The Other Side Of The Bed

October 14, 2010

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but to say that things have been a little crazy around the Hall Home is an understatement to say the least.

For those who don’t know, on May 1st Kolette was admitted to the hospital with Gall-Stone Pancreatitis.  When she was admitted, the doctors in the ER told us that this illness was one of the most painful they ever see.


Kolette in the ICU


Over the last six months we’ve learned that they were right.  She’s had multiple procedures, one major operation (where they removed 80% of her necrotic pancreas), and has spent nearly two months in the hospital (about a week of which was in the Intensive Care Unit).  In addition, she’s been on high doses of pain medicine, fed though an IV, had her stomach swell to the point where one doc assumed her to be 10 months pregnant, and nearly lost her life.

Without hyperbole, I can say Kolette has been pushed to her ultimate limit—and the whole ordeal is far from over. (Who knew one little gallstone could cause so much grief…right?)  She still fights tremendous pain, and struggles everyday to have the energy to take care of our 20-month-old Cole.  She has to go to the hospital multiple times a week for things like physical therapy, dressing changes, and infusions, and spends nearly all her effort working to be able to eat again without dire consequences–C’mon sing along…”Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion, Upset Stomach, Diarrhea.” (click on the link if you can’t recall the tune)


Kolette's swollen belly


The truth is, it’s been difficult on everyone.  Coleman’s had to learn how to live out of a suitcase. Our little rock star has been on a whirlwind tour that’s taken him all over the state with frequent stops at Aunt Kara’s, Aunt Carolie’s, and his all-time favorite—Grandma’s.


Coleman on a rare visit to the hospital


As for yours truly, on one hand, I’ve had to step up to a whole new level of independence. I’ve had to learn how to take care of myself in ways I never imagined that I could. Part of that has meant making sacrifices—I mean sometimes you realize meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner are way overrated. On the other hand I’ve had to accept more help. When you’re a C5-6 quadriplegic, you feel like it’s impossible to accept more help (Heck, if I listed the things I needed help with before all this, we be here for a month.) But, I’ve learned to humble myself and have been grateful for the people in my church and my neighborhood that has stepped up and helped with anything I required.

I’ve learned so much through this whole experience. However, of all the things I’ve learned, I think the most powerful has been the understanding of what it’s like on what I call, “The Other Side of the Bed.”

Throughout my life I’ve always been the one in the family who’s been ill. Just look at my record…Broken neck—check, multiple surgeries—check, infection and hospitalization—check, life-threatening car wreck—check, and so on. It was my role in the family, and I played it well if I do say so myself. I was the person in bed, sick and with his life on the line.  To this point I’d never been asked to be, “on the other side of the bed” watching the one you love suffer.

Then, on the 1st of May, things changed.  Ko now was fighting for her life, and all I could do was watch.

It is by far the most helpless I have ever felt in my life (and this coming from a guy who can’t move 7/8 of his body.) There was absolutely nothing I could do but sit in Ko’s room and tell again and again how I loved her, and how proud I was to witness her courage and fortitude.

I know some might wonder how much control a person really has lying in the bed after a major accident or illness. Yet, for me regardless of how much control I had over my physical situation, I had control over my attitude. I could be happy. I could be determined. I could make a sad situation less gloomy for those who visited, and all of this would give me a sense of control.

“On the other side of the bed,” you have absolutely no sense of control at all. In fact, to the contrary, you feel totally completely out of control. You watch, and wait, hoping your love and support is enough, but in the end it’s all up to the person in the bed.

People always tell me how amazed they are that I’ve been able to endure the challenges of my life. These past months have taught me an invaluable lesson. The amazing ones are those who’ve spent hours and hours at my bedside. I’m sure they’ve felt as helpless and out of control as I did, and yet they stayed still.

This experience has also reminded me that a little understanding goes a long way. Trading places with Kolette has helped me understand her point of view. It’s allowed me to understand how she felt in those dark days after my accident, and helped me to realize why she was motivated to push hard when I felt she’d already pushed too much. This understanding helps me appreciate and love her all the more.

Similarly, the prejudice and judgment that exists in the world today can be as easily removed if people will simply try to see things from “other sides.” When we look at others and don’t understand why they seemingly get all the breaks, have all the chances, or get to live a life that we perceive is free of difficulty and strife, we have to try and see things from their point of view. The more we see their side, the more we will understand. That understanding will breed love and remove hate. It will spread humility and alleviate pride. It will bring compassion and eschew cruelty.

