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.


Rare and Valued

November 10, 2010

As a kid, I read comics whenever I could get my hands on them, but I didn’t start collecting comics until after my car accident.  I had been in the hospital for going on 6 months and I was growing tired of Judge Judy.  Unfortunately, TV was my only real companion.  My arms were simply too weak to hold a book.

Then, one day sitting in a 7-Eleven, I saw a copy of Batman.  It was small and light and I thought it might be a nice distraction to Mrs. Sheindlin.  I took it back to my hospital, and read it.  It was easy to hold and provided me the entertainment I sought.  The only problem was the book wasn’t one contained story–it was part of a serial.  In order to find out what had happened and what was going to happen, I had to buy other comics.

I was hooked.  My room slowly filled with issues of The Dark Knight, Superman, Captain America and the rest.  The more I collected the more I learned about the culture. There were issues that had variant (special) covers, issues that had been so popular they had done multiple printings–which made first printings all the more valuable.

Like everything else, the more rare a comic was, the more valuable it became.  This pursuit lasted years and more money that I care to admit.  But as I made my trips from the hospital to the comic book shop (which sometime took everything I had–to see what I’m talking about, read here) I noticed that the comics available in stacks were passed by, while the unique ones were clamored over.

Watching this, I realized that people are a lot like comics.  It’s the unique ones with variant covers that people want in their lives.  They’re the ones people are seeking out, the stories people want to know. At the same time, it’s the ordinary ones, the ones just trying to be like the rest that are a dime a dozen, and the ones that sit in stacks.

The difference is that everyone is unique and special—you just have to choose to put that on your cover.  You just have to show others the real “one of a kind” you.  And, for some reason, it seems like people today have a hard time doing this.  Some of it’s fear, some of it is insecurity, but it’s rampant and everywhere.  People trying to look or act like someone on TV.  It’s like we’re back in Jr. High and trying to be the cool kid.

There’s too many lemmings today—people willing to follow at any cost.

Being rare is harder than it sounds.  It takes courage.  There are lots of people who just don’t believe that they have all that much uniqueness to give.  But, there’s only one you—only one person that sees things the way you do.  Only one person with the gifts and talents you have.  Have confidence in yourself.  Find ways to let your own spirit shine.

There are only a few copies of the first Superman comic left and they are worth Millions.  But, that’s nothing compared to the worth of the one and only you!

Jh-


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.

Jh-


Fully Committed

April 14, 2010

My Dad giving me a hand

Today is my Dad’s birthday.  I wish you could all meet my dad.  I know that you would be better for it.  He has a special way of connecting with people—they love him from the start.  I have to say, looking back, with as unbiased view as I possibly can, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love him

There are so many qualities that I admire in him.  He’s kind and loving.  He’s positive and optimistic.  He’s both successful and humble. But, one of the characteristics that has helped me the most, is his ability to be fully committed.

He has absolutely no idea how to go half speed.  It’s either full blast, or full stop.  What’s amazing though, is that of all the people I’ve met in my life who have this ability, I’ve never met one that applies it to every facet of their life the way my father does.  Whether at work, in the community, in our church, or at home he gives everything he does everything he has.

Of all the stories I love to tell about my dad, the one that exemplifies this unique part of his character the most, has to do with a bet.

Anyone who has ever spent any time trying to make his or her living selling life insurance knows that to be successful at it takes nearly every moment you can spare.  In doing this, you find a unique camaraderie with your colleagues.  For, many times you find they can be the best motivators on your journey to succeed.  For my dad, one of those people was Ron Nelson.

They had been working together for some time when they both wanted to step up their game.  In order to find the success they were seeking, they decided to make a bet—one that would motivate them both to do better.

They decided that for one month they would see who could get to the office the earliest.  This would allow themselves more time to prepare and prospect and there fore more success. Who ever arrived at the office before the other for the most days in the month, would win the wager.

The way they tell it, my dad started off strong and never looked back.  Ron once told me that every day he would set his alarm clock to go off a little earlier, and every day he would pull into the parking lot only to see my dad had already arrived.

According to Ron, there came a point when, tired of getting up so early, and tired of losing, he came up with a plan.

Late one night after we had gone to bed, he came over to our house, popped the hood of my dad’s car and removed the distributor cap.  Now, my dad has a number of talents and gifts, but, when it comes to things of a mechanically nature, he’s sunk.  Seriously…give the man the finest tools in the world and he still couldn’t fix his way out of a wet paper sack.

Ron knew this, and with the distributor cap removed, he went home sure that the tide of the contest was about to turn.

