Smarter than the average bear

Last week, I met a woman while I was eating dinner, and as we talked I found out that she taught special-needs children, specifically students with spina bifida. We exchanged business cards and have e-mailed a few times since Thursday. I love reading her e-mails, but when I read one of them, I had to stop and ask myself, “Did I just read what I think I did?”

I went back and re-read the e-mail, and it turns out I DID read what I thought I did. She told me, and I quote, “I’ve taught many stupids with spina bifida.” Let me tell you, when I realized she said she’s taught many “stupids” with spina bifida, I was angry but most of all I was heart broken and hurt. Now, I hope she meant to say “students,” and I’m sure she did, but that doesn’t make things better automatically.

I want to make one thing perfectly, crystal clear to anyone reading this who thinks people with a disability are stupid, slow or can’t function independently without someone watching over us every second. We are NOT stupid and can do ANYTHING we set our minds to.

Growing up, I always loved reading and learning everything I could. As I got older, I realized the work got harder and more challenging as I entered high school and college. Truth be told, I was scared to death when I graduated high school and began to realize that I was now entering the “real world” and would be forced to think things through on my own without someone always watching over me to correct my mistakes.

But I just relied on what got me through grade school, and that was my ability to THINK and use my brain to get out of any situation, no matter how difficult. I’m not too sure, but I think I graduated high school with at least a 3.0 grade point average while taking a few advanced placement courses including Economics and Literature. Not only that, I graduated with honors and was a member of the National Honors Society.

As I entered college, I noticed that the work got extremely hard, and I was having to dig really deep to find that extra gear, or “hunker down” as the Georgia Bulldogs have to do when they’re standing in the shadow of their own goal post in the last minutes of the season finale against the hated rivals from the North Avenue Trade School, Georgia Tech.

I don’t know how I did it, but with a lot of sweat, long hours and hitting the books really hard, I was able to keep my grades up and was one of the few people in my family to earn my degree.

Fast forward really fast to today. I’ve been working with the same company for a little more than three-and-a-half years, and all that hard work, studying and learning everything I can is really paying big dividends.

I have been asked to work on several major projects with the city of Marietta, including the Mayor’s state of the city speeches; gathering volunteers for the city’s informational booth at the farmers market and community expos; and creating publicity including news releases, calendar events and public service announcements for the city’s annual job fair, which have been broadcast by the local media including television and radio stations in Atlanta!!

This afternoon, I finished updating a big three-panel display in the first floor lobby of my office. The display is a summary of the redevelopment, public works, and parks and recreation improvements and upgrades the city is working on or has planned for the future, and includes photos and renderings, a master list of each project, a picture slideshow of the projects and a big map that shows people where the projects are located in the city.

I’ve updated the display at least three times in the past, when projects have been completed so we can show the progress being made in the city. Now, I have to be honest, I’ve had to ask for help hanging the pictures, map and list of projects, because the panels or “frames” they hang in are really heavy and are fastened to the display with screw-on knobs that are really, REALLY hard to get off sometimes. I had to get four people to help me today and am not ashamed to say it, but when it was finally done, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and was really proud of myself because I knew I worked hard, gave it everything I had and didn’t have to have my supervisor watching over me every second to make sure everything was done.

In closing, let me say again that people with disabilities can be some of the brightest, hardest working people you have ever met, and we may surprise you with what we are able to accomplish once given a project or assignment to complete. We are NOT dumb or stupid. We deserve to be able to display our abilities and talents. Most importantly, we deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

Hiking cross country just for a SANDWICH!!!

Last night I was driving home and saw something that really started to tick me off and make smoke come boiling out of my ears. Matter of fact, I got mad at what I saw, and I think you’ll know why in a minute…

I was stopped at a red light and noticed a restaurant on my right that said they were open. I also noticed that they were remodeling their patio and that there was wood, dirt and fencing all around the building. I saw a couple walking out of the restaurant, I guess they’d just eaten dinner, and they had to literally hike OVER mounds of dirt and through a gate to get to the parking lot.

