My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, they’re in each other all along.” –Rumi
To create a memorable classic love story, you need to feel the love through the lens of unique characters. Barton and Megan Cutter’s joint memoir has those classic elements: separation by distance, family complications, obstacles large and small, and misunderstandings between the principal people. This is the story of an inter-ability married couple meeting the challenges of Barton’s disability with humor, grit, ecstasy and community.
Ink in the Wheels is a single volume composed of two distinct voices harmonizing with one another–not an easy feat to pull off! It’s a book of refreshing honesty that is ultimately a celebration of the process of building a strong marriage while honoring the essence of these two seekers of self expression and growth.
Each section break of Ink in the Wheels is announced with a poem by Megan or Barton. That’s fitting because from the beginning of the Cutters’ relationship, they have communicated their feelings through poetry and writing. Both have degrees in English and a creative drive. An intuitive sense of the Sacred comes through in each person’s voice and it seems only natural to this couple and to the reader that they were drawn to each other when they met to take part in Bujinkan Budō Taijutsu martial arts training in Tucson, Arizona which centers on self-defense for its students, rather than competition.
Barton Cutter puts it well, “I had seen Megan once before this week at camp. I found her beautiful and was stricken with an uncanny sense of familiarity.” It’s clear that the rigorous training and confidence they both found in Bujinkan Budō Taijutsu brought them to the same place at the same time. When the camp was over, Megan returned to her home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She and Barton continued to talk on the phone and email. Their mutual attraction and affinity for one another grew. Within about four months and after two more visits to Tucson, Megan accepted Barton’s proposal. They were deliriously in love.
Barton Cutter’s wheelchair is introduced on page nine, and as Megan Cutter unfolds her journey from assumptions of limited ability and general sympathy to respect, admiration, and acceptance, the reader goes with her. “How does he train in a wheelchair? Poor thing,” she records her first thoughts. And yet, Barton is a level three black belt and a man more than familiar with exceeding expectations. Barton Cutter’s Cerebral Palsy is not specified until page twenty-nine. The challenges of the condition and the strategies used to manage it are described in bite sized bits for the most part. A chapter on Barton Cutter’s surgery to replace a medication delivery apparatus and a chapter on sex give the most information for the reader.
The wheelchair is in some significant ways a third party in the Cutter marriage. Husband and wife zoom around in it like kids at an amusement park. Megan Cutter sits in her husband’s lap and cuddles. Barton Cutter does wheelies. Their home is marked by dings and dents from encounters with the wheelchair. The sex mentioned above has brought down at least one wheelchair. Megan Cutter’s writing in the sex chapter is exuberant and funny. She depicts the mutual delight of any intimate couple as well as the embarrassment of having other people walk in on private moments.
Barton and Megan’s families had strong reservations about the marriage, not because they did not like their children’s choice of partners, but because of logistical and financial concerns. Disability professionals also cautioned against marriage because Barton would lose benefits and resources where they lived in Alabama were inadequate. What was unquestionable though, was the very visible connection the couple shared and their joy in one another. The families came around and Barton and Megan were married and enjoyed a beautiful wedding at which Barton stood to embrace his bride.
The Cutters found their obstacles did not end with getting married. They needed to relocate somewhere with better services available to Barton and where they could both find fulfilling jobs. Once in North Carolina, the Cutters dealt with problems similar to so many couples. Financial and career worries, health issues, and the desire to start a family. Exhaustion and anxiety contributed to difficult talks and hurtful words. Each person struggled to overcome their own disappointments, emotional history, and reluctance to burden the other. Nothing unusual in that. However, gently educating other people about life as an inter-ability couple and responding to negative and intrusive comments by insensitive or well-meaning but uninformed people took its toll as well. Gradually, and with support from a life coach and others, the Cutters have moved forward together. If anything, they seem closer and as they insist, “the story is left undone.”
Ink in the Wheels ends with this, “The story is not merely our own…We hope our story has inspired you and gives you courage to embrace the truth within your own story, and by doing so, make each moment precious.”
The book ends as it began, a joint venture with an emphasis on happiness, collaboration, humor, writing, and creativity. Those who’d like the benefit of Megan and Barton Cutter’s expertise in coaching, mentorship, inclusive leadership training, social media strategy, and individual and group empowerment, can contact Cutter’s Edge Consulting.
Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll is available on Amazon and HERE