A New Year needs new effort…

The following is the recent entry that I did for the MSAA’s national blog. The topic for this month’s editorial is resolutions/trying new things. I hope that you appreciate reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

ny pic1Now that we have rung in this New Year and flipped double digits to enter into the new decade, we need more. We should desire something to make us stand out from the crowd as it is too easy to vanish into obscurity if we do not evolve. This affliction called multiple sclerosis should not define our lives but be a mere side note to the long list of who we indeed are. Every year we should grab the tree of life and with all of the strength that we can muster and shake it. So if you have a lot of power then rock and rattle it until braches crack or if you have less vitality vigorously shake the leaves and say I am here. We must not simply survive with this medical condition but we must thrive like a cactus in the brutally hot desert sun.

The key to finding the new thing that will change your outlook on life is to consider your limits. You should stretch just a little bit outside of your comfort zone to prove to yourself that you can do more. Find your neighborhood community center and look into taking some classes involving art or cooking. If it is age-appropriate, find a senior center, check out the schedule, and make new and possibly lifelong friends. There are plenty of events for the low and even mid-speed MSers if you are willing to pinpoint and participate.

high octainFor those of us looking for high octane options, there are a plethora of them from which to choose. Adaptive sports have become a massive industry as no one likes to be excluded because of their life’s limitations. We have come so far in technology that what was once impossible is now conceivable. Great minds have gotten together and figured out how to make things work correctly, specifically for the disabled. We have all heard the line there is an app for that well now it seems that we can say there is an adaptation for that.

Adaptive sports include things such as surfing, kayaking, skiing, skydiving, and the list goes on and on. No matter your talent level and abilities, you can ride a bike with a handcycle, or if you have the required skills, you can whitewater kayak. If you are willing, it is not out of the question to snow ski in Colorado with the best of the best. For these sports, you are limited only by your willingness to act and what the imagination can create.

scubaI am researching my 2020 life challenge to go along with my swimming, and I feel it will be SCUBA diving. I found several companies all over the US that teach the disabled how to SCUBA dive for free. Some of these programs are specifically for veterans and first responders, while others are open to anyone disabled. It is just outside of my comfort zone as it is not in my city, yet I believe it is reasonable, feasible, and, most importantly, achievable.

last picI have always said do not tell me that I cannot do something because, with time and effort, I will find a way to make it happen. I was challenged to do a 5k in my wheelchair, and even though others doubted that I would complete it, I was successful. Some said that I could not do two and a half miles of swimming, yet I blew that challenge out of the water, and I swam eight grueling miles. There may be obstacles in your path, but you decide to allow them to stop you or not. The question becomes, how badly do you want it, and how much are you willing to sacrifice to accomplish the goal? So get off the couch and pick up your feet, cane, crutches or get behind your walker, even sit in your wheelchair and do something new for the New Year.

Do not let multiple sclerosis stop you; do something despite it.

Scott Cremeans lives in Central Ohio. He is a US Marine who was diagnosed with RRMS in 2001 at the age of 27. Scott has successfully managed his MS symptoms on his own with his faith, friends, and humor. You can read more about his MS journey by visiting his blog http://www.myramblings.blog where he muses about life in the slow lane with his literary wit.

With great power comes great responsibility…

lost brainI slept horribly the other night and decided to sleep in because a tired brain is a dysfunctional brain. I had nothing planned that next day to wake up early for and realized that this would be a great day to be lazy. I am not sure what caused my unrest though I lay all night with busy mind syndrome. Sadly the chaos that was to ensue would not allow the extra slumber that I so wanted. This terrible technological turmoil would not allow the excess rest to calm my brain that I desperately desired.

From a very young boy, my mother was relentless in the idea of not burning daylight. I would stay the night with a buddy, and as young boys do, we stayed up until at least three in the morning. Inevitably my mom would show up at eight in the morning to take me grocery shopping with her. The idea of a snooze button was like a unicorn; it did not exist in her life.

The Boy Scouts also fostered our sleepless behavior when we went camping. They allowed us to stay up until the wee hours of the morning. Although we were able to stay up late, we also had to rise early to start the day together. No matter how tired we were, no snooze button was allowed to help us.

