Hope Will Persevere


Last week on any given news channel or social media page you saw the image of a young couple caught on camera as the woman gave her husband a piggyback ride. This couple turned out to be Jesse and Kelly Cottle, and Jesse is a double above-knee amputee Marine who was getting a ride back to his legs from his wife Kelly. The image we saw was of a couple in love, and I think for many people it was a sign of hope. Hope for the world and hope for the human race. 

Katie_S_8040_1editedAs an amputee myself I saw so much more. I sat down to write a blog post about it and when I asked Sarah Ledford for permission to use the photo, she sent me three. The last one was a photo many haven’t seen, but for me it finished their story. It said, “We will stand tall against whatever the world throws at us. We will persevere.” Ability Dynamics was kind enough to host my blog post because they too believe in hope. Hope for a better foot for amputees so their amputation doesn’t limit their life. I can assure you Jesse Cottle certainly hasn’t let his amputations limit him. People like Jesse and Kelly Cottle show us all how to live life without limitations. Let me hear a HOORAH! 

Read the full blog post here.

Editor’s Note: The previous post was submitted from my dear friend, Katie Mettner, who is one of the most remarkable, amazing, sexy and inspiring women I have ever known. Katie, thank you and the Cottles for giving all of us a little hope. You really inspire me!!!

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! 🙂

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 😉

Boston’s Braves


Jason BourneIn the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks at the end of the Boston marathon today, I want to dedicate this post I wrote a couple years ago to the first responders, firefighters, police officers, EMTs and runners who risked their lives to take care of their fellow men and women.

I didn’t see much of the coverage until I got home a couple hours ago, and by that time, the streets were clearing and we’re still waiting on information about who did this and why. All I know is someone will pay for this and the United States of America will overcome!!

I’ve been thinking about ideas for some new material for the blog, and encourage everybody to stay tuned the next couple weeks for some powerful inspiration, encouragement and hope for a new, better, brighter, stronger YOU!!!

Before I close, I want to encourage everyone reading this, especially if you have kids, to go grab them and give them the biggest hug you’ve ever given them. You never know when it will all be taken away in the blink of an eye. I know one of the first things I’m doing tomorrow: giving my best friend a really big hug and letting her know just how much she means to me.

My fellow Americans, LET’S ROLL!!!

Author’s Roundtable: Jennifer Brink


How did your family and friends feel when they heard you were writing?

I got very little response when I first started writing. My husband and kids were jealous of the time I spent writing. My older sister said, “You can’t even be a stay-at-home mom, right?” I’ve been known to be a little quirky so most of those who know me assumed that I would get bored before ever finishing the book. When they found out that I had finished it, there was some hesitancy to embrace the idea. I was not a published author and they just didn’t expect it to be any good. I had to beg people to read it.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing just short of two years ago. 

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

No. We had just moved to Washington State, and I wasn’t licensed to work there as a counselor. I went on a few job interviews, but the jobs I was interested in didn’t want to hire me once they found out my husband was in the military. For the first time in my life, I had nothing to do but take care of little kids, the dog and clean the house. 

What books or stories have you written? Published?

My debut novel, Black Roses, has a planned publication date of May 1, 2013. The sequel, Cerulean Seas, is almost finished and will be published by Aug. 1, 2013. I am also working on the third book in the series, Silver Bells, with a planned publication date of Nov. 1, 2013. In addition to The Jessica Hart Series, I am working on a YA/paranormal book with the help of my teen, Nail Polish, Push Up Bras & Pirate Ships, which will be published in the spring of 2014.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

Black Roses is a comedic mystery about a woman who seems to have the perfect life until her fiancé goes missing and she acquires a deadly stalker. She starts to question the life she’s chosen when she learns that those around her aren’t who she’s always thought they were. Those who’ve read it have compared it to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. 

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

I’ve loved mysteries since I was a little girl. I can remember taking my mother’s Agatha Christie and other mystery novels she brought home from the library because they wouldn’t let me check out of the Adult section. Add to that a professional life working within the mental health world, too much late night drama TV, and some time on my hands.  Honestly, the stories just come to me. The characters, they are a mixture of different people that I’ve known and my overactive imagination made real by my understanding of human nature, sociology and psychology.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

No, but I do base them on places that I know and real-life possibles.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Write the book you want to read, something you won’t be embarrassed to have your grandmother or your children read. Take the time to do it well.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

Editing is a big deal. First, grammar, language, spelling, etc. is more difficult than you think, even if you’re good at it. Second, you’re going to miss things in your own work. I can’t say how many books that I’ve stopped reading or not recommended because of annoying editing errors.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published? 

