Our shelter dogs rescued us

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In celebration of National Dog Day we wanted to share a short bit about our pride and joys with you. Nope, they’re not Snots from the movie Christmas Vacation, but they’re not too far off.

Although Cubbie (white) and Finley (brown) were adopted, we like to think that they rescued us, not the other way around. They picked us out of the litter of possible owners because they’re as unique as our family – they are both amputees. Cubbie was born with a birth defect to his left front paws. Finley had one of his rear legs amputated when he was 8 years old after his original owner let a severely broken bone get too infected. Given John’s leg amputation, we knew they fit perfectly into the Mabry family circus. We couldn’t imagine our family without them.

The thing about many rescue dogs like these is that they are so appreciative of being welcomed into a loving home. Ok, maybe they don’t relish the fact that baby Sawyer pulls at their fur or takes mom and dad’s attention away from them, but at least she’s good at dropping expensive, organic food on the floor from her high chair that she doesn’t want to eat.

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I consider Cubbie and Finley my therapy buddies. I can’t tell you how many times they have been there for me, to support me emotionally, when I was sad, worried or depressed. They are more effective than any antidepressant I could ever take. So go out and let a dog rescue you today!

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My Top 5 Go-To Memos For Keeping Our Marriage Alive and Thriving

Marriage is a complicated creation.  Two lives with different backgrounds join together to become one.  This just sounds like a recipe for disaster.  It’s no wonder divorce rate is as high as it is these days!  In the past, I thought our marriage was going to be one that could have raised the divorce rate just a little higher.  With addiction invading our marriage for the first ten or so years it is quite a miracle that John and I still stand united as of today.  To read more about our testimony click here.

 With our 11th anniversary approaching next week, I thought I would take the time to make a list of the top 5 things I have clung to during this crazy ride called Marriage.

 1. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES:

Always focus on the good things within the marriage…even if they are few and far between.  Focus on the reasons you originally fell in love with your spouse and seek those characteristics out.

 2. REMEMBER THOSE VOWS?:

“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part…” That is a BIG commitment!  Would you still love your spouse if he was worse, poor, and sick? Commit (unless you are in danger) and love your spouse like Christ loves you.

 3. DON’T FORGET TO WATER YOUR GRASS:

The grass is greener where you water it.  Invest in your marriage in good and bad times.  Remember, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

  4. TRY ON THEIR SHOES:

Be empathetic.  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to help understand their views better.  Understanding their situation makes it easier to show love to your spouse.

 5. HAVE A SHORT TERM MEMORY:

Forgive and forget the bad.  Free yourself from past disappointments and focus on what the future may hold. Apologize often.

I know I said “Top 5” but here is a bonus tip for you:1536669_10152383625704845_6208178421854409353_n

6.  HAVE FUN AND LAUGH OFTEN!:

NEVER EVER stop dating one another. Do you really want to become that boring old predictable married couple? Start creating those laugh line wrinkles now so you have proof of a happy life when you are old.

May your marriage be blessed with laughter, joy, and LOVE!

Hugs, Sarah

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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

John’ infamous prosthetic leg featured in new article by UNYQ

SPOTLIGHT: JOHN MABRY

John with his two amputee rescue dogs.

Addressing Me

In 2000, as a senior in college at Baylor University, John Mabry found himself in a tragic car accident that left him with a horrible leg injury. Over the next year he had 14 surgeries in an effort to save his left foot. Eventually, due to constant staph infections he began to consider amputation. While researching this option, he began to reach out to the amputee community and was amazed at the positivity and strong responses he received. Mabry decided to go through with the amputation, and 6 weeks later, he walked at his college graduation and received his degree while using a temporary prosthetic.

After graduation Mabry felt a strong calling to help other people in similar situations to his own. Mabry enrolled in a Master’s program in Rehab Counseling that focused on helping people with disabilities get back to work. For the first time in his life, he decided to leave Texas and move to California to pursue the master’s program.

Mabry’s desire to help people is truly remarkable, yet, he soon came to realize, it was at his own expense. He was so focused on helping others with their struggles that he never paid attention to his own.“I kept running from my trauma and my fears. I covered it up with trying to accomplish things… I thought, I am going to go skydiving, I am going to run triathlons but I was just running from myself.” At the end of his Master’s Program, Mabry realized,“I couldn’t go help people I needed to help myself”.

