Bring it out of the dark

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I remember it like yesterday. “Thank you doc”, I said as he read off my diagnosis and prognosis. Mom, understandably, had burst into tears and was sobbing. I shook his hand and walked out of the room, emotionless.

If only the doctors would teach you how to deal with the news they tell you. I did all that I knew to do, I tucked the news away into the darkness of my mind deciding never to deal with it again.

Sure, once and a while it would inevitably come up. When people asked why I struggled to stand or couldn’t jog but I only let it out of the dark just long enough to explain and then I quickly pushed it back.

Eventually the day came when I knew I needed assistance with getting around. I went to my local MDA Clinic to speak to a doctor about my progression.

Over ten years had passed since that day I had shook the doctors hand. For ten years I had left it in the dark. This was my first doctors visit since.

I was being told to walk, stand, lift, push, and pull so they could measure my progression. A dizzy feeling came over me. The next thing I knew, I was laying on the chair looking up, being told I just had a seizure. A seizure? I thought. How on earth? I’ve never had one!

Pseudo-seizure is what they call it. The body’s way of shutting down when it can’t handle what is going on.

You see, pushing all of that emotion and pain into the dark can never make it go away. It will always come out in another way. My mind had tried so hard to leave my feelings in the dark until the point of literally shutting down.

Anger, bitterness, control, being critical, faultfinding, judgmental, irritable, unloveable….these are the secondary emotions that seep to the surface when you won’t deal with your pain. I had or have become this person that I didn’t like anymore.

As my children have come near the age when I was diagnosed I have felt it impossible to hold it in, to wrestle it into the darkness. I was always taught real men don’t cry, rub some dirt on it, dust it off etc… But it didn’t work anymore.

That’s why I write. I know I am no professional by any means but it’s my release. Writing, talking to a confidant, public speaking, all great ways to shine a light on the darkness.

Darkness is simply the absence of light. The moment even the tiniest flame is lit, the darkness dissipates.

It’s time to shine a light on your pain. It’s time to talk about it. It can only be pushed away so long until you will emotionally throw up.

Find a release. Write, talk, love, serve others. The sooner you do, the better a person you will be. And isn’t that what you want?

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The Blessing of Suffering

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Matt. 5:3&4 – Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Rom. 8:18 – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Victor Frankl in his book Man’s search for meaning writes of his experience in the Nazi concentration camps, “In the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not of camp influences alone.  Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevski said once, ‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings’.”

“A man will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place.  His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”

Reading these words as I was on vacation last week, alone with my thoughts. Struck my heart like a bolt of lightning.  I was at a pretty low spot on the self-pity scale. You know those times when the reality of your situation decides to bear down on you all at once?

Why me?  

What is going on?  

I don’t understand.  

Then it hit me: Here I am in this finite body quickly drifting through this thing we call “life” and I have been given a grand opportunity.  An opportunity that not everyone is given, a chosen opportunity to bear a burden in such a way that impacts my world.

I felt like the ape in a cage at the lab:  In his blood was the cure for a certain disease.  Pricked with needles day in and day out, angry and hurt.  Little did he know that his suffering was healing people.  He couldn’t see into our world, he couldn’t possibly ever understand what was going on nor the good that his suffering was producing. Neither can we ever fully see into the spiritual world, into God’s world, and see all around us the goodness that is produced by suffering.  If we did know or could see all of the positivity that we produce, we might very well choose to remain in our current circumstances, as would the ape.

If you were 98 years old and lying on your death bed but things were different.  You had never been diagnosed with the blow of a degenerative illness, you had never felt the burden of financial crisis. All of those things were reversed and your life had been different. But also, in reverse, you had never met your wife, you never had children, you never met the people you have, your friends never were, or you had not know love. Would you make the trade?

Who knows the positive things in life that suffering has bought our way and what would be if it were not so?  

This is your path, this is my path. You can choose to live in your past and dream about all of your accomplishments and become depressed over what you may never be able to do again. You can live in your future in a kind of dreamland and think of what could’ve been or what might be if things were different.  But the sooner you choose to live now, and be present, the sooner you can build more out of your life.  

You may never know who you have blessed or what you have been blessed with because of your suffering.  Bear your burden with integrity and dignity, bear it well my friend because it will be the legacy of who you were.

 

Is anyone really Independent?

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1. the state or quality of being independent
2. freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.
3. a competency.

Competence: a sufficiency of means for the necessities and conveniences of life

“Leave me alone, I can do it, I’ve got it, I’m not useless you know!” – all of these statements flow from the heart of independence. One thing that makes each of us feel like a useful, mature adult is being able to do things without the aid of another human being.

