Grateful for Good Timing

November 27, 2010

The Thanksgiving week forever changed for me in 1997. For, on November 21st of that year, I was driving down the interstate when my front left tire blew sending my van careening across all three lanes of traffic heading my direction, through the median, and into the oncoming traffic. I hit a car, a car hit me, and it about killed me.  The doctors told my family there was no chance that I’d ever make it

I spent the next 13 consecutive months hospitalized, and really the majority of ever year after that in hospitals across the country throughout the next ten years. 2008 was the first year I didn’t stay at least two consecutive months in a hospital bed.

In many ways, this second accident has been more difficult than when I broke my neck. Some may think it impossible to have a paralyzing diving accident surpassed, but where the first accident had an instant totality; the second has had a persistent longevity.

In large part, two years after my diving accident I knew what my life was going to be like. I was back at school full time, driving, with the stamina of my peers. I knew those limitations, and other than a few bladder infections there was a baseline I could count on.

The second time around has been the complete opposite. It’d probably be easier for me to name the bones I didn’t break, than to list the ones I did. It brought with it a chronic pain that for much of the time kept me in a narcotic fog or debilitating pain. It’s been anything but dull though. Oftimes it’s felt as though just as one issue is resolved, another rears its ugly head.

Now, make no mistake, there’s been more joy and happiness in the days since November 21, 1997 than doom and gloom. We even celebrate the day of my accident. It’s an anniversary after all, and anniversaries are made for celebrating. (for more on the second accident and the anniversary tradition, click here.)

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard though. It doesn’t mean that, try as I might, I don’t find myself wondering what might have been. It doesn’t mean I don’t get tired, down, frustrated and depressed. There are days when it takes everything I’ve got to keep on smilin’.

But every time that week in November rolls around, the 21st hits and it gets as difficult as it is at any time in the year, I get a blessing most don’t—Thanksgiving—a day when all you do all day long is think about your blessings. I know a lot about adversity, and there is nothing you can do to light up depression’s darkness than shine bright gratitude upon it. A thankful heart is the antidote to depression’s deadly venomous sting.

For some reason, this 21st was harder than most. I’m not exactly sure why, but my spirits were way down, and my chin was far from up. Things were hard leading up to the day, and for some reason I really got thinking about “Could have been’s,” and, “Why me’s?” (and we all know those don’t ever do anyone any good) and the fact that I wasn’t as vigilant about celebrating my “anniversary” didn’t help at all (see what comes from getting lazy!)

But then, just when things started getting their bleakest, four days later my annual blessing—Thanksgiving.  And ironically, in a year when this day was the most difficult in recent memory, I had more to be thankful about in recent memory.

Here are a few of the gratitudes that topped my list:

My Faith: In a year where I’ve been pushed to the brink, I know that I would have gone over the edge without my faith in God. His words, His Spirit, and His love have helped me get through those un-get-through-able days, and allowed me to find peace in a world swirling all about me. I know God lives and there is nothing in my life I have to be more grateful for than that.

 

My Girl: You don’t have to be around me long, or read much of what I’ve written to expect this one on this list. But this year is different. On the first of June, Ko was hospitalized with acute gall-stone pancreatitis, and on the third at 3:00 am I almost lost her. Just writing those words makes my eyes well up. But, as I think of the courage she’s shown and the valiant way she’s fought every day from that first day to this very day, makes me weep. She’s my best friend, my love, my hero and my inspiration—my everything. I am so grateful she’s still alive, and am blessed to have witnessed and continue to witness her strength and courage.

My Wingman: He’s been with me through it all this year. I don’t know what it is, but he has wisdom beyond his years. He always seems to know the right thing to say, the way to make me smile, or just the right look to lift my heart. I’m never alone with Coleman around. I am grateful for the light he’s been in my life. Just hearing him bust through the door screaming, “Dad!” brings light to my darkest day.

The Chorus:  A chorus by definition is a group of voices that come together. There’s no soloist, in fact, the reason great choruses sound so beautiful is that everyone contributes equally with everything they’ve got. I wouldn’t have made it any day of any year since 1997 without my chorus. But it hasn’t been shown as clearly or exhibited as perfectly in any year since ’97 than this one. The people who have pitched in to help me and mine make it through the hardest days than the support my chorus has provided this year. Many of the faces are ones you’d recognize. Parents (on both sides), brothers and sisters from the same, cousins, friends, and neighbors—they’ve all been there. In hospital rooms, bringing meals, watching Coleman, sharing a kind word, a compliment in person or on the blog have lifted my spirits more than anyone will ever know. I am lucky and grateful to have such people blessing my life.