In 2008, it all came crashing down and Mabry and his family made the decision to return to the South to begin focusing on his personal healing. “The biggest part of my journey is addressing me, and working on myself emotionally and mentally, the physical part is what is easy.” Addressing oneself does not come naturally. Whether you are a mother, father, friend, or partner, it is innate to want to care for others. We are taught selfishness is ugly and it is better to be selfless. But in order to be truly successful, we must remain most faithful to our own being in order to then help others. Mabry says, “The point I like to tell people is to get support for whatever you are doing so you don’t have to do it alone, and ask for help. That is okay.” Mabry relies heavily on his support team, including other amputees, his physical therapist, and his family.

       

Once he addressed his own identity and trauma as an amputee, he and his wife began to address themselves as a duo, as parents, and as a family. Through self-examination and revelation he realized we both have, “goofy, quirky personalities, and a big sense of humor. We don’t fit in the mold of suburban family.” Mabry said to his wife, “I think it would be really therapeutic to be who we are and quit caring what the neighbors think of us.” So that is what they did—they began to be their truest selves.

Mabry, his wife and their three kids spend weekends creating skits and YouTube videos. Their days are filled with family bonding, face painting, and being creative. You can read about their latest adventures, such as driving through a drive-thru dressed as a cartoon character or spicing up date night with prank wars, on their family blog, https://mabryliving.com/.

Ever since Mabry began to “address me” he has felt his life get back on track, he volunteers at the Vanderbilt Trauma Center as a member of the peer support group, and he plays around with the idea of writing a book. He now sports the Alzette UNYQ cover in blue and white and says, “it is part of my new identity…it’s like my tattoo and I am proud of it.” UNYQ is thrilled to be part of Mabry’s journey and grateful that he took the time to share it.

Huge thanks to John and his entire family, they are truly filled with love and laughter!

Proud to call my best friend, Travis Ricks, a HERO!

Disability Awareness Month

Local Hero Travis Ricks Helps Challenged Athletes Thrive

Travis Ricks, 2014 Disability Awareness Month Local Hero Honoree.

TRAVIS RICKS

Travis Ricks, 2014 Disability Awareness Month Local Hero Honoree.

When Travis Ricks learned he had cancer in his right leg, he was a star football athlete in high school. Sports were his life.

Later, when he had to make the decision whether or not to amputate the leg because his treatment options were dwindling, he said, “Let’s cut it off. It’s time to move on.”

Yet, if he could do it all over again, keep his leg and be cancer-free, he wouldn’t change a thing. In losing his leg, he received something far greater: his relationship with his mother.

“My mom had me when she was 18, and I’m her only child,” Ricks explains. “She’s been married three times and has had trouble with the law and with staying sober. When I was diagnosed with cancer, she got out of rehab because I needed a parent. She’d sleep on the couch, the floor, a chair, while I was in the hospital and spent pretty much every hour with me. I personally believe if I hadn’t gotten cancer, my mom wouldn’t have been able to get clean. She didn’t have time to relapse because she was taking care of her son who was dying. I wouldn’t ask for my leg back, because I got my mom out of [the experience].”

Ricks’ mother managed to turn her life around and, in the process, his. When he made the decision to amputate, she began doing research and came across a blogger who’d written about the loss of his leg. Uncannily, the blogger had just moved to San Diego from Texas, and was living in Pacific Beach, just a few blocks from Ricks. The two met and soon Ricks was introduced to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF).

“He got me involved and I started volunteering,” Ricks says. “My first grant that I received from CAF was for a running leg. Then one day, I walked in and they asked if I wanted a job because they needed someone to work the front desk.”

After 18 months, Ricks started traveling regularly for his work. Today, he has two titles: Senior Programs Manager, and Athletes Relations. The latter he came up with himself, finding it better describes his position in reaching out to challenged athletes.

Ricks and the U.S. Paralympic Men's Volleyball team.

TRAVIS RICKS

Ricks and the U.S. Paralympic Men’s Volleyball team.

“We help people with physical disabilities and we do it through a lot of ways. We give more grants for sports equipment than any other organization in the world. Locally, we do sports clinics, wheelchair yoga, wheelchair Zumba, adaptive self-defense, amputee yoga, and hand-cycle clinics. We have very dedicated people here who work all hours.”

