Fandom and Socialization

According to a study published in MediCareful Living, One of the most straightforward mental health benefits of sports fandom is the sense of belonging and community that comes with it. Being a fan of a team opens the door to new social groups since your fandom gives you a connection to people you may not otherwise have had. Fan events can allow you to meet and share experiences with new people and grow even closer to your team! For example, you may get the chance to come together as a large group to watch an important game or meet a former player. Watching games or matches is also a great excuse to get together with friends!

It is good to be passionate about something. It gives you an outlet to reduce stress, socialize, and provide you with something to think about other than your current situation. I am passionate about Formula 1 racing. Everyone’s fandom is different. One of my best friends likes Formula 1 as well, but he is passionate about the NBA. I think he would watch every game if he could. What interests me is what happens to a fan during the offseason. I know I find myself longing for the time to go by for winter testing and then that first race in Melbourne. This year was worse because of Covid-19. Many of the first races were postponed or canceled, and the first race didn’t take place until July. It was a long, miserable wait. I found that I was out of sorts, desperate to have those talks with my brother, and longing for the sounds of engines starting up. During the offseason of most sports, there is still lots of activity; from chat rooms to video blogs to video games, there are many ways to engage in one’s fandom.

Fandom, whether it’s science fiction, sports, video games, or music, provides many beneficial outlets that have shown to be very positive for one’s mental health. Besides the neurochemical mechanisms that occur when participating in the activity or watching an event, there are socialization opportunities that can provide engagement to individuals with no other outlets. I have found that when I am at a concert or watching a race, I get a rush that I don’t get on just a regular day. I have also found that I get a great deal of enjoyment from engaging on chat boards, playing fantasy leagues, playing video games associated with my favorite sports, and reading articles.

Having a disability can lead to a very lonely existence IF YOU LET IT. You can isolate yourself and avoid social situations because you are embarrassed about your symptoms or are afraid or think it’s too much of a hassle. Being involved in a fandom of some sort is a fantastic way to socialize in a virtual environment, which means that most of the hassle of being involved is removed. 

I have found one of the most healing activities that I participate in is being with my friends, and especially talking about my favorite sports and activities. I have seen the adverse effects of isolation; I have friends and loved ones who have locked themselves away and won’t talk to anyone, which makes them more and more miserable. If I could only persuade them to engage with friends or family, I know how much better off they would be. Socialization is so important to one’s mental health. For years, I have made a concerted effort to regularly interact with friends and family, which has had a very positive effect on my mental well-being. The times in my life when I was isolated and candidly was feeling sorry for myself, I was lonely and miserable, and my symptoms were much worse. When you have a genuine connection with people, whether family, friends or those you meet through your fandom, you have a sense of belonging, which otherwise you might not ever experience. A sense of belonging always makes me feel accepted no matter what my physical limitations are; I’m not just known for my disability but for what I can contribute to a society that gives me confidence. For example, when I am talking to a friend or family member about Formula 1, and we can speak intelligently about the race, the drivers, the technical aspects of the cars, I feel somewhat accomplished.

I also got a PS4 for Christmas this past year. Now, I don’t sit around and play video games all day, but it gives me something I can do with my boys, and its another outlet to socialize with others that love the games that I do. My point here is that whether you emerge yourself in a sport, a video game, a TV show, and use them to engage with others, it can be very healing and satisfying. Everyone is looking for a sense of purpose; it’s a natural human desire. You might not find it right away. It took me two years after I went on disability to stop feeling wholly inadequate and immersed myself in the things about which I am passionate. I know that my purpose is to serve others, whether through my blog, through my church, The Boy Scouts, or the FCA, and embracing these things. The other part of my life is staying engaged with friends and family, immersing myself in the things I am a fan of, and intentionally finding ways to socialize. It has made a world of difference, and I am in a much better place emotionally than I was since I had my career. As we have discussed, there are many healthy ways to express oneself and to engage with others. I used to think that my job was the only way for me to do this. Still, I have now found many alternatives to engage with others in a meaningful way that provides close relationships, camaraderie, and avenues for self-expression. If you are searching for a new purpose in life because your circumstances have changed, start thinking. You can engage with others, how you can serve others, and ways you can express yourself through the things for which you are passionate.

My-My-My-My Sharona – The Healing Power of Music

Music is a big part of my life; it motivates me, comforts me, angers me, and loves me. There are times it is like the artist is singing directly to me. I had the privilege of meeting many artists throughout my life, including producing concerts for hundreds of bands and managing two artists. I have produced shows for everyone from Billy Currington to Toby Keith and Night Ranger to Three Dog Night and Grand Funk Railroad. And yes, I had to throw sweet sweet Connie out of a backstage meet and greet. I have loved every one of them. Each one of them gave me a different perspective on music. It is one part of my life that I miss very much. I have some pretty entertaining stories from some of these bands.

