Category Archives: Creative Ideas

I Went For a Walk the Other Night

The doctor thought for a minute or so and said it sounds like restless leg syndrome. Which at first seemed pretty bizarre since I am paralyzed. Those are the symptoms of restless leg syndrome he reiterated. They had begun back in 1999 when I was injured. Over the years they had lessened in frequency, but I still had at least a couple of times a week. If I didn’t take the medication right away it led to night terrors and panic attacks that would possess me for hours.

Going for a Walk

Going for a Walk

As odd as it seemed just his defining the condition led to a decrease in frequency. I had learned early on to take Xanax at the earliest of symptoms otherwise it was impossible to avoid the onset. The drug would usually put me to sleep for several hours and I’d a wake disoriented. The decrease in frequency was a blessing in itself and started me wondering if there might be another way to deal with it now.

For a long time, prior to my injury, I had used imagining as a tool in my life. I realize I have already written about it a couple times (Visualization Worth Looking Into and In My Mind I’m Going To Carolina), but this was another use for the powerful practice. In thinking about it, I decided if my legs want to go for a walk, then why not take them for a walk. Early one morning I woke up around 4:30 am. As the initial feelings started; my legs feeling like cement, tingling and then progressing to the overwhelming feeling to move them, I closed my eyes and visualized myself swinging my legs off the bed and onto the floor. Next it was step by mental step walking down the hall and outside. I could not believe how easy it was and how satisfying it was physically and more important mentally. Since that night I have gone jogging and even rode my bike. However, the greatest benefit is that I have not had a recurrence of the syndrome in a couple of months.

The mind is a powerful asset.

New Year—New Opportunity – The Fork In The Road

Since its creation in 2008 Handihelp’s objective has been to share information, with individuals who have disabilities which will help them improve their daily lives, reduce frustrations and help them return to the activities that gave them quality of life.

Nothing is as important as the mind set the individual approaches their new life with. A catastrophic event generally limits normal body function in some way, but what it also does, which I think is much more serious, is take away skills that the individual has been using all his or her life. The person, after the onset of a disability, will eventually come to a fork in the road when they wish to perform a task and are unable to use the skill they used before. Which road will they choose? One road could, over time, led to as sense of helplessness while the other to feeling of empowerment. The factor, controlling the decision choosing which road, is the individual’s attitude.

A Fork In The Road

A Fork In The Road

Parisians reeling from the terrorist attacks in November 2015 came to a similar crossroad. Were they going to allow the terrorist attacks to change their lives and lifestyles, because of fear and anxiety, or were they going to return to being the City of Light? The decision was decided by their refusal to be intimidated into changing the lifestyle Paris is known for. The decision was decided by their attitude.

Handihelp strongly believes that a person, who is disabled, can reclaim much of what has been taken from them if they approach their new life with the proper attitude. Just as the Parisians decided the terrorist attacks would not destroy what they loved, an individual with a disability, as Christopher Reeves stated should refuse to allow a disability to determine how he or she will live their life. Being motivated by the proper attitude can lead to the development of new skills to replace many of those that have been taken.

Critical to the development of new skills is the understanding that there are many ways to solve a particular problem. Historically, cultures tend to develop a few accepted methods to solve a challenge. These ways are often referred to as norms from the root word normal. After a while people come to believe that those methods are the only ones that can be used. Nothing could be further from the truth! When talking to a group I often use the example of catching a fish, but in reality the same concept could be applied to many of the tasks performed daily. If ten people were selected from a homogenous audience in the U.S. and ask to catch a fish, chances are most would grab a fishing pole and head to nearby body of water. Suppose the same challenge was presented to a heterogeneous group of dependents from the United Nations. There is a strong probability we would see a variety of methods which could include, but not be limited to, the use of nets (both casting and stationary), weirs, noodling, spears, spear guns, bow and arrow and even the use of other animals, such as cormorants which are widely used to catch fish in Far East.

So, when initially dealing with a challenge placed on an individual with a disability, many most often try to solve the problem using the same skill they used before their impairment. When the old approach does not work and it is repeated for other problems it can create extreme frustration and an acute awareness of the limitations created by their disability. This experience repeated a number of times can lead an individual down the wrong road. Accepting failure as an end result, over time, can easily lead to the belief of inability. Imagine a baby; if they had a concept of failure, deciding after months of falling down it wasn’t worth continuing trying to get up. The result is obvious.

Conversely, you only need to browse through the pages of Handihelp to see a number of different ways people have come up with to solve a common problem. To understand the likelihood of a solution is critical to developing the new attitude. Developing a new skill most likely will not come easy. It will take time, effort, thought, failure, persistence, trial and error… you get the idea. However, imagine the results when you find a new way to solve a challenge.
As Robert Frost wrote in his poem “The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

VISUALIZATION : Worth Looking Into

Visualization also known as imaging or meditation is a technique which has been used by amateur and professional athletes for a long time. It takes place prior to a game or an event in which they wish to perform at their highest level. Normally it’s done in a quiet area where there are no external stimuli, the individual mentally imagines their performance in the upcoming activity. While this has been used for years by athletes, it’s a wonderful technique for anyone who wants to improve their ability to function in everyday situations. While concentrating with your eyes closed you should visualize yourself interacting with the environment you’ll be in and performing at your best.

