My Two Sons, and Their 3 Dads

We just celebrated Father’s Day. As is the standard on the holiday, social media was full of the praises of… Mothers? Yes, but also of fathers. 

It got me thinking: what kind of father am I? An imperfect one, with no doubt. But I wonder if one were to aka my sons, what would thier answer be? Split, I think.

So let’s talk about that.

Dad 1: the loving dad. This is the man who was there at their respective births. The loving father who beams with pride at the successes of his learning sons. This is the man who has shared his love of books and reading. The man who’s strangeness has rubbed off on boys who would rather read Percy Jackson than green eggs and ham. This is the fun dad. I’d love to think that this is the dad my sons will remember and emulate when I’m gone.

Dad 2: the broken dad. This is the dad that my toddler runs to “help” stand up when he falls. This is the dad whom my sons have learned to ignore his grunts and whimpers of pain. This is the dad that my sons are eager to serve, to help, to support… But that feels exhausting shame that any of those things are needed from mere children. This is the dad that has to constantly renig on planned fun because his body has given out long before his desire to play with his children. This is the dad that my boys will remember.

Dad 3. the emotional dad. Years of medications have removed all but 1 or 2 of the dad’s emotions. The remaining emotions include anger and loud. My boys don’t like this dad…. And neither do I. He’s a jerk. He yells altogether too much. He can be cold, and unbending. He is the disciplinarian dad. He’s the one to whom my children give a wide birth. He’s the one I resent the most. I wish he’d go away and never come back (read that in Smeagol’s voice).

And here I sit, the broken dad wishing I could always be the the loving dad. Wishing that I could kill the emotional dad. I am my son’s 3 fathers (lest anyone assume the worst of my wife). I have realized that my sons have to deal with the 3 distinctive personalities of mine (these are not like… Split personalities… Or anything…. No coats are needed for me, thank you very much. No pills to make “the voices” stop, or anything. This is a proverbial conversation, not a literal one).

There we go. Kind of a lame conversation ending. Hopefully the whole of the conversation didn’t fit into that category.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow imperfect dads. You perfect dads should write a how to book: it’d sell well.

Oh, and a bonus “we’re actually sleeping,” selfie from my sons:

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Defending the Disabled: Victimhood and Self Defense

300%

For every able bodied person who is victimized by violent crime, 3 disabled people are (adjusted for population equality).

It’s important for us to know what can be done to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless. Police are not protective forces. I used to be a police officer. I took the motto of “to protect and serve” seriously, as did my blue brothers. But we learned early on that we couldn’t stop violence. Our presence reduced the likelihood of violence. We patrolled areas that were more likely to have violent crime with greater frequency than the area less likely to have it. We actively worked to take criminals off the streets. Each of these things fell into one of two categories of law enforcement: either preventive or reactive protection. 

What we didn’t do, at least not often, was active protection.

Whaaaaaaaat? But the motto is to “protect and serve! You must have been a bad cop!” (I’ve actually been told that when I’ve made this argument…)

The truth is that police can prevent crime by having increased presence and proactive policing policies. And police can punish criminals by having reactive enforcement, but in order to have active protection they need to actually be at the location of the crime while the crime is taking place: so either the cops are everywhere at once (a literal police state), the cops are participating in the crime (God forbid), or they happen to be in the right place at the right time (great when it happens, but not common).

You see, the police can’t stop all violent crime; they aren’t charged with that action; and their failure to stop crime is not something they are legally accountable for.

This is the long way of saying: the police can’t and usually won’t protect you from crime. Arguments against self defense using the police as the basis of the argument are fundamentally flawed and should be sumerily dismissed as such. If someone tries to say that the police will stop violence, I give you my permission to laugh in that someone’s face (though doing so may not be the kind thing to do…)

If we can’t rely on the police to protect us, can we rely on others? I’d challenge the answer is ‘no.’ So we establish that the defense of ourselves belongs to ourselves: thus we reasonably conclude that self defense is the only reasonable form of consistently reliable defense.

Having concluded the reasonableness of self defense, let’s approach the morality of it.

If I wander into a bear’s den, and am subsequently mauled to death, who is blamed? Me or the bear? Sad as they may be, even my family would say “he shouldn’t have gone into that bear’s den!” No reasonable person would conclude that the bear ‘murdered me,’ and most would not even apply any guilt the the bear: as the intruder, the guilt and fault lie with me.

With a simple example, we can see that self defense is not only natural, but also moral: he who defends himself is free of guilt. But as higher thinking creatures, we also have higher levels of responsibility. While a startled bear may reasonably attack the cause of alarm, we, with greater cognitive ability must apply that ability to the greatest possible extent: did the person who startled me in the grocery store the other day pose a real threat? Certainly not. But there are times when we must make decisions with reduced input and with short time: is the intruder in my house a dangerous threat to myself or my family? I probably don’t have time to gather more information, and am thus morally justified to behave naturally: to take defensive action.

