Everyday Hero, Doing My Best

One of the things I get asked most often, especially if I am out taking pictures and writing an article for work about the local Veteran’s Day or Fourth of July parades on the Square is if I am a veteran. Most of the people who ask me are veterans themselves, currently on active duty overseas or having served in Korea, World War II or Vietnam. Now I can totally understand why they would ask… I’m in a wheelchair and could have suffered an injury fighting on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Jason BourneI really hate to “burst their bubble” and tell them that I’m not a veteran (in the most-common sense of the word), but after talking with several veterans the past five or six years, I’ve come to understand that, in truth, I really am a veteran of a much bigger war. The war of everyday life. Let me explain because I know you have that “deer in the headlight” look right about now, thinking “What is this guy talking about?”

As most of you who’ve followed my journey may know, and for those who just joined the journey, I was born with spina bifida and have been in a wheelchair for more than 25 years. Every day when I get out of bed, I’m fighting some kind of battle, whether it be an aching back, not getting enough sleep, a stomach ache that never stops or seemingly trying to play catch up with the ever-changing pace of society and their attitudes toward people with special needs. No matter how much I get done at work, it seems like I’m always running on empty when I get home and just want to crawl in bed and go to sleep for eight solid hours. But I think I do have one thing in common with the U.S. military, and that is my work ethic and my determination to never give up and keep fighting because I know I’d be letting a lot of people down, epsecially my friends, family and co-workers.

I really hate to put my name in the same sentence with the U.S. military because nobody can compare to the bravery and courage of our men and women in uniform, but some days I feel like a soldier in the infantry on the front lines near Baghdad. I may just be “infantry” but I know the man right beside me, or the person in the next cubicle, is depending on me to get the job done and do it right. Sure I may make mistakes, but that’s one of the best things about being a team, whether in the desert of Iraq or at the office working the daily grind of a nine-to-five shift. A team sticks together and helps each other be the best they can possibly be, and God knows I would not be where I am today without the encouragement and support of my co-workers and friends. I’d probably be sitting at home, looking through the want ads for another job or out picking up trash on the side of the road, and definitely would not be living my dream and having the best job in the world.

In my line of work, I meet a lot of co-workers, in different departments, and have developed what I think are great relationships and friendships with most of them. Like I’ve said previously I’m out on the streets a lot, or in other departments, talking to people about what’s going on in the city where I work, and apparently from the e-mails and feedback I receive from co-workers, I must be doing something right. Here are several e-mails from friends and co-workers I’ve received the past couple years.

IMG_2477Heroes come from all walks of life and are heroes because someone thinks they are. We all think you are.

I know you’re a fighter.

Keep smiling. Don’t let the energy vampires sap your strength!!! They are everywhere, and positive people are their enemy. Fight on! ūüôā

All your efforts are greatly appreciated, Jason.

A couple months ago, I went to an event celebrating Gone With the Wind, and met an author whose aunt worked as technical adviser on the movie back in 1939. She said I am a real hero. I don’t mind sitting here today and saying that I felt almost ashamed when she called me a hero. I haven’t done anything special. I am¬†just living life and trying to beat spina bifida any way I know how.¬†You have no idea how unworthy I am of being¬†called a hero. Every day, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and the military put their lives on the line to keep our cities, counties and nation safe.

I’m sure everybody remembers the tragic events the past few months in Oklahoma, Texas and Boston. The men and women who saved countless lives after these tragic events are the¬†REAL heroes and deserve so much more respect than I do. I’m just a man, doing the best¬†I can with what God gave me. Sometimes it feels like I can do so much more, and sometimes I just want to go up¬†to a soldier or a police officer and thank them for everything they do to protect the freedom I love so much. Next time you see a soldier, police officer, firefighter or paramedic, take a few minutes and thank them for everything they do every day. Most of them hardly see their families, and I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a family to sit and worry¬†whether their loved one¬†is¬†coming home.

I remember a couple days after I talked to my author friend at the GWTW event, I e-mailed a co-worker for something and told her what the author called me. A few minutes later, my co-worker wrote back and said, “You are a hero and I applaud her for recognizing that!! With all the challenges you face each day, you still get up each morning, come to work, do an outstanding job and all with a cheerful, helpful, positive attitude. Do you have any idea how many people NEVER do that? You are a hero to me, too!”

