On the Road Again

If you have followed this blog for a while you know that I ride a hand-powered trike. It is something that I enjoy quite a bit. However, I’ve not been out for a while, as I have had some back pain. The problems with my back have greatly limited my mobility over the past few months.

Fortunately, I am beginning to regain my strength. Today, I went for my first ride since last August, or so the app that I use to track my rides tells me. It is difficult to imagine that it was the end of August last year when I stopped riding. I struggled today to get back into a rhythm. However, muscle memory is a great thing. It was not long before I was gaining back some of my momentum.

It was a short ride today. I did just under 4 miles. Last summer my average ride was about 10-12 miles. It will be a while until I am back up to those distances. I think for now I’ll just focus on building up my endurance. These last few months have not been kind to my body. I’ve not focused on my health in quite some time. Working from home and leading a largely sedentary lifestyle is what led to my back problems, I believe.

I hope today was the start of turning things around and becoming more active. I know my mental health could use a boost. Plus, it is fun to watch all the people stop and just watch as I go by, like I am some being that has landed here from another planet. I am just a guy who pedals his bike with his hands. If you see me out, give me a honk. Although, I may not hear you, as I usually am wearing my headphones. After all, I do have to be on standby in case the Mothership calls me back to our landing site.

Me on my “alien craft”

I Put a Spell on You…

I am an avid user of social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are all social media platforms that I utilize for various reasons. For instance, I use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends around the world. It is also a way to help me promote my blog, which is why I use Twitter and Instagram. A little self promotion never hurts, or so I thought until today.

Instagram is a form of social media of which I am becoming increasingly wary. It is very difficult to distinguish between people who are genuine and those who are simply out to scam others. To illustrate my point let me relate an incident that happened this morning on Instagram. I often have people that request to follow me. After looking at their profile I usually accept their request. However, I think I will be more selective from this point forward.

This morning I accepted a “follow” request from a “young lady” whose profile looked “normal” to me. Just as soon as I accepted “her” request, “she” started sending me direct messages through the site. This is despite the fact that I have a statement on my profile which says, “I do not accept DM’s,” as these are usually from people wanting to sell me something. The messages I received this morning were about applying for government grants. I work for the federal government, so I knew what this “young lady” was trying to sell me on was a scam.

I asked “her” to stop texting me as “I do not accept direct messages on Instagram.” This person persisted so I let them know I’d be blocking them. This is when I was threatened. The individual that was messaging me stated, “If you block me, there is a doctor here that will bring harm to you!” I then said “that is fine” and proceeded to block this person. I’m not sure how I should feel about all of this. At first I was a little amused.

However, throughout the day I began to evaluate my use of social media. I do have a “love/hate” relationship with all of it. Seeing the bickering that goes on between people on Facebook just frustrates me. Getting messages from scammers on Instagram just annoys me.

I think it is time to cut back on my usage of both. No longer will I let these sites cast their spell upon me. Once baseball season gets underway again I’ll be back to posting my commentary on various happenings with my beloved Chicago Cubs. Until then, I think I’ll just maintain a low profile. That way the “witch doctor” will have a harder time finding me.

Mercy

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year. When I first began I had a single vision in mind. I wanted to share with you my experiences of living life as a disabled person. Likewise, I wanted to share the positives that I see. Finally, I wanted to make it a place where I could show how absurd life can be. However, as I have gotten deeper into writing, I have begun to widen my focus.

For instance, I often share my experiences as a foster parent. Likewise, I have written about my family. Finally, I have shared with you my hobbies and interests. One topic that I have shied away from is politics. The reason for this is that I believe political issues often divide us. I never want to cause division. I would much rather bring people together. However something has been on my heart and mind the last several days.

It is an issue that is political, however, it goes far deeper than that. The thing that has been troubling me is the murder of George Floyd. This is not meant to be a political debate. Please read to the end of this post and then if you’d like to comment, I’d appreciate hearing what you have to say.