These big gratitudes have lifted me, obviously through the whole year—but especially through the last few days. One of the things I love about gratitude is that it always makes me feel rich.

With things like this to be grateful for, I dare you to show me a wealthier man in all the world. I’m blessed—In so many ways. Not the least of which is that Thanksgiving is so close to the 21st of November.

I encourage you to partake of some of this “good medicine” for yourselves. Take a moment to leave a comment about something you’re thankful for. Doesn’t have to be a big act or blessing, it’s amazing how sometimes the littlest things bring the most mercy. The more of us that share—the more we each get to think about the great and wonderful in our lives. And the more that attitude of gratitude spreads the more the doom and gloom, the frustration and consternation are chased from our souls letting the light of hope shine bright.

I am grateful for the power of gratitude.

Jh-

PS: in an effort to show my gratitude for your sharing, one person leaving a comment will win a set of my motivational cards,  one of my autographed DVD’s (both seen here) and a $15.00 gift card from Walmart for munchies. ‘Cause what DVD’s not better with a little treat to go with! —Right?

And spread this one around; let’s see how many gratitudes we can come up with. Comments must be entered by Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm PST.


Go Wonderful

August 19, 2009

So much of what we hear on the radio today is music filled with lyrics about how horrible life can be. You don’t have to listen very long to hear about “bad days” and how “life sucks.” Regardless of the genre it seems like the airwaves, iTunes and music stores are filled with anthems about frustration, loss, and indifference. It’s all about the worthlessness of life.

Recently, I came across a different kind of song named “Wonderful” by the artist Gary Go. It’s a new kind of anthem, and it speaks about a new way of looking at life. Part of the lyrics read:

If what you’ve lost cannot be found
And the weight of the world weighs you down
No longer with the will to fly
You stop to let it pass you by
Don’t stop to let it pass you by
You gotta look yourself in the eye
Say, “I am”
Say, “I am”
Say, “I am wonderful”
Oh you are.

It’s a great song to listen to, and can be a wonderful pick me up. Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of music and have one of the most extensive and eclectic iTunes libraries you’ll find out there. But in the middle of all the stuff that can sometimes be a downer, it’s nice to have Gary Go to remind me that I am “Wonderful.”

Jh-

Here’s a video of the entire song. Enjoy!


The Laughter Lesson

December 9, 2008

weirdal

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.

Jh-


Celebrate Life

November 21, 2008
November 1997

November 1997

At this very moment 11 years ago I was in the intensive care unit at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center fighting for my life. On November 21, 1997 at 10:45 in the morning I was traveling down the interstate thinking of the appointment I had at 11:00 and listening to local sports radio. It was a regular drive on a regular day.

Just then I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off in my left ear. It was my front left tire exploding. My handicap accessible van traveled across the three lanes of traffic heading southbound, went through the median, and into the oncoming traffic. The next thing I knew I was waking up to the voice of an EMT. I was obviously dazed and confused as to why I was looking up at the clear blue sky.

As I looked around I saw my van’s radio antenna. I remember thinking to myself that that was odd being that my antenna was on the passenger side of the car. There I was lying half in and half out of the passenger side of my van. Scared, frightened, and afraid that further neurological damage had been done I came in and out of consciousness while the emergency workers used the “Jaws of Life” to get me on a gurney and into the ambulance.

I was rushed to the ER where Kolette met me. I’ll never forget watching her enter the room unsure of what her response to this possibly fatal injury would be. It was then when I experienced one of the sweetest moments of my life. When Kolette first saw me her face turned white and she looked as though her knees were going to buckle. Then, in vintage Kolette style-she stood up straight and gained her bearings. She walked over to me and put her arms around me as best she could while whispering in my ear, “We’re going to be okay.” It is difficult for me to express in words what that quiet vote of confidence from the mouth of the woman I loved with all my heart meant to me.

After things were stabilized in the emergency room I was rushed off to seven hours of surgery. The weeks that followed were harrowing at best. On one of the very first days the doctors pulled my family aside and told them that if they wanted to say goodbye to me they’d better do it immediately. As my family tried to understand what my odds were really were, the doctors told them I wouldn’t live through the night.

Luckily, doctors aren’t always as smart as they think they are. I made it through that night, and through the nights that followed. My situation was serious enough however, that I was hospitalized for a full 13 months.

