Struggling with Serendipity: A Memoir by Cindy Kolbe
My life changed forever on a country road in the heart of Ohio’s farmland. Near midnight, I drove the last stretch toward home after my son’s college concert in May of 2000. I fell asleep at the wheel with my youngest, Beth, in the passenger seat. As the car flipped across a dark field, my daughter’s spinal cord ripped, along with my identity as a mom. When told of her paralysis from the chest down, 14-year-old Beth paused only a moment before simply responding, “Let’s talk about what I can do.”
My new memoir, Struggling with Serendipity, shares a mom’s crisis, a daughter’s paralysis, and a road of hope—from a small town in Ohio to Seattle, Harvard, Capitol Hill, and around the world. My struggles with guilt and depression are in direct contrast to my daughter, who challenges the physical limits of quadriplegia with tenacity and optimism. We become a team. The one leading the way is Beth, a stubborn teenager who refuses to let her new disability hold her back. Beth helps me find a new normal, with serendipity in the most unlikely of moments.
Beth swims on the U.S. Paralympic National Team for five years, three of which she also competes on the Division 1 Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving Team, the first with a visible disability. A Paralympian, she earned 14 S3 American Records; a decade later, 9 still stand.
“Becoming independent,” Beth said. “That is my greatest achievement.”
Beth lends her voice to Struggling with Serendipity through her media quotes and writings. She is a health policy lawyer on K Street and a resident of her favorite big city, Washington, D.C. Her clients and pro bono work include companies and nonprofits in the disability community. She shares my passion for volunteering and is planning her May wedding.
A lifelong disability advocate—even before Beth’s injury—I ran a nonprofit, managed group homes, and worked at an institution. I have written a blog with over 50 articles in 16 different media outlets since 2016. I am also a peer mentor for the Reeve Foundation and a volunteer for other disability groups and mental health nonprofits.
My book tour for Struggling with Serendipity will take me coast to coast, and I hope to meet many new friends along the way. My website will post new book events. Struggling with Serendipity is not self-published and is available everywhere books are sold. At excerpt follows:
College applications covered our kitchen table before Beth’s senior year of high school began. She questioned the need for help during her freshman year and wondered if I could live off-campus instead of in the dorm with her. Separate housing for me for any amount of time would add significant costs on top of her out-of-state tuition, room, and board. High college expenses seemed certain, but John and I decided not to hold her back because of finances. We owned our Tiffin house and planned to borrow off it.
I watched Beth hold a pen awkwardly in her right fist, not hesitating as she wrote her motto on a Challenged Athletes application. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. I filed away a note I wrote to myself that said, “Anything is possible, except when it’s not.” It amazed me how she dismissed all she couldn’t do as irrelevant and wholeheartedly believed in the truth of the motto. And it really was true but only for her and a small percentage of others with her priceless perspective. Those with and without a disability.
“I think walking is over-rated,” Beth said with a smile.
When my daughter was injured, I assumed her choices would be limited as a quadriplegic, but I’m glad that I was wrong. Instead, we both found a larger world and a welcoming community. And if you never give up? Hope wins.
Find out more at strugglingwithserendipity.com.