Brought To My Knees

I have been brought to my knees. I mean this in both a physical sense and in a spiritual sense. Nearly three weeks ago my back went out. As someone who has spina bifida, this can present some serious issues. I have been unable to walk normally, as the pain in my back has radiated down my right leg. This has caused my knee to frequently give out when I attempt to walk. Fortunately, after a round of muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, and rest my body is finally starting to heal.

The day after my back went out I was told I’d be working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was really kind of a relief, as I haven’t been able to drive myself anywhere due to the numbness and pain in my right leg. I have always crawled around my house when I am home, as that is how I get around the quickest when I am not wearing my leg braces. Therefore, crawling to my workspace each day has helped me to avoid missing work days. Why drive when you can crawl?

As this pain has brought me to my knees in a physical sense, it has also brought me to my knees spiritually as well. Very few of us living today have ever experienced anything such as the “shelter-in-place” orders that various nations, cities, and villages have enacted throughout the past several weeks. It is difficult to stay positive when the world appears so chaotic. For instance, I was just reading a report from an epidemiologist from Yale University. This particular scientist believes there will be far more illness and deaths in the weeks to come.

Just weeks ago, life looked very different for all of us. Families were making their plans for spring break, birthday parties had been planned, and schools were preparing to head into their last few months of the year. Then all of these things just stopped. The world just stopped. We all have started to look at life in new ways. I am no different.

I have always been quite an introspective person. I tend to look at the lessons that can be learned through my experiences. I firmly believe God has been teaching me that I need to step back and analyze certain aspects of my life. He is working to change some habits of mine that are unhealthy. I am praying that in the next few weeks I will learn to listen when God speaks to me. Now more than ever I feel the need to stay on my knees.

I am thankful that God’s promises are true. I have failed Him many times. However, God has never failed me. Likewise, I feel fortunate that He has used this time to bring me to my knees. Why drive when you can crawl?

Observations From the Inside

Tomorrow will be two weeks that I have been working from home. In that time I have made some observations. First, my dream of working from home is not as fantastic as I thought it would be. I’ve always been an introvert, so I thought being home alone all day would be great! However, it can be dreadfully boring. I think the only thing that has saved my sanity is the ability to listen to podcasts while I am working.

Another thing I have noticed is that we have some needy cats! Our cat Dot insists on being held at least 4 times a day. It doesn’t matter if I am on the phone, or typing away at the keyboard. When Dot wants to be held, you will hold her, no questions asked!

Our other cat who we have not really ever named anything other than Cat likes to walk around the house meowing. However, she doesn’t like to be held. Although, she does love a good belly rub. She will also just stop on occasion and stare deep into my soul, as you can see below.

Last week as I began to work from home I thought, “yes now I don’t have to shave!” That only lasted through Saturday when I could no longer stand the whiskers itching my face. Now I am down to one shave a week, which helps me feel normal.

As week two of my seclusion ends and I look to begin week three, I might start putting on real pants. Wearing sweatpants all of the time is lulling me into a false sense of security. I feel like I am not gaining any weight, but I am sure if I put some work pants on, I’d be in for a rude awakening. Maybe I’ll be surprised. I’ll keep you posted.

It is strange when work and home life collide. Until now, I have always been able to leave work at work. However, that is no longer possible. I guess it is nice that I have been able to cut my commute time from 8 minutes, to nearly 2 minutes. That allows for a little bit more sleep, which is always a bonus.

I am beginning to wonder when this exile will come to an end. I’m guessing that it will be at least another month. By then I might not want to go back to the office. I’m wondering if the cats will grow tired of me at some point. I guess only time will tell.

Today I went outside for the first time in a few days. It is beginning to feel like spring. Hopefully, with the life that is beginning to awaken outdoors, it will give us all a fresh perspective. To quote a line from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I am glad life has slowed down a bit, it has helped me to see things in new ways. I am greatful for that opportunity.

Dot and Cat posing for their “Glamour Shot”

Baby Magic

I must admit the last few weeks have been very difficult for me. As I have mentioned previously, I struggle at times with depression and anxiety. These feelings have been amplified by the events that are occurring throughout the world today. It is difficult to stay positive when the lives of many are crumbling on a daily basis.

It is during these trials that I try to remember the positive things in life. My wife Amanda and I are incredibly fortunate. We are both still working full time. In addition we have a warm home where we are able to seek refuge from the outside world. Moreover, all of our family, both near and far, are healthy. Finally, we have the joy of raising a baby boy, who brings happiness into our lives.