Angry, disgruntled, bitter person with disability-enter stage left. If not kept in check needing to rely on others and the reality of not being able to do “normal everyday” things on your own can turn you into one of these angry, heartless zombies.

Losing the strength in my arms has been the most challenging part of my fight with MD. Every day tasks like:

-Shaving
-Washing or styling Hair
-Brushing teeth
-Eating

Have become more difficult. Some things I’m just unable to do at all. This can lead to a feeling incompetence and frustration.

Many famous people in history had some kind of physical or mental challenge that pushed them to greatness. To prove to themselves that they were still people of value.

If you will discipline yourself to focus this huge amount of negative energy into something positive you can change your life. You have the choice to become bitter or better. To lay down and give up the fight or to learn a new way to fight. To get depressed or get this thing addressed.

Realize that many successful people you see whether they look totally “normal”or not have had to overcome obstacles in their life. Not everyone was handed the proverbial “silver spoon”.

A lot of people ask for help from others. Most any successful CEO will tell you that they did not get there on their own. They had a lot of help from many people.

Don’t be to scared or too proud to ask for help when you need it. Most people love to help and get a great feeling from it. Don’t be afraid to purchase or rely on equipment that will make your life easier and give you more independence. Don’t worry about “what it looks like” , you will get over that.

So stop feeling sorry for yourself, pick your rear end up, dust off, get out there
and kick some butt! You can do it.

Motorcycle-Wheelchair Accessible

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click for video of riding
I bet when you see a guy in a wheelchair at Walmart, you don’t figure that he rode his motorcycle there.

When you see a person rolling through Walmart on a wheelchair I know the first thing you think is, “Oh that person is fat or lazy.” Now that is not always the fact. There are many people in wheelchairs that didn’t do it to themselves, one of the lousy side effects of losing mobility is weight gain.

I thought that today I would post about one of my favorite past-times, riding! When people see my rig they often follow me just to try and stop and ask me about it. I have won awards for it’s uniqueness. It is a 1982 Honda 450A and the frame is welded to a side car. The steering, throttle, breaking, and shifter has all been transferred to be controlled from the sidecar. A passenger can ride an the bike seat itself (this gets a lot of looks) . It was made by a company called Tomco back in the 1990’s. I found out about the company one day as I was researching online about how a wheelchair can get on a bike. After finding out about this I struck gold and found one for sale on Craigslist out of Florida. After negotiating and sending pictures back and forth etc. I used the company you may have seen on the popular tv show Storage Wars and had the rig brought to my house.

Nervousness is not the word for how I felt the first time on it. I had to send the triple trees to a company in British Columbia Canada to have the front tire raked out at a better angle. After that it was about 70% easier to steer.

I have put close to 2000 miles on it since I’ve owned it. I would love to be able to find a fabricator that could hook it up to a Harley and put an electric shifter and ramp on it like the one I saw them do on an episode of Counting Cars. Until then, I will enjoy this as I ride away the stress of owning two businesses and raising 3 children!

Maybe one day you will see me riding down the street in Saline county. If you do, give me a honk. Until then, safe riding and watch out for bikes!

4×4 Wheelchair!!!

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Click-Me riding the chair

Click-Going off road!

So ASI (my van repair and medical equipment supplier) loaned me a Frontier X8 four-wheel drive off road wheelchair.

I took it for a ride on Saturday to test it out and let me tell you-amazing! I went places that I haven’t been able to go in years. Up hilltops, over rocks, through puddles. This thing is the ultimate. IT CAN EVEN GO UP SMALL CURBS AND STEPS!

The tires are air filled rubber with heavy traction. They are so soft that the ride over gravel feels like a cloud.

I can definitely see why people who spend a lot of time outdoors purchase these. The sad thing is that chairs like this run $12-15,000. That’s seems a little ridiculous but I guess if insurance is paying for it it’s up to them.

I just wanted to blog and let people know that it is out there. If you have the means to get one they are a blast!

Wheelchair in the shop!

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As I lay here in the bed waiting for my wonderful wife to come back with my repaired wheelchair a thought comes to me.

I am so very fortunate to be living in the USA in the year 2013. Third world countries and even here at home, years ago, would be very difficult and frustrating places for a person who has limited mobility.

Today I am thankful. Thankful for:
ramps, lifts, chairs, hoists, ramp vans, scientific research, and all of the things that make living life so much easier. I am grateful to be living in this century.

