Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

2015,  My Dad

“I just need to work it off,” Dad says whenever he has an illness or any physical trial. He grew up on a farm and made his living working construction, so work for him has always kept him physically active. He’s a talented heavy equipment operator, but has never shirked from digging with a hand shovel if needed. My parents taught me how to work at a young age. No excuses were ever accepted. My dad still goes to work every day operating equipment and some days when they’re short-handed he’s also found with a shovel doing the hand work. He’s amazing and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Dad believes work will cure whatever ails you. I’m proud to be his daughter.

Work for me is sitting at a desk in front of a computer. Tapping my fingers across the keyboard or calculator as fast as I can isn’t much of a workout. I have to intentionally exercise to be physically active and I haven’t been able to do much of it lately. I’ve noticed my mood isn’t as pleasant as it should be and I don’t feel as well as I do when I exercise or can spend time outdoors hiking, biking or gardening. I’m missing my Vitamin D and unfortunately, summer ends in a few short weeks.

I shouldn’t complain because I’m surrounded by people who have physical challenges that make it difficult to be active. A few are like Mark and it’s impossible to do exercises on their own. At the rehab center most are concentrating on therapy to build strength and improve coordination.

I’ve notice a few people which resist therapy. I’ve heard a few say they don’t need it or give excuses to get out of it. Others push themselves with exercise and hope the insurance company will prolong the benefit because they feel the improvement. I suppose it all depends on the circumstances and their pain tolerance, but it’s evident to me that the ones who push themselves are the happy ones.

“You’ll be surprised what you can do when you put your shoulder to the wheel,” is a phrase my dad said to me often. “If we all put our shoulder to the wheel we’ll get this job done in no time. Many hands make light work,” are the encouraging statements I grew up with. I can’t sing “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” without thinking of Dad. If you haven’t heard it, here are the lyrics:

  1. The world has need of willing men
    Who wear the worker’s seal.
    Come, help the good work move along;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)
Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song,
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel.

  1. The Church has need of helping hands,
    And hearts that know and feel.
    The work to do is here for you;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)

  1. Then don’t stand idly looking on;
    The fight with sin is real.
    It will be long but must go on;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)

  1. Then work and watch and fight and pray
    With all your might and zeal.
    Push ev’ry worthy work along;
    Put your shoulder to the wheel.

(Chorus)

Text and music: Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909

What does put your shoulder to the wheel mean? The metaphoric term, alludes to pushing a heavy handcart as many pioneers did. The dictionary states: “To apply oneself vigorously and make a concentrated effort.” I’m inspired by those who do. .http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/put+shoulder+to+the+wheel

Last week while I was visiting the new Neuroworx, Dr. Dale Hull said, “there are some sad stories here of people and their struggles, yet this is a happy, positive atmosphere.”

“No surprise to me,” I said. “In our years of experience, I’ve noticed people are happy when they are striving for self-improvement.”

I try to imagine what it’s like to be trapped in a body that can’t function like most of us do, with ease and with little thought. How shattering it must be to lose abilities you once took for granted. It must be disheartening to see others move freely with capabilities you were never given. The world has need of willing men and women who wear the workers seal. I’m so grateful for those who come and help the good work move along by putting their shoulders to the wheel. I appreciate many who do their duty with a heart full of song. I’m inspired by the need for helping hands, with hearts that know and feel. The work to do is here for me and you, so lets put our shoulder to the wheel.

It’s a proven fact that exercise is good for us physically and mentally. It doesn’t matter what your age or limitations are. Everyone benefits from being as physically active as possible. It’s why I work and watch and fight and pray with all my might and zeal. Therapy for Mark is a worthy work which needs to be pushed along. If it isn’t, he suffers with blood clots and joints that calcify and are no longer able to function. Some days I wish I could stand idly looking on, but the fight for improvement is real. It will be long (a lifetime long), but must go on because it’s better than the alternative.

I’m trying to do as I’ve been taught. Working energetically towards a goal. I realize we all have work and I don’t want to be the one that shirks.

I was raised with the philosophy that work cures whatever ails you. If it can’t cure you, at least it makes you feel better. I’m grateful for a mom and dad who taught me this valuable lesson.

