93 days ago I made a committment.

Again.

My physical health has gone in cycles historically. If you’ve been here long enough, you’re well aware. I get big and unhealthy and unhappy and then I get HARDCORE about getting healthy again! So where am I right now?

April of 2019 I was the heaviest I’d ever been. Like, jaw-droppingly heavy (for me). Then, the switch flipped and I lost about 45 pounds in the next five months. At the end of August I hurt my back and it through everything off. I started making bad choice after bad choice and before you know it, I had regained a ton of the weight I had lost. I was embarrassed and frustrated and, honestly, somewhat hopeless.

Covid hit in March and shut everything down. You remember. I was at home all day every day and I had a choice to make. Would I just become bigger and more immobile? Or would I concentrate on my health again?

So, back on April 6th, I started again. I had gained all but about 10 pounds back.

The most helpful thing for me might sound dumb to you. I started an account on TikTok (@HealthyOneHanded) and every morning I give a one-minute update. I do a weigh-in and give a short report about the previous day and then talk about whatever else is on my mind. Sometimes I voice my frustration (June was a rough month!). Sometimes I talk about what’s been helpful for me lately.

It’s helped me to be consistent. Regardless of whether the day before was “good or bad,” I get on and talk about it. Because even though hundreds of people have joined my journey, these little videos are still ultimately for me. To keep me on track.

My focus over the last 93 days has been pretty simple. No official plan or program. Just eating better food and less of it while being active every day. That’s it. I use the Lose It! app on my phone to track what I eat and hit my calorie goals for the day (quality of the calories matters just as much as the quantity, just FYI) and I go for walks behind my house pretty much every day. I’ve been trying to be more consistent about doing more high-intensity workouts, but that’s still not where I want it to be.

Just by doing those few things, I’m back down 25+ pounds and on my way to where I’d like to maintain. If I continue the trajectory I’ve been on, I should hit my target weight in a couple months. But honestly, this is more of a long game for me than it’s ever been before.

June was tough, like I mentioned earlier. I lost about a pound and a half when my goal was to lose 6-8. That was really frustrating. But also, JUNE WAS BANANAS. I’m able to recognize that and be patient with myself. I decided not to weigh myself at all in July and just focus on eating healthy and working out/strength training and then we’ll see what happens on the scale come August 1st. I’ve also noticed my clothes are fitting better, which is probably an even better gauge of success than the number on the scale.

So, that’s where I am right now. I’m happy with how far I’ve come. I’m happy with the systems I have in place. I’m happy with the ideas I have for moving forward. I’m grateful for the encouragers in my life.

Tomorrow I’ll share what I’ve found to be most helpful so far for me and hopefully some of it will resonate with you, too!

A lesson from my bird friends.

All the birds I saw today could fly, but they did so in different ways. Some bounced through the sky like a tennis ball on a court. Some flew like a dart being thrown at a board. Some glided high and others screamed low to the ground. Some flitted and others wooshed their wings in big, powerful flaps.

House Sparrow

Some of them seemed desperate to get where they were going. Others appeared content to perch on a branch and rest for a while.

They’re a lot like us, birds.

We’re all moving through life and, while we’re all humans, we all do it differently. Some of us move fast. Some slow. Some are loud. Some don’t make a peep. Some are frantic and some are at rest.

And all of that is ok. Obviously there are exceptions, but for the most part, how you move through life is just fine. You might not do it like me, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

I’m grateful for my time outside each day, patiently watching my birds. It slows me down. It tests my patience. It makes me very happy.

I mean, except when they won’t stay still for my pictures, of course. But it’s that much more rewarding when I DO get the shot! 😊

Eastern Kingbird

So… However you’re moving through life right now is fine. Don’t compare how you’re doing it with how others are doing it. Assess your OWN journey carefully and consistently and make adjustments as needed, but don’t necessarily change just because you see someone else doing it differently. Be you. Move like you move.

“Marriage and parenting are two of the best and most difficult things you’ll ever do.” – Ryan Haack

Yeah, I quoted myself.