Pride. It’s difficult to have people tell you that what you think is good, isn’t good enough. It’s even harder to take that criticism, even when it’s not constructive, and make it work for you. 

How did you find time to write your books?

That’s the hardest part. My husband is active-duty Army, so he’s gone a lot. And, we have a teenager, two preschoolers and a puppy at home. Something always needs doing. I make time to write, and when I can’t, I take the precious minutes when everyone else is busy doing something else. 

IMG_2500 2 (2)Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

I think the benefit is different for everyone. It keeps me sane and gives me a place in life other than somebody’s wife or mother.
 
Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

Yes, it can be relaxing, when you’re not stressing about an ending or trying to word a paragraph just so. When I’m “in the zone,” it’s like reading a “choose your own adventure” for big people. Remember those? I loved those! You trade your life and reality for a glimpse of something else for a while. Then, you can come back to the real world refreshed and ready to be a part of it. 

Can you also talk a little about how writing your book was therapeutic? What do you mean?

Those who know me will tell you that overall I’m a nice, happy, cheerful person. Writing is where I let out the “dark side,” those areas of the mind that know about the world that I choose not to be a part of. I spent ten years as a counselor working with everyone from the chronic/severely mentally ill to the abused, abusers, addicts, adults, men, women and children. I’ve been privy to happenings that no one should ever know about, let alone experience. This gives me a compartment to put it in.

Has writing made you a better person?

Yes, it balances me.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love to read and at this stage in my life I read everything, when I have the time. I still love a good mystery, but they’re harder to find than I’d like to admit. I love comedy like Job, A Comedy of Errors, not so much into romances. I’m just not into the happily-ever-after ending, never have been. Even as a kid I wondered if Cinderella was really happily-ever-after or if the castle got a little claustrophobic. I like a well-written thriller like The Lincoln Lawyer, but they tend to get caught up in boring details. I’m a fan of Stephen King, but his books give me nightmares, still can’t look at clowns the same after reading It. I like chic-lit because it’s fun and a relaxing read. I love the classics like Bram Stokers Dracula. Young adult (YA), like Gallagher Girls is fun and so much better written than when I was in high school. I also enjoy some middle grades (MG) and children’s and the occasional nonfiction book. I think my favorite book is still Where the Wild Things Are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that book.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are a big deal. Other people read or don’t read your book based on them. But, even popular books like 50 Shades of Gray get bad reviews. That woman has made millions off a book that reviewed poorly. I think the most important and hardest thing is to get someone to review your book, positive or negative.

Was there ever a point in your life where you felt like giving up because nobody understood you? How did you overcome this time in your life?

No. Sometimes, I barely understand me. It doesn’t bother me. I am predispositioned to proving others wrong. I’m more likely to try harder just so that, years later, I can say, “See, I did it and better than most people.” Everything I’ve ever achieved was in opposition to someone telling me that I couldn’t. Yeah, I know it’s annoying but that’s me.

Could you talk a little more about your time as a counselor and dealing with different sorts of people. How did your time working with them change you or your perceptions of others?
 
That is a loaded question and so difficult to put into words. I was young and not sure who I was when I followed that path, so it molded me. 
 
I tell people there’s a reason I am the way I am. Working with the people that I’ve worked with has given me a unique perspective. I have learned not to judge others by my own standards. That each of us has difficulties and strengths, sometimes unknown. Even the most passive can be violent and even the most violent can be passive. We all have a breaking point, some of us are mentally stronger than others. We all have good days and bad days, play on the good days. We all have something good about us. Some of us just hide it better than others. We all have choices who and what to allow into our lives, regardless of anything else. And, not to expect more of others than they are willing or able to expect of themselves. 
 
Although simple, those are some of the most difficult concepts for us as people to understand. Knowing my clients has made me an accepting and nonjudgemental person.  I have been privy to other’s deepest, darkest selves and secrets. They have given me an understanding of why they do the things they do, the way that they do them. I am also adept at recognizing mental illness and dependency issues. Most times, I keep my thoughts to myself. I tell people that I try to only use my powers for good. When I am goaded into discussing those delicate internal issues, I tell people “You asked for this.” I was good at what I did. I know for a fact that there are large numbers of people out there that I was able to help. But, taking other’s secrets into your mind takes its toll on you. It changes you, forever. Now, my burden is finding a way to keep the demons at bay while simultaneously keeping that faith of confidentiality that was promised.