The next morning, Ron was up early and headed to the office.  He pulled into the parking lot and just as he’d assumed, my dad’s car was nowhere to be found.  Basking in his win he headed into the building.  As he made his way to his office, he passed my dad’s office, and to his utter surprise, there sat my dad drenching in his own sweat.

My dad had run the nearly 5 miles in his suit.

When he woke up that morning and found that his car wouldn’t start, I’m sure he popped the hood, hoping for divine intervention.  But not knowing what to look for, he missed seeing the distributor cap that was missing.

Most people would have simply taken a pass, found a mechanic and lived to fight another day. But that’s not how my dad is wired.  He’s fully committed.  When he found that the car was out of commission, he didn’t look for excuses, he looked for a way to get the job done.

I wonder how our lives would be different, if we took the same fully committed approach.  If we replaced our excuses for successes, and chose to be dedicated to every decision we made.

I know my life would be better.  Too many times, it’s too easy to take the easy way out.  When real happiness and true self worth comes in being willing to get where we’re going no matter what—even if it means we have to leave the car and run.

I love my dad, and maybe this post is just for me.  Maybe I’m the only one who feels they could be better of they approached life with more of an “all in” attitude.

If so, that’s OK.  What I do know, is that today, in honor of that man I love and admire so much, I’m going to recommit myself to my goals and dreams.  I’m going to work harder to give my all to everything I choose to do.

If you think it’d do you some good as well—join me.  Let’s find happiness and success in being fully committed.

Jh-

Happy Birthday Dad.


Notable Quotables

March 16, 2010

For those of you who know me, have heard me, or have read my blogs, you know how I feel about positive affirmation.  When a person is working on having a positive mindset, few things help them get there like a good positive reminders, and when it comes to positive reminders, few work as well as a good positive quotes.

With this in mind, Kolette helped me design 8 new cards that have positive quote on them for 8 great subjects.  We rolled them out at a recent presentation, and they went over like gangbusters.

Here’s a look a the cards.  If you think they might help you, go on over to the store (or click here) and pick up a pack.  You can use them as a motivator by placing them in places where you’ll see them, frame ones you like, or frame one and change it every month.  They even make great gifts.

The packs go for $5.00 a piece, plus $1.50 S&H.  I think you’ll agree that the quotes are moving, and Ko’s design is flawless.  I hope you enjoy them.

Jh-

Quotes:

Positive Attitude: The greatest weapon in the fight to be happy is a Positive Mental Attitude.

Drive: Any dream can be your destination; Just pick a direction and go.

Gratitude: There’s not enough room in the human heart for depression and gratitude at the same time.

Creativity: When you take the best of what you have and combine it with all that you can dream – That’s creativity.

Laughter: Few problems in the world can’t be cured by a moment of laughter.

Service: The kindest gift ever given of man, was a kind word and an open hand.

Cooperation: The more you wonder at the good in others, the less you wonder about the good in yourself.

Persistence: Be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you were today.


Sometimes Pain is a Good Thing

March 11, 2010

Out of nowhere, I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off just next to my left ear.  Before I knew it, my 1/2 ton Ford Van went careening across all three lanes of traffic going south, continued through the median, and proceeded to fly into the on-coming traffic.  Then, everything went dark.

I don’t know how long I was out on that November day in late 1997, but the next thing I knew, I awoke to an EMT asking me a barrage of questions, like,

“What’s your name?’
“Where do you live?”
“Do you know your phone number?”
“Are you married?”
“What’s your Social Security Number?”

As I did my best, to answer the questions, I tried to figure out where I was, and what had happened.  The first thing I noticed was that my view was filled with a blue sky dotted by puffy white clouds.

“Wasn’t I just in my car?” I thought to myself.

Then, as I stared to wonder if the whole accident hadn’t simply been a big dream, the pain kicked in.

Now, 100% sure that this was more nightmare than dream, and all too real, I noticed my van’s radio antenna.  This seemed odd, for I knew that was the antenna was on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Then, I realized the enormity of what had happened—I was hanging half in, and half out of the passenger side of the van (which was the opposite side of the van from where I’d started out.)

My face was covered in blood, and as the paramedics on the scene began to employ the Jaws of Life, a whole new fear enveloped me.

Petrified, I wondered, “What if I have broken my neck again?” and “What if that break would take away more movement?”

I was pretty sure that at least one of my wrists were broken, but that was the least of my worries, and so with all the courage I could muster, I started moving my wrists up and down.

Tears streamed down my face.  One of the EMT’s saw the tears and my moving wrists, and told me that it wouldn’t hurt so bad if I would keep my wrists stable,

What he didn’t know, was that the tears weren’t from the pain, instead, they were from an overwhelming sense of joy.  Based on what I knew about my spinal cord injury, I was pretty sure that moving my wrists meant I had not lost any additional movement—that of all the injuries that happened in the wreck, I hadn’t done any more damage to my spinal cord.