My Two Favorite Men

Dad & I Snowmobiling

1980 – Dad & I snowmobiling

I have fond childhood memories of my dad. He works hard and plays the same way. The construction business he started with his brother, Harold, before I was born gave me the opportunity to learn how to work at a young age. Dad sometimes took me to work with him and it was a joy to sit between his legs or at his side while he operated the backhoe, which was a lot more fun than spraying water on the construction site to keep the dust under control. The highlight at the end of the day was the ride he’d give me in the bucket. In my teenage years I learned bookkeeping from him as I worked by his side doing billing, cost accounting and payroll for the employees. However, dad didn’t just teach me how to work, he also taught me to enjoy the mountains and lakes around us with hiking, boating and snowmobiling.  If I were asked to choose a favorite out of all my wonderful memories, it would be of our horseback riding adventures when it was just Dad and I, one on one, having a good time together.

One of Dad’s best traits is his patience. He never makes me feel foolish when I do thoughtless stuff. When I’ve made mistakes, he concentrates on the solution, not the error and he’s helped me overcome some doozies. I’m sure he can fix anything and go to him often with a problem. He is wise and loves people, especially me, unconditionally. He knows just what to say and when to just listen. He builds my self-esteem by making me feel like I can accomplish anything and with his help, I can.

Dad and Mark

1980’s – Dad and Mark boating

I love this picture, not only because it’s two of the best men I know, but I see and feel the adoration and enjoyment they have for one another. I am so fortunate because my two favorite men love each other. My folks always refer to their in-law children as bonus children. I must say and believe they would agree they won the jackpot when I married Mark.

I appreciate the wonderful father Mark is to our two children. He has taught them all the important things in life, but has taught them in a much different way than most fathers do. Some quotes from our daughter’s written story, Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy:

“The scene of my life drastically changed, after the car accident, and so had my dad’s. But like Bob Ross transforming a dark and ugly line of paint into a ‘happy little tree,’ I saw my dad use his tragic and life-changing disturbance to create a new kind of beauty.

He taught me the value of perseverance as he pushed through strenuous therapy. He learned to feed himself and speak again. He liked to say P.T. (physical therapy) really stood for ‘pain and torture.’

1992 – Mark kissing Katie. His ability to wrap arms around her came months later.

He showed me how burdens can be lightened by having a sense of humor. He often told people the scar on his stomach from the feeding tube he had was really a second bellybutton, which made him ‘twice the man.’

My dad (who wasn’t expected to live) not only survived, but thrives with a positive attitude. I’m blessed to call him Dad.”

Other quotes from Katie’s written story, Part II:

“After I had been married for about a year, my parents met me for lunch at a restaurant. We were quietly eating when I looked around the crowded room and realized my dad was the only person there in a wheelchair. I wondered if that ever bothered him. My thoughts were interrupted when my dad sat up in his chair with a big smile on his face and declared, “I’m the luckiest guy here!”

‘Why?’ I asked.

He replied, ‘Because I’m sitting next to the two most beautiful women in this room.’ Dad’s so busy looking for the good in every situation he doesn’t have time to notice the bad.

DadAndMe 2013

2013 – Katie & Mark

My dad has taught me the keys to happiness through his example. He chooses to be happy by having a sense of humor, being productive, forgiving, grateful and maintaining hope. My dad once said, ‘Adversity is the exercise that strengthens the muscle of character.’ I think my dad’s muscle of character has Hercules strength.”

One of Mark’s favorite childhood memories is the “way boss” swing his dad built for him when he was a kid. He built a beam between two trees about 30 feet off the ground. A rope was tied to the middle of the beam, creating the swing. Since his dad was a carpenter, at the bottom of the rope was a seat made from a gunny sack filled with sawdust. His father also built a ramp next to the swing so he could carry the swing up the ramp and jump off the top. Other fond memories are the clam digging adventures he went on with his dad and the wonderful home he took three years to build, working after his regular work hours.

Dads have a huge impact in our lives, whether they realize it or not. Hopefully, on this day your dad and mine will know how much we appreciate all the good they have done for us.