Check out Jenn’s blog, buy her books on Goodreads, find out what she’s interested in on Pinterest, become a friend or a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and connect with her on Google Plus. And as long as your still here, check out this amazing review Jenn wrote about my blog. Don’t forget to comment on this post, “Like” this blog, tweet about it, add it to a sticky note on Facebook or pin it to your bulletin board on Pinterest.

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

Love Knows No Boundaries


Sometimes I’ll get a story in my e-mail, whether it’s inspirational, funny, serious or whatever, but most of them have a great moral lesson that can be applied to almost any situation. I got the following story from my dear friend Sandy Appleyard, whom I met on Twitter. She’s an amazing, beautiful, inspiring woman who’s overcome so much and has become a very successful writer, with six books published and more in the works. Thank you, Sandy, for inspiring us all with this story. I love and respect you more than you know.

A dear friend of mine told me this story once. I’ll try to remember it as best as I can.

A young couple married right before a war began. He was drafted and forced to leave his new wife just days after tying the knot. She wrote him every day, and he replied as often as he could. Every night he would pull his only picture of her out of his sack and kiss it, promising he would one day return to her. 

Time passed, and they continued to miss one another, holding on to the memories of their first few days together as husband and wife. She dreamed of the day they would reunite, hoping and praying every day that he would come home safe. 

That day finally came. When he walked in the door, tears of joy filled their faces as they ran to embrace each other. They kissed and made love for days, without so much as leaving the house. They were never so happy.

Sadly, she had to return to work, and he reluctantly let her go. Her independence was very important to her. As she boarded the bus, he blew her a kiss, and she gratefully accepted.

Photo courtesy salon.com

Photo courtesy salon.com

Months passed, and she became ill. It wasn’t life threatening thankfully, but soon she would lose her sight completely. She and her husband argued incessantly; he wanted her to quit working. As I said before, her independence was very important to her, and someone had to work. The economy had suffered from the war, and very little jobs were available. She had to keep her’s or they would lose everything. They were so broke, he still wore his army uniform, and she dressed in rags.

He feared for her safety, a bus was no place for the blind. But she argued that she was a grown woman and managed to take care of herself the whole time he was away. As much as he loved her, he couldn’t see her unhappy and they’d worked so hard for what they had, so he relented.

More months passed, and they remained a strong and loving couple despite their financial woes. She adjusted well to her dark world, knowing she could still hear his voice, feel his warm skin against her’s, but most of all she could still feel his deep unconditional love for her. 

He died suddenly one day, and she never felt so much pain in her life. Even going blind was nothing by comparison. She would rather have lost her sight a thousand times than lose him. 

When she finally found the strength to return to work, she boarded the bus and sat in her usual spot. Tears still flooded her eyes, and she was thankful she couldn’t see the concerned faces of fellow passengers. 

As she approached the exit stairs, the bus driver gently took her arm. She turned to face him with her red rimmed eyes, hoping she wouldn’t trip. 

He looked at her and asked, “Where’s your friend?”

She looked at him with furrowed brows and shook her head, dabbing her eyes. “What friend?”

“That young soldier. Every morning, for as long as I can remember, he always sat beside you. He never left your side and never spoke a word. When you got off the bus, he followed you. What became of him?”

She was so overcome with emotion, the bus driver had to direct her to the nearest seat. 

Love knows no boundaries.

IMG_3226About Sandy Appleyard

Sandy is from Niagara Falls, Canada and loves reading, physical fitness, animals and, of course, writing. I’ve written six books, self-published four of them. My first two books are memoirs. “The Message in Dad’s Bottle” is about the struggles I experienced while living with an alcoholic father. “I’ll Never Wear a Backless Dress” is about my life with severe bilateral Scoliosis. My third book, “Blessed and Betrayed,” is my debut romantic mystery and my fourth, “Social Media Tips and More Learned by Mistake,” is a self-help book geared towards new writers. 

Check out and buy “The Message in Dad’s Bottle,” “I’ll Never Wear a Backless Dress” and “Blessed and Betrayed” on Amazon, and “Social Media Tips and More Learned By Mistake” on Smashwords.

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 – pray and be thankful
On Tuesday – pray and be thankful
On Wednesday – pray and be thankful
On Thursday – pray and be thankful
On Friday – pray and be thankful
On Saturday – pray and be thankful
On Sunday – pray and be thankful

Author Unknown