In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night

January 23, 2009

green-lantern1

From the time that I was a very young boy I have always been into comic books and their characters in some form or another. Whether it was actually collecting and reading the comic books or simply following the stories with my brother on Saturday morning’s “SuperFriends” I loved to see these larger-than-life heroes with their amazing powers.

In some ways it was like my own personal mythology. Instead of stories of Zeus, Hermes, Ares, Poseidon or Athena, the stories were of Superman, The Flash, Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman. I loved the way good always triumphed over evil. I loved the way the writers allowed me to relate to these characters, and I loved the amazing art.

This love affair was strengthened and renewed after my car accident. I was in the hospital for 13 months without anything to do. To fill my time I began collecting comic books again. It gave me something to look forward to each week (Wednesday is the day new comics hit the shelves) and provided me something to pursue.

When I wasn’t reading the comic books themselves I used my laptop to search the Internet for the ones I needed to complete my collection. When big events happened in “Comicdom” then I would work to ensure that I had every piece and part of the storyline along with every cover drawn by every artist. I know there were times when the whole thing drove my family crazy, but it gave me something to think about outside of syringes, catheters, CPAP machines and therapy–and that made it important to everyone.

After my initial 13 months stay I found myself in the hospital repeatedly for the following 11 years. During one such 3+ month stay that was more emergent and serious than the others I asked Colette to put up a poster of Hal Jordan a.k.a. “The Green Lantern.”

The Green Lantern was always one of my favorite characters. I was always enamored with his abilities and the way with which he gained his strength. Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was one day brought to the crash site of an alien spaceship. Inside the ship Hal found an alien named Abin Sur. Abin Sur was a part of a group called The Green Lanterns who oversaw that good and right happened across the universe. He happened to be The Green Lantern for the area of the cosmos that included Earth, and because his spaceship crashed he needed to find someone quickly to be his replacement. Hal was that man. Hal was given the two things he needed to become the new Green Lantern; a green ring, and a battery (also green and shaped as a lantern) that could recharge the ring.

What made the ring special and unique was that it could produce anything its wearer could imagine out of a green energy that would emanate from the ring. If The Green Lantern needed to fight a villain he could imagine a giant baseball bat and the bat would appear and the evildoer would be knocked out of the way. If The Green Lantern wanted to capture his enemy he could simply imagine a jail cell and the iron doors would appear. The ring would continue to do this until it ran out of energy at which time The Green Lantern could place his hand with the ring on it inside the Green battery shaped as a lantern and say the words, “In brightest day, and blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight; Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light.”

The thing that really endeared me to The Green Lantern was the source of his true power. The ring would allow him to create anything he could imagine but it was his willpower that decided the strength and longevity of the items he would create. Hal Jordan ended up becoming the greatest of all Green Lanterns because no one in the universe had a willpower like his.

When I was in the hospital fighting to get my body through its most recent onslaught trying all the while to keep a positive attitude, I would look up at the poster of The Green Lantern and remember the importance of my own willpower.

Although I lacked the fanciful ring and lantern, I did have the ability to fight off my enemies with a willpower second to none. As my enemies of death, disability, negativity, and negligence conspired against me I could win the day if like The Green Lantern I kept my imagination and will strong.

In many ways we are all like Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern. Following the example of this comic book hero we can find ways to endure and find success. Our efforts will wax or wain all based on the strength of our will.  There is nothing that will ever be to difficult to acquire and no obstacle we can’t overcome with dedication and willpower.

For, lo truebeliever, remember “In brightest day and blackest night” we will find glory and honor if we will but keep our will strong and true.

Jh-


The Sand Dune Solo

January 21, 2009

I have finally mended from my surgery and I’m back at my blog. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and concern.

sand-dunes
Growing up in Boise, Idaho one of my favorite weekends of the entire year was our “Fathers and Sons Outing.” On this one weekend during the summer all the fathers in our area would take their sons for a camp out. It usually began Friday afternoon and finished on Saturday after a hearty breakfast. Every boy I knew always looked forward to this weekend with great anticipation. I mean, how do you beat a whole weekend with just you and your dad? It was the ultimate boy’s night out.