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful men out there loving and caring for others!

Moving in a New Direction

Written by, Eric Reynolds

Eric ReynoldsI suppose my mid-life crises were different from what many experience. My career path had been that of a businessman and salesman. In 2009 I was wrapped up in a real estate brokerage and watching the real estate world collapse around me. I overheard my wife talking with one of her friends about her husband’s dissatisfaction with his job running a “day program” or “sheltered workshop” for people with disabilities. I had a vague idea of what he did for work and thought to myself, “He doesn’t know how good he has it. The State will always pay their bills and they will never run out of money.” I determined that I should check into his business and he agreed to let me spend three days at his program in South Salt Lake. I left each day with a big grin on my face! I determined I would start a similar business in Utah County.

Through a series of painful and truly incredible events, I ended up as the Executive Director of Ability and Choice Services, Inc., which is owned by Dan Fazzini, Ph.D. out of Tulsa, OK. The company serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities including people with brain injuries. We have three facilities in Utah located in South Salt Lake, Draper and Tooele.

In these facilities we offer a variety of work, educational and activity based opportunities for people with a variety of disabilities. In addition, our company offers supported living and supported employment services. These services help individuals who need one-on-one services to assist them in their home or work environments. Since taking the helm a few years ago, the company has grown rapidly. We now serve over 150 people in various capacities. We provide people with disabilities a safe, clean, and positive environment where they can continue to grow, socialize with others, participate in community events, and even make some money doing simple tasks. However, some national movements and trends are about to change our business quite dramatically.

“In 1999 a case went before the Supreme Court which resulted in a landmark decision for people with disabilities. The court concluded that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act gives people with disabilities the right to receive services in the most integrated setting possible.” Olmstead v. L.C. 527 U.S.581, 607 (1999)

A subsequent lawsuit in Oregon (Lane v. Kitzhaber) argued that the State of Oregon was “unnecessarily segregating the named plaintiffs and members of the plaintiff class in sheltered workshops.” It further argued that individuals with disabilities working with other individuals with disabilities is a segregation and a violation of the ADA and that these individuals with disabilities must have substantial interaction with non-disabled peers outside of a workshop environment.

As an activity and work based day program running in a workshop environment, it is becoming increasingly clear that the rules are quickly changing our business. Under direction of the federal government, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Utah State Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) is developing a plan to help transition day programs, like ours, to better support individuals with disabilities in an integrated setting. This formal plan is to be released by the end of this year. The execution of this plan is to take up to four years. To get a jump start on this process, we have been interviewing the people we work with to better support them in their employment goals and objectives.

The contract/piece work we have performed in the past has been wonderful, but it is group work and is performed in a segregated environment. This group work in a segregated environment does not reflect the individual desires and interaction with non-disabled peers outside of our centers that the law is now requiring.  I expect this change to be fairly difficult.  A great deal of effort will be expended in promoting new activities in job sampling, job skills development and job placement.

“Customized Employment” in an integrated work setting with people who do not have disabilities is the goal. To find customized employment, we will consider a person’s interests, skill set, and the available opportunities that might work for them. We recognize, probably better than most, this proposition may seem like an impossible task for everyone we work with. I believe we will find successful employment for many individuals. However, we recognize that some individuals may not ever find successful employment in an integrated setting, but giving those people the opportunity to at least try can and should be considered successful. This success, I believe, will result in greater life fulfillment and happiness for those we serve.

What happens to day programs in the end? I’m not completely sure. My best guess is that they become employment training centers. This would be a place where a person with a disability, who is not currently employable, would go to learn new skills and abilities that will help make them more employable in the future. As DSPD introduces their plan in the next month or so, this will all become much clearer.

Working with people with disabilities can be challenging. However, I have found it is also super rewarding emotionally. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of the lives of those we serve. I’m grateful for those who day-in and day-out are watching over those we love. To those of you in this service, I say: Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your gentleness. Thank you for your understanding patience. Thank you for being one of life’s true heroes. You are the difference!

