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    25th February 2007

    Quite a week…

    Last week was quite a week. I had class in Denver; visited friends in Colorado Springs; ate Indian food in Denver with a hospital friend after class on Thursday; went to Westside Story Friday night with Carrie and Loren and Stephanie G – and it was fantastic!; taught some guitar on Saturday morning; went to the Saturday matinee of Westside Story with my man David and my dad and Carla – and it was fantastic!; then I went to the guitar store and bought strings, went home to change strings, and then went up to Everyday Joe’s to play at the open mic night. I went into the back-room during the first act to get my strings good and tuned up. Putting my guitar back in the case, I went back out to listen to some performers (I was scheduled to go last). After about 40 minutes, I went back again to check on my guitar – and there was my guitar case, open, with no guitar in it.

    Someone stole my guitar. At first I thought that maybe someone had taken it to practice or to use on stage or something, but after getting some of the folks working there to look upstairs and under tables and whatnot, I started to get a sick to my stomach feeling as I realized that my baby was really gone. I filed a police report, borrowed a guitar and played some songs, and have been in a bit of shock since then. It’s not like I’m angry or sad or anything – I just don’t know what to think.

    Now, purely for the sake of tying things together and adding volume to this post, I say this: You never think that things like this will happen to you. People steal, but not your stuff… but then it happens and reminds you that this is pretty much the way things are – the way things have been. Kind of like Westside Story – it was first performed in the early 60’s and was a big success with the youth of the day; and even though specifics of growing up have changed some, youth still have the same relationships and emotions and struggles. A timeless story, in many respects – it was, afterall, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

    And we all are still longing for a place where kids don’t kill eachother, or form sides and fight eachother based on their cultural backgrounds – a world where you can leave your guitar in the back-room for a few minutes without the fear that it might be gone when you come back…

    There’s a place for us,
    Somewhere a place for us.
    Peace and quiet and open air
    Wait for us

    There’s a time for us,
    Some day a time for us,
    Time together with time spare,
    Time to learn, time to care,
    Some day!

    We’ll find a new way of living,
    We’ll find a way of forgiving
    Somewhere . . .

    There’s a place for us,
    A time and place for us.
    Hold my hand and we’re halfway there.
    Hold my hand and I’ll take you there
    Some day,

    What’s to say? If any of you out there see my Martin HD-28LSV (with a Fishman Rare-Earth aftermarket pickup in the hole), let me know, ’cause I sure liked that instrument.

    And now I ought to be studying or writing a paper, but I’m not really in the mood. I guess I need to get in the mood. For studying, that is. But I’ll leave you with a few more lyrics from the wonderful show that I saw this weekend:

    Good night, good night,
    Sleep well and when you dream,
    Dream of me


    20th February 2007

    Westside Story!

    I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but my little brother is a kind of Big Deal…

    No, I didn’t just botch the quote from our favorite anchorman, I meant exactly what I said. Mike is playing the part of Big Deal in Loveland High School’s production of Westside Story. Big Deal is one of the Jets, who are collectively one of the gangs in the show. The show is going to be good all around with lots of singin’, dancin’;, fightin’, and romancin’.

    I would recommend that if you don’t have anything going on this Thursday, Friday, or Saturday at 7:30pm, or Saturday at 2:00pm, you should head on over to the LHS auditorium. The show is $7 for the general public, discounted for LHS students with activity card (I think), and free for senior citizens. Check out the Reporter-Herald article at: (I think that this page will only really be about Westside Story until Friday, but we’ll see…)

    1 comment

    19th February 2007

    On Being Disabled (part 2): Doors

    (I started this last night and then finished it this morning)

    When I got home from church this afternoon I read the newspaper, threw about an hour and a half away, played guitar for about 3 hours (think how good I would be if I actually structured my practice time instead of creating various droning tones and rhythms and zoning out!), and then ate dinner and watched Sportscenter. Yesterday I wasted some time, went to the rec center to work out, played guitar for several hours, and watched Band of Brothers with my brother. You can tell my commitment to my schoolwork by noting that I really haven’t done any in the last two days and that even now, when I most certainly need to be catching up in my Hebrew workbook and preparing for the 15 page paper that I have to present next Tuesday (as in 9 days, not 2…) that I haven’t even started, I am instead writing on this website. This can be ascribed to the way that I am currently a creature of impulse, without having trained or disciplined myself in any significant manner for several months. And thus, when I think of something that I want to do, I do it. – provided that it isn’t way outside my comfort level and is within the ballpark of morally acceptable behavior.