At the end of the day this experience has taught me that two things are true. First, I am truly blessed to have people like my sweet wife and wonderful mother who have spent hours at my bedside to show their support and let me know that I was loved. Second, even though it’s often hard, I like my life. I’m lucky and blessed. I want to try and concentrate on how wonderful my side of this existence is and quit worrying about everybody else. I want to fill my heart with gratitude and rid it of judgment.

For, when it’s all said and done, I’ll stay on my side of the bed thank you. For the “other sides” out there are simply far more difficult than advertised.


Laughin’ With The Pancreas

May 24, 2010

Every week I try to post something to help give the people that stop by my blog a little laugh.  I call the posts, “A Little Laughter.” Even when I don’t have the time or energy to publish other posts, I try to get a little video, song or story up that will bring a smile to my reader’s faces.

I have a powerful belief in the power of laughter.  To my very core I know that, when it comes to having a positive attitude and dealing with adversity, there are few things that help like humor.  Throughout the most difficult times of my life I have been a witness to the influence a moment of joy can have in determining the altitude of our attitudes and our ability to overcome.

However, just like most things, it’s easy to talk about adding humor to your life and a different thing altogether to implement laughter daily—especially in times of adversity.

I can safely say that the past weeks have tested my belief and dedication to the importance of the funny.

On May 1st, Kolette was diagnosed with Gall Stone Pancreatitis.  It has caused her to be as sick as she has ever been, put her in more pain than most can imagine, and almost taken her life.  She was in the hospital for a week and a half, four days of which were spent in the ICU.

Of all the days in the hospital, those she spent in Intensive Care were the most harrowing.  Every night I would leave her room sure that things couldn’t get any worse, only to show up the next morning to find her at a new low.  She was hardly breathing, with her blood pressure through the floor, and over 65lbs. of water collecting around her liver, kidneys, lungs and abdomen.

Watching her pain had to be the worst.   I have truly never felt more helpless in my entire life. (Kolette and I really traded places on this one.  I’m used to be the one fighting for his life, not the one standing idly by—I prefer my normal position, thank you).

When she was admitted, the doctors told her there were few conditions as painful as pancreatitis.  In fact, at one point in the ER, as Kolette asked over and over for more pain medicine, the doc said, “I could give you enough pain medicine to stop your heart and you’d still be in pain.”

On that first day, I knew that if I were going to keep a positive attitude of any kind through this ordeal, I’d have to have a regular dose of humor.  I knew that my minutes of laughter were as critical to our survival as Kolette’s milligrams of medicine.

So, in an effort to get out in front of the issue, I change the Kolette’s ringtone on my phone to the song below.  Whenever the people in her room, nurses on staff, and Kolette (when she could) used the phone to get a hold of me I’d hear the song “Pancreas” by “Weird Al” Yankovic that’s posted below.  The phone was used enough that, a number of times throughout the day, I’d get a little 20 second listen of the song.  Being a lifelong “Weird Al” fan, I felt it would do the trick—and luckily for me, I was right.

Every time I heard the song, no matter how bad the day, inevitably the ends of my mouth would curl and I’d let out a little chuckle. Instantly, things were a little better, and all at once everything that was heavy would get a little lighter.

Now, I know that everyone won’t think he song is funny.  Most will probably just think that it’s weird.  But it was perfect for me. It gave my heart the little lift that it needed and helped me have the strength to carry on, and if I was passionate about the power of humor before, that passion has only intensified now.

Kolette is home now, still in a great deal of pain, with a long road and the chance of multiple surgeries ahead.  But, as I ask for your prayers and good thoughts for her speedy and successful recovery, I also ask that if this song doesn’t make you chuckle or chortle, find something that does.  Then, when you do listen, watch, or read it, and witness as your attitude improves and the white-hot heat of that positive attitude warms your life.

For, I know that regardless of whether times are good or bad, or if things in your life are easy or hard, we all are better after a little laughter.


Thanks Al

Get The “Hack” Outta Life

November 4, 2009


If you’ve never checked out, you really should.  It’s built on the idea that you can “hack” or find “work arounds” to eliminate much of the regular mundane stuff that bogs us down and eats up our time and money.  With that idea in mind, the site is filled with all kinds of great info on easier ways to get around the regular things everyone has to deal with every day.  The last time I checked the site, they had ideas for everything from a cheaper way to build a first aid kit for your car, to a way to keep your visits to the coffee shop to a minimum, to a easier way to build a theater system in your home.