Thank you, Eric, for your article. I also add my thanks the the staff at Ability and Choice Services. Mark enjoys their friendship. I appreciate the safe, clean and positive atmosphere there and see daily how hard the staff works to meet each individual’s needs. Since Mark enjoys going there for the work aspect and not the activities, we are disappointed the contract work is coming to an end. With Mark’s seizures and physical limitations, I feel Mark is better supported in a segregated environment where staff is trained to deal with his and those of each individual with special needs. Working is very important to Mark and gives him self-worth. It’s difficult for me to understand how the integrated setting will work and be capable of meeting the special needs of some individuals with disabilities, including Mark. It will be interesting to see how this program evolves. I hope Ability and Choice Services or DSPD will give us an update on the development of this program. I’m keeping a positive attitude about the change—remembering that when one door closes another one opens.

Hope to see you on Tuesday— we’ll have tips on Customized Employment.

A Blessing in Disguise

i_dream_of_jeannie-showThere is always plenty of work to do and the holiday season is no exception. Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, but a lot of work. After hours of preparation, there’s the cleanup. What about Christmas? There’s more preparation for parties, dinners, decorations, shopping for gifts and all of this is done after employment hours. Sometimes I wonder why we do so much. Work Bewitched1can be stressful, strenuous and difficult. During those times I’ve dreamed of a genie (pun intended) granting my wish for less work and more play. In my youth, I also loved to watch the fantasy comedy sitcom, Bewitched. I’ve thought how awesome it would be to have the magical ability to accomplish anything with a twitch of my nose, clap of my hands, or a snap of my finger and thumb, eliminating all the hard work.

Have you ever thought of work as a blessing? Usually I think of it as the means to provide for the necessities of life. Without work, how do you pay for, prepare for, or participate in recreational activities and vacation time? Everything takes work, including the fun times.

I didn’t realize the worth of work until after our car accident, which made it impossible for Mark to continue in the electrical career he was schooled and trained in. He dedicated twelve years to the trade and was successful, reaching the highest level as a master electrician. After eighteen months of rehab, he was anxious to get back to work. Realizing he wouldn’t be able to work as an electrician while in a wheelchair, he asked every day what he should do with his life. He said he needed to be productive to have self-worth and wanted a purpose for life. Work provides purpose.

It was hard to imagine what he could do or that any other kind of work could bring him the fulfilment the electrical field did. I tried to convince him that rehab was his job. His focus should be regaining his physical and speech abilities so that he could go back to work as an electrician. Two years passed and he continued with his rehab, having eye surgery to fix his double vision and two surgeries on his feet to correct the foot drop, which made it difficult for him to stand. He continued to ask often when he could go back to work. I hadn’t realized before how important work is for making life worthwhile. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have or what we can do until it’s no longer available.

We volunteered at our children’s elementary school twice a week, reading with the kids or helping with math and spelling. Mark enjoyed the kids, but sometimes they couldn’t understand him because of his speech impairment. Children are so honest and they would ask him often what happened to him or why he couldn’t walk or talk. These comments were probably harder on me than they were on Mark. I wanted to protect him and our own two children, wondering what questions and comments they had to endure. I was worried they might become discouraged or uncomfortable with our circumstances so I thought it would be best if we volunteer elsewhere.

After checking into options with our church, Mark was able to do some volunteer work at the Bishop’s Storehouse posting food orders in the computer twice a week. He also went to my brother-in-law’s family music store to stamp their logo on their sheet music at Day Murray Music. He enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to go to these places and volunteering his time, but he wanted to financially contribute to our family needs.

The next year brought two more surgeries to fix Mark’s hip joints, which were filled with calcium, making it impossible for him to bend at 90 degrees. With his sight still set on getting back to work, I heard Mark often rehearsing electrical codes or terms so he wouldn’t forget them. He wanted me to pay the fee to keep his Master’s License current, but he was willing and wanting to do any kind of work until he got back on his feet. I had a hard time envisioning him finding any kind of employment because he was dependent on me for most tasks of daily living such as dressing, transferring in/out of the wheelchair and transportation, but wanting to support his goals, we pursued Vocational Rehab.