Another thing that I try to do when life seems to overwhelm is look back on memories of happier times. One of the things that triggers memories the most for me is my sense of smell. Fragrances are things that often cause me to recall events in my life. One scent that brings back such good memories is Baby Magic. For those who might be unfamiliar with this product, Baby Magic is a liquid soap for babies. However, I have used it many times for sponge baths while hospitalized.

Amanda and I use Baby Magic to bathe Baby Boy. Each bathtime is filled with memories. For instance, my mind often wanders to times spent at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Once I was hospitalized there for a case of osteomyelitis, which is an infection in the bone tissue. I was in the hospital for six weeks, however, I have fond memories of that time. All I need to do is open the bottle of Baby Magic and I am transported back to that time. I was just a young boy who had no responsibilities. Plus, I was surrounded by a group of wonderful nurses, who were at my beck and call.

I don’t know when this global pandemic that we are currently experiencing will end. I am guessing that we have a long way to go before we see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you are like me and the events of the day have you feeling anxious, just hold on, there are better days to come. Try to hold on to the good that is in your life. You might have to dig deep, but it is there. Take time every day to think of the things for which you are thankful.

This day will end with Amanda and I reading to Baby Boy before he goes to sleep for the night. His hair will smell of Baby Magic and my mind will be absorbing the experience of seeing life through his eyes. His smiles and his cooing will be just what I need to remember that life is good, despite the circumstances.

Gimme Shelter

I have not left my house in 5 days. I started working from home on Monday, which has been sort of a surreal experience. Getting up and getting ready for work when you don’t have to leave the house is actually more difficult. It feels like there is less motivation to get out of bed knowing that the office is just down the stairs. I can say it is an experience that I have not enjoyed all that much.

It is more difficult to get things done, as I cannot print documents at home due to the nature of my work. Having to look up information and then minimize windows on the computer to go back and forth from one screen to the other is tedious. I am working with dual monitors. However, it still slows things down when you have to drag something from one monitor to the other.

I always kind of dreamed about working from home, but now it just seems to be more of a nightmare. Despite these rather minor inconveniences, I feel quite fortunate to still be employed. It seems as if the world is becoming more chaotic by the day. It is nice to know that I have a shelter from the storm.

I am thankful to have a home where I am able to work. Likewise, I feel fortunate that my family has remained healthy through this time. It has actually been a blessing in disguise that I have been able to be home, as my back has been bothering me for over a week now. Working from home gives me the flexibility to move around and get into a position to where the pain is not so bad.

I don’t know when I’ll actually emerge from my hermit-like state. Perhaps it will be this weekend. Maybe it will not be for another few weeks. We are stocked up on food and other supplies. It has been nice that the pace of life has slowed a little. There is definitely more time to spend with family.

The silence here was almost deafening today. That is one of the greatest gifts that this situation has bestowed upon the world. Things around us seem to be more quiet. That makes it easier to focus on the spiritual aspects of life. Plus, it is just nice to be able to step away from daily routines.

If you are stuck at home send me a message and let me know what kinds of things you are doing to pass the time. I know that I have readers from other countries. If you live outside the United States let me know what life is like where you are. I’d really like to hear what you all have to say.

America’s Game

One trivial, but nevertheless disappointing thing about the “social distancing” that has become a part of everyday life across the world, is that the start of the baseball season has been delayed. To me baseball is something that takes me back to simpler times. Days when I was a boy and summers were spent outdoors nearly from sunrise to sunset.

It also brings back memories of my dad. He would often stop by the store on his way home from work and buy me a few packs of baseball cards. The best part was opening those packs to see what kinds of treasures they contained. Plus, there was always that rock hard stick of gum that tasted like cardboard! I still have all of those cards packed away safely in a big, plastic tub in our basement. There are a few cards that are worth something, I am sure, but I’ll probably never sell my collection. It holds precious memories. I’ll hopefully be able to pass it down to someone else some day.

It always brightens my day to hear baseball return to the radio after a long, cold winter. It is a reminder that spring will soon be here. Days will start to get longer, and the temperatures will begin to rise. This year there has been no baseball. There hasn’t been that reassurance that spring is on its way. However, I know that it is.

