Thursday, December 25, 2008

My New Year's Resolution: To Do More

This year, I resolve to do more.

I will love more.
I will laugh more.
I will sing more.
I will participate more and I will make more of a difference in the world around me.


Life is a journey. If we pay attention along the way, we find that it is also a great teacher. Below are some of the things I have learned on my journey:

We all have something.
I have learned that nothing holds us back except ourselves. I have learned that we either have results or excuses as to why not. I have learned that we all have the same amount of time, and that we all can participate more, and do more to make a difference in this world. Whether it is an hour a day, an hour a month or an hour a year, we can all do something to make this a better world.

We can all do more.
Doing more requires only one thing: making the decision to do more. I have decided to do more for the MS Society. I will also do more for my wife, my children and my friends. I will do more for the world around me.

Doing more means participating more. Showing up is a good start, but it is not enough. Participating means rolling your sleeves up and getting involved both figuratively and literally. It means asking questions and learning more. It means listening when a listener is needed and teaching or counseling when called for. It means helping out and contributing time and attention to someone or something. It means caring.

We can all make a difference.
We can only make a difference when we care. Whether it is family or friends, work or a cause - my favorites are the MS Society (
www.nmss.org ) and Chelsea’s Hope (www.chelseashope.org - Please visit this website). Find something that you care about and be a participant. If we participate, we can make a difference. When we make a difference, our lives have meaning and purpose.

Resolve to do more. That is my New Year’s Resolution. I may or may not lose weight, exercise more or save any money. What I will do is MORE…more of what is needed to make this world a better place. I hope that you will make that part of your list of resolutions too.

These are my New Year’s Resolutions and I am planning to have a great year.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fill Your Holidays And Everyday With Miracles

I have known Rabbi Joe for thirty years and I always loved spending time with him because I always learned something. One thing Joe taught was this: Just because a miracle can be explained, does not mean that it is not a miracle. To explain his position, he used two great biblical examples: The parting of the Red Sea and how “God gave us manna in the wilderness.”

Today scientists know of an earthly phenomenon which occurs annually. For a very brief period of time, parts of the Red Sea become so shallow that you can literally walk across it. Did God make the waters of the Red Sea part? Or did this earthly event just happen to occur as Moses was leading the Jews out of Egypt? Whichever you happen to believe, the fact that it did and/or does occur is nothing short of a miracle. (See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_sea )

After fleeing Egypt, the Jews spent 40 years in the desert. They did not bring enough food to last for 40 years. So how did they survive? An expedition set out in the desert of Israel in an attempt to retrace the steps that Moses and his followers took thousands of years ago. They discovered a tree that grows in that desert, that in the morning, produces a sweet dew that they could eat. A dew that would sustain them. Manna in the wilderness explained. (Also see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manna)

Just because these biblical examples of miracles can be explained, does not mean that they are not miracles. If I were to dismiss miracles because they can be explained, I would miss out on the joy and awe that life makes available to me daily.

This has nothing to do with religion or faith (although that never hurts). It has to do with being excited, thrilled and grateful for that thing we call LIFE and all the miracles that occur in it every single day..

My whole life has been and continues to be about miracles. I was a very sick kid when I was young, so sick my parents were told that I would never be normal and probably spend my life in an institution. That didn’t happen and the reason can be explained. It was a miracle.

I have been in three car accidents, two in which the cars were totaled, and one in which I walked away, each time unharmed. Miracles. I have been held up at gun point and walked away unscathed. Miracle. I have been in beautiful places and watched the sun come up. Miracle. I was in the delivery room twice, watching my children being born. Miracles.

Miracles happen everyday. The question is, do we recognize them as miracles or do we dismiss them as everyday events? Do you know any cancer or transplant survivors? Miracles. Have you ever travelled in a car or airplane or boat? Miracles. Have you ever watched TV or listened to the radio or been on the internet? Miracles. Have you ever had someone or something show up at just the right time in your life? Miracles.

I love that my life is filled with miracles. In fact, I have become pretty good at recognizing and acknowledging them. Living a life that is filled with miracles makes every day worth celebrating and something for which to be grateful.

Make this holiday season a most miraculous occasion. Start recognizing the miracles taking place around you, for you and because of you. Then start doing it everyday. We don’t need a holiday to have a miracle. We just need to see them.


Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Because you asked me.

It has been and continues to be my pleasure and great privilege to share my perspectives with all of you. As of this writing, my blog has been viewed many thousands of times and I have received hundreds of responses.

Recently, I received some questions from people asking for my advise, or at least my perspective about their circumstances and challenges. The questions were so great, I wanted to share them and my response with all of you. I do hope that you will find these of value.

Please know that if you have a question, you may write to me directly at
michaelbgerber@gmail.com I promise you that if we publish your question and answer, your privacy and anonymity will be preserved.

Do know that I am not a mental health professional. But I am a big believer in them. If someone is struggling with adjusting to their new life, seek out professional help. It may be what is needed.

The first question and my response are below.

Dear Michael,

About two years ago, my mother had a brief but dramatic bout with brain cancer. My mom is a powerful and successful woman who has spent her career defying expectations and inspiring others, and so being in the role of a patient was already difficult enough for her. Her way to deal with it was to just not tell anyone about her cancer or surgery.

Thankfully, she lived through it and is now cancer free, but occasionally the evidence of the surgery is more obvious than she would like. The obvious clues are there, a faint but visible scar around the hairline, a few months of wearing a wig, a few missed big family events during the recovery period. Its the less obvious clues that seem to be the most upsetting to her - random and occasional stammering mid-sentence, difficulty focusing, less balance, and so on. As the visible scars healed, her behavioral ones seemed to increase. Now clients think that she is not the same, effective, powerhouse that she was before and they don't know why. She, understandably, doesn't tell them so not to seem unprofessional or needy of attention.

Doctor's say that the mental side effects of the surgery are probably permanant and may potentially worsen over time. How can I help my mother come to grips with her condition in a way that allows her to still feel in control? Is it right to share her medical needs with her clients? Is it okay that she's embarrased about these things?

Sincerely,

Concerned in Concord


Dear Concerned in Concord;

Let me begin by saying "Good for Mom." She made it through. She is a survivor. She also sounds like she is a very strong, independent and proud woman, all characteristics that probably helped her to get through this ordeal. She also sounds a lot like my own mother did.

A great challenge for many of us, especially those of us who feel in control, is accepting that sometimes we are not in control. What I have learned and accepted is that life's events fall into one of three categories. They are those that we control, those that we influence and those that we have no control over. Much of our health is beyond our control, but it is subject to our influence.