There was a spot near Idaho City that was traditionally home for this event. It was called “Pinetop” and it looked exactly the way it sounds. It was nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains with lots of room for games and plenty of trails for hiking. However, I recall one of the years when “Pinetop” wasn’t available and our group ended up spending the night at the Bruno Sand Dunes.

It was Pinetop’s total opposite. It’s 4800 acres of sand. The state park includes desert, dune, prairie, lake and marsh habitat and is home to the tallest single-structured sand dune in North America (470 feet). When you’re there you feel like you’ve been dropped in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Climbing the dunes along with sliding or “surfing” down them always made for a great time, and we were sure that this year would be no exception.

We arrived on Friday, set up camp, roasted some hotdogs had a bonfire complete with “S’mores” and finally, after what I’m sure felt like 100 verses of “Waddley acha” followed by a rousing version of “Kumbaya,” went to our tents to hit the hay.

The next morning brought more pancakes, eggs and bacon then a young boy could ever hope to eat. After cleanup, everyone came together for some good old fashioned father/son games. There were three legged races, potato sack races and the ever popular tug-of-war.

With the games finished the group decided to make a mass exodus to one of the taller dunes. Our destination was in a different part of the park than our main camp and so everyone prepared for a hike that would take somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour.

As the group made their preparations I heard some of the older boys (16-18 years old) making a plan of their own. They wanted to break away from the group and use the shortcut taking them up the face of the Dune. I idolized these boys. Not only were they big and strong and popular at the local high school, but they had taken a special interest in me. It was a regular and frequent thing for them to pick me up and take me for an ice cream or to the park to play frisbee. They let me hang around all the time. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for me (a nine year-old) to ride my bike to their house, knock on their door, and ask their parents if they could play.

Most 16-18 year-olds probably wouldn’t react positively to someone five or six years their junior coming over to play, but they always let me come down to their room, listen to ABBA, and talk about my day.

So, as soon as I heard about their plan to break away I asked them if I could come too. They said that I could as long as I had my dad’s permission. It wasn’t long after my dad said yes that the main group went on their way and we went to follow the shortcut.

I was able to keep up with the older boys all the way to the face of the large dune. However, once at the dune, things changed. It was every man for himself, and as they sped up the face of the mountain I ended up left in the dust. They were all trying to leave their mark as king of the mountain and my little legs just couldn’t keep up. Before I knew it I was looking up the face of this enormous sand dune all by myself.

It was getting to be afternoon by this time and the sand was heating up. When we left camp none of the older boys had shoes, and not wanting to be “sissy” I hadn’t taken mine either. The sand and it felt so soft and comfortable under my feet just hours earlier was now scorching my skin. I tried to take off my shirt and wrap it around my feet, but it was no use. Not only that, the dune seemed like it went on forever.

Crying and a little unsure of how I got myself in this predicament I began to wonder if I would ever see my dad again. I continued to move up the mountain very slowly. I would take a few steps until my feet got too hot and then I would sit down until my rear end became too hot. Back and forth I went inching my way up the sand dune.

Finally, with tears streaming down my face I heard my dad’s voice. I called his name as loudly as I could and was overjoyed when I saw him coming down the dune. He carried me to the top of the mountain on his back. When we reached the top I was surprised. I expected to see the young men I wasn’t able to keep up with, but I didn’t expect to see the rest of the group all there and seemingly without incident. As we returned to camp I found out why it had been so hard for me while it seemed to have been so easy for everyone else to climb the dune.

What I didn’t know when we started the day, was that the best way to walk on the hot sand is single file, rotating people from front to back. Whoever takes the first steps in the new sand has to absorb the most heat. As you move back through the line, following in each others’ footsteps, the sand gets less and less hot.

Being that I had had such a bad experience walking in the sand (and probably because I was crying) they started me at the back of the line. I couldn’t believe how cool the sand was in between my toes. This was the same sand that was so hot on the face of the mountain that it had precluded me from making even one step. As time passed, and the rotating continued, I eventually made my way to the front.

