Making Resolutions into Reality – Part Three

January 9, 2010

White Knuckle Necessity

My Idea of Heaven

Once our goals are properly set and we work to put them in manageable pieces so that we “don’t choke” thereby allowing success to breed success, we have to hold on.

­­I will never forget the first time that I learned to water ski. I jumped in the water from the boat and was thrown the skis.  With my life jacket keeping me afloat, I clumsily slid the skis on with an excitement I could almost taste.  With the skis finally on, I was thrown the rope and given my instructions.

With my buddy’s dad, at the helm of the boat, I received the two pieces of advice that were “guaranteed” to get anyone up on their first time.  From his seat behind the steering wheel, he barked out that to get up, I had to keep the rope in between the skis.  Then, he gave me the most important thing to concentrate on.

I was to hold on—no matter what, he told me that if I wanted to water ski, it was imperative that I hold on.  He said that if I would, I’d eventually get pulled up out of the water.  Once I was up, he was sure it would get easy and I’d figure it out from there.

The engine started up and the boat began to slowly move away.  The rope became taught, and as it did, I didn’t let that rope out from in between my skis for one second.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am most comfortable keeping the rules.  I’d been given two here and I was going to give all I had to keep them.

With the first part taken care of, I began to concentrate on the other piece of advice I’d been given, and over and over simply kept thinking, “Hold on. Just hold on.”

With everything in place I took a big breath, looked at my buddies sitting in the group and called out, “Hit it!”

The boat’s motor roared, and as the rope became taught, I looked down at my knuckles.  They were white.  I was holding on with such resolve—so tightly that the blood could no longer get through my fingers.

Holding on with all my might, the rope snapped tight and with a force I was totally and completely unprepared for, and yanked me forward.

I’d done everything I was told to the tee.  However, with the rope in between my skis and my legs unprepared for the strength it was going to take to keep them straight, I flew head first through my skis and, like a submarine, I was pulled underwater for what seemed like the entire length of the reservoir.

I couldn’t believe the water I was taking in, but I was true to the second rule and kept telling myself, “Hold on. Just hold on and you’ll get up.”

Of course, in the boat, they were having a good ol’ time talking and laughing, forgetting to watch the skier (me), and when they finally did look back and saw me skimming just below the surface of the water, they screamed at the top of their lungs for me to let go.  But I would have none of it.  I was going to get up and knew that the only way I was ever going to get that done was to hold on.  I have to admit it seemed an odd way to get up on skis, but I was going to keep true to the instructions I’d been given.

Finally, it was too much for my arms to bear; I let go, and floated to the top with a belly full of “Lucky Peak Reservoir” for my efforts.

Dedicated to get up, I got further instruction, and after a few tries, finally put all the pieces together and found myself upright on a pair of water skis.  Up on those skis, behind that boat I looked around and realized I’d also found one of the real loves of my life.

In the end, however, I understood that his advice was right—If you hold on, just hold on, eventually you’ll end up with success.

Success doesn’t come every time; we all know that—especially on the first try.  But, it does come, and most often to those who hold on to what they want with the same “White Knuckles” I used to hold on to that ski rope.

We have to decide what we really want and then hold on to those things with a “White Knuckled Necessity” if we want success.

If you want more money in 2010—a better job, less weight, more spirituality, better family relationships, or the like, you have to decide to use goals and resolutions to get there.  However, that is more that just wishing for things to be different.  Like anything worthwhile, it takes effort.

You have to make/set proper goals that are specific, have accountability and are measurable.  You have to break the things you chase into manageable pieces, so you “don’t choke” on your first try.  Then you have to hold on.  Through good times and bad, when you feel the goal is doable and when you don’t you have a chance, you have to use the same mantra I used to learn to ski, “Hold on. Just Hold on!”

When you do, you find some of the real loves of your lives.  I promise.

Here’s to a fantastic 2010 filled with resolutions accomplished and goals achieved.

