This one time a stranger helped me put on my belt.

I had just gone through security in the Portland airport and was struggling a bit to get my belt back on when suddenly I felt a tug. I whipped my head around and a lady sitting on the bench near me had grabbed the end of my belt and tucked it through the next loop for me. I was surprised, but thanked her. She smiled back and then continued to wait for her flying buddy.

I had a choice about how to react in this situation.

I could have been offended. Talk about invading my personal space! She didn’t even ask if I needed help! And did she not think I could handle it? That’s a bit presumptuous. I’ve put my belt on thousands of times all by myself. Just because I have one hand and look to be struggling with a task does NOT mean I need your help! *stomps feet*

Or…

I could recognize her intent and thank her for helping. I could stop assuming that she’s having pity on me because of my hand and understand that she just saw someone who could use a hand (rim shot) and literally reached out to help.

Honestly, the first option never crossed my mind. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized just how hurtful that line of thinking can be. It hurts me because it puts me in a negative frame of mind. It puts me in an angry place. It means I’m focusing on my disability and assuming the worst of others. And it’s not fair to those who are trying to help. If I got the door for someone using crutches and they got mad at me and told me they could do it themselves, that would leave a bad taste in my mouth. Why not assume the best and allow people to help? Lord knows we need more of that in our world today!

And listen, I get it. Accepting help is inherently difficult for most people, physically different or not. We perceive it to be a sign of weakness. Of vulnerability. Especially for those of us with “something to prove” (hint: we DON’T have anything to prove), accepting help can be a real blow to our ego. Honestly, that’s probably a good thing. There’s something to be said for humility and realizing we aren’t an island. I’d much prefer a community of helpers than one filled with people who are afraid to help because they might offend someone.

I worked at a hardware store when I was younger and the owners were constantly asking if they could help me carry things. It always bothered me and I never let them help me. Looking back, I realize they were just trying to help. And believe me, I know there are times when it’s appropriate to have a calm conversation with someone, especially if you have a relationship with them. My default with strangers, though, is to allow them to help.

Some might say I’m just perpetuating the stereotype that people with physical differences need help more than others. I prefer to believe that I’m reinforcing the instinct to do good unto others.

Ultimately, we’re all just trying to do our best, right?

Let’s give those who are willing to help the benefit of the doubt.

Last weekend nearly 3,000 people descended on the Schnitzer Theater in Portland for the World Domination Summit…and I was one of them. We spent the weekend listening to incredible speakers and getting to know each other in an effort to harness our creativity, explore entrepreneurship and live a meaningful life that changes the world for the better.

Rather than give you a full play-by-play (awesome speaker recaps by Scott Berkun here), I’m going to share a few stories that illustrate how the weekend affected me.

It was my first time in Portland, so I had a few places I wanted to visit for sure. Thursday I hit Voodoo Doughnut and Stumptown Coffee and then walked over to Powell’s. Each place lived up to the hype!

voodoo doughnut

Of course I did this because, well, it’s kind of what I do.

In the afternoon I decided to brave the bus system and go to the Oregon Public House, a non-profit bar in Portland. When it comes to public transportation, I’m a total disaster, so this was a huge risk. On the way there I sat next to an older lady who said, “I see you have an arm like me.” She was missing her left arm, too, and was wearing a hook prosthetic. We talked for a while about how she grew-up in California and was constantly told she couldn’t do things. In fact, she wasn’t allowed to participate in gym or cooking class or typing. “I did it all anyway,” she told me. Her story was fascinating and I appreciated her candor. When I got to the OPH, I had a lovely conversation with the bartender, whose younger brother is a little person. I tried to be as useful as possible, sharing my experiences as a person with obvious physical differences. I left thinking, “Yep…I was supposed to brave the bus system.”

Continue Reading…

My wife thinks I’m crazy for liking records.

She’s not alone.

And honestly, I totally get it. Most of us have that image in our head of the pretentious audiophile who praises the richness and warmth that emanates from the grooves, maaan. They tout the superior sound that comes from a needle and a record and denounce CDs and MP3s as cold, lifeless data conveyors.

Oh, yeah...and beards.

Oh, yeah…and beards.

Beyond that stereotype, though, there’s also the impractical nature of the LP. They’re big, they’re bulky, most of them are old and smell musty, they snap-crackle-and-pop, the sound is often warped and they’re not very portable. Sometimes they skip and you can’t easily play only one track. I’m fully aware that there are a plethora of reasons for MP3s being the dominant format for music these days.

