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Archive for February, 2013

imagesCA1N0BXRI think one of the most disappointing things about growing up is when we outgrow our memories. Things that seemed so real and solid when we were younger, slowly melt away like morning mist when the sun rises.

My mother’s parents lived in a New England style Cape that was neither large or breathtakingly beautiful. In my mind I can still see every detail of that home. The granite slab for the front door step, each room right down to the furniture placement, worn spots in the kitchen linoleum, the smell of baking cookies and even the cracks in the old plaster walls and ceilings. I thought the home was beautiful surrounded by lilacs, bright orange day lilies and a huge chestnut tree in the front yard. And on the inside I would stare in awe at the antiques that were so different from my own home with the “lovely” 60’s decor of plaids, oranges, browns and shag carpeting. EEEKS!

But the childhood memory which filled me with a mixture of excitement and fear was the attic. Typical of most old New England homes, there were two rooms upstairs with an open area at the top of the stairs. Since my grandmother did not use the upstairs at all, there was no furniture and the rooms had fallen into disrepair due to neglect. The wallpaper was faded and peeling, bare wood floors and large jagged cracks across the ceilings. There were three small doors that I could creek open which allowed entrance along the length of the house behind the bedroom walls. The only light daring to invade the darkness filtered in through the cracks in the walls.

Upstairs in the attic, I could let my imagination run wild. I fought Indian wars, hid from pirates, hoarded my childhood treasures, and of course there were monsters to slay and the dreaded bogey man to hide from. Depending on the day, the weather, and my mood of the moment determined which adventure I would experience. All I had to do was open the attic door, walk up the narrow creaky stairs and I was no longer seven year old Ricky Huntress. I became hero’s of old and never suffered defeat to my foes.

untitledBut time marches on. My grandmother went into a nursing home and the attic sat empty of even my company. I think I was around 16 when I went with my parents to the house for the last time before it would be torn down. While they were cleaning out some last minute items from downstairs, I went into the attic. My heart raced as I walked up the stairs. And there I stood looking around. The rooms were smaller, the windows let in more light than I remembered, and the attic crawl spaces no longer seemed dark and unwelcoming. Everything seemed “practical” and the magic had left. In truth, the magic had not left the house, it had left me. The seven year old boy had grown up and was more interested in other pursuits than drafty old attics.

But deep inside there was an ache of loss. I walked back downstairs, leaving part of my childhood in grandma’s attic.

“Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,

Whose only play was what he found himself,

Summer or winter, and could play alone.”

Robert Frost – Birches

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Expos are great! So much new tech and innovations to learn about.

Tuesday Talk With Alex

This past Friday, I spent the day in Atlanta at the Abilities Expo. My dad and friend Nathan Todd went with me on the trip. There were over 100 vendors showcasing their products and services.

I had the opportunity to talk with co-owner David Korse. He mentioned that this event has been traveling the country, and even the world, for over thirty years. The Expo has become the premiere event for a variety of disability resources.

The Permobil wheelchair team was on-hand demonstrating the features of manual and power chairs. Wheelchair mechanics were also available to make repairs and I was able to get my worn-out wheels replaced. It was like pulling into a NASCAR pit-stop. The mechanics hoisted up my chair and replaced the front wheels in a matter of minutes.

As we continued around the venue, I couldn’t help but stop by the pick-up trucks that were equipped…

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379272_336372316469200_713330326_nI just attended the funeral of a friend this past week. We lived about five hours apart so we did not see each other very often. But we did email, an occasional phone call and he even traveled to Israel with us in 2010. He was very young, 35, and in a wheelchair like me. His paralysis was different than mine and was the result of being hit by a car which resulted in traumatic brain injury and paralysis. Cognitively he was fine but was left with debilitating motor functions.

 
Marcus was an amazing man. His injury occurred when he was five years old, so being in a wheelchair was about the only way of life he remembered. Yet Marcus shined. He was a quiet sincere person that people enjoyed being around. I remember a couple different times when we were in Israel together, our group would be running around taking pictures and buying out gift shops, but he and I would choose to find a cafe for a coffee and a chance to talk. His mother would join us and we would have a wonderful time doing nothing.

