Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Glorious Day (Part 2)

This is a view of the main living area of my condo.
After all names were collected of those who were to be a part of the lottery drawing, they were placed in one of those wire enclosed tumbler type of things. Helen Schiller, Alderman of the 46th ward and the original founder of the program, was on hand to draw the names from the wire basket. Helen Schiller and I knew each other because I had been at two previous lotteries and also she was personal friends with my dear friend Marguerite. We had met at Marguerite's retirement party.

Before the names are drawn from the tumbler it  is announced which particular property is being drawn and it continues until all properties have been awarded. The first name drawn was going to be awarded that large property that included the parking space, the property that I had wanted so badly. I do not remember this as distinctly as Bill does, perhaps because I was so enthralled in the excitement of the whole thing, but Bill told me later that when Helen pulled the first name out, a smile crossed her face.

My name was the very first name drawn and it was for the property I had worked so diligently at least mentally and spiritually to achieve. I could not believe my ears. It was all I could do to hold back my tears. This had really happened, I was physically shaking from the shock of it and was awestruck with amazement. I knew this was going to happen and yet when it did, I was overwhelmed.

Let me explain this did not mean I was given the property, it meant I had this wonderful opportunity to purchase this beautiful condo at a greatly reduced price. This meant I could actually purchase a place of my own after over thirty years of paying rent!

The next few months were a struggle to find financing. I did not have great credit, it was average, and I had worked for myself for the past twelve years, my income was somewhat of an issue. After having been turned down for financing several times, I was somewhat discouraged, but determined to find a way to buy this property. Bill was very encouraging, he said remember the smile that crossed Helen's face and always remember of all the people who were at that lottery, God chose you first. Six years later I still remember that and I always will.

After finally finding a bank and a loan officer, named Cheryl Weismith, it looked as if things were finally on their way to completion. Remember this was December 2007, within six months of my purchase the entire real estate market collapsed and it is still recovering to this day. I remember Cheryl was very insistent about the "drop dead" date of December 4. I think she knew the market was on the brink of collapse and if I did not get financing by that date, there was a possibility it would never happen.

As I stated at the being of this two part blog post, there were so many things that went so rightly with such impeccable timing it is beyond coincidence, it was divine intervention. Let me explain further.

Six months after moving into my elevator building with an attached and enclosed garage, I lost my first leg. As time progressed I began to realize just how perfectly suited this condo was for the amputee I had become. There are no stairs for me to climb either into or out of my condo unit or into or out of the garage, perfect for someone in a wheelchair. I had only lived in one other elevator building in my entire life and that was 25 years earlier, every place I had ever lived since was always on the second or third floor of a walk up building.

My condo also has in unit laundry facilities, something I had never had before ever, something I desperately needed after having become an amputee. When my name was drawn at that lottery I had no idea what was going ensue in just a few months. I have since come to realize just how perfect the timing was for was about to happen to me.

I feel that it was my destiny to become an amputee, that there is a reason this happened, an inevitable fate of sorts. I feel and I will always feel that this condo was chosen for me by God as a place that despite the hardships that losing not only one leg both legs, I have a comfortable, beautiful, and well suited place to live. If you look at all that happened in order for this to take place with such perfect timing it has to be more than coincidence.

Maybe I should have called this two part blog post, " two glorious days"  because it was glorious the day my name was drawn and it was glorious the day I moved in. I made a promise to God before my name was drawn that I would never take this place for granted and I would thank him for him for it everyday.

Six years later I have kept my promise and there is not one day that goes by that I am not grateful for the blessing of my home. Thanks be to God. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Glorious Day (Part 1)

The photo above was taken standing on the balcony of my new condo before I moved in 2007.

It was 6 years ago today that I realized a lifelong dream. I moved into my condo six years ago today, I was 50 years old. I had been wanting to own my own place for decades before my wish became a reality, through a series of events too perfect to be just a coincidence.

Through the guidance and tenacity of my friend Bill I was finally able to purchase my own home. Bill found out about a program here in Chicago that was designed to allow people to purchase homes at a reduced rate. This program called  Chicago Affordable Housing, was implemented  by an Alderman in Chicago named Helen Schiller.

The program offered new properties at a reduced rate. A person is required to attend classes about first time home ownership, managing money, maintaining property and the like. Upon successful completion of the required classes and being financially qualified, a person is eligible to participate in a lottery whereby if your name is drawn, you are able to purchase a condominium at a substantially lower price than current market value.

After having completed all the required perquisites, I was now eligible to be placed in a lottery. A few weeks before a lottery is to take place you are notified and invited to tour the property or properties to be offered in the lottery. I followed all of the perscribed procedures and attended my first lottery. My name was not drawn.

A few months later I attended a second lottery. At these lottery drawings, there are usually multiple properties offered anywhere from eight to twelve, in addition to the names drawn for the properties, there are also alternate names drawn. These alternate names are used in the event the person whose name was actually drawn is unable to attain financing.

My name was drawn as an alternate in my second lottery. I really didn't think that much about it, because I felt the chances of getting a condo through the unfortunate reality of someone else not being able to get financing, was a slim possibility. A couple of months later I was notified that someone was in fact unable to get their property financed, which meant the property was offered to me. I was able to look at the property again, it was a small two bedroom, one bath unit in a high rise with no outdoor space, no parking included and a west view.

At the risk of sounding like an ingrate, and although I was excited at the possibility of home ownership, I was not thrilled with this particular property. It was small, boxy, in a large building with a doorman, not really my cup of tea. I preferred a smaller building, without the added expensive of a 24 hour doorman. I was in a quandary. Bear in mind that if I decided not to take this property it would not make me ineligible for further lotteries nor would it reflect badly upon me in any manner.

I enlisted the advice of three people. First I asked Bill what he thought of the possibility of me turning down the property? He said he felt that this was a very important decision, a decision that I should make on my own, after all I was the one who would have to live with the consequences of that decision. The  second person I asked was my friend Marguerite. She said that as long as I was prepared to live with the possibility that my name may never be drawn again, to follow my heart. She also advised that I should be prepared to cope with my decision regardless of what may happen in the future.

The third and final person I asked was my friend, Lorelei. Her advice was short and sweet, she said, "Never settle for less than what you want."  I kept thinking that although it was brand new and nice, after all was said and done, I would be alone in this tiny cracker box with no outdoor space. I turned down the property.

After a few months had gone by was notified of yet another lottery drawing. Bill and I toured all the properties, one of them I really liked was in a new complex they were building. We did not actually tour the property per se, because the models were not even completed yet, instead we met with the saleswoman, named January and looked at the artist's renderings of the property.

The last property we toured was right up the street from the other complex, when we walked in the building before the elevator had even been installed, I thought there had been some mistake. Upon entering this unit I was struck by the fact it was huge, with recessed lighting, a east facing balcony on the second floor and unlike any of the other properties, it included parking. Parking in Chicago is a very big commodity. I was flabbergasted by the size, the view, and the all important and valuable parking.

I immediately set my sights on the large condo with parking. I could not get this property out of my mind. I prayed about it, I visualized it being mine, I created a vision board, I threw all of my energy into getting this property. I used to drive by and park in front of the building and stare at the condo. At some point I had a real epiphany about this property, I knew and I felt in my heart and soul that this was going to be my new home. To this day I cannot explain the feelings and the certainty I felt within myself that this was really going to happen.

After what seemed like an eternity, which was actually a month or two, the day of the lottery arrived. When I walked into the area where the lottery was to take place, there was the saleswoman, January, from the complex we had previously viewed.  I walked up to her and I said I am walking out of here today with a condo, she smiled. I also approached a woman named Christina, she was a representative of the Chicago Affordable Housing Program, I looked at her square in the eye and I said, "Christina I am walking out of here today with a condo, I just wanted you to know."

Then we took our seats, it was exciting, a buzz with anticipation and the impending possibilities.

