I need you to do two things right now:

  1. Think of the names of three people in your life that have made a positive impact on you.
  2. Tell them you appreciate them and why.

Text them. Call them. Write them. Email them. Visit them in person. I don’t care how you do it, I just need you to tell them and to do your best to make sure they understand the difference they’ve made in your life.

This is weighing on me heavily today.

A co-worker sent me a lovely email about a talk I gave a few weeks ago. She was so kind and encouraging and toward the end of her note she shared that she lost her father to lung cancer a little over a year ago. “He was very humbled by all of the people in his life that reached out to extend their concern and well wishes. He got choked up (which didn’t happen often) when he would say, ‘You never know the impact that you have on people,'” she said. “I was grateful that he was able to see that, as I think many people never do. It is really touching to know what an inspiration you have been to the world and I can understand why you, too, got choked up speaking about that.”

When she said that “many people never do,” I thought of my dad. I lost my dad to suicide at the end of 2014. Today I’m struggling with it more than I do most days. Shortly before he took his life, he was celebrated by hundreds of people who came to show their appreciation at a retirement event. He worked hard for his city, making it beautiful for 30+ years. He knew everybody. He was also a baseball coach for years and impacted boys who turned into young men who then waited in line for hours to pay their respects at his wake. The line at his wake was embarrassingly long. The number of people who came was overwhelming.

He wasn’t perfect, but he made a positive impact on so many lives and I hope he understood that to some degree.

Honestly, I’m still learning how to accept compliments, too. I frequently get messages thanking me for Different Is Awesome! and my talks and school visits and the website and I promise you every one of them makes me smile. Even so, I still struggle to embrace them, which I think happens to a lot of us. We’re insecure. We’re a little embarrassed, maybe. We deflect. We even forget the good notes and instead remember any negative ones we’ve received!

So, the challenge here is two-fold. First, make sure you’re actively thanking the people in your life who are affecting you in a positive way. Often. Chances are they need to hear it more than you know. Second, let’s learn how to embrace compliments and kindness appropriately. When you help others, feel the warmth and gratitude when they thank you. Remember that you are valuable and that it’s not arrogance to think so.

It’s the truth.

My children’s book, Different Is Awesome!, has been out for less than a year.

I always had high hopes that it would affect people positively.

I even had this crazy notion that it could change the world.

Some people told me that expectation was ridiculous.

I begged to differ.

And continue to do so.

The first print run was a touch over 3,000 books (they forgot to shut the printer off).

I’m happy to announce that it’s already time for the 2nd printing of Different Is Awesome!

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There are still, like, 30 copies left in the warehouse, so I’m hopeful that if you’ve ordered a copy recently or plan to shortly, you’ll still get one of those. If not, the wait shouldn’t be too long as the 2nd edition is set to be completed by late June.

Thank you SO much for all of your support and for sharing your pictures and stories over the last year. Every single one makes me smile.

And here’s the deal…this is just the beginning.

Let’s keep making the world a better place!

Sincerely,

Ryan

I like to smell good.

Which is kind of a win-win situation for me and whoever is near me, right?

The other day Andy sent me a message, saying, “I’ve got a question for you…. As my son (LBE) is getting older (he’s 10), he’s needing to start wearing deodorant. How do you apply deodorant to your armpit?”

First of all, I LOVE THAT I GET QUESTIONS LIKE THESE. For real.

Secondly…watch this video to see how I do it. Parents, you especially will enjoy this.

What about you? Have you discovered any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Certain brands or types of deodorant that work better than others? Share your experience in the comments below!

Our instinct as a parent is to protect our kids.

That’s a good thing.

Sometimes, though, we need to protect them by not protecting them.

See, we spend a lot of time teaching kids how to be polite to others who have differences and that’s super important, but parents of children with differences also have the task of equipping their child with the ability to handle what are oftentimes awkward and sometimes even hurtful situations. My friend Eric recently shared one of these somewhat awkward experiences that his son Sam had.