Go get ‘em


Better Than You Found It

December 23, 2009

Part of my Scout Troop on a campout (I'm on the right in the red & blue striped shirt)

As a boy scout, camping trips were a monthly occurrence.  Whether in the dead of winter or the blazing heat of summer our leaders religiously found the sites and planned the weekend retreats.

Sometimes we were driven to the sites, sometimes we packed in; Sometimes we slept in a snow caves and other times we slept out under the stars, but no matter how different the activities were, there were always those things that seemed to be constants.

For example, no matter when or where, you could pretty much bank on anything the scouts cooked to test the most stalwart of constitutions, where the leaders had the uncanny ability to make things like tin foil dinners taste and look like fine dining. Every campout also came with a full on snipe hunt for those new to the troop, and a reminder about the importance of fire safety, followed by someone trying to start a fire with gasoline.

But, of all the guarantees, the one that held the most true was after the fun.

Once everybody had packed up, our scoutmaster would remind us to make sure that we’d cleaned up our area.  We would all take a few minutes to look over our own little piece of the site to make sure things had been cleaned up.

Then, just before we left, our scoutmaster would line up all the scouts at one end of the campsite.  We would hold hands, and then spread out to make sure we could effectively cover as much ground as possible. Once we were lined up and ready to go he would let us loose and have us slowly, and carefully cover the campground picking up any little shred of paper or loose piece of packaging we’d missed in our own separate clean-ups.

The whole time we walked across the site, he’d call out to us, “Boys, leave this place better than you found it.”

It never ceased to amaze me how improved the grounds were after we walked together hand in hand.

As I think of those days, now so long ago, I think the call still holds true.  Our assignment as brothers and sisters in this place is to do all we can to leave “this place” better than we found it.  Can there be any better compliment paid at the end of our lives than to have it said that we did our part in leaving things better.

If we ever want to have any real chance at doing so, I believe we must follow my scoutmaster’s instructions to the letter—Holding hands with our neighbors to make sure we can cover as much ground as possible, we must watch carefully and hear our own voice repeat, “Leave this place better than you found it.”

This Christmas lets each remember and renew our desire to do all we can to remove those things that can clutter and mess our lives and the lives of those around us.  Let’s work together to remove the suffering, and take away the grief.  Let’s take care to take away the suffering, and rid lives of strife. Then, and only then, will our world truly end up better than we found it.

Merry Christmas


Labor’s Day

September 7, 2009


When I was a kid, Labor Day was always a different kind of Holiday around my house.  My mom and dad took the day’s name literally and we Labored all Day.

I would be in my yard digging, weeding, or mowing while I watched my friends all pass by on their way to the lake, the river, or the movies to have some fun.  Countless times I tried to explain to my parents that other people were spending the day having fun and that the name of the holiday could be taken more figuratively.

It didn’t make any difference, and every year my brothers and sister continued laboring and our friends and their families continued celebrating the holiday the more traditional way.

What I didn’t realize until much later was that my parents really were treating the day like a holiday.  They weren’t using Labor Day to cheat us from opportunity; they were using the day to teach us how to work.  It didn’t matter that we were working on Labor Day (Ko, Cole and I are going to the pool today), what mattered was that my parents taught us how to work.

As I left home I began to see that this isn’t something every kid has the opportunity to understand.  I started to realize that all those days we spent doing chores, working in the yard, or cleaning the kitchen helped me to know the value of a hard days work—and that that understanding in itself was a precious commodity.

I learned that you could control your own destiny and build your own success if you know how to work.  Additionally, I found that all of the of the other things that can bring success that can’t be controlled directly though work (i.e. who you know, right place right time) can at least be influenced through a person’s willingness to be fully engaged.  I was taught that by working hard, I could make my own luck.

I was also taught to value the feeling that comes from knowing you put in a hard days work.

After my auto accident I spent literal years of my life lying in bed.  Interestingly, I found that during that time one of the tings that I missed most was that feeling of pleasure that comes no other way than from the knowledge that you gave your all.  That feeling you get after working all day, be it at your job, in the yard, around the house, and you finally sit down on the couch and you know that you put everything you had into the days objective.