To be continued.......

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Three Years Ago (Part 4)

This photo was taken at the Rush Medical Center outpatient physical therapy gym September 2012.

While I was still in the rehab center, Bill and our friend Michelle visited me. I was surprised and yet very pleased that Michelle had accompanied Bill, while they were with me someone walked in to take me to the in patient rehab gym. In situations like these no time is ever wasted and rehab is started immediately, I was to walk on my one prosthetic leg using a walker.

Bill and Michelle joined me at rehab and I remember Bill, Michelle, and I joined hands and she said prayer for me. It was during their visit that Michelle said to me "through great losses come great blessings." In addition to coping with monumental loss of my second leg, I was also wondering about my future and how I was going to survive financially, specifically  how I was going to keep my condo. Bill remembers this better than I, but Michelle said in a confident almost omnipotent way, "oh you are not going to lose your condo."

There are probably a whole host of other instances that occurred but these are the ones that stuck out in my mind the most and the most clearly. Eventually I returned home and began an arduous task of recuperating and putting my life back together.

One of the main reasons why I wanted to recall and explain all of these things to you is because there is a chance that there may be someone out there reading my words who is going through something similar. As difficult and seemingly hopeless as my story seemed as it was happening to me at the time, there has been life after amputation. There has been life after double amputation.

I am not going to sugar coat things and say everything is great, because it isn't, however life has progressed forward and adjustments have been made. My life will never be as it once was, nor will your life if you are living similar circumstances. This I can say, I still laugh, I still love, I still want to be loved and all of the basic human qualities remain.

Through the past three years I have grown as a person. I am much more aware of the preciousness of life,   I am thankful for what I do still have and I understand more fully that as difficult as my life may seem sometimes, there are those whose lives are even more difficult than mine. There are those who have lost even more than I and have managed to have full and happy lives.

As Thanksgiving is tomorrow, I know that I am thankful I was given the opportunity and freedom to express myself to you and that with God's grace my words will find their way into your heart and help you in some small way, be a better person, live a happier life and pass the love along.

Thank you.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Three Years Ago (Part 3)

Here I am standing in front of a St Lucia sign, this is one of the last pictures taken while I still had my left leg.
As we traveled down the expressway toward Rush Medical Center, my mind was racing, my emotions were all over the place, and yet there was a calm practical aspect to all of this. I had to remember to pack things like my hairbrush, razor, and cellphone charger, after all I knew I would in the hospital for quite a while and despite the costs of a hospitalization it is certainly is not a hotel.

My assistant Frank, not a very comforting type of person, meant my conversation in the car was relegated to the practical aspects of what he was to do at my place in my absence and not much else. I could not look to him for any emotion support, his approach is much too clinical for such pleasantries as offering comfort. 

When we arrived at the emergency room, Frank offered to come in with me but I declined his offer as I knew he was much too hyper a person to play the waiting game and his being there served no purpose. In medical emergency situations I have found it to be one of the most alone periods one can endure. No one can have the surgery for you, no one can recuperate for you, no one can even genuinely comprehend what you are actually going through. 

At this stage of the game things begin to get a little foggy. I know they put me in an emergency cubicle and I was given a tranquilizer, Ativan, I definitely needed it at that point to help me cope with what was about to transpire. I do not recall whether or not they attempted to do a TPA procedure or whether is was determined to be a fruitless effort. 

At some point I called my sister, Rhonda and either she or I called Marguerite and Marguerite called Bill. Those were the only people whom I alerted right away, the others, Ruthie, Steve and others came later. Fortunately under such dire circumstances you are administered a plethora of drugs which of course drape your memories in a heavy thick fog. 

One of the last recollections I have is being in a pre-op area which is the last stop before you are wheeled into the operating room. I know Rhonda was there and either Justin, my nephew, or Erica, one of my nieces, were there and for some reason my friend, Shawn may have been there. Forgive me for not knowing exactly what occurred, if I am not retelling this exactly, those who were there can correct me and I know their account would be more accurate than mine.

I remember feeling loved and being surrounded by those who cared about me, it was a feeling of comfort and warmth. The next thing I remember is being in intensive care. The intensive care units are designed to be just that, intensive care. They are curtained off partitioned areas in one large room, void of telephones or televisions, hot, and very noisy. It is next to impossible to get any rest despite the potent drugs that were coursing through my veins.

I think at this point Christmas had already passed or was within a day or two. My sister, Rhonda had given up her Christmas to be with her brother and I hope she knows how much her sacrifice means to me even to this day. I do recall her only grandson, Max, was celebrating his first birthday on New Year's Eve and Rhonda wanted to be home for that, I insisted that she go. She had already done enough.

Normally a post-operative person without complications should only remain in intensive care for a couple of days, however, there was a shortage of available rooms in the regular part of the hospital and I was forced to stay in intensive care well beyond what was necessary. This posed a problem because as I said, it is very hot, very noisy and no privacy whatsoever.

Eventually I was given a private room on the eighth floor of the hospital, a place where I had been many times before, everyone knew me from all of my previous stays. A few things happened that really stand out in my mind.

I remember calling my dear friend, Ruth, or maybe she called me, I told her that what I had hoped would never happen, did in fact happen. I had lost my left leg above the knee, thereby making me a bilateral above knee amputee. Ruth cried. She does not normally cry, I have known her for over twenty years, we are dear friends and maybe she has cried once or twice in my presence. She cried because she knew how much this would change my life. I will never forget it.

Another incident happened after I was moved from the regular hospital to the adjacent rehab center. A friend of mine named Patrick, visited me, he and I had become friends at Cheetah gym. I remember he used me as an example to some of his less dedicated friends  about not making excuses for not working out. Anyway he was not prepared for what he saw, and I guess the full magnitude of what had happened to his friend hit him pretty hard.

I told him I would bounce back, but it was too much for him seeing me like I was, he had to leave the room. I think maybe he went to gather his thoughts, perhaps cry, I am not sure. He did come back more composed and apologized for leaving the room, I told him there was no need to apologize. This was an emotional situation for all involved, not just for me but also for those who love me.

To be continued.....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three Years Ago (part 2)

Above  is a photo of  me sitting on my balcony drinking a protein shake after my workout taken March 2010.
Fortunately, I have always had the ability and wherewithal to bounce back from many medical procedures. After having gone through two surgeries and three total hospital stays during 2010, I enjoyed the second half of 2010 free from any impending medical procedures or complications. 

I enjoyed my 10 day cruise immensely, I was back to my routine. I will never forget Saturday December 18, 2010. I went to the gym as usual and everything was fine, I had stopped to talk to a friend near the locker room and it was then that my world began to change forever. Walking the short 150 feet from where I was talking, to the front of the gym, a clot occurred. One of the most insidious things about this hyper coagulation syndrome is that you have no warning, one minute your blood is flowing the next minute it is not, kind of like turning off a faucet.

There I was sitting on a couch in the front of the gym, terrified. I knew from past experiences what had just happened. I also knew what lie ahead for me at least in the short term and what potentially and most likely lie ahead in the long term. It took about 15 minutes for a sufficient amount of blood to reach my feet before I could walk to the car and drive home. Often times even though you have a clot,  some blood can eventually reach your extremities, the amount of time it takes varies with the severity of the occlusion, I knew this was bad.

When I finally got home my mind was whirling like a cyclone, fear, anxiety, worry, what to do, who to call, I was a mess. I had a conversation with God pleading with him to not let this be true, to let it pass or let it be my imagination on overdrive. In my heart of hearts I knew the truth, and yet I immediately went into denial, I did not deserve this, I had already been through so much, I was a good person and on and on. 

It took a lot of courage for me to do the unthinkable, remove my shoe and sock and look at my left foot. Tears were welling up in my eyes as my greatest fear was visually apparent, my foot as white and as cold as snow. No blood in my foot causing the whiteness and coldness, this had really happened. A voice in my head resonating Dr. Jacobs words, "if this bypass fails there is no where left to bypass." What that meant was I was going to lose my left leg also, I broke down and sobbed.