It’s flat out chocked full with a whole horde of ideas on how to find little shortcuts and “hacks” to make life easier.  I love the site, and use it on a regular basis.

In a similar vein, I see people trying to teach others that they can “hack” their way through the difficult parts of their lives.  They promulgate products and offer up programs promising to have found a “work around” that’ll work for them.  It comes assured as a way to delete difficulty—and then when it doesn’t work, it’s because they didn’t work hard enough or they quit too soon.

I see it all the time. Someone comes around with an easy answer, the promise is too much to pass up, and someone takes the bait. Then, after months and months of time and money, when it’s obvious the snake oil isn’t going to take hold, the answer comes that the sufferer simply didn’t want it bad enough.

The fact is, life is hard—and some things just can’t be fixed, no matter how bad we want them to. Life is filled with adversity and frustration that can’t be “worked around.” Although there is little question that there are ideas to help buoy us up in times of trouble and discord, the majority of the hard stuff simply has to be worked through.

There’s no quick fix, no pill, no “hack” or “cheat” that can change the harsh realities of life.  For the most part the only prescription or program that will have any effect is a healthy dose of, “Pull up your bootstraps.”  “Suck it up,” isn’t real popular, and definitely not PC, but reality is that most times it’s the only answer that really makes any difference.

We all know suffering, but what we also know is that there’s no easy out, no quick fix, no magic spell that can make it ”all better.” But in the end that’s a beautiful thing, because when the balance sheet is finally made right, it’s the hard things that we’ll be most grateful for.

They are the times where we learn the most about who we are and what we’re made of.  They are the times when we get the chance to grow. It’s the struggle that stretches us; it’s the banging against the rocks that will keep us tough.

Only by being “knocked down,” do we find out if we’ve got the strength to get up off the.

There will be some that will read this and say…”So, what then?  Is there nothing to do?  Is there nothing that can be done?”

The answer is, “Of Course not.” There are so many things that we can do to lessen suffering—We just have to accept that most times we can’t have it taken away, and that we can’t take it away for others.  In fact, we shouldn’t.  For, the real irony is that it’s our own opportunity to endure adversity that gives us the ability to find out what we’re really made of.

Adversity will come (I promise you that), and it’ll be a real humdinger.  But, when it comes, embrace it and accept it.  Don’t waste your time trying to “hack” your way out of it.  Just get after the business of enduring it well and watch the lessons you learn. I’m not saying it’ll be fun—no one ever promised you a rose garden—but, if you keep on keepin’ on, it’ll shape you in ways you never dreamed.


I Can Do Anything For 80 Years

October 22, 2009

Hospital Traction 1st Acc._2

I have been taught the importance of being positive from the youngest days of my life.  I don’t remember a time when having a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) wasn’t a regular part my parents instruction on the proper way to live a life.

Therefore, growing up, I tried to make a positive outlook a part of my life.  I tried to look at the glass half full, tried to see the best in those around me and tried to concentrate on the good and forget the bad.

Then at fifteen and a half, on the 13th of July 1986 my life changed in a second.

I went from a completely healthy young man in the best shape of my life to paralyzed from the chest down with only partial use of my arms and no use of my hands.

As difficult as that transition was, it was the first nights that were the most harrowing.  My lungs filled with mucus to the point where you could barely see any clear part of my lung on the x-ray.  My pulmonologist told me it was the worst case of pneumonia he had ever seen.

You didn’t have to have a medical degree to understand that my life was in the balance.  In those days, I had one wish.  It wasn’t to walk, it wasn’t to be accepted back at home, and it wasn’t to have a normal life-It was to live.

All I wanted was to wake up the next morning.

After a few days when I began to feel, not quite out of the woods, but on my way there, my dad came to the side of my bed and asked me if I felt like I could deal with life as a quadriplegic, I replied, “I can do anything for 80 years.” I was so grateful that I’d kept my life—everything seemed better.  Even paralysis seemed doable.

In the days since then, I’ve almost lost my life at least one other time.  And in those days, good or bad, I’ve tried to recall  that same feeling.  Whenever life gets difficult (as it often does) I try to remember that no matter how bad it gets, I still have my life.

Knowing that I am still breathing makes everything else challenging small in comparison.  It makes a real difference in my effort to live a happy life.  It is difficult to complain about the stumbling blocks when you find a way to remember that you are still around to stumble.