When I broke my neck in a diving accident at 15, I was in the hospital for three months. At that time I was convinced I could never do another day in the hospital. Thirteen months seemed an eternity.  But, the damage was that serious and extensive.

I will never forget 12 months later, November 21, 1998. I was still in the hospital and all I could think about on that day was how much my life had changed the year before. It reminded me of July 13, 1986, one year after my diving accident. As that day approached I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would spend that day wallowing in self-pity, thinking of all the bad that happened, or if I would concentrate on the improvement I had made over the previous 12 months. I had to decide if I would put my energy and time into thinking about how I had become a quadriplegic, or if I would concentrate on the fact that I was still alive.

I chose to celebrate. On July 13, 1987 one year after my diving accident I invited all of my friends over my house and we had a party. We celebrated my “anniversary.” We celebrated life.

Following suit, on the first “anniversary” of my car accident I did the same–I celebrated. Kolette and I had some friends up to my hospital room and we had a party, being joyful about the life I still had to lead, about the gift simple existence was.

In every year that has followed, July 13 at November 21 are days that I celebrate. Every member of my family takes a moment to call me on the phone and congratulate me. Kolette and I always go out and do something special.

So today on my “anniversary” I invite you to join me. I invite you to take a moment and leave a comment telling me of something that is good in your life. I will give away one of my DVD’s to the winner (I’ll even autograph it). It will be your “anniversary” present to me.

Join me in focusing on all the pleasure you get and forgetting the pain.  Join me in realizing the blessing every minute in every day is. Join me and celebrate life.

Jh-

FYI: DVD GIVEAWAY CLOSES AT 9PM PST SUNDAY NOVEMBER 23RD


What You See Is What You Get

November 17, 2008
My friend Krishel and I at Prom

My friend Krishel and I at Prom

My sophomore year in high school the choir group I was in embarked on the annual “choir trip.” We were going to Salt Lake City, Utah. I grew up in Boise, Idaho and at the time Salt Lake was the big city and quite the adventure. Everyone in the choir was excited for the trip. I had not been home from the hospital for very long and therefore did not yet have my power chair or accessible van. So, in order for me to go I would need a little help.

I wouldn’t be able take the bus with the rest of the choir so first, I needed a ride. I couldn’t do my own care so I needed someone to go along and help me get up and ready for the day. Also, because that would be in my manual wheelchair I needed someone willing to push me from place to place.

My mom was dedicated to keeping me involved and therefore offered to take care of the ride and my care. There was a caveat however. She knew the kind of hotel our choir budget would put us in and said that if she was going to go she and I would be staying somewhere nicer.

With my first two requirements taken care of, I spoke to my friends in the group and they agreed not only to push me from place to place but to also take me to and from the hotel my mom and I would stay in to the hotel the choir would be in. With all my needs taken care of, I was good to go.

The trip finally arrived, and my mom and I followed the bus down to Salt Lake City. We checked into the Marriott as the choir checked into their motel. As soon as everyone was settled, my friends walked down a few blocks to take me to where they were staying. True to most trips of this kind we hung out eating pizza, talking and laughing. It became time for me to return to my hotel and my friend Krishel offered to take me back.

On our way we came to a crosswalk. We waited for the lights turn green and when it did Krishel began to push me across the street. About halfway across a man in a power wheelchair passed us going the opposite direction. Once he was out of earshot, she leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Can you imagine what that would be like to be in a wheelchair?” I chuckled and told her that I felt like I probably could. We both had a pretty good laugh about it as she pushed me the rest of the way to my hotel.

Later, laying in my bed in the Marriott I took a minute to consider what had just happened. There we were crossing the street, Krishel’s hands were on my chair pushing me across and still she forgot that I was in a wheelchair.

She saw me. She saw Jason. She didn’t see the wheelchair, or quadriplegic. She simply saw her friend.

My life has been richly blessed by people like Krishel and I have been better for it. They say “what you see is what you get” and I have found that to be true. My days have been filled with people who saw me and not my chair and because of those people and their view that’s exactly what they’ve gotten; me and not my chair. I have little doubt that I have reached higher goals, achieved more, become more and overcome obstacles I otherwise would not have because of what others have seen in me.

Think about that the next time you interact with someone the little different than yourself, a little different than the norm. Much of what what you get from them will come from what you see in them. A little vision pointed in the right direction will allow you to see the incredible in others, while helping them accomplish it themselves.