Always a resident in the hotel denial, I thought well maybe it will be better by tomorrow, it was one of the worse days and nights of my life. I lie awake most of the night, I slept with my left leg draped over the side of the bed letting gravity pull as much blood as possible into to my poor blood starved left leg and foot, but it was of course of no avail, a last ditch effort.

It was one week before Christmas, Bill was in Nashville for the holidays, Marguerite and Paul were two hours away in Normal Illinois and everyone in my family lived three and a half hours away in Indianapolis. I could either call an ambulance or call my personal assistant Frank. I opted to call Frank to take me to the hospital. When I called him on Sunday morning I told him what had happened and told him to pick me up in a couple of hours, I needed time to pack.

It was one of the longest and most somber car trips I had ever taken..........

To be continued.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Three Years Ago (Part 1)

Pictured above is a shot I took from the Emerald Princess cruise ship in November 2010.

It has been almost three years since the loss of my second leg. At this time three years ago I was preparing to embark on my first cruise to the Caribbean with my friend Shawn, his sister, Lisa and her husband, Dan. I was a mixture of excitement and a smidgen of angst. I had never undertaken such a trip before and having lost one leg at this point I was a little nervous. After much encouragement and reassurance from family and friends I was looking forward to the trip.

A couple of weeks before the trip I had undergone a test to check the circulation in my remaining left leg, I did not want any complications while at sea. Everything had checked out fine and I was doing well in physical therapy, in fact, I had been learning to walk with my prosthetic leg up and down sloped areas, soon I may have been able to dispense with the cane altogether. Alas, that was not to be.

I returned from the cruise on Saturday December 4, I was well rested, very tan, and excited to return to Cheetah gym and resume my everyday life. Things were going well and I was proud of my accomplishments having bounced back from the loss of my right leg just 18 months earlier. I was driving using my left leg, going to the gym 5-6 days a week and had even managed to work a couple of jobs, things were going to be just fine.

During the course of 2010 I had been battling to keep my left leg. Things took a turn for the worse December 27 2009, I had a blood clot occur during my visit Christmas 2009. My sister, Rhonda ended up taking me back to Chicago in her car and my brother- in-law, Peter, drove my car to Chicago. Fortunately my vascular surgeon, Dr. Chad Jacobs, was able to dissolve the clot through a procedure called a TPA. Again in April 2010 another clot appeared this time, however, the clot was not able to be dissolved and a bypass was performed. 

I remember while recovering from the  bypass my surgeon advised me he was not particularly pleased with my bypass and wanted to redo it so that it would hopefully last longer. I was upset and said I wasn't sure my body could withstand much more invasive surgery. He assured me that I was in fact physically capable of undergoing further surgery. We decided to redo the surgery in June. In May the veins occluded again unexpectedly, and I went in to have yet another by pass, this time something that had never happened before, occurred, compartment syndrome.

Compartment Syndrome is what happens when too much blood rushes into your veins too quickly and can rapidly cause your veins to burst. The emergency solution is to make long cuts into your legs to allow the proliferation of blood to escape. This procedure was performed successfully and allowed me to dodge the bullet and keep my leg.  I will continue this in my next post........

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Personal Assistant

This may seem like an odd subject to address, however, it has been on my mind for quite sometime, so I thought I would write about it. For about the last year or so I have been having a lot of problems with my personal assistant.

I have had this particular assistant, whom I will call Fred, for the past three years. Granted I may not be the easiest person to work for, in that, despite all of the physical constraints that have been placed upon me due my limb losses, I still maintain high standards with respect to how my household is run. I realize, and have previously written about, the frustration that occurs when you are no longer able to physically perform tasks that prior to your loss, in whatever capacity, were simple.

It is often difficult to verbalize how or what you would like to have done by your assistant in a way that is easily understood. That difficulty is exacerbated if your assistant either is slow to absorb information or simply has trouble paying attention to what you are saying. Either way, it leads to a miscommunication, you are frustrated by his inability to get done what it is you have asked of him and he is frustrated because he does not understand what it is you want him to do.

Occasionally my PA has voiced his opinion about me personally, which caused me to wonder what he thought of me as a person. Case in point, about a year and half ago we had one of our many heated discussions and in the course of that discussion, he stated, "well at least I have never had to take money from the state." Needless to say I was shocked and offended by his comment that I was in some way,  sponging off of the state by collecting disability. Although I did not make a big deal out of his comment, I did tell him in no uncertain terms that I had worked tirelessly for 35 years and what I was receiving was not a hand out, and that I would much prefer to be working.

There have been so many instances of Fred's incompetence, forgetting things, breaking things and general disinterest that it would bore my readers to list them all, but I want you to understand how tolerate I have been throughout the last three years.

Last week another episode occurred that may be the proverbial straw. I had asked Fred to change one of the light bulbs in my shower and suffice it to say he dropped it in the shower and broke it. That in and of itself is understandable, but when told me about it, he said the fixture broke. I corrected him and said no it did not break it was broken. Once again Fred refused to accept responsibility for his actions and chose to blame the object and not his action.

He went on  to say that, "things do break, like your legs or your HIV." Anyone who knows me already knows when those insensitive  and uncompassionate words came out of his mouth,  I was livid. He sensed how enraged his comments had made me feel and quickly added that he didn't mean it that way.

All of this may seem to you to be petty bs but multiply it by three times a week times 52 weeks a year and perhaps you get some idea the frustration I feel. I had hoped that a day or two later he would realize how offensive his words were, and would apologize. Thus far no apology and no acknowledgement of his harsh words.

I ask you, am I being too sensitive or is what he said cold and cruel? This last episode has further solidified my conviction that this assistant has no understanding or compassion for my situation and I have to wonder whether  I want someone who has so little regard for my situation, working for me.

Please let me know if you feel I am jumping to conclusions or whether his words and subsequent non action are reason enough to look for another assistant.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Finding the Beauty

I recently received an email from my friend Bill and forwarded it to many of my friends. I am going to discuss this man's perspective on being a quadriplegic. Hopefully after reading this man's story you can appreciate how I feel also. Please google the following: This is How It Feels To Be A Quadriplegic  I was unable to figure out how to create a direct link, my following post is based on the above mentioned article, please take the time to read his article first so that my comments below will make sense.

This article really struck a chord with me and understandably so. I hardly know where to begin, but first and foremost I must commend this man's courage and congratulate him on a most perceptibly accurate account of living life either unable to use existing limbs or having lost limbs due to amputation.

I realize that there are fundamental differences between this man, Jimmy Anderson, and myself. First and foremost he is paralyzed and I am an amputee, I still retain use of my arms and hands and he does not, and I have had my legs removed, he has not. There are also other differences in the way we arrived at our respective situations and a host of other things.

There are also a lot of similarities between our two different scenarios. I agree with Jimmy that my leg loss and his paralysis has made our world feel restrictive, unable to do the simplest of tasks or to participate in some of life's simplest pleasures. I still really miss walking on the beach, feeling the sand between my toes, I suppose I always will.

 Jimmy states in his article that the world is a series of obstacles and barriers, this is true. Before embarking on any type of outing, one must first "scope out" where one is going and how easily, accessible or inaccessible it is. If you are as lucky as I am, people who are close to you begin to observe these things for themselves, and then they also feel the pangs of inaccessibility and understand more fully the magnitude of your paralysis or limb loss.

Jimmy Anderson also states in his article, "This Is How It Feels To Be A Quadriplegic," that not being able to use your hands is even than the loss of mobility. Naturally, I have not had to suffer that devastating loss, and my heart aches for his loss. Having experience in monumental loss, I can more closely relate than someone who has never suffered that type of loss at all. Having said that,  it does not even begin to make me be able to comprehend how much worse it must be to not have the use of ANY of your limbs.