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Eric is one of my favorite people on planet Earth and I love that he shared this. It’s a universal experience for parents of a physically different child. Our instinct is to jump in, right? To protect our child by correcting the offender. Maybe teach the person a lesson. Or at least let our kid know we have her back. Mama bear, etc. And honestly, this is true for any kid, regardless of their limb configuration.

I remember having a talk with my dad about this once and what he told me made a lot of sense. He said that when I was little and I encountered a situation where another kid was being pushy or asking questions over and over or touching my arm without asking…he would keep his distance and just watch. He said it was almost unbearable at times, but, “I knew you were going to have to deal with this for your whole life, so I wanted you to learn how you best dealt with it.” Of course he would have stepped in if things got out of hand (so to speak), but he couldn’t remember ever having to do that. Sometimes he’d talk with me about what happened afterwards, just to see how I was doing, and I’m sure that helped to reinforce the skills I had just worked on.

I realize that telling people how to parent is basically like prancing into a mine field, so please take this for what it’s worth. I’ve seen and experienced the value in this approach first-hand, which is why I’m sharing it and I hope it challenges you and that you find it helpful, too. It’s not easy, I know, but in the long run I think it puts our kids at an advantage and makes them even stronger.

What do you think? Is this your approach, too? Have any other tips from your experience? Please share them below!

Some time back I connected with Joe from SleppSolutions.

Joe invented something that I think is pretty awesome.

This device is called Free Hand Fitness and Joe invented it so that folks with arthritis and/or hand and wrist issues could still get the physical benefits of doing push-ups, rows, planks and more! Joe isn’t personally affected by limb-difference, but saw that it could be useful for those of us who are, which is awesome. You can see Shaholly using it in the video above! The device itself is really well made using high quality materials; this thing is not going to break and looks like it’ll last forever!

Personally, I tried using the device many times and Joe went out of his way to try and get it to work for me, but I found that the vast difference in bicep circumference between my left and right arms was just too much to overcome. So, totally not the fault of the device itself. My left arm ends very shortly after the elbow, so I just don’t have much to work with there; less than Shaholly (above). I believe the device will work perfectly, though, for anybody whose forearms are similar in size.

Excited to try out my new #FreeHandFitness exercise system! Thanks, Joe! @sleppsolutions @shahol1 #adaptiveathlete

A photo posted by Ryan Haack (@livingonehanded) on

One of the challenges we have as adaptive athletes is maintaining some semblance of symmetry when we workout our upper-body. Free Hand Fitness helps tremendously in this area! Definitely check it out and see if you think it might work for you!

Joe has been kind enough to extend a discount to all my readers, too! If you enter LOH (in all-caps) at checkout, you’ll get $15 off!

Head over to Free Hand Fitness, take a look around and see if the device might help you meet your fitness goals today!

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What are your biggest fitness challenges?

Running has always been a solitary activity for me.

Provided I’m not being chased, of course.

It’s also never come very easily to me; distance running, at least. I was a sprinter in high school, but if you ever got me over 200 meters, I was toast. In fact, the summer between my 8th and 9th grade years I went to the informational meeting about running cross country and then I tried to run home to see what it was like.

It did not go well.

I did not join the cross country team.

So, when I took up running in my early thirties, it was kind of a big deal. I documented my training for my first 5k and my first 10k. Every time I went out and every time I ran a race, it was an event. Which is totally great, but the last couple of races I’ve run I’ve had one thought going through my mind:

This is all about me.

I love the sense of accomplishment. I love getting the medal at the end of the race. I love the free beer (I think this might be a Wisconsin thing). I love making the perfect playlist and getting lost in the run. And none of these are inherently bad, don’t get me wrong. But, I felt like something was missing.

The reason I’ve felt like this the last couple races is because before each of them, I ran into an amazing group of people. They’re called myTEAM TRIUMPH.

Love @myteamtriumphwi! Can’t wait to volunteer!

A video posted by Ryan Haack (@livingonehanded) on

You’ll notice that I posted this last May and I’m happy to announce that I’m going to volunteer this year! myTEAM TRIUMPH’s mission is “to enrich the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities by fostering lasting, authentic relationships through the teamwork environment of endurance athletics.” Basically what will happen is that I will be teamed-up with at least two of my good friends (Geoff and Jake) and we will be the “Angels” for our Captain as we run a 10k in beautiful downtown Madison, WI at the end of May. The Captain has a disability that prevents them from completing the race on their own, which is where we come in.

