Archives For Ryan

So… This is one of my favorite songs. Andrew Peterson’s “You’ll Find Your Way.” This was my third try. It’s not perfect. Far from it. I tried to sing, but started to choke-up. The angle isn’t very good. I need to shave. There are all kinds of reasons not to share this. But I’m doing it anyway.

Why?

Because I’m a perfectionist. So much so that I usually don’t start things that I don’t think I’ll be good at right away. WHICH IS BASICALLY EVERYTHING. Like, I just got some paints on Sunday and haven’t done anything with them yet because I know I’m going to be terrible at first. I’m learning to love the process of acquiring new skills, but it’s still really hard for me. That’s why I posted this. I wanted to play this song, so I friggin did it and here it is, warts and all.

I’ll get better. But where I am is perfectly fine. And maybe it’ll inspire you to begin that thing you’ve been afraid of starting. For whatever reason. You’ll probably suck at first. Do it anyway. That’s the only way you’ll get better.

I believe in you.

April 9th, 2019.

That’s the day I stepped on the scale and saw the highest number I’ve seen in my life. That number isn’t everything, and I’ll get into that more later, but for me it was indicative of the poor decision-making I’d been employing for a long time. The hurtful habits I’d created for myself.

It took me a long time to get to the point of actually doing something about it. In fact, several months earlier I had grabbed a journal and scribbled my weight from that morning in the upper right-hand corner, fully intending to start my journey back to a healthier me that day. Instead, I gained another 17 pounds. SEVENTEEN POUNDS. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic. It’s shameful. Those are the thoughts that were constantly banging around in my head, so why couldn’t I get it together? That’s the first thing I learned.

Be kind to yourself. My eating was a coping mechanism and, as harmful as it was to my health, it served it’s purpose for that time, otherwise why would I have done it? With that in mind, I’ve chosen to shake off the shame and have instead accepted that I was hurting and that was what helped me not hurt as much. Again, it makes me sad, but I’m choosing to be gracious and understanding to myself, just like I would do for a friend. I know I tend to be much harder on myself than on those I love. Maybe you find that you are, too. Resist that temptation. Dig deep to find out why you think you are where you are, but do so with a tender heart. You deserve that. And then…

Start where you are. That’s all you can do. I know that sounds really simple, but it’s true. And the fact is, starting where you are can be completely overwhelming. 60 days ago honestly feels like an eternity now, but I vividly remember trying to do 8-minute abs on my living room floor and maybe making it 30 seconds before I started feeling the dread and shame of the truth of where I was physically. And it friggin’ hurt! I couldn’t touch my elbows to my knees. Not even close. I was tired and breathing heavily just from walking around. In fact, let me tell you what happened less than two weeks into all of this.

Easter Sunday. April 21st. Day 13. I went to church early to help setup and I agreed to man the camera for our live stream that morning. I had worked out the day before and apparently not had enough water, so towards the end of the service, as I was filming worship, I could feel my abs start to lock-up. Then my back. I tried to stretch out, but it wasn’t working. I fell out of the room and crawled on my hand and knees up to the balcony where I writhed around in the worst pain I’d experienced that I could remember. My back and abs had locked up and I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified, honestly. I texted my wife and kids for help, to bring me water, but I knew everyone was going out to the Easter egg hunt and probably wouldn’t see my messages. And I didn’t want to bother anyone. I was embarrassed. And scared. Eventually they brought me water and as I hydrated, things slowly went back to normal, but I’ll never forget that feeling. That feeling of helplessness and fear.

That experience showed me that I must approach this journey carefully. That I need to wake-up every morning and say, “Ok, where am I today?” I need to start where I am, every day. Which is the leads me to what I have found to be the most important part so far…

Be mindful. One of the first things I did was download the Lose It! app on my phone. At its core, it’s simply an app wherein you log what you eat during the day to track your calories. You input your height, current weight, what weight you want to get to, how many pounds you want to lose per week, and it gives you a target to hit for every day. I’ve used it 60 days in a row. It works for me. It isn’t perfect and before you lecture me about how it’s not all about a number on a scale or a certain number of calories you ingest a day, let me say that I agree with you. But here’s why it’s been helpful for me.