I am a lapsed musician myself, but recently I have started playing guitar and writing again. I have started taking some lessons from a guy from our church who got his degree in guitar. I find that music, playing, or listening is very cathartic. According to the American Psychological Association, while music has long been recognized as an effective form of therapy to provide an outlet for emotions, the notion of using song, sound frequencies, and rhythm to treat physical ailments is a relatively new domain, says psychologist Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D., who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal. A wealth of new studies is touting the benefits of music on mental and physical health. For example, in a meta-analysis of 400 studies, Levitin and his postgraduate research fellow, Mona Lisa Chanda, Ph.D., found that music improves the body’s immune system function and reduces stress. Listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, April 2013).

“We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health-care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” says Levitin, author of the book “This Is Your Brain on Music” (Plume/Penguin, 2007). The analysis also points to just how music influences health. The researchers found that listening to and playing music increase the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system’s effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  

When I have suffered from significant stress or severe pain or bad days from Parkinson’s, I have found that listening to music has had a substantial impact on my symptoms. I love all kinds of music. There are very few kinds of music of which I don’t listen. When I was running every day, and when I was running half marathons, I always had to play music. It helped me keep my pace, which helped me ignore the pain from which I was suffering. I have found that the studies are accurate ad that it does reduce pain, reduces stress, and helps with emotional wellbeing. Let me encourage you to get a subscription to a music service like Google Play or Apple Music. They are relatively inexpensive but provide unlimited downloads of your favorite music. I have music for meditation, for exercise and even to help me sleep, 

My love of music started over three and a half decades ago when I was in the Birmingham Boys Choir. Our director, who is still the director today, introduced me to music from around the world. I sang the Hallelujah Chorus with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and performed in the opera La Bohem. I attended the Royal School of Church Music and studied years of music theory. These developmental years, I believe, is what gave me my love of music. I don’t think I realized until I was much older the amazing healing qualities that music has. Why do you think many surgeons play music in the operating room? Studies have shown that it reduces the level of stress in the operating room and increases healing time for the patient. At a very early age, I tried to introduce my children to music. My oldest son played tuba and sousaphone through college, and my youngest son now sings in the Birmingham Boys Choir and wants to be a music teacher when he graduates college. According to Dr. Ibrahim Baltagi, It is proven that music has a role in brain development before birth. Listening to music during pregnancy will not only have a soothing and uplifting effect on the pregnant woman, but also a positive influence on the unborn baby.

Around 16─18 weeks of pregnancy, the little one hears its very first sound. By 24 weeks, the little ears start to develop rapidly, and babies have been shown to turn their heads in response to voices and noise in the last few months of pregnancy; an unborn baby can recognize her mother’s voice, her native language, word patterns, and rhymes.

So, the bottom line is, embrace music. It can provide a source of heeling that you don’t have to inject or swallow. If you are living with a chronic illness, why not try it. The worst-case scenario is you get some enjoyment out of listening to something new, but I think you will find that you get many more benefits from it than you thought you would. I also recommend making sure you download Shazam. When you here a song you like on a TV show or a movie, press the Shazam buttton and it immediately identifies the song and artist and adds it to your playlist. It’s a god way to get introduced to new artists. So go out and discover new music. Enjoy

Hope In All Things

If you have ever been in the hospital, you know that you are ready to go home by day two. I think being in the hospital makes you feel worse than if you were at home. Last month, I was in the hospital for eight days, and I am writing this on day five of my stay at the hospital this month. The reality is, the food is terrible; they poke and prod you every hour, so you never get any rest, and the beds are awful. I had the bonus of having a TV in my room about the size of a postage stamp. It turns out having a tiny TV was a good thing; I never turned it on, so I have no idea what is happening in the world right now.

So, last night, the infectious disease doctor who has been managing my case, albeit from afar as it was the first time I had seen him since being admitted, told me everything looked good and that I could go home last night. I was excited. My wife happened to be here already, so she helped me get everything packed up, and then we waited for about an hour and a half. The timing wasn’t great as the doctor had come to see me right around 7:00, which is shift change for the nurses, so I knew it would take a while to get discharged. 

After an hour and a half of patiently waiting for my nurse to come to remove my picc line and discharge me, my nurse came into the room and said, “is there anything you need right now?” I told her that my doctor said I could go home and be discharged tonight. She then informed me that I would not be going home. She said my attending physician said no, and he wanted to wait until today when he saw me deciding whether or not to discharge me.

So, basically, there were two larger than life egos on my care team, and there was only room for one at a time in my orbit, and here I was stuck in the middle. All I wanted was to go home and sleep in my bed and take a shower. Please don’t misunderstand me; both of my doctors are excellent doctors with very nice bedside manners. Apart they are great, but when one massive ego challenges another large ego, look out for the fireworks. My Infectious Disease doctor didn’t have permission to discharge me and should have reached out to my attending before telling me I was going home.