That day, pain was a good thing.

The adage has proved itself in the years that have followed.  It is pain that reminds us of our blessings. It is pain that teaches us things like humility, and diligence.  It’s pain that gives us character, and pain that helps us love what we have along with what we’ve had the opportunity to have.  It is pain that often glues us together.

Pain isn’t ever fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.  In fact it is often just the thing that reminds of all that is wonderful.

Yes, I’m quite sure that sometimes pain is a good thing.

Jh-


Part of a Team

February 25, 2010

Team Hall

There are all kinds of teams.  Some are organized like football and basketball teams, church groups, civic groups, book clubs or sewing circles.  Others are a little more amorphous like neighborhoods, fans of a similar person, team or group, or those who share a similar talent/interest.  Regardless of what brings teams together, there is every kind of team everywhere you look

Whether you are a member of the Dallas Cowboys, attend the Methodist church on the corner, are on the PTA, live in Crofters Cove, love Frank Sinatra, are a Scrapbooker (or all of the above) you are a part of a team—and that’s good.

We all want to belong.  We all want to be a part of something, and that’s why we gravitate together.  It’s why we try out, volunteer, or set aside our precious time for teams.  We crave that commonality and community.  No matter how busy we are, we often find ourselves willing to throw our hat in one more ring in order to gain one more connection.

As members of these different groups we need to remember that desired community.  It will help us remember to be continually inclusive, instead of answering the primal instinct to exclude.  Regardless of how many groups knock at your door, it’s important to remember everyone isn’t quite so busy.

There are many people who are looking for anyway to be a part of anything—so much so that sometimes they’ll do whatever it takes to be “in.”  Even when people are included, when times get difficult, they want more—they need more.

When I broke my neck, I needed any inclusion I could get.  Even though I was fairly well liked, and a part of numerous groups, my new situation had me longing for more contact—more teammates.

Luckier than most, I had people who were willing to not only let me in, but actually make the effort to “recruit” me.

Growing up, one of the teams I wanted to be a part of was the BYU football team.  I spent nights dreaming of me in the locker room or crossing campus proudly wearing my letterman jacket.

Obviously, my new disability made both seem impossible.

One day, lying in the hospital, there was a knock at the door.  As it opened, I nearly went into cardiac arrest.  There, in the hallway, was Steve Lindsley—quarterback at BYU.  He spent a half hour of his time with me and before he left gave me his jersey and an invitation to join him in the locker room.

BYU QB Steve Lindsley visiting me in the hospital

I wore the jersey every day, and a few months later, I was in the locker room with all my heroes.  I was no longer a 15 year old learning to deal with his disability.  In that room and with that jersey on, I was a part of the BYU Football Team—a Cougar.

The letterman jacket came later.  I wasn’t struggling to find my place, that 15 year old boy scared about his future was long gone.  However, that didn’t mean my desire to be a part, to be included was gone too.  Just like everyone, I still wanted connections.

The Dean of Students and her Associate Dean, Maren Mouritsen and Tammie Quick (two of the wisest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing), understood that.  Just before my graduation from “The Y”, they presented me with my letterman’s jacket in front of my peers.  They had overheard me talk about my dream once and being the proactively caring people that they are, called the Vice-President responsible for athletics and got the ball rolling.  As far as I know I am the only non- athlete to be a Letterman from BYU—a part of BYU’s letterman’s club.  It was one of the proudest days of my young life.

A letteman at "The Y"

Our challenge is to follow the example of these three good people, Steve, Maren and Tammie, and look for ways we can change the lives of others by making them our teammate.  Whether it’s people around us who are struggling like I was in the hospital, or just someone looking for another meaningful connection, like I was at the end of my tenure at BYU, it’s our duty as a member of  “Team Humanity” to let those around us know we want them on our side.

Make it your goal this week to target someone and invite them to be a part of one of your teams.  Ask them to a church luncheon, or a neighborhood party.  Take some time to talk with them about a shared interest, or give them a CD from some artists you both like.  If you give it some real thought, you’ll find something that lets someone know you have something in common—and more importantly, that you care.

Watch the difference it makes.  Watch their confidence soar as your friendship builds.  I’m willing to bet it will have a bigger impact than you ever imagined.  But, what will really amaze you is how good the effort will make you feel.  Gaining more teammates will shore up your confidence as well.  For, working to let others know that they belong, you’ll find yourself feeling more accepted and loved as well.

For, really, at the end of the day, we all want to be part of a team.

Jh-


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