I felt so humbled and honored that people do actually see me as a hero, but please understand something… I don’t do what I do for recognition or praise or awards. I don’t go out every day, beating my chest saying, “Hmm, I wonder who’s hero I can be today?” And I sure as hell wouldn’t put myself in the same category as the U.S. military or law enforcement. My accomplishments pale in comparison to what these people do for each and every one of us every day. I will say it again. I just take it one day, one step at a time and try to do the best I can despite the obstacles that are thrown in my way. I genuinely love helping people and if I can offer a hug, a word of encouragement, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen, then that’s what I’m going to do.

IMG_4622One thing I’ve learned the past few years is that a little pat on the back, a word of thanks, a hug or someone saying I’m proud of you can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially if that person has special needs. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to get an e-mail from a co-worker, a text from a friend or a thank you from someone I come across in the community. If you have a family member or a friend with special needs, please, please take the time to tell them how much they mean to your life, even if it’s just “Hey, thank you for coming to eat with us today. We’re really glad to see you.” Or “Hey, great job on that project at work. I know how hard you worked on it, and you’ve really done a great job. Keep it up!!” You’ll never know how big these seemingly small words can be to a person struggling to face their challenges every day.

As I close, I want to dedicate this post to anyone who has a disability or knows someone whose life has been impacted by a disability or cancer. You can do anything you set your mind to. Sure we may look a little different, or talk a little bit different, but one thing I can guarantee. We’re doing alright for the shape we’re in!!!

Do yourself a favor and connect with me on Twitter or send me an e-mail letting me know what you thought about this post. I’d love to hear from you ūüėČ

Reading: It’s As Easy As A, B, C . . .

I agonised over what to write for this guest post for Jason’s blog, and by agonised I mean that for at least ten days I sat looking at a blank Word document because I had absolutely no ideas what-so-ever. I picked the brains of some friends for ideas. Hell, I even got to the point of having tears well in my eyes from the frustration of not having a single, solitary, good idea to write about. I don’t know whether I’d classify this period as writer’s block, or if it was simply the fact that I had such a huge choice of topics that I could cover but had no interesting place to start from. Either way, I was ridiculously frustrated about the post.

KathrynFox3As I mentioned, I spent days looking at the screen without the hint of an idea. It seemed to me that the longer I sat staring at the Word document, the more it appeared that the damn page was mocking me, taunting me, laughing at the fact that I was out and out stuck for a post. I would flip between the blank page and my various social media platforms, desperately hoping that a topic would leap from one of the timelines or feeds and inspire me. It didn’t. Then the social media became a distraction: if I couldn’t write a post, then I’d futilely creep profiles, like updates and photos, pimp my own blog, anything that would take my mind off the inevitable . . . the unwritten blog post. Still no ideas.

I’m not sure how I finally came upon the topic, but when it arrived, it came guns a-blazing and thwacked me right between the eyes. Okay, so maybe not literally, but it did hit hard enough for me to have one of those a-ha moments. It’s something that I like doing, something that everybody really would benefit from being able to do, and something that seems to me to be a dying art: reading. Yes indeedy, I was going to write a post about reading, and ta-da, here it is.

In my day job, I deal with booger eaters (kids, for those of you who might not have heard the term before), and many of those booger eaters have difficulty reading. If I’m brutally honest, many of those booger eaters can’t read at all. That’s right, I wrote at all, and I’d imagine that if I extrapolated the data globally, it’s more of a widespread issue than most people would realise. Take a moment to fully digest that information. Many of today’s children can. Not. Read. Scary, isn’t it? The future leaders and decision makers of our society are unable to pick up a book, turn to a random page and read the words written on that page.

Why is this the case? I mean I live in a world (real life and online) where I deal with people who are authors, writers, poets, and educators . . . and who love reading and writing. So, why are the booger eaters of today bordering on the illiterate? Maybe “illiterate” is too harsh a term to have used, but in my school days if someone couldn’t read and struggled to write ‚Äď which yes, do go very much hand in hand ‚Äď then illiterate is the word used to explain their lack of ability. And maybe, yes, it’s wrong to categorise and label these booger eaters, but I think we tend to err on the side of political correctness too often, and we fail to address the issues head on for fear of offending someone. However, the thing is, an inability to read is one of the education problems that the younger generations are facing so, in this instance, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to call it as I see it: illiteracy is far more prevalent than anyone wants to admit.

