The other morning I saw MedFlight in the sky while I was driving to work.

It jogged my memory of when my dad was in the hospital recovering from heart surgery in July of 2014. Not because he had to be MedFlighted there, but because we got a special tour of the helicopter and landing pad on the roof of the hospital while he was recovering. He needed to get out of his room, so one of the RNs arranged the excursion. And of course he knew somebody who was part of the MedFlight team, too, so up we went.

It was pretty awesome. We were shown every nook and cranny, inside and out, and got to walk out on the helipad to look over the city.

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The other morning, though, as I thought about it, other thoughts crept in. Did dad really think it was awesome to be up there on the roof in a wheelchair getting some fresh air? Or was he just acting like it so the rest of us would be ok? Was he struggling that far back with the perception of this new life he thought he’d entered? And then I started crying. Because I don’t know the answers to those questions and I never will.

About four months later – two years ago today – my dad committed suicide.

Life for the rest of us has moved on, but I still think about him a lot. I do believe he thought it was cool to be up there, too. I recall how desperately he wanted to be out of that god-damned recovery room. The morning they discharged him he called me and I could hear the relief in his quivering voice. “Ryan, they removed that damn thing from my arm and I just…I got all emotional. What the hell?” he confessed to me. I told him that was completely understandable; he’d been through a lot! Physically, emotionally, mentally…”feeling emotional” was an understatement as far as I was concerned. I’ll always treasure that moment we had.

I’m not sure if I’d say things are easier or better two years later, mostly just different.

I still get sad a lot and I’ll admit that sometimes I still get upset. Every time one of my kids has a birthday. Every gymnastics meet. My son Sam received his black belt in karate last weekend after working hard for more than four years and Papa wasn’t there to see it and to celebrate and to tell Sam how proud of him he is. That kills me. It kills me. And I know people mean well when they say things like, “Oh, he was there watching, too!” and “He IS so proud of Sam!” but the truth is, it’s not the same. It’s not the same at all. He should have been there smiling and clapping and shouting and cracking inappropriate jokes with me in the stands. He should have been there to shake Sam’s hand and give him a big hug and be in the picture pointing.

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My brother Joey got engaged last weekend, too. He NAILED the proposal. Had his friends hold homemade signs and play music at the Wisconsin Badger football game! Just perfect. Now, I’m not speaking for him because I know he handles this all in his own way, but for me…I’m devastated my dad isn’t here to congratulate Joe. I know he’d be proud of him. But, he won’t be at the wedding. And if they have kids, they’ll never meet him. It just sucks.

What’s so difficult about suicide is that the person is doing what they think is going to help everyone. My dad wasn’t trying to hurt us. He apologized and still did it. It was the only other solution he could come up with that made any sense…to him. In so doing, though, he left a hurt in everyone who loved him. And a lot of people loved him. That wasn’t his intention, but it was the result.

On a personal level, his not being here is hard because I’m learning so many things about myself that I want to talk to him about. My parents divorced when I was four and the fact of the matter is that both his presence and his absence in my life while I was young had a profound impact on who I am today.

Years ago a homeless friend of mine, Al, told me his story about his relationship with his dad. Al’s life crashed and burned because of his addiction to alcohol. One day he got a call that his dad was dying and he should come right away. Instead, he went on a week-long bender and never got to say goodbye to his dad, even though he had the chance. “If your dad is alive, talk to him. If there’s stuff you’re afraid to talk to him about, talk to him about it anyway,” he told me. I vowed I would and to a certain extent I did, but there’s so much more I know now that I want to talk to him about than I even knew back then. And trying to figure it out without him is hard.

So, what now?

Sure, there are times that are more difficult than others and grief still sits for spell, but by and large life goes on with only his memory now. Julie and I are both busy with the things we’re passionate about and the kids are probably busier than we are. We work, we relax, we do our best to focus on the future and the good things lying in wait for us there. It sucks that he won’t be here to see what happens next, but that’s the reality.

Dad, I miss you. I love you. That won’t ever change.

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.

*SPOILERS…PROBABLY*

I didn’t really know anything about Dr. Strange when my son and I went to see it in IMAX 3-D the other day.

I’m not into comic books or Marvel, so it was really just to have a good time with Sam. In fact, most of the time I was sitting there thinking, “I wonder when he turns bad?” I thought he was a bad guy. By the end of the movie I was like, “Huh, they must really be playing the long game here. Guess he turns bad in the second one!”

I’ve heard that people have had issues with the movie on a number of fronts, but we enjoyed it. Cumberbatch was great and I loved Tilda Swinton. But, if you’ve seen it…you know who made me cry.

For the unfamiliar (like I was), Dr. Strange is this incredible surgeon whose steady hands have lead to fame and fortune. His hands are his livelihood. So, when he crashes his sports car and destroys both of his hands, it’s all over. His identity is lost, no matter what those around him say. He goes to great lengths to try and repair his hands, all to no avail. Finally, he is told he needs to go see “the Ancient One” who will show him how to harness his spirit/energy to repair his physical body.

Basically.

Once he starts, part of his training consists of a lot of hand movements to create portals to other dimensions, as well as shields and weapons.

He’s self-conscious of his hands and blames his struggles with these tasks on them because they are in such disrepair. He’s told, though, in no uncertain terms that the issue isn’t with his hands. And to prove her point, the Ancient One asks a gentleman near her to perform the task. He pushes his robe aside to reveal his arms and…

He’s missing one of his hands.

He performs the task perfectly and I start to cry instantly. Not sob, but an immediate welling of the eyes. Why? Over the past couple of years I’ve come to understand the importance of seeing someone who looks like you on the big screen. In this case, the message was powerful, too. Your physical condition does not have to limit you. Dr. Strange reminds me of so many kids and adults I’ve come across. He was more focused on his physical difference than was anyone else around him. It was a process for him to get to that point where he accepted his hands for what they were and realized he was strong regardless.

I’m not sure I’d say that was the main theme of the movie, but it was the one that most resonated with me.

I’m hopeful it will resonate with others, too.

Especially those finding their strength despite their physical difference.

I need you to do two things right now:

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

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

This is weighing on me heavily today.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the truth.

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

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

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

Some people told me that expectation was ridiculous.

I begged to differ.

And continue to do so.

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s keep making the world a better place!

Sincerely,

Ryan

I like to smell good.

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

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

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

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

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

Our instinct as a parent is to protect our kids.

That’s a good thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some time back I connected with Joe from SleppSolutions.

Joe invented something that I think is pretty awesome.

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

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

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

A photo posted by Ryan Haack (@livingonehanded) on

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

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

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

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What are your biggest fitness challenges?

Running has always been a solitary activity for me.

Provided I’m not being chased, of course.

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

It did not go well.

I did not join the cross country team.

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

This is all about me.

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

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

Love @myteamtriumphwi! Can’t wait to volunteer!

A video posted by Ryan Haack (@livingonehanded) on

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

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

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

And this is where you come in.

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

I would love to obliterate that number.

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

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

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

You’re the best. 🙂

I love a good bag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mother-in-law had shoulder surgery recently.

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

Of course I said yes.

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

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

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

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

And now we get to the part I love.

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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