The Marine Corps continued to maximize this behavior of inadequate sack time. They wiped the idea of the mythical snooze button from anyone still holding onto this unicorn concept. Zero dark thirty was our typical wake-up time and even earlier on training days.

sneeeeezI am such a light sleeper that if a mouse sneezes in my living room, I say “blesses you.” All of that being said my motto has always been to hope for the best but plan for the worst. However, technology has a habit of modifying your ideas no matter your goals. I never want there to be a chance of oversleeping. This desire of not wanting to be late is of the utmost importance. I stagger my morning alarms so that if one does not work the backup number one or even number two will wake me.

While trying to sleep in the first alert in the morning were my lights that come on at ten percent power. They gradually get brighter by ten percent every sixty seconds or so. Keep in mind that I am a light sleeper and this is all that I need to wake me from my deep sleep coma. All of the lights in my house would hit maximum power in ten minutes, so I quickly turn the lights off and close my eyes to revisit the Sandman.

Fifteen minutes later my Google home begins an alarm sound. When my Google home alerts me, my response needs only to be vocal, and I do not need to move. Annoyed I wake up and loudly tell this tiny tech “ok Google stop!” The problem is that I must shout during the lull in the sound especially when I am waking and in a torpor state. Once the siren sound stops I close my eyes and try to return to my dream once again.

Keep in mind that it can take the average person twenty minutes to fall asleep. However, it can take the body an hour and thirty minutes to slip into restful REM sleep. Needless to say by this point I had not gotten the needed extended sleep for which I was aiming.

smart techTen minutes later the alarm on my phone began to shriek and shout to wake me. When my cellphone alarm rings I must physically manipulate the phone to turn it off. This task is daunting because for me to roll over and grab my phone is a challenging task since my body does not always cooperate. I fight with my body for several minutes making me wide awake, and I remember that this is my last alarm for today. Settling back into bed I close my eyes to finish my dream of running a marathon as I stood in the winner’s circle.

Ten minutes later was the introduction of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I hear the three small motors that open my living room blinds. They are set to open every morning bright and early at seven in the morning. I also begin to hear chirps from my phone reminding me of various upcoming tasks. Obviously, today I will not be getting the needed peace for extra hibernation.

offThis day reminds me that although technology is usually fantastic, it has its weaknesses too. Most importantly you must look for an off button for those times when you require extra respite. If only one of these alarms sounded that day, I could have continued sleeping even with the motors of the blinds whirring. Alas, I will have to try to sleep-in next month.

I cannot go to work tomorrow. I fractured my motivation.

loser…

I said it in an earlier post that when you want to accomplish something, you need to think about it carefully. You need to decide how badly you want it and consider what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve this goal. Remember that most times in life there is a give and take no matter what situation you are involved in. However, with most medical conditions this choice can be detrimental to one’s health and well-being.

aaa weeblwobleDo you want fashionable athletic shoes or the hideous Velcro footwear? The favorite sports shoes are stylish, but it takes your fumbling fingers longer to tie them then Thanksgiving dinner. Do you want those spectacular high heels that make you look breathtaking along with that dress? Or do you want to stand without continually falling because MS weeble-wobbles we are not. aaashoes 2aaa shoes

There have been numerous losses in my recent MS life. I have sacrificed plenty to accomplish all of the swimming that I have achieved. I have lost the ability to stand and dress using the grab bar in my bathroom. I now get dressed on my bed while pulling, rolling and generally playing tug-o-war with my pants until they are on correctly. aaa tug o war

There are other battles that I seem to be losing as well. The first is between my feet and me as my outside ankle muscles are weakening by the day. This deterioration causes my feet to rotate upward when in a spasm or a tired state. I have specific exercises to aid my fight in this battle of one step forward and one step back. I suppose that the good part is that my feet are not getting worse. Sadly they are also not getting better.aaa feet

Secondly, my hourly leg squats routine has diminished significantly. I have great trepidation in doing these because of falls in the past. It is great that I live alone because when I do fall it is not in front of anyone. However, I will find a wife someday, and this solitary and secluded life of mine will change.

I would guess that this lessening of my routine is also partly due to the size of my new house. My new home is over 1500 square feet compared to my old house at 1000 square feet. Every point in my old house was extremely close to where I did my exercising as I did them in a central location. Currently, the place that I spend the most time and where I exercise these points are at a considerable distance from each other.