I was crushed. Yesterday would be twelve days in the hospital in the last forty-five days, and I was so tired of being here. The antibiotics they had me on were the big guns, so I was having symptoms related to them; I was nauseous all of the time, and my taste buds were all out of sorts. Before they would let me go home, they wanted to see what the blood cultures showed. The crazy thing about blood cultures are they can come back in as few of days as two up to five days on the outside limits. Mine were taking their good sweet time. It is hard enough to be in the hospital, but I needed this infection to be gone so I could get off all of these antibiotics.

Hope is a precarious thing. It can motivate and help keep one’s spirits up, but it can also be damaging. If you are hoping for something and then it never comes to fruition, it can crush you emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. I have seen it keep a person going, and I have seen it destroy a person’s faith. It is easy to get wrapped up in other people’s issues, and when their problems don’t resolve in the way that they had hoped, they are blindsided.

Hope is defined, according to, as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Faith, like hope in scripture, describes it in Hebrews 11:1 (NLT): Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Faith and hope are uniquely tied together. You need to have faith to have hope. That may be faith in God, in science, or many other things. Hope, with the right expectations, can bring peace and give clarity to an unclear situation. Hope should be in all of us, but unfortunately, some people, because of events that took place earlier in their lives, have abandoned hope and cannot cope with any adverse circumstances that come their way. You can have hope again, regardless of where things have taken you. My hope comes from God. Everyone is different, and I am not condemning you if you believe differently than I do. In the deepest part of me, I believe God has a plan for me. If He has a plan, I have hope in the future and that it will all work out to His glory. 

So I am finishing this post from home. The attending doctor in the hospital who wouldn’t let me last night came in my room around 8:00 and said, “you ready to go home?” I wanted to say something inappropriate, but I refrained. Whenever I go to the doctor or am in the hospital, I end up waiting a long time, so I wasn’t surprised when two doctors couldn’t come to a simple decision. No matter the situation and no matter how frustrating it is, I still have hope that it will work out. So what is one more night in the hospital? It is easy to get frustrated at doctors, at hospitals, and circumstances in general, but what does that solve; nothing. It is better to accept your conditions and have hope. Now I am not saying you should take abuse or mistreatment or discrimination. If you are a victim, stand up for your rights and speak up.

The bottom line is you will face difficult circumstances in your life, especially if you have a disability or a chronic illness. It may seem like you are alone in all of this, but if you have hope, you can see yourself through any situation. I know it is what keeps me going every day. If you are reading this and are searching for something to keep you going, try looking past your circumstances, looking for the best outcome, and hoping that everything will work out for the best in the long run.

Never Again!

Let me give you a little background information. In June, I was admitted to the hospital because of a bad cough, high fever, shortness of breath, and a pulse ox of 82%. It turns out I had staph pneumonia as well as staph in my bloodstream. I spent eight days in the hospital getting oxygen, getting massive doses of antibiotics, and generally not sleeping a bloody wink; how can you when they are coming into your room every hour to poke and prod you.

Let me first say that there are many good doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals who work at this hospital, but let me make something very clear; I will NEVER come back here again. I think I will have this engraved on my medical ID, so they know not to bring me here. There is no doubt that I have paid for several people’s salaries several times over again with all of the surgeries and hospital stays I have had, but I don’t want this to be about me. I know many of you out there have had similar experiences because you have Parkinson’s or some other disability.

The last time I was here, my stay was okay. Having said that, I tried to explain to them I was in excruciating pain but they wouldn’t do anything about it. This is more common than not in today’s healthcare system. This time, my experience was even more special. Yesterday, when I was in the Emergency Room, I had a very entertaining experience (I’m kidding, of course). My ER nurse was one of the most insensitive, heartless, belligerent people in healthcare I have ever met. If you recall, I have Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease. I have good days, and I have bad days. There are days where I can barely walk, even with a walker. I fall about once a month. Some days I shake uncontrollably and other days, I do not. Well, yesterday was a bad day. I was trying to go from my walker to a wheelchair and I was shaking badly. My right leg is so weak (more on that story in just a bit) that I had a hard time getting into the wheelchair. I was having such a bad spasm I was falling forward out of the chair. There was nothing I could do, and I asked for help so that I didn’t fall. So, what did our nurse of the year do? She called security to have them shove me down in the wheelchair, then three times over the next little bit of time that I was being triaged, she accused me of trying to jump out of my chair. When I finally explained to her that I have Parkinson’s, she quit talking about it.

So, what am I going to do now? I am going to speak with a hospital administrator/patient advocate today, and hopefully, somebody listens. To be accused of trying to jump on the floor in front of other people was probably the most humiliating experience I have ever experienced, especially when I know there are times that I can’t control my body; It betrays me regularly. But to be called out like that in public by a healthcare worker was unacceptable. There are many of you reading this that have been through something similar. Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t count. Speak up, speak out, and make someone listen. This incident was bad enough, in my opinion, that I do not think she should just be reprimanded, but she should be terminated. I am a pretty laid back guy, so coming from me, you should realize how upset I am. If she had worked for me and talked to a fan or customer in that way, regardless of whether she was right or not, I would have terminated her on the spot. I consider this situation even worse. Healthcare workers are supposed to be compassionate, caring, and most importantly, try and find a reason for what is happening rather than just jumping to conclusions.