What may help Mom is having a conversation about what is beyond her control and then discussing what options she may have to influence the course of her health. Discussing, hearing and accepting these truths, and her coming up with what she can do to influence the disease, may help her with acceptance and that helps a lot.

Does she tell people about her disease or does she hide it? If she has obvious symptoms and does not explain why, customers and friends will spend their time wondering what is wrong with her. Not addressing it may be like not addressing the elephant in the room. But by addressing it up front, the issue is diffused and the wondering can cease. Better than that is the potential for bonding, strengthening relationships and building trust, which is what we really want in our relationships, be they business or personal. After the elephant has been addressed, the elephant, or rather the disability can become invisible and everyone can focus on business. Then she can be seen as the strong, determined, knowledgeable professional that she is.

Embarrassed? Your mother needs to feel proud of her self and of what she has overcome. Your mother is out there in the world, participating and living. Whether she wants this or not, she needs to know that she is now a role model for all people of what it means to be alive, even with challenges. She also needs to know that by not sharing her story, she may be missing out on all the kindness the world has to offer her and all the experience and knowledge that people have to share.

Your mother sounds like a woman of extraordinary dignity and strength. Her continuing to participate in this life can and will inspire others. In return, she may get much more than increased business. She will get a new found respect, admiration and an out pouring of love and caring from all whom she touches. Sort of a bonus prize for being the champion she is.

I know this is true for me. Sharing my story and being the example to others that I want to be, has made my life richer, better and so very worth living. I hope your mom feels that way too.

You are lucky to have a mom like her. She is lucky to have a concerned family like you.

Michael



Thursday, December 4, 2008

I am as lucky as I want to be.

There are two kinds of luck. One is a skill. The other is about chance. Allow me to explain.

Almost thirty years ago a man named Doug Yeaman taught that “Luck is the ability to recognize opportunity when it knocks.” I love that definition and have never forgotten it. I love it because it takes the randomness and chance out of being lucky. Why are some people luckier than others? They are luckier because they are better at recognizing life’s opportunities. Luckily, I am pretty damned good at it.

Why are some people luckier than others? Or better yet, how come some people get more opportunities than others? They get more because they put themselves out there more, meaning they do more, see more, act more and participate more. The more I do, the more opportunities there are to be recognized by me. In that sense, I guess that luck is a numbers game. The more I play, the luckier I get. Want to win the lottery? Buy a ticket. Want to improve your odds? Buy more tickets.

I love this because it allows me to be responsible for creating my own luck in the world. When I began my professional career, the opportunities for advancement came very quickly and I jumped on them. I worked hard (something everyone can do), I invested a lot of hours (my choice and in my control) and I jumped on every opportunity I could to increase my level of responsibility. As a result, by the time I was 23 years old, I was managing a real estate office with almost 50 agents in it. Pretty lucky, don’t you think?

I have been able to turn some of life’s most random events into opportunities as well. That is certainly how I have approached living with multiple sclerosis. The disease has given me the opportunity to learn about myself, be an example to my children, teach my family and friends about what I have learned and for me to learn about gratitude and perspective in ways I never could have imagined. These are just a few examples of how lucky I am. They are also examples of my ability to recognize opportunity when it knocks.

The other kind of luck is chance. Some call it a feeling. Do I feel lucky? You betcha! My ability to see my life and circumstances as my good fortune serves me very well. Perhaps that is not luck, as much as it is gratitude and perspective.

Hmmmmm……if gratitude and perspective are opportunities that we all have, then maybe there is only one definition of luck.

I sure am a very lucky man.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I am not embarrassed.

I am not embarrassed by my wheelchair or walker. I am not embarrassed when I need help with meals or transportation. I am not embarrassed when my legs or hands are trembling or even when I fall down. I am not embarrassed by my disability. It is just life. My life. And, I would much rather have it than not have it.

Some people are embarrassed by their disability and I wish they weren’t. The fact is that every person on the planet has some level of disability. It is just that some are more obvious to the outside world than others. The truth is that everyone needs some help or assistance from time to time. I just happen to need more than most people.

If you are like me and you listen to the news, almost daily we get some new medical statistic. “Four percent of the population will get this disease.” “Six percent will get that.” “Two percent will get another.” The list goes on and on. The fact is that if we are lucky enough to live long enough, the chances are that we will all have some health issue to deal with in the future.

A few months ago a survey was completed which showed that more than 50% of Americans would rather die than live with a disability that prevents them from leading an “independent life.” I can only assume that these people don’t know me, or the more than 50 million people in this country who do live with a disability.
(http://in.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idINN7B32025920080711)

I am no expert on surveys, but WOW! What an awful number! In fact, it is worse than awful. It is terrible, shameful and a cry for more education and understanding. It also tells me that I, and many of the other 50 million people who live with a disability, are not doing a very good job of being a visible example to the rest of the world of what it means to live a full life with a disability.

My goal is this: to increase the visibility of disability. I want to change those survey results. I want to be an example to all that, even with a disability like Multiple Sclerosis, I am fully engaged, out there, alive and living a full life among the ‘more able bodied’. I want to show the world that life is worth living with an able heart and mind, even if the body has its challenges.

I am not embarrassed by my life. I am proud of it. How about you?




Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving. My mother's legacy.

Thanksgiving is one of my two favorite holidays of the year. I am sure that my feelings have much to do with the fact that this was my mother’s holiday when she was alive,. She would squeeze 30+ people into every inch of space she had in her small home and serve a feast to everyone who was mandated to attend, and anyone who needed a place to go. After all, everyone needs a place to go on Thanksgiving.

Each year’s dinner started the same way: with the reading of the menu. It took her some time to read the list of the 14 or 15 items she had prepared, followed by thanking everyone else who had contributed. “I want to thank David for bringing the butter” or “A big thank you to the Jones’ for bringing the extra folding chairs.” The truth was that people wanted to help and bring things, but this was her show, her Big Night. Occasionally, she might allow someone to bring string beans or sweet potatoes. But that usually meant we had a choice of the guest’s dish or her version of the same item.

Probably the most unusual or crazy thing that she did for the holiday was a TRIAL RUN. The weekend before Thanksgiving, she would prepare all her dishes, pack them up in Tupperware and bring them to our house, about an hour away. The holiday itself was such a source of joy and pride, I imagine that doing it only once was not enough for her. TWO THANKSGIVING DINNERS and each one was so much work. Who do you know who does that…….or wants to, for that matter? This was truly a labor of love.