I wanted to avoid a “point the finger and lay blame” kind of post because that won’t get us anywhere. I will, however, go as far as to say that everyone involved in the education of booger eaters is, in part, responsible for the fact that the ability to read is going down the toilet: teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, educational theorists, and yes, the booger eaters themselves. Everyone plays an equal role here . . . or rather, everyone fails to adequately play his or her role. No one is completely to blame for this decline because everyone has a role to play here.

Me in MelbourneTeachers have over-sized classes and therefore can’t spend enough time with each booger eaters. They have curriculums to teach, and the emphasis of those curriculums might not be heavy on the reading side of education. Parents are busy running households, raising children, working to pay the mortgage, working to earn money to live, trying to find time to spend with their brood . . . day to day, important things that matter in family life. Administrators are focused on successfully steering their schools in the right direction, working towards raising always needed funding, dealing with behavioural issues, new enrollments, battling against school districts and other upper-echelon administrators and bean counters, running the school. Politicians will tell you that they’re doing everything that they possibly can to make sure that your children have the best possible education. This is highly debated amongst educators and parents alike. Educational theorists are doing what they can to justify their existence . . . I mean, investigate the next best educational theory that is going to be the best thing since sliced bread and will ensure that your booger eater is at the top of his/her education game.

And the booger eaters? Most of them just aren’t interested in reading. They’d prefer to play whatever gaming console they have, or sit at the computer and play games or Skype or Facebook. Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, these are real excuses for not reading that booger eaters tell me on a daily basis. I’m not making this stuff up. But to get the full effect of how these booger eaters feel about reading, imagine them moaning one of the above excuses and then add in to that image the “oh my God, I can’t believe you’re going to make me read” eye roll.

Now, I’m not saying that every booger eaters feels this way about reading. As with anything, there are exceptions, and there are a number of them who greatly enjoy the activity. In fact, I know booger eaters who’d prefer to sit undercover and away from other booger eaters and read, instead of going out at lunch break and playing. Granted, these booger eaters are few and far between, and I might find one of two per educational institution that I visit, but they are out there if you know where to look . . . sort of like the mythical fairies at the bottom of the garden, or the last of the unicorns. If you believe hard enough, you may just see them here and there . . . if you squint your eyes and lean your head slightly to one side.

I mentioned to a colleague a few weeks ago how I noticed that many, many booger eaters couldn’t read, unlike our cohort when we were at school, and her response was: “Yeah, but the times have changed and they’re so much better with computers and the Internet than we were at their age.” Aside from the fact that the Internet practically hadn’t been invented when we were at school, her reply baffled me. Let me get this straight, as educators, we’re trading off reading ability with computer skills? Hang on a minute, you still need to be able to read in order to navigate the Internet, and you still need to be able to read in order to use those computer skills to your advantage . . . don’t you? At least I thought you did. Maybe I’ve been approaching this whole computer/Internet thing the wrong way? Maybe I was banging my head against a brick wall with my colleague?

The thing is, these booger eaters may very well be computer geniuses but, and it’s an important but, along with the fact that many can’t read, is the fact that many of them also don’t know and can’t recite the alphabet. Yep, you read that one correctly too. A large proportion of booger eaters that I deal with absolutely, categorically cannot recite the alphabet, and God forbid you give them the task of putting words in alphabetical order. And so I say again, these are our future leaders and decision makers. Our society rests in the hands of people who can’t, don’t, and have no interest in reading.

100_0905The educational theory pendulum swings in both directions, often in the extreme. We’ve gone through the “boys in education” fad, the “girls in education” counter-fad, this fad, that fad, all, it seems to me, ad infinitum. As educators, we spend a few years focusing on this particular problem to the detriment of other areas, then we’re told that there’s a new area of concern and education swings towards that problem again, to the detriment of all other areas. It’s in this process of educational to-ing and fro-ing that we’ve lost sight of making sure that future generations have basic skills such as those required in reading, writing and arithmetic. We need to get back to these basics and stop namby pamby teaching, stop falsely praising booger eaters for every tiny achievement, go back to correcting them when they are wrong because that’s part of learning lessons. If booger eaters are afraid to fail, just as with adults, they will cease to try things. If booger eaters are constantly praised for the smallest thing that is done well, as with adults, we cultivate a false sense of achievement, abilities, and effort in them, just as it occurs in adults.

