Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Great Couple with a Great New Endeavor

Back in the early days of facebook, I was happy to reconnect with a famously nice guy I’d known in high school, Mike Ritter.  I knew that since I had last seen him, he’d been in a gymnastics accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  So, I was eager to hear how he was doing and interested to see in pictures that he was dating a darling blond news journalist (who graduated from the same college I had) and that their relationship was getting serious.  Mike and I chatted back and forth as I asked how they had met and so on and so forth, and he sent me a link to a little blog she wrote.
Her name was Dana, and I instantly liked her (and her blog.)  She wrote about her life and being in news and posted up-beat antidotes and humorous things that happened thruout her day. She was cute, funny and obviously head over heels in love with Michael. I continued to follow their journey there-- thru their romantic engagement, their storybook wedding and I was thrilled to hear about their plans to merge her blog into one that she and Mike planned to write together as newlyweds. In the first few months of their marriage, they posted several times about date nights, recipes, and talked a bit about living in Washington DC where Dana was now working as a White House correspondent. They seemed so happy and so in love.
But then the posts stopped.  Several months went by, and I wondered about them often, and I hoped life had just gotten really busy for them.
Then one morning I logged on to read a very real, very raw, very BRAVE post from Dana. She talked about how she had decided to be honest, and to say that the transition to her new life as a wife and caregiver had been much tougher than she ever expected.  She said she had been dealing with some major grief over the permanence of Michael’s affliction, and that she was pretty sure she was wading thru depression too.  It wasn’t a cry for help…she was getting that.  It was just a “Hey. This is who I am and where we are and I am not ashamed to say so. ”  

And I remember being so proud of her-- this girl I really didn’t even know. Anyone from the outside could easily look at Mike and Dana’s marriage and know that it wouldn’t be easy for them. But it was so courageous of her to be able to admit it publicly and so caring of Michael to let her.

And so, they kept on writing on the blog. And from that point on, they made the conscious decision to not sugar-coat anything—they’d talk about it all…the unbelievably happy times, the sweet romantic times, the crazy fun times, and the down-right sad and terrible times.  And since Dana’s first courageous post back in 2010, Mike and Dana have stayed true to that.  They are real, relatable, laugh-out-loud funny, and oh-so-approachable and honest.  Dana has said that in her darkest days navigating that first year of marriage she felt like she couldn’t find anyone else in the world in a similar situation.  I mean, how many others out there are happily in love, just landed their dream job, and are a newlywed and caregiver to a quadriplegic?  
So Dana and Mike created what she couldn’t find, hoping that thru their honesty they could help others. And they have.  Their blog has exploded.  Others in similar situations have flocked to them for help and support.  Others feel safe saying their life is hard, because they know Mike and Dana understand. They have worked with Joni and Friends, ministered to wounded soldiers, and even created a Facebook page that connects spouses dealing with all sorts of disability in marriage.  Thru their candidness and drive to help others, I am convinced that in many ways they are even changing the face of the Spinal Cord Injury community. 
Dana has also recently written an e-book expanding on one of her most popular blog posts, and I promise you-- you don’t want to miss it.  She wrote it specifically with care-givers in mind, and if are caring for someone physically, or know someone who is, please tell them about this book.   It is empathic, encouraging, and most of all it is empowering.  You will see yourself in Dana’s words, and you will know you’re not alone.
But anyone will enjoy this ebook too. Because it’s Dana’s story in a nutshell, told in her engaging, honest voice. It’s the story of falling in love with someone you never dreamed of, but how it ended up being the perfect fit.  It’s the story of grief and pain and the unexpected.  But, of how God’s mercy and kindness is most often found in those very things.  It’s a love story.  Not just of Dana and the way she cares for Michael, but of Michael’s tender care for her as well, and how they’ve learned to come together as a team, no matter what.
And what a team they are.  Get Dana’s e-book, then follow their blog.  You won’t be sorry.  You’ll smile, be encouraged, and meet two wonderful new friends along the way.

Download the ebook here:  www.caregivingmanifesto.com