This got me to thinking, “Aren’t construction companies supposed to get a permit or something that says handicapped citizens, like ME, can get in the front door of a business to be able to eat or to buy something we want or need?” Let’s say I hadn’t eaten all day, my stomach was growling like an angry grizzly bear you just woke up from a nap, and I wanted to stop in this particular restaurant and have dinner. I wouldn’t be able to do that until the construction was finished because the foreman or whoever’s in charge didn’t use what my supervisor calls “higher level thinking” or anticipate that a person in a wheelchair would come eat at the restaurant.

This really makes me mad because it’s almost like the restaurant and the construction crews are ONLY looking out for number one and don’t even care who they’re discriminating against. The restaurant owners APPARENTLY only want to make their restaurant bigger and more attractive so more guests can come in and give them more money. The construction crews are probably thinking to themselves, “Hey the economy stinks, and this is probably the ONLY big job we’ll have for a while. Let’s take it, block off the only way to get in, take all the time we want, and then charge the owners a LOT of money, since we’re struggling to put food on the table for our families.”

Now, before I go any further, you have to understand I was driving, watching traffic around me too. There may very well have been a way for me to get inside and eat dinner, but from my vantage point sitting at the light in my van (which is the COOLEST van in the world by the way), I couldn’t really tell if I could get in.

I am just really thankful that I work in a city that actually CARES about the handicapped citizens who live, work, play and eat in their community. I’ve made a lot of great friends with many of the business owners within walking distance of my office, and they are always asking if I need anything, need help getting inside their business if the weather’s bad, or how my day is going.

In fact, last night I stopped on the Square on the way home and grabbed a bite to eat at one of my favorite restaurants. After I finished eating, the owner came out and asked me how I was. He even sat down and talked to me for about fifteen minutes and mentioned a couple ways I could help publicize a group I am a part of. He has become one of my best friends in the community, and it really makes me feel good that there are still great people like him who care about guys like me.

You Give ’em 40, They’ll Go 45!!!

Most people who know me, or anybody else in a wheelchair, knows that when we start rolling, there’s usually no stopping us, and it shames me to say it, but I’ve had a few run ins with the guys in blue in my day, and I wasn’t even in my van!!!

I still remember two instances like they were yesterday. I think they happened the same day, right before Christmas a few years ago, when my whole family went Christmas shopping. We were in K-Mart, and mom went one way, and dad, my sisters and I went the other.

After about fifteen minutes, we found mom a Christmas present, and we split up to keep her from seeing it. I remember very vividly rolling across the front of the store, and I can guarantee I wasn’t going that fast… ask Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith Show, I was taking the extra five miles an hour they give you!!! And everybody knows what’ll happen: You give ’em 30, they’ll go 35. You give ’em 35, they’ll go 40. You give ’em 40, they’ll go 45.

Turns out I was going a LITTLE bit too fast for comfort because out of nowhere from behind me I hear, “You better tell that boy to slow that thing down!!” I whip around on a dime (or was it a $20 bill, I can’t remember :)), and my dad is standing there with two sheriffs deputies talking and staring a hole right through me. Boy, I wish I had a $20 get out of trouble card right then…

Later that day, we were headed to the Dollar Tree, which was in the same parking lot as K-Mart. Now if you’re standing in the middle of the parking lot, it doesn’t look like it’s THAT downhill from K-Mart to the 100 cent shrub, but try telling that to two guys coming out of a store when my tires are on fire!!

As we’re walking to the Dollar Tree, I started to pick up momentum, kind of like Herschel Walker was when he bowled over those orange shirts in 1980 during the Tennessee game. By the time I am about halfway down the sidewalk, I bet I’m running 20-25 miles per hour (seems that way anyway), and all of a sudden I see a guy get his arm jerked out of socket and hear his buddy yell, “Whoa, man, you were almost a greasy spot!! Watch it!!” I get to the Dollar Tree and wait for my family to catch up, and when I get there I bet the look on my face (and that guy’s who almost got run over) was… PRICELESS!!!

What is your craziest, most unique Christmas or birthday wish ever?