I know that I will have offended a number of parties involved in education with this post, I do. But at some point, we must stop jerking around and solve the problem of why our booger eaters don’t like and can‚Äôt read, and we won’t do that by walking on eggshells. Let me conclude by saying two things:

  1. I am not an education expert. I am simply commenting on what I have experienced across a number of educational institutions.
  2. If booger eaters don’t experience significant people in their lives reading, and enjoying reading, then they can’t learn from their environment. If teachers don’t enjoy reading, if parents don’t enjoy reading, if their role models don’t demonstrate enjoyment associated with reading, then you can’t expect that the booger eaters themselves will harbour the desire to read, let alone enjoy reading.

Reading: it’s as easy as A, B, C . . . providing you actually know the alphabet.

Instagram MeAbout Danielle Monique

Danielle¬†writes stories that may be considered to be a little twisted, and sometimes¬†she does write opiniony, ranty pieces that¬†she calls¬†her armchair philosophy. Currently unpublished,¬†she harbours a desire to become one of the lucky writers who manages to wrangle a publishing contract. Until then,¬†Danielle’s stuck with working a day job in education and¬†messing around with¬†her social media profiles. On the positive side of the day job,¬†she¬†has been fortuntate enough to teach some really lovely young people who have excelled in their chosen fields.

Check out Danielle’s blog, follow her on Twitter, be her friend on Facebook and get connected on Google Plus.

Why Me, Lord?

“The closer you are to God, the more likely He is to listen.” The past couple days I’ve been reflecting on this statement by Reverend Robert Alden from Little House on the Prairie. Yesterday I went to have lunch with a very special friend of mine, who works at a restaurant a couple miles from where I work, and this statement was on my heart so I drove to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, about 20 minutes north of Atlanta. When I got to the top and got out of my van, I couldn’t believe the view. I’m usually scared of heights but yesterday I felt this calming presence come over me, almost surrounding me with a safety net, letting me know I was safe on the mountain top and wouldn’t fall.

IMG_3171If you’ve followed my journey, you know the past several years dating back to 2005 have been really tough for me personally and emotionally with my grandmother’s passing in March 2005 and my grandfather’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s shortly thereafter. I’ve really struggled with myself knowing there is so much more I could do to help my grandfather forget about his Alzheimer’s and try to remember the great times he has had with his family, and the fact I could have spent more time with my grandmother when she was alive, or called her on the phone to talk for a couple hours every week. Some of these memories I will never get back, and this breaks my heart knowing I will never see my grandmother again or get to go fishing with my grandfather or get to see him drive his tractor, plowing his garden in the spring.

As I was up on Kennesaw Mountain yesterday, and all day today, I’ve really been thinking about what else I could do differently to cherish the time with my family and friends, and more than once I’ve asked, “Why me, Lord?” Why has He placed all of these situations in my life, knowing I am not prepared to handle them? Why has He allowed my grandfather to slowly die in front of me when I can’t help him? Why did He take my grandma away from me before I could give her another hug and tell her how much I loved her and how much she has helped me become the man I am today? Why did He let me be born with spina bifida, unable to walk or feel my legs and confined to a wheelchair all my life? Why did He bless me with a¬†wonderful job with the city of Marietta’s communications office, when I knew nothing about writing articles for a website, how to take pictures and upload them to Flickr or when He knew I am really nervous and stutter a lot when I meet someone new or am out in public, talking to strangers about what my office does?

IMG_4607As I am sitting here writing this, and over the past couple years, God has answered all of these questions and so much more. I know God would never give me more than I can handle and that He will be here with me, guiding me in every decision and problem I face. He has been with me in the operating room every time I have had surgery and has healed me completely from my operations. I remember several years ago I was asked to give my testimony at a local church, and when the preacher asked me if I would share my heart with the congregation, I was scared to death. But God calmed my worst fears and I heard Him say, “Jason, you need to share your testimony. You will inspire so many people just by getting up and sharing your heart. Who cares if you stutter or forget to mention something? The congregation doesn’t care if you’re nervous or scared. They love the man you are today and they see a man who’s overcome so much in his life. I love you, Jason, and I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I think the same can be said about why I was given the chance to share my talents and abilities at the city of Marietta. I’ve met so many people in the community and at work who come up to me, wanting to know about my story. They always pat me on the back or give me a hug and tell me what an inspiration I am to them. While it’s true that I am there to work for the city, I think I am serving a higher calling by being in the position I am. I firmly believe there is someone out there, God only knows where, who may be having a rough day or need a word of encouragement or a comforting word of advice, and God has placed me on a course to one day meet them, take them aside for a few minutes to talk and hear their story and share what He has done in my life. Maybe they just need to know they aren’t alone, that there is someone who understands what they are going through and will be there for them when they need a helping hand. Maybe I am the person who God has chosen to minister to a lost soul or a single parent with a special-needs child and let them know that God loves them and will always be there to comfort their worst fears.