We’ve shown that self defense is both reasonable and moral. Let’s discuss the implication of that reason and morality; this is the discussion that the American founding fathers preserved in the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The right to have a gun is not a natural right, but rather, the right to self preservation and self defense is.

It is important to understand the natural right that is being preserved in order to understand why the founders worded the Amendment the way they did. The right to defend myself being natural, moral, and holy (established by God), I must have the tools to exercise that right.

I used to hold the opinion that if guns had never been invented, the world would be a better place. After all, guns are simply a more efficient method of killing, right? Certainly that’s true.

But there is also an old saying that “God made men, but Sam Colt made them equal.”

Why did the founders specify the right to bear arms? And what did they mean? Did they mean only muskets? Did they mean that it was a governmental or collective right? First, let’s address the latter. The bill of rights has many enumerated rights; each right is individual, and each limitation is on the collective. For this reason alone, we must conclude that the right to bear arms was intended to be individual, rather than collective. The mentioned militia was understood at the time to be nothing more than a collection of well armed individual citizens, and not an entity regulated by the government. 

As for the idea that muskets where the intended arms of the 2nd Amedment? Prior to the writing of the Bill of Rights, there existed fully automatic small arms, and (more importantly to the argument) congress knew about these weapons. In fact, congress attempted to purchase them for the revolutionary militia, but couldn’t raise the necessary funds. Only a few years later, one of these weapons traveled West with Lewis and Clark’s famed expedition. These facts alone should cause anyone attempting to make the left’s favorite “musket argument” be dragged into the street to be vindictively mocked and openly ridiculed. That argument ignores not only the intent of the Founders (to preserve the natural right to self defense) but also all of the facts. But it is also important to note that the founders expressly sited the 2nd Amendment as reason for private individuals to own cannons and other artillery; the founders intended that the phrase “shall not be infringed” be interpreted literally.

Bringing the discussion full circle: the only way for the weak, defenseless, and innocent to truly exercise the right to self defense is to be at least (and preferably better) armed as the one from whom they need to defend themselves. 

As a visibly disabled person, I’m %300 more likely than my able bodied peers to be violently attacked. And despite my not unsubstantial training, I am distinctively unable to use physical force to protect myself. That ability increases exponentially as a persons physical stature diminishes. It inteases exponentially as disability increases. And it increases dramatically with a change in gender. In other words, despite being of average height, having aches the roughly the size of a barrel, being trained in hand to hand combat, I’d be unable to defend myself against an even mildly invested attacker. And that’s why the disabled are so much more likely to be attacked. A small, wheelchair bound woman with muscular distrophy, for example, would be entirely defenseless. 

And so enters the importance of Sam Colt: even with basic training, because of a firearm, my ability to defend myself automatically at least matches the ability of my attacker to attack. In my case, despite a substantial tremor in my shooting hand, I’m still a better-than-average shot (the second best in my graduating class from the Academy with a handgun, the best with a tactical shotgun, and at least among the top with a rifle, if not the top, though we never officially competed there… tooting my own horn here…)  Sam Colt made me equal despite my physical inequality.

My previous belief that the world would be better off had guns never been invented couldn’t be farther from the truth: the biggest and strongest are no longer the only ones capable of violent force. 

And that’s ultimately the most reasonable and moral argument for firearms: without them, the weak and defenseless are stripped of our natural and God Given right to self defense. The more efficient the arms, the better our chances of surviving attack. 

To those of you who are frightened of firearms: please contact me. As a certified firearm instructor, I will either teach you myself or put you in contact with one, like me, who will teach you. One of the best ways to decrease fear of a thing (and in the casemof guns, to substantially decrease the likelihood of accidents) is to increase education.

To those of you who are disabled and looking for an equilizer against the world’s wolves: please consider becoming educated in the safe and effective use of these miraculous inventions, and then getting one. The invitation in the above paragraph stands to you as well, but despite my experience and skill, I’m not certified to teach handguns; however, I’d happily put you in contact with those who are.

Despair and Hope

I find the relationship linking despair and hope to be fascinating. I just left the doctor for my monthly checkup. I’m on a very high dose of a very powerful drug (I won’t say which), but it provides little relief from my pain.

As I’ve said before, multiple doctors have confirmed that there is no solution for the causes of my pain: no surgery, no injections that we haven’t tried, no therapies, no magic pills. In short, my brokenness cannot be solved. I’ve come to peace with that fact, but it is nonetheless an unpleasant one. For me, the only long term plan is short term pain management.

I participate in some varied online forums. One is a forum dedicated to those of us with fibromyalgia. We call ourselves fibromites, and men being such an anomaly in the fibromyalgia world, I coined the term fibromates to describe those of us with the XY chromosomes. That forum is great. It gives us a group of peers that understand the struggles. It gives us a place to vent, complain, gripe, and moan. But more importantly, it gives us a positive environment for gentle hugs (figuratively). The community is one of uplifting and realistic optimism. We can seek advice and feedback from those who will be more helpful than the ol’ “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” feedback that is all too common toward the disabled communities.