First, I believe we as humans are born with a sinful nature. However, I believe that God has also instilled in each of us the power to love. He also gave each of us free will. We are free to love, but we are also free to hate. Whichever one of these we choose is often ingrained in us at an early age. We can be taught to love our neighbor, or we can be taught to hate them. Along with this, I believe we all have the power to change what we think and do. Finally, our actions have consequences. If you act out of hate, you will perhaps just breed more hate.

I believe hate leads to destruction. I don’t truly know the heart of the police officer who murdered George Floyd. However, that police officer’s actions were certainly not coming from a place of love. To me it appears they were rooted in arrogance.

He pinned a defenseless man to the ground until that man could no longer breathe. This was despite pleas for mercy not only from George Floyd himself, but from a crowd of onlookers as well. Undertand this, I do not believe all police officers are bad. In fact, I have much respect for those who put themselves in harm’s way for others. However, there are police officers who use excessive force, simply because they can. This is something that must stop.

A man was murdered in cold blood because he was falsely accused of passing off a counterfeit $20 bill to a local shop owner. A life was lost over a misunderstanding. A life was lost because mercy was not extended to someone who was powerless. This goes much deeper than politics. It also goes much deeper than race. This is an issue of the heart. The Jewish prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things , and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 King James Version). I believe the heart of the police officer responsible for the murder of George Floyd is perhaps much like that described in the book of Jeremiah. Why else would he have not shown mercy to a man who was clearly in distress?

Those who have taken to the streets in non-violent protest, I am with you. My heart goes out to the anguish and rage you are feeling. Yet more injustice has been done to you. It has been there for hundreds of years and there seems to be no end in sight.

In a speech given to a crowd at Stanford University on April 14, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about “the other America.” Unfortunately, This is a place that exists today. It is one in which many black Americans, and other minorities are still living. It is a place where poverty, violence, and hunger reign. It is a place that could be fixed if the human heart was not so wicked.

Those of us who have the power to help often sit on the sidelines thinking that the “other America” is someone else’s problem to confront. This is wrong, we all have the power to make life better for those who are unable to see their way out of poverty and despair. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves as Jesus has commanded us to do, then we can no longer sit on the sidelines. It is time for action.

In Dr. King’s speech refenced above, he also noted, “the riot is the language of the unheard.” Yes, people are out in the streets rioting because they feel they are being ignored by a justice system that has historically marginalized them. Dr. King further went on to say that “riots are socially destructive and self-defeating.” I believe this to be very true. What is to be gained by burning down your neighbor’s business? I empathize with the frustration and anger that drives the riots. However, creating more death and destruction is senseless.

I hesitated to post this because I do not want to create any more division. However, I express myself best through the written word. For me to remain silent, I feel, just perpetuates more indifference. When so many are hurting, we need to be showing each other love and mercy. I wish I knew how to solve the problems we are facing today. I do know one thing, we need to be checking our hearts. If we are not doing things out of love, then we are doing them wrong.

My “Anti-Bucket” List

Last April I wrote a post listing the “Top Ten Things I’d Like to do Before I Die.” This list included places I’d like to visit, events that I would like to attend, and so forth. Today I am going to turn things around and do an “anti-bucket list” or things I hope I never have to do again before I die.

There are certain foods that I despise. Near the top of this list are lima beans. To me they taste like soap. Plus, their texture is unpleasant. Therefore, I will never have another lima bean as long as I live!

Over the course of my life I have undergone at least 30 different surgical procedures. Being put under for surgery is not an unpleasant experience. I do enjoy the feeling of euphoria that comes over you just before “the lights go out.” However, as I have gotten older it has taken me longer to bounce back after surgery. It is because of this that I hope to never have another surgery.

One thing that does not fill me with euphoria is riding a rollercoaster. I actually am terrified of going on most amusement park rides. I prefer to have my feet planted on terra firma. I would be happy never to ride another roller coaster as long as I live.

In keeping with the amusement park theme, I hope to never go to Disney World ever again. I went for the first time at the age of 30. Perhaps, it is a different experience if you go when you are a child. It may seem more magical then. However, I didn’t find anything appealing at all to being at Disney World.

Me on the “Small World” ride at Disney World. I think my face says it all.