I’m really excited about this for a number of reasons, one of which is that I hope there’s some confusion about whether I’m a Captain or an Angel. “Well…uh…he’s missing part of his arm, but…he seems to be able to run fine, so…” But, jokes aside, I’m incredibly excited to run this race for someone else. And with my friends. Obviously I anticipate that it will be a life-changing experience for me personally, but the purpose of the event is to help someone else. That’s incredibly motivating to me.

And, in an effort to surprise absolutely nobody, I can confirm that I start to…um…get emotional every time I watch a video about myTEAM TRIUMPH. I was showing this one to my wife the other night and suddenly she was like, “Dude, are you crying?! Seriously, you weren’t lying!” Nope. I was not.

And this is where you come in.

The bare minimum we need to fundraise to participate is $100.

I would love to obliterate that number.

For more information and to donate, please go to My Fundraising Page!

I’ll be updating that page as we begin to train and go through the myTEAM TRIUMPH experience together.

As always, thank you all so much for your support.

You’re the best. 🙂

I love a good bag.

It has to look cool, but even more importantly, it has to be functional and easy to use with one hand.

The Daylight Briefcase by Tom Bihn fits the bill in spades.

I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story.

Like I say in the video, I was initially surprised by how small it is, but as long as you have realistic expectations it’s perfect. In fact, I’ve found that it has helped me to really think about what I’m taking with me when I go out and kept me from just throwing the whole world in my bag. Feels good to travel light!

If you’re looking for a compact, lightweight, durable, beautiful everyday bag, I highly recommend you checkout the Daylight Briefcase.

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Thanks to Darcy and the awesome team at TomBihn.com for providing the gear to review. Opinions are my own, of course.

My mother-in-law had shoulder surgery recently.

“Can I borrow one of your KNORKs?” she asked me afterwards.

Of course I said yes.

If you’re unfamiliar, KNORK makes amazing, high-quality silverware. You can read and see more specifics about their utensils here, but this guy is the piece that those of us with one hand (or the use of one hand) gravitate toward:

knork

Basically, the head of the fork is forged in such a way that it works like a knife, allowing you to cut and eat your food using only one utensil and one hand. Here’s a real life example from when we got our first KNORKs years ago:

That video is from 2013 and we’ve literally been using our KNORK flatware every day since. We still absolutely love it!

In fact, it’s on my Holiday Gift Guide, but you know who else loves it this year? Oprah. Oprah loves it and has placed it on her list of Favorite Things for 2015! So cool!

And now we get to the part I love.

This year’s giveaway is, in my opinion, THE BEST YET!

Sarah and the amazing folks at KNORK are graciously providing amazing prize packages for TWO lucky winners! So, what will you get if you win? You will get one 20-piece set (valued at $80) AND a set of their new steak knives (valued at $50)!

knork set knork steak

You have TONS of chances to win, too. Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter and share like a maniac for more chances to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You have ONE week to rack up as many entries as you can! Go nuts and good luck!

I went to see my counselor the other day.

I had been struggling with the fact that the one year anniversary of my dad’s death was coming up and I wanted to make sure I did everything correctly…whatever that means. Should I go to the cemetery at sunrise? Or dusk? Should we hold some sort of vigil or remembrance service? Should I cry? How much is too much? Or should I laugh and smile, remembering the good times? What should that balance look like? Should I talk about it with the kids? Should I treat it like any other day? I don’t want to ruin the day by overthinking what I’m going to do or how I’m going to feel!

This is why I went to see my counselor.

He basically reiterated what my friend Cabell told me, which was, “Just do whatever you want, even if it’s nothing.” There’s no “right way,” which is difficult for someone like me who always needs to know exactly how to do something. Like, when the LEGO blocks come out, I’m the one asking for the instruction booklet. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.

