“He’s just…gone.”

I sat on my brother’s bed shortly after they took my dad away and I said that phrase over and over. That’s it. Period. The story he told with his life was finished. He wouldn’t add anything else.

That’s one of the many strange things about an unexpected death. One minute they’re here…the next they’re gone. That’s it. It’s different when someone is going through a lengthy illness or has reached the end of a long life. It’s still sad and painful when we lose them, but there’s a preparation that takes place. There’s time for saying goodbye. You can ask questions you’ve been wondering about and reminisce with them. When my grandpa passed away, it made sense. It wasn’t a shock. It was incredibly painful to lose him, especially for my dad, but it certainly wasn’t unexpected. Once he died, we mourned his loss, but thanked God for the long life he lived and the example he was for all of us.

I wish we could have done that for my dad…30 years from now.

But, as sudden and as painful as my dad’s death was and continues to be, today I was reminded that life happens just as suddenly.

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It’s Been Three Weeks

December 9, 2014 — 2 Comments

Yesterday makes three weeks since I lost my dad.

There are times it feels like forever ago and other times – like today – when it feels like it was yesterday.

11:25am “LITERAL 911! CALL ME NOW!”

I’ll never forget seeing that text from my wife and the subsequent phone call. “I don’t know how to tell you this. Joey told me to stay calm,” she said.

Today I had an early lunch – 11:30am – and I drove the same route I took at the same time three weeks ago, only this time slower and for different reasons.

People keep asking me how I’m doing.

That’s a difficult question to answer, honestly.

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My wife is incredible. She has been my rock throughout the last few weeks. She’s also an amazing writer. So, when she said she, too, wanted to share her experience of telling our kids about my dad’s passing, my heart leapt. The following piece is her perspective of the events so far. Be moved. Be encouraged.

I am the oldest of four kids, and throughout my childhood, my parents would call us together for “Family Meetings” on a fairly regular basis. I have very distinct memories of 3 of those meetings, when instead of bouncing around and chatting about piano recitals or family trips, we were told solemnly to “sit down so we can talk”. We could feel the atmosphere change during these family meetings, and we would just stay quiet as we watched my father tear up and my mother console him as he filled us in on the deaths of three of my grandparents. It was difficult, but manageable. The weeks after these meetings were full of relatives and funerals and then we would fall back into our loud, busy lifestyle. After those few years, we never had any serious family meetings like that again. They are just a memory for me now.

When Ryan and I had children and I became a part of the HUMONGOUS Haack family, I knew that difficult family meetings come with the territory. I have been preparing myself for the conversations that are required for parenthood since Sam was born. I am ready to discuss braces, prom dates, first jobs, college choices, “the talk”, and even death. I just had this image of us sitting in our living room, calm, yet tearing up as we described the passing of any of our loved ones. I thought I was prepared for all of this.

Turns out, there is NO WAY to prepare for having to tell three precious children that their beloved “Papa” had taken his own life.

Gramma Donna, Papa and the kids

Gramma Donna, Papa and the kids

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“Mom, today I’m gonna wear the boots Papa gave me. They’re awesome. I’m gonna wear ‘em when he takes me hunting, too!”

That’s what my son said to my wife the morning after my father’s death, before we had told him what happened.

I’m still not sure how she didn’t break.

 

The boots Papa gave to Sam.

The boots Papa gave to Sam.

Far and away the most difficult task in the immediate aftermath of my dad’s death was having to tell my kids.

What will we say? And when? How much will we tell them? Will they understand it? Are they going to scream and cry? Is Anna going to be her stoic little self? Is this going to break Sam? Can we do this?

It was daunting, to say the least. On Monday night my wife called a counselor friend of ours who gave us great advice and we did our best to follow it. She said to tell the kids (Sam, 10, Anna, 9, Claire, 7) as far away from bedtime as possible, which ruled out Tuesday, so Julie and I prayed together Tuesday night and prepared to tell the kids Wednesday morning so we’d have all day to be together.

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On November 12th, 2014, I wrote a post titled “How To Talk To Someone Struggling With Depression.” It was about the stigma that still exists around issues of mental health and how we can help each other communicate appropriately. In it I mentioned my Uncle Ed’s suicide from nearly 30 years ago. I didn’t publish the post because I thought I sounded like a jerk and wanted to figure out how to rewrite it with a more encouraging tone.