I had a great conversation with a friend the other day that made me think about this. He and his wife have a little guy with one hand and right now, they’re at different points on their journey of comfortability with it. They both love him beyond measure and neither are worried about HIS abilities, but one of them is more concerned about how others are going to interact/treat him than the other. And that’s made for some challenging conversations and situations.

I have to imagine this is incredibly common for parents of kids who have more/different needs. In fact, statistically, the divorce rate is higher for couples who are parents of a “special needs” child, so it’s definitely not something to ignore. I know it was challenging for my own parents. According to them, my mom was comfortable with my arm basically from day one, but it took a little while for my dad to get there. I remember my dad telling me that his mom, my grandma, essentially took me away from him in the hospital after I was born and told him, “Calvin, relax. Go take a walk. Everything is going to be fine. Ryan’s going to be great.” Thanks, grandma!

I also remember my dad telling me how difficult it was for him to take me to the park/grocery store/out in public when I was a baby because he was acutely aware of all the staring. “I’d see a little old lady staring at you with pity in her eyes and I’d look back at her like, ‘You wanna fight?!'” he told me. He was fiercely protective and I’m sure he perceived things that weren’t really there sometimes because his senses were so heightened. But that was his experience and what he needed to go through! Eventually he got to a point where it didn’t bother him anymore.

So, what’s my advice? I guess I’d view these more as my thoughts than advice.

I think good communication is key. This goes for anything, really, but especially in a marriage. And even more so when there are additional challenges! If good, clear communication is a challenge, enlist the help of a professional! I know that can be scary and somewhat expensive, but I really think it’s worth it. A third-party professional can help you see and understand yourself and your partner in ways that you can’t/wouldn’t on your own. It can be really difficult, but is ultimately SO good.

I think patience is also key. Maybe you have a kid with one hand and you don’t think twice about it, but your spouse always seems to be sad or upset or worried and it’s driving you nuts. Maybe you’re the one who is worried and you think your spouse doesn’t care at all and it infuriates you! Honestly, I think that’s all pretty normal. That’s why it’s so important to have that foundation of trust, grace, patience and clear communication. It’s so important to reiterate constantly that we’re on the same team so that when these situations come up, it’s not a “me against you” situation, but rather a “how do we best get through this together?” situation.

Ultimately – and I say this ALL the time – all we can do is our best, right? There’s no one right way to parent, but I think there are things that can help more than hurt, so I say, let’s try to do more of that, ya know? Love our kids and love each other. We all make mistakes, but as long as we’re loving each other through them, I think we’ll be ok.

I’m going to try to write more often, so please let me know if this is helpful. And ask me any questions you have!

Also, please share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!

My friends Steven and Anthony have a podcast called Perfect Movie. They pick movies they love, review them and give evidence that said movies are “perfect,” then ask their audience to vote whether they agree or not. Then they have a results show revealing whether the movie makes the perfect list. It’s a ton of fun!

The most recent movie they put on trial (Steven actually chose this one) was Mad Max: Fury Road. If you haven’t seen it, one of the main characters is Furiosa, a one-handed woman, played brilliantly by Charlize Theron. I wrote about it back in 2015, which you can read here.

Furiosa kicking butt one-handed.

Steven and Anthony invited me on the podcast to discuss the issues of representation in TV/movies, casting non-disabled actors in roles where the character has a disability and how TV/movies shape our perspectives about people with disabilities. We’ve known each other since middle school, so we have a great time and I think you’ll enjoy listening to it!

If you’re new to the podcast, I’d start with the Mad Max trial episode, and then listen to the one I’m on, which you can find here. You can also find it on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Take a listen and subscribe!

I would love to hear your thoughts after you listen! We didn’t have time to cover everything, obviously, but I’m hoping at least some of what I discussed with them connects with you.

I’m an Apple guy.

I have an iPhone and a MacBook Air and AirPod Pros. Love them all.

So, when I saw that the price dropped on the Series 3, I contemplated getting one. I’ve always thought they looked cool, but questioned how useful it would be for me. I asked on the LOH Facebook Page about the watch and 50+ comments rolled in, many of them from people with one hand who said they love theirs!

My friend Madelyn, who is missing her entire left arm, even shared her video about how she uses hers!

My video is not quite as instructional. Take a look:

Well, that was kind of awkward.