Scan0101

Mark at work desk at Discover Card

The male crew in the mail room

He went through an intense week of testing. His I.Q. score was higher than normal, but his physical skills were low. The program helped place him in a part-time job at Discover Card. He did computer work recording P.I.N.’s (personal identification numbers) and enjoyed that job for eight years until they closed down the mail center. This was the appointed area for all the eight employees with special needs. They worked together with one supervisor who was trained to oversee and help each individual accomplish their job. Most of the special needs employees sorted the mail to the various departments and delivered them there. Mark worked on the computer, but because he needed help getting to and from the Paratransit bus to his desk, the restroom, lunchroom plus make sure he was stocked with the paperwork needed for his computer entries, his work desk was located in the mail room. He couldn’t do this job without the help of the supervisor. The group of special needs employees were devastated when they were replaced by equipment which sorted and delivered the mail to the various departments in 2004.

Discover Card mail room crew

2004 Discover Card mail room crew

What do we do now? I knew it would be hard to find a job where Mark would be safe and get the help he needed to accomplish work tasks. I also knew he wouldn’t be satisfied being at home every day without work. I learned the importance of work and realize its worth is so much more than the monetary value. Work brings happiness.

Work is a blessing in disguise. We may curse it and wish we had less of it to do. I no longer dreamed of a genie to lighten the work load, but rather one who could help us find work for Mark. I wished I could twitch my nose, clap my hands, or snap my finger and thumb and make a job appear.

On Tuesday I’ll share with you tips on how we found work for Mark.

Twelve Things I’ve Learned About Grief

Keep Moving Forward

Grief is not easily discussed or thought about, yet it is something we all experience. My Sunday post, The Dreaded Phone Calls, caused me to reflect on the grieving process. Twenty-three years ago I had limited experience with grief and I’m still learning about the grieving process. I’ve done some research and realize it’s helpful to know what you’re facing and to know you’re not alone. For that reason I’d like to share what I have learned through my experience and research.

1) Grief is a normal part of life. If you love, it is inevitable and it doesn’t take the death of a loved one for it to come. It can appear with the loss of a job, relationship, and opportunities. A life altering accident or illness will cause one or possibly all three, which compounds the grief.

2) The pain is intense. I was not prepared for the emotional pain level I felt. It far out-weighed the physical pain of a broken collarbone and bruised body. Don’t be surprised when emotional pain manifests itself more severe than any physical pain you have experienced.

3) It takes time to heal. My world as I knew it ended, but life does go on, slowly. A new normal does come. You may be okay one minute, one hour or one day and not the next. Learn to accept what your heart and mind are feeling and work through it. Each of us grieves differently. Some situations and circumstances take longer than others. Be patient with yourself and others.

4) It’s okay to cry. No apology is necessary and you should do it as often as you need without feeling weak or embarrassed. But it’s okay to laugh, too. Don’t feel guilty for feeling positive emotions even when dealing with a loss.

5) Take care of yourself. Do healthy things you love even if you don’t feel like it. Eat healthy and take time to exercise. You may feel like you’re just going through the paces of life. Remember, you are still living and need to take care of yourself.

6) Don’t shut people out. It may appear by doing so you will save yourself from more pain and the self-pride of doing it alone. Most people want to be strong and do things on their own. However, cutting yourself off from relationships or refusing someone’s help can hurt you and others. It’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to need people. Tell friends and family specifically what you need. They will probably thank you for doing so.

7) Grief is a mixture of emotions. I felt despair, numbness, emptiness, guilt, anger, confusion and sadness. These emotions materialized at different times and in different ways. I didn’t like it or want it, but there was no going around it. The only way to get through it is head on.

8) Don’t hide from the pain. If you do, it will fester and grow and consume you. It’s tempting to rationalize, if I don’t think about it, it’ll just go away. While I do believe being busy helps—it’s not an escape from grief. Some people use hobbies, work, relationships or even liquor, sex, drugs, in hopes it will take the pain away. If you are using anything to try to numb the pain, it will make things worse in the long run. Seek help if you’re dealing with the sorrow in unhealthy ways.