The definition of a loser is a person who losses. In this case, I know that I have lost some things and could technically be called a loser, but I have gained more than I have lost. My losses though significant have been well worth the sacrifice. At the same time, there have been several substantial gains as my body has become stronger. My new upper body power helps me with everyday tasks and complications that I face both expected and unexpected. Also, the emotional gains have been tremendous, and in turn, they too have been worth these losses.

If you do not sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.

A sad face, not a sad disposition…

dipressionIt is well known that I was once in a dark place filled with loneliness, heartache, and desperation. I was in a position of solitude that forced me to contemplate and question everything and even think about the final curtain call. I quite literally had nothing in my life except for my television for needed entertainment. My desperation desired social interaction that was filled by telemarketers who cannot hang up and must wait for you to disconnect first. Many of my days were filled not with unloading my issues onto these phone salespeople but forcing them to drag out their sales pitch. I got entertainment in any place that I could.

I kept my blinds closed, and my long days would meld into long nights blurring the lines between days of the week. I ate so little and lost so much weight that I thought that I might fall through a sewer grate and felt that I should routinely carry spelunking gear. I wore an emaciated bodysuit like it was Prada, and I was walking out of Sax Fifth Avenue in New York.

It took me many years of sad solitude and seclusion to land in this destination filled with desperation. To find my new torturously tormenting position in life, I needed to stew in a bath of boiling anguish and hopelessness. It did not happen overnight, but I marinated in heartache for years until my melancholy turned into misery. However, this is in the past, and I am working hard to make sure it will never again return.

eggshell walkIn the past several weeks, I have felt like some people around me are walking on eggshells and watching what they say. It is like people just learned of my horrific history and fear that I could backslide into my pitifully punishing past. These individuals seem to be attempting to keep me from slipping down the dark rabbit hole called depression by giving me unexpected praise. It is like they are trying not to say the wrong thing and avoid upsetting me, but they can rest assured that me spiraling back into that dark place is unimaginably unlikely. I understand that these actions mean that a lot of people care about me and want an impeccably engaging life for me, and that means a lot. On the other hand, the eggshell walking is not needed and should only be done after making eggs.

I now have things going on in my life that were only a dream back during my dark days. For example, I swim three days a week, which I could not objectively do four years ago. The pool is great for me physically, but also mentally as I interact with my classmates, and sometimes we even go to lunch together. I also talk with many other community center members who know me from us talking whenever possible. I am in the water exercising for two maybe three hours a day and have seen more positive results than negative ones.

I attend a weekly contemporary church service and have made many friends expanding my social circle. I periodically participate in plans pertaining to the church and various outreach programs to help others. I am a member of a small group affiliated with the church that meets typically one night a week. This action once again helps me to enlarge my group of friends. I am also a member of a men’s group that meets once a month in a public restaurant for breakfast once again, raising my list of friends.

I have a blog that genuinely takes about a week to complete each entry, and I make sure to dot my t’s and cross my eyes. There is also a substantial amount of research that is involved in some of the topics. All of this means that I do not watch the TV that I used to make my life does not revolve around the television schedule, but my schedule.

aaa houseI am now the proud owner of a brand-new house in a new neighborhood that is close to nearly everything. My new residence is actually wheelchair accessible, whereas my previous house was pretend adapted. An entry ramp for wheelchairs and no carpeted floors does not make an acceptable house for those in wheeled chariots. It is also a connected home that absolutely helps me with all of my daunting daily duties in various ways making my life much more comfortable.

There is a new paratransit system that is so much better, making it extremely convenient to get from one place to the next. No longer do I need to plan for hours of extra time before and after every appointment. A fifteen-minute meeting could not happen as there was a two-hour minimum, yet that time restriction was lifted. This new paratransit system has unlocked a whole new and undiscovered world that allows me the freedom that otherwise was impossible.

