Archives For Uncategorized

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

Yesterday my friend Ryan sent me this text:

Screenshot_2015-05-30-12-10-24-1

He was on the verge of unfriending me in real life because I hadn’t yet seen Mad Max: Fury Road.

Well, last night I saw it and…holy crap.

First of all, it’s a gorgeous piece of art. It’s not for everyone, for sure, but I spent most of the time in the theater thinking, “How did they do that??” A solid story, interesting characters, amazing scenery and…freaking car chases. Except that doesn’t do justice to what actually happened for two hours. I texted my brother-in-law afterwards and said, “I wish I lived near a desert so I could drive recklessly through it!”

The reason Ryan wanted me to see it so badly, though, was because of Imperator Furiosa.

Oh, Furiosa.

furiosa

We don’t know much about Furiosa, but we do know that she is strong, smart and compassionate. Her mission, unbeknownst to the evil Immortan Joe, is to transport his captive wives to freedom, which she believes will find them at The Green, the place she was born. The story follows this perilous journey, filled with carnage and careful character development.

What struck me, though, as I’m sure it did nearly every amputee who’s seen it, is exactly what my friend Ryan was hoping I’d notice:

Screenshot_2015-05-30-12-10-41-1

Furiosa’s difference was not a plot point.

In fact, they never addressed her arm throughout the entirety of the movie.

Not once.

Not once while she was driving. Or fighting. Or jumping between vehicles. Or loading weapons. Or shooting said weapons.

And they could have.

We don’t know why she has one hand. We don’t know if she was born that way or if she lost it somehow. We don’t know how her steam punk prosthetic works or where she got it, though we know she doesn’t need it to kick someone’s ass.

mad-max-fury-road-2015-002-furiosa-atop-man-ORIGINAL

All we know is that she has one hand and…it doesn’t matter.

I’ve actually read that she and George Miller actually do know the back story and, according to them, it’s amazing. So, maybe one day we’ll find out and that’ll be awesome.

But for now, I’m happy to watch a movie that incorporates characters with many differences and doesn’t use them as a device, but rather, allows the people with them to be just that…people.

More broadly, in Mad Max: Fury Road we see that difference doesn’t make a person good or bad. We see characters with differences who are evil and others who are heroes. And even others who just are. I could be off here, but I feel like that’s a rarity in the movies these days. I appreciate the efforts the filmmakers put forth to incorporate actors with differences and not make a big deal about it.

Some have complained that they cast Charlize Theron in the Furiosa role rather than an actual amputee. I understand the sentiment, but it doesn’t bother me. For one, they spent $150 million dollars on the movie, so it makes sense they’d want a well-known actress in the lead role. Second, she’s an amazing actress. My opinion is, whatever the arena, no amputee should expect or want to get the role/job/roster spot/etc. simply because they’re an amputee. While we should never be discounted because of our difference, I also think the best person for the job should get it. In this case, Theron got it and she deserves any award she gets for her performance.

Ultimately, if you can handle intense, violent action movies that feature limb-different heroines, Mad Max: Fury Road is for you.

Did you see the movie? What did you think?

Last night I ran my first 5k in over four years.

The lady in front of me was the focal point, thus the blurriness. Still like this shot.

The lady in front of me was the focal point, thus the blurriness. Still like this shot.

It felt amazing and I surpassed my own expectations! My modest goal was simply to finish (I’m actually still in the midst of my Couch-to-5k training), but I was confident I could do so in under 45 minutes. I felt good pretty much the whole race and toward the end I thought to myself, “I think I can finish this thing under 40 if I push!” So…I pushed.

As I hit the home-stretch and heard the cheering and the announcer say, “Here comes Ryan…Hock!” Then I saw the big digital clock, which showed 39:56. I yelled “CRAP!” as I sprinted to the finish line, passing it at 40:01. Spent and doubled-over, I went to stop my RunKeeper app and noticed that it said 39:52! Oh, yeah! I had forgotten that we started in waves, so I actually finished earlier than that! 39:09 officially, nearly 6 minutes better than my goal!

Running to the finish line!

Running to the finish line!

Back in February I wrote a post about trying to get healthy again and was doing ok, but got consistently disciplined at the beginning of April. In fact, since April 8th, I’m down 17 pounds.

How?

Well, the simple answer is that I’ve been eating much better, tracking what I eat every day, and working out regularly. I also received consistent encouragement from a group of online friends (shoutout to my #fitbyfirst peeps!) and IRL friends. Groundbreaking, right??

So, what made the difference this time?

I believe signing-up for this 5k played a huge role.

While I realize that ultimately I could choose to not run it and just be out $30, that’s not how it worked for me. I knew that if I wanted to run it and finish it, I’d have to eat well and train consistently.

And I did. Because running a 5k is really good for you.

First, running a 5k is doable for anybody. It’s 3.1 miles, so even if you just walked it, you could probably finish it in an hour. With a couple months of consistent training, you could run/walk it, no problem. In fact, I ran my first 5k back in 2009 and documented the whole journey here. It’s pretty hilarious.

Second, it gives you a goal to work toward. This was huge for me. It forced me to put my training sessions on the calendar and to go out and run, even when I didn’t feel like it. Each session got me closer to my goal – and continues to! And now that I have this one in the books, I’m excited to improve my time at the next race! I’m self-aware enough to know I’m not going to win the dang thing, but that’s not the point. My only competition at this point is with myself. I’m pushing myself to get a little better, a little faster every time out. I think the 5k is a perfect distance for this, especially for anybody who is working themselves back into shape.