So…I don’t love it.

I’m not going to rant about accessibility, but…I will say a few words about it. Apple is not required to make this watch accessible for me. They can make it however they see fit. That said, I think it would behoove them to make it as accessible for as many people as they can. I think that about any product.

As you can probably see in the video, I was really frustrated with the band. I’ve used a multitude of different types of watch bands and have never had this much difficulty. I’m actually interested to know if two-handed people have difficulty with it, too. It just seems like an odd and overcomplicated design. And one of the things people love about Apple products is that you can open the package and use the item right away! Unfortunately, I have to spend an extra $50 to buy a different band just to be able to put it on by myself. That’s a pretty terrible user experience.

After I stopped recording, I paired it with my phone and played with it for a while. Again…frustrating. I got the 38mm, which just seems too small to be able to do anything worthwhile. The end of my left arm is not pointy(?) enough to be able to use it to do anything on the screen. And using the tip of my nose or having to talk to Siri about everything does not appeal to me.

So, in theory, the watch seems awesome. But in real life…not so much. At least for me.

My FitBit One works fine and I always have my phone on me, so I’m struggling to find a reason to keep it.

I haven’t returned it yet, though, so… What am I missing?

Convince me otherwise.

Hey, friends!

I hope you’re healthy and making through this unprecedented time in our history as well as possible. Personally I’m doing ok and as I was going through things in my garage last night, I had an idea.

I found a cache of LOH merch and thought now might be a great time to make it all available so you can get something fun in the mail!

Here’s how it’ll work:

Items are limited, so email me what you want first at ryan@livingonehanded.com. I’ll reply to let you know if what you requested is available and provide my Venmo/PayPal IDs (I’m only going to do these two methods of payment for this to try and keep things simple – thanks for understanding)! Items will be sold on a first come, first served basis.

I’ll only be shipping within the US at this time.

All prices below include shipping, too!

$2 each. Postcards! I’m happy to write a message of your choosing or write one of my own!
$3 each. Stickers! These are the only ones I have left!
$4 each. Magnets! I actually couldn’t believe I found these!
$12 each! “Imperfect” Books! The inside of these are in perfect condition, but the outside isn’t quite right. So, these are perfect if you need one for your little one to abuse, er, enjoy! lol
(6 available)
$10 each! I have TWO books that I will slice out a page of your choosing and sign for you! Suitable for framing! That’s what you say, right?
$10 each. Years ago I sent a box of baseballs and cards for Jim Abbott to sign. I included some LOH stuff for him to keep. He signed that stuff, too. lol So, these are the only ones of these in existence!
(Top one is a magnet, the others are business cards)
Bookmarks! I have a million of these, so I’ll sign and include one with every order (except postcards)!

Y’all are so awesome and I hope this brings a little smile to your face and puts a spring in your step on the way to your mailbox! Let me know if you have ANY questions!

Sincerely, Ryan

Sometimes our good intentions cause great harm.

That’s what I learned recently when I brought up the conversation around disabled parking, specifically in regards to those who use it who have “invisible disabilities.” Invisible disabilities include a wide range of medical conditions that can cause severe pain and/or exhaustion, but you can’t necessarily tell that a person has it just by looking at them.

A woman shared her story about being harassed by a police officer because she “didn’t look like she was disabled,” and while I agreed that the officer could have handled it better, I proposed that perhaps the other side of the story is that he was actually trying to protect her/people with disabilities by questioning someone who was using the spot who didn’t appear to need it. I’ve heard those stories before where someone was questioned/harassed for using an entrance or parking spot specifically for those with a disability, when in fact they have a disability, but it’s not visually apparent.

To be clear, I’ve never actually confronted anybody like this. I’ve called the cops when I saw people park in a spot without a placard, but have never directly spoken to someone who had one, but who I suspected was abusing it. Many people do, with good and helpful intentions, but…

Please stop doing that.

Here’s the deal. This response made me rethink and eventually change my philosophy about this:

See, I can’t stand injustice. That’s why I love when people stick-up for those being taken advantage of. So, when someone takes justice into their own hands and tries to make things right, I’m all for it. I get it. What my friend said here, though, made me realize that when we do this (in regards to these parking spots, specifically), we’re making assumptions that can ultimately hurt the person we are trying to help.