Jh-


Declare Your Independence From The Weather

November 13, 2008
If a tree falls on your cottage it definetly makes a sound

If a tree falls on your cottage it definetly makes a sound

I’ll never forget the time Kolette and I spent living in New Canaan, Connecticut. But there are seven special days that stand out above the rest. Kolette and I were living in a little cottage. It had one bedroom, one bath, a living room, a kitchen, and a loft. The bedroom at one time had been some sort of a stall to house animals, and the rest had been built on from there. The older part of the cottage didn’t have any insulation, and so, like the pioneers, we had to hang quilts on the walls to keep the cold air out. It was old and it was tiny and we loved it.

The place just oozed personality. I called it, “The Love Shack” (Kolette thought the title was a bit optimistic). One night, amidst a major storm the cottage was struck by lightning. This incredible surge of energy fried the computer, the expensive laser jet printer, the television, and worst of all my PlayStation. The week before we had spoken about the importance of getting renters insurance, and it was one of those things we’re going to do “tomorrow.” We weren’t making much money and without any coverage we were going to have to pay to replace everything on our own.  I had heard that people were able to live without television and now I was going to find out for myself.

Just a few days later, the youth group from my church was making a trip to Boston. I had some responsibilities with reference to that group, and so I was making the trip as well. But, before I could go I had to get a few things finished. In the middle of running around town checking tasks off my list my car died. Now, it didn’t just die anywhere, it died in the middle of the busiest intersection in town at the busiest time of day. There I sat inside my dead car getting honked at and called names I hadn’t heard since high school.

Finally, a tow truck arrived and hauled my van to local auto shop. The owner of the shop was a family friend and when I explained that I was trying to accompany this youth group to Boston, they put my van at the top of the list. For two straight hours they worked on my van and at the end of those hours the result was the same. The van was dead. With the youth group well on their way to Boston, the shop owner and I agreed that there was nothing left to do. They would start back up on the car on Monday and I would head home.

Heading home brought it’s own set of challenges. Because of my chair I couldn’t exactly hop in the courtesy vehicle, so I drove the two miles home in my wheelchair. By the time it was dark, I pulled up to the front door of the cottage

I spent Saturday puttering around my TV-less cottage hoping that fixing the van wouldn’t take too long or add too much to the already mounting bills. On Saturday night, Kolette and I discussed whether or not I should attempt going to church.

If I were to go to church it would mean getting up pretty early in the morning. Services began at nine, and for me to make the journey from our cottage to the chapel would take an hour or so at best. We figured that the way the past few days were going we could use all the blessings we could get. So, we decided church was in. I got up early that morning, dressed for church, and headed out on my own.  The journey was long enough that it was most likely going to take all the juice my batteries could carry.  Therefore, Kolette would follow later bringing the battery charger so I could charge up during services which would give me enough power to get home.

On my way to church one of the streets I took was fairly steep and had a sharp curve. As I began down the road for some reason the power in my chair gave out for just a second.  This break in the power forced my body hard against the back of the chair and then through my torso forward towards my legs. Being a quadriplegic I don’t have control over my trunk, and so when I fall I can’t just use the muscles in my midsection to sit back up.

As I lunged forward, I reached to grab something, anything to keep me from falling out of my chair. I grabbed the joystick. Unfortunately, when I did the power surge was over. With my chest laying on my lap and my hand pushing the joystick forward I began to fly down the road. Both the way that I was laying, and the lack of movement in my arms made it impossible for me to take my hand off of the joystick.

Faster and faster I flew down the street. I tilted my neck just enough to get an idea of where I was heading. To my dismay I saw that I was coming up on the sharp curve in the middle of the road. I had driven up that road in my car many times and knew how difficult it was to see cars coming the other way, let alone a runaway wheelchair. I could  see the whole thing in my mind. Some unsuspecting motorist would make the turn without seeing me and wheelchair parts and people parts would fly in every direction.

Just then, my foot fell off the foot rest. My foot skimmed along the road for a second until my front left tire ran it over. This provided enough force to throw my body from my chair onto the street. I remember knowing that hitting the street was inevitable, but I could choose whether my head or my shoulder took the brunt of the damage. In that split second I chose shoulder.

Laying in the middle of the road I began to yell for help. 8:00 AM is not a real busy time on Sunday morning. Luckily a woman from one of the neighboring houses heard my call. She carefully, pensively, walked up to where I was lying. She asked me if I needed any help. There are few times in a person’s life when they are absolutely positively sure about a thing. This was one of those times. I told her I did need help. She called Kolette who in turn called the ambulance. They took my broken shoulder and I to the emergency room.

