Moving forward with the POWER that I preach to my kids and others (Perseverance, Optimism, Wisdom, Energy and Resilience) is what counts. But I really must admit that the unexpected surprise did evoke a certain pride and happiness in me that felt quite magical.
But then again, running is magical, the Finish Line Feeling is a spell, and I am an enchanted sole.