When things get hard, remember to love life.  Be grateful that you are still here.  Be glad that you have a chance to struggle and the negativity will be replaced with that Positive Mental Attitude I was taught so much about in my youth



March 6, 2009
Hospital TV

Working on my chores--Watching "The Private Eyes" with Don Knotts and Tim Conway.

On the beach directly after breaking my neck I wondered what life held in store for me. The EMTs that finally arrived by boat were fairly convinced that because of the way the accident happened the damage to my spinal cord would not be permanent. This was the news we wanted to hear. About three hours later, the doctors told me that the EMTs on the scene were wrong, that I had broken my neck and become quadriplegic; paralyzed from the chest down.

This was a lot of information for a 15-year-old boy to disseminate. Shortly after receiving the news, I was whisked away to over seven hours of surgery. The next morning as I laid in a specially designed hospital bed that moved back and forth to keep pressure from building up, my parents informed me that while I was in the hospital I had chores to do.

I knew what chores were, I had had them most of my life. Whether it was cleaning my room, setting the table, dusting the house or mowing the lawn, chores were something I was intimately familiar with.

Being in the hospital, I wasn’t necessarily looking for special treatment, but I did think that my current situation was maybe going to buy me a little break from making my bed.

I gave my parents a curious look wondering what they could possibly mean. I wanted to believe the unbelievable as much as anyone, but without a miracle there was no way I was mowing anyone’s lawn.

They proceeded to tell me that the chores I was going to be assigned in the hospital would be a little different. My dad pulled out a set of cards. On the first card was a list of what I had to do. The rest of the cards were part of the work. These were my chores:

1.) Read a list of my talents three times a day.
2.) Read a list of my blessings and things I had to be grateful for three times a day.
3.) Read a list of my dreams and spend time envisioning them coming real.
4.) Read a list of my goals.
5.) Have someone read something positive or uplifting to me once a day.
6.) Have someone read to me from the Scriptures three times a day.
7.) Watch or listen to something funny once a day.

These were my jobs. My parents took these assignments as seriously as they did the ones I had at home. Regardless of whether I felt sick or well, up or down, frustrated or content I had to do my chores.

There are some days I was glad for my list of things to do, and there were others when they were the last thing in the world I want to think about–much like the chores I was assigned at home. But in the end, those chores had payoffs I never would have imagined. Each task brought with it its own reward.

Reading my list of talents reminded me that although physically I had been limited, there were still many things that I could do. I was reminded of all the wonderful abilities I had–and in a world of “disability” that  was huge. Reading the list of blessings and things I had to be grateful for reminded me of all I still had in a time when every day I was reminded of things that had been taken away.

Reading my list of dreams reminded me that I still had dreams. In a time in my life when the world seem like one big dark nightmare that incandescent glow of my dreams kept the darkness at bay. Reading my list of goals reminded me exactly what I was in pursuit of, and kept that pursuit firmly ensconced in my mind. Listening to someone read things that were uplifting of a spiritual nature nurtured my soul. They reminded me of the unconquerable strength of a spirit that is well fed.

The humor made me laugh (even on days when I wasn’t sure there was much to laugh about.) In all my days dealing with difficulty and discouragement I have found humor to be a faithful ally. Some of the greatest therapy I have ever had is thinking back to the events of my life with a smile.

Having these chores also gave me something to do. When you first break your neck, your time in ICU is spent laying down and watching TV. I would receive an hour or so of therapy every day, but in those first weeks I simply allowed my body the time it needed to heal. Not to say that this wasn’t difficult, or necessary, it was just slow and without a lot of action. There were necessarily drastic changes every day which made it difficult sometimes to track exactly what was being accomplished.

Completing these chores gave me a sense of accomplishment. Although many of the things were very small things, in my world at that time finishing them each day gave me value and helped me to feel important.

In all the time that I have spent in hospitals I never went through any depression of any kind. I attribute this to a number of things, not the least of which are my chores. Learning the blessings that come from reminding myself of the most important things in my life, of my goals and dreams, and of the laughter left in the world benefited me then and benefits me still today.

I still have chores. I’m still not really good at mowing the lawn or making my bed. But I still have chores.

There is a feeling one gets after a hard days work. There is a feeling one gets after a hard days work. It’s a feeling of complete exhaustion and total contentment. It’s the knowledge that we’ve given something back to the world and that things are better both in our life and the lives of others due to our efforts. Chores taught me that if I ever wanted to succeed I needed to work to have that feeling everyday.

Give yourself chores, not just tasks, but chores like I had. Remember your talents, remember your blessings. Dream and envision those dreams becoming reality. Set goals and work to accomplish those goals. Read or listen to things that lift and make you laugh. Never forget to nourish your spirit and sense of humor.