 
Marcus was a poet, a singer and had so much to share for anyone who would stop and listen. He had devoted his entire life to serving his savior Jesus Christ and serving others around him. The physical limitations that he had in life he considered to be very minor. Others would look at falling, stroke like paralysis and lack of independence as major obstacles in life. But not Marcus. He lived each day with a smile, a dry sense of humor and the desire to live life. He had gone to college and had an undergrad, but was continuing his education. He wrote. He sang. He was an inspirational speaker and never missed an opportunity to talk with people about his personal testimony and relationship with God. Marcus was a hero.

 
He will be missed by everyone that knew him. So I dedicate this posting to Marcus Twisdale and share his testimony with you. Hopefully by reading it you will get to know just a little bit about a great man.

 

God’s Grace
Potter Crafting Pot on Potter's WheelI’d like to express once again how grateful I am that the Lord has chosen to use me. I’m a frail vessel just like anyone else whose feet trod the ground of this planet. I have nothing to offer the Father that He doesn’t already have and more of. He’s righteous, I’m filthy; He’s infinite, I’m finite; He’s incorruptible, I’m corruptible; He’s omnipotent, I’m weak. He has used me as He did Job to show His glory as the God of faithfulness. When all was done and the tests were over God was still there.

I can’t say I’ve suffered as much as Job but I do believe God is a Just and Righteous God. He has loved me enough to save my soul from an eternity without Him and loves me still to use this vessel.

God has taken me from birth to where I am now with a few road blocks along this thirty year trek but continues, as He said He would, to provide for my needs “according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” The One Who “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” has provided for me time and time again. When times ran rough all I needed to do was go to His throne of grace “to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

At five years of age, Aug. 17, 1982, the Lord displayed his strength in my life. I was hit by a car in my neighborhood. Given a 50/50 chance of coming out of surgery, no one knew what to expect. But God had a plan as He always does. He prevented total paralysis of which the doctors thought would be the case. He provided strength to move and much more that was highly unexpected. God prevented the development of a speech impediment and gave a good strong voice. He prevented the inadequacy of limited movement, if any, and allowed me to stand and walk for as long as I did.

I’ve had four surgeries on my legs and one on my good arm back on Aug. 8, 2006 and God’s grace has provided after every operation to carry on for Him. Things have had to be adjusted but, again, God provided what I needed.

I’d like, for the next few lines, to talk about an instance involving God’s providence. Back on April 2, 2002, four months after starting and continuing to take muscle relaxers for leg tremors, not knowing I had “Walking pneumonia” also, a friend of mine found me in my dorm room @ Liberty Univ. passed out on my floor. I was the only one using the room, the door was shut and locked and I wasn’t scheduled to meet anyone anytime soon. God provided a friend to think about me. It was because of God’s grace to provide and my friend’s inquiring mind that I am here for further service.
I wrote this short testimony for two reasons; one is that I wanted this to be an encouragement to someone. Seeing what God has done through people of faith in Him always brings a smile to my face. Second, today is the 25th anniversary of the day my life shifted gears for the glory of God and I wanted to tell of what He had done for me one more time.

Ps. 9:11, Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people His doings.

Lord bless you all,
George (Marcus) Marks Twisdale, Jr.

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IMG_0324Living with a disability is not easy, and it certainly creates daily challenges on many levels. But there are unsung heroes and heroines in our lives that often have it just as difficult: Caregivers.

 
I want to preface my upcoming thoughts with a disclaimer. Because of my level of injury, T8 paraplegia, and my age, a very youthful 51, realistically I do not need a caregiver. What I am going to share with you is how my wife Wendy and I deal with my disability. There have been instances over the past 15 years when Wendy has traveled and I stayed home fending for myself. And guess what? I survived just fine. The reality of being alone just means that things will get done, but at a slower pace. I’m the clunky old steam engine and Wendy is the Maglev high speed train. She makes my life so much easier and spoils me rotten.

 
The responsibility of caring for a loved one usually falls on a family member. One would think that being family would make the situation easier to deal with, but in fact, it can often make it more difficult. Since I am the disabled person in this story, I will describe my own situation. Remember that every instance is going to be different when caring for another person, but a respectful and proper attitude from both sides is essential.