There are reasons that records are still around, though, too.

So, why do I dig records?

Without sounding too hippie about it…there’s a magic to them. Ok, that’s pretty hippie. Listening to a record is an experience, though. I love rifling through my collection and then pulling the right record, carefully removing the disc from its sleeve and examining it’s surface to make sure it’s clean, admiring the grooves. There’s something about physically holding a record. There’s a weight to it that you don’t get from the thousands of songs on your iPod. I gently place the record on the turntable (which is quite the task when you only have one hand)and then lightly set the needle on the edge, watching it catch that first groove and start moving its way to the middle. Then the music starts. Whether it’s Count Basie or Miles Davis or Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin or Tower of Power or The Beatles or The Who…

Ok, so, it’s not quite that dramatic, but you get the point. (And if you haven’t seen Almost Famous yet…sorry)

For me, the perceived weaknesses of a record are actually quite character-building. Our expectations are sky high these days. Everything needs to be perfect and convenient and we need it NOW! Records slow us down. They are an exercise in patience and understanding. When I play a record, I understand I’m going to listen to Side A and then Side B and I’m going to do so in the order the artist presented them to me. Records harken back to a time when musicians crafted an album, not just random, hit songs. Not that there aren’t musicians who do this now, but in the LP’s heyday they really had to think about it. I can’t skip a track. I can’t put it on repeat. I allow the record to play and enjoy the experience. The crackles and pops and occasional moment out of tune reminds me that imperfection can be endearing. Fifteen years later and I can tell you at exactly which moment my Wish You Were Here record skipped and played the same saxophone part over and over until I moved the needle. Like life, it’s usually the imperfections we remember.

Now, I’m no snob. I’d say at least 95% of my music listening happens on my phone or computer. Spotify, Pandora, iTunes…love ‘em. I’m not saying that listening to records is somehow better, but I am saying it’s different. And there are certainly times in my life when it’s better. Those times where I’m running ragged and I’m trying to do a thousand things at once. Or when I’m feeling nostalgic. Or, you know…Stairway To Heaven. There are times when putting on a record and having a cold drink just seem right.

And that’s why I like…no, love records.

I am currently in the midst of leading a 30-day Kickstarter project to fund the publishing of a kids book I’ve written. I’d be honored if you checked out the video and if you like it, pledged and shared the project!

So begins week three of this 30-day Kickstarter adventure!

What have I learned?

First of all, I’ve learned that most people are amazing. The feedback and support I’ve received has been mind-blowing. Message after message from folks who are excited about the book and who are proud to be a part of something so much bigger. My friend Ryan texted me today and said, “The amount of people this book could impact – huge! Some kid. Somewhere. They will hope and carry on.” And that really says it all. I truly believe this book is going to lead to changed lives. High expectation? Yes. Irrational? I don’t think so.

I’ve also learned that I have some incredible friends. Both in real life and online. I’ve had countless conversations with Stacy and Geoff and Meagan and Steven and Wes and Ryan and Kyle and Ben…the list goes on. They’ve given me encouragement and support and perspective. They’ve helped me to become more of who I want to be and less of who I don’t. I’m forever greatful for them and would be lost in this process without them!

MWS knows a thing or two about friends.

MWS knows a thing or two about friends.

I’ve also seen the power of sharing. Nearly 40% of all pledges so far have come from people sharing the project on Facebook. So…keep sharing it on Facebook! lol You never know who will see it and when. Twitter, too! Even more fun, though, is hearing from people who say, “Hey! You don’t know me, but, so-and-so told me about the project and…” Teachers, librarians, occupational therapists, moms and dads…the list goes on. So, please keep sharing the project! And THANK YOU for doing so!

On an even more personal level, I’ve never felt closer to my wife. I’m learning that a project like this can really make or break a marriage and while the sailing hasn’t been completely smooth, the waves have brought us together. We’ve talked and prayed together more in these last two weeks than we have in a long time. And we’re working together like never before. It’s amazing. I could never give her the credit she deserves for putting up with me, but she is far and away the best part of my life and I’m so glad she’s with me on this journey.

So, as we head into the second half of this project, I want to THANK YOU for being involved. Thank you for helping this dream come to life. Thank YOU for changing lives! Mine included. We still have a ways to go, but I’m confident we’ll get there…but, only TOGETHER! Let’s tell the world the truth…

DIFFERENT IS AWESOME!