A few years ago I went on a canoe trip on the Meramec River in Missouri. I have written about this experience in a previous post. It was quite possibly the last trip of this kind that I will take. If you do go back and read both parts of this story, you’ll see why. I not only lost my crutches and glasses, but I lost some of my dignity as well.

One thing that I have experienced a couple of different times is food poisoning. I can safely say I hope this never happens again. There is nothing pleasant about eating something that makes you ill. I can no longer eat at couple of different restaurants due to very bad experiences.

Nearly three years ago Amanda and I had an issue with the plumbing in our house. I will admit it was caused by me. I had gotten into the habit of flushing little bits of clumping cat litter down the toilet as I cleaned out the litter box for our cats. Needless to say this was not a wise idea. Fortunately, I have a cousin or two in the plumbing business, as our sewer line backed up into our house. I learned my lesson and I hope to never have to live through this experience again.

As noted above, I have had numerous surgeries in my life. Many of these have been orthopedic in nature. I spent the first few years of my life in and out of body casts. There is nothing worse than being confined inside a hunk of plaster, especially when you are hot and tired. This is an experience I would prefer to never have again.

Me propped up against a chair in one of the many body casts I was in as a child. My brother Cory is looking on in amusement as I see just how wide I can open my mouth.

We are fortunate here in America to have public restrooms in almost every store and restaurant. If you’ve ever traveled abroad you’ll soon find out that in other parts of the world public toilets are not so common. I learned this the hard way one night in London as I really was in dire need. While I do love to travel, I hope to never again have the trouble I did that night.

Finally, I have spent the last two months working from home. In that time I have begun having conversations with myself while Amanda is at work. I am ready for restaurants, movie theaters, and other public places to once again be open. Never again do I want to experience a global pandemic. In the words of the late, great Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, “Serenity Now!”

Richard Scarry

Ever since I was a little boy I have loved Richard Scarry books. Thankfully, I have been able to revisit a few of my favorite Richard Scarry books since Baby Boy has become a part of our family. In addition, I have found a few with which I am not familiar. For instance there is one called the “The Bunny Book.” If you have never read this one, it is about a baby bunny whose family all have different hopes and dreams for their baby bunny once he grows up and becomes an adult.

As I have read this several times now, I have begun to question some of the aspirations Baby Bunny’s family has for him. For instance, Daddy Bunny wants him to be a circus clown? Really, who wishes this for their child? The Grandaddy Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a lion tamer? Again, I am not sure this is great line of work for anyone. Finally, Aunt Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a lifeguard. Low-paying, seasonal work is kind of an odd choice, at least in my opinion.

It seems the only sensible people in this story are Baby Bunny’s siblings and cousins. For example, Little Bunny Cousin wants Baby Bunny to be an entrepreneur who owns his own candy store. Likewise, Little Girl Cousin wants Baby Bunny to be a doctor. Moreover, Little Sister Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a pilot.

This Bunny Family needs to sit down and have a frank discussion about Baby Bunny’s future. However, Baby Bunny does have his priorities in the right place, as he wants to be a Daddy Bunny.

Let’s get this bunny a good guidance counselor and/or mentor who can steer him into a profitable profession. Because, if he is going to raise a big family, he is going to need to bring home the carrots.

Richard Scarry, I love your books. However, I’d like a follow up to the “The Bunny Book.” Does Baby Bunny become a lifeguard on the beaches of Malibu, or does he become a heart surgeon with a thriving practice in Scarsdale? Please tell me he is not working in Vegas as a lion tamer. That would just be disappointing. Let’s just hope whatever he is doing now is fulfilling. Richard, I will be waiting to see what happens.

No one writes them like Richard Scarry.

“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?

Acceptance

I appreciate people who do things with excellence. Perhaps this is something I come by naturally. My father was a perfectionist who was a skilled craftsman. He was not only a talented carpenter, he was also a welder. His work was done with precision and skill. These traits are ones I have always admired in others.

For instance, I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan. He was the greatest basketball player ever to play the game. His skills on the court were legendary. However, they were developed over years of dedication and practice.