 
After my injury, one of the very first things that Wendy was adamant about, was that she was my wife and not my caregiver. As true as that may be, I think as time went on the two roles blended. Wendy does many things for me as half of a marriage relationship, but she also does many things for me that I would normally do on my own if I was not in a wheelchair. But what if I approached each day with a sour attitude and a grumpy disposition? That would have a negative impact on our marriage and I’m sure would affect the many things that she does for me throughout each day acting as a caregiver. For instance…I’m typing this blog on my laptop while I am laying in bed. Wendy just ran by and I asked her if she could get me a drink. No problem at all as she went to the kitchen to get my drink and bring it back for me. Yes I am very capable of getting my own drink, but the effort of getting up, transferring into my wheelchair, rolling to the kitchen, pouring my drink, balancing it as I roll back to bed and transferring back into bed, means that I would probably choose to stay thirsty. I tend to weigh things in life now by how much time and effort it will involve on my part. Due to some injury complications, my stamina is not exactly on the high side and by the end of the day, it is gone completely. Wendy is more than willing to constantly help throughout the day with many tasks that would not normally be asked of her. Some of that is “wife related” and some of that is “caregiver related.” Either way, Wendy deserves my respect and a proper attitude from me, as do all caregivers. In the disabled/caregiver relationship, respect and attitude from both parties is a must. Speaking from the disabled perspective, I should never forget how much Wendy does for me in her care-giving role. If you are a caregiver, there is nothing wrong with discussing lack of respect or improper attitude. Let your loved one know how you feel in a loving way. It will maintain a proper and healthy relationship.
Caregivers often give round the clock care with lack of sleep, worry, demands from the person needing care as well as other family members and no time for personal needs. The last thing they need is a bad attitude from anyone, especially a loved one.

 
“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude”.
–Amy Tan

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Tuesday Talk With Alex

Did you know it’s estimated that 1,500 children become paralyzed from spinal cord injuries every year? According to a Vitale survey (2007) conducted by MJ Mulcahey, an occupational therapist at Shriners Hospital, motor-vehicle accidents and violence are among the leading causes for such injuries.

My injury was caused by a car accident when I was around nine months old and I have paralysis at the C5-C6 level of my spinal cord. Children with such injuries are more likely to have issues with growth and development since their bodies are fragile and more susceptible to injury.

Many children have scoliosis, curvature of the spine, due to weakened muscles around the spinal column.

I had severe scoliosis after my injury and had it partially corrected when I was 16 years old. A spinal fusion was performed to place rods next to the spinal cord. The rods act as a brace for my…

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Speed bumpMost of us are very familiar with yellow caution signs warning us of impending doom ahead. I would imagine that there is a warning sign for just about every conceivable road danger you could think of. From sinkholes to avalanches, and hundreds between the two. If you remember back to the days of studying for your driver’s license, some of the more common ones had to be committed to memory in order to pass the written test.

New drivers tend to take the caution signs more serious, but only for a short time. We become immune to them after a season and learn to navigate the roads with relative safety. Even so, there will probably be at least one mishap on our driving record because we failed to observe a caution sign.

I remember a joke I heard once about a lady driving on a winding country road. She was enjoying the warm summer day with her windows down, when all of a sudden another car that was careening all over the road was heading straight for her. As the car sped past her, barely avoiding an accident, a male driver started waving his arm out his window at her and yelled “PIG”!  She was instantly furious and waved her arm back at him and yelled “COW”! Then she made the next curve in the road and ran straight into a pig.untitled

Like the highways for our vehicles have caution signs, life also has many caution signs. When we are young, we even commit some of the more common ones to memory. But just like driving a car, we tend to drive our lives the same way. We become familiar with all of the signs and rapidly learn to navigate around them. But there are some caution signs that will cause more than a dented fender. If we miss the “Speed Bump Ahead” sign, we may get a small jolt from driving over it too fast, but all should end well. But what if we miss the sign that reads “Danger – Bridge out”? That could end in very different results.

Better_to_Be_Broken_Updated_CoverI lived much of my life ignoring caution signs because I thought I could always maintain control. Serious life situations only happen to other people…right? Wrong. Caution signs in life are there for a reason, not just to give counseling support groups new members.

So let me encourage all of us to keep our eyes open and pay attention caution advice. I write this blog as a man that did not observe caution signs. If you are interested in reading what my personal story is, check out my website http://www.rickhuntress.org and get a copy of my book Better to Be Broken.

There are always consequences when we choose to ignore caution signs.

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