The last positive task that has become massively important in my life is mobile food procurement. This tasty transport technique gives housebound homebodies access to the plethora of food options available. Simply said, delivery is king for both groceries and restaurant meals making food more attainable.

inaciousNot to mention the personal physical challenges that I have faced and defeated. The list is two down and more to go as I do not know yet what they are. I completed a 5k in my wheelchair that several said that there was no need to try as honestly I could not do it. I swam to raise money for the MS Association several months after learning to swim without the aid of my legs. I set a challenging goal to swim two and a half miles and crushed that target by swimming eight miles using my upper body only. I do not know yet what these future ambitions will be, but the possibilities are endless and my tenacity relentless.

sunshineSo as you can see, I had nothing going on before causing crushing contemplation. My life and in turn, my brain was empty so many years ago, and that allowed torturous turmoil to take hold in my mind. I currently have so much going on that visiting the darkness of my past is an impossible imposition. Sure, just like everyone, I have sad times, but nothing even close to the mournful moments of my history. All in all, I am a happy person who has way too much going on to follow the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland down the rabbit hole.

Sometimes a sad face is just a bad day.

Delivery chivalry …

ggogleI have spoken about how technology has advanced and helped us in life tremendously. I told how fantastic futuristic inventions have made my life significantly better in various ways. It has helped me open and close blinds that are out of my reach and lets me answer the doorbell without being there. Using this tech verbally, I can set a reminder, check the weather, and I can listen to music or call for help. With these advancements, I can turn on lights, the television, and I can open the garage door and in some cases turn on ceiling fans.

When I was a kid, I knew a senior woman who desperately depended on others for everything. She could not drive a car, and her handwriting was horrendously hideous. These assisting people were needed to drive her anyplace that she needed to go like shopping for food and clothes. Others even helped with her many money matters. These people assisted her by writing her checks, pay bills and open and read her major mail.

appI am a very private and independent person who does not want to break that privacy palisade. However, in this world of “there is an app for that” there is no issue of concern for keeping my things private. I have a banking app and scheduling app; there is a budgeting app and a delivery app. My app list has a library app and a photo app and even an app for reviewing all apps.

My banking app allows me to pay my bills by setting them up to be paid automatically or as needed. I can write checks, pay individuals, or schedule a transaction for a later date. I can transfer money or have a cashier’s check written all with the help of my banking app. My online financial institution is also open 24/7. This action means that on occasion, I can call with questions if an account query puts me in a quandary.

I have food delivery apps that will deliver dinner from a diner or other forms of nutrition next week. I used to need treasures for tipping and papers for purchasing, but that is now a thing of the past. I simply open the app for groceries or meal time and pick what, where and when I want it. It has my credit card information and even allows me to tip all with the push of a button so no need for cash. Food delivery is realistic, not futuristic.

There are two types of food delivery apps, and the first one delivers groceries. It is extremely elementary and has very little of a learning curve. You download the app and follow the simple directions for setting up an account, including adding a credit card and choosing the store that is closest to you. Although this priceless process is plain, it can also be particularly problematic.

When most people grocery shop at the store they can roam like nomads wandering through the desert. On the other hand, if a list is made and an item was forgotten a lazy stroll through the store might give a required reminder. When ordering with the app, you cannot accidentally see it on the shelf and remember it. Also, a plethora of profuse purchases provoked by hunger shopping is very unlikely. As you are strolling through the app, you will only be reminded of things like hotdog buns and chips if you buy hotdogs.

trackNext, there is an app for delivering a delicious dinner, a luscious lunch, or any meal in between. Some restaurants even offer their app with a delivery service, yet the choice is yours on who you should use. There is a similar systematic strategy for setting up all of these applications. You download the app and signup for an account, giving them any of the addresses that your meal will be delivered.

When you are hungry or want a snack simply open the app and find the restaurant that you crave, and that is open. Browse the menu or menus that they offer and find the enticing edibles that you desire and add them into the cart on the app. Once you have all of the vittles from the restaurants that you want in your cart and press the place order button.

A series of events are then set in motion from that one button push that manipulates mealtime forever. Your order is then sent to the restaurant to begin prompt preparation to execute it expeditiously. Before your order is ready, they send out a message through the delivery app to let drivers know that it is prepared for diligent delivery. At that point, a driver comes to the restaurant and picks your meal up for a quick quest to find your house. While it is being transported, you can track the driver in real time.

end o blogGone are the requirements of getting dressed, going into public, and having a sit-down meal. You can have fast-food for one or slow food for ten all delivered for your convenience. I feel that I was born at the right time as I love my independence and not requiring help from others for these tasks. I cannot wait to see what technology comes up with next.

The future IS now.

