Originally I was only going to review the Synapse 25, but then we thought it would be cool to do a comparison review of the 25 and the 19. Make sure you watch the video below to see the comparison and enter for your chance to win the Synapse 25 for FREE!

Getting my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack and accessories was an adventure in and of itself.

I was notified that the shipping process had started on July 2nd, which seemed like plenty of time to receive it before I left for Portland, OR on July 9th. But darn it all if that pesky July 4th holiday got in the way. I waited and waited until I finally got the update saying it would be delivered by the end of the day…on July 9th. NOOOOOOOO! My brain went into overdrive since I was leaving at 145pm on the 9th. That morning I got an update saying it was “out for delivery.” Maybe I could catch the driver somewhere! I then realized that I work less than five minutes from the distribution center it was likely being delivered from. I tried to find their local number but kept landing on the 800 number, which was of no use. Finally, I found the good ol’ 608 number! I dialed and the lady on the other end said she’d see if she could find it. Yes, I prayed she would return with good news. “I found it. We’ll just hold it for you at the front counter,” she told me. I thanked her profusely and then went to pick it up shortly thereafter. I felt like Indiana Jones as I walked out of that FedEx distribution center.

Then the real fun began. I unboxed the bag.

I’ll jump into the present tense now to describe the bag. It’s beautiful. The material is sturdy, built to last. One of my main concerns with a backpack is that the zippers are easy to use with one hand. The Synapse 25 has six, seven if you count both for the main compartment. I’m happy to report that they are secure, yet simple to zip and unzip with one hand. The handle at the top of the bag is a perfect size for my little arm to fit through, giving me some leverage for using the bag with my right hand.

The compartments in this bag are…cavernous. I honestly kind of wish I had gone with the Synapse 19 because I overestimated how much space I actually need. Here’s a shot of all the stuff I was lugging around with me in Portland.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25

Yeah, so, I probably didn’t need to carry all of that stuff around with me the whole time. I had plenty of room for more, though!

The temperature was in the 90s when I was there, so my back did get pretty hot, but I don’t blame the bag for that. I blame all the stuff I was carrying around. Even so, I was never uncomfortable, though I did wish at times there was a bit more padding on the shoulder straps. I can imagine filling this backpack to the brim for a camping weekend and having more than plenty to survive for quite some time.

The accessories are fantastic, too. The sleeve for my 11″ MacBook Air is REALLY nice, though it was a bit difficult to get my laptop in and out of with one hand at first. It’s loosened up a bit, but can still be somewhat of a one-handed challenge. The 3D Mesh Organizer Cube was perfect for my phone charger and other cords. The 3D Clear Organizer Cube kept my toiletries together and visible for security. The Mesh Ballistic Organizer Pouch worked great for my computer cord. And the 16-inch Key Strap kept my keys safe and secure until I got home. Again, all of the zippers were of high quality and easy to use with one hand.

Ultimately, the Synapse 25 is an incredible backpack. The materials and craftsmanship are second to none. The design is well thought out, with each pocket and zipper in its rightful place. I’m proud and excited to carry around my Tom Bihn backpack and plan to do so for years and years to come.

Checkout the comparison review video below and enter to win your FREE Synapse 25 below that! You’ll get the Olive Green Synapse 25 in the video – a $200 value!

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Thank to Darcy and the amazing folks at TomBihn.com for providing the bags and accessories to review!

So, I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge thing today.

And it was awesome.

Know what I love most about this challenge that has taken over Facebook? It’s pushed people outside their comfort zone. Hundreds of thousands of people are DUMPING ICE WATER OVER THEIR HEADS to bring awareness to a disease that affects tons of people in a devastating way. And the numbers prove it’s working. The ALSA has raised something like $15 MILLION more dollars than they did a year ago. That’s a lot of money any way you slice it.

It’s been interesting to watch this phenomenon progress. It started small and didn’t quite know what it was trying to do. Initially the challenge was presented as a way to avoid giving money to the ALSA. A valiant, though somewhat misguided effort. Then people started doing the challenge AND donating. That’s when it really took off, at least in terms of effectiveness. And as it got more popular, you guessed it…haters.

Suddenly you find out there are several people in your life who are hardcore water conservationists. “There are people in the world who don’t have water to drink!” That’s true. And that’s not what this is about AT ALL. “Let me get this straight – you dump water over your head to not give money? Sure. Makes sense.” Yeah, that’s why it changed. That’s why people who aren’t looking for an excuse to complain use their brain and say, “Oh, wait, I could do this fun and crazy thing to bring attention to ALS AND I can donate! And I can invite OTHERS to participate as well!”

“Most of these idiots don’t even know what ALS is.” I actually saw that posted. And here’s the thing: THAT’S THE POINT. I’ve seen more people research to find out what ALS is than ever before. “Why ALS?” Why NOT ALS? Are there countless other charities that need support? Of course. But that doesn’t negate the good that is coming from this. Nor should it deter you from joining-in to support a good cause.

