Day 3 – Montgomery

We woke up in Montgomery, Alabama yesterday morning and decided to just head the rest of the way to Florida. After having driven over 800 miles, we were all ready to be out of the car for a week. We had originally planned to do some sightseeing, but that can wait for another time.

So, we loaded up our Honda CR-V and set out yet again. Just outside of Montgomery, we spotted an outdoor market that had fresh fruits, vegetables, pies, bread, eggs, and all other kinds of goods. They even had some free-range chickens that were roaming the grounds. Baby Boy had fun chasing the chickens around. Fortunately, none of them were peckish. After a short break at the market we were once again on our way.

We finally reached Panama City Beach at around three yesterday afternoon. We had a late lunch at a place on the beach and then headed to join family at our rental house near the beach. It was nice to feel the breeze blowing up from the gulf. It looks like Tropical Storm Claudette has moved on, at least for the most part, although the waters of the gulf were extremely choppy today.

After settling in we decided to go and get some groceries for the week. This was quite an ordeal. I am not one who enjoys shopping, even when the market is empty. We went to two separate stores and both were packed with fellow vacationers. It almost seemed as if everyone was preparing for a disaster to strike.

Being from Northwest, Illinois, I am used to seeing people flood into the stores before an impending snowstorm to grab, milk, bread, and other staples. However, this experience was much different. It was nothing like I had ever seen. I think I’ll steer clear of the checkout lines and just spend the rest of my time at the beach with a good book.

Never again will I do this.

Paducah – Day 1

Amanda, Baby Boy, and I set out on a trip yesterday. I thought I’d chronicle our adventures over the next week here in my blog.

We left our home in Sterling, Illinois last night around 6:00 p.m. Our final destination will be Panama City Beach, Florida. However, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, we thought we’d do the 1,003 mile journey in stages. Last night we stopped in Paducah, Kentucky. We arrived at our hotel just after midnight. Fortunately, Baby Boy slept quite a bit in the car.

On the way down through Illinois there was a lot of road construction, which means there was also a plethora of flashing lights. There also seemed to be quite a few cars broken down along the highway. I am not sure if I have ever seen so many flashing lights in one night. We were even “lucky” enough to have a flashing light in our hotel room!

As I write this I am running on about 3 hours of sleep. That is because in addition to the flashing light blaring in my eyes, I also had a little boy keeping me awake. He has learned how to play peek-a-boo, which he was doing with me. We left his “pack ‘n play” in the car and he slept with me. Amanda had a bed to herself. I could tell Baby Boy had his eyes open, as our room was almost bright as day. When he saw me look at him he’d quickly put his head under the covers and giggle. I love this little boy so much. Anyway, after about thirty minutes of this we both settled down for a restless night sleep.

I think I was elbowed in the face at least ten times. I was also almost disembowled by Baby Boy’s dagger-like toenails. He will be getting these trimmed before we beddown in Montgomery, Alabama tonight.

After our three hour “nap” we were awoken by the rumbling of Harley Davidsons leaving the hotel parking lot. This was just like being at home, as a Harley barrels down our street every morning at 6:30.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the historical sites around Montgomery. Tropical Storm Claudette looks like it has drenched the Gulf Coast, which is where we are headed. I believe by the time we reach the coast on Sunday things will be okay, at least I hope. Stay tuned for more of our travelogue.

Day 2 – Paducah

After a fitful night’s sleep in Paducah, Kentucky, Amanda went and got us all some breakfast of powdered donuts. I believe this was Baby Boy’s first time experiencing those. Powdered donuts always bring back memories of a “staycation” my family and I had when I was a kid.

We stayed at a local hotel for a weekend and did a lot of swimming. Afterwards, we ate powdered donuts by the pool. The Ramada Inn and powdered donuts will forever be linked in my head, but I digress.

