Yetanotherversary

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Yetanotherversary. These always seem to slip by me.

8 years (and 2 days) ago, I started back to work. A man, his wheelchair, and a circus cannon. Three employer labels later, grateful to God, family, great docs, nurses, PTs, OTs, Seating Specialists – –

and for a host of exceptional colleagues.

Cheers!

Career Mobility

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Friday marked my final day as a Merrill employee. Monday, I, along with 1200+ former Merrill-ites, will join the ranks of DTI Global. Mixed emotions. The Merrill years were rich, professionally speaking, and Merrill was far beyond accommodating, following a certain nasty little bicycle accident. DTI is a proven winner, formerly a tenacious competitor, and now my mates and I look forward to a profitable crossTo Ride Away pollination of skills, knowledge, talent and expertise. On what should have been a day focused on tasks related to this career transition, however, my lovely and heroic wife, Alice, and I took a wee road trip.

We traveled to the Norristown, PA branch of Ride-Away, where we picked up our 2010 Braun-Chrysler hybrid Town & Country minivan. For the past six years, I’ve been able to get around in our T&C thanks to its handy ramp and a system that locks my wheel chair safely in place. I would ride shotgun, and someone else drove, usually my lovely and heroic wife, Alice. Three weeks ago, the T&C was taken away to undergo a few significant enhancements. A few cleverly placed, handy hand-controls, super easy power steering, and a six-way articulatBarreling driver’s seat would allow me to climb behind the wheel and drive the T&C myself. The purpose of our trip to PA was for Ride-Away’s technicians to make precise adjustments to these and a few other mechanisms, so that the van would “fit” me like a glove. Well, maybe like a suit. Well, maybe like a barrel and suspenders. Anyway, the adjustments were made (no Spreewells). I was able, as we say in the spinal cord injury business, to “transfer” (picture heave or lurch) from my wheel chair into the T&C’s real front driver’s seat, and drive the two and a half hours home – in just three hours.

From the sunny suburbFrom Ride Awayan streets of Norristown, over the rolling hills of southeastern PA and northeastern MD, down I-95 from Perryville to Baltimore, through the 895 Charm City Harbor Tunnel Throughway, and down the 295 Balt.-Wash. Parkway to Laurel (or “La-Rule”, as my GPS lady likes to say), like one little fishy in a vast school, we navigated fast and heavy traffic back home.

Lots of change. New employer. New mobility. Both presenting a strange blend of uncertainty and opportunity. Excitement and anxiousness. I am prone to worry. It’s no small comfort that God provides peace that passes understanding, wisely, and powerfully governing and preserving us as we trade familiar and comfortable circumstances for new ones. Onward.

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Just Might Go Vegan

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An enterprising young man stopped by yesterday evening and rang the doorbell. Standing at our storm door, he carried two obviously heavy boxes labeled “Prime USDA Select Cuts.” I was on a business call, so my wife spoke with him at the door, partly open. I could hear his well-rehearsed extended soliloquy. As he soliloquized, she politely declined his several, ever intensifying, invitations to fill the freezer at “one-time-only prices.” I turned to get a look at him, still on my call, just as he walked into the foyer, backing mSteaky wife out of the way as if he was behind a moving force field. As he continued to blaboquize, he presumptuously suggested he might set the boxes down for just a minute. I begged off my call momentarily, and asked what he was doing. My wife explained that he was selling steak.

The salesman and I gazed at each other momentarily. I thanked him for his interest, but told him we were not interested in buying steak. He looked shocked and said, “But, I’m selling them at next to nothing.” I said, “Then I’m confident in your ability to make a sale to one of my neighbors.” He remained standing in my foyer, incredulous, as I further and repetitively explained “I don’t want to buy steak . . . I do not want to buy steak . . . I will not be buying steak from you.” Suddenly he indicated comprehension and with downcast expression thanked me for my consideration. I thanked him for his. He left. I rejoined my call.

I plan to post a sign at my front door that reads:

“If you 1) are not a longtime friend, 2) are not my neighborhood’s cookie-selling Girl Scout or the U.S. Postal Carrier, or 3) are not FedEx or Mr. Brown delivering something I did order and do want, simply put your collateral beside or in the mail box and move along to the house on the left. Know that I’ll contact your company if I’m interested. Anyone else ringing my doorbell or knocking on my door will be ignored and should despair of making a sale.”