Those of you who know me, already realize how important and crucial my artwork has been to me with respect to helping me get through these leg losses and to even contemplate not being able to create my art is incomprehensible to me.The way that Jimmy Anderson expressed himself in his article made me rethink my situation with a greater appreciation for what I do still possess, it gave me a moment of pause, to really examine myself and reaffirm the thankfulness I feel when I able to maintain my autonomy.

As Jimmy was describing the news story about a quadriplegic man who committed suicide by driving his motorized  into a lake and drowning, it struck fear within him, that perhaps his life and his prospects would be so bleak he might contemplate the same thing. I must admit that even I after the loss of my first leg, imagined the possibility of losing my other leg with feelings of trepidation, fear and wondering whether I would have the wherewithal to continue living.

I think these feelings are not uncommon, what seems to occur in many instances, is that you seek and ultimately find the strength and courage to continue down your path to the best of your ability. Like so much in life, if we seek it out,  we can often find what it is we need to accomplish in our lives that might make life worth living. Fortunately for Jimmy Anderson and for the rest of the people of this world we were blessed with his wisdom and and inspired by his words to do the best that we can possibly do.

Not unlike Jimmy,  I too, have sought to bring hope and encouragement to others in my position. I always remember that old, adage  that goes something like this, "I used to complain about the holes in my shoes, until I saw a man with  no feet." I am now that man.

I agree with Jimmy Anderson, that I also seek to find beauty in this world and I find it everyday in the words and actions of people like Jimmy.

Thank You Jimmy for making this world a better place in which to live.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reflecting Back

A weird thought just crossed my mind. I am up on the roof, I just finished listening to an audio book and I was just getting ready to write this passage for my blog when I thought I would rest this notebook on my bent legs while I write.

Sometimes I have strange thoughts like that, temporarily forgetting I  no longer have legs that bend which used to enable me to rest a notebook or anything else upon them. Occasionally I will catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and the reality of my loss hits me head on in my reflection.

Losing a limb is something that never goes away; sure we meet our challenges boldly and with as much bravery as we can muster but then something like your reflection will stare back at you with harsh permanence, sometimes shaking you to your core.

Although I am a staunch believer in living life in the present, I can't help but remember back on what once was. I ran across some old photos the other day and I saw a picture I had taken of Bill and I on the Amtrak train trip we had taken across the country in 2003.

In this particular photo I had taken, there was a portion of the picture which contained an image of my naked right foot.

All of this may seem silly or perhaps sad as you read these words, but it is all a part of limb loss. It is  not unlike losing a loved one, the occasional anxiety we may feel at the possibility that we may forget what the person looked like or the sound of their voice. Losing  a part of you body is much the same, anxiety or sadness about forgetting what our feet, ankles, calves or my case knee caps looked like or how it felt to see them.

I was talking to my friend Paul  on the phone the other day and he was telling  me about a guest speaker he had heard recently at a Rotary Club meeting. Paul went on to say this man, who was also a bilateral above knee amputee, gave a very inspirational speech about his drive to become a baseball coach.

After the man had finished speaking, Paul had an opportunity to talk with him personally. One of the things the man said to Paul, that gave Paul pause, was the fact he, the man who had spoken, considered himself to be lucky. Paul said to me upon recalling this talk, that he was finding it hard to understand how this man could consider himself to be lucky.

I told Paul I completely understand how the man might feel because I, myself, consider myself to be lucky, in some ways also. Granted losing your limbs is not lucky in and of itself, however, through my limb loss I have met a lot of other people who are afflicted with illnesses, both physically and mentally, that are far more debilitating than my limb loss.

Like everything in life, it is all relative to where you find your yourself at a particular time, what your life experiences have been, and most importantly, how you have chosen to deal with what life has dealt.

When on those occasions, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see that  one third of my body is missing, it is still a shock, sometimes, even after five years.You want with all your heart for it to be one long bad dream, from which one day you will awaken and you will be physically complete again.

But alas, you know that will never happen in this lifetime and you instead refocus your energy toward the more positive aspects of life and feel thankful for what you do have.

There is nothing wrong with reflecting back on what once was, as long as we do it lovingly and without malice, ever aware that part of what once was, is part of what makes us who we are today.

We cannot change the past, what we once were, or what happened to change us, nor can we change what might happen in the future, we are only able to affect out present.

Our present is actually the only real thing that exists and we should strive to make the most of it, after all, this present moment will as soon as we think about it become our past.

Making the most of our present moment and living life as consciously as possible, will ensure that we honestly did the very best that we could, the best we knew how, and we can't really expect more from ourselves than our best.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

HomeMod to the Rescue Once Again

  Above is a recent picture my new balcony, complete with summer flowers and an elevated floor.
                      After the exterior balcony floor was elevated, an interior step was added.

There is a fantastic program here in Chicago available to persons with disabilities, it is called HomeMod. Those of you who have been following my blog for the past couple of years will recall that this HomeMod program has done  work for me in the past couple of years. Two years ago I had my hallway bathroom remodeled, having the bathtub and shower doors removed and a walk in shower or in my case a roll in shower installed.

Last year I had the wall to wall carpeting removed and a wood laminate floor installed in the main living area of my condo. All of the modifications that were done were free of charge, if you qualify for the program, you are allowed up to $10,000.00 per year until age 65 to be used toward an improvement that will make living with your disability and maintaining your independence easier.

When I lost my second leg in December 2010 getting out onto my balcony was nearly impossible. Before the balcony was redone there was a four inch step up to the patio door threshold and a seven inch step down onto the actual balcony. Being a bilateral above knee amputee, steps are always a problem and accessibility to anything with steps is particularly difficult, my balcony was no exception.

I am pleased to say that once again the HomeMod program came to my aid, elevating my balcony floor up to the level of the threshold at the sliding patio doors and installing a two inch step inside allowing me to step up onto the threshold and out onto the balcony. Originally I had helped them design the new balcony with the intention of using my short legs to access the balcony. When the project was complete, I was looking at the way it played out  and I discovered I can also access the balcony using my wheelchair.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I enjoy being outdoors and being unable to get out on my balcony was very displeasing to me. Now thanks to the homeMod program that is no longer an issue, I can easily get outside either on my short legs or my wheelchair. Yeah!

If you are a Chicago resident living with a physical disability and under the age of 65 you may qualify for this very special and highly appreciated program. There is an application process and they will come out to your house to discuss what modifications can be done and even offer advice about what  can retrofitted in your home to make living a more autonomous life, easier.

The gentleman's name is Mark Nobriga, he is the HomeMod Program Director. He can be reached by phone at 312.743.1523 or emailed at: I do not know the website address, if you call Mr. Nobriga he will be able to direct you through the appropriate steps to obtain an application along with the deadline dates etc.

I do not know if other such programs exist outside of Chicago, I suspect that there are other similar programs however, I do not know exact names or websites. It may be helpful to contact the local People With Disabilities office in your town or city.

Heartfelt thanks to the HomeMod Program for once again making my life a little easier and whole lot more enjoyable.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013


                     Here is a picture of the sundeck on the roof of my building before I stained it.
Here is the same area on the roof  of my building after I stained it.
Pictured above are the before and after of my sundeck that I recently finished staining. I had been wanting to stain this deck for quite some time, not only because it was desperately in need of attention but also because I wanted to set a goal I knew was attainable and carry it through to its completion.

It is peculiar how when you are a wheelchair user, that people get their own perception of what you are capable of doing. I recently finished reading a book, a fictitious novel about a gay man in a wheelchair. One of the many things I liked about this book was how the author was able to convey the inner most feelings his main character had, and how he himself felt about being in a wheelchair.

I found many similarities between this character, who was named Bruce and myself. The book describes how many people cannot see past the wheelchair and realize that it is a human being in the chair who has the same needs, desires, hopes and dreams as anyone else. I have noticed in my own experience that people treat you differently, sometimes it is the helpless approach and sometimes it is to ignore you, as if you were invisible.