Last weekend professional golfer Jason Day could be seen, imagining a difficult chip shot he had to make out of the bunker onto the green. Once he was ready not only did he get out of the sand trap, but watched this ball drop into the cup. His performance at Whistling Strait was the first time in history any golfer had finished a major tournament 20 strokes under par. In the post-game interview he talked about his visualization prior to the match and how much it helped him.

“On the 11th tee, with Day in the middle of his elaborate pre-shot, eyes-wide-shut visualization routine, a fan interrupted him with a warning about the wind. Day shot the man a look that could maim, if not kill, and then took it out on his golf ball with a 382-yard drive that brought Spieth (his leading rival) to his knees.”

Carli LOLoyd

Jul 5, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; United States midfielder Carli Lloyd (10) reacts after scoring a goal against Japan in the first half of the final of the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup at BC Place Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

An even more amazing example of visualization occurred during the US Women’s Soccer Team’s 5-2 victory over Japan during the World Cup Soccer Finals. The hero of the game and outstanding player of the tournament was American midfielder Carli Lloyd. She scored three goals, which had never been done before, in 16 minutes to help power the US over Japan. In a post-game interview they talk to Carli about her preparation for the tournament in general in the game specifically.

In an article in Yahoo Health Lloyd said:
“It sounds pretty funny, but over the years and definitely over the last four years, I’ve taken that visualization part to another level,” Lloyd told The Philadelphia Inquirer last week. “I’ve basically visualized so many different things on the field, making these big plays, scoring goals.”

She even visualizes how many goals she’d like to score. After the game, Lloyd told The New York Times that she visualized scoring four goals in the 2015 World Cup Final, adding that she was so in the mental zone at the start of the game that “I feel like I blacked out for the first 30 minutes or so.” What amazes me is that she just missed scoring a fourth goal on a header which was about a foot wide of the goal.

The question becomes is it really effective?

“Absolutely, says Nicole Detling, PhD, a psychologist who has worked with the U.S. Olympic team, and founder of sports psychology company HeadStrong Consulting. ‘The mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and imagined,’ she tells Yahoo Health. ‘It’s one of the most effective tools you can use.’ ”

“Social scientist and executive coach Frank Niles, PhD, tells Yahoo Health that visualization actually tricks your brain into thinking that you’re doing something, creating new mental pathways in the process that you use for memory and learned behavior. As a result, he says, you feel like you’ve done something before and end up feeling more comfortable when you actually do it.”

“We often hear about athletes who visualize, but both Niles and Detling say it can be just as effective in everyday life for everything from going on a date to giving a speech.”

What does this mean for those of us in the disabled community who struggle daily with constant challenges just to make it through? Take time to visualize yourself functioning at your highest level through the day. Imagine what you can do when you marshal your resources to deal with the challenges that are ahead of you. So what is keeping you from practicing the visualization technique and improving your daily life?

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A Day on the St. Lawrence

Dean Meckes, of Dean Meckes Charters, Andy Dahmen, my friend from Utah, my son Mark and I went fishing on the St. Lawrence River today (August 7, 2014). Andy and I were lowered into our wheelchairs, which had been placed in the boat, by an adapted Hoyer lift at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton N.Y. We reached our fishing spot around 8:30. The river was like glass, with no wind and a bright sun. We had action almost all the time. In between it was peaceful and serene. Andy caught the biggest fish, around 4lbs on a homemade rig used to hold the pole for him while he reeled. All the adapted equipment we made worked great. We all had a wonderful time.

Fort Drum Workshop

Last month an intensive 3-day training course was presented by the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Fish & Wildlife Management Program from Fort Drum, New York. Fort Drum is the home of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division.

The workshop was entitled Accessibility for Outdoor Recreation Programs & Facilities on Military Installations. The course was geared to staff on military installations responsible for outdoor recreation, including trails, fishing, hunting, camping and picnic areas, and beaches. Its intent was to provide a background and working knowledge of issues to address to increase accessibility to all persons.

Imagine my surprise when I was asked to present on my hunting and fishing adaptions and experiences. I put on a Power Point presentation on My Evolution as a Wheelchair Hunter and Fisherman. On the final day, at the Skeet Range I demonstrated the hunting set up on the Extreme wheelchair including my trigger adapter which allows the weapon to be fired with the mouth. Firing 3 times at different targets allowed the audience to see the amazing maneuverability of adaptive gun mount. There was also the opportunity to demonstrate some of the adaptations which allow me to cast and fish.