I would have people come to visit me in the hospital complaining about their job, complaining about their work, and I would be so jealous that they had a place to put their day’s labors—that they had the opportunity to work.

I’m grateful my mom and dad taught me how to work.  It’s a commodity that is more and more becoming difficult to find and in short supply. I’m grateful for those difficult days in the hospital when I learned that it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to work hard.

This Labor Day (whether we are laboring or not) let’s remember that hard work is a blessing and that some of the greatest opportunities in our lives come from good old-fashioned hard work.


Choose the Right!

May 18, 2009

Me in my first handicapped accessible van

Me in my first handicapped accessible van

After my diving accident, it wasn’t long into my junior year of high school that, other than being in a wheelchair, life began to return back to normal. After a lot of work, and because of some great friends and wonderful family, I was back in the regular flow of my life living just like any other 16-year-old boy.

I was taking a full load at school. I was very socially involved in school. I elected junior class president, was going out on dates and was even back at the dances. I was attending basketball and football games; pretty much living with a full scholastic and social calendar.

One of the great contributors to this return to normalcy was the fact that I could drive. I had finally become licensed to drive with hand controls and my parents had helped me to get a handicap accessible van. I’d gone out and gotten licensed to drive with those hand controls, so I could actually use this van to give me all the freedom it promised. There was only one hitch. I couldn’t make left-hand turns.

I’m not exactly sure how a person gets licensed to drive without being able to make a left-hand turn, but I was 16 and the state was willing to provide me with a license, so I was off.

I did however have enough sense to know that it was going to be tricky only driving with right-hand turns. I would therefore coerce my brothers and sister to go with me to the church parking lot so I could practice doing figure eight filled left-hand turns. I had to take someone with me so that on the way to the church–or in the church’s parking lot, when I couldn’t pull off the left-hand turn, there was someone to throw the wheel keeping me from ending up inside the church while still inside my car.

The idea was that as soon as I knew I wasn’t going to get the wheel all the way over I’d ask for help. This didn’t always work exactly to plan. There were many times when on our way to the empty parking lot I’d realize that I wasn’t going to pull off the turn without enough time for the person with me to do anything about it.

I recall many a time when, with my sister as my copilot I would call out, “Help, help, help!” and she, working as quickly as she could to help get the wheel rotating to the left, would understandably be a little late on the draw. With the wheel not completely turned, we would end up off-roading through a ditch, crossing over someone’s backyard or through a makeshift fence made of stakes and chicken wire.

During those few months while I was learning to make my left hand turns, I needed to find a way to drive safely on my own. In order to do this I would map out every destination so that I could get there making only right-hand turns. In essence, I’d begin at my home and, right turn after right turn going around and circles that continued to grow in size until I reached my final destination. In order for this to work, everything had to come off perfectly. Roadwork and detour signs wouldn’t just slow me down, they  would stop me altogether.

Even my best planning didn’t always fix everything. When I drove to high school the only way to get into the parking lot was to make a left hand turn. This meant I had to park along the street across from my school.

If there was a morning when the street was full,I would simply have to use my right hand turns to go around the block again hoping that when I returned a spot would be open. I would do this over and over until someone either moved, a spot freed up, or I ran out of gas and had to park.

In the middle of this adventure my life, there was a buzz beginning at school. The big Christmas formal was coming up, and everyone was waiting to see if they were going, and who they’re going with. It It was a girl ask guy dance and so as young men we waited with anticipation to see if we were going to be lucky enough to be asked.

Then, one day I got picked. My friend Susie Wilcox asked me to be her date. I was so excited.

This was my first formal dance, and this time I could drive. The only other dance I’ve ever attended was before I had my van and I and had to be lifted in and out of the car by my date. This time there was no lifting. I was so happy to be able to drive my date to the dance instead of having to have her throw me in and out of the car.