When you live a life with a disability, you expect some looks, some comments, and maybe even some discrimination, but you don’t expect it from healthcare workers. From them, you expect kindness and understanding. I am not saying everyone should have a pity party but some compassion would be nice. When that doesn’t happen, you must stand up for your rights. If your rights are violated, speak up, and demand that your voice be heard. This is the only way that those of us living with a disability will ever be on an equal playing field with those that are not.

So back to the reason that my right leg is so weak. I found out that the Neurosurgeon at this hospital that did my last surgery didn’t do a stunning job, and that is why I am in so much pain. I had a consult with another physician, and he was appalled at how badly my last surgery was performed. I have a screw from the fusion that is pushing into the nerve root of my back; I have a great deal of scar tissue already built up around the site; they did not remove the disc where they did the fusion, which is just pure laziness and unacceptable. In addition, I have a herniated disc at the level directly above where I had the fusion surgery done. I was getting a second opinion from this doctor who recommended I go back to the surgeon who did all of my neck fusions (C4 through C7) and get him to do a revision surgery on my lower back. As my second opinion doctor said of my surgeon at one of the other hospitals in town, “that may be the most beautiful fusion I have ever seen.”

So, what do I do now? Do I just walk out? No, I can’t do that because if this staph infection is back, it could kill me. So, I guess I will go along with it for now until the absolute soonest I can get out of here. If something like this ever happens again, I will go to one of the many other exceptional hospitals in town. Unless there is a miracle and some essential things change, I will never step foot in this hospital again as a patient. If you have ever been in a situation like this, it can be humiliating and frustrating. Don’t let it go by without addressing it with someone in authority. You deserve the best healthcare available, and when someone violates that trust, you have to make it known.

Now What Do I Do?

In the past, I would get up in the morning and head to the office, work all day, come home, eat dinner, watch a little TV and go to bed. Wash, rinse, and repeat. I never had to think about what I was going to have to do during my day. I never had to plan anything out; it was just routine. Things are much different now. Now, I have to think about what I am going to do for the day, or I end up doing nothing, which is unhealthy.

Now, my routine is this; wake up around 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, if I sleep at all, do some Bible study, do about an hour or so of writing, maybe watch some Netflix, Hulu, or Prime TV. Somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00, I let Alonso, my eight-month-old black lab, out, then I watch the local news and have some breakfast. I then fill the rest of my day with volunteer work, playing guitar, reading, physical therapy, watching some more TV, maybe playing my PS4 for a while, work on my classwork, get a little exercise, and work on training Alonso.

My days are much different than what they used to be. Now, I will admit, there are days where I don’t want to do much of anything. Nights when I haven’t gotten any sleep at all, which is once or twice a week, I am so exhausted, I do not have the energy to do anything but write, read and watch TV. Those are the day that I feel most useless.

It is innate to a person’s psyche to feel like they have a purpose in life. Without this, you feel empty, listless, like you are wandering in the wilderness with no way to get to your destination. One of the hardest realities I had to face was finding a new purpose in life. I had to find a way to feel like a productive member of society. There are many days that I still feel like I have not accomplished this, and I feel like I am not useful to anyone, but I know that is just negative self-talk. I know that God has a purpose for me; I have to find and pursue it. The only way to be truly fulfilled is to find your purpose and pursue it. In many ways, I am still searching to discover what that is, but I have hope that it will become apparent to me. 

Many of you out there face the same challenges that I do, asking yourself how do I live a productive life now that I am on disability? The answer is different for everyone and extremely challenging. I believe when people lose their careers, they go through the typical five stages of grief. Once they have come to acceptance, they can finally move on and determine how their new life looks. Coming to acceptance is not an easy task. For many, coming to acceptance takes much longer than others, and they find themselves in a sort of limbo, not only not knowing what to do with their day but not having the motivation to do anything.

I had to take it one step at a time. I was already involved with some volunteer organizations, so I had a good start. I got more involved with my church and decided to go back to school to get a second master’s degree. Even then, that only took up a small part of my day. I still find myself searching for significance and a new purpose, and I am in a much better place than I was two and a half years ago. 

There are many things that I can’t do physically anymore, and that is very frustrating. I can’t really do yard work or housework or anything that requires much physical exertion. I am usually in so much pain; it is difficult to do any of these things. I have found that this is one of the most frustrating things about my situation. When I can no longer do the things I used to do, I feel very inadequate. There are days I want to write or play guitar; my hands are shaking so badly that I can neither. On those days, I just have to accept my limitations, find something else to do, or I end up just having a massive pity party, and I get nothing accomplished.

When you find yourself in a different life circumstance and have to rework your daily life, you must keep yourself busy searching for things that give you meaning. Another crucial element is the human connection. I make it a point to interact with other people during my day. I have several close friends that I talk to almost every day. They help motivate me, make me laugh, and generally keep my spirits up.