When you do you’ll find a sense of fulfillment, accomplishment and well-being. Chores will make your life more rich, full and bright. As a young boy I never thought I’d say this, but I am grateful for chores.


Pull Your Wagon

December 30, 2008


It’s hard for me to think of a time in my life that I wasn’t spending a portion of my energy selling. From lemonade to magazine subscriptions to financial services to ideas for better living, my life has revolved around convincing people to purchase a product I felt could benefit their lives.

One of my earliest memories of this passion for the exchange of money for products and services came when I was five years old.  I had figured out that in order to acquire the candy that was so beautifully displayed at the 7-Eleven down the street I would have to have money. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money and my mother (who for some reason didn’t share my excitement about the candy) had informed me that she was not going to provide me any additional monies.

Knowing that the “bank” at the home front was closed, I began to think of other options that would help me acquire the candy. I began to wander around my yard trying to find some spare change, and when that didn’t work I began looking for something that I might sell for the money I needed. Eventually, I found a product that I felt sure would get me to my proverbial “candyland.” I loaded up my little red wagon with my product and started on my way to make my first sale.

As I started down the sidewalk my mother saw me and asked where I was going and what I was doing. I told her that I was on my way to sell my wares. She looked in my red wagon and saw it filled with rocks. These weren’t polished rocks, or painted rocks, they were just regular old rocks. She told me that people weren’t going to want to buy rocks that I had found in our yard and invited me to come back to the house where she would help me differentiate them somehow.

I looked at my rocks and felt sure that I had a product of others would pay for. After a few more attempts to change my mind my mom eventually let me go on my way to learn my lesson from the school of hard knocks.

About a half-hour later she saw me slowly returning to the house with my red wagon in tow. As she began to console me in my defeat she noticed that the red wagon I was pulling was empty and my pockets were filled with change. I had sold every one of my rocks and it wasn’t long until that candy I wanted so bad was mine.

Like that day, sometimes in our lives we feel confident in our ability to do great things. In fact, we are positive that we will succeed until someone comes along and attempts to change our mind. Often the people working to get us to see things a different way are doing so because they love us. My mother’s only motivation was to keep me from failure.

However, just because their motives are good doesn’t make their opinions right. There will be times in our lives when we are sure that we can move forward; sure we can do some thing, and in those times our success will largely depend on our willingness to press on regardless of what others say.

In my life, as I think back, I recall many goals that I accomplished even though others told me that I would fail. I think back to the people who told me I would never breathe on my own. I think back to the people who told me I never would graduate high school. I think back to the people who told me I would never get married. I think back to the people who told me I would not become a father, and I think back to the people who told me I would never find gainful employment.

In many ways the only reason I ended up right and they ended up wrong was because I moved forward regardless of what they said. It’s important to get input. It’s important to get advice. I rarely make a decision in my life without consulting wise people with my best interest at heart.

But, acquiring advice doesn’t mean you have to act on that advice. When you know you can succeed and others are sure you will fail, many times the difference between success and failure is whether or not you press on.

This kind of persistence will be the difference between a full wagon and empty pockets and an empty wagon and full pockets. Move forward. Press on. For the most part the real differentiator between selling your rocks or not is a willingness to pull your wagon down the street.


The Laughter Lesson

December 9, 2008


Directly after I broke my neck everyone around me went into triage. The people who were responsible for my care made sure that I received the most important care first. The EMTs who first arrived on that beach at Lake Powell did only what was needed most to get me to the emergency room. The ER doc’s picked the most crucial areas of my health to concentrate on to prepare me for surgery. The surgeon’s cared only for my most critical needs to get me into the ICU. My ICU doctors worried only about those things that were most eminent to my survival.

My parents follow the same course. They decided to concentrate only on those things they felt were most important to keep my attitude up and my spirits high. Of those few things they picked to concentrate on one of them was to make sure I laughed.

Every day I was required to watch, listen to, read, or have read to me something that was funny. They didn’t care what it was as long as it made me laugh. At my request they left the hospital and went and purchased every “Weird Al” Yankovic or Bill Cosby album, every Don Knotts/Tim Conway or Monty Python video they could find.

No matter how bad the day, no matter how bad I felt, no matter how bad my situation I had to use these “tools” every day. It was made to be as important as any therapy session or surgical procedure. My parents wanted to ensure that laughter was a part of my life even on days when there didn’t seem to be much to laugh about.