To give some perspective, the bottom left was from December. The top left, from EASTER.

To give some perspective, the bottom left was from December. The top left, from EASTER.

Third, running a race and super fun! Seriously, you guys. Race day is a blast. Actually, for me it starts the day before with packet pick-up. Getting that new race shirt and the other goodies! Then, just like my friend Anthony, I like to have “the perfect setup.” I love setting my gear out the night before, fresh and clean. Pinning my bib to my new race shirt and setting my music playlist for the run. Getting to the race grounds is always a little adventurous and it’s a blast to be with hundreds, even thousands of people all with the same goal…get to the finish line! And have as much fun as you can while doing it! Getting to the homestretch and running down the chute toward the finish line while people cheer for you…such a rush!

Crossing that finish line, the sense of accomplishment is such a rush.

But, it’s not the end. Like I told my brother-in-law, Steven, this 5k was a solid building block.

I can’t wait for the next one.

I’d love to hear why you love running 5k races or any races for that matter! What’s your favorite story?

We weren’t all shaking our heads.

Elizabeth Heideman’s recent piece on Salon.com about the Toyota and Microsoft Super Bowl ads, which featured two people with limb-differences, would have you believe that we – all disabled people and activists – were upset about them.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, I believe her piece did more harm than good to an already nuanced conversation.

The fact is, differently-abled people aren’t represented very well in mainstream media. Some activists decry this injustice quite often. But then ads like these come out and those same people complain about them being “inspiration porn.” Frankly, it’s not a good look for our community. The other problem with Heideman’s piece specifically, is that the ads themselves don’t even meet the definition she herself puts forth in regards to IP. She says IP is anything that “sensationalizes people with disabilities.” To sensationalize something means to “present information about (something) in a way that provokes public interest and excitement, at the expense of accuracy.” There was nothing sensational about either advertisement. The Microsoft commercial is essentially a documentary about how technology has positively affected the little boy and his family. And the Amy Purdy ad…

Amy Purdy is amazing and the ad showcased her process and achievements well, even pairing her with the voice of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest of All Time! She was not presented as broken or needy; she was shown as powerful and able. Nothing about the commercial asked me or anyone to pity her in any way. In fact, that’s kind of the point here. It’s my opinion that something is only “inspiration porn” if it is perceived that way by the viewer. That is to say, if I see something and think to myself, “Boy, at least my life isn’t that bad,” then that’s on me, not whoever created the inspiring meme. That’s where education about the reality of having a disability comes in.

Continue Reading…

My wife is incredible. She has been my rock throughout the last few weeks. She’s also an amazing writer. So, when she said she, too, wanted to share her experience of telling our kids about my dad’s passing, my heart leapt. The following piece is her perspective of the events so far. Be moved. Be encouraged.

I am the oldest of four kids, and throughout my childhood, my parents would call us together for “Family Meetings” on a fairly regular basis. I have very distinct memories of 3 of those meetings, when instead of bouncing around and chatting about piano recitals or family trips, we were told solemnly to “sit down so we can talk”. We could feel the atmosphere change during these family meetings, and we would just stay quiet as we watched my father tear up and my mother console him as he filled us in on the deaths of three of my grandparents. It was difficult, but manageable. The weeks after these meetings were full of relatives and funerals and then we would fall back into our loud, busy lifestyle. After those few years, we never had any serious family meetings like that again. They are just a memory for me now.

When Ryan and I had children and I became a part of the HUMONGOUS Haack family, I knew that difficult family meetings come with the territory. I have been preparing myself for the conversations that are required for parenthood since Sam was born. I am ready to discuss braces, prom dates, first jobs, college choices, “the talk”, and even death. I just had this image of us sitting in our living room, calm, yet tearing up as we described the passing of any of our loved ones. I thought I was prepared for all of this.

Turns out, there is NO WAY to prepare for having to tell three precious children that their beloved “Papa” had taken his own life.

Gramma Donna, Papa and the kids

Gramma Donna, Papa and the kids

Continue Reading…

If I were to identify a theme that presented itself at that 2014 STORY Conference, it’s this:

Those who are prepared to fail, succeed.

For a conference about dreaming and story-telling and creating, that seems like a fairly negative theme, but to me it was refreshing and encouraging. There were a litany of other lessons to be gleaned from this year’s experience to be sure, but that theme permeated several of the presentations in one form or another.

Jonah Lehrer bravely began the conference by sharing his story of success, complete and utter ruin, and what he’s learned for the experience. If you don’t know who Jonah is (like I didn’t before hearing his story), a quick Google search will bring you somewhat up to speed. Jonah is a NYT Best-Selling author and a brilliant mind in the area of neuroscience and had everything going for him as a young author and journalist. But then…scandal. The way I understand it, he stood accused of plagiarizing his own material – essentially regurgitating previous work and passing it off as new – as well as others’ and was fired/resigned from essentially every position he held.

Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer

Lehrer’s tale is still in process. He didn’t stand before us triumphantly, telling us how he rose from the ashes after flaming out. He told us he’s still figuring it out. Suddenly he had nothing but time on his hands and he said that enabled him to become a better husband and father. The fall reminded him of his true passion, writing, and kept him up at night lamenting how he’d lost that passion amidst the fame and popularity he was experiencing. So, now he’s working on a book about love, the only thing he had left after losing everything he thought was important. He dreads the day he has to explain to his kids what happened and wishes he could purge Google of the results that currently represent him (including one dude who has a strange obsession with hating on him), but has come to realize, “Say what you want about failure – it educates.”

Continue Reading…