Some studies show that fandom, whether sports, science fiction, video games, etc., can help with overall mental health, but that is a topic that I will cover another day. The critical thing to remember is to involve yourself. Keep busy, play a little, find a hobby, and engage your mind. I still find that I have many hours of the day where I don’t have anything to involve myself, but I am searching every day to fill those voids. Trust me, I understand that you might not feel like it, and you may question if you will ever be a productive member of society ever again, but you can be. Take some time to figure it our but above all, don’t give up hope.

Healthcare in the United States

Unlike most developed nations, the US health system does not provide health care to the country’s entire population.[1] Instead, most citizens are covered by a combination of private insurance and various federal and state programs.[2] As of 2017, health insurance was most commonly acquired through a group plan tied to an employer, covering 150 million people.[3] Other major sources include Medicaid, covering 70 million, Medicare, 50 million, and health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) covering around 17 million.[3] In 2017, a study found that 73% of plans on ACA marketplaces had narrow networks, limiting access and choice in providers.[3]

I have excellent healthcare. I have private insurance (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield) and Medicare because I am on disability. Even with this healthcare, I spend between $15,000 and $20,000 per year on healthcare. Roughly 18% of Americans are uninsured. That does not include the number of Americans that are underinsured. Those uninsured and underinsured can’t afford proper medical care, so many go without seeing a doctor or getting necessary prescriptions, leading to approximately 60,000 preventable deaths per year.

Now, politically I am somewhere in the middle. I am fiscally conservative and environmentally and socially more liberal. My problem is I believe we need major healthcare reform, and I support a single-party payer or universal healthcare, but I have no idea how we could ever pay for it. Don’t translate my views and think I am a socialist because I am not. Most countries in the world that provide universal healthcare are not socialist; they are democratic nations.

One of the worst things that can happen to someone without healthcare is to be hospitalized. When they get out, they are burdened with sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars of healthcare debt that they will never be able to pay. This puts a severe burden on the individual and the hospital, who often has to write off a large portion of this debt. The Affordable care Act was supposed to resolve this problem, but let me tell you there is nothing affordable about it. When I first went on disability, my wife was working for a company that did not provide health insurance, so I had to go to the Health Exchange to look for insurance or pay for Cobra. When I went to the Health Exchange, I found that I would have premiums of roughly $1,200 per month for subpar coverage. The Affordable Care Act has done absolutely nothing to provide affordable healthcare. Luckily my wife was hired by a different company that offered excellent health coverage.

I know a lot of uninsured or underinsured people, and I see them rationing prescriptions, not seeing a doctor, and not getting the treatment they need. On the other hand, I have a friend that is Canadian who is married to an American who, while living in Canada, had a life-threatening medical problem. It was going to take over nine months for her to be seen by a specialist, so they moved back to the US to be treated immediately. Without immediate treatment, she could have died. Countries with universal healthcare do not have all the answers. It isn’t easy to see a specialist because they are so back-logged. I don’t know what the answer is, but something has to be done.

I haven’t even discussed the topic of those with preexisting conditions. If you are like me and have preexisting conditions, getting affordable health insurance is nearly impossible. Unless you can get on a group plan through an employer, you will be charged considerably higher rates because of those conditions. Why is it that those that need healthcare the most have the hardest time accessing it?

Like I said earlier, I don’t know the answer, but the current system is not the answer. People are dying, suffering, and going bankrupt because of the lack of availability of medical care. The United States is consistently ranked as having one of the worst healthcare systems in all developed countries. How can one of the wealthiest countries in the world have such lousy healthcare? This ranking isn’t based on the quality of healthcare, as there are many brilliant physicians and many exceptional hospitals in the US. It is based on affordability and access to good healthcare. There has to be a solution that doesn’t drive up US debt but provides affordable healthcare to US citizens.

  1. a b Institute of Medicine. Committee on the Consequences of Uninsurance (January 13, 2004). Insuring America’s health: principles and recommendations. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. p. 25ISBN 978-0-309-52826-9.
  2. ^ Access to health care in America. Institute of Medicine, Committee on Monitoring Access to Personal Health Care Services. Millman M, editor. Washington: National Academies Press; 1993.
  3. a b c “The Decline of Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance” Retrieved November 25, 2018.

Racism and Discrimination

I will never understand what it is like to experience racism, but I do understand discrimination. Many that live with disabilities understand what it is like to experience discrimination. From searching for a job, getting life insurance, eating at a restaurant, and getting medical care, discrimination shows itself around every corner. Just as discrimination because of one’s disability is unjust, so is racism. The problem with both is no one wants to talk about them, and if we don’t, we as a country will never move forward and truly live in a just society.