The results were amazing. Regardless of how I felt Bill, Al, Don, Tim and the Pythons always made me smile. That smile always turn into a laugh, and that laugh into laughter. As I laughed my problems seem smaller and the day brighter.

Years later I try to use this important lesson in my life. I work hard to make sure that every day I find something to make me smile; to make me laugh. I have found that immersing myself in humor for some part of my day is as important as anything else I do to keep my attitude up.

This dedication to laughter has also allowed me to look at the lighter side of my life. I have found that when trying times come they go much easier when you find the humor in the situation and learn to laugh. Some may think it’s the crazy and at times a little twisted. But, I have found it impossible to smile and frown at the same time. I can’t do it–It is a physical impossibility.

Try it. Find something, anything that makes you laugh and make it a part of your daily regiment.  Make it a habit. Just like you brush your teeth and comb your hair everyday make sure you set aside some time to laugh. No matter how busy your schedule, find a way to fit it in. If you will you’ll find your bad days better, your good days greater, and your great days out of this world.

They key is to simply learn to laugh.


Move Your Feet

December 6, 2008


When I started playing Little League football all I wanted to be was the quarterback. My favorite professional team with the Dallas Cowboys and I wanted to be just like Roger Staubach. On one of our first days of practice we each got to go and pick out our number from a pile of jerseys. With dreams of playing like my hero I picked out #12.

Our first season together the coaches felt I made an excellent quarterback. I was bright and it was easy for me to memorize all the plays. We were only in the fourth grade and so we didn’t pass much. In fact, the only pass we had in our playbook was a halfback pass where I would pitch the ball to the halfback and he would pass the ball down the field.

Things worked out great. I knew exactly where every hole was in the line and exactly which back I was supposed to hand the ball to on which play.

The following year teams began to pass. It was at this time when the coaches found they had a small problem with their starting quarterback. I couldn’t throw a ball to save my life. It wasn’t long after this realization that I was moved from standing behind the center as quarterback to kneeling in a four-point stance in front of the center on the defensive line–still wearing #12.

I spent the remainder of my football career on either the defensive or offensive side of the line. During all the time I spent “in the trenches” there were a few basic principles that were drilled into my head from every coach I ever had. One of those principles was to never ever stop moving your feet. Regardless of what level of football a person might ever reach one principle will remain true. The last person moving their feet will win out.

Nearly every day of practice is filled with some sort of drill to remind you to keep moving or “chopping” your feet. When I hit the dummies my coach would yell at me to move my feet. When I hit my teammates my coach would yell at me to move my feet. When I was running in place my coach would yell at me to move my feet. He wanted to make sure I knew the importance of moving my feet.

Moving your feet allows you to be prepared to “tackle” any problem you might on the field. Just like football, when we keep moving forward we stay prepared to take on the problems that face us everyday.

As I travel through my life and tell my story I often have people come up and ask me how I’ve made it through such difficulty in my life and if I have any tips for them. When they do I often think back to the words of my football coach, “Move Your Feet.”

If there is one secret or one key that I feel has helped me to succeed through some difficulty it is the idea of continually moving forward. When we “Move Our Feet” we leave little time to wallow in self-pity or become stagnant in self-doubt. Moving our feet keeps us going forward achieving new things and accomplishing new goals. I would ascribe the majority of the success I’ve had in my life to simply moving forward by “Moving My Feet.”

I have never found any benefit in my life in looking back and wishing things were different. It’s not that I don’t sometimes wish that my circumstance was different, it’s that I have never found any real benefit in spending time concentrating on that wish–for wishing won’t make it so.

I have however, found great benefit in moving forward and trying new things. Doing brings an incredible power that wishing never will. Doing keeps us moving while wishing keeps us still.

So when you’re hit with emotional difficulties, “Move Your Feet.” When you’re hit with physical difficulties, “Move Your Feet.” And if life is good and there’s little difficulty at all, “Move Your Feet.”


Give A Push

December 1, 2008
My Friend James Johnson

My Friend James Johnson

From the day I first received my power chair to today, it has been my responsibility to ensure that my chair is plugged in at night. Although someone else has to actually plug the chair in, it is my job to make sure that it happens. I have to ensure that the batteries in my chair are recharged each night. There have been some nights where I have been negligent in my duties. When I have, more often than not, I “run out of gas.” One of the first times it happened was during my junior year of high school.