God has also given me several key verses in the Bible that I carry with me every day of my life. One of these is James 1:2-3, “My brethren, consider it all joy when you face various trials and tribulations, knowing that the trying of your faith brings patience.” This verse¬†means so much to me¬†that I couldn’t possibly share it in this post. I will just say that I am a better man because of the situations God has placed in front of me, particularly my grandma’s death, my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s and my disability. Every day I wake up amazed by how much I have grown as a man, personally and professionally, thanks to the challenges I’ve been given. I would have given up long ago but my faith is as strong as ever, and I don’t think it would be this strong if I hadn’t forged ahead and worked my butt off to get through the tough times. A weaker man would have surrendered, but God has been right beside me, holding my hand and has led me to bigger and better things I never would have had the opportunity to¬†receive had I surrendered. I’ve also become much more patient and have learned different ways of doing things because of my disability. Now some of the ways I get things done have taken some time to think through to come up with the best possible solution, but I’ve stuck with it and have overcome so many limitations it’s unbelievable. I just hope one person sees how much I have overcome and understands that they can do anything they set their mind to if they just believe in Christ to carry them.

IMG_4622This reminds me of the verse I’ve built my life on, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Growing up, I used to depend on my parents to do practically everything for me, including help me get a shower, get dressed, make me something to eat or drink or drive me to school or a doctor’s appointment. Now I am very independent and am doing things I never would have dreamed of. I’ve been honored as the best ambassador for the city of Marietta and have helped update a large three-panel display¬†at work. I am in charge of creating Marietta’s weekly e-newsletter and am out two or three times a week in the community taking pictures and writing articles for our website. I’ve¬†attended several three-day weekends hosted by Marietta’s Gone With the Wind Museum and have met¬†some of the actors who played in the movie including the beautiful and amazing Ann Rutherford, who played Scarlett O’Hara’s sister, Careen. I’ve had the honor of meeting legendary Georgia Bulldog’s head coach Vince Dooley, the “Voice of the Dawgs” Larry Munson and current Top¬†Dawg Mark Richt.

Recently I applied for a promotion with the city of Marietta, and one verse that gives me a glimmer of hope is Romans 8:28, “Now we know that all things work together for good for those¬†who love God.” This verse is so powerful and so very true. I never¬†would have dreamed I would be working with the city¬†of Marietta after five and a half, almost six years. I never¬†would¬†have¬†imagined I would have the amazing self-confidence I do from working with the city. Now, I hardly think¬†twice about going out in public and talking to someone over the phone. It’s almost like breathing that it’s become second nature. I’ve made so many wonderful friends and have formed so many strong relationships with my co-workers and people I’ve met in the community that I feel like the richest man in the world. It’s pretty remarkable to think that the once scared to death, nervous, stuttering kid in a wheelchair who was afraid to see his own shadow is now a very successful man with the best job in the world and has surprised himself by how far he has come.

Now instead of asking “Why me, Lord?” I just say a prayer of thanksgiving, smile and thank God for everything He has given me. Thanks God!!

Unconditional Love

I may have posted this story on the blog before, but it has such a powerful message I wanted to share it again. I also wanted to thank all of my co-workers, friends and family for supporting me and loving me unconditionally, despite everything we’ve been through. I’m¬†a better man because of the love and strength you’ve instilled in me, and I just pray I can make you all proud of me.

IMG_1986A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco. “Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I’ve a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me.”

“Sure,” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.”

“There’s something you should know,” the son continued. “He was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”

“No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.”

“Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives.¬†I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”

At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.

Woman-Missing-SoldierThe parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are. Thankfully, there’s someone who won’t treat us that way. Someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are.