Another person I grew up admiring was Neil Peart. Neil was the drummer of Rush, a Canadian rock band known for crafting pieces of music that were very intricate and complex. Neil passed away early last month, but he left behind a body of work that will stand the test of time. Besides being one of the best drummers that has ever picked up a pair of sticks, he was also a brilliant lyricist, as well as a very gifted author. His books are some of my favorite biographical works of literature that I have ever read.

Music is something that I have often looked to for inspiration, escape, and solace. I think listening to others express themselves through music gave me hope. I was not the only person who felt alone or angst-ridden.

Growing up I often felt alienated from my peers. I was different. My body did not look the same. Likewise, I wasn’t always able to do the things others my own age could do. Therefore, I often retreated inward. I was not a talented person. I was not able to build anything, play basketball, or write a song. However, I did appreciate the people who could do these things.

I still feel like I am not particularly good at anything. I am okay at doing a few things. However, I don’t have any skills that stand out as exceptional. The older I have gotten the more accepting of this I have become.

I’ll never be a craftsman, and I will never defy gravity on a basketball court. I will also never write any great pieces of music. However, that is okay. I am learning to appreciate who God created me to be. I still have work to do. Hopefully, 2020 will be the year I reach some of the goals I have set for myself. I keep hoping there is a novel somewhere inside of me just waiting to be written.

It’s Just a Crutch…

I have walked with crutches since about the age of 4. Not to brag, but I am pretty good at walking with them. In fact, you could say I am great at it. Except, for those times I swing one leg out a little wide and kick a crutch out from under me. One thing I have learned about these two aluminum sidekicks that I have is that they are so versatile. The old proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention” had to have been coined by someone who walked with crutches.

My crutches have become an extension of my physical body. They can be used to pick things up that have fallen to the ground, much like a set of chopsticks. I can also use them to reach out for things that are out of reach. Likewise, they are good for pushing doors open. I can even use them to start the car from the passenger seat. This is especially true now that Amanda and I have a vehicle with a push-button ignition. Just push the brake pedal down with one crutch and push the ignition switch with the other and we are ready to roll.

If you are familiar at all with Marvel Comics, especially those starring Spider-Man, you might have heard of a character by the name of Doctor Octopus. He is one Spider-Man’s most prominent enemies. Doctor Octopus, or Doc Ock, is a “mad scientist” who created a set of mechanical tentacles that he can attach to a harness strapped around his waist. These tentacles are quite strong and allow Dock Ock to move very meticulously. Despite his evil deeds, I have always related to Doc Ock. I feel my crutches are much likes his tentacles. They are my way to move throughout the world. Moreover, as noted above they are useful in so many different ways. Have I mentioned that I can use these things to launch bottle rockets on Independence Day?

My crutches have also been a form of protection at times. I never had much of a problem with other kids picking on me when I was in school. However, whenever anyone got a little out of line, all that it took was a quick whack to the shins with a crutch for them to leave me alone. I am sure my brothers could tell you how this feels.

It is difficult to envision life without my trusty sticks. They are part of me. They have helped me adapt to life in a world that was not created for people like me. Likewise, they make things more interesting. If you don’t believe this just follow me up an escalator sometime and you will see what I mean.

A Hydrocephalus Thanksgiving

As I’ve mentioned before in earlier blog posts, besides being born with spina bifida, I was also born with hydrocephalus. This is a condition that causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up on the brain. To drain this fluid, a shunt often has to be placed in a person’s head. This shunt allows the excess fluid to run down from the brain into the peritoneal cavity (abdomen). I had my first shunt implanted within hours of my birth.

Throughout my life I have been very fortunate to have had little trouble with my shunt. This is not the case for many with hydrocephalus. Shunts can often get infected, or simply break down. Only once has mine needed to be fully replaced. This occurred when I was four-years old.

It was close to Thanksgiving in 1981 when I began to experience some of the worst headaches I had ever had to that point in my life. Along with the headaches, I became very nauseated. These are two very common side effects one can experience when a shunt begins to fail. So, when I began having these headaches and vomiting, my parents took me to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

As we arrived at the hospital my neurologist, Dr. David McLone, did an exam of my eyes and confirmed my shunt would need to be replaced. He knew this, as he could see papilledema. This is a swelling of the optic nerves caused by excess pressure on the brain. Papilledema is yet another sign that there is a problem with a person’s shunt.