9) No one will respond perfectly to your grief. People, even people you love, will let you down. Possibly they are too full with their own grief. Friends you thought would be there won’t be there and people you hardly know will reach out. Be prepared to give others grace. Be prepared to work through hurt and forgiveness at others’ reactions.

10) God will be there for you. Prayer is the gateway of communication with Him. He understands your emotions better than anyone. Your prayers may not be answered the way you want them to be, but without a doubt, He is near to the brokenhearted.

11) You will ask “Why?” If you’re like me, you’ll ask it many times and you may never get an answer. What helps is asking, “How? How can I change and grow from this, how can I become better, how can I embrace others?”

12) Grief changes you. Life will not be normal and routines may need to be different. Try to keep as much structure as possible in your life and minimize the amount of change. Grieving takes most, if not all, of your strength. Do not worry if you don’t have as much energy as you did before your loss. Don’t feel guilty about doing less. Realize anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, places, objects and people may all trigger memories surrounding your loss. Be prepared for a gush of grief during these times. The process of grieving makes a person change who they are emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. It is okay to change. Embrace the change rather than fight it.

What things have you learned about grief that you wish you’d known before your loss?

Resources:

“What To Know About Grief” by Kelly Baltzell M.A. & Karin Baltzell Ph.D                                “15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief” by Teryn O’Brien

 

Time Is Your Friend

Recently, Mark stated, “Time is your friend, not your enemy.”

If it’s my friend, then why do I  feel like I’m always in a battle with it? I just don’t have enough of it to do all I’d like to do. You may be thinking, well, we all have the same amount of time! This is partially true. There is sixty seconds to every minute, sixty minutes to every hour, and twenty-four hours to every day. However, none of us knows how many years, days or hours we have in a life-time, which makes it different for each one of us.

In my youth I never thought about it . . . I was invincible and too busy planning all the things I’d achieve in a lifetime, like how many children and grandchildren I’d have, all the wonderful vacation spots I’d see, and all that I’d accomplish in my career.

At age thirty-two I was in a car accident that postpone my plans. The desire to obtain has not changed, but in a single second my direction in life took a dramatic turn. I guess I haven’t fully made peace with the change because the older I get the louder I hear the click of the clock, and see that time is rapidly passing. It seems with age, the disappointment of unfulfilled expectation grows, along with the realization that some things may not be accomplished in this life.

Since the car accident, often, when Mark is asked how things are going, he’ll say, “slow, but sure . . . but, sure slow.” This statement is right on. Every ability Mark has comes slowly, much too slowly for me and for him. However, he steadily works every day for improvement and has done so for the past twenty-two years.

He struggles to do things the rest of us do without thought or effort  like eating, drinking; brushing his teeth, combing his hair; typing or writing; propelling a wheelchair; balancing on the edge of the bed, or rolling over in bed. He has to concentrate and work hard at moving his arms, legs and feet. In other words, what most of us do without thought or effort, Mark works at and it becomes meaningful. Speaking also takes a lot of effort for Mark. Consequently, he chooses his words carefully and says a lot with just a few words.  He thinks before he speaks. A trait I’m trying to cultivate.

Because Mark’s progression is slow, his destination is sure. He knows exactly what he’s working towards and he has a plan how to get there. He feels enormous amounts of joy and fulfillment when he reaches his goals. The time and effort it takes makes his abilities so impressive. Mark is teaching me that when things come slowly they mean more.

Mark has also said, “Time is not an obstacle. When you make peace with time you can think positively about the future.”

I’ve been pondering this statement and have come to the conclusion that this is one reason why Mark is at peace with himself. He understands that time is on his side; he’s not in a race against anyone else. Therefore, he is the most positive person I know.

Faith in timing

One day I asked Mark if he had an age goal he hoped to reach. He answered, “just as long as it takes,” another profound statement.

Mark inspires me and I know he is right. The amount of time we have isn’t what matters. It’s the striving to accomplish, grow, and improve that counts. Mark’s patience teaches me that it doesn’t matter if it comes slow, as long as it’s sure . . . and some times, it sure seems slow!

 I love being married to such a wise man.