What Change Is in Your Pockets?


Piles of Coins Photo Credit: stratejoy.com

Growing up, my dad would collect his change and encourage my sister and me to do the same. Every six months or so, we would all sit down in the kitchen and pour our collections on to the center of the table.  We would then each go about sorting the change into piles- pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Once we completed the sorting, we began creating piles of ten around the table with each type of coin- 10 pennies, 10 nickels, 10 dimes, and 10 quarters. Eventually, the kitchen table would be lined with delicate towers of coins, and we were ready for the next challenging step of sliding the piles into the small six-inch paper sleeves from the bank. Once a sleeve was filled with the correct amount, we would pinch the ends and fold them down to make a solid heavy tube of money. Finally, the most exciting step was counting up the tubes to find out the total amount of money we had collected. I was always amazed at how much money we had in the end. Of course, there was usually some loose change left over that my dad would have us go back and put back into our piggy banks reassuring us that we could look forward to the process occurring again.

When I decided to make a career shift and focus on writing in an attempt to create change with my words, I had no idea how much it would be like collecting coins with my sister and dad. Although it is much less tangible than a pile of coins, creating change is about small moments that may seem insignificant like a penny in your pocket, but when piled up and tallied with others they surprise you with their worth. Therefore, I thought I would share with you the small pocket of change that I have collected over the past month. 

Ocean Park Memorial Library

Ocean Park Memorial Library Photo Credit: Jon Hannaford

Change #1: As we walked across the street to enter one of our favorite summer time spots, the public library in Ocean Park, Maine, Nolan announced with excitement, “Mom, do you see the new accessible ramp to the library? Now, everyone can get books.”

Coach Hooper Photo Credit: PBS Kids

Coach Hooper Photo Credit: PBS Kids

Change #2: During a lazy summer morning, Caitlin and Nolan were cuddled on the couch watching their favorite shows on PBS when Coach Hooper appeared encouraging viewers to get up and move. Ignoring his instructions to stand and reach up high, the kids continued to stay huddled on the couch until Coach Hooper was done. Then, Caitlin popped up and turned away from the television. Concerned, she said, “Mom, they didn’t show any kids who move in different ways. They should include kids who move differently.”

Nolan and Caitlin talking about an upcoming interview. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Nolan and Caitlin talking about an upcoming interview. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Change #3: I was sitting at my desk writing when I was interrupted for the third time in five minutes by Nolan. Annoyed, I explained to him I was writing and I needed to focus for the next 30 minutes to finish up an interview. He responded, “Mom, I want you to be successful. This is really important work. I will play with Caitlin and make sure you get that story done.”

Mosaic Bowl on My Desk Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Mosaic Bowl on My Desk Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

Change #4: “It’s one of a kind,” my colleague proudly stated as I carefully unwrapped the glass bowl she gave me for a parting gift. “It is a mosaic,” she explained further. Shaped from glass and mosaic tiles, the colorful bowl carries a hidden message. It is a reminder of a conversation we had a few years ago, and one I have had with many of my former students. It is a reminder that we are not seeking a melting pot, but instead we want to celebrate what makes all of us unique to create something that would be not be possible alone- a beautiful mosaic.

The Other Side of the Sky by Ahmedi Photo Credit: Amazon.com

The Other Side of the Sky by Ahmedi Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Change #5: This excerpt is from an email sent by a former student… I am reading the book you lent me, The Other Side of the Sky and on page 78, I read this passage and loved it. It is such a strong passage for me…It brought to mind Team Possible, and all the stories you have written about, and all the others to come.

“I didn’t want pity. If less is expected of me, less was thought of me. That’s how I saw it. I refused to concede that stepping on a land mine had made me any less than I used to be or could be. I refuse to scale back my ambitions or reduce my expectations of myself.” 

Coin in Hand Photo Credit: http://desertofziph.ca/

Coin in Hand Photo Credit: desertofziph.ca

I still have some change to share. However, I will keep them in my pocket for now. They will encourage me to keep collecting and remind me that small change can be significant. So… what change is in your pockets?

Jr. Team Possible: Emilia Scovel

Introducing our newest Junior Team Possible member, Emilia Scovel. She was nominated by the amazingly kind and hard working two-time Paralympian, Cortney Jordan, who affectionately refers to Emilia as her “Mini-Me.”