Another forum is dedicated to those of us who struggle with chronic pain in general. A larger community gives us a greater spectrum of feedback and opinion. There are some who deal with neurological conditions, like fibromyalgia, and others with skeletal, muscular, or other conditions, including depression and anxiety. As you can imagine, at least on the surface, this is a more appropriate community for one like me: one who has neurological disorders, as well as muscular and skeletal disabilities, topped off with psychological or emotional disorders; in short, one who is in constant, chronic pain.

The sad truth truth concerning this second forum, however, is that the atmosphere is greatly different than the first. While the fibromyalgia forum is one of positive reinforcement and uplifting optimism, the chronic pain forum is negatively reinforcing. As you can imagine, for those who struggle constantly with the basic tasks of life, depression can set in pretty quickly, and even more powerfully. There, optimistic and hopeful comments are scoffed at and scorned. Weekly I see posts by people who literally are throwing in the proverbial towel: declaring in one open form or another “I can’t handle this pain anymore, I want to and am planning to die.” I mean that there is no equivocation and I’m not reading between the lines, there are literally people declaring the desire and/or plan for suicide. And worse, the community, in its complete understanding, supports the poster with morbid empathy, telling them that their decision is not only understandable, but perhaps even wise.

Empathetically, I understand the desire for death in the lowest of the lows. While these circumstances have never brought me to a suicidal point, I do understand. Even this morning, talking with Jeff, my exceptional pain specialist, I felt near despairing for that sentiment. The cold truth is that, as strong as my medications are, the best I can ever expect from them is about a %50 reduction in pain (and that’s just for my back, as these medications don’t and can’t address the fibromyalgia). I don’t get that much relief; I’m closer to %26-%30 reduction in pain… and that’s about as good as it gets. This truth is discouraging. Even if I make the (incorrect) assumption that my back will never worsen, my pain levels are about as low as they will ever be.

So I understand the desire for the pain to end at any cost… But I can’t agree with it. As Lehi said:

 “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.”

In other words, without misery, there can be no joy. Without despair, there can be no hope. So we finally come to the fascinating relationship: there must be ‘opposition in all things.”

God doesn’t give us trials, pain, and misery; rather, he allows those things and turns them to our benefit if we turn to Him. Another prophet of God also empathized with despair:

“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?…  O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol–stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward [me].”

But in His wisdom, God replied:

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee… with warm hearts and friendly hands.”

So we see in His great Plan of Happiness that trial, tribulation, pain, misery, suffering and even the lowest despair are all allowed to exist in order to provide contrast to the joy, happiness, peace, comfort, salvation and hope that are to be found by the redeeming atonement of the Great Son of God.

I wish I could share this hope with those of my fellow sufferers on the chronic pain forum, but the voice of hope is regrettably not a welcome one. So I write instead here, where I dictatorially control what voices are allowed 😉.

I worry that the topic is heavy, but so is the burden that we all carry, whether you deal with physical pain or not, we all have burdens, trials, and pain. And all of us feel overwhelmed by it sometimes – that’s why understanding the relationship between pain and relief, between sadness and happiness, between despair and hope, is so important. That’s why we have hope: so that we can know the contrast between what we feel and experience now and what we can obtain through the promise of Him who took our burdens upon Himself.

Hope exists, not because we want it to, but because it is the very law of Nature: there must be opposition in all things.

So, my friends, don’t despair. There is hope for relief, even for those of us with the promise of none: after the time of trial, comes the reward of the faithful. Jesus Christ lives. He carried our burdens, so that we might be free of them eventually.

Quality vs Worth: The Value of Life

Lately, I’ve had some questions from some readers, they are usually variations of this: “Jared, how do you stay so positive with all that is going on that is negative?” 

Sometimes they’re closer to “how do you do it? I don’t think I could keep going if I had ‘x,'” but I assume that, rather than suggesting I should off myself, these questions fit in with the first.

So I want to take a minute to address this question.
First, as is the nature of social media, you don’t often see the lows, if for no other reason than that when I’m really struggling, the last thing I want to do is to write. This is normal, by the way, which is why if we look through the Facebook pages of our high school classmates, we can reasonably assume that every one of them is financially successful, purely joyful, and traveling the world on peace missions, in short, that everyone but ourselves have found the key to happiness. And maybe some have, but I expect that a poll of those people would show that most of them feel like the world is in various stages of collapsing around them, while everyone else has it together. This is the lie of Facebook.