She judged her success by the smiles on everyone’s faces and there were always plenty of those. This was her day to shine and she did. On Thanksgiving, she was a Star and we all knew it. Every year on this day, she got all the praises, attention, love and affection she so richly deserved.

I was lucky enough to spend 46 Thanksgivings with her. Now that Mom is gone, my great wife, Gail has inherited the holiday and she does a great job of filling Mom’s shoes. Now the holiday has become her night to shine and she does.

I had intended to write a holiday blog about Thanksgiving, more of my usual stuff about gratitude and perspective. Instead you got a story about my amazing mom and incredible wife. You will just have to trust that I do feel extraordinarily thankful and grateful for both of them.

Happy Thanksgiving.




Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am a survivor. We all are survivors.

What prompted me to write this was not my disability. It was prompted by the current financial crisis that our nation, and our world is experiencing

Sometimes we have to make adjustments that we never dreamed of making. Certainly, with my disability, that is what I have had to do. I am not alone. There are more than 50,000,000 people in this country who live with some kind of disability, many less severe and many more severe than my own. Every one of us has survived.

Many of my closest friends are struggling to make ends meet. Their world’s are changing and they are wondering what the future holds for them. Some of them have lost their homes and businesses. Some have moved to new cities. Many are wondering how will they pay their rent? Buy food? What will they do for a living? Very real, very difficult questions, all of which can be answered.

The simple and seemingly trite answer is that when the world changes, we need to change too. Because of my disability, I already know this to be true. When I gave up driving more than three years ago, I wondered if I would sense a loss of independence. When I had to give up working more than a year ago, I worried about how we would make ends meet. As my disease progresses, I wonder what the future will be like. What I have learned and know is that with whatever challenge comes my way, it will be dealt with. I will make the necessary changes and adjustments in order to get by. I will survive this ‘change’, because survival is what we do. It is a most basic human instinct.

The difficulty for those caught up in our financial crisis may be that they have not yet learned what I have from living with a disability. That is, to trust that they will make whatever changes are required in order to survive. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it painful? Yes. But it can be done and will be done.

Many of us remember the stories that our parents and grandparents told us about their growing up. My mother did not have a bedroom and slept on the floor of the dining room until she was teenager. My father-in-law is a Holocaust survivor and I won’t begin to tell you about what he endured against extraordinary odds. Many of us know stories about the Great Depression, with its breadlines and soup kitchens. God willing, we will never have to endure what others have. And yet, for a great number of people in this country, things may get worse before they get better.

Why am I saying all of this? I am saying it because we are survivors. It is a basic instinct that we all have. We will each do whatever we need to in order to survive. Will we need to get new jobs? Will we need to move? Will we become or take in roommates? Will we ask for help? We can and will if we need to.

It may not be pretty, or nice, or comfortable or easy to do. But all of us will do what we need to in order to survive. It is my hope that knowing that and trusting that is true helps us get through some of our most challenging times.

No one planned for this economic crisis. No one plans to live with a disability. But we do, because we are survivors.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.



Sunday, November 9, 2008

USE IT OR LOSE IT.

“Use it or lose it.” This statement applies to me in a lot of different ways.

Living with a disease (multiple sclerosis, for those of you who don’t know) affects almost everything I do, every minute of everyday. What it has also done is make me appreciate all that I do enjoy and take nothing for granted.

My health. I used to be a jogger. I jogged a 5K almost daily for years. Then I got busier and busier at work, took less and less time to jog, until I had taken jogging completely out of my schedule. Now I don’t walk so good. Would I walk better today if I had kept up the jogging? Maybe. Who knows? What I do know is that what walking ability I do have, won’t be taken for granted. I exercise my legs almost daily to insure that I preserve what ability I have for as long and as well as I can. In other words, I use it, so I won’t lose it.

My relationships. I have been married to the sweetest and kindest women on the planet for over 28 years. From the moment I was diagnosed with MS, I have been grateful that I have her to accompany me on this journey. I know that my life is easier, better and fuller because I have her by my side. For the most part, we have always had a good relationship. Yet it was easy for me to take her sweetness and kindness for granted. I spent a lot of years not fully acknowledging, or acknowledging her for the difference she makes in my life. Now I let her know it everyday and even with the challenges we face, our relationship is better than it ever has been.

My money. For many years I made a good living. Today I am not able to work. I now get federal disability and have a private disability income policy. I earn less than I used to. But, I sure am grateful for the income we do have coming in. For many of us who were in the mortgage industry, it was easy to take for granted the kind of income we enjoyed. Now with our current financial crisis, we realize just how good we had it for those many years. Now that I do not have the ability to earn income at all, I am extremely grateful for the income I do have.

Gratitude is the flip side of taking things for granted. “Use it or lose it” means ‘don’t take anything for granted’ and reminds us that the gifts we enjoy (Health, people, money, etc.) may not always be there. By not taking them for granted, we may be able to keep or preserve those gifts for many years to come. It also allows us to be grateful for those gifts while we have them and not postpone our gratitude until they are gone.

I have learned that my happiness is directly related to my ability to experience gratitude. The gratitude I experience seems to be directly related to how much or little I take for granted. My disability has helped me learn not to take things for granted. It has also provided me with the opportunity to be grateful for so much more than before and in ways that I never could have imagined.

“Use it or lose it.” Knowing that helps me to wake up happy everyday.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

IT'S MY BIRTHDAY AND TODAY I CELEBRATE YOU

I am changing the way I celebrate my birthday. I hope you will join me.

My birthday is the time for me to celebrate my life. My life is filled with scores of amazing people who make a difference to me. It is the time for me to acknowledge everyone who makes my life “My Life.” If there are any cards or presents to be given, they will be given by me to those who matter most. It is now my one and only day a year that I celebrate birthdays – MINE. It is my day to celebrate you.


Instead of several times a year having to worry about whose birthday is remembered, sending cards and buying gifts, I do all of that just once a year. Think how nice it would be if on our birthday we all gave to those who matter most to us. That somehow seems incredibly appropriate.


If I make a difference to ten or twenty people, then instead of my getting cards and gifts from them once a year, I am getting acknowledged by them all year long, throughout the year on their birthday. The people closest to me are calling me on their birthday to tell me that I make a difference in their lives. My birthday is spent calling them to say "you make a difference in my life."


Hallmark won’t like it. Retailers and bakeries may not like it either. If I do buy presents for people, than my birthday may become more expensive. But it is only once a year. I better start saving now for next year.