I remember when I approached the president of the condo board here about my proposal to stain the roof deck of my building, he seemed to be taken aback, if even just a little. He asked me if I were capable of doing such a large job. I reminded him that before I was in a wheelchair that I had been a decorative painter for many years. I ended up turning it into a joke of sorts, asking him, "who is closer to the ground than me?" I assured him I was quite capable of staining a deck and that those areas which I could not reach, like the back side of the railings, I would enlist a friend of mine to help.

Without tooting my own horn too much, I think I have already surprised a lot of people with what I am still able to accomplish. For example, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I am the treasurer of the condo board here and this year I have demonstrated just how much responsibility, physical and mental endurance I still possess.

Another subtle difference I have noticed is that people who knew me before I found myself in a wheelchair and those who have only known me this way, as a wheelchair user, treat me differently. I do not expect a non-wheelchair person to completely grasp what I am trying to say but there is a slightly and in some cases more than just slightly different  way in which I am treated. When I use the word I it means all wheelchair users not just me in particular.

At first I thought that perhaps it was my imagination that was prompting these suspicions about the way I or we are treated individually and as a group. My suspicions were confirmed by the character in this book I mentioned earlier, who spoke of being treated as inferior because he can no longer walk of his own accord. Sometimes able bodied people inadvertently treat wheelchair persons as second class citizens forgetting that, but by a twist of fate, they themselves could find him or herself in the same predicament.   

If you are new to this whole wheelchair thing, be prepared to be treated differently. When I write all of this I am not saying everyone who is able bodied treats those who are not with disdain or contempt but that there exists subtle differences that are discernable over time. 

The main focus of persons who live their lives in wheelchairs is to remember that we are still the same person we always were and more importantly still able to accomplish great feats despite other person's feelings to the contrary. When I set out with my proposal to stain the sundeck, I knew I was capable of doing just that, perhaps not as quickly as an able bodied person may have, but nonetheless quite proficient at completing the task. 

When we set a goal for ourselves we must bear in mind that we are setting this goal as a means of accomplishing something we want for ourselves and not trying to prove something to someone else. There is nothing wrong with setting out to prove something to ourselves but there is something fundamentally wrong with trying to prove something to someone else.

What was really cool about this whole deck staining thing was that I completed the task, made some money, and perhaps in the interim educated someone else about just what a wheelchair person can really do. In my book that is a win, win win.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Pictured above is a photo I took at Burnham Harbor here in Chicago right before I went sailing a week ago last Sunday. There is a a program called,  "Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Adventures." This program is specifically designed to teach people with disabilities how to actually sail. The small 20'-24' sail boats are equipped with controls that enable persons with unique circumstances to navigate a sailboat with the assistance of a trained able bodied sailing instructor.

This program has been in existence for quite some time, in fact if a person were so inclined, they could, over time, end up competing in sailing races. I spoke with a man named Chris who has been affiliated with JGASA for many years, he told me of the many opportunities this program can afford a person with special needs and of the uniqueness of this particular organization.

I was on board this small sailboat with 4 other individuals along with an instructor, I was actually a guest of the gentleman I had spoke of on occasion named Jacob. Jacob was the guy who has impressed me so much at the RIC gym. Anyway, we received some basic instruction on the various parts of a sailboat and a host of other sailing jargon, too complicated to go into here. After these basic instructions we set sail and were out on the water for  over an hour. It was quite exhilarating, and of course the view of the skyline from Lake Michigan was breathtaking.

Fortunately it was  perfect day for sailing, sunny, breezy and quite warm, lower 90's, however, out on the water it was quite pleasant. I did not actually participate in the sailing of the vessel because I was a guest, however, others onboard were encouraged to help in the sailing and maneuvering of the boat. Naturally, what an individual ended up doing with respect to the "sailing" of the boat was dependant upon what their physical capabilities allowed them to do.

I found this to be a welcome change of pace and will definitely do this again, but this time not as a guest. One must attend classroom instruction, although taught outside by the harbor, along with hands on instruction in the sailboat itself.  The smallest instructional package consists of six 2 1/2 hour sessions at a cost of $100, there are also waivers of the fees under certain circumstances.

As we were leaving the harbor entering Lake Michigan I had a flashback to that old movie starring Jack Nicholson, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," remember when Mr. McMurphy took all those guys out on a deep sea fishing adventure and ended up going in circles? That isn't what happened but that thought entered my mind.

If you are functionally compromised, you will find this program quite exciting and a pleasant change of pace, I know I did. Sometimes it is difficult to step outside of our comfort zone, but in so doing great adventures lie ahead for us.

If you are interested in such a program you may call The Judd Goldman Sailing Center Burnham Harbor at: 312.747.7684 or visit: this organization is always looking for able bodied volunteers to assist in various capacities to further their very worthwhile program.

I will keep you posted to further adventures in sailing as I progress. To leave a comment below hot the comment button or to contact me personally write to:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Walking the Walk

I received an interesting comment from an anonymous reader of my blog within the last week. This commenter suggested that I should perhaps just lighten up a bit about self-imposed successes and failures and what I perceive about walking or lack of walking.

This anonymous person related a story of a bicycling trip they had embarked upon. At the beginning of the trip, their objective was to ride 100 miles a day for 4 days, total trip was 400 miles. As planned, on the first day they accomplished their 100 mile goal. On the second day, despite a myriad of obstacles, they once again reached their daily goal of 100 miles. At the conclusion of the third day, exhausted, they collapsed near a beach for some much needed rest.

Upon rising on the fourth day, they decided that this place which they had stopped was so beautiful, with the beach and the surroundings, that instead of proceeding with the original plan, they would instead enjoy the beach, have a relaxing dinner and just generally take it easy. My commenter said he had experienced an epiphany of sorts, it had never occurred to him that these self-imposed plans, were just that, self-imposed. It would make no difference to anyone whether they bicycled 400 miles in  four consecutive days or forty days.

He went on to explain that when we set goals for our self, it is only ourselves whom we have to please. He used an analogy of comparing it to being self conscious about they way you dance. Most likely, it is only you feels self conscious, others are not really paying that much attention. He further explained that the experience of taking that extra day gave him a feeling of freedom, it freed him from arbitrary constraints, that need not be there in the first place.

I must say I agree with him wholeheartedly. Instead of placing a judgement upon myself, I should relax and enjoy the relaxation for what it is. I have discussed this type of thing before and I realize it is a slippery slope, determining what is sufficient relaxation time and what is time that should be spent in obtaining realistic goals.

It has been 2 1/2 years since the loss of my second leg and I would have thought that I would be walking on the full length legs by now, such is not the case. Does that mean I should constantly beat myself up over it? I think not.

I was talking to my friend Steve about this very thing and he had mentioned that first and foremost despite  what I had written in my last blog entry, there was no way anyone would ever consider me to be lazy.

Steve suggested that I may or may not ever walk on the full length "C" legs and if I never did, it was not from lack of trying. He pointed out that I am 55 years old and that this leg loss was caused by a  circulatory disease complicated by a blood disorder, and perhaps those extenuating circumstances contribute to my difficulty in attaining my goals. Maybe at this stage of my life I am not physically capable of walking in those full length legs.

Just because something takes longer that you had anticipated, does not necessarily preclude it from ever happening, conversely, if we are unable to reach a goal because of circumstances beyond our control, should we allow that unreached goal be a lifelong disappointment?  

Limb loss is a highly individualized predicament. Everyone handles their situation uniquely and as you may well imagine, the results are as varied as the individual and the various causes of their limb loss.

It would probably be advantageous for me to remember all that I have just written and at the same time keep working toward realistic goals. Sometimes we just have to let the chips fall where they may. Knowing we have worked hard toward a goal should bring some satisfaction, in and of itself.