It’s almost enough to make me go vegan.

Portions, Lots, Lines and Pleasant Places

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Psalm 16:5-8 — The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;  indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Portions, lots, lines and pleasant places. You may be picturing generous arable, fertile expanses across which homes are built, families are born, callings are heard, livings are made, and histories are written. Yet not all terrain is gently sloped. Some is more extreme. Frigid. Rocky. Wind swept. Dry and dusty. Some homes are Surveyor Crewnot happy. Some of us are isolated. Some callings are cloudy. Calamitous. And history can be hurtful. Single? Family? Single again? Healthy? Sick? Wealthy? Poor? No matter.

For no matter our lot, parcel or no, short straw or long, steps wrong or right, in ease or the most difficult of circumstances, God makes His saints heirs to His promises and gives them counsel, instructs them in the night, is at their right hand, and steadies them.

Have recently seen this in Abraham’s, Isaac’s, Jacob’s stories. They were flawed and rough, but God patiently herded and prospered them. In Joseph’s abandonment and rise to great civilization saving power and influence. In Job’s hard, hard account. He was upright, yet suffered unimaginably. Great men in great swelling, steaming, surging swaths of flawed messy human history. History whose divine prime mover was no more engaged than He is today, even if more visibly apparent.

Draw near to Him and He’ll draw near to you. Trust in Him. Look to Him. Lean hard upon Him.

Occupationally Therapeutic Oatmeal

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I’m makin’ ooaaatmeal.
I’m makin’ ooaaatmeal.
Upon a stooovetop.
Upon a stooovetop.
Don’t touch the red part.
Don’t touch the red part.
That thing’ll burn you.
That thing’ll burn you.
Steelcut, not rollled.
Steelcut, not rollled.
Stir periooo . . .
. . . Dicaaally
Stir periooo . . .
. . . Dicaaally
That’s independence.
That’s independence.
Or so they tell me.
Or so they tell me.
For eatin’ breakfast.
For eatin’ breakfast.
I’m makin’ ooaaatmeal.
I’m makin’ ooaaatmeal.

Nellie and Me After PT

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Stand-DogThirty-five minutes in the “Stander” (imagine being seated, then unfolded, slowly raised to a standing position, and clamped into a Nordic Track ski machine). Now resting with Nellie supervising my warm-down. A picture of me standing not likely, as my britches tend to head south in a hurry. More like a Nordic De-Pantser. Modesty prevails. Well, OK . . .

See how I get in and out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbYNhPDKA1E (G Rated)

Watched Stage One of the Tour de France — ridden today in the U.K. So, my 35 minutes hardly a speck in comparison to four+ hours in the saddle, but, hey — it’s how I roll now. Allez!

“Woof!” (Nellie)

God in the Checkbook, or Quicken’s Silver Lining

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May, 2010 — Since my accident, now nine months on, I’ve noticed quite a few times that I lose track of time. I’m not talking about clock time. I’m talking about calendar time. The month. The date. The year. The day. I suppose it could be because I spent quite a few weeks away from home in medical care facilities, and additional weeks after arriving back home in hospital. In many of these places, if I had a view out the window, it was not a remarkable view. An empty sky. A brick wall. An air handler atop a pebbled roof. That same squirrel running across that same oak limb. No longer passing time according to well-established routines.

I was, and am becoming again, a pretty (excessively?) organized person. Used to be, when the mail came, or when I noticed it had been piling up, I would sort it carefully into piles. Junk mail. Bills. Checks. Personal correspondence — mine and theirs. And bank statements.

I would quickly process most of the piles described above. Junk mail to the trash. Bills into the desktop sorter, according to due date. Checks to the desk next to the “for deposit only” stamp. Other correspondence would be sorted (thrown or stuffed, really) into each family member’s stair basket. Contents were to be removed from baskets by basket owners and carried upstairs. The expression, “Out of sight, out of mind,” and the term “black hole,” seem to fit.

Early in my adult checkbook independence, I learned the benefits of the envelope system and the ledger sheet method. Still, with lots of handwritten checks and ledger entries, home finance management was slow going. Enter Quicken! I no longer had to handwrite checks. Sweet! Having set up my paycheck allocations, and my income and expense categories, home finance management became much more streamlined.