You, as the reader, don’t see nights I spend silently weeping to myself because I’m exhausted to the point of collapse, but am kept awake by the intense pain in my back and or nerves. I try to hide those low moments, even from my wife.  You, as the reader, don’t see me desperately, but without success, try to wake myself up once I’ve finally fallen asleep because the drug induced, hallucination like night terrors. You, as the reader, don’t see me curled up in a ball desperately wondering what the point of it all is. You don’t see the state of my house (that’s no accident…) because I can’t keep up with my chores.

So what is the point of it all? How do I stay positive? Well, the short answer is that I’m not always positive. I’m often angry and bitter about my lot in life (it’s not a lot, but it’s a life… Yuk yuk yuk). But it’s critical to understand the end goal. Life is not made to live from one moment of temporary excitement or high to the next: life is is about happiness, not excitement. But more importantly, life is meant to be a trying test.

This may not really answer the questions, in truth, the thought isn’t really well developed. I don’t struggle with the bitterness of depression, so I can’t speak to the power that it holds over the sound of its victims… Except I have felt that depression. My first buy of advise for those of you dealing with overwhelming depression, or depression that never goes Away (maybe it waxes and wanes, but is always present… Like a stupid song in the back of your mind….) first things first: speak to your doctor. I’ve found it helpful to write down my thoughts before a doctor’s visit (and I have lots of the ) – this helps me not forgot anything. Depressive disorder is crippling, but it’s also not just you: it’s a real medical condition and it can be treated. Please, if I’m describing you here, never free of the blues, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. It can be better.

But assuming that one’s chemistry is under control, we have to look at some of the other causes of misery: at the risk of sounding like a preacher, often we feel like bad people because, well… we are…. if we are living our lives free of the bother of moral compass, we might (or should) feel bad about ourselves. That’s not depression, it’s conscience. When I have not been right with my wife, or with my kids, or with my Lord, I have not been more than temporarily happy. It’s a feeling that I can’t shake, and no matter how great I may feel for a moment, it always fades back to a disappointing base. So we spent last week preparing for Resurrection Sunday – we repented of our sins, and we sought  to make amends to those whom we have wronged. If you didn’t follow us on that journey, it’s not too late: begin the process of being right with God. If you don’t believe, then at least make sure that you are right with everyone else (not quite the same, but a big first step).  

Next, forgiveness is critical. Again, I’m sure, I sound like a preacher, but not without cause. Once we’ve repented of our sins, we need to move on. We need to trust God that He has forgiven them. Sometimes the memory of that sin can come back to bite us a long time later- especially if it was particularly egregious, but trust isn’t a one off type of thing: I don’t just trust my wife once: I trust her always. The same is true with our heavenly relationships: we don’t just trust God to forgive us once, we must actively work toward the trust that He continually forgives us.  Sometimes the people that we have wronged don’t forgive us, even when we have truly repented. I’d love to say “move on, they aren’t worth your time anyway.” But I’d be lying… At least with some people. Unlike the Father, we are not perfect, and being forgiven isn’t guaranteed with our fellow man like it is with Him. If we have really repented, however, we recognize and accept that their non-forgiveness may be a consequence of our actions. We just move on the best we can. And finally, we need to accept and forgive ourselves. I’ve found that no one holds a grudge against me like I do. I find myself loathing actions from decades ago: “couldn’t I be a little kinder?” “Couldn’t I have responded better.” – but moving on with our lives means that we have to forgive ourselves, after we have done everything we can to correct the problem. 

If we have are chemically balanced correctly, we have a clean conscience, and we have accepted the forgiveness of God, sought the forgiveness of others (and accepted whichever response they chose) and forgiven ourselves; once we have done all of those things, then we can tackle the rest:

Life sucks. There. I said it. Life is full of pain, misery, sorrow, weakness, impossible choices, dirty laundry, and burned dinners. All of those things happen even if we have been forgiven, are making righteous decisions, and aren’t depressed. So what’s the point?

I wanted it share an analogy complete with home video. I even found the old 30 second clip in all it’s 144p glory (from my first camera phone…) but sadly the sound is corrupted, and without my shrieks of agony, you’d never be able to see from the video only that you were watching me get tazed (oops, spilled the beans on that one.)

But how do we answer the point of this life? Simply put, just as I willingly was tazed because I needed to understand the power of the tool, we willingly agreed to this life so we could have the experience of it: dirty socks and all.

How the do I stay positive despite being in constant physical pain? How do I sit in my chair (I’ve been unable to sleep more than an hour of three in a bed for years), shivering because I have the window open to the sleeting cold in order to counteract the sweats of the medicine and leather of my chair? How do I find joy despite being unable to move for a great portion of the day? How do I feel whole despite being broken in every significant measurable physical measure (and many mental measurements)? How do I live when living is without… Wait, turning off the country music station on Pandora… Okay, better: how do I have a sense of humor despite… Well… Everything?