The sand was hot there but because I was with the group I only had to be in the front for a while and just as it became unbearable I got to move back to the end of the line. When we got back to camp and the watermelon bust began, I thought about how much simpler the return trip was when everyone only had to endure the heat a little while.

If we approach our lives the same way we too will find our journey easier. When we set about our difficulties with this kind of mentality we increase our ability to succeed. There are times when we can endure the heat, and those are the times when we we need to stand in front of the line and take as much heat as we can. But there are times when the heat becomes too much. In those times if we will allow ourselves to move to the back and let others take the lead will find that we can persevere no matter how big the obstacle.

In order to truly travel the furthest and the best through the vast difficulties life brings, one must be willing to walk together–always humble enough to help another, never too proud to ask for help. We must stop trying to take do the sand dune solo and walk together all the way to a comfortable camp and wonderful watermelon.

Jh-


Mona Germs vs. Navy

January 13, 2009

mona-germs

I had been in the first grade only days when I found out about health hazard that surrounded not only my elementary school but every other elementary school in the country and across the world. It went by different names in different places but the outbreak was total and complete. In many places the plague was called “cooties” but at my school it was called “Mona Germs.”

There was little girl who attended my school named Mona and for some reason it’d been decided that she had germs. This meant every day when you went to school you had to be careful where you stood. The first person Mona touched in the morning was the one who started the day with “Mona Germs.” They would have those germs until they were able to touch someone else and pass off the dreaded disease to someone else.

As bad as it was to have “Mona Germs” during the day, what nobody wanted was to be the one that had to go home “diseased” because they were last touched. Mona reacted the way most would. She became angry and frustrated.

After a year or so Mona moved away and as I grew older I began to realize how I must’ve made this little girl feel. Now I wasn’t the one who came up with the game, but I didn’t stand up to end it either. I simply went along with the rest, spreading “Mona Germs,” never thinking of the ramifications; never thinking of how it would make Mona feel. Disappointed at how I had acted I tried hard to remember to treat people better.

When I was about 11 years old I met a man who is a great example to me of treating people better. His name was Charlie. Charlie and his wife were a younger couple that lived nearby.

I loved Charlie. I used to ride my bike over to his house and laugh and joke with him as he would always have some story to entertain me with. Sometimes he would pick me up and take me to get an ice cream at the local drive-thru. Charlie took a special interest in me and there wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to do in return.

A few months into building this relationship with Charlie he asked me if I would do them a favor. I answered yes before I even knew what he needed. I couldn’t think of something he would ask of me that I wouldn’t be willing to do.

He told me that his daughter from a previous marriage was coming into town and wondered if I’d be willing to show her around. When you’re 11 years old showing someone around town means taking them to the arcade and for a Slurpee at the local 7-Eleven. But this was Charlie and if his daughter was coming to town I would do my best to show her a good time–even if it meant fronting her some quarters to play Asteroids.

He told me when she would be in town and mentioned how grateful he was for my help. Things had been little difficult for his daughter when she was little because of the family dynamic and a great experience in Boise could make a big impact.

I was excited for this opportunity to help and over the next couple of weeks thought of any way I could make Charlies daughter’s experience in my hometown a memorable one. I wanted to see if I could make his daughter feel is good as Charlie had made me feel.

A day or so before she came to town Charlie stopped by to make sure I was still on to help out. I told him I was and that in fact I had been thinking about it since he first brought it up. He turned to me and said, “Great! I know you and Mona will have a great time.”

My heart stopped. As my brain worked to put two and two together I realized that Mona from the first grade and my friend Charlie had the same last name. Mona of “Mona Germs” was Charlie’s daughter. My face flushed beet read. I was so embarrassed of the way I had treated my friend’s daughter.

Luckily, when Mona arrived she had no memory of me. I worked the entire weekend to pay off the horrible things I had said as a first grader. I learned that day of the cost of treating someone poorly. I learned that day that everyone is somebody’s someone.