If you are reading this, than you make a difference in my life and thank you. In honor of you and to celebrate my birthday, I have made a donation to the National MS Society.


Not getting any cards on your birthday? Good. It will be easy for you to get started. Just start making a difference to someone today.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What if it was your child? What would you do?

My niece, Chelsea is a beautiful, sweet girl. She is also a very sick young girl. She has a very rare disease called Lafora, a progressive, degenerative myoclonic epilepsy. Since being diagnosed almost four years ago, her life and the lives of everyone around her are forever changed.

Chelsea was an athlete. She was a soccer star, a gymnast and a dancer. Today she doesn’t take a step without someone holding on to her or she will fall down.

Chelsea was a scholar. She was an advanced student with a curious mind and a quick wit. Until recently, if she felt good enough to go to school, there was room for her in the Special Education classroom. That is not an option for her today. Her mind, her ability to think and understand has deteriorated greatly and quickly. She does not understand what is happening to her. Perhaps that is a blessing.

Chelsea’s disease is always fatal and life expectancy is usually 10 years after onset.. Today there is no treatment or medications available to slow the progression of her disease. Her time with us is limited, unless we find a cure.

Chelsea is but one of only a few hundred known cases worldwide. With so few known cases, little attention or money is given to find a cure or treatment for this terrible disease. But now that is changing.

Chelsea’s parent’s, my brother Howard and his extraordinary wife Linda, have founded “Chelsea’s Hope” (
http://www.chelseashope.org/ ), to bring together the community of families from around the world, who live with this disease. Together, they have found the researchers working to cure this disease and are raising the money needed to fund this research. There are now trials for treatments being considered by the International Review Board. The treatments are not cures, but may extend the lives of these children until a cure can be found. Now there is hope.

Today more help is needed. The progress made in finding a cure is directly related to the amount of money we can raise to fund the research. The research is being done at UCLA, one of the world’s leading medical research facilities. You can read about the disease, the research, and make a donation by visiting Chelsea’s Hope at
http://www.chelseashope.org/ . A treatment and cure are only possible with funding and help from our family, friends and anyone wanting to make a difference.

Please visit the website and read Chelsea’s parent’s story. To live as they live, to watch your child deteriorate as they do, is something that no parent should ever have to endure. Join us, help us to find a cure and let’s make sure that no else has to live with this devastating disease. Thank you.


Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wheelchair. The best seat in the house.

One of my great challenges in life, or possibly it is a gift, is the ability to see things from both sides. This is true with politics, entertainment and human behavior. This also includes what it is like to be in a wheelchair.

I am able to walk short distances using a walker. But if more walking is required or if I don’t know the lay of the land, I use the wheelchair. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by this. It is just a fact of life – my life.

Here are the bad parts of being in the chair:

● When I am in the wheelchair, the people I am with are usually standing behind me and can’t or don’t hear me talking. When I talk loud enough to be heard, they want to know why I am yelling!

● In public places, when they need to ‘park me for a second’, there always seems to be an available ‘spot’ next to the trash can. PEE-EW!

● When we go to restaurants, the host or hostess looks at me sitting in the wheelchair and then asks the person I am with “Does he want a regular chair?” ASK ME PLEASE! (Ironically, if I enter a restaurant using the walker, we always seem to get the table furthest away.)

These are all minor, readily surmountable issues. These are the things I have noticed when sitting in the chair. These are all issues that my family and I can usually laugh about.

There is one more behavioral issue that I notice. That issue is that the people I don’t know who see me in the wheelchair can usually be divided into two camps. They are:

1. People who seem particularly friendly towards me.

2. People that pretend to not see me or avoid me.

I always prefer the friendly faces. I suppose that if I am in a wheelchair, and don’t look homeless (I am pretty sure that I don't look homeless), I may appear harmless and easy to approach, so people do. I get more smiles and hellos when I am in the chair than I do when I am not. I would like to think that I am a very friendly and approachable guy, and so I love the friendly faces, smiles and hellos.

What I don’t like and wish I could change are all the faces of those not wanting to look at or notice me. It is not that I want attention or to be noticed because I am in a wheelchair. It is that I don’t want to be AVOIDED just because I am in a chair.

My favorite experience is when a child approaches me and asks why I am in the wheelchair. I always thank them for asking and explain as simply as I can that I have “weak legs.”

My least favorite experience is when the parent pulls the child away from me and tells them, teaches them not to ask, or to look and that talking to me is not polite. I always prefer the honesty and innocence of a child asking why, to the avoidance of an adult who thinks they know better.

My goal is this: To increase the visibility of disability. I want to be seen as an outstanding member of the world because of my participation in it and not because of my disability. I want to see a world that is so accessible, that people with a disability are outstanding because of who they are and not because of their disability.

I want to see a world where we are all approachable, smile and say hello.


Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stop "SHOULD"ing all over yourself!

Of all the words in the English language, one of my least favorite is “should.” I can think of no other word that carries with it as much judgment as ‘should’, and yet we use it all the time. We use it on ourselves, our loved ones and sometimes on complete strangers. I am here to tell you that we really shouldn’t.

As a parent (co-parent, really) I have heard it used on our children no less than 1,000 times. “You should call your grandparents.” “You should do your homework before dinner.” “You should be ashamed of yourself!” Have you said anything like this to your kids? The problem is that the statement suggests that there is something wrong with them if they don’t follow the suggested action.

I have found that as a parent, kids want definite instruction with no ambiguity. There is usually no argument if I say “Call your grandparents” or “Do your homework before dinner.” There might be discussion, but rarely an argument.

We all want our kids to grow up and be thoughtful and disciplined. But do we really want to shame them into it?

I know that for me as an adult, when someone starts to tell me what I ‘should’ be doing, I want to tell them where they should be going! When someone suggests what I could be doing, it is filled with possibility, choice and an absence of judgment. “Would” is almost as good, although less definite.

There are a lot of things that I should be doing. Truthfully, I prefer to think in terms of what I ‘could’ be doing. As an adult, I like being able to decide what they are. As a parent, I want my children to decide for themselves about what they could be doing. I want my instructions to them to be definite (DO IT) or filled with possibility and choice. To me, that is how they learn.

Should-ing all over yourself and others is a tough habit to break. But you should try it. You (and your kids) will be glad you did.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Paul Newman.Tim Russert.Randy Pausch

We have lost three great men this year. I learned something from each one of them and was deeply touched by their passing. Please allow me to tell you why I was so moved by these three men that I did not know.