Paducah is a town with a lot of nice, little shops. If I was a shopper it would be a great weekend getaway spot. It is also home to Hancock’s of Paducah, which apparently is popular with those who quilt. Amanda and Baby Boy went in for a look while I stayed in the car. The ladies at Hancock’s were nice enough to give Baby Boy a fabric sample. We then went for some sandwiches at Kirchoff’s Deli & Bakery. If you are ever in Paducah, it is worth a stop here. The sandwiches were delicious, and so were the cookies.

After lunch it was time to get back on the road. Our destination for day two of our travels was Montgomery, Alabama. Despite hours of torrential rain, we eventually reached Montgomery last night around eight. After so much travelling, we were all pretty worn out. Well, Amanda and I were anyway. Baby Boy was ready to bounce on the bed, after which he procedeed to vomit. I guess the comedian Ray Romano was right when he said, “Having children is like living in a frat house. Nobody sleeps, everything is broken, and there’s lots of throwing up.” I am ready to see where else this “frat party” takes us.

Essential Tips for Someone With a Disability to Take Charge of Your Financial Future

The following is an article written by a guest contributor. His name is Ed Carter, a retired financial planner, who has his own site full of great information. Be sure to check out his website for more financial tips (ablefutures.org).

If you’ve ever been in a situation where money was tight, you know how it feels to try and make ends meet. This is a tough situation to be in, and one of the biggest issues with just getting by is that you can’t account for expenses that you’ll have later in life. Hopefully you’re in a better place than just getting by, but no matter what your current financial picture looks like, everyone can take steps to prepare their finances for the future.

Revisit Budgeting Basics

When you’re living with a disability, trying to make sense of benefits, healthcare, and accessibility needs can make your financial life complicated. We know how confusing it can be, but regardless of your age or stage in life, it’s always smart to revisit the fundamentals of setting a personal budget.

The main purpose of having a budget is to track your money and ensure you’re spending and saving wisely. Beyond that, everyone has their own personal reasons for setting a budget, and as Greenpath explains, whatever drives you will benefit you in the long run. You may want to set short-term goals, but it’s good to keep your primary focus on the long-term, especially when it comes to major expenses that could come up later in life, such as long-term care

While looking over your budget, it may be a good idea to determine whether it’s a good idea to refinance your mortgage. This can help free up some cash for any emergencies or expenses you may have.

When you’re considering these long-term needs, you’ll want to think about protecting your loved ones as well. If you have anyone who depends on you financially, you may have already gotten life insurance. However, in determining whether or not they need life insurance, too many people fail to consider the burden of final expenses.

Getting final expense insurance is an easy way to relieve that burden by making sure your family could cover the costs of your funeral, medical bills, and even other debts. Like with any other type of insurance, the amount of coverage you should buy is determined by the expenses it needs to cover, so you should think about factors like the type of final arrangements you want and other expenses you foresee leaving behind.

Create a Smart Savings Plan

A large part of your budget is determined by income and expenses, but when your goal is to be prepared for the future, any surplus should go into a savings account. Even if you’re just getting started, U.S. News explains how easy it is to build savings by automatically diverting a portion of each paycheck into your savings account. We also love this simple tip from America Saves: create a savings plan! While this may sound overly simple, they report that those who have a plan are twice as successful at actually saving than those who desire to save but don’t have a plan.

Another crucial piece of advice for anyone who has a disability is to take advantage of ABLE savings accounts. Getting an ABLE account allows you to set aside tax-deferred savings without losing access to government benefits. ABLE savings also allow you to maintain autonomy over your own account, which makes it an excellent tool for taking charge of your financial future.

Seek Out the Best Resources

The other important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it all on your own. An easy solution is to get the help of a financial planner, but the web is full of helpful resources too. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor has tips for making the transition from receiving disability benefits to employment.

There may be times in life when we find ourselves just getting by, but you have so much to gain by being proactive with your finances. Don’t wait to set a budget, build your savings, and take advantage of all opportunities. Your future self will thank you for putting in the effort today!

Hello Again…

It has been quite some time since my last post. I just haven’t felt like writing for some reason. Perhaps, life has just been too hectic, or maybe I just have been a bit lazy. Sometimes, it is difficult to just stop and take stock of the things going on around you.