Therefore, I was scheduled to have surgery the next day. I don’t know what was more upsetting, the fact that I would need to have surgery, or that I would have to be in the hospital for Thanksgiving. However, what the doctors and nurses didn’t know is that I would not be deterred from having Thanksgiving dinner.

If my memory serves me correctly, I had surgery the morning before Thanksgiving. I then spent the rest of that day in intensive care, where I slept for quite a while.

I then woke up on Thanksgiving morning and was famished. However, I was told that I would only be allowed ice chips. If I was able to tolerate these, I would be allowed to have clear liquids. Not being one to give up easily, I downed the ice chips that I was given. Then, it was on to the clear liquids. I knocked those back as quickly as I could and told the nurses I wanted Thanksgiving dinner! They resisted my pleas at first. However, they consulted my doctor, as I was insistent that I wanted some turkey!

It pays to be persistent. My doctor saw that I had tolerated everything else that I had been fed. Therefore, he thought it wouldn’t hurt to at least let me try some solid foods.

I was given some turkey and scarfed it down almost as quickly as it was placed in front of me. Then I asked for some more, plus some potatoes and stuffing. Nothing was going to stop me from having Thanksgiving dinner. I ate until I was satisfied, much to the astonishment of the nurses. They should have never doubted a Bradshaw with an appetite.

Sometimes doctors do know what they are talking about, and their advice should be followed accordingly. I am glad that most of the ones I have had along the way have taken the time to listen to me. I know my body the best, as I have lived inside of it for 42 years now. Don’t ever let someone with an M.D. behind their name pressure you in to anything that does not feel right. Listen to your body. It will often tell you the right course of action. Sometimes, you just have to eat the turkey and forget about standard operating procedures.

Omphaloskepsis

As I’ve noted before in a previous blog post (see The Summer of Ryan), I enjoy the sitcom Seinfeld. I relate to the character of George Constanza, as I tend to be a bit neurotic at times. It is for this reason that my mind usually goes to extremes after I have had surgery. I worry that there will be complications that will delay healing, which has actually happened a few times after previous surgeries.

Today, I have had some chills and a low-grade fever. In truth, this is probably because I have become a little dehydrated. However, my mind instantly goes to the possibility of infection, despite there being no indications of this. Should I go to the ER, or should I just stay home? I often weigh these questions heavily. I also feel quite run down, but I guess that is to be expected a few days after having surgery.

It is difficult to be patient when you are the patient! I want to be back on my feet doing everything I could do a week ago before my gallbladder became my worst enemy. Despite this, I know that healing takes time. It is just a little frightening when your body is doing things it normally doesn’t do.

For instance, I had a blister inside my belly button that popped this evening. It almost appeared as if someone was trying to blow a bubble from my umbilical area. I was thinking this might be a new party trick that I could unveil at Christmas – “Step right up and watch me blow bubbles from my belly button!” I could even take this show on the road. I’m sure there is an audience somewhere that would appreciate my act.

Having surgery is nothing new to me. I have seen my body in much worse shape than it is tonight. However, the paranoia sets in when something unexpected happens. You’d think I would have learned by now to be more patient as the patient. However, at 42 my mind still wanders to the “what ifs.” What if I do have an infection starting? What if I will never be able to have another bowel movement? What if I feel like going to work on Monday, but I can’t get any pants to sit comfortably over and around my surgical wounds?

This is a busy time of year at work, and I am not there. How big of a stack of things are waiting for me upon my return? I would say probably quite a few.

These are all things that I will pray about. Life will go on and I am sure I will be back to my old routines soon. Until then I’ll continue to navel gaze. I’ll let you know if the bubbles keep coming. I am off to take my temperature…

Four statues which stand in the Louvre, depicting the fine art of naval gazing. I like the Greek word for this practice much better, which is “omphaloskepsis”