My new philosophy is this: If a person has a placard displayed, I will trust that they went through the correct channels to obtain it and believe that they need it. I will not confront or silently judge them, even if it doesn’t appear that they need it. I have no idea why they have it and, to be blunt, it’s none of my business.

Do people take advantage of it? Yes. Do people abuse it? Yes. (And if you’re reading this and that’s you, KNOCK IT OFF.) But, by and large, I would guess that’s few and far between. And I don’t EVER want to be the reason that someone who needs it chooses not to use it because of the harassment of a well-intentioned social justice warrior. Are there ways I could creatively and kindly address the situation? Sure. But again, making a person explain themselves, even if I’m doing so “kindly,” is still not a good experience for that person. And they don’t owe me an explanation, to be honest.

Let’s concentrate on being inclusive and in making things more accessible for those who need them to be. Let’s be kind without being accusatory. We’re all in this together.

Thoughts? Have you experienced this before? Please feel free to share your story/experience in the comments!

“What’s your favorite thing about yourself?” she asked, wide smile on her face.

I just stood there. My eyebrows shot up.

“Wow,” I said.

Let me set the scene. This was at the end of a very full day at a school in Cranberry Township, PA. I had already led two assemblies, gone to lunch with ten people, signed 120 books and visited a classroom where I was asked questions like, “Would you rather wear a ballgown every day for a year or a belly-shirt on your birthday for the rest of your life?” (I LOVED the classroom visit questions, by the way!)

At the end of the assemblies I lead, I save time for the kids to ask me questions and oftentimes they ask about my favorite color, number, sport, hobby, food (it’s a medium rare steak) and other fairly trivial bits of information. Sometimes they’ll ask if I was ever bullied or if I wish I had two hands or if I remember when I realized not everybody is like me. So, at the end of this full day, at the end of the third assembly, when this adorable 2nd grade girl asked me my favorite thing about myself…I froze.

Back row, blonde hair, yellow shirt. That’s her.

I actually think I made her repeat it. It was jarring. I travel around the country telling whoever will listen that they’re awesome just the way they are. I challenge the audience at the end of my talk to think of one thing about themselves that’s different about themselves than anybody else and, if they happen to not like that thing, to try and think of a way to view it positively. I also challenge them to tell one friend one thing they think is awesome about them. Even so, I was taken aback and couldn’t think of anything about myself! I suddenly felt both self-conscious and arrogant.

I eventually stammered my way to an answer that’s actually true, though. I told her that I love my sense of humor and that I’m able to make people laugh. It brings me so much joy when I’m able to do that.

It really made me think, though. Why did it catch me so off-guard? Why did I have such a difficult time answering?

I think we’re kind of conditioned to think that liking something about ourselves is prideful or arrogant. But, that isn’t inherently true. It can be, and we have all experienced that, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s incredibly healthy to like who you are. We should all like who we are! And if we don’t, we have some work to do.

Clearly I have some work to do. And her question opened my eyes to that. It was a great reminder for me to do the work that leads to a healthy view of myself, so that I can authentically do the same for others. And honestly, that makes me really excited.

So…what’s YOUR favorite thing about YOU?!

(Thank you to everyone at Rowan Elementary for the incredible day!)

Today is the five year anniversary of my dad’s death by suicide.

As I sat down to write this, I had an idea of the angle I wanted to take, but it wasn’t one I necessarily wanted to explore. I opened Spotify and McCoy Tyner’s “Search For Peace” came on, so I’m going to take that as a sign.

I’m still on Facebook, so this is a tough time of year with the whole “Memories” business (Facebook reminds you of posts you made on that day in previous years) and I shared one of them, acknowledging that it’s going to be a rough week. A dear friend replied, suggesting I retell my favorite stories about my dad to keep his memory alive.

I love that idea. I have to be honest, though. It also stresses me out. And makes me feel like a bad person. I feel like I should have this treasure trove of amazing stories about my dad and me and, well, I just don’t.

Please stick with me here.