As long as we can look at our lives and derive some feeling of accomplishment, I think we have already "walked the walk" as well as "talked the talk." Only we can control our own happiness, and I for one, plan on doing just that.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Life is Like a Rollercoaster

I am sitting on the sundeck writing this and surprisingly it is a little chilly, upper 60's and quite breezy, usually cool weather for Chicago this time of year.

A few positive things have transpired since I have last written. I have a new roommate, named Charles, and thus far I am cautiously optimistic about this being a successful venture and hope my cautious optimism meets with positive results.

As we know finding a suitable roommate has proven to be more than  just a simple objective. Along with finding a new roommate has come some much needed relief in the financial arena. Once again it has been through the generosity of friends that I have been able to barely keep my head above the monetary tidal wave, that at times, it seemed like a large wave always on the horizon, poised at any point to drown me in financial ruin.

It has been difficult for me through the last few months to stay as positive and focused as I might otherwise be because of the nightmare I endured with my last roommate. At the risk of repeating previous blog posts, the financial stress this leg loss has caused is an area of my life has, in a lot of ways, been the most difficult to overcome.

On a more positive note, I am still enjoying going to the RIC gym and I am beginning to establish friendships with fellow patrons, which brings me joy and happiness. One of the new volunteers at RIC, who assists the gym members, is a pretty young woman I will call Leslie. Leslie is a below knee unilateral amputee, she lost her left leg in a boating accident three years ago. She walks very proficiently on her prosthesis and has also qualified for the paralympics, I believe as a runner. She is one of many inspirational people at RIC.

As far as my own personal progress, with respect to walking, with both the "short legs" and the full length "C" legs, I seemed to have plateaued, at least to some degree. Perhaps I am reevaluating where I am, or where I want to be, but then again, maybe I am just being lazy. I am not sure.

My dear friend, Mark, asked me the other day how it was going, was I making progress on either the short legs or the full length legs? I told him not really, I am about the same, not better not worse. He asked me if I thought I would ever be able to walk on the long legs? For the first time, I told him probably not.

I think Mark was taken aback by my response; I went on to say that sometimes I question whether or not all that work is worth it? If I continue to work really hard, I may be able to walk on crutches into a restaurant or whatever, only to arrive exhausted and drenched in sweat. Why?

Is this the same person, who over a year ago in this very blog, attested to my own desire and drive to do just that, walk on the full length legs, given up?

I don't know. Sometimes I think the harsh slap of reality can leave a stinging impression that not only hurts but also can be disillusioning. Being a bilateral above knee amputee is a difficult life to live and not unlike life in general, has a tendency to be full of ups and downs. Maybe I am still feeling a little down, but this much I can tell you, despite what I have written thus far, I am definitely on the upswing.

As I may have told you, I am now on the condo board of my building. I am the treasurer. Not a treasurer in the traditional sense, in that I keep track of money, I am more like an an administrator. The person who oversees projects that need to be done in my building. This has not been a small task considering that since I took over as treasurer in January,  we have replaced the garage door opener, tuck pointed and waterproofed the entire 10 unit structure, moved the mailboxes, dealt with a bee infestation, had graffiti removed twice, reorganized the garage parking situation, and a host of other ongoing issues.

I must be doing a good job, the President of the board along with just about all of the other owners have complimented the job I am doing. Additionally I have received multiple emails of gratitude for carrying out to completion an array of various tasks in what has been described as a thankless job. I suppose some are surprised that a legless man such as myself would be capable of doing all that I have done.

I must admit that I had my own misgivings about my own ability to do this job, but I rose to the occasion as I have a tendency to do. Even though I complain about certain aspects of being treasurer, I guess it has helped me prove to myself and to others that I am capable of doing a lot. Guess what? I have a feeling that next year they are going to ask me to be president, and  as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Bouncing Back

I have been reminded by readers and friends that I have not posted any blog writings for over a month. I apologize for not having written sooner. I guess there was not that much positive to write about, having experienced financial difficulties, disappointing behavior from potential roommates, overwhelming responsibilities regarding condo board issues, and general unhappiness.

There is glimmer of light at the end of this particular tunnel. I have a good potential roommate, if it works out, I think I have figured out a way to make some money to help offset my financial burdens at least temporarily, once again friends have come to my financial rescue and and the condo issues are resolved at this time.  All of that to say, everyone gets a little bogged down with life from time to time and naturally I am no exception.

I received a really nice email from a person who is presumably a new reader to my blog and he expressed how much he felt my writing has helped him get through some rough patches. This is the type of feedback that makes me feel  my writing is actually inspiring and helping another, especially at a time when I wasn't feeling so good about my life or where it is going.

This person who emailed me, commented about the fact that perhaps that whole ordeal with the "catfishing" had residual effects with respect to my ability and willingness to trust in others. Unfortunately that seems to be one of the saddest parts of those who would willingly mislead others ostensibly to make themselves feel better about their own lives at the cost of other's feelings.

As my friend Ruth has used as an analogy for my life, I am like one of those old fashioned punching bags, you remember, that have a clown painted on them. After being punched, it temporarily falls over, but it is weighted in the bottom and bounces right back up; I guess this time it just took me a little bit longer to bounce back up.

I am continuing to go to the RIC gym two days a week and I remain inspired by those surrounding me in that place. I think it is important to encircle one's self with positive energy, I feel that positivity is contagious and brings about greater outcomes in whatever you are attempting to accomplish.

We all get discouraged or overwhelmed by life sometimes but it is our ability to bounce back from these moments, that are a true measure of our resiliency and our resolve. Thank you to all who take the time to read my blog and to listen to me when I get a little down, you have no idea how much it means to me.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Traveling For Your Health

I received an email from a fellow blogger, Mike Manning, who asked me if he could submit a posting to my blog. Mike is a fitness and nutritional enthusiast who realizes the importance of a healthy lifestyle which includes a regular exercise regimen along with a healthy diet. Mike explains below ways to maintain your work out routine and diet throughout your travels, whether on business or pleasure.

Traveling for Your Health
by Mike Manning

Whatever reason you have for traveling, if you do it often, you know well that it can cause stress. Irregular travel schedules, sleeping accommodations, and more can take a toll on your mental and physical health. You work hard keeping to a healthy routine at home. With a little thought and planning, you can minimize the stress of traveling and arrive home feeling as healthy as when you left.

A good trip begins before you leave home. If you have the option of selecting your own accommodations, do a little research before you book a hotel. Make sure that the location you choose offers fitness amenities that suit your lifestyle. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was able to book a hotel with a 24 hour fitness center and I was extremely glad I did the due diligence to find this hotel.

Before my trip I used a travel review site that gave me a list of the best hotels in San Francisco. From here I was able to find the right amenities and price for me. Runners might want to check for nearby running tracks or neighborhood trails. If you enjoy water fitness, select accommodations that include a public pool and bring along any water weights or other equipment that you use regularly. Yoga enthusiasts will easily find hotels that offer in-room yoga videos or classes in their fitness center.

The night before you leave for your trip, do your best to get plenty of rest, also, make sure you are properly hydrated both before and during your trip. Regardless of your means of travel, take healthy snacks with you to avoid the pitfalls of empty calorie snacks at the stations or airports.

During long drives or flights, spend a few moments stretching in your seat. A few simple exercises will help you arrive refreshed and experience less stiffness, soreness and swelling. Some exercises you can do include ankle rotations, neck and shoulder rolls, an upper body stretch and knee lifts.

Once you arrive, take the time to get familiar with your surroundings. Locate the pool and fitness center. In your room, spend a moment to organize and unpack. Before running to meetings or sightseeing adventures, pause to stretch or move through a few yoga positions.

Throughout your stay remain active but be realistic. You probably will not be able to complete your regular routine every day in the same way you do at home. Play around in the hotel pool for extra exercise or consider walking to destinations rather than driving or taking public transportation.