Emilia and Cortney at a swim meet together. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia and Cortney at a swim meet together. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Since kids talk more honestly with kids, Emilia was interviewed by Nolan and Caitlin via FaceTime.  When starting the interview Nolan and Caitlin reassured Emilia that this wouldn’t be just a bunch of questions, but that they could talk about lots of stuff. However, it didn’t appear that Emilia needed any reassuring. She looked fashionable for an early Sunday morning interview. In a colorful outfit accessorized with a headband and lip gloss, she smiled confidently and spun around a bit in her parent’s office chair. She was ready.

How old are you? I’m eight years old.

Nolan (10) and Caitlin (7) are excited by this answer because Emilia is between their ages. Emilia is excited because her sister, Bella, is ten. There are shouts for Bella to join us, and we are introduced to Bella on the screen.

Do you have any pets? I have a dog named Barley. He likes to cuddle under blankets.

Then, Barley makes a brief appearance to say hello and wag his tail.

DSC_0059What sports do you play? I swim. I play basketball, just for fun, with my dad and sister because we have a hoop in the front yard, and I used to play tennis.

What foods do you like? I like pizza. Sometimes I have it with pepperoni, and sometimes I go with plain cheese. I like tacos, too.

Nolan expresses his appreciation for pepperoni pizza, while Caitlin explains how she prefers vegetables on her pizza.

What books do you like to read? I love to read fairy tales and books about dragons. I really like Rumpelstiltskin and Puss and Boots.

“Interesting…” Nolan replies. I guess our resident book guru is pleasantly surprised with Emilia’s choices.

Disney Pixar Inside Out Characters

Disney Pixar Inside Out Characters

What movies do you like to watch? I like to watch scary and romance movies. I really like Maleficent. I also like Back to the Future and Star Wars.

Caitlin jumps in to ask an important follow up question.

Did you see Inside Out? Yes! I really liked it.

Everyone is excited to talk about their favorite characters in the movie. Emilia’s favorite characters are Joy and Disgust.

What superpowers do you have? Fashion. Keeping my dog calm. Remembering facts. I am a history lover. Every day I come home from school and say, ‘Hey Mom, I learned a new fact,’ and then I start spitting out facts about history.

Emilia’s mom, Gigi, explains further that Emilia can even remember all sorts of family events including who was there and what they were wearing. Emilia agrees and states that she even remembers times from when they lived in Malaysia. This comment solicits a surprised reaction and great interest from Nolan and Caitlin.

Emilia and her sister, Isabella, traveling in New Zealand. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia and her sister, Isabella, traveling in New Zealand. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia shares that for three and a half years from when she was 3 to 6 years-old, she lived with her family in Malaysia and traveled to many countries in the area including Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore.

Nolan asks if she ever saw someone play a didgeridoo. Emilia thinks about it and says, “No, but I did get to pet a kangaroo and koala.” Caitlin, our resident animal lover, is very envious.

Emilia proudly holds up her Coaches Award. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia proudly holds up her Coaches Award. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? At my last meet for the summer, I got second place in breaststroke. This year I also got the Coaches Award for the Makos (her club team). The Coaches Award is when all the coaches vote for the swimmer who is the best listener and who tries very hard.

“Very impressive!” replies Nolan with admiration. Emilia smiles.

What are your ultimate sports goals? I want to swim in another Paralympic meet. I want to grow up to be like Cortney.

Nolan smiles and says, “That’s a good goal.”  Caitlin adds, “I was guessing you would say something about Cortney.”

Why do you look up to Cortney? I look up to her because she has the same disability as me. We have a lot in common, and I just want to grow up to be like her.

Nolan whispers to me, “Can I tell her about Nick?” I encourage him to share Nick’s sports story.

“We have a cousin, Nick Springer, and he was in the Paralympics. He played wheelchair rugby.”

Caitlin interrupts, “He still does.”

“Well, he does still play wheelchair rugby, but in 2008 he won a gold in Beijing.” Nolan then explains how Nick contracted meningococcal meningitis at the age 14 and to save his life the doctors had to amputate his arms below the elbows and his legs above his knees. Nolan concludes, “He is amazing and he can do anything. He can even use chopsticks.”

Emilia then proudly shares how one of Cortney’s friend is also missing portions of his limbs and the amazing things he can do. She also explains how her young friend, Gracie, has gone through multiple operations to lengthen one of her legs. Gracie is only five years-old, but Emilia plans to teach her how to swim. We all wonder if Gracie will be Emilia’s “mini-me”, and if Nolan and Caitlin will get to interview her in a few years.