I agreed to this. Well, maybe not the dirty laundered or the damnable spiders, the laundry is just par for the course, and the spiders are the tools of the devil… But the rest, I agreed to. I stood with the he host of heaven and trusted my Father when He told me about His plan: I cheered when he told me that I could come to earth, obtain a body, learn, live, marry, and have children. I cherished the opportunity to be like Him. And whether you believe it or not, whether you know it or not, heck, whether you know me or not; so did you.

We knew what challenges would face us, maybe not in detail, but how do you really understand something without experiencing it? I might have had a different opinion had they told me about the spiders (“I’ll just stay here, okay?”), and had I known about the laundry, my cheers might have been a bit less exuberant… 

But we also knew we would sin. We knew that we would fall short of the perfection needed to live with God in His Glory. We knew we would damn ourselves (auto correct just put that to ‘dang ourselves,’ you think it knows I’m a Mormon?) and most importantly, we accepted all of that risk and pain because we trusted the Father’s plan: we trusted His Son and the promised atonement which would cleanse us of our sins.

So how do I keep on? I simply do it because I always have. I started out a long time ago trusting God. I started out a long time ago with the end goal in mind: Salvation and Eternal Progression with my loving Father in Heaven. I began this journey a long time ago, and while I hadn’t yet experienced the misery of dirty underwear, I knew that all the laundry in the world was worth the prize.

And do you know what? So did you.

So despite my aching legs and churning stomach tonight, I want to share with you my joy. Life isn’t always great, but it is always worth it. If you ever doubt that, please reach out to someone for help. Be chase while we knew that we’d have a lot of muck to slog through, we never have to slog alone. Your family loves you. Your friends love you. I love you, even if we’ve never met. And with the greatest love of all, our Savior and our Father love you.

Life is always hard, but it is always worth it.

Mobility and Mini-Vans

The right of passage into adulthood for many adults is the purchase of the 2 door coupe – speed and style combined for the maximum ‘cool’ factor. The most important decision is how fast can this go? Or, what color best fits my personality? 

Julie and I have always been strange. For me, that right of passage was the acquisition of an all season tent. For her, the right of passage was always the mini-van… I know, right?

We got our fuel efficient compact, hatch-back sedan years ago. It’s been a great car, and despite it’s small size, has been surprisingly spacious and exceptionally comfortable. But it was never that right of passage. In the last year or two of my working career, we began to look for another vehicle, particularly because for those years, I couldn’t seem to find work within commute distance of home: I’d leave town for work, and stay with family during the working week, and come home on weekends a. This left Julie trapped at home with the boys and no method of comfortable transportation. 

Now, I’d have been content with a little junker car (I wasn’t going to be driving it, after all), but with my decreased income (as my disability has increased, my pay decreased…) we were struggling to afford even that. My wife, of course, wanted a mini-van, being the final step toward being the quintessential homemaker. Mini-vans, sadly, are expensive.

As we looked, we realized that as long as I was making extreme commutes, the budget was not going to allow us the purchase of another vehicle. Do you believe in divine inspiration? I do. Julie felt inspired to ask for help, but that felt embarrassing to me, as needing help somehow showed that I was failing as a provider for my family (kind of a ridiculous emotional response, but it’s how I felt). So honoring me, but following through with her inspiration, Julie playfully posted on her Facebook wall something like “anyone have a vehicle they want to give us?”

It goes to show the power of inspiration, and the generous nature of good people that within 24 hours, she had been personally messaged by a childhood friend of my brother’s: he and his wife had literally just been discussion what to do with their vehicle once they replaced it with a much needed upgrade. You see, their AC was broken, making the exchange value lower than the work neccisary to actually exchange it. The had determined that they would give it to someone in need… And then we had asked for help, being in need. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m not sure I believe in coincidence. 

It turned out that they couldn’t give up the vehicle until they had actually replaced it, but that was agreeable. Ironically, they goth wit to us within a week of my health failing so far that I couldn’t work: with me staying at home, and Julie working, however, the need for the second vehicle remained.

Because of the commute formJulie’s work, she continued to drive or little compact car. Ironically, it was a mini-van that we were given! Julie’s right of passage was finally here… And it was me that was driving it!

I was never quite one of those men who believe that driving a mini-van requires the surrendering of a man-card… But I wasn’t really pumped about giving up my comfy car.

I like to own ‘it,’ whatever that means. I’m disabled, so I’m the ‘Broken Dad,’ for example. So my boys and I dubbed the van the “dad-van” (complete with 60’s batman music: “na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na DAD VAN!”)

And I discovered the wonder of arm rests.

Now, as a side note, have you ever noticed the inordinate number of mini-vans in handicapped spots? You haven’t? Oh, you will now! (Evil laighter for making you notice something that you do t care about!) I understand why there are an inordinate amount of mini-vans among the disabled: they rock! Cars are notoriously difficult to get in and out of, one of the reasons I loved our car is that the seat is not difficult to get in or out of. The arm rests make them more comfortable for sitting in, particularly for those of us with lower back injuries: we can relieve the pressure from our backs by just putting my elbows on the arm rests and pushing down: really lovely. And, especially for those with walking aids, mini-vans give ease of loading, storage, and unloading.  Having a child still in a car seat means that I can kid him without having to bend over, which is worth it’s weight in gold.

