Jan 30

It’s not that easy being Green

I told you last week about, my oldest son, Grant’s great taste in music.  Well, this week I went to my companies National Sales Meeting.  He gave me his old iPod to listen to during my flight there and back.  It was very nice to be able to close both my eyes and relax.  When I did, I listened to Floyd, Hendrix and Swift…. that’s right, I said Swift… as in Taylor Swift.  Grant claims not to be a fan of Ms. Swift or even Mr. Beiber (this hasn’t been found on the iPod, yet),  Somehow, this renegade track made the download on the “downlow”.

One other song that I found was Kermit the Frog, yes from the Muppets, singing “It’s not that easy being green”.  This one hit close to home.  I could identify with the little guy and I’m sure that, at one time or another, many of you have felt the same way.  Whether it’s your first day with braces, glasses or high school.  As opposed to Kermit, who felt like he was blending into everything, you may have felt like you just don’t fit in.  We can all make note that Kermit is right when he says, “when green is all there is to be it could make you wonder ‘why?’….why wonder ‘why?'”  Just be who you are.

The way we ARE is what makes us special.  The way we deal with adversity is what makes us extraordinary.  Being special is a given.  It takes effort to be extraordinary.  It means getting out of bed when you don’t want to.  Writing the paper that isn’t at your fingertips waiting to be written.  Going to church on a self-proclaimed pajama day.  All of those things are sometimes hard to do…without whining.  It’s always hard to keep inside how hard things are going.  But, to be honest, no one wants to hear it.

People want to hear good news.  We all do.  Keep your spirits high and choose words to match.

Menomena!  (it’s a muppet thing)

Jan 22

Music to my ears!

Do you remember me telling you that my oldest son, Grant, set me up with some tunes for the first few months of this ordeal?  Since that time, even with improved vision, I’ve gotten more into listening to music.  You name the type of music and I think I’ve listened to it.  Pop, Rock and Country will never get old, but Indie Rock, Classical and Rapp have grown on me.  If you’re interested try listening to The Killers or Eminem.  Sometimes the words have much meaning and sometimes it’s hidden.

When Grant set me up, I was listening to The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Jimmy Hendrix.  That was when both lids were down and my anxiety was up.  Would I ever be able to see, like a “normal” person, again?  The jury is still out, but it doesn’t look good.  Am I going to have other problems with paralysis, swallowing or breathing?  It’s still a concern, but not one that consumes my day.

Last week was great!  During the 5-day work week I had 20+ meetings with customers and partners.  I made it (safely) to each appointment on MY OWN!  WooHoo!  At each meeting I spread my story like warm butter on hot toast.  This isn’t easy, but with time I’m becoming more accustomed to sharing this.  Many times, the person that hears my story relates it to something in their lives.  That’s when I know that I’m doing the right thing by writing this blog.

The end of the week was a little trying.  I spent the morning with customers and had a few hours until my next meeting.  Instead of going home to work, I went to a coffee shop in Easton.  There I opened up my iPad and started to work.  I’m not sure if it was because of the long week or the down-time in my schedule, but my vision bothered me more than it has in a while.  The one thing that took my mind off of my vision was the music being played.  It almost had a holiday sound to it.

That night Connie and I took Colin and his buddy to the Hilliard Darby basketball game.  Even though I was tired it was good to get my mind occupied.  Those sort of things help me to cope.  There’s nothing like watching high school sports.  What makes it even better is to hear my son, Grant, playing in the pep band.  Go Wagner!

Some things in life are better experienced with your eyes closed.

Jan 16

Looking more relaxed

There’s no way for me to sugarcoat it.  The last 10 months have been rough.  It’s taken time getting used to my dynamic eyesight.

In December I met with, Ken Kreager, an old friend of mine from work that had suffered severe burns, in a gas explosion, when he was 8 years old.  Upon seeing me back in August, for the first time in nearly a year, he exclaimed “what the heck happened to your eye?”.  On this occasion he was just as direct, which I appreciate.  He told me that it took him 30 years to get over his burns.  The looks from others and the whispering.

I’m a very direct person, so I appreciated his candor.  He went on tell me that he thought I looked different.  He said, “you seem more relaxed.”  I’d never heard that before.  Most people either ignore the subject of my appearance or they tell me, “your one eye looks more open than the last time.”  I appreciate that.  Although I’m not always sure how to respond.  It’s probably not appropriate, but I wish that the people with questions would ask them.

It’s true that there are times when I don’t think about it.  It takes me a while to adjust in the morning.  Most of you probably feel the same way.  Long days still make my good eye droopy.  But, I can do things that I couldn’t do a month ago.  Like plugging small objects into the computer or turning a screw driver.  Don’t get the impression that I’m becoming a handy-man.  Let’s not get carried away.

The feeling in my foot won’t seem to go away, but it’s a liveable situation.  I’ve recently started to do Wii Fit exercises that include Yoga.  Now I hear that Yoga may be bad for you.  Geez!  First coffee and now this?  Well, maybe the exercises will help me with my “slight” balance issues.

I am starting to enjoy driving more now.  Those first few months were nerve-racking.  Night-time rain is still a little unsettling.  I have to choose my words carefully.  Connie will read this.  I know it still makes her anxious when I get behind the wheel.  Unfortunately, there’s a healing process for all of us.