It is too deep, just let me sleep…

therapyI decided to tell some of my more difficult early multiple sclerosis stories in a series of blogs one at a time. I have feared to tell these tales because I do not know if people will judge my feelings and what they think is minor. Like a friend might say that I am making mountains out of molehills, and that I should simply sweep it under the rug. As I sit and type this nearly twenty years after the fact I realize that the pain still lies deep in my psyche. This disturbing tale is going to take much time and tears to put down into a blog.

It is my understanding that talking about issues such as these is imperative to one’s well-being. As these tragedies are difficult to think about and so far are no more comfortable to put into text, I hope the sting disappears. To help me avoid the fear of being criticized for overthinking this situation, I want to type it into a document and share it. The average blog takes me a week from start to completion, but this one will take longer because of the emotional starts and stops. I do have to keep reminding myself that everyone deals differently, and that is why some come back from war mentally broken, and others are fine.

ms questionsIn the winter of 2002, I had been heavy weight lifting for a year with my friend Mike, who is also a Marine. In the first year, I dropped weight so quickly that I went from a waist size of 40 to a size 29 back to my Marine Corps days. So here I was after my MS diagnosis, newly divorced, diagnosed, and deeply discouraged at my situation and not knowing what to expect. My MS doctor never told me what to plan for with my condition because there were a plethora of possibilities. For this reason, I decided to keep living my life normally as I was in denial because I had no real symptoms at that time.

In Columbus, Ohio, the metro parks host a weekly winter hike program every year, and my mom invites me to join her and my stepdad. Up to this point, I had virtually no MS symptoms, although this time that would significantly change, today, the MS beast would rear its ugly head. This day I would meet the maleficent monster that would haunt my nightmares forever.

winter hikesThe hikes would start on Saturday morning at nine and held at various parks around Columbus, Ohio. I showed up that morning at my mom’s house at eight-fifteen with my hiking boots on ready to take on Mother Nature’s snow. Most people had proper pad paraphernalia, although there were a few that apparently did not understand the importance of good footwear.

There are often several hike lengths to choose from, including a short one mile a three and sometimes five milers. This hike offered the one and three miles, and being that we were all avid hikers, we chose the lengthier three-mile route. They also provide some sustenance at the end of the trek, sometimes including cold donuts or hot chili. There is also a beverage offering of water, hot coffee, and hot chocolate, bringing warmth to an otherwise cold morning.

The hike that day started very well as it snowed significantly overnight, but the morning was bright and sunny. About a quarter of a mile in, I began to feel weak and tired and verified with the rear guide how far we were. I told her that I would be going back to the beginning and explained to her that I was fine, but that I just felt a little off. That was the time that I should have clarified that I had multiple sclerosis and that extreme cold viciously and quickly rips all energy from me. Now would have been the perfect time to define my MS malady and that it would be in my best interest to have someone walk back with me.

snow deadAs I walked back alone, the wind was bitterly cold, and I could feel my strength vanishing with every step. There was no one on the trail, and my weakness was quickly overpowering my tenacity, and I had less stability with every passing second. I needed to lie down for just a minute to catch my feeble breath, and then I would finish the hike back. After I laid there for several minutes, I heard a voice call out to me, and I panicked. I jumped up and ran to a walkway underpass that was about ten yards away, and I stood against the wall as that group hiked by.

panic timeI have no clue as to why I ran, but it was probably because I was an able-bodied weightlifting big bad Marine and I did not want to appear as a weakling. One of their group guides was left behind with me, so we walked back on this treacherous trail together. However, the walk was slow and desperately difficult, as my weakness was back. I tried to hide my wobbly walk from this woman, but I was as easy to read as a Dr. Seuss book. As we walked back in silence, every slight grade uphill felt like climbing a mountain as she continually looked back and watched my every step.

When we made it back to the central section, I found a covered area with a bench and sat down. I let the guide know that I was okay and would sit on this bench and rest and then return to my group. About ten seconds after the guide walked away, the park ranger’s pickup truck showed up and drove onto the grass ten feet away and parked. This park ranger waved and sat there like a mama bear ready to react if anything happened.

park benchI rested on that bench for twenty minutes or so before I began to feel physically improved. I am not sure why the cold did not continue to strip me of strength, but I was feeling better the longer I rested.