Yesterday I was in the kitchen getting something to drink and was at the refrigerator getting some ice, when I noticed something a little bit odd (which around our house is normal). I live in a house with three women, my mom and two younger sisters, and if you have women in your life, you know they save EVERYTHING!!!

Well, I was standing at the fridge putting ice in my cup when I noticed our Christmas wish list from 2010. Not too surprised, since we always put it on the fridge, so my sisters and I can write down an idea of what we’d like for Christmas: a new CD, shirt, or a book we want to read. But what my mom was still doing with it tacked to the fridge TWO months after the fact still has me dumbfounded.

Anyway, I got to looking at what I put on my wish list and noticed something that when I was six may have seemed so utterly stupid and crazy. Now that I’m older, and I guess more mature, I don’t put down every single toy, new poster, or new gadget that I can bribe my parents into getting me. The one thing that made me stop and say “Wait a minute, I remember putting that down,” was that I wanted my grandfather to still be living with us through Christmas.

Before I go any further, I should explain that my grandfather has Alzheimer’s disease and isn’t getting better anytime soon. He was diagnosed three or four years ago and every time I see him I always think it could be the last time. Let me tell you, nothing is more scary, more frightening or more truly heartbreaking than knowing your grandfather or grandmother may not be around the next time you go to their house, or the next time they want to come over to your house.

I remember sitting in the kitchen yesterday, after looking at my Christmas list (still tacked to the fridge) and silently thanking and praising GOD that He allowed my grandfather to survive one more day, one more Christmas, one more year with his family and friends who love him so much. I also remember when we went to my grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve and seeing my grandfather sitting in his favorite chair in the den. Last Christmas Eve, that moment when I knew my grandfather was okay, if even for a little bit, means more to me than all the money in the world, and that little wish on my list doesn’t seem as selfish, as crazy or as stupid as it did when I first wrote it down in November or whenever it was.

Which brings me to the point of this post… what was your craziest, silliest, most unique Christmas or birthday wish ever? Not only that, do you feel like it was so crazy if you’ve had time to reflect on the wish and whether it came true or not? God is amazing!!!

Fighting Through the Pain

Fighting Through the Pain

Just like any other day
You got mad at what I say
Some things out of my control
And yet you still scold

Some days are a mess
But still doing my best
But when yelling you start
It just breaks my heart

Angry always, no money
Things I deal with, SO not funny
Some things you said
Make me wish I was dead

Dad’s lies, about drink and smoke
Not laughing, not a joke
Wish of me you were proud
Want to hear you scream it loud

You could never feel my pain
Though my tears fall like rain
If a house is truly a home
Why do I always feel all alone

Mom borrowed his truck, dad needs a lift
Sorry dad, have an all day shift
Ask if dad looked for job, he’s yelling
Believe me, I’m not buying what he’s selling

Mom and I work, busting our hump
Some people at home, sitting on their butt
You can sit there, call me crazy
But to me, that’s just plain LAZY

Nothing I say or do is right
Starting the day, always a fight
Listening to your whining, I want to scream
Thanks to you, another bad dream

Can’t you understand
I’m doing the best I can
Ongoing bickering, worried how you’re gonna survive
Oh Good LORD, just praise GOD you’re ALIVE!!!

Lonely Valentine

See that blonde over by the bar
Staring at me from afar
Sitting alone in the corner
Does she know how much I adore her?

Eating fries and chicken fingers
The image of her still lingers
Every time she smiles, she’s so hot
How long I’ve been here, I totally forgot

Does she know I exist?
To ask would be a big risk
Happy hour’s over
My courage sinking lower

Over by the jukebox stands her man
My poor heart’s broken again

Grandma’s House

In her favorite chair with her knitting
Cousin’s Christmas stocking done, just one sitting
You get a brownie
But promise, no pouting

About her children, she was so proud
In her house, friends were always allowed
For fifty-plus years, a loving, devoted wife
Gone at 75, too short was your life

Her youngest son, ride cowboy ride
I’m in trouble, “You see my eyes?”
Georgia football Saturdays listening to Munson
Don’t beat Tennessee, season means NOTHING