Tonight, before you tuck yourself in for the night, say a little prayer that God will give you the strength you need to accept people as they are, and to help us all be more understanding of those who are different from us!!

— Author Unknown

2012’s Most-Viewed Stories

As we come to the close of another year, I’m reminded of the many blessings I’ve received this year: a wonderful job with amazing co-workers, a great family that’s always standing beside me no matter what we’re going through, wonderful friends who always ask how I’m doing and look out for my well-being and make sure I’m taking care of my health, and the greatest blessing of all: a loving, forgiving Savior, Who always takes care of my every need and never fails to embrace me with His grace and mercy and ensures that evil will never penetrate my life or my soul. For these things I’ll be forever grateful, for they are the reasons I get up every day and keep fighting and struggling to survive even when my spirit is dwindling under the every day pressures of life with a disability.

I’m also thankful for the response my blog has received this year and the number of people who have taken the time to read and respond to my posts and subscribe to my feed. I can never thank my readers enough for taking a few minutes out of your busy day and reading my blog. I can only hope that my posts have given you a new perspective on life and helped you realize that we can all do anything we set our minds to, if we just put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and leave it to Him to take care of our problems. There’s no doubt that I’m here today because I’ve put my life in His hands and don’t worry so much about the little things over which I have no control.

IMG_1362As we close 2012, I’m proud to reveal my top 10 posts of the year, based on reader response and comments. Thank you for believing in me!!

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year. I’ll see you in January, and I promise I’ll try to do better and try to post regularly, instead of once a month….

If you haven’t already, follow me on Twitter, and tell your friends about my blog and encourage them to sign up to get my posts. You’ll be glad you did, trust me ūüėČ

Re-blog: Leadership Thought #410 ‚Äď 22 Things You Could Do Wrong Today

Re-blogged from edrobinson.wordpress.com

Life is about habits and behaviors.¬†All time represents is a series of moments and actions stitched together that seemingly always exist in the present.¬†We can reflect on what we have done in the past, think about what we may do in the future, but we can really only ever control now.¬†Part of my job is observation.¬†Sadly, my best case study is often myself when it comes to areas of needed improvement.¬†I never cease to amaze myself with what I consciously do wrong and regret later although I am getting better. I am also certain my human experience isn’t unique.¬†You may catch your self doing some of the following things over the course of any given day that inhibit rather than promote feelings of self-satisfaction and happiness.

  • Eating something you know isn’t good for you
  • Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
  • Not exercising enough or at all
  • Not allowing enough time for sleep
  • Doing something dangerous or reckless behind the wheel of a car
  • Attempting to multi-task and prioritizing your tasks badly
  • Not really listening to what someone else has to say
  • Missing a deadline at work or home that you agreed to and/or set yourself
  • Not allowing yourself enough time to do something well
  • Avoiding doing something necessary that you just don’t like doing
  • Spend too much time in front of the TV watching something of no real discernible value
  • Getting annoyed at something inconsequential
  • Being impolite or exhibiting bad manners
  • Closing your mind to an alternative point of view
  • Rushing to judgment about someone or something you don’t know well enough to judge
  • Making a decision without enough facts or understanding of the situation
  • Treating attractive people better than everyone else just because of the way they look
  • Buying something you really don’t need
  • Lying or not telling someone how you honestly feel
  • Saying yes when you should say no
  • Being unaware of or unthoughtful about your body language and tone of voice
  • Blaming a mistake or misstep on someone or something else

As with all things, awareness is the first step.¬†I encourage you to print out and take this list with you and put it in your briefcase, purse or wallet.¬†I also like to tape it to my desk and put it in my glove compartment.¬†Briefly review it several times throughout the course of the day.¬†When you knowingly do something on the list put a check mark next to it as close to the occurrence as possible. At the end of the week see how many check marks you have and which items are you biggest weaknesses.¬†Rethink how you could have handled the situations differently.¬†No rationalizations are allowed.¬†Over time you will notice that the number of check marks will go down markedly.¬†Don’t strive for perfection just incremental daily improvement.¬†After a month I guarantee you will notice a big difference in how you feel and how others are responding to you.