In a few short months, baseball will be back in full swing. The Chicago Cubs will be back on the radio, and I will tune in to listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer describe the play-by-play from Wrigley Field. This season will be more special as I will be able to introduce Baby Boy to the magical game. In fact, just today, Amanda, who is a St. Louis Cardinals fan, graciously presented Baby Boy with his first Cubs hat.

Perhaps by midseason it will fit him. Likewise, we might just have to bring those baseball cards up out of the basement and I can tell him about the greats of the game when I was a boy, such as Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, Ken Griffey Jr., Ricky Henderson, and Greg Maddux.

Baseball is a sport that still captures my imagination, especially when I hear it on the radio. There is nothing better when your team is down by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and your favorite hitter comes to the plate. There is one man on first, the count is full, and you hear the crack of the bat and the announcers erupt when the ball lands in the center field bleachers. This drama is what makes the game so magical. With one swing of the bat, the game can change in an instant.

Stay safe as we all wait patiently for this global pandemic to pass. Spring is on its way. Baseball will be back and all will be right with the world once again. Let’s go Cubs!

Baby Boy has some growing to do before the Boys of Summer return.

43

On Friday I turned 43 years old. Amanda made me one of my favorite kind of cakes using a recipe handed down through my family. We then had a nice dinner and spent a quiet evening at home with Baby Boy. It was a good day to celebrate the blessings that life has brought. However, it was also a day to remember a lost loved one.

March 13, 1989 was the day I turned 12 years old. It should have been a carefree day to celebrate getting older. Sadly, that was not the case. For you see, my dad had recently been diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare cancer of the bone marrow. On my 12th birthday my dad started treatments that were meant to try and stop the progression of the disese.

I still remember him waking me up that morning and wishing me a happy birthday, hugging me, and letting me know that he was sorry all of this was happening on my birthday. It certainly was not what either of us wanted, but that is often how life is. At times there is heartbreak.

My dad would not live to see me turn 13. The disease, with which he had been diagnosed, rapidly progressed into acute myeloid leukemia. This is what ultimately took his life on September 2, 1989. This was all too much for a 12 year old to process, which is probably why I still do not react to change very well in my life.

When I was born I know my dad was concerned with how I was going to make it in life. At that time people with disabilities were often marginalized, which still happens today. However, I think those who are disabled have begun to make progress. Many disabled people are employed, are married, and have families. I’d like to be able to speak with my dad today and let him know I have made it. His worry about me was for nothing.

My dad was 43 when he passed away. Now that I have reached that age myself, I see things from such a different perspective. I still feel like a kid in many respects. There is so much more living to do. My dad missed out on so many events in the lives of his wife and children. I still feel cheated that he was not there for graduations, weddings, and other important milestones. Despite this, life is too short to be bitter.

I don’t believe, nor have I ever believed that my dad is watching over us from some spiritual realm. However, I do believe when he died his soul went to Heaven. This is a place where there is no sorrow.

Therefore, he is not looking down on us and seeing the things with which we are struggling here on Earth. He is celebrating in a place where there is no pain. It brings comfort to me knowing he was able to leave his physical existence that was filled with agony. He had a short life here on earth, but his life in eternity is so much sweeter.

I hopefully have a lot of life left to live here on Earth, but I look forward someday to joining my father in that place where there is no sorrow. I just hope there is cake too!

My dad in his senior yearbook photo

Rolled Up In Fear

Today I went to the store to purchase some toilet paper because were we nearly out. I did not do it out of fear that we were going to be quarantined for a few weeks. However, I would love to stay in my house for two weeks without leaving. There is a stack of books next to the bed that I need to start reading.

While I was in the store it reminded me of the days after the 2001 terrorist attacks here in the U.S. After those events, people lined up at gas stations waiting to be gouged for a few gallons of gas. It was fear of the unknown that caused people to act in irrational ways, much like it is today.

Why are we hoarding toilet paper in preparation for a virus that doesn’t appear to cause diarrhea? Shouldn’t we all be buying facial tissue instead? After all it is a respiratory virus that is circling the globe.

It was kind of alarming to see store shelves picked clean of all sorts of products. It was like being a part of a disaster film where everyone is awaiting some inevitable doom.

I am not trying to make light of what could potentially become a very serious problem. However, I just find human behavior very interesting in situations such as this. It is fascinating to see how organizations such as the NBA, MLB, and the NCAA are willing to sacrifice millions of dollars by cancelling or postponing major sporting events.