    And since there hasn’t been anything particularly noteworthy in my life this last week (I went to school, I came back to Loveland, I planned and led worship for Revolution…) it seems like a good time to make another entry in the “On Being Disabled” series (especially considering the interesting discussion that happened in the comments section after last weeks entry – and for those who might wonder, I think that there will be two more entries in this series in the next month or so).

    I’ve titled this entry “Doors”, and if you’ve spent much time around me in the last two years – or if you’ve spent much time around wheelchair users – you might have a good guess as to why. Doors are an everflowing source of awkward situations and irritations for me. They sometimes bring out the worst in me and have brought me into several conversations that I would rather not have had at the time I had them. They cause me to have feelings of humiliation, anger, pride, relief, and frustration, among other feelings. And doors are everywhere I go.

    See, getting through doors can be rather difficult in a wheelchair. I’m mostly talking about the type of doors that swing shut on their own and are found in the entrances of most public buildings. Although I can get through these doors without much of a problem, and even occasionally carry awkward loads through them, like my guitars or suitcases, I know that there are many wheelchair users who either have difficulty getting through doors or are entirely incapable of getting through them on their own.

    There are many reasons why this might be so. Certainly anyone using a power wheelchair is going to have a difficult time with doors – but then again, (not to stereotype, but) most folks using powerchairs have less physical mobility, hence the powerchair. Quadriplegics with less function in their arms or folks with advanced degenerative nerve disorders like MS or CP often fit in this category.

    Additionally, there are a couple of other categories of wheelchair users who shift the public understanding of what folks in wheelchairs are capable of. The two main categories that I’m thinking of are 1) older folks and 2) folks with developmental disabilities/serious MR – mental retardation. These are probably the most visible of all categories of wheelchair users, and they – along with high-profile wheelchair users like the late Christopher Reeves or Stephen Hawking – strongly color the public’s perception of what wheelchair users can and can’t do. Many people haven’t been exposed to other and more capable wheelchair users – and few people have had significant interaction with a relatively healthy, fit, and active paraplegic like myself. It is understandable why most people feel the need to “get the door” for me and other wheelchair users. Currently popular etiquette is to always wait for a person with a disability to ask for help before helping; but most people haven’t been taught this etiquette.

    But back to why this is one of my least favorite situations:

    To begin, the mechanics of the door holding process can be awkward. Sometimes when a person tries to get the door, they stand on the inside of the doorway, with their back against the door. Given that I have a 27 inch wide wheelbase, this arrangement sometimes leaves me with less than enough room to actually get through the doorway. My options are then 1) run over the door-holder’s foot; 2) create a “dance” of sort as the door-holder has to move out of the way for me to get through; or 3) if this is a double-door we are talking about, I can open the other door myself and go through. I once chose “Option 3” going into the science building at Calvin, not at all thinking of how this option might make someone feel. Deliberately going through the other door is, I suppose, a deliberate communication of sorts, telling that person that you would rather do something on your own than accept their help – no matter how well-intended.

    Now, in this particular instance of selecting “Option 3” at the science building, the door-holder had been talking on her cell phone inside the door and continued to talk on her cell phone as she held the door as I approached – I really wasn’t sure what she was up to. However, this person was a friend of a friend and was personally hurt when I didn’t accept her help; and several weeks later I found out about this as she really wanted to know why I would do what I did. Caught at that moment, I was baffled by this person, but it has proved to be and important learning experience for me – and an important reminder for me to check my motives in doing such a thing.

    One more note on the mechanics: Many doors now come equipped with door-opening buttons. Sometimes people will press this button for me. The problem with door-openers is that I can open doors faster than they can. There is a definite use for these devices, but they don’t really change the dynamics of the door situation for me – if anything, they make it a little more awkward at times.

    So, why is it that when I have the opportunity to do so I prefer to open doors for myself? It is mechanically simpler in many respects, but this doesn’t fully explain my actions or feelings.

    A big factor is how I want to be perceived. After my last entry, there were a few comments about how being disabled is, in many respects, a label that we put on ourselves – and I think that this is – again, in some respects – true (I think I’ll talk about this issue of personal identity more in another post). But I also think that we’d be lying to ourselves if we said that we didn’t ever let the labels of other people creep in and inform who we are (here’s a good touchpoint between this topic and the Christian life).