Once I was feeling up to par, I decided to join my family to hear about their adventures. There was a dining hall type place where they ate the chicken noodle soup that they were served to warm their spirits. My mom told me about their hike and then asked me where I went, I downplayed things by saying that I found a bench and sat for a while. I could not and have never talked with anyone about my hazardous life-threatening unexpected undertaking that day.

ms bookI now understand my MS and the physical restrictions and challenges that limit my abilities in these situations. Sometimes I take things for granted, and this can cause havoc and encourages me to devalue typical movements. These unthoughtful actions can force me to make mistakes that can threaten my well-being. However, I am trying hard always to think through everything that I do, including sitting positions and moves that I make. Yes, this day significantly impacted my nightmares, but it also created a staggering impression on my understanding of multiple sclerosis and my life to come.

Education is knowledge and knowledge is power.

Accession obsession…

fred aI found true beauty in the love of my life, and she has grace and elegance like none before her. My lovely has a poetic symmetry that allows for smooth Fred Astaire like movements while having the curves of Marilyn Monroe. This glamorous Venus allows me to be myself while helping to keep my independence. However, to receive this gift from the heavens was a difficult battle from the start. To obtain this alluring artistry, I needed real fortitude and strong tenacity as the dissension was discouragingly disheartening. Allow me to tell you the story of getting my first fantastically fitted and life-altering wheelchair.mm

My first wheelchair was a standard hospital-style wheelchair that I received from a different donation program. The guy from this awarding agency told me how ninety-nine percent of their requests are for power wheelchairs. He explained that they would not ask for my donated chair back and that I should plan to keep this heavyweight hand-me-down. This chair was sixty-five pounds and folded, but did not disassemble though its size and weight made it very difficult to put into most vehicles. Although my mom often exercises and is fit, it was a struggle for her to put my chair into her SUV.

small chairAfter a lengthy discussion with my doctor, she prescribed an ultralight wheelchair. I took this prescription to a local seating clinic where the discouraging part of the story begins. I rolled into the clinic in my wheelchair that was oversized and ill-fitting for my greatly gaunt body. They helped me to sit on a slightly padded table so that they could begin to take a plethora of my body measurements. This assessment was to ensure that this chariot would fit me comfortably because as they say measure twice and cut once. Someone using this personally sized chair for such a long time needs anything that encourages complete comfort.

power chairAs a thirty-eight-year-old man in relatively good health, her next statement threw me for a loop. Not talking to me about my options, she merely asked what I was looking for in a power chair. We did not discuss the benefits of the different styles, so there was no mention of the option of manual wheelchairs and their advantages. I quickly spoke up, and vehemently said that I wanted a manual wheelchair. She then explained to me that power chairs are much easier to pass through Medicare. I explained how that was nice, but then I reiterated assuredly that I wanted a manual wheelchair.

After way too much cajoling, I was lowered onto a manual wheelchair that was only adequately fitted to my frame. This temporary chair was used to test my mobility ability testing my strength to self-propel. I was too stubborn to say, uncle, as I was run through the paces running me up and down a ramp and over several speedbumps. They doubted my conviction and continued to challenge my endurance by having me push myself down a long hallway. This relentless testing proved that I am a bullheaded Marine who was not willing to back down from this exhausting investigation of my capabilities.

traMy current wheelchair is custom-fit for me and only weighs a hair over forty pounds. This lack of bulk allows me to propel myself most places while not feeling like I am pushing a tank. The chair disassembles and reassembles with ease and can fit into vehicles from super small to the sizably substantial. The tires have airless inserts eliminating flat tires or the need for the manual manipulation of an air pump. It has indeed helped me to keep my self-reliance and lengthens the list of places that I can traverse.

It is unfortunate that many times in this world, people become self-focused asking themselves what I can gain from this. This me-ism based world can truly hurt those in need and benefit those looking to get just a little more for themselves. We must be diligent in knowing what we need to be heroic and heard on the reasoning for our desires. Most importantly, we need to be courageous and ask questions and stand firm in defense of our ideals.

Be strong vocally and get strong physically.

Heartfelt humanitarianism…

help othersThe other day someone asked me a question that baffled and bewildered me, yet this query that was posed was so simple. They asked: why do I help others if I do not know or owe them anything? I sat quietly for a moment and evaluated this inquisition and the best way to explain the purpose of this lifelong altruism of mine. Truth be told I also contemplated on why we are friends as he was honestly confused by my humanitarian hands. He did not understand why I would not buy myself an unnecessary and unneeded better Bluetooth headset since I had the money.