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Always Look on the Inside

I got this in my e-mail a few days ago, and thought it had such a powerful message, especially if you know someone who has a disability. I’m planning on doing a follow-up to this post in a week or so (time-permitting), but just wanted to let people know that sometimes you have to dig a little¬†deeper than that rusty, broken down exterior and see that special gift in someone that’s hidden deep inside. I would’ve never realized my special gift if it weren’t for my family, co-workers and friends encouraging me to open up and grab life by the horns and realize how much I have to offer society. Thanks guys!!!

I remember reading a story once about a man who was exploring some caves by the seashore. In one of the caves he found a canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. It was like someone had rolled up some clay and left them out in the sun to bake. They didn’t look like much, but they intrigued the man so he took the bag out of the cave with him.

As he strolled along the beach, to pass the time, he would throw the clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could throw.

He thought little about it until he dropped one of the balls and it cracked open on a rock. Inside was a beautiful, precious stone. Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls. Each contained a similar treasure. He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the 20 or so clay balls he had left, then it struck him.

He had been on the beach a long time. He had thrown maybe 50 or 60 of the clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have had tens of thousands, but he just threw it all away.

You know sometimes, it’s like that with people. We look at someone, maybe even ourselves, and we see the external clay vessel. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. It isn’t always beautiful or sparkling, so we discount it; we see that person as less important than someone more beautiful or stylish or well known or wealthy.

But we have not taken the time to find the treasure hidden inside that person. There is a treasure hidden in every one of us. We are wonderfully made. Not just our physical bodies, our spiritual selves, which are sometimes hidden from others by the “earthen vessel.”

But if you take the time to get to know that person, and if you ask the Spirit to show you that person the way He sees them, then the clay begins to peel away and the brilliant gem begins to shine forth.

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him with his friendship.

— Author Unknown

Thoughts on 9/11…

On Monday there were people fighting against praying in schools. On Tuesday you would have been hard pressed to find a school where someone was not praying.

On Monday there were people who were trying to separate each other by race, sex, color and creed. On Tuesday they were all holding hands.

On Monday we thought that we were secure. On Tuesday we learned better.

On Monday we were talking about heroes as being athletes. On Tuesday we re-learned what hero meant.

On Monday people went to work at the World Trade Centers as usual. On Tuesday they died.

On Monday people were fighting the 10 Commandments on government property. On Tuesday the same people all said, “God help us all” while thinking “Thou shall not kill.”

On Monday people argued with their kids about picking up their room. On Tuesday the same people could not get home fast enough to hug their kids.

On Monday people picked up McDonalds for dinner. On Tuesday they stayed home.

On Monday people were upset that their dry cleaning was not ready on time. On Tuesday they were lining up to give blood for the dying.

On Monday politicians argued about budget surpluses. On Tuesday, grief-stricken, they sang “God Bless America.”

On Monday we worried about the traffic and getting to work late. On Tuesday we worried about a plane crashing into our house or place of business.

On Monday we were irritated that our rebate checks had not arrived. On Tuesday we saw people celebrating people dying in the USA.

On Monday some children had solid families. On Tuesday they were orphans.

On Monday the president was going to Florida to read to children. On Tuesday he returned to Washington to protect our children.

On Monday we e-mailed jokes. On Tuesday we did not.

It is sadly ironic how it takes horrific events to place things into perspective, but it has. The lessons learned that week, the things we have taken for granted, the things that have been forgotten or overlooked hopefully will never be forgotten again.

On Monday ‚Äď pray and be thankful
On Tuesday ‚Äď pray and be thankful
On Wednesday ‚Äď pray and be thankful
On Thursday ‚Äď pray and be thankful
On Friday ‚Äď pray and be thankful
On Saturday ‚Äď pray and be thankful
On Sunday ‚Äď pray and be thankful

Author Unknown


Hi guys, sorry I haven’t taken the time to post anything in a few weeks, but I’ve really been hitting it pretty hard at work. I’ve worked the past couple Fridays and am going in today for a few hours, even though I’m part-time.¬†I’m really hoping this job pans out and I’m able to be hired full-time, but I’ll take anything I can get at this point the way the economy is. Working for the city of Marietta is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I have the best co-workers in the world. We are almost like a second family, and it feels really good knowing I can count on one of my co-workers to lift my spirits when I’m having a bad day.