Back to the mail. The bank statements would go into a pile that I scarcely could bear to look upon. Were I to see the pile, it was a chilling and demoralizing reminder that account reconciliation afternoons were seldom happy occasions. Missing receipts. Deposits I was sure of, but which the bank seemed to have overlooked. The check ledger’s “miscellaneous” category, with its siren call, “Use me for discretionary purposes.” Deep inside I knew it was merely the much misused ledger account I would deplete to make adjustments necessary to balance with the bank. Sigh. I can’t remember how many times six months would pass before I would tackle and reconcile a half year of bank statements. Upon slaying these multi-month statement dragons, I would sincerely proclaim I’d learned my lesson, and then announce, “I will never let this happen again.” I’ve been making that same announcement every six months for years.

This past week, I gathered all of the receipts, deposit slips, and the almost sacred composition book my lovely heroic wife used to split and track every check-writing atom. My involuntary abdication of the home finance management throne thrust my beloved wife into the role. I daresay she would rather have had weekly root canals. So, back on the throne, I began to work through the past 9 months’ income and expense history.

Quite unexpectedly, it was as though my newer version of Quicken had a AAA Trip-Tic function. Looking at every receipt, deposit slip and check number, it was as though each one was a Rick Steves travelogue stop with its own narrative. Entering each item, I matched transaction dates with transaction locations, picturing in many cases the payee / payor parties involved. I now understood where my wife and kids went each day — Target, Giant, Wal-Mart, the doctor’s office, Muvico, birthday shopping. I now could see who got new shoes, new clothes, a treat at Chick-fil-A, a prescription refill, a fill-up. Many deposit entries evidenced the staggering generosity of friends, family and strangers whose targets for kindness we were.

These bits of data — now all strung together — provided a much needed, much more useful cash flow picture. More significantly, this plodding multi-night exercise evidenced God’s close providential care, and reconnected me with the familiar reality away from which I had been so long, and with — to my eyes — a vast company of caring and supportive people.

And He who did not spare His only begotten Son, how will He not also along with Him freely give us all things?

Fearfully and Wonderfully Broken

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On August 20, 2009, four years and five months ago, I enjoyed my last two-wheeled bike ride and experienced a real life-changer. Now a C7 tetraplegic, paralyzed from the mid-chest down, I have grown in my appreciation for God’s grace and mercy (after all, I could’ve been killed or much more profoundly injured). I have also tasted the richness of family relationships, other relationships established through the years, and the many shades of encouragement and support these friendships have borne. Living in a broken earth suit with limited physical abilities was at first very difficult as my identity, purposes, style, calling, and significance rested heavily on my abilities. I’m persuaded that independence can isolate, and that what amounts to diminished pride can be a good thing. My new normal has been characterized as a peculiar stewardship. My needs and dependence have deepened relationships with those who are close to me. And, they have brought me closer to those I knew well long ago but from whom I had grown apart. I appreciate, and can empathize more genuinely and experientially with, others who have met with deep difficulty. While I hope and pray for improved neurological function, this momentary light affliction is changing and refining me as I look to the Lord, endeavor to trust in Him, and live patiently in the “new normal.” Having once stood 6’4″, life now happens at 55 inches. Life, while at lower altitudes, is still very rich.

Four Years On

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August 20th. Feeling dull today.

THE day. Four years on.

Saw it coming. Should be purposeful in some deliberate direction. Should be laying my Ebenezer here or there, or going back to visit one. No real inclination. Knackered.

For nervous earlier weeks and frantic days, I’d ridden the joyful rising emotional currents of Allie’s much anticipated marriage to Kenneth. A happy distraction whose preparations unleashed an ant colony-like pre-nuptial industrial machine. Addressing, licking, sealing, stamping, sewing, arranging (think flowers), cooking, counting, cleaning, driving, shopping, picking up, dropping off, confirming, double-checking, reconfirming, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The occasion brought back to Oxwell Lane a seeming flotilla of far and near flung family — like notes in bottles to their writers’ home — to stay, make preparations and celebrate, and to add another line or two to the story. Joined by flotsam friends and jetsam strangers-made-friends, more bottles were pushed ashore by converging streams and currents, whose notes are now scribed, stories made richer, rolled, replaced, and safely corked.