When I was growing up, my family was lower middle class, although we were a hare’s breadth away from being poor. Our family held onto the title of the lower middle class like it was the last twinkly at a weight watchers meeting. My mother, who was a single parent, worked a full-time job and went to college, so we rode that tightrope between poor and poor-ish for seven years.

poorWe were low-income, but I had no idea what being poor genuinely meant until I met some specific people in high school. I was not afraid to make friends with anyone, including the people that were shunned and socially shamed because of their appearance and clothing. I made good friends with those who were the real impoverished individuals in high school. Freshman through the senior year were the years it was most difficult for a kid to hide the family financial stance. So I had both rich and poor friends though I learned the most about life and the real meaning of friendships from those with the least.

I learned from seeing this downtrodden lifestyle and saw how my friends did not work so that their parents could do so. Most days, they needed to watch their younger siblings because their parents could ill-afford decent childcare. I quickly realized that when we were going to eat fast food, they could not buy food for lunch. I did not want them to feel bad and look needy if I only bought food for them. The solution was to simply pay for the group as to not single out the neediest among us. It felt good to do good for others without making them feel embarrassed or ashamed for not being able to contribute financially. This action was done with no expectations of payback, thus began my altruistic life.

I have seen and experienced some of the worst neighborhoods that Columbus, Ohio, has to offer. I was told that I had to physically see the poverty-stricken communities to comprehend the struggles of the penniless people truly. Walking in these areas and talking with some of the residents, I learned that many put forth a valiant venture to lift themselves out of destitution. This effort tends to reward them with a losing battle, typically moving them one step forward and two steps back. Sadly, they are not afforded the opportunities that I have seen others use to their advantage to raise out of the impoverished lifestyle.

flowersMy friend later asked me: if that is the case, then why do you do things for people who are not in need? He saw me order flowers for the community center where I swim and heard that I bought dinner for a group of friends. This question tells me that I should start shopping on eBay to find new choice chums.

There is enough bitterness, hatred, and contempt in this world that truly affects everyone. These negative impacts are not the same for everyone, but it affects everyone none the less. So in my eyes doing good whether they are in need or not are putting a bit of kindness into an otherwise acrimonious world. Giving to the destitute or affluent has a positive impact on the recipient and the altruist alike.

humbl1To make the world a little better in my eyes, I give to many charities like soup kitchens and food banks. I have helped supply clothing and furniture for local free stores and given out grocery gift cards to plenty of needy families. I have purchased school supplies for many children and Christmas trees for families in need. I have sent flowers and fruit baskets all over town in an attempt to bring a smile or two. I have even bought many meals for friends both in large groups and one on one. I have been told that my giving is excessive. However, I say that it is not enough as I would like to do more, but my income will only allow me to do so much.

Please do not think that I am braggadocios because that cannot be further from the truth. My mom tells me that I am simply leading by example, and yet I genuinely hope that people are willing to follow suit. I understand that not everyone can afford to do these things, but little acts of kindness make a difference in this bitter filled world. So the next time that you are out at your favorite coffee place, buy a coffee for a stranger or do some other random act of kindness. I guarantee you that it will make them feel good, but it will give you a great feeling as well.

Be the change in the world that you want to see- Gandhi.

No object of pity…

Friends and even family can occasionally act funny when it comes to the unwell. They seem to feel entitled by proxy to the term of disabled. Some of them can even get bombastic when they come to the defense of anyone in a wheelchair. These people can periodically become overly pro accessibility to the point that it becomes excessive.

panera caA friend and her husband were taking me to a fast-casual eatery for lunch. There was a light rain coming down that seemed to cause people to drive erratically. As we pulled into the parking lot, there was construction equipment all around. The trucks and dumpsters blocked many of the parking spots. There was one accessible parking space where someone was illegally parked. This lack of convenient parking caused us to get rained on as we rushed to get inside. We moved as fast as a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, but we made it.