The doctor took x-rays, gave me something for the pain, and told me to come back in a week and get my shoulder looked at again. Not quite sure how I was going to get back to the hospital we followed the doctor’s orders and went back to the cottage.

For the next three days all I could do was lay in my bed in pain. I could barely roll from side to side. On my third day home the clouds had turned dark and the wind began to blow. It was in the middle of this little storm that lying in bed I heard one of the loudest crashes of my life. Looking around trying to find what could cause such a noise, I noticed that every window in the cottage was covered with leaves. It looked like “The Love Shack” had been transported to the middle of the Amazon jungle.

Kolette rushed down to my room to see if I was alright. After confirming that I was no worse for wear, she told me that the nearly hundred foot tree that grew next to our cottage had fallen. The roots of the tree had become weak trying to grow too close to a nearby creek causing the tree to fall onto the cottage directly on top of where I laid in bed. I was so grateful that the beams making up our roof had actually held.

Within seven days we had some of the worst luck of our lives. A lightning strike  destroyed every valuable piece of electronics that we owned, my car died, I broke my shoulder, and a tree nearly crushed our cottage.

These things didn’t happen because we were bad. These things didn’t happen because we deserved them. They just happened. Bad things happen to good people. It’s just a fact of life. When they do we can start running around asking, “why me?”

Isn’t it interesting how we never ask, “why me?” when good things happen. We never wonder why we got that promotion, why we have good kids, or why we were blessed with good health.  What then gives us the right to start asking these questions when things don’t go our way.

We need to “Declare our independence from the weather.” We need to make a conscious decision to have a good attitude regardless of our circumstance. We need to live the way we want independent of the good or bad that comes into our lives. We need to be happy in the sun and in the rain, find joy whether it’s beautiful or bleak. We need to stop letting the forecast dictate our mood.  We need to smile and enjoy the adventure.

Jh-


My Best Day So Far

November 4, 2008
My Friend George Durrant

My Friend George Durrant

As a student at BYU I had the opportunity to take a few classes from George Durrant. I was always excited to take his classes. He was a popular professor on campus, mostly due to his ability to interlace strong academia with clever humor. He was poignant and funny and most days had some motivating sentiment to help you get through the day. So much so, that he also became a popular author.

His books like his classes, were filled with wisdom that anyone could use and humor that made every page a joy. During that time, I was beginning my journey to become a professional speaker. He always had good advice that he was willing to share on how to keep an audience while teaching principles that matter. I was lucky to have enough out of classroom interaction with him that I came to a point where was able to call him my friend.

In the years that I was at BYU he wrote what in my opinion was the best of all his books. It was titled, “My Best Day So Far.” The book was filled with ideas on how to make each day better than the one before. However, the “big idea” behind the book was that each day could become your “Best Day So Far” if you simply said that it was. It was a wonderful idea. Wonderful, because its implementation took hardly any effort at all, but the result was monumental.

It wasn’t a ground breaking idea, or one that made all the papers, but what was amazing about the concept was the way the man lived by it. More amazing still, was the way Professor Durrant used the concept in his life. From the time that he first told me about this idea for his book to the last time I saw him, every time I asked him how he was I received the same response. “It’s my best day so far,” he’d reply. It was incredible. The man never missed. Over and over I asked and over and over I received the same response, “My best day so far.”

The idea worked. I know every day I saw him didn’t start out as his best day, but hearing his own affirmation made it so. You could see it on his face. It always carried a smile, it was always filled with joy. What’s more, his example motivated me to give this idea a try. I never became a successful at it as he was, but on the days that I remembered to tell others that it was, “My best day so far,” something interesting happened. No matter how the day was going, it always improved when I used George Durrant’s affirmation.

I know that there were days when the reply wasn’t exactly true. There were days that weren’t necessarily my best so far, but by allowing myself to hear that it was always made the day better. The more I put the concept to use in my life the more “best days” I had.

Each of us has seen this principle work to some degree or another in our lives. If we wake up sure that the day is going to be a bad one, sure we are going to feel ill or down, we began to see those assurances come to pass. What then might happen if from the very beginning of each day we tell ourselves and others that it was going to be our, “Best day so far.”

Try it. I know that you’ll find out exactly what I did; that it works. That every day you decide can be your best so far has a chance to become exactly that.

Let’s resolve then to follow George Durrant’s example. Let’s find the good in every day that comes. For I know from personal experience, that every day could be your last. We have no idea what each new day holds in store for us. But with a “Best day so far” mindset we will more fully enjoy and relish the gift that every day is.

So, “How’s your day?”

Jh-


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