Archives For Hope

It’s Been Three Weeks

December 9, 2014 — 2 Comments

Yesterday makes three weeks since I lost my dad.

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

11:25am “LITERAL 911! CALL ME NOW!”

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

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

People keep asking me how I’m doing.

That’s a difficult question to answer, honestly.

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

Shocking, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoa, that got a little deep.

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

And for the love of Pete, keep smiling!

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

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



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

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Miles O’Brien has been a journalist for over 30 years and has won every award you can name. Countless assignments of his have put him in harm’s way and yet, as Miles says, “Life has a way of surprising you.”

Sadly, Miles hasn't been able to maintain his sense of humor since the accident.

Sadly, Miles hasn’t been able to maintain his sense of humor since the accident.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The unlikely accident that led to the amputation of his left arm just above the elbow
  • The long road to recovery and what that looks like in his daily life
  • The emotional and social effects of the amputation
  • Being a one-handed MacGyver
  • Re-learning to ride a bike and setting ambitious goals ( Bike Ride)
  • The current state and future of prosthetic devices (e-NABLE)
  • Miles’s desire and plan to get back into the cockpit and fly a plane (Able Flight)
  • And more!
"Every day I learn something new."

“Every day I learn something new.”

Follow Miles on Twitter @milesobrien.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

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.”

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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?

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.


Yesterday I got a call from Lloyd Bachrach letting me know that he was giving two presentations at a school near me.

I was introduced to Lloyd about a year and a half ago and this is the first chance I had to meet him, so even though it was really short notice…I went.

Of course.

And I’m so glad I did!

lloyd bachrach ryan haack

Selfie time with Lloyd Bachrach!

Lloyd is a remarkable man, full of energy. He was born with two short legs and he tells his story so well in his presentation. From what the doctors said to his parents to learning to walk to finally deciding he “wanted to be taller,” which resulted in his being fitted for prosthetic legs. The first group of kids were grades K-2 and he handled them like nobody’s business! It was funny to watch the teachers shaking their heads and making comments. “He’s in FULL control!” one of them would whisper. And he was. The second group was grades 3-5 and his presentation was a touch different, but not much. It was incredible to see how confident he was and how the kids respected him.

lloyd bachrach

The kids in rapt attention during the second presentation of the day.

Lloyd spoke about his “dream-makers”: the principal who allowed him into her public school (there were no laws saying she had to at that time – pre-ADA) and his gym teacher who pushed him into sports. Lloyd participated in everything you can imagine, but ultimately became a gymnast, finishing 5th in the entire state of Illinois his senior year of high school! After that, he was a member of the US sitting volleyball team that competed in the Paralympics in Atlanta in 1996.

The kids LOVED his demonstrations. He showed how he walks in his prosthetics and without them. He showed how he runs, with his arms and legs. He also gave an incredible gymnastics demonstration! Incredibly memorable.

I really appreciated the messages he had for the kids. He spoke about where the term “handicapped” came from and why he doesn’t like it and what he prefers instead. Even the word disabled has a connotation to it that says, “You are unable.” So, he tells the kids what he prefers: Differently abled. “See how I ran? I was able to do it, I just do it a little bit different than you do,” he pointed out. Sound familiar? He also shared his keys to living successfully; to overcoming the difficulties we all face in life. Simple, clear and powerful. What also struck me was his bravery. He literally ripped his pants off in front of hundreds of kids and adults he didn’t know. He stood in front of them, proud of who he is and showed them what makes him different and how awesome it is. I loved it. If you have the chance to bring Lloyd to your school, business or whatever, I suggest you do it. Just so good.

As we were walking out together, we made our way carefully through kids playing in the gym (indoor recess). Many of them came up to him and excitedly explained that they, too, were trying to play sitting volleyball! And they gave him high-fives. And one girl gave him a big hug. As we made it out into the hall, he looked at me and said, “And that is what it’s all about.”

And I agree 100%.

To learn more about Mr. Bachrach and his program, visit the “Yes, You Can!” website!

I often see parents posting about that dreaded moment. That moment when her child notices that there’s something different about her…and she hates it.

How are we to react in that moment?

Giving parenting advice is tricky. There’s no one “right way” to parent and I get that, so these are just my thoughts; take them with a grain of salt. For one, you’ll never hear me tell anybody how they should or shouldn’t think or feel.  Especially parents.  If your child’s newfound discovery and reaction makes you feel sad or guilty or angry and confused, I get it.  Those are reasonable feelings to have.  I’d like to be an encouragement to you, though.

I can only speak for myself, but I know many other limb-different adults who would agree…if I ever got angry or sad about my arm at an early age, I have no recollection of it.  None.

When our children are small, we help to shape how they think.  I remember when my kids were little, if they fell, I’d cheer.  They’d peer up at me with a look of surprise on their face, like, “Wait…I think I’m hurt.  Shouldn’t you be freaking out?”  And there I’d be, clapping and yelling, “Yay!  That was awesome!”  Then they’d pop up and carry on.  I’m sure you’ve experienced what happens when you gasp and cover your mouth and shout, “OH NO!”  The kid sees YOU freaking out, so THEY freak out.  I’m not a therapist, but I think it’s the same with this situation.  Your little one gets angry and sad about his hand and if you indicate to them that, yes, it IS a raw deal, they’ll carry that with them.  On the other hand, so to speak, if you allow them to feel what they’re feeling, but encourage them to view it as something positive, I believe that can shape their perspective, too.

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Something happened at work today that made me really angry.

I’m a Team Lead in the Customer Service department for a health insurance company, so I spend a lot of my day having phone conversations with angry people. I also try to help my team know how to handle “difficult callers.” As you might imagine, it’s been pretty tense around the office this year, what with all the changes in health care. With that in mind, I sent out an email to our whole department reminding them how talented and important they are and included a list of ten tips for handling difficult callers. Shortly afterward, I noticed a coworker speaking with my supervisor and she looked pretty shaken-up.

It turned out she had a difficult call, so I listened to it to see what happened. Let me say here that in the nearly nine years I’ve been in this call center, I’ve heard a lot of bad calls. And this one still shocked me. The woman was rude the entire time and then put her boyfriend on at the end only to have him say, “I want to speak to somebody who has a clue what they’re doing.” My co-worker rightly said that she did know what she was doing and he then demanded a supervisor. He had a few more disparaging remarks before he emphatically stated, “You must be black.” As she is a black woman, she calmly said she was ending the call to which he yelled, “F*** YOU, B****!”

To say I wanted to form a search party and go find this clown is an understatement.

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