    So I fight to not be labeled as “disabled”, especially by people whom I would consider to be my peers. There is a certain sense of embarrassment in having a female of my own age category hold the door for me – an action that I would rather be taking on her behalf. And if it is a guy my own age, a desire to prove my own manhood (or something like that…) comes in and makes me want to open doors for myself. If it is someone that I don’t know at all it is easier to say, “Thank you,” and be on your way – if it is someone that I do know, it’s like I want to impress them. And if it’s someone who smiles at me like they’re doing me a favor of some sort, there’s Pride…

    Pride. There’s something inside of me that wants to stick it to every person who “presumptuously” holds a door for me. I want to show them that I can do it on my own and that it really was presumptuous of them to assume that I could not. Of course, this is ridiculous – no person holding a door for a person in a wheelchair is thinking to themselves, “What could I do that would really offend that wheelchair jockey?…” People want to be helpful for the most part. And yet, when someone opens a door for me, I find myself thinking something like, “What – you think I need your help?!!! Using me to make yourself feel good, now, are you?!!!”

    Accepting help can be hard for people, whether they need it or not. Pride kicks in in my situation where I don’t need help, but being in a situation where we desperately need help doesn’t do much to eliminate that pride. We still want to do it on our own. The spinal cord injury experience has been humbling from the start: At first I was unable to sit up on my own, put on my clothes, clean myself, talk for myself (unable to talk, period...); I was completely dependant upon others. I celebrated every freedom that I gained, every ability to do something on my own. I wanted, and still want, to show people how much I can do.

    But none of us are entirely independent. We all need help with different things. Sometimes we need help with things we don’t want to ask for help with; and sometimes we need to accept help when we neither want it nor think that we need it. This is both for our own sake and for the sake of the helper. Accepting help when I don’t need it helps me to humbly ask for and accept help when I do need it. And in graciously accepting help, I can bless the helper – and have a better platform to tell him or her if I do or don’t want that sort of help in the future. (And, as a side note, since I really do believe that life is better lived around people and in relationships, shouldn’t this symbiosis be my goal? Maybe I/we should be asking for help on all kinds of things that we don’t necessarily need help for…)

    For me, the experience of going through a door is an opportunity to practice humility and patience or pride and bitterness. It can be an opportunity to allow someone to serve; and it can be an opportunity to teach a lesson – both in the positive and negative connotations of this phrase. In the positive sense if it opens a persons eyes to the amazing ways that people can adapt and get through life – or if it allows them to see the hurt that they cause another. In the negative sense if the lesson is taught in a self-satisfying, self-justifying way – or out of spite and in order to hurt the other.

    May you and I both have the grace to navigate the doors we face today.


    12th February 2007

    On Being Disabled (part 1)

    I’m about to write out a list (of sorts) of complaints (of sorts) and I’m actually kind of excited about it. So instead of picturing me as a grumpy old man making this list, picture me squinting through my glasses – which I rarely wear in deference to my contacts – with an impish grin, unruly hair, and green skin; and all of that would be accurate except the green skin part, which just came into my mind. Actually, on account of the awful winter we have had here in Colorado, I’m as pale-skinned as I have ever been since that day when I joined the world of those living under the sun. Let’s count those as the first two complaints and get started:

    I just finished working on my taxes and FAFSA. I filed my taxes online for the first time, primarily because my mom recommended it. Well, I must say it would have been much easier for me if I hadn’t made several critical mistakes in choosing a filing service – however, I must also say that the services that I tried to use were quite deceptive in trying to get me to pay to file my state income tax form, which I eventually did because I was so tired of trying to escape paying. Being a FAFSA pro, filling that form only took a few minutes, but I was already a little bit fried from my tax fiasco.

    Which leads me to an exciting announcement:

    According the IRS.

    There came a page on the TurboTax turboguide to the 1040 where it asked me to check all that apply, and so I checked the box that said “Full-time student” and then stumbled upon the “Disabled” box and wondered whether I ought to check that also. On researching the qualifications for claiming a “Disabled” exemption I found that what this really means is that “you are either age 65 or older or are under age 65 and retired on permanent and total disability and receive taxable disability benefits”. There are some other stipulations, but clearly I do not meet the requirements for being disabled.