Conversely, I spent the week directly before I broke my neck at football camp at BYU. In that July of 1986 I had preceded my family to Utah by a week. I was to spend that week at Camp and at its end my family would drive down from Boise, pick me up and we would head to Lake Powell for week of waterskiing.

In the first hours of my football camp I met Roger French. Coach French was over the offensive linemen at BYU and so as an offensive lineman I fell under his direction at Camp. That summer my friends and I had decided to get real live Naval “high and tight” flat top haircuts. I suppose it was a natural extension for him to nickname me “Navy.”

From the first day it was as if he saw something special in me. Although I was only just finished with the ninth grade he regularly placed me against young men much older than I, saying they could prove their toughness by going against “Navy.” He told the group of players there to hustle like “Navy,” and on the second to last day of camp had me go head-to-head with a senior who had already committed to play center at BYU. I went up against him three times. The first two, I found myself placed squarely on my back end. But with Coach French cheering me on, the third try I found a way to bend but not break and push the larger boy back.

On Friday, the last day of camp, Coach French awarded me the Most Improved Player of the entire group. On Saturday, my parents picked me up and took me to Lake Powell. On Sunday, I became paralyzed from the waist down. I would never play football again.

Coach French didn’t know that this was to be my last experience playing football. He had no way of knowing that my week at BYU would be the final memory I ever had of playing the sport I loved so much. But, because of the way he chose to treat me he made that week on the gridiron extra special. Even  just seeing the word Navy reminds me of the feeling I had pushing the larger center out of the way that week in 1986.

As we interact with those around us we get to choose what kind of feeling or lasting impression we will make. Will we spread “Mona Germs” and make others to feel small, angry and frustrated? Or, will we give people that “Navy” experience causing them to believe that they can overcome any obstacle no matter how big.

It is critical that we remember that everyone is somebody’s daughter, someone’s son ,or someone’s friend. We must be careful with our words, for contrary to popular belief they are sticks and stones–sticks and stones that can be used to tear down and destroy or reinforce and shore up.

Jh-

PS I hope to be able to post on Wednesday but am going in for minor surgery on my hand, and so it may be Thursday or Friday before I’m able to post again. Thanks for your continued support.


The Corn Pop Principle

January 10, 2009

Corn Pops

When I broke my neck in the summer of 1986 I learned that paralysis means much more to your body than just the inability to walk. At first, the shock to your body is so great that essentially everything shuts down. In my case my lungs, my bladder, my bowels, my stomach and everything in between stopped working–kind of like a massive work stoppage. It was as if the union representing my legs went on strike and every other union in my body locked out in a show of brotherhood.

This forced the doctors to get involved and help my body do the work it was designed to do. Because my stomach wouldn’t work properly my first days in the ICU necessitated an IV. The IV however is not a long-term solution. Knowing that this was going to be a long-term problem the doctors inserted a feeding tube in my nose down my throat and into my stomach. Throughout the day the nurses would bring in bags of Ensure that they would hang on the IV pole and connect to my feeding tube for me to digest. Ensure is a liquid that’s has its proteins broken down making it substantially easier to digest.

I lived weeks on the feeding tube. Finally, to my utter excitement the doctors felt like my stomach was back to work, the tube could be pulled and I could eat real food again. Unfortunately, although my stomach had resolved its differences with management, the muscles in my arms still had some grievances and had not yet come back in off the picket line.

This meant that the nurses and aides had to feed me every meal. It’s amazing how unpleasant they could make a meal. Regardless of the variety of the food on the plate, the foods that I ate had absolutely no variety at all. For example, if for breakfast I ordered eggs, hash browns, French toast and bacon, the nurse or aide would choose one to begin with and not move on until it was completely gone.

If we started with eggs I didn’t eat anything else until I ate all my eggs. Then, and only then, they would move to the bacon and I didn’t get anything else until I ate all my bacon. I remember watching a movie once where the star talked about eating “the perfect bite.” This was a bite that had a little bit of everything on the plate at once. The nurses and aides that fed me had obviously never heard of “the perfect bite.” They hadn’t even heard of “the mediocre bite,” “the average bite,” or even “the it’s kind of okay but not really bite.”