Will this eventually peter out? Absolutely. Fame usually does. And there will be tons of people who say, “Told you it wouldn’t last.” And again, those people have completely missed the point. Of course it will end and Facebook will go back to pictures of kids and cats and stupid memes. You know, pretty useless fare.

But at least our timelines won’t be clogged with people doing good.

So, my challenge is for any of you who might have taken a stance against this viral phenomenon…for whatever reason…is to stop nit-picking and get out of your comfort zone and join in. Do something good. If you really don’t want to do the water thing, get creative! Think of another unique way to bring attention ad support to ALS. Do some research if you don’t know what it is. And if there’s a different cause you’d like to champion – do that, too!

It’s been refreshing to see so many people smiling and laughing and doing what they can to help people whose lives are often incredibly difficult and painful.

Keep up the good work, friends!

Donate to the ALSA here!

If you’ve been married for any amount of time, you know how this goes. You have an incredible weekend away, with no distractions, and you feel as connected as you’ve ever been. You hold hands and gaze into each others’ eyes to pass the time. As you go to sleep, the stars shine brighter. And as you wake, the sunrise is more beautiful and birds are chirping…and they’re not even annoying you! Your marriage is everything you ever wanted it to be. You feel strong and in love and on target.



Then you get home and it’s back to real life.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic, just realistic. Those weekends away are absolutely vital to the health of a long-term relationship, but they’re definitely more fantasy than reality. You don’t need to worry about paying bills or going to work or cleaning-up your kid’s puke on your weekend away. It’s all about each other. When you get home, though, your love is tested. Things aren’t perfect and life happens and your resolve and loyalty to one another is challenged.

That’s what I’m speaking to right now. That time where things are ok, but not “weekend getaway” perfect.

And here’s the thing: Most of the time you don’t need a seminar to get back on track; you just need a reminder.

I asked my wife, “What’s good about our marriage?” The look on her face was my queue to rephrase the question. “No, I mean, our marriage rules! But why? What makes it so good? That’s what I meant!” I stammered. We talked for a little while and I decided that while that’s a good question and something we should continue to think about, it wasn’t what I was really after. I just wanted that little jolt of energy for us. Something that would punch us in the gut real quick and remind us of how good we are together. Something to get us through the “we’re ok, but not great” time. These were the two questions that did the trick; the ones that served as the reminder for us.

What always makes us laugh? This question is so fun to answer. It could be anything! For us, one of the things that always makes us laugh is coming up with titles of books we will someday write as the powerful marriage advice duo, Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. Usually we come up with these right after having a fight. Just being honest. Fighting Fair Is For Losers by Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. When Husbands Cry by Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. Making-Up Is NOT Overrated by Drs. Ryan and Julie Haack. This is only funny to us, most likely, but that’s the point. What makes you and your spouse laugh without fail? We love watching Modern Family and Parks and Rec, too. Always funny to us. What are your shows?

So, think about it: what always makes the two of you laugh? A friend of mine said, “Farting!” Perfect. I guarantee you’ll laugh just answering the question.

What do we always like to do together? One of the things I thought of while answering this question is not something we do very often, but we always love when we get to. Not that, though it’s a good answer. We’re big Milwaukee Brewers fans and we’re lucky to have one of the best radio broadcasters in the history of the game. Whenever the two of us get to listen to Bob Uecker call a game, we’re happy. It’s comforting and fun and hilarious and makes for a relaxing car-ride for sure. We also love to go to Brewer games together and tailgate. We love to go to movies together. We’re huge documentary fans, too, and are always on the lookout for good ones.

What about you? What kinds of things do you and your spouse like to do together? Maybe you like to camp or hike or bike or run or sing together or perform on stage together or paint or build things or volunteer…seriously, the list could go on forever. What I love about this question is remembering all the fun times you’ve had together already, while simultaneously looking forward to doing even more fun things together!

While these two questions may not fix a broken relationship, they certainly can inject some much needed life into one that’s stagnant. So stop being roommates and remember what makes you an awesome couple.

Then fart in the movie theater and laugh about it together.

I LOVE to hear what makes other people laugh! Share what makes you and your spouse laugh every time and some things you like to do together!

Kary Oberbrunner helps people.

He helps people discover their identity, uncover their purpose and then he helps develop a plan to carry out that mission.

And he’s really good at it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kary at the World Domination Summit in Portland, OR earlier this month and I’m so glad I did. I’m a fan of good dudes and Kary definitely fits the bill.


Kary and me and that lady at WDS2014

In this episode we talk about:

  • How Kary discovered his passion for helping people
  • His experience growing up with a stutter and then struggling with an addition to cutting
  • How he gained freedom!
  • Kary’s own journey moving from his day job to his dream job
  • Recognizing and dealing with a negative, self-limiting mindset

I’m so excited for you to hear this episode and I know you’re going to be impacted in a positive way.

If you’re on iTunes, I’d love if you subscribed and left a review here!

Make sure you checkout the projects Kary talked about in this episode (DayJobToDreamJob.com, DeeperPathBook.com, YourSecretName.com) and enter below to win YOUR FREE copy of his new book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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*


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…


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.


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!


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!