The workshop was well received and a lot of pertinent information was shared. Participants came from far away as Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

A Unique Happening

A special occasion occurs, I believe, when two things a person really loves merge together. I love lacrosse, more specifically Syracuse University lacrosse. There are a number of reasons why I believe the game is unique. Players’ names are not on the back of their jersey reminding fans, it’s a team sport not individuals. When the players take off their helmet they look like young men not like they’re already playing in the National Football League. In terms of statistics, a player gets the same credit for assisting on a goal as the player gets who scores the goal. Players size is not a limiting factor as it is many other major sports. Many of the players also seem to be free spirits which I find interesting. The area where I live in northern New York supplies a disproportionate number of major college players and I’ve been fortunate enough to watch quite a few of them play in high school.

London, ON 2006 Mike Powell, my nurse's daughter Brook, Me, her son Devin and Ryan Powell

London, ON 2006 Mike Powell, my nurse’s daughter Brook, Me, her son Devin and Ryan Powell

My other loves music. I believe that there are many meaningful messages in songs that can be thought provoking, help us better understand situations and possibly lead to a better life. Several weeks ago, my lacrosse world and music world came together in a most unusual way. If you have any knowledge of lacrosse surely you have heard of and know the name Mike Powell. For those of you who have never heard of Mike Powell let me give you a brief biography. After graduating from Carthage High School, Carthage, New York he committed to play at Syracuse, following in the footsteps of his two older brothers Casey and Ryan. Mike was a first-team All-American each of the four years he was at Syracuse. The University won the Division I Championship 2 times while he was in school. He won the most coveted Tewaaraton Trophy twice; no other player has ever done that. From there he went on and played professional lacrosse for a number of years and 2006 with his two brothers played on the United States lacrosse team in the World Championship. Most lacrosse experts agree that Mike was one of the best to ever play the game.

Mike, who epitomizes the free spirit, left lacrosse to pursue a career in music. I didn’t pay much attention to his music career believing he probably played mostly contemporary music. Last week, after my son’s encouragement I went to listen to Mike on You Tube. Much to my surprise his music was kind of a combination of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. I was amazed not only in his playing ability, but also in the messages in the songs he wrote. One in particular called No Horizon I feel holds a message we could all benefit from hearing. The refrain goes:

When I was young my father told me son
No Horizons far away
The start and the end will soon begin to blend
Start living, life gets shorter every day.

In My Mind I’m Goin’ To ……

For most of my adult life I pursued my love of outdoor activities. I was a licensed New Your Guide spending many summers as part of SUNY Cortland’s Recreation and Leisure Studies Department’s Outdoor Education Practicum leading small groups of college students on wilderness trips. An accident in 1999 left me with quadriplegia and confined to a power wheelchair. The traditional wheelchair is not designed to leave pavement. Even the new all-terrain chairs, while a great improvement for off road travel, are not designed for true back-country. Years ago I saw an episode of NYPD Blue where the police were questioning a former drug dealer who was confined to a wheelchair as the result of a drive-by shooting. They were threatening to put him in jail and he told the officers you can lock up my body but you can’t imprison my mind. I realized the relevancy of that statement to my situation. If we choose to accept that premise, then we empower ourselves to use the freedom that exists in our minds. I’m sure most of you have heard James Taylor sing:
“In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine
Can’t you just feel the moonshine”

As the population ages more and more people will find their interaction with the out-of-doors curtailed, so this will be relevant to more than just the disabled community. You can use your mind and senses to help you relive past experiences. If there are activities that you once enjoyed which you are unable to participate in now, try revisiting them again with mental imaging. While this may seem a little offbeat in the beginning, remember practice makes perfect. You can use your mind to free yourself of the constraints placed on you by your age or disability. Use your senses to help. Use the smell of a Balsam pillow to remember a hike you took years ago. Listen to the rain on a roof to return to a moment when you were trapped in your tent during a downpour. To change a very common phrase just a little bit, “Your mind will set you free”.

A rainy day on Grass Pond in 1989

A rainy day on Grass Pond in 1989

One imaging activity I enjoy is to put on my poncho and sit outside in the rain with my eyes closed. The sound of the raindrops on the nylon almost immediately takes me back to my wilderness trips when the rain would confine me to my tent or to waking in the middle of the night to the sound of the rain on my tent. Nestled in a warm sleeping bag or in this case my poncho listening to the rain brings on a feeling of serenity and that all is right in the world. I am treated to a “memory flood” of some of the best times of my life.

I was kayaking one day in a neighbor’s pond. Because of my lack of grip my hands must be strapped to the kayak paddle. When I finished, friends removed the special gloves and my hands dropped into the cold water. Instantly I was transported to the confluence of the Cold and Raquette Rivers north of Long Lake, New York. I reveled in the moment. As we get older there are many situations we can no longer experience. Or can we?

Returning to a place deep in my mind

Returning to a place deep in my mind