Life can seem fairly monotonous. Working from home, as I have been doing for over a year, has added to this feeling. Things seem to be slowy getting back to “normal.” I have returned to my office a few days a week. This has brought back some much needed structure to my life. Staying home everyday to work while I am in my pajamas didn’t seem to give me much of a purpose.

A lot has changed within the last year. Baby Boy is now walking and saying a few words, such as “dad.” Being a dad is such a wonderful experience. I have learned a lot about myself. In addition, I think I have learned the entire catalog of “Wiggles” songs. YouTube and Netflix come in handy when you are quarantined.

Amanda and I have been blessed with so much good. Despite, challenges related to health, 2020 was a very prosperous year. It is hard to believe that we are almost halfway through 2021. God has been good to us, even when we have not taken notice.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds. We will be taking a family vacation to Florida in June. I am excited to see Baby Boy play on the beach. I’m wondering what his reaction will be when he first sees the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure we will build some sandcastles. Well, I’ll build and he will sit on them halfway through their construction.

Looking at life through the eyes of a little one has given me a new perspective. Everything is new and exciting. Nothing is left untouched. Everything has to be tasted, even cat food. Maybe life is not so monotonous after all. How can it be when every day is a new experience?

Advice From a Father

I lost my father when I was just 12 years old. At different times I have felt cheated because of this. For instance, my brothers and I missed out on having our dad there to witness most every milestone of our lives. He was not there to see any of us graduate from high school. Likewise, he missed seeing any of us get married. Most importantly, he never got to meet any of his grandchildren.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend about some personal problems I have been having and she asked me, “what advice would your dad give you?” This is something I have never thought about. I’d never really had the opportunity to ask my dad for much advice. Ever since I was asked this question I have thought about what advice my dad would have for me today.

I am a father now and I look forward to guiding my child through the obstacles of life. This fatherly guidance is something that I did not have as I was going through adolescence, which is a critical period in any young person’s life. So, what would my dad have to say to me today?

My dad was a man with much integrity. He was also a person that doubted at various periods in his life. However, before he died I believe he was able to lay down his burden of doubt and was at peace. I’m a lot like my dad in many ways. I am stubborn, selfish with my time, and I have my own doubts that I carry.

I believe if I was to sit down with my dad today, he’d tell me to let go of doubt. I think with age my dad also would have become more giving of his time. He’d probably tell me that I need to be more open to this as well. Likewise, I am sure he’d probably let me know he is proud of me. This is perhaps what I need to hear the most. I often doubt my own abilities. I’d like to hear my dad say I am good at what I do. Hearing it from his lips might actually allow me to believe it for once.

My dad was skilled at so many ways. I wish I could have learned to do all of the things he knew how to do. His work was something in which he took pride. I think having some of his knowledge would make me more confident as a man. However, I have my own skills, which I look forward to passing down to my son. This will be a way for me to honor my dad’s memory. I’ll never be able to do the things my dad did. However, I know he’d proud of me for succeeding in life.

I don’t believe my dad is watching over me. I think he is spending eternity in Heaven where there is no sorrow. I have hope I will see him again. There are a lot of questions I have for him.

Wild Turkey and a Bowling Ball!

I think God often brings people into my life as a way of teaching me things. For instance, I recently met an older gentleman who has lived a life fit for a screenplay. Jack, as I will call him, is nearly 80 years old. He served a few different tours in Vietnam. He also has lost most of his hearing. Communicating with him was difficult, however, it was time well spent.

Jack is a man whose life experiences could fill volumes. I enjoy meeting these types of people, as their stories are so often rich with historical insight and humor. Jack went to Vietnam in the early stages of the war. He stayed until the United States was firmly entrenched within the conflict. He was a Marine, and fiercely proud of that.

