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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.

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.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Helping Hands Foundation’s Winter Outing for the SIXTH year in a row. It always feels like family. I love that, especially since I’m a Midwestern boy from Wisconsin and all my East Coast friends treat me like one of their own.

One of my favorite moments every year is reuniting with my little buddy, Ella. It’s been so fun to watch her grow and this year she’s missing teeth! As I walked towards her she saw me and threw her hands over her mouth in surprise. I got to her and she threw her arms around me and said, “Hi, Ryan! I missed you so much!” Good grief!

Another highlight for me was getting to meet Mike Alt. Mike lives in Reno, NV, which is nowhere near Las Vegas, it turns out. He founded “Can’t Is Not An Excuse” and I loved hearing him share his story with the teens and the whole group. Mike is a good dude with a great message.

Then there’s Jen Reeves. We don’t get to see each other nearly as often as we’d like, so when we both found out we were going to be in Boston, we kind of freaked out. No exaggeration, Jen is one of my favorite people on Earth. The work she does with Jordan and Born Just Right is incredible and it was so fun to hear them share their story and watch them interact with everyone.

I also got to meet Meghan Rose and hear her share her story with the group this year. Meghan is an actress in NYC and I loved seeing her share her confidence with everyone, especially the teenage girls. They LOVED her and righty so! Love that they had her as a role model and she was so open with them. (Meghan is in the middle and Kristy, another AMAZING roll model is on the right)

And of course it’s always a blast to hangout with my biological son (not really), Nick Newell, and his new bride, Danielle! Nick is also one of my favorite people on Earth and I love watching him interact with all the kids over the weekend. They think he’s so cool (he is) and he loves them. It’s fantastic.

I’m also grateful for the adult mentors. Every one of them brings something unique to the group and the fact that they give of their time to speak into the lives of kids who are still learning about themselves and life is so impressive. I spent time with the high school kids this year and it was SO great to hear them having deep discussions about issues that affect them and sharing common experiences. I’ve watched some of these kids grow for the past six years and the maturity, the ability to see beyond themselves was amazing.

Of course, the weekend doesn’t happen without all the amazing volunteers and especially Patti and Dayna. Two of the coolest, kindest, most selfless people I know. I think most people would be shocked if they really knew what these two do behind the scenes to make everything work. Thank you for everything you do to make sure all of us have an amazing weekend together!

What was also great about this weekend was that for the first time I came a day early so I could give a couple presentations at a school. I stayed with the Rovedos on Thursday night and spoke at their little guy Cam’s school on Friday morning. Everyone at JFK Elementary was amazing and I loved meeting Mrs. Reilly and Mr. T! I very rarely speak at schools where someone else has one hand, so this was a blast to see the kids already kind of know what’s up, but still be excited about my visit.

Had an amazing time out east and already can’t wait until next year!

*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.

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!

12026423_10153067238651316_319658341_n

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

**Offer extended TODAY ONLY (November 28th) in honor of Small Business Saturday!**

The holidays are approaching quickly, which means one thing: YOU GOTTA START BUYING GIFTS NOW!

That, or you’ve been reading posts that make you feel bad about the commercialization of the holidays and have vowed to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays.

But still…presents.

Seriously, though, one popular guideline for gift-requesting-and-giving that I really like is this poem:

Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

Simple, yet robust.

And to help you with the “something to read” portion, I would like to offer you this LIMITED TIME OFFER! I’m told when you capitalize things and use exclamation points it makes it look super important.

From now until November 19th – ONE WEEK ONLY! – you can get an AUTOGRAPHED, PERSONALIZED (“For Jimmy! You’re awesome!”) copy of Different Is Awesome! AND a STICKER and BOOKMARK (which are not currently available anywhere else) for only $25! Shipping included (US only)!

Book, Sticker and Bookmark!

Book, Sticker and Bookmark!

I’ll be taking orders until the 19th, so if you’re interested shoot me an email at ryan@livingonehanded.com with the following information:

Your name and address, how you want your book(s) personalized and whether you’d rather send a check or be invoiced via PayPal.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

Act now by entering the Rafflecopter thingy below and you also have a chance to win one package for FREE! The more you share it, the better your chances of winning, which is basically all kinds of awesome.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, on a serious note, I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response to the book over the last several months and really hope this is a special way to keep the message spreading. If you’re not into the holiday package thing, you can totally still get the book through all the regular channels here.

Thanks for being so awesome!

Ryan

This Sunday is Father’s Day.

It’ll be the first one without my dad.

I’m not sure how it’s going to go, to be honest. It won’t be the same without him here.

I’ve actually been thinking about him quite a bit lately. I keep seeing people who remind me of him. See, we moved into a new building where I work and they’ve been doing a lot of external renovation and now they’re onto the landscaping, so there are guys all over the place who look like my dad. You know the look.

20150619_203502-1

My dad worked outside as far back as I can remember. He worked for the city and took care of the parks and public lands. He usually wore a baseball cap and a sleeveless shirt, filthy by the end of the work day. He’d wear shorts and boots or his New Balance cross trainers. And he was always tan. You probably see guys like my dad on your way to work or on your drive home. Not afraid to get dirty. Maybe sucking on a cigarette.

He was a hard worker, my dad. He took pride in what he did, as he should have. He was good at it. “If you’re gonna do it, you might as well do it right the first time,” he’d say. He abhorred the bureaucracy that came with being a city worker, but he always fought for what was right. Whether it was getting financing for the parks, or taking care of his employees, he did all he could to make sure the people he served got what they deserved. Whether it was work or family, everybody else came first. I’ve always admired that about him.

He knew his limitations, too, I think. He wasn’t highly educated, but he always knew what he was talking about. He didn’t read much and writing wasn’t his forte, but he could get the job done. I remember him showing me letters he’d written for something at work a few times, not asking for my approval, but I could tell he was looking for it. Just to make sure it was as good as he thought it was, ya know? Even though writing those letters wasn’t his strong suit, he did it anyway and he did to the best of his ability.

He did everything that way.

Whether as an employee or a boss, a son or a brother or an uncle, a mentor or a coach, a friend or a teammate, a husband or a grandfather or…

A dad.

There is no doubt in my mind that my dad gave it everything he had. He gave his best in every capacity. He wasn’t perfect. He was no saint, that’s for damn sure. But, like a good coach, he got the best out of what he had.

That’s what I’m missing about my dad today.

And one day, I hope my kids will be able to say the same about me.

You left a good legacy, dad.

Love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

dad christmas

Coach.

Coach.

Red Huffy and High Socks.

Red Huffy and High Socks.

Dad looks cool. I look like...I'm wearing sweatpants. #cubscouts

Dad looks cool. I look like…I’m wearing sweatpants. #cubscouts