Stores, restaurants, hotels, pools, and so many things are accessible thanks to ADA and people who take the time to consider.

They say to “look at the brighter side” and I hope for you today that you take time to reflect on the good things in your life.

Looking Different. 4 tips on how to treat people with disabilities.

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One of the very first major emotional obstacles I faced because of my physical challenges was the way I looked. “You walk like Marilyn Monroe”, was what my Doctor said when explaining the way that I waddled.

It was always embarrassing when I knew people were seeing me do something that was physically difficult and awkward looking. Climbing stairs, rising from a couch or chair, or walking up an incline. Falling had to be the worse thing though. After falling it would take me forever to get back up. As I grew weaker, I would feel like the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” lady from TV. Walking with a cane was a big step in looking different but then came the three-wheel scooter and eventually the wheelchair.

Knowing that you stick out, are not like other people, and that you draw attention to yourself has a huge affect on a persons psyche. It is amazing how many people will say the rudest things to you without even thinking. When they feel awkward they just have to blurt something out, unfortunately their mind is not as fast as their mouth.

Now as my arms are becoming more and more affected I know that when I eat in a restaurant, or drink a soda with two hands, or have a difficult time shaking an outstretched hand that I look even more different than ever.

So here are some free tips on helping someone feel more comfortable:

Be sensitive about physical contact
Some people with disabilities depend on their arms for balance. Grabbing them, even if your intention is to assist, could knock them off balance.

If they seem to have trouble with their arms reach in for a handshake or just a touch on the shoulder is good.

Think before you speak
Always speak directly to the person with a disability, not to his companion, aide or sign language interpreter. Making small talk with a person who has a disability is great; just talk to him as you would with anyone else. Respect his privacy. If you ask about his disability, he may feel like you are treating him as a disability, not as a human being. However, many people with disabilities are comfortable with questions about their disability after getting to know someone. A simple “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that” by the person with a disability can set the tone if it is not something that he/she is willing to share.

People Who Use Wheelchairs or Other Mobility Devices

People who use wheelchairs have different disabilities and varying abilities. Some can use their arms and hands. Some can get out of their wheelchairs and even walk for short distances.

People who use wheelchairs are individuals, not equipment. Don’t lean over someone who uses a wheelchair to shake another person’s hand or ask a wheelchair user to hold coats. Setting your drink on the desktop attached to someone’s wheelchair is a definite no-no.

Don’t push or touch a person’s wheelchair; it’s part of her personal space. If you help someone down a curb without waiting for instructions, you may dump her out of the chair. You may detach the chair’s parts if you lift it by the handles or the footrest.

A Final Word

People with disabilities are individuals with families, jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and problems and joys. While the disability is an integral part of who they are, it alone does not define them. Don’t make them into disability heroes or victims. Treat them as individuals.

In closing, a couple of my pet peeves:

I love being told that I inspire people at times if I go above and beyond to do something that is difficult or out of the norm. But to be told I am inspiring because I wake up everyday and live life in a wheelchair is not so great. It is pretty much interpreted as, “If I were you, I would give up.”

Just because someone is in a wheelchair and sitting down does not mean that it is OK to pat them on the head like a dog. What? Yes, you heard me. Being patted on the head like a dog! Contact is fine but don’t do anything weird that you wouldn’t do to anyone else.

Looking different takes some getting used to. Those of you who read this and can relate know exactly what I am talking about. I would love to hear some of your comments, suggestions, or stories in the comment section. Thanks!

My wife. My light.

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“The selfishness must be discovered and understood before it can be removed. It is powerless to remove itself, neither will it pass away of itself. Darkness ceases only when light is introduced; so ignorance can only be dispersed by Knowledge; selfishness by Love.”

James Allen New Zealander Statesman. Minister of defense (1912-20)

Today I was blessed.  Not by someone bestowing material things to me but blessed to have a defect in my character revealed to me.  Something I know is already there, I was fortunate to have a light shine in the darkness as a reminder. Now it’s up to me to deal with it.

The light was my wonderful wife, Jennifer. It seems that when I asked her for the checkbook last week, I wrote two checks out of the wrong account.  An extra checking account that pretty much stays empty.  Needless to say these two checks bounced as high as the moon. Now here is what got me: She didn’t explode. She didn’t belittle me. She told me what happened in a kind straight-forward way. I didn’t realize we had two checkbooks in one holder. She came by the office and we got everything straightened out, it was not the end of the world.

Now if the shoe would’ve been on the other foot……I wouldn’t have reacted quite as well.  Oh? That amazes you?  That someone as awesome as me can have such a character flaw, right? Hehe.