On November 17th, 2014, my father took his own life.

This post is part of my process, part of my healing. It’s not all-inclusive and I don’t have all the answers.

But, I do have my experience. And maybe my experience can help you. I pray that it would.

I know for me, it was hard to believe that what happened was true. I have never used the word “unbelievable” more literally in my entire life. It’s strange what your brain does when you lose someone unexpectedly. For the first few days there were times I fully expected him to walk in the room and everything would be ok. Even at the visitation when I saw him laying there, I had this feeling he was going to open his eyes and say, “Hey! Why the hell am I in this box??”

But he didn’t. It was true. And it’s still true today.

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Last year Sarah introduced me to the KNORK.

AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER.

Ok, maybe that’s overstating it a bit, but we still love and use our KNORKs every day in our house.

For the uninitiated, KNORK flatware is finely-crafted, heavy and durable. The fork is kind of a combination of a fork and a knife, which is amazing for those of us with only one hand. Like I alluded to earlier, though, our whole family loves them and all the rest of those weirdos have two hands. Long story short: No matter how many hands you have, if you value quality kitchen utensils, KNORK is for you.

Watch this video I made to see me un-box my set and use them. It’s super dorky, but my reaction is genuine.

Here’s where it gets fun.

Anybody here into early Christmas or Haunakuh presents?

First of all, BRAND NEW to the KNORK line-up, I present to you the BLACK MATTE TITANIUM flatware! It’s unbelievable.

Does that look awesome or what?  (Click the picture to purchase)

Does that look awesome or what?
(Click the picture to purchase)

What I’m even MORE excited to offer you is the chance to win a FREE 20-Piece Glossy Set OR 20-Piece Top Chef Set!

Glossy (Click picture to see more)

Glossy
(Click picture to see more)

Top Chef Set (Click picture for more)

Top Chef Set
(Click picture for more)

There are several ways to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and you can do many of them EVERY DAY, racking-up more entries every time!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter, share and cross your fingers! Good luck!

P.S. Obviously, I got mine for free, but I’d tell you if I hated them. Seriously.  And I don’t get anything if you buy them, so I’m not just hocking you some junk to make some paper.  I really do like them and think you will, too.

Yesterday we had our flu shot clinic at work and I decided to have some fun with it.

Shocking, right?

When it was time to get my shot, I took off my sweatshirt so the nurse could get at my arm and then, well, watch this (click the CC button to see the transcription):

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous! Only because I didn’t want to offend Barbara or make her uncomfortable. She loved it, though. In fact, several of my nurse friends have told me that it gets pretty annoying hearing “I hate needles!” all day long, so getting a little something out of the norm is greatly appreciated.

Know what else I learned by pulling this little prank? Humor is a funny thing. Literally and figuratively. Trust me, I know my sense of humor isn’t for everyone. I have the emails to prove it. When I posted on Facebook, though, asking if I should do this (rhetorically, of course), it was awesome to see all the responses in favor of it. My favorite was from a life-long friend of mine who said, “I can’t believe this is even in question!”

You guys know me. And I love you for it.

I’m sure there are some deep-seated issues related to my desire to make people laugh, but it’s who I am and it’s not going to change. You have my word that I’ll keep doing everything in my power to bring you humor, hope and help however I can. And I encourage you to do the same for those in your sphere of influence! Make them smile. Give them hope. Help however you can.

Can you imagine how awesome the world would be if we all did that?

Whoa, that got a little deep.

Scroll up, watch that video again and then pass it on.

And for the love of Pete, keep smiling!

Buffy recently posted a picture of her French braid to the Living One-Handed Facebook page and the comments made it clear that people wanted to see how she did it! So, I reached out to Buffy and asked her to share a little of her story with us and she also made a video of how she does a French braid with one hand! Thanks, Buffy!

I’m Buffy and I’m a 33 year old photographer! I was born without my left hand just below the wrist. My parents always said doctors figured the umbilical cord wrapped around my wrist in the early stages of development.

Buffy

Buffy

I was raised to always at least try and if that didn’t work I was made to try harder until I figured it out. My parents took me to specialists of all kinds when I was very young where they suggested I be put in Special Education classes because they didn’t feel I’d ever cope the way NORMAL kids did! Thank god my parents let me figure it out for myself! They raised me to be unique! I wasn’t an honor student but I graduated with an academic diploma!