Paul Newman
Paul Newman. A great actor. A real movie star. A race car driver. A dedicated husband for more than fifty years. All notable achievements. Yet for me, his greatest accomplishment was as a philanthropist.

Paul Newman did what few have done before. He built a business whose sole purpose is to make the world a better place. His company, Newman’s Own, has generated over $250 million in profits and proceeds that have been donated by Paul Newman and the Newman's Own Foundation to thousands of charities worldwide. His greatest legacy is his philanthropy and it will live on and keep giving for many years to come. (
www.newmansown.com/)

I know of no one else and no other business established for the sole purpose of philanthropy. Here was a man who chose to use his celebrity status to make this a better world. The Newman’s Own company motto says it all: “Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good.”

Truthfully, what he did was not so common. Honestly, his accomplishments have been far better than good. They are great.

Tim Russert
“If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet The Press.” These words were made famous by Tim Russert, an icon in the American news media. He became an icon in part because of the 16 years he spent as host and moderator of “Meet The Press”, but also because he was the standard bearer for excellence in journalism.

That standard that he set was evidenced by his hard work, preparedness, knowledge and extraordinary respect he showed to each of his guests. Smart politicians knew that you didn’t get interviewed by Tim Russert unless you were prepared to answer difficult and often confronting questions. He seemed to have a knack for asking the ‘everyman’s question.’ Whether it was a senator, a president or king of another country, you knew that he would ask tough questions and get them answered.

To his credit, you never knew what his own political views were. What you knew was that he was honest and was not going to let anyone get away with being less than honest with him.

For me, “Meet The Press” was a Sunday morning staple. The first weekend after he passed, the show was hosted by Tom Brokaw. At the end of the show Mr. Brokaw said “If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet The Press” and I burst into tears. That is when I knew what a fixture Mr. Russert had become in my life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Russert
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25145431/

Randy Pausch
Did you get to know Randy Pausch before he died? If not, then set aside 1 hour and 16 minutes to watch what may be the most extraordinary lecture ever given. You see, Randy Pausch was dying and he knew it. That knowledge gave him an extraordinary perspective about how to live. In the most intimate, personal and humble way, he shares that knowledge with all of us, anyone who is willing to sit and listen. Though Mr. Pausch may have been dying, he was certainly as alive as any of us could ever hope to be.

As a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, he was also a participant in a lecture series called “The Last Lecture.” “where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical "final talk", with a topic such as "what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?" (Wikipedia) In his case it was his last chance.

An amazing speech by an extraordinary man. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you will. (
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo )

http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Pausch

What I know
My father told mea story a few years ago. He had attended a funeral and after the service, approached the daughter of the man who had just been buried. He said to her "I am sorry for your loss." Her reply was this: "I haven't lost anything. Everything I ever got from him I still have. I just stopped gaining."

Clearly, with the passing of these three men, we have all stopped gaining.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The decision we make every morning

A friend recently sent this to me. I think it has been circulating on the internet for years. It is an ‘oldie, but goodie’ and I hope you enjoy it.

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.

After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window.

“I love it” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait.”

“That doesn't have anything to do with it” he replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged. It's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it.”

“It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for he ones that do.”

“Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life. You see, old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in.”

“So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”

Remember the five simple rules TO be happy:

1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Free your mind from worries
3. Live simply.
4. Give more.
5. Expect less.
-Anonymous


Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The difference between nice and kind

As children we are taught that being nice is a good thing. “That was very nice of you.” As parents we teach our children to be nice to each other. “Be nice to your brother.” Generally speaking, we learn about being nice. We don’t learn about kindness.

Kindness is not something we are taught. It is an instinct. We either have it, or we don’t. I know this because as a person who lives with a disability, I am the beneficiary of random acts of kindness each and every day. As a result, I have also learned the difference between being kind and being nice. Nice is passive. Kindness never is.

As a healthy person living in the city, I never would have anticipated that the world was such a kind place. Have you ever tried to change lanes on a Southern California freeway? It often seems that most other drivers are just not letting you in. You have to ‘push’, be aggressive, make your way in to that next lane. We are taught to ‘drive defensively’ and that takes on a whole different meaning around here, especially on the freeways.

We are taught that nice guys finish last. We run to get a place in line at restaurants or movies so that we will beat others to it and don’t have to wait so long. We are taught to look out for Number One, because if you don’t, nobody will. Right? Not necessarily.

MS is a progressive disease. This means that my physical disability has become more evident over time. The more evident the disability, the more acts of kindness are bestowed upon me. Sometimes it is a small gesture, sometimes big. Often it comes from complete strangers. Regardless of the source or size, being that beneficiary has taught me that the world is an extremely kind place.

The instinct to help, to go out of your way for another person and to show consideration to a complete stranger, exists in a big way in our modern world. Whether it is the opening of a door, helping with a bag or chair, or just the offering to help, it is a constant in my life. It is also something that I never expected or would have anticipated.

Nice is good. But you can be nice and do nothing. Kindness is outstanding. It only exists when somebody is doing something. Do you know what kindness did for me? It changed the way I see the world.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Disability Paradox

Are you familiar with the French Paradox? The French eat more of the richest foods in the world, enough to make your cardiologist’s head spin, and yet, they have an extremely low rate of heart disease. That is the paradox.

The question is why ? How could that be? There are lots of theories to explain this. It is because of the amount of red wine they drink. It is because they eat smaller portions or because they walk so much. Whatever it is, ‘good for them.’

Better than the French Paradox is what I call the Disability Paradox. That paradox is this: Many people living with a disability, with greatly limited physical ability, do the most amazing things. There are no studies to back up this claim and my evidence is purely anecdotal. But I have seen it over and over again. Hundreds, thousands, maybe even tens or hundreds of thousands of people who live with a disability, have the ability to do things most able bodied people would never do……or even dream of doing.

They run marathons, climb mountains, compete in the Paralympic Games and write books about their lives. They motivate and inspire us by their example. They do fundraising for organizations. They often are amazing parents, spouses and friends. These people have a disability and they make a difference in the world.

In January of this year, my wife, Gail and I attended the “Tournament of Champions” This event was hosted by the National MS Society and its purpose was to honor their biggest fundraisers from around the country. (HURRAY! We made it!) While there, we met dozens of the most amazing people, many with severely advanced MS and all of whom had done some fantastic fundraising for the association.

How could that be? So many people with such limited ability, who accomplished such great things. How did they do it? What was different about them? What did they have that enabled them to do so much…….so much more than most able bodied people?