Just like any form of discrimination, any type of racism makes me sick. Jesus Christ gave two commandments; to love God and to love others. He didn’t say to love others if they look like us or talk like us. He just said to love others. The only way our country will heal is if we love others. At its core, racism starts with feelings of superiority and is the greatest form of ignorance in our society. According to, racism is defined as a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

Racism and discrimination have been around since the first societies existed. People with diseases or disabilities were ostracized and not allowed to take part in the community. People who came from different heritages were looked down upon and excluded from everyday life. I would hope that in 2020 we would be living in a more enlightened society, but alas, we do not. Except for a radical few who believe they are superior to others, most consider that Hitler murdering millions of Jews an abomination. If we, as a society, know that this was wrong, how do we still look down on others that are different from us?

Years ago, when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem, I thought it was unpatriotic and didn’t comprehend what he was standing up for. When I saw the face of the police officer that murdered George Floyd, I understood. We have an epidemic in America of racism and discrimination, and it has to be discussed if it is ever going to get any better. I have family and friends that have participated in Black Lives Matter protests. Although I do support this movement, the reality should be that ALL lives matter. My wife told me about a talk she heard on the radio last weekend. The speaker said that Jesus left the 99 sheep that were safe to go after and save the 1 sheep that was lost; he said this is Black Lives Matter. Everyone should be treated equally, have the same opportunities, access to healthcare, education, and other social opportunities.

Racism isn’t just a southern thing. It is prevalent throughout the entire country. As a whole, people are afraid to have meaningful conversations about it, and until we get outside of our comfort zone, admit our shortcomings and prejudices, we will never have a significant change. I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood, went to primarily white schools, so I was, for the most part, sheltered from social injustice. Even in college, in south Alabama, I was somewhat isolated from the problem. Now I had friends from different races, cultures, and backgrounds, but I never had the conversation with them of what they had experienced growing up, so I never understood. It wasn’t until I started having intentional conversations about racism in America that I began to understand the problem. When I first experienced discrimination myself because of my disabilities, it became more real to me.

I consider myself fortunate to have many friends from different backgrounds and cultures. I have intentionally tried to expose my children to other cultures so that they grow up understanding that we are all one race. Still, we have different backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs, and world views. I believe they and I are better for it. They understand that any form of racism or discrimination should never be tolerated. We must seek to understand the problems that we face in society if we are ever to have meaningful change. Racism and discrimination are very polarizing topics as many believe that those who follow the Black Lives Matter movement are just overreacting, but when you see your fellow men and women being murdered in the streets of America, how can you not react passionately. If my health allowed, I would be out in the streets with my fellow man demanding social justice.

Do I understand discrimination? Yes. Do I genuinely understand racism? No. I don’t think anyone that is not from a minority ethnicity can truly understand the effects of racism. I can empathize, I can support, I can have meaningful conversations, but I can never truly understand. But what we have to do as predominantly white America is become more educated, recognize our differences, and love one another. America is on the verge of mass riots and hate crimes, and it shows how little has changed in the last hundred years.

If you have ever experienced racism or discrimination, I would love to hear from you and further the conversation. I believe there is hope, and that change is possible. I pray that we can see past our differences and learn to have tolerance, acceptance, and love for our fellow men and women that we live with, work with, and stand by our brothers and sisters during times of injustice and that we demand radical change.

What is Success?

Photo by Pixabay on defines success as the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals. The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like. I believe success is measured by two components; one subjective and one objective; one’s world view and one’s place in life. One’s world view plays an important part in determining one’s view of success. One view of success is definitely measured in attainment of wealth, position, etc. Another view of success is determined by how one lives their life and if they live life according to a set of morays that are defined by one’s belief system. One view of success can be material and one can be more altruistic.  Success is also measured differently depending on one’s place in life. I know that my view of it has changed dramatically. I have many friends who are very satisfied with their work as scientists who don’t seek the material  but rather the satisfaction of helping the world. I also have friends that are so focused on the material, they loose sight of things like friends, family and serving others.

I know when I first began my career, I measured success by how much money I made, where I lived, what kind of car I drove, and many other material things. Now that I am older and my life circumstances have changed, I measure success very differently. I am a Christian and I am not ashamed of that and it definitely affects my outlook and worldview. I think God gives us relationships, circumstances, and gifts to manage. Do we lead with integrity? Are we good stewards with what He has given us (Matthew 25:14–18 (NLT): “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.” Are we seeking to live a life of righteousness? God evaluates success by obedience and faithfulness to do what He’s called us to do, not by results.

Do you really want to live a life in pursuit of things? Whether you are religious or not, shouldn’t there be more to life than the material? Life has so much more to offer than that. I believe true fulfillment comes from serving others. Serving others is not only a noble pursuit, it is one that brings great satisfaction. I serve on two boards of youth organizations and I do service work at my church. I get a great amount of fullfillment by doing this. Now, I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that I missed my old income, my career, but I know all of that is temporary and being a servant to others is eternal. Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe our eternal destination is based on works but I believe what we do in this life lasts longer than we do.