Before I started using it regularly, I was eating fast food nearly every day. And not just a cheeseburger and fries. I bet I’d eat 1,500-2,000 calories per meal. Easily. I mean, think about it. Go to McDonald’s and grab a cheeseburger, a McChicken, a medium fries, a couple apple pies for a buck and a large soda. That’s 1820 calories. 71g of fat, which is more than you should eat in an entire day. And that was a common meal for me! What the Lose It! app did for me was help me see the truth about my eating habits.

And you guys, I’m ruthless with it. I’ve literally tracked every single thing I’ve eaten and imbibed (I hate the word “drank”) for 60 days. There have been two nights I went out and totally regretted my decisions…and logged every calorie. It’d be foolish not to, right? I mean, it’s not like they disappear just because I don’t log them! So, I’m honest about it. And if I don’t know the exact amount, I guess higher than it probably is. Again, I realize there’s more to it than counting calories, but for me it’s been really helpful in establishing a healthy mindfulness around my eating habits. Find something that works similarly for you and I think you’ll find that it will help tremendously.

Ok, here’s a bonus thing I’ve learned…

Establish healthy habits. All the research says that diets don’t work. I think we all know that. And goal-setting hardly works for most people, either. New Year’s Resolutions anyone? That’s why it’s so important to establish healthy habits and what has helped me the most in this area has been James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. Just a brilliant, incredibly practical and helpful book about how to establish healthy habits and eradicate harmful ones.

Now, I have health goals. I have a target weight. But, what happens when I get there? And what happens if I don’t meet that goal when I intended to? What happens if I don’t meet it at all? Healthy habits will last past your goals. They’ll serve you when things get hard. Because they will. I’ve been working out more in the last month than I have in the last three years. And it feels amazing. But, there are days I’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV and eat a Snickers. But, the habits I’ve developed help me to workout anyway because that’s just what I do now. I’m a person who works out. I’m a person who eats healthy food. I’m a person who buys two Snickers bars because they were buy-one-get-one-free and then leaves them on the counter so long his kids ask him if he’s ever going to eat them. That happened this morning.

I can’t tell you exactly why April 9th was the day where it clicked-in for me. But, it did. And I’m grateful. And I’m excited. And I’m confident. If you know me at all, this won’t come as a surprise, but when I stepped on the scale this morning, which I do once a week on Fridays, and saw the number that popped up, I got really emotional. I’m down 26.7 pounds in 60 days. But like I said before, it’s not just the number. It’s what it represents. It represents good decision-making. Something that had been lacking in my life for a long time. It means I’m going the right direction. It means I’m getting healthier, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally and spiritually.

And I’m not going to lie.

That feels really good.

Sometimes I share pictures of little kids with my book and caption it, “This is why I do what I do!”

Friggin’ heart-warming!

I love those posts. They make me really happy.

This is not one of those posts.

But, it IS a post about another reason why I do what I do.

Oftentimes when people learn that I’m a speaker, they say something like, “Oh, you must be a great anti-bullying speaker!” They assume I was bullied when I was a kid because I was born without my left hand. I get it. The truth is, though, I don’t remember ever being bullied.

Well…except once.

What’s funny is that I don’t even remember what the kid said. I ran track my freshman year of high school and while out on a warm-up run, this one kid said something disparaging about my arm. Before I knew what happened, a senior threw the kid up against the back of a car and told him to knock it off. That’s literally as much of the only story I can remember when people ask if I was bullied as a kid.

Tonight…that kid, who is now 42 or 43 years old…tried to bully me again.

I’m not telling you this to get your sympathy or to cause outrage. I’m really not. I’m sharing it because it was a stark reminder for me, a person who has never really experienced bullying in his life, that bullying is real and it needs to be talked about.

This person was known for being a jerk in middle school and high school. That’s all I really remember about him. So, tonight as he trolled me and a friend of mine on Facebook, I told him the story about what he did and how it’s disappointing, yet not surprising, to see that he hasn’t changed.

“Call me a d*ck in person and see what happens. (I said that he was “a d*ck about my arm” when we were younger) I’ll be back this summer. Give it a try. Didn’t think so. Stop obsessing over a story from high school you loser,” he responded. He then insulted me and my wife again and apparently blocked me.