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Back in 1987 I was on the news.

They showed me doing several activities with my new myoelectric prosthetic arm. Watch this vintage video clip and then…I’m going to tell you a secret.

First of all, nice hair, right? Here’s the secret: Except for this clip, I never wore my arm to play with LEGO blocks.

I simply used my fingers and toes and teeth, all with more efficiency than my myo. Yes, I was reprimanded constantly about using my teeth, but they worked!

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My personal trainer told me I was boring.

Literally.

I was doing box step-ups for the first time and when I was about half way through he said it.

“Why am I boring?” I panted.

“Usually this is the best part because people are flopping all over the place! Your balance is unbelievable. Honestly, I thought you’d be falling to the right every time,” he told me.

This is essentially EXACTLY what I looked like.

This is essentially EXACTLY what I looked like.

Fast-forward a couple years and I’m on the phone with Gillian from the How To Do Everything podcast and she asks me, “Is there anything you have an advantage over because you have one hand?”

I had never been asked this question before and it stopped me in my tracks. I thought for a moment and then remembered that time with my trainer.

“I have incredible balance,” I told her.

And it’s true. As I’ve thought more about it, I’ve always had really good balance. My mom or dad would have to tell you about my balance as an infant, but it was probably AWESOME. My assumption is that my brain just automatically compensated for the weight imbalance as I grew-up. That said, I wore some form of prosthetic limb for much of my childhood, so that had to factor in somehow, too. I’ve never done any therapy because of my arm, but have always loved playing sports and have successfully accomplished the arduous daily task of showering and getting dressed all by myself. For a fun challenge, try putting your underwear, socks and pants on while standing up…with one hand. But, don’t sue me if you fall over and get hurt.

The other day I posted these questions on the Facebook page:

As I’m writing this, there are currently more than fifty responses. And every one of them is interesting.

It appears to me that this issue – How do I make sure my child has good balance? – is one that has a variety of answers.

The advice runs the gamut and my philosophy is, whatever decision you make for your child is the right one. As the parent who loves him/her and wants the best for him/her, you know best.

So, what are the options?

One of them is to obtain physical and/or occupational therapy. Jen from Born Just Right says about her daughter’s therapy, “Jordan started working with OT and PT services when she was four months old. She was doing just fine but after an expert watched her, Jordan’s body was curved and she hadn’t really paid attention to the left side of her body.

Fast forward to almost nine years later and we still check in with our OT and PT services. Why? Because as her PT says, Jordan is really good at ‘faking it.’ She appears incredibly balanced, but she’s faking her way. We noticed this after Jordan started complaining about how she couldn’t touch her toes. Jordan has maintained incredible core strength but after really looking at her, she wasn’t walking properly! Jordan was moving her long arm when she walked or ran. But she had stopped really freely moving her little arm. That was creating some hip and upper leg deficiencies. (The body is a wild creature. It expects even actions all the time or else it starts messing with you.) Since we started working on more focused running and walking, Jordan is much better at stretching and flexibility. This is a long-term process. Jordan does pilates and yoga each week to keep her body in check. She also dances twice a week and runs with a cross country team. It’s a lot. But it keeps her strong and very aware when her body isn’t feeling quite right.”

Personally, I’ve never had any therapy. Not because I chose not to, but simply because we were never told it was an option! And for some people, in addition to preference, therapy is just not feasible. Whether it be financial or time constraints, if you’re unable to or just don’t think it’s necessary, it’s my opinion that you have nothing to worry or feel bad about. One common theme I saw in the comments thread, though, was getting kids involved in sports or other active endeavors. Soccer, gymnastics, basketball, baseball…all sports require balance and provide a way for kids to work on theirs without consciously thinking about it.

Riding a bike takes mad balancing skills, yo.

Riding a bike takes mad balancing skills, yo.

Another thing to remember is that some people just seem to have solid, natural balance. And some…don’t. And no matter how many hands they have, all little kids fall down, so I’m pretty confident in saying not to worry about yours.

Obviously I’m not a doctor or a therapist, so please check with yours if you’re interested in finding out how their services might benefit your child. That said, it’s been my experience that therapy isn’t required to enjoy a life of SUPERIOR PHYSICAL BALANCE.

I’m going to start bragging about my balance all the time now.

Or…you know…probably not.

What has been your experience? Have you used therapy to improve your own or your child’s balance? How has it helped?