You can imagine then the excitement I felt when the doctor said I was finally ready to feed myself. My first “all by myself” meal was breakfast. I was so enthused I could hardly see straight. I was going to start with whatever I wanted and move through the plate with “perfect bite” after “perfect bite.” My fork and I were going to make some beautiful music.

In order to create this culinary symphony, I ordered up all the instruments. My breakfast plate had ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, and best of all, Corn Pops.

As the plate sat before me, with my spoon in hand, I had to decide which player I would choose to open my masterpiece. Not wanting things to get soggy, I chose Corn Pops. The nurse arranged my plate accordingly and ask if there is anything else she could do to help. Thinking that she had done quite enough already, I invited her to leave. Now, it was just me and my breakfast.

As giddy as Christmas morning I placed my spoon in my bowl of Corn Pops. Wanting this first bite to be “perfect” I made sure to get the right amount of Corn Pops accompanied by just enough milk. Then, as I went to lift the spoon to my mouth I realized that the morning was not going to go down exactly the way I thought.

Working to get that first bite I found out that just because the doctor said I had the strength in my arms to feed myself didn’t mean it was so. As I tried to bring my utensil to my lips the strain was so great I felt like I was in an Olympic weightlifting competition.  It was as if my spoon weighed 1000 pounds. I pushed myself to get that first bite. The spoon rose as Corn Pop after Corn Pop and drop of milk after drop of milk fell onto my hospital gown until finally the only thing that reached my mouth was a cold, empty, spoon.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” I thought as I dipped my spoon into the bowl again. The bite looked just as good as its predecessors, and the results were just as bad. Again and again I worked to get my first taste of success.

Finally with every muscle giving every effort I got a bite–one bite.  A bite that consisted of one small Corn Pop with a splash of milk.

Breakfast was over. The nurse came in to remove my tray and said it looked as though everything I ordered was either still on my tray or now on my gown. Completely worn out and as tired as I had been in a long time I told her that although for the most part she was correct, something was missing.

I explained that during the course of working to get my breakfast from my plate to my mouth I had successfully moved one Corn Pop and the little milk from the bowl to my belly. She asked if I would like her to help me eat the rest of my breakfast. I told her I was fine and that she could take my tray.

I was full–not because of what was in my stomach, but because of the feeling in my heart. I had set out that morning to feed myself breakfast and although it wasn’t the biggest breakfast I had ever eaten, I had eaten. It was the feeling of accomplishment that filled me that day. Never before and never since has a Corn Pop tasted so good or meant so much.

That day I learned “The Corn Pop Principle.”–There is no way to better improve our self worth than to finish a job; one spoonful at a time.  Achieve to finish–not to see how that finish stacks up against the rest.

As we work daily to achieve success is important that we remember “The Corn Pop Principle” It’s important that we value accomplishment. So often accomplishment only becomes important to us if that accomplishment ranks higher than the accomplishment of others. “The Corn Pop Principle” teaches us that what’s important is that we work hard to complete the tasks we take on. Although it’s nice to have that task’s completion recognized by others it’s not what matters most. Finding our “Champion Inside” requires us to place significant value and high personal praise on our accomplishments regardless of where they fall in reference to others.

I have had breakfasts where I have eaten more food and I have had breakfasts where I have eaten better food. But, I have never had a breakfast that tasted better. It was only one Corn Pop and little milk, but I earned it on my own. If we let it, accomplishment can be the savor of our lives as it helps each day taste a little better.

Jh-


It All Trickles Down

January 7, 2009

chart

During the 80’s there was a lot of news about an innovative way to look at economics. It was called “Trickle Down Economics.” It was a new idea for stimulating the economy and sharing wealth.

The basic tenant was to structure the tax code so the wealthy had more money in their pockets. This wasn’t done solely as a benefit to the wealthy but also conceptually as a benefit to those in lower tax brackets as well. The idea was that the more money those with money had in their pockets the more money everyone would be able to call their own.