Just the other day I was getting off the elevator, and I saw a really good friend of mine, who works on a different floor, and we spent about 15 minutes talking. She asked me how I’m doing, and I told her I was doing okay. Truth be told, my stomach was hurting, and I didn’t really want to be there, but I knew I had a lot to get done. She said something that really touched my heart and made me just praise God I work for the city. She said something like, “You really impress me. You get out and get stuff done while¬†a lot of people just sit on their ass and do nothing. I wish more people were like you, Jason.”

And that’s just one of the compliments I’ve received from my co-workers the past couple weeks. Last week,¬†I was asked to go take pictures of¬†a former NFL player who came to talk to kids and a¬†talent show, both of which took place¬†at the local recreation centers. I told¬†my co-workers¬†I would, and I don’t mind saying that I had the best time hanging out with the kids and my friends, even though I was scheduled to be off last Friday. The next day I got an e-mail from a co-worker in Marietta’s Parks and Recreation Department and she said, “Thank you so much (for coming to take pictures). You truly are a blessing to me.” Another co-worker e-mailed me a day or two later and called me her hero. When I read that one, I almost started crying, and had to email her back and tell her I am NO hero. I just do the best I can and take it one day at a time.

You have to understand something. When I started this job, all I wanted to do was make my family and co-workers proud of me. I never expected to win any awards or be recognized for my accomplishments. I truly love helping people and prefer to be behind the scenes, out of the spotlight. I love seeing other people being recognized for things they’ve done to help the city save money or finding a way to do things more efficiently. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my friends succeed, and whenever they say something nice about me, I almost feel unworthy. I don’t do much. I’m just an average Joe doing the best I can with the talents God gave me, and all the glory and honor goes to Him.

Well, I better go get dressed and head to work. Today’s going to be a great day, I can feel it.

Cat’s Got My Tongue

If you’ve ever taken an English, communications or public speaking class in school, chances are you’ve had to get up in front of everybody and give the dreaded speech. I know I’ve given my fair share of speeches, and every time I always hated it because I got really nervous, stuttered, forgot what I was going to say or hurried the speech so that my thoughts ran together, and I confused myself. But one thing I always seemed to do was get apprehensive about going up in front of everyone in my wheelchair.

You see, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I always used to get stared at a lot when I was younger because I was in a wheelchair, and it really made me sad and have really low self esteem. So you can imagine how scared¬†I was whenever I had to get up in front of a group of my fellow students. My palms got all sweaty, my throat felt dry, and I felt like I was going to die right there in mid sentence. Looking back I would have rather had surgery or gotten my finger stuck than had to have gotten up and opened my mouth in front of people and actually talk. I mean I had no idea what they were thinking or whether they were judging me, so they might have thought I was a big baby for being so nervous and stuttering like a complete fool.

As I have gotten older and more mature I’ve really overcome a lot of apprehension about being in my wheelchair, and working with the city of Marietta has really helped me get over my shyness and stuttering. And as far as my self esteem, it’s through the roof thanks to the last five years working for the city. Now don’t get me wrong, I do have some days where I stutter, especially meeting someone for the first time, whether in person or over the phone. I guess I’m just so focused on giving a good impression I don’t want to screw up, and that’s what does make me stutter and get nervous.

As I close, let me share a few tips that have really helped me whenever I talk to somebody about what I do for the city. I’ve had so much practice, it’s almost like second nature now, but remembering these tips always helps.

First, slow down. If you slow down and think about what you’re saying you’ll really enjoy the conversation a lot more and the other person will definitely remember it too. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out in public talking to someone, and what seemed like just a couple-minute chat turned into a 30-minute conversation. Some of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had were because I slowed down and took my time talking to someone, and after we finish the chat they always tell me what a pleasure it was talking to me and they hope to see me again soon.

Second, take a deep breath just before you think you’re going to have a conversation with someone, but don’t over exaggerate. I mean don’t make it look like you’re taking a deep breath, you don’t want to have balloon cheeks when the person walks up… Something about taking a deep breath always helps clear my mind and helps me get my thoughts together so I can give the person I’m talking to my undivided attention.

Third, and for me most important, make sure you have something to drink close by. If you talk for a long time without stopping, you’re almost guaranteed to have a dry throat before too long. If I have a dry throat, I tend to get choked and start coughing, and nothing is worse or turns¬†a person off more than talking to someone who can’t carry a conversation without hacking up a hairball.

Try these tips and let me know how you do next time you have to give a presentation or talk to someone at work or over the phone. I bet you’ll be terrific!!! ūüôā