My parents divorced when I was like four and I lived with my mom for most of my formative years. I saw my dad every other weekend, for the most part. He helped coach me some when I played baseball and he came to all of my concerts and plays. I never doubted that he was proud of me, we just didn’t have a lot of actual time together. I wish it was different, but that’s life.

So, when I try to remember stories, it can be challenging. Honestly, I’m not very good with memories on the whole and part of me thinks it’s some sort of defense mechanism or something. In any event, I wish I had more and better stories and it makes me feel terrible that I don’t.

But…

The truth is that I do have stories. I have to dig for them, but I’m willing to grab a damn shovel and get to work. And what’s fun is that, sometimes when you start digging, you strike oil. Ok, I don’t know if that analogy is working, but you get the point.

My dad was a hunter. I was not. But, I liked to go with him and he was patient with me every time. Without fail, we’d get to our spot and hunker down and I’d tell him I was cold. “I can’t feel my toes, dad!” I’d whine. Then he’d take off my boots, one at a time, hold them upside-down and use his lighter to make them warm for me. I’m fairly certain he never got a deer when I was with him.

One year I decided I’d surprise him and take hunter’s safety so I could actually go hunt with him! It was amazing! And when I say amazing, I mean that we went and sat in our blind for days on end, seeing no deer. “Dad, can I just shoot whatever we see next?” I asked. He said I could, as long as it was big enough. I had borrowed my Uncle Dan’s semi-automatic rifle, which is important for you to know because when a big doe finally wandered out of the woods and I looked at my dad excitedly, he nodded his approval and I aimed…fired… “I MISSED!” I yelled. “SHOOT ‘ER AGAIN!” he yelled back. I forgot I was using a semi-automatic. I squinted through the scope, she looked back, I shot again and down she went. Didn’t take a step. Perfect shot. I looked at my dad and asked, “Is that it?” “What a shot, ya goober!” he laughed. And that was the only deer I ever bagged in my entire life.

My dad was also good at pulling me up. Metaphorically, sure, but also literally. Once at my Uncle Larry’s farm we were walking through the pasture and I stepped in a mud puddle that went halfway up my thigh. Instantly, dad grabbed me and yanked me out. My boot, though, stayed. “Welp, she’s gone,” he muttered and carried me back to the house. Another time we were fishing, perfect little spot at the bend of this stream. We were surrounded by farm land, sitting on a cooler, our lines in the water. I was admiring the cows when all of a sudden BOOM! Something – I assume a big carp – took my bait and pulled little me right off the cooler towards the water. Again, instantly, my dad grabbed me, saving me from my watery fate, as we watched my pole disappear into the murky abyss. “Welp, she’s gone,” he muttered and we walked back to the car to get a different pole.

Two of my favorite stories are difficult to stomach, so I understand if you skip passed them, but…they are funny. I’m the star of the first one. My dad worked for the City of Middleton (WI) Parks Department for decades and one year, on Mother’s Day, he had to go check on a couple of the parks. I thought it would be fun to go with him, so I tagged along. Before we left to come home and while he cleaned something up, I decided to lay down on the merry-go-round, grabbing the edge with my hand, my little head hanging off watching the ground go by as I spun around and around and around. When it was time to go, I hopped in the car and off we went the couple minutes back to the house. As we walked up the driveway, my dad saw the neighbors all outside, gathered for their Mother’s Day festivities. “Well, happy Mother’s Day! This is my son, Ryan!” he proudly said. They all looked at me. I looked at them. And then…I PUKED EVERYWHERE. So much, you guys. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I know he didn’t make me feel bad. I think he said I had been having too much fun or something.

The other one was at my brother Billy’s graduation party. It was a beautiful day. They had gotten one of those backyard tents and there was tons of food. My wife and I had just arrived with our toddler son, Sam, and were making our way through the crowd of family and friends that were assembled to celebrate my brother’s accomplishments. Just as our arrival was announced, tiny little Sam unleashed a veritable tidal wave of vomit all over me. Or maybe it was all over my dad. This is what I mean…somebody will help me remember.

