I read the following blog post last Thursday, written by Chris Norton, the young man whose story I have the privilege of turning into a book. This post exemplifies the best of human nature. His life changed four years ago without any warning or any time to prepare. Instead of wallowing in grief and dismay, he considers every day a blessing and teaches others how to do the same.
If this post resonates with you, do yourself a favor and read his blog and follow his journey. You won’t be sorry!
Today, marks the four year anniversary of my spinal cord injury and I think it is a good time to reflect on everything. However, I do not need a date or anniversary to remind me of the event that took place four years ago as I am reminded every morning when I wake up in need of assistance to get out of bed.
At times it all seems insurmountable, but I constantly remind myself of where I have come from. I went from the most prime shape of my 18 years of life to having no mobility, no independence; I had hit rock bottom, but to see where I am now feels like so much more than what I had as that 18 year old athlete. I have acquired a greater appreciation for the little things that I could have never gained until my injury. Simple things like feeding yourself or brushing your own teeth.
I have found my purpose in life. Helping others with disabilities and motivational speaking. I’m in a better place in life now than I have ever been before.
October 16, 2010, seems like an eternity ago. In all honesty, I feel reborn like I am living a second life, one lifetime pre-injury and another post-injury. I do not reflect on this day in mourning but in appreciation and happiness like one would view a birthday. It is a day that started something special in my life. In fact, I couldn’t be more happy than where I am now. I have a loving supportive family, the kindest girlfriend, and the most loyal friends. I have my mind, my strength, and my will. With these things with me I feel that anything is possible. And for that I am forever grateful.
My message to everyone: appreciate the little things in life and do not take anything for granted. Do not wait until something is taken from you to appreciate it. Life is a blessing, do not waste your time stressing over it!
CBS 2011 Courage in Sports Award Recipient
Founder SCI CAN Foundation
As some of you may remember from a previous post, I’ve taken a break from romance writing and I’m working on a very special non-fiction project that is near and dear to my heart. In early June, I traveled to Iowa to interview Terry and Chris Norton, the father and son team behind the SCI CAN Foundation. Chris injured his spinal cord playing football for Luther College in 2010 and has gone on to do wonderful and inspiring things with his life.
My trip to Iowa was life-changing. Not only did I see a part of the country I’d never seen before, but I met an ordinary family who, because of an accident, have gone on to do extraordinary things for others. I met business owners who routinely go out of their way to help Chris and his foundation, young men whose lives have been immeasurably changed by their daily interaction with a friend in a wheelchair, and two communities that banded together and rallied around one of their own.
Let’s face it, heroes are not caped men and women as portrayed in movies and cartoons, they are flesh and blood humans who take life’s lemons and turn them into lemonade. The really special heroes share that lemonade with others. I’ve been blessed to write Chris’ story–blessed in so many ways. The editor I found to help with the book routinely prayed for me. She and her husband prayed for my trip! How awesome is that?
When I wasn’t looking, life threw me a curve ball. Instead of ducking out of the way, I decided to swing for the bleachers–and I’m so glad I did. If you have time, click on the link to the foundation and then check out Chris’ blog. You’ll be glad you did!
I’m beyond excited to announce my latest project. I’m taking a break from my usual romance gig to write the memoir of Iowa native Chris Norton. In 2010, Chris broke his neck and suffered a spinal cord injury playing football as a freshman at Luther College. After being given a three percent chance of recovering movement below the neck, Chris has worked tirelessly to achieve his goal of walking across the stage at graduation from Luther College next year.
I stumbled up Chris’s Caring Bridge posts while doing research for my latest release, A Kiss by the Book. After reading the over 300 entries (more than three year’s worth), I felt compelled to reach out to Chris’s dad, Terry. Several times he mentioned he’d like to write a book about their family’s experience since Chris’s accident. After overwhelming Terry with information on how to write a narrative memoir, we agreed I would write their story.
I must confess: I’m nervous. This is a whole different animal from fiction and I really don’t want to screw this up. I reached out to non-fiction editor Nanette Snipes of FaithWorks Editorial Services who gave me the rundown on how to proceed and recommended some books to read. I then contacted Jennifer Schuchmann, the author of several of the books Nan recommended such as Appointments with Heaven and Taylor’s Gift and Unshaken. Jennifer spent over an hour on the phone with me walking me through the process of interviewing and writing someone’s story. I can’t express my gratitude to her enough and hope to one day pay it forward to another author.
Another of Chris’s goals is to drive. He and his family started a foundation called SCI CAN that raises money and awards grants to local hospitals and rehabilitation facilities for improved rehab equipment. He’s currently entered in the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association contest. Entrants who finish in the top ten have the chance to win one of four customized vehicles awarded by an independent panel. Voting ends May 9 so time is running out. You do have to register to vote, but it only takes a second and Chris needs every vote in order to win. You can vote every day. Did I mention that Chris is also a motivational speaker? I’m telling you, this kid is amazing!
If you can take a few minutes out of your day from now until May 9 and vote for Chris, you could help a very deserving young man spread his message far and wide. To vote for Chris, go to www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/christopher-norton-altoona-ia/.