UPDATE: The project is LIVE! Go here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1756964235/different-is-awesome-kids-picture-book

So, I got this news today:

Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 6.37.26 PM

 

It’s official. The Different Is Awesome! Kickstarter project is ready to Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 6.38.28 PM!

I’ve prepared for this like crazy and I’m beyond excited to press that green button.

And I will…on May 1st. Thursday morning.

GET READY, INTERNET.

Here’s the deal, though…I need your help. I know we can do this, but it’ll only work if we all pull together to make it a reality. Are you with me?! Here’s how you can help:

1. Share, share, share! Once I officially launch the project on Thursday morning, I’ll be sharing it with my sphere of influence and I hope that you will, too! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, tell your family and co-workers, smoke signals, sky-writing…I’ll say it right here: The person who shares the project in the most creative way will win a FREE autographed copy of the book!

2. Pledge early! One of the most consistent indicators of a successful Kickstarter project is a strong start. People who are browsing the projects see one with a strong start and are inclined to jump in, too, because it must be awesome! So, my big ask here is that if you’re planning on pledging, it would be incredibly awesome if you did so one DAY 1 or shortly thereafter. Take a look at the pledge levels and the corresponding rewards and reserve yours!

3. Ask questions. Seriously. I want to make this fun and as easy as possible. If there are things you don’t understand or are having difficulty with, let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

So, we’re really doing this, y’all. You only live once, right? Oh, snap…I think I just accidentally wrote YOLO.

Here’s to dreams becoming reality! Here’s to success! Here’s to the most awesome community ever!

Love you all and appreciate you more than words can say.

Hugs to all!

Ryan

Maybe twice a month I’ll get this response while chatting with someone online or at work:

“Dude…I just remembered that you’re typing with one hand. How do you type so fast?!”

It’s true, I type like a cheetah. Well, not like a cheetah, but as fast as one. I mean, as fast as one runs. ANYWAY, YOU GET WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY.

The fact of the matter is that I’m able to type quickly because I’ve had nearly thirty years of practice. I remember being the only kid in my school to learn Logo (a computer language) and then I taught it to my classmates. From time to time I stayed in from recess and tried to find Carmen Sandiego or survive the Oregon Trail.

So, how did I develop my technique? I just did. I remember taking a keyboarding class in sixth grade and we all had to put those covers over our keyboards so we could memorize “home row.” They tried to get me to develop my own “home row,” and I wasn’t having it. I convinced them to let me uncover my keyboard and learn the most efficient way for me to type. I’d love to give the instructor credit for allowing me to do this, but…I probably gave them no choice in the matter. I’ve also never used anything other than a standard keyboard. I know different types of keyboards and adaptations are out there, but the way I figured it, learning on a standard keyboard put me at an advantage because then I could type on any computer anywhere I went.

Over the years I’ve had several keyboard-heavy jobs. At least two data entry job that I remember and over a decade in customer service which is almost exclusively computer driven. Over the last eight years I bet I’ve averaged typing nearly eight hours a day. And in all that time, I’ve never had finger or wrist issues. That said, I’ve been very careful if I notice a twinge or something and I stretch quite often. I can only remember one time ever having to tell my boss that I needed to rest my hand for a bit and that was because I got scared. Otherwise, it’s been smooth one-handed sailing… Hmm, sailing. I’ve never tried that.

Anywho, here’s a quick video of me typing with one hand. It’s not really an instructional video; more of just a snapshot of how I do it. I hope you like the little story I type!

nature biking reading

Winter is finally breaking here in Wisconsin, so I took the opportunity to fill all of our bicycle tires today and then I went out into the woods. I love going to the woods. I don’t do it as often as I’d like, but every time I do it’s an experience I don’t soon forget. Whenever I’m getting overwhelmed by life, nature helps calm me down. Today I threw a bottle of water, a book and a notepad in my basket, slung a chair over my shoulder and then peddled to my spot.

And yes, I have a spot.