For the wealthy would want to use their money to become more wealthy. This would motivate them to take those extra dollars to expand their businesses or invest in others. This expansion or investment would create jobs. More people with more jobs would equal more total revenue and therefore more taxes overall. This idea would allow taxes to be lowered without lowering the total amount of tax the government needed to do its business.

Just like anything in government there are some that agree with the idea and some that don’t. Some believe this is a good way to go about running government and there are some that believe it to be total foolishness and a complete failure. Frankly, for our purposes it doesn’t make any difference which side of the fence you’re on; for the purposes of this argument all that matters is that you understand the concept.

Whether or not you believe it works in economics you need to know the “Trickle Down Effect” does work in attitudes. Every day when you choose to be happy or sad it doesn’t simply affect you, it affects everyone around you. Your attitude “trickles down” to people literally all over the world.

The idea of “Six Degrees of Separation” dictates that you can start anywhere in the world with any person and through six connections find your way to you. In essence, someone they know will know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows you.

Think about how much that changes your responsibility with reference to the attitude you choose. Your attitude is going to “trickle down” to the people that you know. “ Six Degrees of Separation” later your attitude has  “trickled down” to someone you’ve never met in the middle of Africa. There they are just living their lives, doing the best they can and if you choose to be negative eventually it will “trickle down” to them.

By the same token think about all the people your positive outlook could change. Think about all the people you know and interact with, and all the people they know and interact with, and so on and so forth. Think about all the good your positive attitude can do.

There are days when it can be hard to find anything to be happy about. On those days it is easy to simply selfishly assume that our attitude only affects us. If we have a bad day and act negatively what’s the damage?

Whether or not you accept that your negativity could really “trickle down” all the way to Africa. It’s not hard to accept that it does “trickle down.” It’s not hard to see your attitude affect those around you. The people you love and care about most will have an easier or harder time to look at the good in their lives based on the outlook you choose to have.

When we realize our decision to project positivity or negativity doesn’t just affect us, our responsibility to keep a positive outlook increases. If we ever hope to live in a world filled with peace, we must take care with the attitude we fill our piece of the world with.

It all comes down to economics. The next time you feel a little down and feel inclined to take time to wallow in negativity, remember your choice affects more attitudes than just your own. Work hard to find the best in your life and live with a positive attitude–not just for yourself, but also for those around you. It all “trickles down.”

Jh-


…And Now For Something Completely Different

January 5, 2009

I thought today I’d offer up something different.  I’ve attached a video clip of me doing what I do. This is a clip of me speaking about gratitude. If it sounds familiar it’s because I’ve already posted this story written here. But, reading it and seeing it presented are two different things. Enjoy, and tell me what you think.

Jh-


Big News!

January 1, 2009

Jason Embryo Banner - teal3

I’ve decided to start a new blog! For those of you who enjoy what you find here, don’t worry it will stay the same. If you like coming here and finding little stories or snippets from my life accompanied with a message, keep coming. But, the new blog will be a little different.

With fatherhood only six weeks away, I have begun to think about the unique experience that lies before me. As a quadriplegic the chance to become a father of a child genetically yours is a rare thing. In addition, as you might imagine going through this experience without being able to move your legs, your hands, and much of your arms will bring with it challenges and issues that won’t be germane to every situation.

Wanting to record my own feelings and the experiences that happen along the way, I decided to begin this new blog about my experiences as a father, a quadriplegic, and a quadriplegic father. It’ll be about my hopes and dreams, wonders and concerns, and everyday life.

If you’re interested, come check it out. You can either click on the above banner that Kolette designed, or you can simply type in www.manontheinside.com (you’ll find out why I chose this title if you click over). If you do come take a peek, leave a comment and tell me if this is something you think you’ll enjoy, or suggestions of things you’d like to read about.

Just like any new adventure I’m excited–scared out of my mind, but excited. I think sharing it with others will add a fresh, fun, and new dimension to the whole experience.

I hope you’ll join me for the ride of my life.

Jh-


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