Sadly, all these bobbing glass note-bearers have been pulled back out to sea on an ebb tide, and the pre-nuptial factories have closed down.

On this fourth accidentiversary, work beckons. Nagged me for most of the three days I’d planned to be on a pre-wedding vacation. Seemed reasonable at the time. I managed to be mostly “off” post-marriage Monday, as Emily and Jonatan packed and flew back to Swede-land. But my hopes of taking off all of August 20 — THE day — on some special day-long excursion were usurped. Shoved off the calendar by a mob of meetings and calls. I did selectively speak of the anniversary with two or three colleagues that day, one of whom is four years on following her breast cancer diagnosis.

We later ordered-in sushi to compliment our typical “Taiwan Tuesday” evening repast of fried rice and dumplings. And before ending the day, I keyed in a Facebook shout out to as many names and groups as I could recall, whose support and encouragement had served in various ways to get us to this point. A feeble attempt. Hoping they’ll be skimming their Newsfeeds later and catch my Hail Mary thanks. I’ll catch up with others as our paths cross. (“Likes” and Comments later suggested some had been News-grazing” in the right spot.)

Be It Resolved and Deo volente, five years on is to be more deliberately celebrated.

Onward.

Stink Eye

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Most days, after undergoing a very involved morning routine that begins at 7:30 AM and ends at about 9 AM, whose details will remain undescribed, I roll into my executive handicapped bathroom to brush my hair, shave with my Norelco electric razor, and brush my teeth. Having acclimated to the calibrated use of Coumadin to keep clotting factors in line, I took a bold step and bought a shaving brush, two round cakes of shaving soap, a mug in which the soap is lathered-up, and a Gillette razor with real nick producing (potentially) blades. I tolerate a not so close electric shave most days. More like a whisker thatching, really. About once a week, for a true close shave, I lather up and raze the face.

On my countertop, in the corner, there are three bottles of Cologne and aftershave that stand like little soldiers. My wife got me these. She researched this scents, got samples, and gave them to me on special occasions.

For months after returning home from my first rehab experience, these manly scent containers were absolutely ignored. After all, most days I dressed in athletic stretch pants, a T-shirt or possibly a polo shirt, white support hose and knockoff crocs. Not exactly making any fashion statements. I only made appearances at places like Target, or when I went on trips around the neighborhood in my manual wheelchair. None of those were reasons to smell fancy.

Sundays were different, as I got to dress in real khaki pants, a button-down shirt, black support hose, real Docksider shoes, and my navy blue Duluth Trading Company presentation jacket, before heading off to church. Until one fateful Sunday, my visits to church, like any other day, were non-scented occasions.

On that predestined day, in a surreal moment, I heard one of my bottle-soldiers speak to me through his suddenly articulatable atomizer-mouth. “Pssssst!” I turned to my right and heard him say while at A-Ten-Hut! “Requesting permission to speak, Sir!” I granted his request — you’d have done the same. “Go on. Smell good, Sir!” I couldn’t believe it! So, with my right hand, I reached over and began to push Lieutenant Christian LaCroix Noir in my direction. Before pushing him off the edge of the countertop, I clamped him between my right and left palms, and removed his top with that other useful appendage: my teeth. This revealed his atomizing spray pump which I aimed in the direction of my neck. Cradling him in my left palm, I began to push his atomizing spray pump with my right palm. One, two, three, four, . . . . Nothing. I put on my cheater glasses and squinted at his now silent atomizer hole to see if it was clogged. As far as I could tell it was in perfect mist-emitting condition.

So I moved him back onto the countertop, aimed his atomizing spray pump to the left, and pounded it with my right palm. Success! A perfect Underwriters Laboratory mist was emitted. So, I held him once again in my left palm and prepared to push his atomizing spray pump with my right palm. The muscles in my neck, right shoulder, right triceps, right forearm tensed for an instant. In the blink of an eye, I forced his atomizing spray pump down. With the velocity of a speeding bullet, a textbook mist was emitted . . . directly into my left eye.

Its autonomic, reflexive blink was not fast enough and for a moment, I was disoriented, fearing I was going to be half blind. I waited. Did a systems check. Determined my vision was not significantly impacted. Sent Lieutenant Christian LaCroix Noir to his barracks — all leave cancelled.

Off to church we went. And, despite the burning and watering, my eye smelled great.