With anticipation and exhilaration at an all-time high I rushed to rent my tuxedo. I went into the shop knowing exactly the look I wanted. It was the 80’s and, working hard to be hip, I had the clerk fit me for a white tuxedo with a lavender tie and cummerbund (lavender so that my tie and cummerbund would match her dress). I opted against tails as, sitting in my chair, they looked more like mudflaps than tails.

I left the tuxedo shop and went directly to the florist to order the corsage. With tuxedo and corsage taken care of, all I had to do now was wait. It seemed like it took forever for the dance to finally arrive. But, like all things, the waiting eventually ended and it was time for me to go pick up Susie and go to the dance.

Since it was an “girl ask guy” dance, she was in charge of doing all the planning. Susie and her friend Shannon had decided to make it a double date, and together planned where we would eat and what we would do.

This was important information for me to procure. I knew where the dance was, that was public knowledge, so I was able to plan my way there in all right-hand turns. But, if I didn’t know where we were going to eat I wouldn’t have the same lead time to plan my route.

I was nervous to ask as I had decided to keep my “right turn only” information to myself. It didn’t seem very masculine to me at 16 to accept Susie’s invitation only to let her know that my driving wasn’t exactly perfect. I asked where dinner was going to be unsure if I would get response. At my high school it was en vogue to keep these kinds of things a secret or a surprise, so I wasn’t sure she was going to give up the goods at all.

To my joy and happiness she told me where dinner was going to be held. I got out my little map of Boise and planned out our journey. I figured out how to get everybody picked up, off to dinner, away to the dance and finally home never making a left hand turn.

On the night of the dance, I made my way to Susie’s house. I arrived, and her mother came out to get photos just like a good mother should. I presented Susie with her corsage. I opted for a wrist corsage versus one that pinned on. Without the use of my hands having her slide the corsage on her wrist seemed a lot safer than me pinning it on her chest. In fact, had I opted for the pin corsage I probably would’ve had to map out my way to the emergency room with right-hand turns as well.

With everyone in the car, we were off and on our way casually driving to dinner.  About 5 miles down the road we came to an overpass that crossed over the interstate. Just as we started down the other side of the overpass Susie turned to me and asked me to get in the left-hand turn lane at the upcoming light. I knew the intersection was there, but since I couldn’t make a left hand turn was planning on going through the light and continuing on down the road.

I told her that she was mistaken as turning left wouldn’t get us to the restaurant where we were to eat dinner. She smiled and told me I was the one who was mistaken. She continued to inform me that original instructions were a ruse to keep me off of our dinners real location. She said it was her  “big surprise.” I remember thinking that both the words big and surprise were an understatement, and that her efforts to surprise me had definitely paid off.

I began wrestling with myself wondering what I should do. I didn’t want to tell her I couldn’t make the turn, but I didn’t want to be unsafe either. We finally arrived at the light, and I pulled into the left-hand turn lane. I thought if I was very careful and conscientious then I could pull this left-hand turn off, leaving me free from explaining my unique driving situation, and keep my manhood intact.

The light turned green, and the row of cars I was behind began making their left turn on-ramping to the interstate.

I positioned myself the best I could, and as I entered the intersection the wheel was actually turning to the left. I was sure that my confidence and care had paid off as I watched my hand pulling the wheel to the left. I was paying attention to the laws my instructor had taught me to keep what he taught me to drive, and I was paying attention to the laws of the road I’d learned during my driving test. The only laws I’d forgotten to remember were the laws of physics.

In retrospect, these are laws that really should have been the easiest to remember. I had learned these laws as a little boy.

Growing up in my family, whenever my mom had the five of us in her station wagon we paid special attention to these laws in a little game we used to call “Corners.” Whenever she would make a left-hand turn we would do everything in our power to see if we couldn’t shove whoever was sitting on the far right of the seat into the door paneling. The secret was that we knew, in addition to our own pushing, we had the momentum created in the turn.