I have been having this discussion with a good friend of mine. He owns his own business and he Is struggling to determine whether or not he is successful or not. Another friend of ours made a very valid point that we are given two commandments; to love God and to love others.  My friend who I have been having this conversation with is soul-searching for meaning and a way to define and measure his success both professionally and personally. He has been through a lot over the last year and a half and based on his many major life changes, it is understandable that he is searching for answers. At some point, I believe everyone goes through this. Circumstances change and redefining one’s purpose is a necessary part of life.

If success is partly measured by how we love others, we, as a society are failing miserably. Now I am not suggesting that no one is doing this well but we have seen so many failings and injustices in society today it makes me question how many people really understand this calling. The political angst, the racism, friends going after friends on social media are just a few examples that show we are not loving each other. This post is not about these topics but I will address them in another post. I just use them as examples to make a point.

When I lost my career due to disability, I struggled for a couple of years searching for a sense of fulfillment and success. I didn’t realize at the time that I needed to redefine my outlook on what success is and adjust my worldview to my current circumstances. For two years, I really struggled personally that my life had no purpose anymore because all that I knew was my professional life and I didn’t know that I needed to seek a new purpose; one that fit into my new life. I can no longer do the things I used to do so I had to find a new normal. The answers were right in front of me but I was too blinded by my old views that I failed to see what I was called to do in my new circumstances. I don’t have all the answers and there are days when I still struggle to find meaning but when I really contemplate the matter, I realize that serving others is what I am called to do and that gives me a sense of fulfillment and success that I never had before.

If you are like me and are having to adjust to a new normal because you are disabled, you are not alone. You have to redefine what success is and search for a new purpose in life. To stay healthy mentally, you really need to make it a priority to find an outlet to serve.

Be well and serve others.

My Wife, My Rock

Twenty-nine years ago in an Anatomy and Physiology class at the University of South Alabama I met the love of my life. Now at the time, I was dating someone and so was she but we became lab partners, study partners and good friends. For a couple of years this is how it was. Then we both found ourselves single so we decided to go out on a date. Our first date was December 24, 1993. We were engaged June 6, 1994 and married November 03, 1994. I tell you this history because I want you to know what an incredible, loving, and faithful person I met nearly thirty years ago. Now since then we have been through a lot; the birth of our two wonderful boys, many moves around the country, economic hardship, economic prosperity, death, and my reason for writing this post, many health issues.

Over the years, between all of my surgeries, hospitalizations, and health issues, she has always been there for me; giving me care, loving me unconditionally, and sometimes putting me in my place (which I most certainly deserved). Countless times she has been by my side when I was going through a crisis; the loss of my dad, the loss of two of my brothers, and sitting beside my hospital bed talking to doctors.

We have always joked with each other that she is actually Wonder Woman. She has always had a career as a professional, a mother, and a wife. She has dedicated her life to doing her part in raising our children, supporting me, and bettering the community. No one has ever impressed me more than my wife. She is caring, giving, staunchly protective, maybe a little stubborn, and humble.

My wife is constantly on the move. She makes many homemade items (jams, breads, etc,) that she sells at one of the local farmer’s markets every Saturday, she is the Scoutmaster of one of the first Scouts BSA girl troops in the state, she is involved at the church, but most importantly, she takes care of me. She does it all and sometimes I find myself taking for granted her generosity. I try not to; I just do. Even when I do, she still shows me grace and love.

Now you might ask what does all of this have to do with living a life with disabilities. Well, it has everything to do with it, as I honestly do not think I would have made it through everything I have gone through without her. She has been my rock during everything I have gone through. I know that many people are going through this alone and I have a lot of respect and compassion for those that are. I am so thankful that my wife is by my side when I have needed her the most. Living with a disability can create very lonely feelings and if you let it, can be very isolating. 

When you have lost your career, your ability to earn what you used to, your health and generally life as you knew it, it is easy to become withdrawn and depressed and you begin to push away the people that are closest to you. If you let it, it is easy to become isolated and bitter. As I have been through this journey getting used to a new normal, my wife has been there every step of the way. She is the one that pulls me out of my isolation and reminds me that even though I might not be able to do what I used to do, I still have a lot to offer the world and reminds me that I still have a purpose in this life. She is the one that helps me push my boundaries, get outside of my comfort zone, and supports me in everything I do. I have learned to be thankful every day for the things I have in this life and what I am most thankful for is my wife. In any relationship, gratitude and love can be two of the most important components.

If you are in a relationship, don’t take it for granted. If the person you are in a relationship with is not only your partner but also your caregiver, be grateful; show grace but most of all let them love you. They are there for you not because they have to be but because they want to be.

Facebook Will Melt Your Brain

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Approximately eight weeks ago, I decided to get off Facebook. With the exception of wishing a few happy birthdays and posting my blog posts, which is actually done automatically, I no longer look at my news feed on Facebook. I realized that it was actually affecting me mentally. I have a very low tolerance for stupidity and Facebook is loaded with it; especially during 2020.