I think another reason this is so hard for me is because I love stories. And I wish I had made more with him. And I wish I could make more still. I wish my kids could make more with him. But we can’t and that makes me sad. Even so, I’ll keep mining my memories for stories of me and him. Circumstance dictated that we didn’t get to make as many memories together as I’d have liked, but there are plenty to keep my heart happy.

My step-mom posted this article yesterday and in it he talks about how, when someone we love dies, part of us dies with them. And that part is the memories we uniquely shared. There are stories my dad could tell me (or clarify for me) of times he and I shared alone together that I don’t remember and now, those are gone. And dammit, he was a great storyteller. I will always miss that. It’s heart-breaking, honestly, but it’s just a part of life, right?

So, today, I remember what I can about my dad. The good, the bad, and everything in-between. And I’ll look to my family and his friends to fill-in the parts I don’t remember or never knew. And that will need to be enough.

Miss you, dad. We all miss your story-telling. Even if you did tell the same ones over and over, sometimes. I’d give anything to hear you tell another story, but I’m thankful for the ones I did get to hear. And I’m grateful for the stories we made together.

Suicide Still Sucks

September 10, 2019 — Leave a comment

My youngest brother had his first baby a couple weeks ago. Little Madison Jo. She couldn’t be cuter! I was able to take my family to visit last week and we had a nice time filled with baby snuggles and smiles.

Maddie Jo

And while it wasn’t something that cast a shadow on the visit, per se, I have to admit that I thought about my dad missing out on it. We knew this day was coming. The day his first grandbaby would be born who he didn’t get to hold. Maddie Jo won’t ever get to feel his hugs, bounce on his knee, hear his laugh, see his smile. At least not in-person.

That sucks.

It sucks for my brother and his wife. It sucks for Maddie Jo.

And yet, here we are. And we’ll deal with it. MJ will be loved and supported incredibly by everyone around her. As will Joey and Megan. And while people mean well when they say things like, “He’s still here in spirit!” and “Don’t worry, he sees! And he’s smiling!” the truth is, it’s not the same. At all. It just isn’t.

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today and I’ve been thinking about my dad more than usual lately. My birthday is tomorrow, which I forget every year, too. Well, I don’t forget that it’s my birthday, just that it’s always so close to WSPD.

And honestly, I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom this year. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. In every way. The last year has been really challenging. Ultimately good, but really hard, and it doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon. Which is ok. My wife, my kids, my family, my friends… I know they’re with me. And I know even better things are on the horizon.

If you asked me right now, I’d tell you I’m not mad at my dad. I’m sad that he’s gone, absolutely. He’s missing Sam as a high schooler and my girls as beautiful middle schoolers. I love hanging out with them and I know he would, too. They’re smart and funny. They’re so damn funny. And they get that from him.

That’s where I go every time I think about losing my dad to suicide. It’s not about me. It’s about my kids losing their Papa. That’s what tears me up. Of course I wish I had more time with him, but they’re the ones I ache for.

But, it isn’t constant. I doubt I even think about him every day. Which is normal, but it doesn’t sound very good. There are a lot of people in my life I love, but don’t think about every day. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them. It just means I’m living my life and I think about them when something reminds me of them. It’s the same with my dad.

Sometimes people ask me if it gets easier. I usually say it just gets different, but if I’m honest, I think it has gotten easier for me. It’s gotten easier for me to handle my feelings over time. They typically aren’t as strong and when I do feel intense sadness, it’s usually for a shorter amount of time. At least that’s where I’m at right now, nearly five years later. Hard to believe it’s been that long.

So, today you’re going be bombarded with messages about how you’re needed. About how you’re important. About how this world needs your voice. About how you make it a better place.

And all of those things are true.

You’re going to be told to reach out if you’re struggling. That you’re not alone. That we’re in this together.

And all of those things are true.

You’re going to be told to check on your friends. To look for signs. That you can make a difference in the lives of your friends who are struggling.

And all of those things are true.

Do your best to believe them.

You really do make today better.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please get help immediately. Call 911, contact a counselor, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline, call a friend…I know you might not believe it, but people love you and are there to help. There are other options.

If you’ve experienced loss, you probably already know this, but the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a wonderful resource to help us heal. My friend Jamie’s organization, TWLOHA, is amazing, too.