The next morning in school, about second period I noticed something was different. The power meter on my joystick showed my chair only half full. Usually at this time of day, my chair was still showing a full charge.  I was a little concerned but thought that half a “tank” would be enough to get me home.

Unfortunately, as the day went on the meter continued to fall. By lunchtime I barely had an eighth of a charge left.  I knew that to make it though my day, I would have to conserve every bit of energy I had in my chair.  I didn’t go outside to hang out with my friends.  I didn’t go back to the lockers.  I took the straightest and most direct routes to my classes and ate lunch near the classrooms.

By the end of my final period I was running on empty. The fastest I could manage was barely a crawl.  I felt I had conserved enough energy that, with a little luck, I could make it to my van. Knowing how long it was going to take me to get to where I parked my van, I left my last period class fifteen minutes early.

Slowly, I exited the school and began down the sidewalk that would take me to the road I needed to cross to get to the parking lot where I’d left my van.  My chair was yearning for power and the motors sounded like the moan of a sick animal.  I thought things were going slowly when I left the school, but that was fast compared to how slowly I was moving by the time I reached the road.  I could see my van; it was just across the street, and as soon as I got there, I was home free.

I started across the street. I was slow-moving, but I was moving.  It was at this time that I learned an interesting engineering concept.  When they build many streets and roads, often they build them with the smallest upgrades on each side so that when it rains, the rain will hit the middle-of-the-road. Because of this miniscule grade, that you literally have to stare to see, the water will run from middle of the road down into the gutters on each side.

Going up the grade on the road was enough that once I got to the middle of the road my chair was spent.  It was completely out of juice.  I heard a click, and all the lights on my hand control went off.  Of all the places I could have had my chair run out of juice that day, the middle of the road was the very worst.  Although I had left school before the final bell, by the time I was stuck in the middle of the road, school was not only out, but the kids were in their cars heading home.

In addition, the road my chair stopped moving in was the main route students took to get home. Just then I heard a roar that felt like it made the street rumble.

I lifted up my head and turned to see what was coming my way. Much to my dismay, I saw one of my classmates barreling down the road in his 1975 American-made something that looked every ounce of its hundreds of pounds of Detroit steel. It was obvious he hadn’t seen the “school zone” sign as his souped up motor brought the vehicle toward me at well over the prescribed 20 mph.

Fear really entered my heart when I saw that his radio was turned up as loud as it could get, with his arm and attention around his girlfriend, and he hadn’t taken either off of her since he left the parking lot.

The Jason Hall story began to flash before my eyes.

As the final chapter of my life flew through my mind, ending in a vision my chair and body flying through the air in opposite directions, I heard someone come to the back of my chair, lift up the handles underneath the motor, put it into neutral and push me out of the way.

My friend, James Johnson, got me out of the way literally in the nick of time. The car missed us by the smallest of margins. The car was so close, we could felt a rush of air as the driver unknowingly passed us by.

We stopped on the side of the road to catch our breath. Once we had, James grabbed a friend, and helped me get my chair into my car. That day I was grateful that I had a friend like James Johnson,

I had been in trouble that day, real trouble. I was stuck and had gotten myself in a situation in which, on my own, there were simply no more outs.  I didn’t have any options, but I had a friend.

A friend who was watching what I was doing.  A friend who knew me well enough to know exactly where the neutral levers were.  He was a friend who was willing to put himself in danger to give me a push and move me out of the way.

If we are to be true friends, then like James we have to be willing to watch out for those we care about. We have to invest time and energy into their lives so when we see them struggle, we know exactly how to help. We have to be willing to endure some risk that we might reduce theirs.

We have to be willing to give a push.


Stuck and Freezing

October 28, 2008
The 1989 Borah High School Rowdies

The 1989 Borah High School Rowdies

When I returned home from the hospital and tried to find a way to stay involved the way I wanted to at my high school as a quadriplegic. My biggest obstacle was going to be sports. I knew that although 6’2” almost 300 pounds would look good on the stat sheet, 6’2” almost 300 pounds and paralyzed from the chest down wouldn’t have the same pop on the field.

Unable to participate in the sports I loved so well, a few friends and I began a spirit club called, “The Rowdies.” This allowed me to cheer on my former teammates while still being involved on my own.  We did the whole nine yards. We had T-shirts printed up, put on pep rallies, and painted our faces at the games.

After the games we’d all meet at a local pizza place and do all the crazy things high school students do at restaurants after 10 PM, until either the place closed or we were “invited” to leave.