After returning from the war, Jack opened a barber shop and cut hair for nearly 50 years. He just recently retired. I would have enjoyed visiting his shop so that I could have heard more stories of his life. I’m not sure Jack was always an easy person with whom to get along. It sounds as if his relationship with his family was strained. This may be due to Jack’s years of substance abuse. He is a recovering alcoholic. Jack’s brother is also an alcoholic.

The way Jack described his brother was humorous to me at first, however the more I thought about it, the sadder it became. Jack said his brother could simply be described as having “a bottle of Wild Turkey in one hand and a bowling ball in the other.” This description makes me think Jack’s brother is not a very pleasant person with whom to spend time.

It also got me to thinking how others would describe me if they just had one sentence in which to do it. I am hoping I’d be known for something much more positive. Fortunately, I don’t drink Wild Turkey, and I am a horrible bowler.

Goodbye 2020!

The end of last year brought hope. Amanda and I welcomed a three-day old baby boy into our home. Since this time he has become a part of us. In two days this bright, smiling child turns 1 year old. We will have a party with family. There will be cake, smiles, laughter, and maybe a few presents.

It has been strange raising a baby during a time when the world is filled with such uncertainty. This year has had many ups and downs. However, despite all of this, life has gone on and everyone has remained relatively healthy. There is much for which to be thankful.

Amanda and I have great friends and a loving family. We have a baby who brings us so much happiness on a daily basis. It has been our great pleasure to become his parents. We feel fortunate to have been blessed with the responsibility of raising him and providing for his needs.

God has protected us through times of trial. This year has truly been a struggle at times. The isolation brought on by the pandemic has often been too much to handle. However, life is still good. I will be happy to see 2020 come to a close. I’ll carry the things I have learned this year into the next. One might think that the future looks bleak, and in a lot of ways it does. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am curious to see what the future holds. As we approach 2021, let us all treat each other with more love and understanding. Everyone has a burden they are carrying. Let’s make time to listen to others.

I recently had a friend reach out to me to share some things that were going on in his life. He expressed to me that he needed others to “do life with.” This is something we all need. The English poet, John Donne, writing in the 17th century, wrote that “no man is an island.” Hopefully, 2021 is a year we can reconnect with each other. Good riddance 2020!

Six Weeks

Yesterday was my last dose of antibiotics. This was cause for celebration. It has been a long six weeks of medication, home nursing visits, doctor’s appointments, and sleepless nights. There were times it seemed like it would never end.

However, my body has healed. My PICC line has been removed, and life is slowly getting back to normal. Now it is time to once again build up my strength. My body has become very weak, as I have been quite inactive. Working from home has not helped this situation. Despite this, I am thankful to have a good job. Likewise, I am thankful that my body has healed.

I am curious to see what the next few months will bring as we head into autumn. There is a lot to look forward to, especially with Baby Boy here. For instance, Halloween should be fun with a little one. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be extra special as well. Hopefully, 2021 will be a better year for us all. I know I am ready to say goodbye to 2020!

My parasitic PICC line. It felt like a worm slithering through my vein as it was removed from my arm.

Drip, Drip, Drip…

I seem to be living life one drip at a time these days. Four weeks in to being on IV antibiotics and progress is being made, despite the drip, drip, of time. The wound on my foot has healed, for the most part. However, there are still two weeks of antibiotics to go.

I am dreaming of the day when the PICC line will be pulled from my arm. If all goes as planned this should happen the week of September 21. After that I hope things will get back to normal.

In the time I have been down, Baby Boy has begun to crawl. This has presented some challenges, as I cannot always catch him before he gets his hands in to things where they don’t belong. For instance, he has sampled some cat food, explored the bathroom floor, and played with television remotes. I am hoping he hasn’t purchaed anything from Amazon while I wasn’t looking.

The next two weeks will drip, drip, drip on by and my left foot and my left arm will once again be fully operational. I can then be on full-time baby patrol every evening. I’m sure the cats will appreciate that. I know Amanda will, as she has been working overtime keeping our household running. Without her I’d be lost. She has been wife, mother, nurse, housekeeper, chauffeur, and friend all while holding down a full-time job.

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