I love putting Ezra’s bike in the back, with plenty of room for Nathanael’s and my tricycles: we can all go somewhere to ride without substanci burden. It’s beautiful! 
So what’s the point: The irony that after all the years of desiring a mini-can, Julie isn’t the one who’s driving it? Mini-vans are inherently awesome? My brother’s friend and his wife are amazingly generous? There is hope for the human race after all? When one is disabled, even little thin a like arm rests are awesome? No, none of these are the point, though all true; the point is simple enough: I’ve totally got ADHD and can write voluminous posts about anything.
Thanks for supporting me by reading them. 😀

Remembering and Looking Forward

I remember trying to step where he stepped, but his strides were too big. He could go a lot farther than me, too. I’d be exhausted and he’d just be starting. I still loved those outings.

I remember my first hunting trip. I got so excited seeing that buck that I nearly wet myself, figuratively. I realized that I hadn’t paid clear attention in my hunting lessons: I didn’t know how to take the buck (30 points if it had 2), and I was forced to let it go. In my breathless excitement I remember telling him all about it, and I look back with a chuckle on his quietly amused response.

I remember laughing as he pretended his swollen leg was a prosthetic. I remember curiously poking at the black and brown spots  that were indicative of the congealed blood inside his leg. I remember curiously wondering why he grimaced when he walked sometimes. I remember playing with his crooked cane like a shepherds crook, especially around Christmas.

But it’s only been in recent years that I’ve understood, at least to some extent, what he was dealing with, both personally, and in setting a positive example.

My dad was born handicapped. I guess I’ve never been really clear on what that looked like, if I understand it correctly, neither do the doctors. There was some sort of mutated gene that made one leg significantly longer than the other, and added a few extra arteries in there, causing it to have way too much blood and swell to twice the size of the ‘normal’ leg. It hurts him, too, though he stubbornly hid that from everyone.

My dad set some powerful life lessons for me, like “work hard,” a lesson he may have taken a bit too far. He taught me to enjoy the outdoors, and even now when I haven’t hunted in years, I keep my rifle clean and my powder dry (literally and figuratively). I long for the forests. I am desperate to teach that lesson to my boys, as it is one of the fondest lessons I’ve ever learned. He taught me that disability doesn’t have to define you. Most people don’t know that he is handicapped, after all. He never taught this directly, of course, as none of his children had any disabilities at the time.

It’s this lesson that I’ve taken the hardest. As my disability has taken over my life, I’ve been desperate to not be my disability. It’s an ongoing challenge to teach my sons hard work when my disability has stripped me of my mobility. I haven’t spent any time in the forests of my youth lately, but my sons have enjoyed being towed in their trailer behind my tricycle. As I learn new things about myself, I hope that I am teaching my boys to not be defined by their physical characteristics.

Overall, the things that I strive to be as a father are reflective of the father that I have. Thanks for the example, dad.

Happiness, Weepiness and Cluster Headaches

I don’t drink. But sometimes I wish I could drown myself in a tankard of something (that’s the ‘hip’ terminology, right?). Problem is, I’d become an alcoholic pretty quickly. I’ve got enough addictions, thank you very much. To add onto that, I’d be a mean drunk. No… like, alienate everyone who ever loved me mean…

Cluster headaches are a frustrating thing. For some people, they are so severe that they cause the victim to do whatever it takes to end the pain. I’ll leave that to your imagination. Requisite to point out: I’m not there. The last several days, I’ve enjoyed a significant bout of the cluster headaches. I’ve spend my evenings trapped in a dark room, and my nights and days wishing for anything to solve the problems. I’ve wondered about self medication. I’ve considered (though not too seriously) the drink. Truth is, the only over-the-counter solution that I’ve found is caffeine. So I drink a lot of Diet Dr Pepper, and pop caffeine pills. Problem is: Caffeine can also cause cluster headaches. I’ve got another term that starts with cluster for that circular dilemma…

These things are funny, too, because they really add to my fibro-fog. This morning, I cooked some eggs and toast, plated them and put them on the table. I walked away to get a glass of water, or something, and 15 minutes later, having started and forgotten a dozen other tasks, I realized that I had eggs (now cool) and toast (now dry) sitting at the table for me! I was halfway through eating when Nathaniel called me into the other room to get him something or another… I forgot them again!