I love having a spot in the woods. I always think I’m going to forget where it is, but then I see it from a distance and I smile. Today I propped-up my bike, set-up my chair, sat down and got out my book and then…just sat there for a while. I love looking around at all the trees and the little animals scurrying around. As you can see, everything is still bare and brown and muddy, but the sun was shining, which was nice. The birds were singing and I even got to see a wood pecker pecking about thirty feet from me! After breathing deeply and settling in, I spent some time reading a chapter of Dallas Willard’s “Renovation of the Heart.” The chapter I read was both challenging and inspiring. Willard is so smart and I love his applications of scripture.

I go out to the woods, not only to be calmed by nature, but to reconnect with the Creator. He always meets me in the woods. After reading for a while, I spent some time praying and journaling. I find that when I set aside that time to be intentional about connecting with Him, I’m always reminded of the simple truths that mean so much. I’m reminded that He’s patient. And that He’s not out to get me. That He cares about me and my family. Those times are so integral for my growth as a Christian and as a man, a husband, a father, a friend…

I treasure my times in the woods.

Where do you go when the pressures of life are getting to you? Where do you go to hit the reset button?

Maysoon Zayid has been all over the internet lately.

Whether it’s Upworthy or The Huffington Post, Maysoon’s TED Talk, which has already inspired millions, is making the rounds.

As it should be.

maysoon zayid ted talk

Recently, I had the good fortune of speaking with Maysoon and I’m so proud to share our discussion with you!

Our discussion runs the gamut, from our experience growing-up “different” to the struggle for “disabled” actors in Hollywood and what can be done to change the landscape, to Maysoon’s work with children in Palestine and her adoration for Michael J. Fox on The Good Wife.

I hope you enjoy this fascinating interview with an amazing woman!

And if I may be so bold, I’d love for you to subscribe on iTunes and leave a 5-star review if you like the podcast, too.

(Also, toward the end the sound was getting a little wonky…sorry about that!)

Visit Maysoon.com and Maysoon’s Kids and follow her on Twitter at @maysoonzayid!

Leave a comment about your favorite part in the comments below!

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The sports bug bit Joe Rogers early.

joe rogers notre dame

Born into a hockey family in a hockey state (Michigan), Joe started early and knew by age 9 he would be playing Division I college hockey. A lofty goal for any boy in America, it was especially gutsy for Joe. Born with a limb-difference, Joe’s parents had no idea what he’d be able to accomplish, though they were supportive every step of the way (and continue to be). Joe is finishing his senior year at the University of Notre Dame where he’s been a back-up goaltender to one of the best in the nation and heads with his team to the NCAA Playoffs starting next weekend.

I had such a great time hearing Joe’s story and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it, too. We learn about how Joe grew-up, the role his parents and friends and community played in his formation as a young man, whether or not he has a girlfriend…you know, the important stuff.

Listen, enjoy, and share!

If you’re an iTunes person, it would mean a lot if you subscribed and left a 5-star review – that really helps boost the podcast on iTunes. Thanks! Subscribe here.

 

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Last Friday I got my phone out and went to tweet something witty when I saw this:

twitter

Say WHAAAAAAAAT??!!

So, of course I immediately went to Twitter.com, just like it told me to, and read everything about the rules to see if I had broken any. I hadn’t. I filled out an “appeal form,” basically saying, “Hi, I have no idea why my account was suspended. Please tell me why and restore it ASAP. Thanks.”

Then I took to Twitter on my other account and started a campaign:

Twitter Unsuspend

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have accused them of being handists.

And then…I waited.

It was frustrating because I had no idea why it was suspended and, honestly, it was kind of embarrassing. If you clicked on my Twitter handle, this is what you saw:

suspended

Yeesh.

It might as well just say, “This person is an evil, horrible person in whom you should have no interest, so WE SUSPENDED HIM.” Mostly, though, it was just the not knowing why. After nearly a week, I finally received an email from Twitter saying:

Oh, cuhl. Thanks.

Oh, cuhl. Thanks.

Just as I suspected, it was a big mistake. An annoying mistake, but at least it was fixed.

And here’s the thing…I didn’t die.

It was annoying and frustrating and I was a little scared at first because there was no communication, but after that…life went on. Without @LivingOneHanded.

We have so much invested in social media these days, and I think that’s great, but we also need to be prepared for if it just went away. I don’t WANT it to, but this experience helped me to see that it’s not the end of the world without it.

In fact, part of me wanted those “following/followers” numbers to stay at zero. A clean slate. Start from scratch.

But, then they were restored and that made me really happy, so…

I’ll keep making the world a better place, one Tweet at a time.

Or something.