At mealtimes, make healthy choices and do your best to avoid high-calorie options, but allow yourself to indulge in a local delicacy once or twice.

Always remember: Moderation is an important key to healthy living.

*To visit Mike Manning's blog go to

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The following are links are to the references used above:

The San Francisco hotel:

Exercises mentioned:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It Doesn't Get Any Better

In the few weeks I have been going to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC)  gym, it has been an enlightening experience in many ways. The other day a guy whom I will call Tom, asked me to show him some arm exercises, he said he wanted to have arms like me. As we all know, no one is ever satisfied with the way their body looks, especially to themselves, and this was no exception. I thanked him for his compliment about my arms but only after I prefaced by saying my arms used to look better.

I showed the basic exercises for biceps and triceps , you know like curls, hammer curls, skull crushers etc. Tom is afflicted with multiple sclerosis, particularly on his right side. I understood the magnitude of his disease once I began instructing him on how to do various exercises. I helped him grasp the dumb bells by manually wrapping his hand around the bar part of the dumb bell. Tom asked me to move and hold his right leg out of the way while he did his bicep curls with his right hand, something I was honored and thankful to be able to do for him.  It struck a cord with me at that very moment, that perhaps I should rethink my quasi-dissatisfaction with the way I look and focus on the gratitude I should feel about being able to as much as I actually can do.

My friend Tom was trying his best to lift and curl a ten pound dumb bell and it was as much work for him to do that as it is for me to curl a forty pound dumb bell. This was an eyeopening experience for me, these patrons at RIC are as dedicated a group of individuals as you will ever be privileged to come across in your lifetime.

I know how this is going to  sound to you, but hear me out before you pass judgment. As I was looking around the gym I was reminded of the old Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Christmas special that was hosted by the snowman, whose character was voiced by Burl Ives. You know the one I mean, it wasn't exactly a cartoon, they were characters like Gumby and Pokey. Anyway there is a part in that story about the misfit toys, broken or damaged toys that nobody wanted. If you were to look around at the patrons at this gym you might feel the same way about them.

I have been in quite a few different gyms through the years I have been working out, and I was always struck the superficiality of a lot of people who work out at the gym; people overly concerned with their gym attire or making loud grunting noises to get attention or chatting in clicks reminiscent of high school. As odd as this might sound, I have never felt as comfortable in a gym as I do at RIC. At the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago  gym there is no pretense, no trying to impress each other, no fear or angst about how you look or about your abilities to perform various exercises; in essence it is a genuine place.

Perhaps it is not us physically challenged people who are the misfit toys but rather that we live in a world that too much of the time forgets that we are all members of the same family, that family of humankind.

I have met a variety of people with a variety of physical challenges, and  there is a sense of acceptance on all levels of all people there. One of the regulars at RIC said to me as I was expressing to him how impressed I was with everyone whom I had met thus far, "everyone in this place, has a story." He went on to say, "if they didn't have a story, they wouldn't be here." I took his comments to mean that we are all here because we were seeking a place that could accommodate our special needs and RIC is such a place.

I have always tried to remember to focus on the good in my life and be thankful for what I am still capable of doing, this has become even more apparent to me after having joined the RIC gym. Who would have thought that I, who has lost both of his legs, would be able to help another who has lost even more, accomplish something as seemingly simple as a bicep curl? It puts a lot of things in their proper perspective, one person helping another, it doesn't get any better than that.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Don't Get Catfished

I know it has been a while since I have written, probably because there have been some not so pleasant things going on for the past month or more.

I try to write positive things in this blog but as of late, if I waited to write pleasant things, we might all be waiting a while. So I thought I would just delve into what has been going on.

First of all I have good reason this alleged mentor I named Bruce in the past couple of posts could well be a complete fraud. In a nutshell, I think I have been "catfished." Just in case  you are unfamiliar with that term, it was coined to describe an internet relationship, be it a friendship or a more intimate romantic relationship over the internet whereby the other person with whom you are corresponding is telling you lies about themselves.

These catfish episodes are a lot more commonplace than you might believe, in fact there is a reality show on MTV about this very occurrence. From what I understand, these people who perpetrate these lives of lies, who prey on innocent and honest people do this for a variety of reasons, none of which are admirable.

I think some of these dishonest people perpetuate these lies to see how far they can push their story, in other words to see how gullible the recipient really is. The success with which the dishonest person is capable of continuing their deception, depends on how well they respond to questions that may arise when the person to whom they are lying, becomes suspicious. Someone who is skilled, if you want to call it a skill, at lying successfully, can conceivably continue their web of lies indefinitely.

Obviously one of the first questions that may come to mind is why would these people do this in the first place? Good question. I can only speculate about possible reasons and what I have learned from others who have become victims of such a "prank." It seems that many of the people on the internet who play this cat and mouse game with innocent and unknowing participators, derive some type of pleasure from having fooled someone else.

This sick pleasure is at the expense of the other person, be it making the other person feel loved or cared about, giving them words of encouragement based on false pretenses, or just generally trying deliberately to evoke some type of emotional response. I believe the level of success the perpetrator is capable of achieving, is somewhat dependant  upon how venerable and in some cases lonely the recipient is.

On the flip side of the coin, is the fact these false lives that are created, may be invoked as a substitute for mundane, boring, uneventful and most certainly unhappy lives. People for whatever reason, are disillusioned about their own existence to the degree they feel like creating a "better" more exciting life for themselves, except that they are involving other innocent people in the process.

There may be any of a number of various truths and mistruths intermingled to the degree that it  becomes impossible to decipher which is the truth and which is a lie or there may be no truth at all. The whole story of the this person from their name, age, occupation, where they live, etc.  could be completely contrived.

How does one become involved in such a situation? We all are taking a chance when we communicate with a stranger via the internet. Sometimes we may be seeking like minded individuals with whom we feel we share a common bond, to converse about commonalities or perhaps to gain insight from others in similar life circumstances. The idea of sharing thoughts and ideas with another person starts out perfectly innocent but when someone who has a hidden agenda, perpetuates the building of a friendship or relationship on lies, the whole thing falls apart. The result is at minimum hurt feelings and sometimes even greater devastation can occur.

In my particular scenario, I felt I had finally met another gay double above knee amputee with whom I could talk, trade experiences, and offer mutual advice about how to successfully live our lives more productively. Little did I know I was being played for a fool or so it seems. My friend, Bruce, whom I felt was such an inspiration to me, who was so encouraging to me, it seems was placating me, telling me things he thought I wanted to hear. I now have to question the validity of many of the the things I was told by him, not the least of which is his name, where he lives, whether he is or was a Marine.

I will say this, at least through his words, I did in fact start going to the RIC gym, something I had been postponing for quite some time. The reason I am writing this to you is, first, to get this whole thing out into the open. Of course I realize those of you who regard me as a Polly Anna now have more ammunition with which to continue to believe I live my life by looking at the world through rose colored glasses.

The second,  and I believe most important reason, I am writing this is to warn others of the potential hazards of communicating through the internet, to be very vigilant about what you say and with whom you say it. I am very disappointed that this person, Bruce, who had shone a light of hope into my sometimes uneventful life turned out to be someone whose problems are much greater than my own.

At least I live my life from the point of truth, trying with every fiber of my existence to promote and perpetuate good feelings and giving advice that will help others live happier more fulfilling lives. I wish sometimes I wasn't so inclined to be so open, setting myself up for potential hurt, but then again I am who I am, always looking for the best in people.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Importance of Creativity

I have written previously about the importance of having a pastime to help you deal with the problems you may encounter in your life. For me, my pastime, my passion, has always been creating art, specifically painting on canvas. Pictured above is a my latest painting called, "Cape Cod Beach."

Having a hobby or pastime is especially important if you are disabled because we have already suffered some type of loss and there is a need to cling to the things we are still able to do. Fortunately for me the loss of my legs did not affect my ability to paint, something I have enjoyed doing for many years.