I pray that things do not get so far out of hand that we begin to turn on each other. If you see someone in need share what you have. If major sports leagues are willing to lose millions, we can all spare a roll or two of toilet paper to help a neighbor.

Don’t let fear of the unknown rule your behavior. If you are stuck in your house for a week or two, do something worthwhile. If nothing else, at least build a tower out of the cardboard tubes from all of those spent rolls of toilet paper that you inevitably will have.

The Power of Words

I have had a lot of people say very ignorant things to me throughout my life. Some of those things have been addressed in previous blog posts. Sometimes, I think it is just a matter of people not knowing exactly what to say. Other times I think it may be a case where people are truly ignorant.

I work with the public in the job that I do. Often people ask me what is “wrong with me” when they see my crutches. It is those times when I feel like I could give them a laundry list of things that are “wrong with me.” For instance, I am short, slightly balding, and I could stand to lose several pounds. However, I usually just explain to them that I was born with spina bifida, which has led to some paralysis in my lower extremities. That usually is enough to satisfy the curiosity seekers.

In addition to the questions and comments that I get about my physical disability, I often hear other remarks that are ignorant. For instance, I spoke to a lady the other day over the phone who was questioning some information she received from another person in our agency.

The information she received was incorrect. When I told her this, she responded, “Well, he sounded like a black gentleman who was new, so I wasn’t sure I could trust him.” I was able to maintain my composure, however, I just wanted to say, “What does anyone’s skin color have to do with their intelligence, or whether or not you should trust them?” I also wanted to tell her just how ignorant she sounded.

We should all treat others the way we would like to be treated. I generally don’t mind when people ask me about my disability. I just feel doing it in a more tactful way would be nice. It is okay for people to be curious. However, it is not okay for people to be rude.

Likewise, I understand we all grew up differently. Our experiences often help shape us into the people we become. You may have different ideas and opinions than I do. This is perfectly okay. However, that doesn’t mean we should not be civil to one another.

It does not hurt to stop and think before speaking. There is a quote that is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln which says, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” Words can either be a blessing to someone or they can be hurtful. Choose your words carefully so that they might be a blessing.

Huh, What Was That?

Amanda and I have spent the last hour whispering to each other. No, they haven’t been the whispers of sweet nothings. They have been the whispers of weary foster parents. You see Baby Boy has been asleep for the last few hours. We have been trying to stretch out his feeding times. When he is hungry he lets us know it by screaming at the top of his lungs.

Therefore, we have eaten dinner tonight in whispered conversation. This is a miracle in and of itself because we both have problems hearing when we are using our normal speaking voices. We have had conversations about the day’s events. Likewise, we have even whispered to each other about the movie Top Gun.

We have been trying to recall the names of the main characters. We have recalled that there was a “Goose” and a “Maverick,” but we don’t recall any of the others. If you do, drop me a line in the comments below.

Really, the only thing I have wanted to do for the last hour is break out into song, particularly the theme song to Top Gun. Kenny Loggins wrote some great theme songs to movies of the 80’s.

I guess I’ll just have to hum them silently to myself until Baby Boy wakes up. Then the real fun can begin. It will be a bottle for Baby Boy while I sing “Highway to the Danger Zone” to him. What is your favorite Kenny Loggins theme song?

“Those Things“

Some of the conversations I have with others can be amusing. I suppose I should find them offensive. However, I am a very politically incorrect person myself. That should be apparent to those who follow this blog. After all what disabled person would refer to themselves as “crippled?”

Just a couple of weeks ago I was at the gas station filling up before heading out on a road trip. One of the attendants approached me and said, “Hey, I have been on those things before.” Having had many such conversations in the past, I instantly knew he was referring to my crutches. This gentleman proceeded to recount his experiences of walking with “those things” after turning his hip bone into “powder” as a result of an automobile accident he had been in as a young man.

This man was kind and polite, however, I wonder if he realized that my crutches are more than just “things” to me. They are essentially an extension of my being. They serve as my legs. Likewise, they often operate as hands. I use them to grab things that are often out of reach of my normal wingspan.

I did not find this man’s comments hurtful or disrespectful, as he was just trying to make conversation. However, his experiences with “those things” are far diffent from my own. My use of them is not temporary. I have walked with crutches for over 30 years. God willing, I will walk with them for at least 30 more. They will never just be “things” to me. Are your legs just “things” to you?