What makes a good teammate? Cheering each other on and teamwork like saying, ‘Yeah, let’s do that!’

What makes a good coach? What makes a good coach is someone who knows how to make the team believe in each other and makes the team do their best.

Emilia snowboarding at Wintergreen Resort. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

Emilia snowboarding at Wintergreen Resort. Photo Credit: G. Scovel

How do you define ability? Ability means you can mostly do anything, and you don’t need help.

“Wow!” replies Nolan.

Gigi, Emilia’s mom, elaborates by explaining that they were worried about Emilia when they were preparing to live in Malaysia. They did not know how her disability would impact her life overseas or how they would be able to meet her needs. However, Emilia was so strong nothing stopped her including a broken left foot. In Cambodia, she climbed all the steps to the temples they visited and never complained. “Nothing stops this kid,” her mom proudly states, “It is hard to tell her ‘no’.”

Emilia then shows us the braces for her left leg. She has had three braces. She was fitted with her first brace when she was a toddler, and it went up to her knee. Her second brace covered her calf and had a hinge at the ankle to allow for more movement. She explains that she got to pick out “all sorts of crazy colors” with her sister to make her brace totally unique. The third brace that she currently uses is smaller and goes just above her ankle. Nolan shares that his cousin, Stephen, has cerebral palsy and he wears a very similar brace on his right leg. Emilia smiles and adds that she and Cortney both have left sides that work differently. 

What advice do you have for other young athletes? Try your best and never give up and have fun.

“I love those words!” exclaims Caitlin.

“Yeah, words of wisdom by Emilia!” declares Nolan, “She is great at this!”

Nolan and Caitlin suggest to Emilia that she should do more interviews. We are all confident that there will be many more interviews and awards in the future for Emilia.

Post Rio Interview with Nolan and Caitlin

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio's legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Nolan, Rio and Caitlin showing off Rio’s legs. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

What was your favorite part of your visit with Rio?

Nolan: Wait, you can’t interview us. We’re not Paralympians.

I know. But I was just wondering, what was your favorite part about your visit with Rio?

Caitlin and Jen teaching Rio to boogie board in the waves of Ocean Park, Maine. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Caitlin and Jen teaching Rio to boogie board in the waves of Ocean Park, Maine. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

Caitlin: My favorite part was going to the beach. I liked showing Rio how to boogie board.

Nolan: I had so many favorite parts. It is really hard to decide. I think…the whole day. Yeah, the whole day.

What surprised you about the visit?

Caitlin: I was surprised at how good Rio was at boogie boarding. Usually, kids don’t get it right away like he did.

Nolan: I was surprised when Rio climbed up the cliffs at the river with his water leg on. I mean that is really hard because it doesn’t bend at the knee. There is no hinge. But then, we would slide down the cliffs on our boogie boards into the water. It was a fun time.

What did you learn from your day together?

Caitlin, Rio and Nolan showing off the personalize copy of Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Thompson. One person can change the world.

Caitlin, Rio and Nolan showing off the personalize copy of Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Thompson. One person can change the world.

Caitlin: I learned that people with disabilities can do everything that kids without disabilities can do.

Nolan: If you have something that is like a disability, you can still do lots of stuff. Even though, it might be a little hard.

What would you like to do when you get to meet up with Rio again?

Caitlin: Probably, rock climbing.

Nolan:  I don’t know what I would do. There are so many great things to do with Rio, and I hope we see him again soon.

Caitlin: Paragliding would be really fun, too.

Do you have any other comments?

Caitlin: The day with Rio was really fun. I wished he lived in the US.

Nolan: I know Rio’s mom is going to read this interview. So… I can’t wait to see him again!


The tweet that started a friendship across the Atlantic. Photo Credit: Juliette Woolf

The day with Rio and his parents, Juliette and Trevor, was truly remarkable. It was like experiencing the mission of Team Possible firsthand. It is incredible to think that it all started from a simple tweet of Rio holding a Lego figurine.

One special moment for me was when Juliette told me Rio called me “Coach,” and insisted that I help him work on his new boogie boarding skills. Although it was tough to say good-bye to our new boogie boarding buddy, I loved the big squeeze-you-tight hugs we all received from Rio at the end. Keep believing in the possible! #RunRioRun #BoogieRioBoogie