One night, after the game was over and we were finished at the pizza place, I headed home and pulled in my driveway. As I did, I noticed that my parents had parked one car in the garage and another on the driveway. This was a problem. I was supposed to park in the garage. This gave me plenty of room for the automatic doors to open, the lift to come down, and provided easy access to the elevator in our home.

It was a little after 12:30 AM. Because it was late, I decided that I’d maneuver my van in the driveway the best I could and find a place to park without waking my parents up (my being late for curfew may have also had some bearing on that decision). As I opened the door to put out the lift, I remember feeling an incredible chill in the air. It was the middle of basketball season and a particularly cold late December night.

The lift folded out of my van, and I rolled my wheelchair onto the platform. It was freezing and I couldn’t wait to get inside a nice warm house. Still just wearing my short sleeved “Rowdies” T-shirt, I lowered the lift to the ground. What I didn’t know was the concrete underneath my lowered lift was just a little uneven. With the weight of my wheelchair on the lift, the platform was flush against the ground. However, as my front wheels came off the lift there is no longer enough weight to keep the lift even on the uneven driveway.

The lift rose up just enough that it high centered my wheelchair. The front wheels were on the ground but the back wheels weren’t touching a thing. Unfortunately, my chair was only rear wheel drive. As I move the joystick back and forth the wheels simply spun in the air. I was stuck.

For the first 15 minutes I did everything I could to see if I could reach back and use the controls on the lift to put the platform down and give my wheels a chance at some traction. It didn’t take long to realize that regardless of my best efforts this was not going to be a winning proposition. And so, I moved on.

I thought if I could call out loud enough, I could wake up my parents and they could help me off the lift. I quietly called out for them, “Mom… Dad.” I was hoping I could get their attention without waking the whole neighborhood. After 15-30 minutes of that I began to raise my voice, with the same results-still nothing.

As the temperature dropped so to did my concern for the other people in my neighborhood. I began to yell, “Mom… Dad.” I was sure that I was loud enough to wake up my parents and maybe the people across the street. Unfortunately, although my volume increased my results did not–still nothing.

Now I was cold, freezing cold, and so at the top of my voice I screamed, “Mom… Dad.” Twenty to thirty minutes of that without any result convinced me that World War III could begin in my front yard and my parents would sleep straight through it. Giving up on my mom and dad I began to yell and scream and names of our neighbors. “Mr. Nielsen… Mrs. Bishop,” I called with everything I had. Although the names for different, the result was the same–nothing.

It was almost three in the morning, and I was running out of options. It was then that I came up with an idea that couldn’t fail. At the top of my lungs I screamed, “Rape, Fire, Murder.” Twenty minutes later I realized that this idea would fail when it yielded me the same result–nothing, absolutely nothing.

I had one option left. In my hand was a tiny metal rod that held the keys to my van. I thought that if I could throw them hard enough, I could break our front window, the alarm would go off and I would be saved. Knowing this was my last resort, I took a few practice throws. This was going to work, I was sure of it. I aimed carefully, pull back my arm and let the keys fly.

It was a beautiful throw, perfectly on target. As I turned my head in preparation for the shrill of the alarm, like a boomerang, the metal rod turned to the left and fell silently on the ground. It was well past three and I was out of ideas. I tucked my arms inside my T-shirt, strapped myself in and prepared for what I was sure was going to be a long winter’s nap.

Just then, I had one last idea. In my mind I heard the words, “Did you pray?” I remember thinking that I had not and that at best it might help me and at worst it couldn’t hurt.

As I said, “Amen,” my mom walked out the door. She looked at me and said, “Do you need some help?” I remember laughing in my heart thinking, “No Mom, I’m good. Just wanted you to know I’m freezing to death. Please go back in to your nice warm bed.” Not wanting to tempt fate with my smart aleck remarks, I told her I did need her help to which she replied, “I’ll get your father.”

By the time I got to my bed I was so cold that the only way we could warm up my body was for my mom to sleep with me in my bed and try and raise my body temperature with hers. The next day we looked in the paper and saw that the temperatures had become low enough that with my body’s poor circulation I most likely would not have survived the night.

Stuck on the lift I did everything I could do on my own, to no avail.  I tried any idea anyone could’ve come up with. On paper, there was nothing else left for me to do. But just like that night there are times in our lives when every conceivable physical option won’t be enough, and we have to turn to the spiritual. Regardless of what God you worship or spirituality you call your own, the things of the Spirit must find their way into our lives if we want to find our way to success.

So, next time you find yourself freezing and stuck, don’t forget to pray.



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