Having a creative outlet can give our lives meaning, occupy our minds, help us utilize our time productively and generally contribute to our mental well being.  Some may say they do not have any creativity but it is my belief that creativity is an innate quality we all possess. Sometimes it is just a matter of discovering what that particular creativity is and developing skill in that area.

For me personally painting has always been a means of escaping a world that can be wrought with disappointments and worries. When I paint I forget about my problems and I can immerse myself in a world where anything is possible; I can create whatever I want. One of the reasons I enjoy painting landscapes is that I can paint for myself almost a fantasy world where I am surrounded by beauty.

Not only has my artistic ability brought me great joy and self satisfaction, it has been a spiritual experience for me also; I feel closer to God when I paint. Through the loss of my legs there have been many uncertain moments and my art has sustained me throughout all of the uncertainty and helped me remain grounded and focused.

Seeking out and ultimately finding an outlet to help give your life direction is paramount to maintaining happiness and fulfillment. If you have suffered loss, and we all have to a greater or lesser extent, pouring your energy into something constructive will always benefit you in the long run.

Creativity can take many forms, mine happens to be painting, however, it can be writing, cooking, dancing, singing, volunteering, anything that takes the pressure off of your life at least temporarily. Having an outlet to release pressure allows you the mental space to think clearly and proceed to the next step in your life, which will bring you closer to the contentment we are all seeking.

Recently I was given the opportunity to send some of my artwork to be viewed by persons attending a charity event and hopefully be purchased. So now not only have I indulged myself in my passion of painting but have the additional benefit of potentially making money from having done so. It doesn't get much better than that.

If you are an amputee, like myself, I urge you to find your own personal method of expressing your creativity. You will be amazed at how much it will uplift your life.

Another outlet that has greatly benefited  my life is to focus on physical exercise. Physical exercise is  immeasurably advantageous to promote not only your physiological well being but your mental state as well.

 Not surprisingly the writing of this blog is yet another method I have utilized to express my feelings and as a result been a cathartic release for me.

I have never really looked at it this way before this very moment, but I guess you could say the very process of finding creative outlets is and of itself creative. How about that?

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I had another great workout at the RIC gym, thanks in part to yet another volunteer named Ashley. She like a couple of other volunteers are actually fitness instructors, needless to say I utilized her expertise to my best advantage. She worked me really hard and my muscles were sore as a result.

I am trying to figure out a way to go to the gym more often, I can only go two days a week; and those are the two weekdays, my assistant, Frank, works. There is a para transit bus/van system here that is designed to transport people with special needs. I have filled out an application and still need to schedule and appointment to be officially qualified to use this para transit system.

By utilizing para transit, I will be able to go to RIC gym four to five days a week. Para transit costs $3 each direction, so if I go two days using the system it will be $12 a week, three days would be $18 a week. That may not seem like much but when you multiply it times four weeks, it becomes an additional expense.

Nonetheless, at this stage using  the para transit bus/van and having my assistant take me two days a week, seems like the most viable and most economical plan. I could drive myself but then I have the hassle of loading and unloading my wheelchair, the cost of gas, and it is $10 per day to park, even with the parking validation from the gym, out of the question.

I guess having to figure out all of the logistics of this gym thing is and of itself a good thing, at least I am now going out into the public more and working out at an actual gym, something I have not done in over two years.

It is great to be doing exercises again that I have unable replicate at home like the smith machine. Now I realize that some of my readers may disagree with using the smith machine at all, and I can't say I blame them, however, given my circumstances, I am at least going to start out on the smith machine and within the next couple of weeks I will switch to using the barbell for bench presses.

The point is I have not been able to bench press using any type of barbell be it on the smith machine or a free weight, I was relegated to dumb bell presses because I was working out at home. Now my world has opened back up again, thanks to my eventual decision to join the RIC gym.

As I have been discussing off an on over the past two years, learning to live life as a bilateral amputee takes time. Unlike my buddy, Bruce, I have not been surrounded by like minded amputees who know the importance of staying strong both physically and mentally.

Fortunately for myself, I never gave up on working out and have kept a work out routine going at home, by myself, with relatively good results, of course it is never good enough. Now, however, after going back to a gym I am demonstrating to myself, that even though I have lost both legs, I am not going to let the rest of my body go as well.

Can you feel the revitalized vigor in my writing? I hope my words convey as powerfully as my actual conviction is about being back at the gym again. Another heartfelt thank you to my friend, Bruce for his words of encouragement and his belief in me, which means so much considering he is also a bilateral AK amputee. He understands fully the amount of energy and dedication it takes to accomplish these tasks without the benefit of either leg or either knee.

It is true that you may not feel like working as much on some days as you do on others, but always be mindful of the fact that you are able to work out at all and what a great void not being able to work out would be in your life, at least for people like us.

I realize not everyone is like me but if you are a fellow amputee; and love to work out, I am telling you there is always a way to do most things that we used to take for granted and do so easily.

The biggest hurdle is finally making the commitment to yourself  to venture out beyond your comfort zone and follow through on your conviction.

There is much to be gained and little to nothing to be lost, be brave, be strong and be happy.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

RIC Gym Experiences

Well now I have been to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) gym three times and it has been an eye opening and positive experience. I know of many people who look at going to the gym as a dreaded but necessary action needed to stave off excess weight, help promote good health or any of a number of other reasons.

As we know I have always enjoyed going to the gym, working out, and feeling good about having done so. The obstacles that many of the RIC gym patrons must overcome just to get to the facility speaks volumes about their conviction toward working out.

I had some misgivings about going to the RIC gym,  not the least of which  a myriad of excuses as to why it was so difficult. With the encouragement of my friend, Bruce, I finally decided enough with the excuses, bit the bullet, and went.

I will admit that RIC gym does not have all of the equipment or machines I am accustomed to having at Cheetah Gym, however, the equipment they do have is adapted for use for by people with special circumstances. Things like swing out seats that allow you to perform exercises while seated in a wheelchair.

It will take some time before I learn all of the necessary adaptations I need to utilize the equipment to my best advantage. I am confident that over time I will adapt and this gym will be an even more rewarding experience that it has already proved to be.

It is a truly inspiring place with patrons suffering from a wide array of various disabilities. There are people who are morbidly obese, stroke victims, multiple wheelchair users, a blind man, and those who appear to have suffered traumatic head injuries.

One gentleman I will call Jake, is truly inspiring, he is in a motorized wheelchair and has little control over the movement of his head, unable to look directly at you and his speech is somewhat distorted. This guy exercises five days a week, his main exercise is lifting a ten pound ball with handles on it, over his head, ostensibly to prevent his upper torso muscles from becoming atrophied.

Jake knows every one's name and is a real joy to be around, always happy and welcoming. I look at him and feel invited into his world  as he jokes, talks and spreads good positive vibrations throughout the entire gym, a true example of triumph over tragedy.

There is an older lady, perhaps sixty five or so, whom I believe has suffered a stroke, and I watch her out of the corner of my eye as she tries to lift a five pound bar above her head. Even though her "form" isn't great, it does not matter, she is trying with all that she has  to lift the bar. A testament to human resilience and dedicated determination.

I was in the locker room getting ready to leave when a gentleman was seated on a bench across from me began digging in earnest into his gym bag, searching for something. He asked me if I could see his socks anywhere, it was then I realized that he was blind. After giving him his socks which had fallen a couple of feet away from him, I asked if there was anything else I could do for him. He politely said no. I said between the two of us,  we make up one complete person. He asked me what I meant, I told him I was missing both of my legs, and with my eyes and his legs we would be a complete person.

He laughed and said at least you have not lost your sense of humor. I told him we have to keep our sense of humor, because sometimes the situations in which we find ourselves, despite our losses, are in fact, funny. He agreed and I left the gym with a smile on my face, happier than ever that I finally decided to go to the RIC gym.

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