CAF Director of Programs Carolyn Odom nominated Ricks for the Local Heroes Disability Awareness Month award. “Over the past seven years, Travis has worked his way up [at CAF],” Odom notes. “He developed Project N.Ex.T, a San Diego County program that pairs athletes who are newly injured with a similarly disabled mentor. He coordinates and attends our Amputee Mobility Clinics, eight clinics held around the U.S. every year that teach basic running skills to new amputees. He also ran a clinic last October for those injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. Travis also goes above and beyond his work duties on a weekly basis. He speaks at local schools, does regular hospital visits, and follow-up home visits to make sure that they are adjusting well post-amputation…. I have never had an employee so utterly devoted to his work.”

Ricks also travels to Oklahoma for the Endeavor Games, which he describes as a mini Paralympics. There, he meets families and introduces them to the services CAF provides. Ricks himself is a triathlete and for the last five years has done a lot of racing, winning a national champion in 2011. In fact, you could say he does not know what it means to have “spare time.”

“I have no down time,” he admits. “I’ve been head coach of my high school wrestling team for the last six years now. I’m the development coordinator for USA Triathlon, I’m on the national committee for Paratriathlon, and I’m on the U.S. team for Paralympic volleyball. It’s very interesting and fast-paced.”

Ricks and his mother at high school graduation.

TRAVIS RICKS

Ricks and his mother at high school graduation.

For Ricks, being able to still engage in sports has made all the difference to his overall well-being, and he believes the same is true for all the athletes that rely on CAF.

“We believe that sports makes someone whole,” he says. “When you don’t have the ability to do sports, there’s something missing from your life. We’re naturally active. We want to go out and do things and when you take that ability away from someone, they’re missing something in their life. Being able to provide the ability to do that, through my work, is huge. I’ve watched people’s lives change. I’ve seen the smile on their face and how their whole demeanor changes.”

Ricks’ favorite part of his job is working with children and seeing them succeed. Over the summer he participated in an amputee youth camp and says he was “blown away” by their resilience. One little girl in particular has stolen his heart. He met Haven at the Endeavor games several years ago.

“Haven and I are besties,” he acknowledges in a voice overcome with pride. “Her’s is a special story. Born in Vietnam, her parents, who were married to other people, had an affair and had her, but because there are no divorce laws in that country, they decided the only way they could all be together was to commit family suicide. They took a grenade, held the baby in their lap and blew themselves up. But that actually blew the baby off their lap and mangled her feet, which had to be amputated. Haven now lives in Missouri and is 11. When I met her and her mom at the Endeavor Games, she wasn’t going to run. I convinced her to run and she won four gold medals that year. It made her super happy and I introduced her to CAF, where everybody loves her. We gave her one of our awards. A lot has happened because of our chance meeting.”

Ricks with Haven, a young girl from Missouri whom he has helped mentor.

TRAVIS RICKS

Ricks with Haven, a young girl from Missouri whom he has helped mentor.

Before Ricks lost his leg he had planned to become a zoologist, ironically, because he didn’t really want to work with people. Clearly, that is no longer the case.

“Getting the job at CAF is probably one of the best things that ever happened to me because it is great to have a job that helps other people,” Ricks says. “I didn’t know I wanted to do that in my life until I started doing it here. For me it’s seeing other people succeed. The word ‘inspire’ gets thrown around a lot in the disabled community, but I get inspired watching other people, despite their disability, go out and become athletes. Everyone has the chance to do it, and if you have a positive outlook, you can succeed.”

“For all of the hard work Travis puts in,” says Odom, “he doesn’t do [it] for the kudos or for a pat on the back. He is a generous and giving person, and I would like him to know just how much he is appreciated. He has made such an incredible impact on people with physical disabilities, both on and off the court, because he is able to relate to them on such a deeply personal level. I cannot think of a more deserving choice for a Local Hero.”

Cubbie, the world’s greatest therapy dog who makes the most annoying sound in the world!

Meet Cubbie Mabry in this heart touching video! Cubbie came into the world a disabled pup with a deformed front paw. Then he was relentlessly beaten and neglected by his original owner. Cubbie was plucked up off the streets of San Diego and was 4 hours away from being put to sleep.

We rescued him in 2004 when we saw he had a disabled paw that he could barely use. With me being an amputee, he fit right in with us. Some of his “cute” characteristics are that Cubbie has separation anxiety disorder, he doesn’t understand personal space, cannot be more than 10 feet from Sarah or his separation anxiety kicks in and he breaks out into “the most annoying sound in the world” (you’ll see what we mean at the end of the video).

Of all that this boy has been through he selflessly gives his heart to whoever will accept him. He’s the best “therapy buddy” you’ll ever meet and he is loved to death in the Mabry home!