This groundwork in place, he asked me, “As it relates to the memory of your father, what would bring you joy?” I just sat there for a bit, trying to wrap my mind around the question. “Can you give me an example?” I asked. I really did. Eventually I said that I’d like to be able to remember times we had together that made me laugh and the times my kids had with him. Then I started saying how it’s hard to divorce the fact that he was such a great dad and grandfather, “but he killed himself” and my counselor stopped me and said, “Not but, and.” I asked him to explain.

“When you say but, you essentially negate everything before it, which I know is not your intention. What you mean to say is, ‘He was a great man and he killed himself.’ Both are true and one doesn’t negate the other,” he said.

Words are incredible. Exchange three letters for three others and suddenly the whole message is different.

Knowing my love for words, he then made this suggestion: “I’d like for you to write a poem for your dad.”

And I broke.

Well, I swore and then I broke.

“Perhaps this is something you could do every year. Maybe it becomes a tradition. Or maybe not. It’s up to you,” he said.

It’s a brilliant idea. I love poetry. In fact, years ago I won a contest to study poetry with Sage Cohen and it was amazing. So, I left my counselor’s office and I began to think about what I’d write. I searched for memories I had with my dad that made me happy. I started writing them down and, well, there were many. “This is going to be a long poem,” I thought. Instead of getting overwhelmed, though, I started with just one memory. I’m sure I’ll write the other ones and maybe they’ll become a collection or something, but for now, I just want to share this one.

It Was Magic

You had me fooled for years

in that old car.

“Just snap your fingers,” you said,

then you snapped and smiled,

and on came the high beams.

You were a magician!

Snap.

On.

Snap.

Off.

You told me to try, so I did

and just like you said they would,

the high beams turned on and off

when I snapped my

little fingers.

I was a magician, too!

Not until years later did you

reveal your secret.

That button on the floor you

pressed with your foot each time

either of us snapped was what

really turned them on and off.

“But, dad,” I argued,

“They even turned on when I

snapped quietly, just to test it!”

And I know you said you

heard me even then,

but part of me

still thinks

it was

magic.

 

So, today, on the one year anniversary of your death, dad, I remember you. I remember the times in that car when you made me feel like magic was real. I remember that you loved making me smile and laugh and I know I inherited the desire to do the same for others from you. Thank you. I miss you every day and I’m continuing to learn how to live my life without you here. Sometimes I get angry and oftentimes I’m sad, but I’ll never stop loving you. Julie misses you and the kids miss their Papa terribly, but we’ll do our best to remember the things that make us smile. I know you’d want us to do that.

Love you, dad

Red Huffy and High Socks.

**Offer extended TODAY ONLY (November 28th) in honor of Small Business Saturday!**

The holidays are approaching quickly, which means one thing: YOU GOTTA START BUYING GIFTS NOW!

That, or you’ve been reading posts that make you feel bad about the commercialization of the holidays and have vowed to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays.

But still…presents.

Seriously, though, one popular guideline for gift-requesting-and-giving that I really like is this poem:

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

Simple, yet robust.

And to help you with the “something to read” portion, I would like to offer you this LIMITED TIME OFFER! I’m told when you capitalize things and use exclamation points it makes it look super important.

From now until November 19th – ONE WEEK ONLY! – you can get an AUTOGRAPHED, PERSONALIZED (“For Jimmy! You’re awesome!”) copy of Different Is Awesome! AND a STICKER and BOOKMARK (which are not currently available anywhere else) for only $25! Shipping included (US only)!

Book, Sticker and Bookmark!

Book, Sticker and Bookmark!

I’ll be taking orders until the 19th, so if you’re interested shoot me an email at ryan@livingonehanded.com with the following information:

Your name and address, how you want your book(s) personalized and whether you’d rather send a check or be invoiced via PayPal.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

Act now by entering the Rafflecopter thingy below and you also have a chance to win one package for FREE! The more you share it, the better your chances of winning, which is basically all kinds of awesome.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, on a serious note, I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response to the book over the last several months and really hope this is a special way to keep the message spreading. If you’re not into the holiday package thing, you can totally still get the book through all the regular channels here.

Thanks for being so awesome!

Ryan