    Of course, I am receiving some small payments from Social Security (SSI payments, actually) because they consider me to be disabled and I don’t have a job. This money from the government I do have to claim on my tax return and FAFSA – but fortunately I don’t get enough for it to be taxable.

    All this leads to an idea that I have previously thrown at a few people: Lets do a better job of categorizing our “disabled” or “handicapped” folks. I mean, seriously, I’m tired of the fact that all the “handicapped accessible” parking spots and bathrooms have a picture of a person in a wheelchair on them, and yet most of the people using those spots are not wheelchair users. Let’s suck it up, steel our self-esteem, and call it what it is.

    If you’re getting on in years and have a hard time walking a good distance, that’s ok, we should give you a pass with a picture of a rocking chair so you can park close to the store – I honestly don’t care about parking close as long as I have room to unload my wheelchair without someone running me over (that’s the real reason for having those hash marks in between the handicapped spots).

    And if you have a genetic predisposition for obesity coupled with the means to turn that predisposition into reality, lets get you a special pass that functions as both a parking permit and gets you into the local rec center. We love you and want you to enjoy life – but we also hope that we can help you enjoy life with more mobility and health.

    And there are scores of people with various mobility impairments that don’t use wheelchairs – how do you think they feel being grouped in with us “no-peds”? Are wheelchairs simply more recognizable than crutches or walkers or braces of different sorts? I suppose that it is easier to group us all together… It is hard to tell disabled folks apart sometimes; I mean what with us all looking the same and all.

    I’m not trying to be offensive here, but I just had to get that out. Onto a new subject.

    I’ve been noticing some funny thought processes for me lately. It’s hard to describe. Somewhere between deja vu and the spark of genius (ha! probably the spark of insanity…) but it makes me a little paranoid. Maybe it’s an unforeseen – or unkown to me – side effect to the 80mg of Baclofen and 30mg of Ditropan I take each day. Or maybe it’s two years of frequently interrupted sleep at night catching up with my brain (I should be sleeping right now, actually). These two issues are related really: See, the meds are to help relax my spasticity, and in turn it is the spasms that very often either 1) keep me up at night, or 2) wake me up at night.

    But, there is an interesting development in my sleeping patterns, and that is that I have been rolling in my sleep without really even noticing it. This is something that most people with paralysis don’t do on their own because the signals telling their brain to roll just aren’t getting through. Rolling is kind of cool, except that now I have been waking up sometimes in uncomfortable positions with a crick in my back or something of the sort.

    And finally, Happy Birthday – a day late – to my brother Michael, who is now 18 years old. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget his birthday; I congratulated him shortly after we finished watching Snakes on a Plane last night with some of his friends. I’m not sure there could have been any better way to start another year of life…


    3rd February 2007

    options update and an amazing piece of artwork

    So, I’ve had some trouble with the plug-ins on this site, which means I haven’t been able to get a comment spam filter, which in turn means that I get a load of dumb spam comments. Most of these comments contain a whole bunch of poorly conglomerated links. One solution that I am going to try is to blacklist a certain word from my blog – and here not a real word as much as an acronym. What this means is that if anyone submits a comment with this word it will be automatically deleted – and I won’t even have a chance to moderate it. The acronym that I am going to blacklist combines the letters U-R-L, so I think if you use and words with U-R-L in them, in that specific order, the comment will be nuked. So, words like H-U-R-L, B-U-R-L, and U-N-F-U-R-L are out. Hope this isn’t too much of a problem. It’s not like I get a ton of comments anyway.

    Because I don’t want to have a post that is all technical news and whatnot, I must give you the link to a most extraordinary piece of artwork that is in the making. There is an artist from Montreal who is planning on building a 300 meter long dirigible (blimp) or sorts in the shape of a banana, and then flying it in low outer space over Texas (30 – 50 km up where there aren’t really laws that govern such things) so that it would be visible in the Texas sky for about a month.

    Here is my favorite quote about the artist who is doing this:

    Artist Cesar Saez who was born in Argentina, but now lives in Montreal said it is up to individual viewers to interpret his art, according to the report.

    “We address advertisement, we address entertainment, we address political issues,” Saez was quoted as saying.

    “The issue of migration in the (United) States is another. The banana is built in Mexico and released in Mexico and enters in a furtive way.”

    When asked why he wanted to undertake the project, he responded: “Why? Because it’s possible. Why not a banana over Texas?”

    And here is the link to the site:


    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.