The men of my family are notoriously emotional. We comfortably share and express emotion… But with these darn headaches, I just look like a crazy person. For example, I’m feeling pretty happy today, overall. Nathaniel’s being cute, and Ezra’s enjoying school. Other than everything, things are going pretty well for me. The problem is, every time I smile or laugh, the headaches are so intense that I cry. It’s not as if I laugh until I cry… If I even crack a smile, my eyes weep and I sob a little.,, immediately. The end result is a laughing weeping person. and not like somebody who’s sad that has something to laugh at, nor like a sad person who’s laughing to the point of tears… no, more like smile/sob-stop. More like I’m some crazy person that should be avoided. Maybe nobody notices. Certainly, Julie is pretty understanding, and the boys are unconditional in their love… but thinking about how crazy I must look makes me smile a bit… and then weep.

Guilt, Frustration and Who I Am

An interesting thing occurs when one is reliant upon others for silly little things: one realized their own insignificance.

The other day I started the day feeling really pretty well. I took Ezra to school and came home to feed Nathaniel some toast. I even got the dishwasher loaded (though not started) – a huge accomplishment for me, espessially first thing in the morning (it usually takes all day to do that without killing myself). At 10:00 I had physical therapy. Nathaniel and packed his backpack with a couple of diapers and some toy cars (so he’d have something to do), and headed out. I did pretty well going into the doctors office. I only had to stifle one panic attack being in the busy lobby. We went back and Nathaniel contentedly played with his car and fire truck while the physical therapist checked me out.

It was my first appointment here, and he needed to see what was going on with me. Apparently my pelvis cants so bad to the right that my right leg is almost 2 inches longer than the left. At any rate, he had me do 3 or 4 “exercises” (read: pitiful stretches that any normal human would not even consider stretches). After we were done with the therapy session, we gathered up Nathanael’s things, and made to leave. As we left the room, exhausted from the effort of the session, my body gave out and I collapsed. Little Nathaniel, in a reactive and protective action, reached up and grabbed my hand to try to keep me from hitting the ground (like mommy does). The therapist asked if my falls were usually that graceful (I almost got to lower myself down with my cane). The answer is sadly “no,” as I usually hit the ground with much more force.

The thing that stood out was the 2 year old trying to act as a physical support to the 30 year old (rather than the opposite). If I’d have fallen on him, it would have really hurt him, and yet he rushed forward to help.

I spend a lot of time dwelling on the things I cannot do. It’s not that I’m brooding, per se: more that I realize the things that I can’t find solutions to. For example: the boys love their LEGO and have them spread around the house. I’d love to not step on them, but I can’t pick them up (because I can’t bend or squat). This means that, we’re it not for others, this task could not be completed.

Oh, LEGO are the boy’s responsibility anyway, but the laundry, garbage, sweeping, mopping, toe nail clipping, toilet cleaning, etc. are my responsibility. I can’t really do any of them. I joke (less out of humor and more out of desperation) that anything that falls below knee level is as good as lost.

The result of my incapacity is that Julie has much more housework than she can handle (espessially with very long hours she’s been subjected to lately). The boys are left  with much less playtime than little boys should have.

The end result is a significant amount of guilt for me. Being the broken dad makes me feel bad for my wife and kids. It leads me to feel that they would be better off with a whole dad or husband. Then I get frustrated with myself, because these are things out of my control: this is who I am. I have to accept me. And my kids don’t need a perfect dad, they need THEIR dad. My wife doesn’t want another husband who is more whole, she wants me (though she would love for me to be whole).

At the risk of being preachy, I take some relief knowing that these trials are temporary. Oh, I’ve no doubt that I will deal with most, all, or more than I currently deal with, for the rest of my life; but it won’t always be like this. I have a Savior that has cleared the path for my resurrection to a perfect body. He’s made it possible for me to be with my family forever: and we’ll be whole and complete; free of these mortal trials. That will be nice.

Summary and What’s Going on Now

Okay, so the last couple posts have taken some downer turns…

Here’s a summary of what I’m dealing with in terms of my health:

I hurt, constantly. My back reduced my mobility to nothing. My fibromyalgia causes pain in everything else. The RLS makes it so I am a chronic insomniac, and the generalized anxiety makes it so I cannot function well in public even when I am well enough to go out. My stomach problems are… significant and frequent. I won’t publish the details publicly because… well, people don’t want to know that.

Overall, my ability to function have reduced to the point that we’re not sure if I’ll be able to work again. Julie is working now in support of our family. I’m looking for work, and have some good prospects, but the accommodations that are needed are so significant that I doubt they will fall into the category of “reasonable”

This has led to some major life changes. With my lost job from Panda, we’ve lost our house (or, the foreclosure is complete in 11 days) we’re now living in a water-closet sized apartment in Utah, which is actually quite nice, for a water-closet.

During the process of moving, the mortgage company broke into our house, changed locks, and either directly or indirectly, stole about $15000 worth of our stuff, including all of my tools, my camping gear, my archery gear, my climbing gear and a good chunk of my reloading gear (as well as my toilet paper and dutch ovens, which I’m not sure which of those I’m more upset about. You just don’t take another man’s cast iron, people!)