Clearly this was not a “My bully and I are best friends now!” situation.

I honestly can’t think of a more cliche response from a bully. Accusing me of “obsessing” over the story, challenging me to a fight, twisting my words, name-calling, body-shaming, etc etc. It made me mad, sure, but even more than that, it made me sad.

It made me sad because I know there are kids who deal with WAY worse than I ever have. I’m a grown man. I’m able to process this and learn from it and let it roll off my back. But, I’ve learned this over time.

Here’s a hard truth: bullies will always exist. They just will. I truly believe we’ll never “eliminate” bullies or bullying.

That said, I think there are a couple things we can do.

First, I know the right thing to say is that bullies are just people who are hurting. Hurt people, hurt people. And I know that’s true. I also believe, though, that some people are just plain mean to their core. They’re selfish and rude and mean and don’t care that anyone knows it. You probably know adults like this. And while that’s kind of scary, it actually helps me. It helps me prepare. Haters gon’ hate, etc. So yes, let’s not ignore bullies as a rule, but understand that some will never change no matter what we do or say. And with that knowledge, let’s teach our kids how to deal with them if they encounter them. Give them strategies for what to do in those situations and how to handle it mentally and emotionally going forward.

On the other hand – so to speak – when I go into schools, I spend the bulk of my energy teaching the kids to accept themselves and others just the way they are. I help them see that the things that make them unique also make them awesome. It’s why I challenge them to tell ONE friend something they think is awesome about them before they leave school the day of my visit. I’ve heard my message described as a subversive anti-bullying message and I’m ok with that.

Tonight was difficult, but I can’t tell you how glad I am to have a platform on which to share my experience in hopes to help you in yours. Let’s be aware, alert and available to help however and whenever we can.

We have to.

It’s been a while since I reviewed some Tom Bihn products, so I’m super excited to share these ones with you! I’ve been using these for a few months now (thanks, Darcy!), so hopefully you find the reviews to be helpful! I do my best to be honest about how things work with one hand, so keep that in mind when you watch them. Let me know if you have any questions!

This duffel bag is AWESOME!
If you’re into minimalist wallets, these will be right up your alley!

Knork Holiday Giveaway 2018

December 16, 2018 — 2 Comments

It’s time!

It’s been a while, but I’ve partnered with my friends at Knork to do a FANTASTIC giveaway, just in time for Christmas! If you’re not familiar, the staple of the Knork family of products is the Knork fork. The reason it’s so great, especially for those of us with one hand, is because the edge is sharp (not sharp enough to hurt you), which enables you to cut through foods you’d normally also need a knife for.

They also have TONS of other products that are equally as awesome, some of which I reviewed for you here:

This is ridiculous, but here you go.

Let’s get to the good stuff!

First, and this is absurd, but if you go to www.knork.net and use code ONEHAND, you’ll get 60% off your purchase. SIXTY. PERCENT. OFF. Go now.

AAAAAAND now it’s time for the giveaway! TWO winners will receive BOTH a 20-piece Flatware Set AND the new 8+1 Piece TOGO Plasticware Set! These prize packages are worth over $100 EACH.

Gorgeous 20-piece Set
Super adorable new plasticware set!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alright, good luck! So excited for two of you to get these awesome packages!

And thank you so much to my friends at Knork!

(This giveaway is open to those living in the continental US only. Thanks for understanding!)

A couple days ago I saw a tweet in my timeline by someone named Bryan Behar. He paid tribute to the passing of President Bush and people subsequently lost their minds and unfollowed him because they took it as an endorsement of some of Bush’s more troubling policies. I started reading through his other tweets and…well…

Now we’re best friends.

He just doesn’t know it.

We haven’t really interacted or anything, but let me explain.

I first read his most recent piece wherein he explains that he spent the first 50 years of his life avoiding criticism. Trying to keep his voice hidden so that his “limited reservoir of self-esteem” wouldn’t crumble if people came at him. Which was somewhat challenging since he’s a writer in Hollywood, having written for 23 sitcoms in the last 20 years. Since turning 50, though, he’s turned over a new leaf and is finding and sharing his voice, regardless of what the world has to say in response.