My answers are only guesses. Perhaps because of their inability to do some things, the things they can do matter more. Maybe they don’t work and have more time to dedicate to doing these activities (often not the case). Maybe they care more about making a difference. Personally, I think it is because they care more.

I found a definition that defines a paradox as follows:

Person of opposites
A person of seemingly self-contradictory qualities


Maybe that does define a person with a disability. It sure does describe a lot of them for me. It definitely explains the paradox.

Certainly there are many able bodied people who also do amazing things and I know a lot of them. My observation is that they care more too. Imagine a world where everyone, whether able bodied or not, cared even more, participated more and made more of a difference in this world. I suppose that if everyone participated, there would no longer be a paradox.


Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New symptom. New opportunity.

Living with a disease like multiple sclerosis, or many others for that matter, can be very unpredictable. One day you feel strong, the next day you don’t. One day you are asymptomatic. The next day you have a new symptom that won’t go away. Diseases are just like life. Every event, every instance falls into one of three categories:

The things we control
The things we influence
The things over which we have no control

I choose to exercise as much influence and control over my disease as I possibly can. Let me explain what I mean by that………

A few months ago, my right hip started to give out. Typically, when this happened I fell down….and I don’t like falling down! I went to see the chiropractor to get an adjustment. I went to the orthopedist and got an x-ray and an MRI. I went to see my neurologist and my physical therapist, too. Since nothing showed up on the x-ray or MRI, the consensus was that the weakness was caused by a weakening of the hip muscles…..caused by MS.

So here is what I did about it: I started exercising my right side. I exercised it at least four days a week. In time, I started exercising my left side too. Now, I exercise five to six times a week. Do you know what happened? My hip got stronger and stopped giving out and I stopped falling down.

About two months later, I started having lower back pains. I saw the chiropractor and the acupuncturist and that helped for awhile. But then, a few weeks later, the pain was back with a vengeance. It was so bad that I could not stand up or walk. I could barely move. At home, I normally use a walker to get around, but for a few days, I used a wheelchair in the house. The chiropractor came to my home. So did the acupuncturist. I was able to move, but only a little. I saw my neurologist and my physical therapist. Again, the consensus was the same: the disease was progressing.

The physical therapist explained it best: my quadriceps (the muscles of the thighs) had become so weak that the way I walked was putting a great amount of stress on my lower back, which wasn’t that strong either. “THAT’S GREAT NEWS” I said. “That’s something I can do something about.”

So I did something about it. I added exercises to my workout to strengthen my ‘quads’, lower back and core. Guess what is happening? I am getting stronger. These new symptoms may be the best thing that has happened to me in these past few years because they have put me in control of how I manage this disease. I am getting stronger, more disciplined and more determined to not allow this disease to overtake me, at least not yet. In fact, the physical therapist calls the exercises we do today “pre-gait exercises.” Pre-gait means “before walking.” Am I going to improve my walking? You bet. Will I be able to walk without a walker? We will see. What I will do is the best that I can.

We may not always have the ability to do something about what is happening with our bodies and our diseases. We can be defeated or energized. We can do all we can to combat what is happening or we can do nothing at all. We can focus on all the abilities that we have lost or focus on all the abilities that we still have. One thing is for sure, we always have a choice in how we respond.

New symptom? Bring it on. Teach me how to respond to it, manage it, beat it and be stronger. It is not easy. But it is my disease, my condition and it is my job to do as much as I can about it for as long as I can……which I plan on doing for a very long time.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

That is my personal slogan. That is my motto, my creed that I live by. Living with a disability, I am not able to do as much as I used to and that’s okay. I don’t have to do as much as I used to. Only as much as I can.

It is a very simple formula. Saying it backwards explains it all. Want to live a life that matters? Then make a difference to something or someone. How do you make a difference to something or someone? Participate. Participate in something that you really care about.

What do I participate in? As much as I can. When I worked (I am on disability today) I was very involved with my industry trade association. When my children were in school, I served on committees, chaperoned field trips and never missed a function. I did not just join these organizations and activities. I was an active participant. Today I am active with our chapter of the National MS Society. For the past two years we (my family and I) have had our own team at the MS Walk. This past year we had nearly 150 of our friends, family and a few strangers join us. Together we raised over $45,000 for the MS Society. As a team leader, I call that participating.

My best friend of the past 32 years is a theatrical producer. Several years ago he produced a musical called “The Last Session” and in it is one of my favorite songs; “When You Care.” Below is a video of the original Los Angeles cast doing a benefit performance of this song. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch and listen. I think these lyrics are as true as any I have ever seen or heard. I hope you do too.


Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Can't see the video? Click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXT2RHud6ZU

video

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The options are limited.

I don’t remember all the details, but the moment is forever etched in my mind.

One day I was talking with a woman. We were just getting to know one another and she began to tell me about her life. It was extraordinary and amazing. I had never met or even heard of anyone whose life was filled with so much tragedy. It was truly extraordinary.

Her parents had died in a car accident when she was young.
Her first child was born severely retarded.
Her husband died leaving her with two children to care for, both under the age of ten.
She herself was battling cancer.

I think that is a lot for any one person to have to deal with. I even told her so. Then I asked “How do you do it? How do you get out of bed every day and face the world?”

Her answer was so simple. But at that moment it struck me as profound. Four simple words that I have repeated so many times since that day we spoke and that I will never forget. “The options are limited.”

Sure. She had a choice to make and every day she chose to get out of bed and face the world. She was alive and chose to live. In spite of her problems, her past traumas, and what seemed like insurmountable odds, she wasn’t done yet. As long as there was breath in her lungs, she was going to live her life the best she could.

Am I faced with challenges? Of course. We all are. Having problems is a condition of being alive. So I say bring it on. Let me face every problem as an opportunity. Let me deal with the challenges that I face in a way that makes me feel alive. Let me always remember the strength, courage and wisdom of the woman I met who taught me that “the options are limited.”

I love being alive. After all, the options are limited.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Handicap or Disability. Which do you have?

My father said something to me that I will never forget. He said “You are not handicapped. You may have a disability, but you are the least handicapped person that I know.” He went on to explain that a handicap has entirely to do with a person’s judgment about a disability. This includes the person with the disability as well as the observer.

Are we just talking about semantics? I don’t think so. I think that there is much more to it than that. The language we use not only defines us and how we relate to our disabilities, but also how the world sees those of us who live with a disability.

Am I handicapped? NO, unless you consider a handicap an advantage given to others as they do in horseracing or golf. What are some of the advantages that I enjoy? I get better parking spaces, I get right through airport security and everyone wants to take me to Disneyland so that they don’t have to wait in long lines to get on the rides.