This was a secret I forgot that day and halfway through the intersection I began to feel that momentum pulling me to the right.

Now normally, I’d have been wearing my seatbelt. But, when I put my tuxedo on that night it was apparent that either the tuxedo was too tight (or my chest was too large) for me to be able to have all the movement I needed to make right or left hand turns. So, my 16 year old mind hypothesized that I’d be better off without the belt. This too ended up a costly error.

Without the help of my belt, the farther we went into the intersection the more the momentum pulled. This, coupled with my inability to get the steering wheel to turn caused me to fall over the side of my chair and into Susie’s lap.

Instant runway van! Without anyone manning the steering wheel the van crossed the two lanes of traffic going our direction and into the traffic going the opposite direction.

Somehow we made it across all lanes unscathed. Thinking quickly on her feet, Susie threw my body back up into an upright position. As I worked to get my bearings, I looked out the front window and scared to death saw that we were heading straight into a green pole.

Susie grabbed the steering wheel and threw it to the left, turning the van just enough that we cleared the pole without a scratch. I then was able to put my hand on the break and stop us in the middle of a field that was in between the on-ramp and the freeway.

Susie and I looked at each other with a look of shock, fear, disbelief, fright and thankfulness all wrapped up in one. It took everything we had just to try and catch our breath. The couple we were double dating with was sitting in the backseat. when I turned to look at them, they had a completely different reaction. Smiling, laughing and slapping their knees they looked like they just been through a ride at Disneyland with such excitement that you’d think they wanted to do the whole thing over again.

I turned to Susie and said, “I think you should know, I can’t make left-hand turns.”  Without saying a word, she returned a look that said, “Oh really!” I told her that it would probably be a good idea if she told me where we were going to dinner so I could map it out in right-hand turns. Since we both felt the evening had plenty of surprise, she agreed and we were off.

The moral to the story, is always, always, Choose the Right.

All kidding aside the thing that got me in so much trouble that night was an unwillingness to do what I knew to be correct and a prideful desire to impress others by doing something I knew in my heart to be wrong.

I had so many opportunities to do the right thing. I could’ve told Susie when she asked me on a date. I could’ve told her when I picked her up. I could’ve told her at the top of the overpass when she told me we were changing the location for dinner.

I could’ve gotten out of the left-hand turn lane, or even asked for a little help. But, I didn’t and my decision to keep my pride and give up what I knew was right could have had very serious consequences.

Every day each of us is put in the same situation. Every day we have countless opportunities to decide if we’ll do what’s wrong or we’ll do what’s right. Knowing what’s wrong and what’s right isn’t the hard part. There’s something inside of each of us that tells us that. We’ve all been in situations where are doing something we shouldn’t, and no matter how hard we try to shut out that voice, we can’t. We know it’s wrong but our pride keeps us moving forward.

If are not careful those times when we “Choose the Wrong”, will come with serious consequences. You may not do yourself bodily injury, but you may end up emotionally injured, or find that you’ve hurt another.

On the other hand, when we “Choose the Right” we keep ourselves safe. No one anywhere, anytime has ever regretted the decision they made, or the way they felt when they did what they knew was right. It may cost us some of our foolish pride, but that’s okay, we’ve all got plenty of that.

Choose the Right. It may not always be the popular thing, and it may not be the easy thing, but it will always be the “right” thing. And everyone knows it’s good to be right.


Hold Your Head Up High

April 9, 2009

There’s nothing like the feeling living proudly and without regret. If we want that feeling, we have to put in the effort so we can be happy with who we are, filled with pride because of the code we live by.

Strongman 2009 (Infant Class)

Strongman 2009 (Infant Class)

As early as one month into my son Cole’s young life we began to notice his extraordinary ability to keep his head up. Mind you, at that young age holding his head up meant just a few seconds of his chin separating from his chest and included an incredible amount wobbling. But, it was younger than we expected and when it comes to babies and their heads you kind of have to cut them a break.