I think anyone would say that we wish we could get a mulligan on 2020. It has been nonstop uncertainty, despair, turmoil and everyone has an opinion and everyone is an expert. I refuse to take my medical or any other advice from someone on Facebook who has no qualifications except for doing their research on YouTube. Some of the most ludicrous ideas and posts were showing up in my feed and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I found myself being angry all the time and was baited into arguments with people that will never change their opinion or ideology so what was the point.  I was expending emotional energy on people that, candidly, I couldn’t care less what they believe. I am not saying I myself am not open to constructive debate or even altering my worldview through rational discussion. The reality is this was maybe 1% of what I was seeing on Facebook.

I’ll give you a perfect example of the stupidity that I was seeing. There was one post that showed up in my feed from a gentleman, we’ll call him JR, that actually compared what we are going through with Covid-19 to the Holocaust. I am not Jewish but I was so offended by this blatant stupidity that I had to immediately unfriendly this person. There was no point in even engaging this person but I did. He made some kind of comment like he would be the guy without a mask on walking down the wrong way down the isle at the supermarket. Basically, an inconsiderate human being with a ridiculous outlook on the current situation.

From the political propaganda to the ridiculous, unfounded conspiracy theories, Facebook is rife with intellectual head cheese. One thing I noticed is people would post ideas and theories without actually doing the research on these ideas, which only made themselves look like uneducated trolls with no common sense. They read it on another post, or saw it on YouTube, and just believed it to be true and posted it. From the far left to the far right, there was a battleground forming and that was on the internet. I found that people were not only posting the most ridiculous dribble but there was so much hate, it was actually having a physical effect on me. I found I was spending hours a day reading posts, arguing with people, and generally developing an angst that was emotionally exhausting.

I was speaking to a friend today who put it very succinctly; what we are going through right now is a social experiment. On Facebook you have friends and families tearing each other’s throats out because they don’t agree with them politically. I have experienced great angst because of my political views. I consider myself somewhere in the middle of the road; I am very conservative when it comes to size of government and fiscal matters but I am quite liberal when it comes to the environment and social justice. As my friend said, it is a very lonely position. I am not a traditional Republican or Democrat so I do not have a loyalty to either party. What should be able to happen is people from opposite sides of the isle should be able to have constructive debate without getting their feelings hurt. One of my dearest friends is much more the right then I am but we can talk peaceably about the issues. Another one of my dear friends is about as far left as you can get and we too can have a conversation without angst.

In the past, I have always thought Facebook was a good thing. It allowed me to keep in touch with my friends, my family, and keep up with local events. For years that is how I used it; merely as a tool but I think the current political environment combined with all of the other events occurring fundamentally changed it. It became a place for political positioning, conspiracy theories, ignorance, racism, and hate. Now Facebook has put into place a fact-checking algorithm that supposedly weeds out many of the unfounded conspiracy theories but that is only one small part of the problem.

For social media to go through a fundamental change for the positive it requires a change in those engaging in social media. We must realize that everyone has a right to express themselves but it does not excuse expressing unfounded or hatful rhetoric. Our nation has become so divided and social media seems to be the place where this all comes to the surface.

I still believe that social media platforms, like Facebook, still have a positive place in society. I am not claiming it is all bad. It is somewhere businesses can get their products marketed and families can stay connected, especially during a time when most of us are social distancing and haven’t seen friends or family for months. After all, I do use social media to promote my blog so I can’t completely say it’s useless. The problem is I just grew weary of it all. No different than I have grown weary of the news. Now I watch about 30 minutes of local news at 5:30 in the morning and I’ll watch about 30 minutes to an hour of BBC news in the afternoon so I can at least stay informed on what is happening in the world. I was at a point where I could not emotionally deal with everything that was going on; the killings, the hate, the ignorance, the racism, and all of the internet experts out there that barely finished high school or junior college. I had no idea how many friends I had that were experts in political science, immunology, etc. I do have many friends who are physicians and have degrees in political science and I take their opinions and advice much more readily than I do many others. I am currently working on my fourth degree yet i am not going to pretend that i am an expert in anything other than the fields that I have studied or worked, no matter how many YouTube videos I may have watched.

If you are on Facebook, and you probably are, think about your motives for being on there. My wife, for example, uses it to promote her Scouts BSA Troop and their activities and her side business of products that she sells at the local farmer’s market. Ask yourself, how would I feel if someone said this to me. We have an opportunity to be kind to each other, to show love, to be encouraging, especially when some people are suffering so much. There is so much tragedy in the world right now, we have an opportunity to make a change in society in a real and impactful way. Use your story to help others, be positive, do a little research before you post something and learn some patience.

If you are sequestered at home because you are high risk or you are on disability or you have lost your job, I would encourage you to not add to your discouragement by allowing yourself to get caught up in the political and idiotic musings of the ignorant few. Look for ways to encourage others and ways to encourage yourself. This too will end and when it does what kind of person will you have become?