It’s easy to correct another person without thinking about how we’d want to be treated if we made the same mistake.  I believe it’s called being inconsiderate.

I had a similar situation earlier this week.  A good meaning person made me feel very awkward by something they said to me concerning my physical challenge.  I was letting it irritate me more than it should have. Not simply because of that one person’s comment, but the heaping comments over time have become frustrating and that was the one to break the camel’s back. Then it occurred to me. How many kind and wonderful things have people done for me? Why am I sitting here selfishly feeling sorry for myself when so many people have been so good to me and my family.

Now that I see my defect once again, now that the knowledge is there, I have an opportunity to work on it.  One attribute that I believe many successful people possess is teachability. I try to be teachable, I’m not always the greatest pupil, but once again I will try.

We’ll be celebrating 16 years of marriage on July 19th.  So far, I have a lot of making up to do. Jennifer has been much better to me than I to her.

Thanks babe…you are my light in a dark place 🙂

You taught me, Dad.

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So obviously I have a fishing problem. Possibly an addiction.

Today I was spending time with the fam on the lake and my daughter, Bethany, said something that melted my heart. After catching a bass, she was putting a plastic worm back on her hook and I was telling her, “Great job!” She looked over at me and said with a huge smile, “Well, you taught me Dad.”

It immediately sunk in, fishing is something that my 9 year old daughter will always link back to me. How much better can I spend my time?

Work is important. Making money is a necessity. Material things are nice. Family is forever.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” -Michael J. Fox

One day…they will be older, out of the house, and probably have children of their own. I sure hope when they are tying a hook, threading a worm, or watching a bobber they think of ole’ Dad because making these memories, to me, matter more than anything.

–Gone fishin’

The Cup Called Life

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“Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)”, often abbreviated to “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, is a song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics were adapted almost entirely from verses in the Book of Ecclesiastes, set to music and recorded in 1962.

The song became an international hit in late 1965 when it was covered by the American folk rock band The Byrds, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #26 on the UK Singles Chart.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sow; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

After looking at seasons Solomon -The author of Ecclesiastes pens those words. Said there are bad times to-its all in the cup even stuff that’s hard to swallow. Good and bad.
At the last supper Jesus told disciples to drink ALL of the cup. “THE CUP CALLED LIFE”

Drink the cup that’s been handed you.
If you could see me, I’m holding a cup full of grape juice. Taking sips. Drinking ALL of the cup. There are some very bitter and sours spots to sip but I must drink it all. Jesus said to drink all of the cup.

When a bitter swallow comes. Don’t push away from the Lords table. Drink ALL of it. More people backslide in good times then bad.

Jesus-He drank the vinegar and wine. He Said, “IT IS FINISHED!!”

He tells us He will not drink it again until glory. He finishes the cup at Calvary! He is waiting on us!!

We will walk into heaven with our empty cup our cup of life that we have pushed through and survived that we drank every sweet and every bitter sip and then drink with Jesus in glory.

In Galatians he said we shall reap if we don’t faint. Keep drinking! He believes in us.

Revelation saints have no more thirst or pain and God wipes all tears away.

YOU GET ONE LIFE, one shot, one chance. It had better be a good one. Life has its sweet spots and many times when it’s going just right is when a sour bitter time can come from out of nowhere.

The phone call at night – “There’s been an accident…..I’m sorry….your daughter…”

The doctors consult…”There’s not much time left. We have done all we can.”

That spouse whose decided they are ready to move on to their new exciting life-and you are not included.

Oh yes, life has its burns, it’s epic fails, it’s heart attack shocks but we must drink it all. We must live through and endure every hardship. Because there are times when the Sun begins to shine through, during the darkest time that cup can taste so sweet.

You really don’t know sweet unless you have known bitter. It’s hard to be thankful for the blessings when you’ve never had the nothings.

But push through is what we do, drinking that cup called life, every sip making us stronger and wiser until that one final day when you take that last drop…you fought the fight, you had a good race and now it’s time to go from mortal into immortality. From corruption into incorruption.

To bring that empty cup to The Lord God almighty and allow Him to fill it at that Marriage Supper of the Lamb! No more tears, sorrow, or pain.

No more wheelchairs, canes, walkers, crutches, or scooters. No more handicap parking and special needs.

I’ll drink this cup God I’ll drink it, this cup called life, and with your strength I will make it through the entire thing. Behold that reward we have waiting is worth every sip. Every sweet sip I will praise you and every bitter one I’ll still learn to give thanks. Blessed be the name of our Lord.