When you look at their head in comparison to the rest of their body it’s far and away the heaviest and largest part. There is nothing they have that comes within even half of the weight or size of their head.

Watching babies and their heads always reminds me of the movie, “So I Married An Axe Murderer” with Mike Myers. In the movie Myers’ character has a brother that the father in the flick has nicknamed “Head” because of his “Gargantuan Cranium.” At one point in the film the father says Head’s head is so large that it looks like an “Orange on a toothpick” a “Virtual Planetoid” that “Has its own weather system.” All in all, I think it’s a pretty fair description of a baby’s head.

The point is, that when you take into account a baby’s big head accompanied with their tiny neck, it’s amazing they raise their head at all. I have to admit however, Coleman had a little bit of help.

As I worked to find new ways to be able to hold Cole in my arms with my limited movement there were many times when I wasn’t able to support his head the same way an able-bodied person would. It’s not that his head wasn’t secured, it’s just that sometimes he was required to take a larger role than he would have otherwise.

These unique positions forced Coleman to work with and use muscles he otherwise never would have put into practice. It was almost as if our general understanding was that if we both did all we could it would all work out.

On that point, we were right. In the time that has followed the length and strength of his ability has increased. Just a month later he can hold his head up longer, stronger and without all the wobbling. But, even still it’s not easy. He gets tired the longer he does it and has to put in an incredible amount of effort to make it work at all.

As I watch him using all of his physical strength to keep his physical head up high it makes me wonder. Am I putting in the same effort in the same work to keep my own “head up?”

When people talk about someone proud of who they are, who feels honor due to their actions and lives doing the right thing they’ll often say, “They could hold their head up  high.” We all know how that feels. We all know what it is to to be proud of the way we’re living our lives, happy with the blessings that come our way. We all know the sense of accomplishment that comes in the knowledge there we’re doing what we know to be right.

We also know that like Cole, doing those things requires concentration and work.

What we have to ask ourselves is are we concentrating on living a good, honorable life. Are we tirelessly working every day to be honest and true? Are we strengthening our inner selves to be able to keep that head up stronger and longer?

There’s nothing like the feeling living proudly and without regret. If we want that feeling every day we have to work at it, just like Cole. We have to put in the effort so we can be happy with who we are, filled with pride because of the code we live by.

The day will soon come when Coleman will no longer have to work to keep his physical head up. But, he will forever work to keep his spiritual head erect. We must remember the lessons Coleman’s learning now and live lives filled with such honor, grace, pride, and and love that we may never lose the ability to hold our head up high.



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.



February 9, 2009


Once I returned back home following my diving accident one of the matters of business most important to me was going back to school. I broke my neck in July of 1986. But, due to a three-month stay in the hospital I didn’t return home until mid-October. This meant that the first semester of my sophomore year in high school career was nearly half over.

Graduating with my class was very important to me. I had grown up in Boise my whole life and had been with most of these kids since kindergarten. I did not want my hospital stay to keep me from finishing what I started with my friends. In order to make that happen, I had to get back to school ASAP.

I was able to convince my doctors to allow me to go back to two periods of class each day. In order to make this happen this meant my good mother would have to get me ready, drive me to school, wait for my first hour of school to end, return me home to take a nap so I would have the strength to do my therapy, drive me to therapy, wait for me to finish that therapy, return me to school for my second hour of class and finally take me home once class was over. There are some people in our lives whom we can never repay–in my life one of those people is my mother.

With transportation worked out and the blessing of the administration given I proceeded to pick the two classes I would attend. I picked choir and a religion class (it is clear that although graduation was important to me, like most teenagers my social needs trumped my educational needs). Each class allowed me to fill a requirement and get closer to graduation–all without having to dissect a frog or use a slide rule.

As I continue to work in therapy my body continued to get stronger. The strength allowed me to pick up even more classes at the semester break. This presented a new problem. My choir and religion class didn’t require a lot of books. However, now my new schedule necessitated all kinds of textbooks.