Those famous big-rimmed glasses
Teaching neighborhood swimming classes
Going uptown to do her nails
Then to post office, gotta get the mail

Trips in back of station wagon
About her grandkids, she’ll be braggin’
Gave her wisdom for years in school
Didn’t take no crap, ’cause mama didn’t raise no fool

Eating pizza, did you see her NOSE?
How big it really was, God only knows!
Weekend campouts on the couch
That’s what Grandma’s house is all about

Til the end of your life you fought
Without you now, sometimes I’m so lost
At your funeral, tears flowed like a fountain
Now go rest HIGH on that mountain

My grandmother passed away in March 2005 after a valiant fight with leukemia. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and all the great times we had at her house in Georgia, sitting around the table at Christmas or Thanksgiving, sitting in the living room around the white Christmas tree, sipping on sweet tea by the pool during the summer, or listening to Georgia Bulldogs football games on the radio as only the legendary voice of Larry Munson could describe them. I still miss her and always will, but whenever I start feeling sad I remember all the funny times we had and all the lessons she taught me growing up. This poem is a tribute to her amazing life and every line in it is true.

I love you grandma and miss you SO MUCH!! God bless your beautiful soul. Every day I think about you and I’m looking at your picture right now. Sleep well and Go Dawgs!! I can still see your eyes, they’re so pretty.


Tall glass of grandma’s lemonade
Father and son, fishin’ in the shade
Flowers slowly coming into bloom
Longer days will be coming soon

Smell those steaks on the grill
A beautiful sunset – oh what a thrill
Birds singing a thankful song
No worries of doing wrong

God’s country in all its beauty
That girl on the square’s such a cutie
Mom and kids going to the mall
Guys in uniform ready to play ball

Boy thinking about his first love
Carefree as a snow white dove
Yes he’s in a wheelchair
But he just don’t care

Now where did I put my suggestion box?

How many of you have ever done this? You get ready to do something and go in a room to do that something, then when you get there you forgot what you came in there for? Or you get ready to go somewhere and can’t remember where you put your car keys? You can remember who won season five of American Idol, but can’t think of where your keys are to save your life!!

That’s kind of the problem I’m having tonight. I’ve got so many ideas running through my head to blog about and have even written them down on paper, but can’t decide what do write about first. I hate having writer’s block, and I feel like most Georgians when an inch of snow hits the state, like a couple weeks ago…

Kind of like they might have done before they had TVs and radios, and a tornado, bad thunderstorm or blizzard came through their neighborhood. I can just see Fred and Wilma Flintstone now, running around Bedrock in their loin cloths, screaming “What’ll we do? What’ll we do? What’ll we do?!?!?!?”

Maybe a good night’s sleep is just what I need to get the creative juices flowing again. See you in the morning, and if you can find my suggestion box, you get to pick the topic I write about next!!

Thank you for a great first month and a half!!

Do you ever have one of those days when you ask yourself, “How long has it been since I saw so and so?” or “How long has it been since I did that or saw that movie?” Today was one of those days for me because I was wondering how long it’s been since I started my blog.

In reality, I started my blog when I was born, that beautiful Sunday morning at Kennestone Hospital, May 16, 1982, at 8:31 a.m. But what I was wondering this afternoon was how long it’s been since I started telling the world my story, and I was shocked to learn it’s been almost a month and a half! I still can not believe it, and I want to thank each and every one of my fans, supporters, readers and those who’ve helped me get to where I am today, especially my friends, family and coworkers. I have learned so much about myself the past month and a half, and have shared some very private, personal details about my life with you. I want to sincerely and wholeheartedly thank each one of you personally for taking a trip with me down my journey with spina bifida and for the amazing, wonderful feedback, comments and questions about me and my disability.

I want to invite you to stay on board and keep the comments, questions and suggestions coming and want to wish everyone an enjoyable ride. If you ever have a question or a way I can make the site better, I want to hear it. If you’re having a rough day, email me or leave me a comment and tell me about it. Enjoy the rest of the trip and keep your arms, legs and head inside the tram at all times!!!