Then I saw that he lost his father to suicide, too.

The piece he wrote that I linked to in the previous sentence is amazing. And I don’t mean just that it’s well-written, though it is. It’s amazing because of all the parallels to my own story; my own experience. His dad was confident, a strong provider. Nobody had any idea he’d even consider suicide. Even Bryan’s description of the feeling of disbelief until he arrived to the “crime scene” (suicide is not a crime, but the scene is reminiscent of one) was exactly how I experienced it. Bryan was 43 when his dad died by suicide, I was 37.

Bryan also wrote a piece about triggers for survivors of suicide and why he writes about it so often. I’m not joking when I say that I could have written these. What I mean is that my thoughts about these things so closely mirror his, it’s almost eerie. In a good way. If that’s a thing.

Bryan’s a sports guy, as am I. Our politics are similar. He’s hilarious.

And here’s the cherry on top…

He’s a crier.

No joke, on my way home from work yesterday I started sobbing thinking about all of this. Hear me out.

I truly believe there’s nothing more important in this world than connection. Of knowing – not just FEELING – but, KNOWING that you’re not alone. We all need that. We all want that. Even people who “hate everyone” desire connection. So, when I thought about the connections Bryan and I share, it overwhelmed me. In a good way. It reminded me, too, of all the amazing people in my life that I’m connected to. I just started to type out some names, but I’m already at 447 words.

The point is this: connection is everything.

Take some time today to think about the people in your life that you’re connected to and maybe reach out to a couple of them and just tell them thanks.

And Bryan, if you’re reading this…maybe some day we can talk and become actual friends.

That would actually make me feel less stalker-ish, which would be good.

Ok, bye.

Alright, alright…I wasn’t the very last person to cross the finish line.

I was the last in my division. And the second-to-last male. And seventh-to-last overall.

Impressive, right?!

Ok, so here’s what really happened. A few months ago I signed Julie and I up to do this 5k on Thanksgiving with a group of friends. Plenty of time to train and get back into shape for it. I’ve done a bunch of 5ks before. Well, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I didn’t train for a single day. Not one day. Not one walk. Not one sit-up. Not one lunge. Nothing.

We decided to do it anyway, even though we knew we’d have to walk and it was super cold. And I’m glad we did. A couple friends brought their kiddos and we just walked and had a good time. Mostly. It was funny and we did walk three miles and I’m totally glad we did it, but…

It also signaled a turning point for me. I need to get back into shape. Big time.

To that end, I just joined a program my friend Carlos Whittaker created called Fit By First.

It’s the perfect time for it, too. Right after Thanksgiving, heading towards Christmas and the New Year.

We start December 1st and I’d love if you joined me. Maybe you’re healthy and just want to do something different. Maybe you’re like me and you need something to jumpstart your health journey.

Check it out and let me know if you join. We’re all in this together!

And I plan to improve my 5k time for my next race.

*crosses fingers*

This is where I finished nationally and it’s HILARIOUS.

I’m sitting here thinking, “I don’t really even know what to write.”

My wife would tell me, “Then just write that. Be honest. Other thoughts will come.”

She’s wise.

Today is the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death. I’m not a big fan of using the word anniversary for it, but it is what it is, right?

It also happens to be International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

So, there’s that.

Right now I’m feeling kind of like, “Why are you continuing to write? This is NOT helpful. You should be giving information about the ISOSLD thing and how things are better now than they were and all that…”

Here’s the deal, though: That’s not how I’m feeling. I’m listening to Julien Baker and feeling melancholic. And you know what? That’s fine.

I’ve found, without fail, that when I write what I’m actually feeling…it resonates. Even if I’m embarrassed or scared or whatever.

So, here’s what I’m feeling right now. Today. On International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. On the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death.

I’m feeling like it’s been a tough week, but it’s been bearable.

Thursday would have been my grandpa’s 99th birthday. He died about a year and a half before my dad. I always forget how close after his birthday my dad killed himself. Every year I forget. You’d think I’d remember that.