My great-nephew, Hunter Wagner, had a baseball game this summer.  It happened to be one of the games that Grant was umpiring.  One of the 9-year old boys from the opposing team looked at me and asked, “what’s wrong with your eye?”.  I told him that I had been sick and it just didn’t want to open.

When I saw my 4-year old great-niece, Grace Baginski, at Thanksgiving I could tell she had a question.  It didn’t take long after dinner was over.  She looked at me and asked, “what happened to your eye?”.  For a brief second I considered explaining my situation to her at a 4-year old level.  Then I broke formation and told a lie.  I said, “well, it’s from playing too many video games.”  Her eyes got a wide as mine aspire to someday.  I should have told her right away that this wasn’t true, but I waited.  When I fessed up she had a look of disappointment in me.  I had lied and was sorry.  Nobody is perfect and I’m not nobody.

At the same time, I remain grateful for all of what I do have.

Jan 09

One leg at a time

When I was in college there were many times that I was about to give up.  I had tried many different ways to learn and take tests with success.  After a few years of this the University of Toledo told me, college may not be for you.  They sent me a letter indicating that my GPA had slipped so far that I was now on academic probation.  There was really nothing academic about it.  It was real.

A few days later, I went to see my brother Dave for some advice.  He usually had a lot of wisdom in the area of academics.  He was degreed in electronics and worked, as an engineer at SSOE, in Toledo.  He was the most educated of all of my siblings and had experiences that could be similar to my future path.

However, on this one particular evening he had showed me some proper study habits and incentives to change my frame of mind.  His nice home and happy family gave me the impression that this life could just as easily be mine.  While I drove back to my apartment near the Medical College of Ohio I had plenty of time to think.  Once at my destination I went upstairs and called my brother.  This was from a phone with a cord stuck in the wall – it was, after all,1988.   Cell phones didn’t exist in my world.  There was no texting and very people had their own computer.  It probably wasn’t until 1994 that I had my own email address.

…this is what is known as a grammatical tangent…

When I got to my room I called Dave and told him that the other students in my class had nothing that I didn’t have.  They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like I do.

That February I took a part time job at UPS in Maumee, OH.  In the summer I moved back home to live with mom and dad where I would stay for the remainder of my college career.  (yes, there are still times where my dad thought I may draw social security while still in college)   This job meant working from 10:00 at night until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.  The work was hard and expectations were high.  It was a great workout, but that was before I had even thought about having a workout.  When I had an 8:00 AM class, instead of going back to mom and dad’s, I would drive to campus and sleep in my car or at a friends fraternity house.  I was not a frat boy, but the Pi Kappa Alphas never saw me,  (I wonder what ever happened to Scott Lynch?).  During the summers I took one or two classes and made it through the rest of my classes.

There are many times during our lives when we just have to bear down, work hard and get through it.  We’re hardly ever aware of how long it will take.  Or even if we’ll get through it at all.  It doesn’t matter.  You just have to continue to do your best.  Sometimes even better than your best.  That’s how you will improve.  Stretch yourself to meet your goals.

I would encourage you to reflect on similar instances in your own life.   How did you handle it?   One leg at a time?

Jan 02

Found on Earth

It was July 28th, 2000 and I had just started a new job at IBM and they had sent me to Chicago for orientation.  That evening I called an old friend, Sara, and we sat down and had dinner together.  We talked for hours about what has been going on in our lives and with our families.  As we talked we both discovered that we had known each other for 8+ years and we were both Christians.  As I spoke of people that I had encountered in life that had a positive impact on my faith, she would continually remind me, “That’s God”.

Connie and I lived in Chicago from early in 1991 to the end of 1995, shortly after the birth of our first son.  While there we made many friends that we still keep in touch with.  One of them was a co-worker that offered a different perspective from the one that I have.  Here’s an exert from his letter to me.

“What could I say to ease your suffering or put the whole thing in perspective?   Nothing, of course.  Utterly random acts of universal unfairness like this lead me to speculate that Tolstoy was right when he said that “The only complete truth attainable by man is that life is meaningless”.   That sounds like something that an atheist might say, but rest assured that Tolstoy was in fact a Christian, in addition to being an anarchist.  I mean, how can there be any rational plan on this earth when something as bad as that happens to someone who is as good a person as you are? ”

I appreciate my well-read friend’s perspective.  The purpose can not be found on earth.

Like many of you, he could relate my situation to his or someone he knows.  There have been many letters and conversations informing me of similar personal struggles.  There’s no doubt that we all will experience hardships at some time during our lives.  It’s how you deal with those moments that determine who you will become.

I had a tough time while going through college.  (as my parents read this, I can hear them groan)  During that time I racked up 11 “D’s” and an “F”.  Obviously, it took me longer than expected and I graduated with an empty feeling.  College was, until 2011, one of the most trying times of my life.  Notice that I didn’t say the worst time of my life.  There were many good things that happened, e.g. Connie.  But, there were many forks in the road.  Choices were annoying, but critical.

Some day, I will look back at these days in a similar fashion.  My late friend, Karen Wolfe, used to smile when she would hear of the hardships in my life.  Not that she was happy with my struggles, but she knew that God was using me for a bigger purpose.  There have been many times that I’ve had the urge to use these circumstances as an excuse for NOT doing something.  I’m happy to say that, with the exception of hanging wallpaper with my wife, I’ve fought those urges.  I guess that’s God!