Am I disabled? NO. To call myself disabled would be to say that there is something wrong with me as a person. I am a fully functioning, living person who, among other things, has and lives with a disability. I lead an amazing and incredible life, filled with love, family, friendship, adventure and romance. There are plenty of able-bodied people living in this world who do not have the life I have or the ability to think, feel or communicate as I do. That is their disability. Mine is that I don’t walk so good. (There are other ‘less visible’ conditions that I also have, but the world doesn’t see those.)

I also have an advantage. That advantage, what I have learned from living with a disability, is gratitude. Like most people, it was easy to take my good health for granted. Now, I don’t. Now, I cherish every ability that I do have and do much to preserve those abilities. Do I still take things for granted? Probably, but it is certainly less than before.

Most importantly, I have discovered that there is a direct relationship between the gratitude I feel and the happiness I enjoy. Feeling and being grateful have become the keys to my waking up happy every day of my life. I consider that an advantage.


Hmmmm.......If a handicap is an advantage (like golf or horseracing), then I guess I do have one. Lucky me!

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My last six nights in the hospital are what I call a Speed Bump

I got to the hospital late Friday night. Now it is Thursday and I am going home. Hurray!

It really was nothing terrible, just an infection. But for most of us with MS, an infection too often means fevers, and fevers mean weakness. For me, it meant extreme weakness. So I spent six nights in the hospital being poked, prodded and explored by what seemed like an army of ‘body archeologists on an expedition’ to discover the source of my infection.

Eureka! They found it, treated me with I.V. antibiotics and are sending me home with a bag of pills to take daily for two weeks. Another episode. Another process. I have become pretty good at taking it all in stride. Why is that? Because I learned to see life events as all falling into one of three categories. They are:

The things we CONTROL.
The things we INFLUENCE.
The things over which we have NO CONTROL.

While this sounds simple enough, at times it can be very challenging. Why? Because my most honest answers require me to take personal responsibility for the life event. Take my current infection as an example.

Was getting the infection within my control? No, I don’t believe so.

Is getting the infection something that I have no control over whatsoever? I don’t believe that is true either.

Were there things that I could have done that may have prevented the infection from occurring? In other words, did I have any influence over this infection? I believe that I did.

There were things that I knew I could do to better defend my body and didn’t. There were things that I didn’t know could be done and now I do. For me, seeing and learning the influence that I could have makes me smarter and better prepared for the future.

It would be easy to just say “no control” and call it all a matter of chance, or just ‘one of those things’. But in this situation and for me, recognizing my influence makes me a better participant in the process and a better combatant of my disease.

Getting MS was out of my control. But I intend to exercise as much control and influence over the disease as I possibly can. There will be other ‘speed bumps’ in the road ahead. My taking as much responsibility as I can means fewer of them and I am all for that.

It is good to be home again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The greatest asset that we all possess and our greatest challenge in life are one in the same


Our greatest asset is also our greatest challenge. How can that be? What can it be? The answer is actually very simple. It is a single word that actually makes all the difference in the world. That little, but powerful word is CHOICE.

Every minute of every hour of every day, we make choices. Even choosing not to make a choice is a choice. How we respond to all of life’s occurrences is a choice. So make good choices. End of story. Or is it?

Do we always have a choice? Can you choose your height? Skin color? Make yourself invisible? I don’t have to tell you the answer. Certainly, there are some times when we don’t have a choice. But there is one area of life where we always have a choice. That choice is how we respond. The ability to choose how we respond at any given moment in life is our greatest asset. It is also our greatest challenge.

When I was first diagnosed with MS, I had several choices to make. That first choice was to go ahead and cry about it. That is exactly what my wife and I did. We cried mostly out fear of not knowing what the disease was or would mean to us. But that’s it. That was the only time we cried about it. We agreed then that nothing was more important than what we could teach our children. We made the choice that whatever the disease, we would approach it as best we could. We would learn about it, from it, and be an example to our children and others too. That, I believe, is exactly what has happened.

We made no changes in our lives or lifestyles. We continued to show up and participate in anything and everything we could. We knew that our reaction to this new ‘condition in our lives’ would have everything to do with how our children and others responded to it as well. Yes, we did add a few things to our lives (doctor’s appointments, injections, yoga, reading). But everything else remained the same.

We added language like “if we are lucky enough to live long enough, we all will probably have something to have to deal with,” giving our circumstances as much normalcy as possible. We made choices that proved to be good for the children and for us too. My MS continues to progress and we continue to make choices about it everyday.

What an extraordinary privilege it is to have a choice. Will today be a good day? I get to choose. Will I learn something today? I get to choose. Will I have a positive impact on the people around me, the ones I know and even the ones I don’t know? I get to choose. Having that choice is our greatest gift. Yet, the choices that we choose to make are our greatest challenge.

“Choice” is a huge topic, too big for one blog entry. I promise to offer more about this later. Until then, I hope you choose to respond to this blog and to make every day matter……because it does.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

UNBELIEVABLE VIDEO - Please watch

Here is a video about a man with a great perspective. Enjoy!

video

Monday, August 4, 2008

This "Glass Half Empty - Glass Half Full" concept is BALONEY

We have all heard it a thousand times. It is actually a great metaphor for how one views a situation or the world around them. The problem with this metaphor is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. How do I know this to be true? Because my ‘glass’ is neither half full, nor half empty.

As I have mentioned before, living with a disability has taught me a great deal about gratitude and perspective. I have also learned that I am blessed with a pretty good attitude. In fact, sometimes I will say things that even surprise me. One of those “things” has to do with the glass.
Someone once told me that I always see the glass as being half full. This was my reply: “My glass isn’t half full. My glass is over-flowing. My glass is “HAVE” full.” The fact is that seeing the glass as over-flowing is easy to do when you have the right perspective. The way that I see it, my life is filled with blessings and miracles, more than I could ever count during the course of a day or a lifetime. My glass is truly over-flowing.

Not long ago, I was introduced to Mitchell who is truly a great man. He has been in a motorcycle crash and an airplane crash and lives to tell about it. He is paralyzed from the waist down, suffered third degree burns over 65% of his body and has no fingers left on his hands. He often says "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do; now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left." (http://www.wmitchell.com/) This is a man who sees his glass as over-flowing.

What has he got? Perspective. The kind of perspective that is shaped by gratitude. The kind of gratitude that comes from experience. Our perspective affects the choices we make every minute of every day. Mitchell chooses to see his glass as over-flowing. So do I.