I’m in the process of applying for disability, which I am not proud to admit. I will almost definitely get turned down, as something in the realm of %95 of first-time applicants get turned down. Then begins the arduous and many-year process of appealing that decision. I’ll probably get my rejection letter some time this week.

Julie was asked to interview for a management position within a couple of weeks of beginning her new job, and she was given that position. She’ll do very well, but it’s pay is not quite enough to live on (yet).

My last Dr. appointment, the doctor was concerned about my heart health because, since 2012, I’ve gained somewhere in the ballpark of 40 lbs. Sedentary lifestyle doesn’t suit me well. After that appointment, we went and got a recumbent trike. I’m not longer able to ride a regular bicycle, and I can’t balance enough to ride anything with 2 wheels. I find great joy in that, when I’m well enough to ride (which isn’t often enough, to be honest: only about 1 or 2 times per week, and then finding the time when i’m feeling well makes it… hard)

I’m working on losing weight with diet alone, which is proving difficult, because I’d rather be fat than hungry… and that preference is going to kill me.

So here goes the struggle of the 30’s – maintaining one’s youth without getting fat, ornery, and jaded. So far I’ve failed, but that was the point of the previous post.

I’m moving on from the stuff with Panda. Without others, I cannot do anything else, so I’ll leave the remaining justice to God. I’m trying to move past my brokenness and the things I cannot do, and focus on the things I can.

I’m not looking for sympathy. Generally it doesn’t help anyway. I’m still me. I’m just a more angry me (I’m working on that, too). I’m still the same guy you used to know (if you used to know me), I just can’t do the same things I used to… and I’m learning the new things that I can do.

Of late, I am realizing I don’t like the person I’ve become. I’m not pleasant to be around, and that’s worked for me, because I have had so much anxiety about being around people, it’s easier if they just don’t want to be around me. I don’t like how I look. I don’t like that I have wasted so much time living in the past.

So now I’m moving on. That’s an intimidating challenge, but I’m up to it. I have hope for the future, which is saying something considering that I don’t see how we could fall much lower. I guess that’s where the hope comes from – there’s only one way to go – up. My uncle Jim posted on his Facebook a meme that said something along the lines of “people always get caught-up on whether the glass is half empty or half full: they forget that the glass is refillable.”

Naming Names and Anxiety

We’re getting nearer the end now.

I worked at Panda Express. I loved that job. I was good at that job. My boss retired, but before he did, he warned me that his replacement didn’t like me. He hinted that it was because of my skin color, but wouldn’t say it out loud. It was at Panda that I fell and hurt my back, but we may have waited to long to discover it, and we’re still waiting to see if i can get worker’s comp for that injury.

Because my new boss was pre-disposed to dislike me (starting about Feb 2012), and because I was hurting so bad, going to work started to make me anxious… a lot. The anxiety has gotten so bad that, long after my time with Panda is over, I still have panic attacks. I still find myself hyperventilating for no reason. I don’t struggle with Major Depressive Disorder but I absolutely struggle with major Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s crippling. I’m afraid to go into public and be seen falling, or hurting, or wincing or having a panic attack. I have real problems (medically, not morally) with the constant questions about my problems… and real problems (more morally than medically) with “My cousin’s boyfriend’s roommate’s ex-sister-in-law had that problem and she…. so you just need to do that)

Anxiety is a problem. It’s the reason I’ve failed so fully in letting those close to me know what is going on with me.

Panda eventually fired me in a case of (in my opinion) clear discrimination. My attorney though so too, but because a couple of people refused to testify (they still work there, so I understand) and stand for the truth, the lawsuit stands stagnant. I think i have 1 month left to move forward, and then it dies. That hurts, because truth needs to be out there. You won’t see me go to a Panda Express, Haibatchi San, or Panda Inn, not because they fired me, but because they covered up and ignored clear discrimination for months. Their Human Resource Department actively hid evidence that showed the discrimination, and failed to follow up on repeated claims of discrimination from others (not just me) – and nothing is going to happen to them because there are some people who do not have the courage to stand. I’m not saying that I don’t understand their cowardice. But to you of whom I am speaking: know this, your failure to stand means that this will happen again to someone else. I stood. I lost the best job I ever had because I stood. You sit and keep your heads down hoping that mine was an isolated incident. It was not.

Now, unless some of those who have previously reused to testify come forward now, this case is dead. I know. It sucks. It causes panic attacks to talk about it, so i really don’t want to. Yes, they discriminated against me. Yes that was morally and legally wrong. No, without testimony of those who remain silent, there isn’t enough evidence to move forward. The law is really not on the side of the victims of discrimination when the perpetrators are big businesses. I’m not sure the legal solution to that.

I won’t ask you to stop going to restaurants owned by Panda Restaurant Group, but I do want you to know why I don’t.