I remember sitting with my dad while grandpa was in hospice and noticing a little spiral notebook in his hand. My dad wasn’t a writer. I asked him what it was and he said he’d been writing down the things he loved about his dad. He wrote words like loyal and hard-working and strong and brave and helpful…I’ll never forget that.

How are things for me now, four years later? I don’t think about him every day. I don’t feel as devastated as I used to. I miss him just as much and I wish like hell he was here, but it isn’t a constant undercurrent or anything. Certain things still remind me of him. Like, the other day I got a bunch of stuff at the grocery store that I had at his house when I’d visit every other weekend growing-up. That was kind of fun, actually.

Whenever my kids have concerts or Claire has a basketball game, I wish he was there. Not only to see and support them, but those were moments I loved being with him. Laughing together, trying to stifle it so people wouldn’t get mad at us. Talking about the Badgers and Packers and this year especially, the Brewers. Those are the times I’m reminded that he’s gone and wish he wasn’t.

If I’m really honest, it’s just been a tough year overall. So, it’s kind of one of those things where I’m like, “Hey, dad. I love you. I miss you. But, I have a lot of shit to do. And it’s all really good. I’m really excited about it. I wish you were here to watch what happens. Julie is amazing, but you already know that. The thing is, though, she’s more amazing than you ever knew. Sam is taller than me now, but he usually doesn’t rub it in. He’s doing No Shave November and has a pretty good ‘stache going. Julie keeps teasing him about it, which doesn’t go over real well, as you might imagine. Anna is growing up fast and I’m not sure I like it. She’s amazing, though. She has these two great friends from gymnastics, Denise and Joclyn, and they make these cool little videos on Instagram of them doing gymnastics things and TONS of people watch and like them. It’s pretty neat. She also does this thing at bedtime where she kisses Julie on the cheek, but she just lightly presses her lips to her cheek and Julie HATES it and Anna and I laugh so hard we almost pee our pants. I’m pretty sure Julie gets legitimately mad about it. It’s the best. And Claire…oh, Claire Bear. Dad, she’s SO funny. And she never stops talking. The other day she was explaining what dating is like in 5th grade and I almost had to pull over on the way home from gymnastics. She’s playing basketball and is a starter. You know I’m competitive, so when I watch her grab a rebound and then stand there and look at the girl she knocked over to get it, feeling bad instead of clearing it and running up the court, I’m like, “CLAIRE! GO!” Julie, on the other hand, is like, “Oh, my sweet sweet Claire.” Drives me nuts. But it is pretty damn cute. Anyway…things here are good. And getting better. Every day. Ok, I’ll check in again with you later. Love you.”

Well, apparently I needed to do that.

*grabs tissues*

Felt really good, actually. It’s been a while since I connected with him like that.

And maybe that’s the best way to describe how things are with me in relation to my dad’s suicide four years later.

It’s been a while, but it still feels good to connect.

Love and miss you, Dad.

That won’t ever change.

My book, Different Is Awesome!, released in July of 2015.

I visited Lake Highlands Elementary school in Dallas, TX in late 2016.

Yesterday, one of the kids who was in the audience at that school visit decided to be a character from Different Is Awesome! for their Halloween parade at school.

Uncanny!

WHAT?!

This is blowing my mind.

First of all, I love the fact that the book still resonates with this guy. I don’t know the depth of his connection with that character, but the fact that he chose to recreate the outfit Noah wears in the book, out of ALL the characters in ALL the book in ALL of the whole world, and then marched in a parade with his schoolmates…just…dude. Seriously, that’s amazing.

I also love (and I’m assuming here) that his parents were on board and helped him with this. I love that they have incorporated the message into their home and purposely perpetuate it throughout their community.

I also love that he identifies with one of the, for lack of a better term, peripheral characters. Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned over the past few years is how stinking important it is for kids to SEE THEMSELVES in literature. Obviously my main objective was to incorporate a one-handed character, but I put a lot of thought into include a diverse group of classmates. I’m so so glad I did, even though at the time I wasn’t thinking of this aspect of the characters as explicitly.

Noah

I’m really encouraged today.