Since I couldn’t use a locker I had to figure out another option. I located a local shop that made bags (for any former Boisean it was called “Burts Bags”) and asked them to make me a giant backpack that would hang off the back of my wheelchair. They did, and it was enormous. But it did its job and I had a portable locker.

The problem was, I couldn’t get the books out of my backpack. This meant I required help in each of my classes. Being a 15-year-old boy, I figured that if I needed to set by somebody who could help me, it might as well be a girl somebody. I also reasoned that if it had to be a girl somebody, it might as well be a cute “girl somebody.” So, on one specific winter day during my sophomore year I entered one of my classes and true to form sat next to the cutest “girl somebody” I could find. Her name was Nicole.

Nicole and I had been friends for some time and as usual, on this day, she was willing to help me get my books out of my backpack.

In the middle of class my leg began to have a muscle spasm. Now this can look like any number of different things. It can be mild, where my foot will begin to tap on my foot rest as if I’m keeping time to music that only I can hear. It can be fairly violent where my leg shoots out, straight in front of me, and wildly shakes about, (this happened to me one time in the waiting room of a restaurant and I tripped and 85-year-old man–but that’s a different story altogether) or, it can look like anything in between.

On this day in the middle of class my muscle spasm was of the mild variety. As a result of reflex and completely out of my control, my foot began to tap on my foot rest. This is something that happens with some regularity. Without thinking much of it, I continued to try and look as though I was paying attention to the teacher.

Nicole looked down and saw my foot moving on my foot rest. When she did, her eyes got as big as softballs, she jumped out of her seat, threw her arms in the air and screamed, “He’s healed!”

The teacher and the rest of the class looked back to see my leg moving and almost in unison screamed, “He’s healed!” It was at this point when madness erupted. It seemed as though everyone in the class was up on their feet, doing the dance of healing, smiling and laughing and hugging each other. I couldn’t believe it. Someone had been healed! Not realizing that they were talking about me I joined in the festivities myself–jealous of whoever had been healed.

Then, it dawned on me that I was the person they were talking about. Quietly, I pulled Nicole aside and told her that I wasn’t healed and that what she was seeing was nothing more than a spasm or a reflex.

Her face began to turn the deep shade of red. Embarrassed, she told the class that I wasn’t healed. It felt like they all turned around together and looked at me in complete disappointment as if to say, “Thanks a lot. We were singing, dancing and having a good time for nothing.”

I remember thinking, “I’m sorry. Next time, give me a little notice and I’ll try to be healed.”

Even though everyone was disappointed a miracle hadn’t occurred, it wasn’t long until we were all smiling and laughing about what happened. I remember still smiling and laughing as I drove home from school that day. But, when I pulled into my driveway a curious thing happened. I began to think about what might have come to be if I had believed the same way Nicole did.

As one might imagine, the kids in my class hoped, wished and even prayed that I would be healed. From the day my accident happened, my friends believed that I could be healed. On that day, Nicole was tired of just believing and ready to act. At the littlest evidence she was ready to act. When she saw my foot move the strength of her belief caused her to jump up and shout, “He’s healed.” If on that day I believed with the same passion, who’s to say she wouldn’t have been right.

Amazing things happen when we believe. But miracles come to fruition when we then act on those beliefs. I have seen and been a part of things others believe to be impossible because I have acted on my beliefs. Believing gives us strength. When we act on our beliefs we gain power–the power to enable the miraculous to come to pass. It is important that we believe. But, we truly begin to achieve when, like Nicole did that day, we act on our beliefs.

I know that as I continue to act on my belief that I will walk someday, that the day will come when I will stand from my chair, hold it over my head, throw it as far as I can, and run until I drop. With the same surety that I know that, I know that the difficulties and struggles that lay in wait in your lives will fall when you believe and act.

So let’s believe. Let’s believe with our hearts and souls. Let’s believe with every ounce of who we are. But then, let’s do a little more. Acting on our beliefs allows miracles to happen.


In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night

January 23, 2009


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.


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.


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.



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