I am the kind of guy who knows that to find this illegally parked person is unlikely. Not to mention all of the stress that it would cause if we found them. I said it before and I will say it again: stresses and MS are like oil and water. This bad mix can create physical consequences that can put a stoppage to my progress for the day. I do not want to visit these significant problems, so I avoid the catastrophe causing concerns at all cost.

pissed poochMy friend went to the cashier, and with a vehement passion, she began to protest loudly. I tried to calm her down, but like angry pit-bull holding food, she would not let it go. I explained that the cashier is not the one to blame for our damp dilemma. I reminded my friend that her ferocious temper is scaring the young female cashier. She soon calmed down, and we eventually had a nice lunch. I imagine that my friends vociferating may have scared the offender who caused our wet woes to the point of never parking like that again. On the other hand, it may have accomplished absolutely nothing at all.

I accidentally left my accessible parking placard in the car of a friend of mine. He called to let me know that he had it so that I would not panic when I could not find it. “I can bring it back to you whenever you need. When do you need it next?” he questioned. “Bring it ASAP please because I will need it tomorrow morning” I explained. When he brought it to me, he explained: “I had to use it to run into the grocery store real quick to grab one thing.”

park pkacI proceeded to let him know that there is paperwork that goes along with the placard to prove it is yours. I also made him aware that either of us could get ticketed for him using it illegally. This citation could be handed out even if he had the paperwork. I would get the ticket if I let him use it unlawfully or he could be ticketed if he used it fraudulently and without my knowledge. Then I reminded him that these tickets for illegally using these placards are no joke costing on average $250 to $500.

The question is will he do this again? I don’t know, but he will not be using my placard.

cta mainstThe COTA bus arrived one day with two drivers one of them being a trainee. I had seen the trainer before, and he made a funny, smart comment. He said something about getting myself on the lift in a jovial way and I laughed. The trainee was shocked and said, “Are you not going to push him?” “Why,” the trainer asked. “Because he is in a wheelchair.” She said morosely. He explained that just because a person is in a wheelchair that does not mean that they are helpless or unintelligent. “Many of them live independently without issue” he proclaimed.

I say all of that to say this: I want to be seen as just another guy out in public. I do not want people to see me as less than or different. I refuse to ask for special treatment, and I do not want people to feel sorry for me. Many people hold doors open for me, and I appreciate that. Depending on the timing I try to hold doors open for other people. I do not cut in line or complain when there is no handicap parking.

I am in a wheelchair. It’s not who I am. It’s just how I get around.

Tug of war with a spider web…

createThere are many forms of creative people like authors, musicians, painters, designers, and even chefs. Individuals like Mark Jacobs, Monet, Mark Twain, Mozart, and Mark Peel are all imaginative and innovative people in their fields. Ingenious individuals like them get most of their inspiration from the many roadblocks of everyday life. This idea means that they did not become experts in their universes quickly or without some significant struggles.

usmcA person does not learn and grow only when life is silky smooth, and to become adept is even more of a challenge. These battles that life puts in your path are where you will find the separation of the neophyte and the proficient. A person is not handed the title of US Marine, but they earn it through thirteen weeks of arduous, exhausting challenges. The title is not dropped into their laps but bestowed upon them after all of the problematic provocations are complete.

In my search for blog creativity, I have earned insightful inspiration from books and TV shows. I have organized and obtained blog ideas from movies, music lyrics, podcasts, and even once from a partridge in a pear tree. The proper promulgation for my new blog topics is eluding my imagination. The usual wisps of wisdom that feed my inventiveness have become as elusive as the loch ness monster.

thI feel like my last few blogs were missing something, but I am not sure what it was. I feel that I need to experience a few more of life’s wisdoms and obstacles to provide me with more inspiration. As if my MS is not demanding enough, it is important that I endure more of life’s worldliness to give my readers an enjoyable blog. I need more exposure to everyday life and all that it has to offer good or bad.

I am sure that some individuals will tell me that my blog is excellent and that there are no issues with it. The question that I need to answer is, is it more important for my readers to be satisfied or for me? As the writer, I say that I have to be happy with it first because if not, it will not be understandable.

signSo I will be taking some time away from this blog to regain and recoup my creative juices. I will be reposting some of my earlier blogs in the meantime, so keep reading just in case you missed one. I am eager to return with all new and creative blogs to remind people of one fact that somebody has it worse than you, and they make it work.

You can be a watcher or get off the couch and get in the game.