I’ll be honest and say that I have been tempted to say, “Relax, it’s just one kid,” but that’s the whole point, right? Something I did impacted this kid in such a way that he chose to become a character in a book I wrote. That’s amazing.

And while I haven’t been notified of any other kids choosing to do that (yet! lol), I know that countless kids and families have chosen to include the idea that being different is awesome into their homes and communities. That’s amazing, too.

And here’s my encouragement to you: Find ways you can lend your voice and expertise to help people. It’s worth it. And I KNOW you have something to offer! I say that because I know a lot of you are like, “This is a cool, feel-good story!” but then you’re thinking you didn’t write a book or do anything big or whatever. To that I say, STOP IT. Start small and where you’re at. Hold the door for someone. Pay someone a compliment. Think about your life experience and how you might be able to use it to help others in similar circumstances.

Don’t overthink it. Just look to help others and cool things will happen.

Trust me.

The World Is So Small

August 22, 2018 — 1 Comment

People send me messages on Facebook pretty frequently.

Usually, though, they don’t live on the street I grew-up on.

Let me explain.

The other day I received a message from Maurita. She explained how she and her husband, Kevin, just had a little boy, Colin, who was born with a different little left hand. In the days following Colin’s arrival, Kevin remembered that he had seen me speak two years ago. He works at a hospital under the same umbrella as the company I work for and I had done some events, one of which was in the city he works in. Small world, right?! So, they reached out to me for any insight I might be able to share with them. Since I knew he worked relatively close, I asked if they lived near Madison, WI, which is close to where I live. I thought maybe I could just visit them.

This is where things get fun.

“We are actually in Verona and would love to meet up!” she said.

Verona?? That’s where I live.

Not only that, she then tells me they live in the same neighborhood I grew-up in.

AND THE SAME STREET I GREW-UP ON. I tell her which house I lived in and she totally knows which one I mean.

So crazy!

We make plans for me to come over for a visit the next day.

It gets better.

The next evening I head over to their house and as I’m driving by the house I lived in all through middle and high school, I pull over right past it because I’m voice-to-texting my wife and need to concentrate. A lady pulls up beside me and I motion for her to go around. Instead, she rolls her window down and says, “I’m sorry! I thought you were someone else. Somebody is coming to pick-up my daughter. I live in this house.”

I laugh.

“That’s hilarious. Because I lived in this house for about ten years!”

Then I had to awkwardly explain that I wasn’t stalking her, but that I was going to visit with some new friends down the road. I think she believed me.

Then it was off to visit with my new friends!

Is this the cutest or what??

Colin was upset when I got there, but mom and dad knew exactly what to do. “Is it ok if we go sit on the patio? Colin loves the humidity for some reason,” Maurita told me. Sure enough, as soon as we got out there he calmed right down! So adorable.

We sat on the patio, Colin, mom and dad, and Maurita’s mom, and talked for a long time. We talked about their experience so far, situations we’ve both encountered and how to deal with them, I shared advice I’ve gleaned over the years…we literally laughed and cried together and it was fantastic.

One of the things that really got to me was when they shared their birth story with me. It was difficult. Colin’s difference didn’t show-up on their ultrasounds, so when he arrived the first thing they heard was, “What’s wrong with his hand??” I’m still stunned by that. The doctor then said, “I’m sorry,” but nothing further. The hospital took care of them, but gave them no information about why this might have happened, nor did they direct them to any resources to help them. Everything they knew and learned over the next six weeks came from the internet.

Just a reminder: It’s 2018.

It showed me that we still have a long way to go. The first response any parents should hear when their baby arrives should be POSITIVE. It lit a fire in me to go to somehow connect with hospitals to make sure this doesn’t happen again. To make sure they are trained and prepared for these circumstances and that they have answers and resources available immediately for the parents. I know a book they could give them that I think will help.

It was awesome to connect with my new friends and we had such a great time learning from each other. We’ll definitely be getting together again soon. These types of connections really are everything. If you know of other families near you who are affected by limb-differences in some way, take some time to get to know each other. Go to their house. Hangout at the park. Go to the zoo. There’s really nothing like being together and sharing stories and learning from each other.

So tiny!

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find out you have some other crazy connection that reminds you how small the world really is.