What is in your glass? What choices have you made and what choices will you make tomorrow? Will your glass be half empty or half full? My hope is that your glass will be over-flowing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY EDITION

It was exactly 28 years ago today that my wife Gail and I went to the best wedding celebration ever – OURS. If you could ask any of the 325+ people in attendance, they would all say the same thing – Best wedding ever.

What started out as something great,. has grown into something greater, more important and more meaningful than I ever could have imagined. After 28 years of marriage, we are now in the best place we have ever been. I can honestly say that I am more “in love” with my wife today than I have ever been before. She is, without a doubt, the sweetest, kindest, most caring and considerate, selfless and loving person I have ever known. I am a lucky man and feel truly grateful to be able to spend every day with her.

When you have been married as long as we have, we can look back and recognize the tough patches we made it through. We certainly have had our share of them. We were even separated for 14 months many years ago, from June ’86 to August ’87. During that time an expert on marriage (he’s been married four times!) told me that “staying married is its own reward.” I believe that until you have been married for 15 or 20 years, you can’t really begin to understand how true this statement is. There is an intimacy and level of comfort that comes from knowing someone so well and for so long, that can’t be explained. It is to be experienced.

Ask people who have been married a long time what the key to success is and you will get a lot of different answers. “Respect.” “Friendship.” “Patience.” Those are all good. But I have a different answer and that is “GRATITUDE.”

Maybe it is easy for me to say because I am married to Gail. Or maybe t is easier for me to say because of my disability and my needing so much help that she so readily provides, which makes me feel particularly grateful. Whatever the reason is, I never let a day go by without really letting her know how much I love her and how grateful I am. I believe that if one is truly grateful, expresses it and shows it, than the other stuff (respect, friendship, patience, etc.) will take care of itself. It certainly seems to work for us.

There is a side benefit too. When you really love someone, and feel truly in love, even after all these years, the beauty remains in the eye of the beholder…..and I am truly beholden to my beautiful wife.

Happy anniversary, Gail.

I will love you always,

Michael

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Our circumstances have nothing to do with our happiness.

Sick or healthy. Rich or poor. Thin or fat. Tall or short. Curly haired or bald. None of it matters when it comes to waking up happy everyday. What does matter is gratitude and perspective.

What makes a man rich? It is not money. There are plenty of poor people – “economically challenged” – that feel wealthy in ways that are beyond their wildest dreams. They are ‘loaded’ with family and friends, rich in experiences, and participate in life like tycoons. They are showered in immeasurable riches of making a difference to someone and to the world in which they live. These are the people whose vocabulary does NOT include phrases like “I will be happy when…”, or I would e happy if…”




These people know that there are two keys to happiness. Those keys are gratitude and perspective and they go hand in hand.

Gratitude comes from the recognition of just how much you already possess. Gratitude is the opposite of taking things for granted. The challenge for most people is that they don’t know what to be grateful for where gratitude begins. There are hundreds of items on my list. Below are some of my favorites.

1. Eyes to see and read
2. Ears to hear and listen
3. Arms to hold. Hands to touch
4. Mind to think and understand
5. Heart to feel and care
6. Roof overhead & bed to sleep in
7. Food to eat and tongue to taste
8. Friends to care for & care for me
9. Family to love & spend time with
10. All of my good health. (Other than my MS, I have a lot of good health that I don't take for granted.)

These are all items that you can’t buy and that cannot be taken away from you. Even if I lost one of these, say sight or hearing, there is still much to be grateful for.

Recognizing the value of these assets is a matter of perspective. What’s your perspective? Where does your gratitude begin? Just how rich are you? It is my hope that if you are reading this, you are already a very wealthy person.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

If we pay attention, Life can be a great teacher.

I feel extremely fortunate to have a deeply rooted belief that everything in life happens for a reason. That belief allows me to see value in every circumstance and situation that life has to offer. I may not like the situation, and that is very different than whether it is of value or not. Let me explain how that works for me…..

I know that I tend to over-simplify. The truth is that most of life’s circumstances are very simple. It takes people like us to complicate matters. That said, I have reduced the reason for everything that happens in life to one of two things. They are:

We have something to learn.
We have something to teach.


Truthfully, and more often than not, both are true. Knowing that allows me the opportunity to view all situations as being of value. What is the reason and the value for every challenge we face? We get to decide that for ourselves. Sometimes the reason is abundantly clear. Other times it is not. Even when it is not clear, trusting that there is a reason or purpose, or value, makes accepting the conditions of life easier to do.


Why do I have MS? My list of reasons is very long. I have learned not to take the good health that I enjoy for granted. I have learned to value the relationships in my life at a level beyond any I ever could have dreamed of. For the most part, the experience of living with this disease has been a lesson in GRATITUDE. That lesson alone allows me to wake up as a happy man every day of my life.

Do I have something to teach as well? You bet. As a parent, nothing is more important than what I can teach my children and the best approach to doing that is always by example. What my children see is that although I may have a disabling disease, my life is still, rich, full and I am still able to participate and make a difference in this world. I am pretty certain that these lessons have extended well beyond my family too.

Do I feel challenged by my disease? Absolutely. Yet, I have never felt sorry for myself. I have too much to learn, too much to teach, too much to gain to spend any time feeling sorry for myself.

The big question is this: What do you have to learn? I hope plenty and that by seeing it all as being of value, you can and will teach too.

Better yet, what have you learned already? I hope that you will let me know.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Living with a disability – What a blessing.

I have MS – Multiple Sclerosis. Since being diagnosed, the disease and my disability have both greatly progressed. I used to be a jogger. Today I use a walker or wheelchair to go anywhere. I used to drive and work 50 plus hours a week. I no longer drive or work. I used to make a very good living. Today I live on disability income. I have always been a pretty happy guy. Today, I can honestly say that I am happier than I have ever been.

“Being happy no matter what” is what this blog is all about. This experience of living with a disability, has taught me more than I ever could have learned in school, or from books, or from a life without incident. I want to use this blog to share what I have learned, discuss perspective and gratitude, debate my concepts and beliefs and hopefully create, cause or impact you, the reader, to see your life and circumstances differently.

Over time I hope to demonstrate these few things:

If we pay attention, life is a great teacher.
Circumstances have nothing to do with happiness.
This “glass half empty – glass half full” concept is baloney.
The greatest asset that we all possess and our greatest challenge in life are one in the same.


There will be much to discuss and more topics to talk about. I hope that you will join me, participate with me, share with me and teach me as we embark upon this journey.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.