A story of Alcohol, Leadership, Agility, Inclusive Team Building, and Love

The last few weeks I have been meeting up from friends from a past software company I worked at a few years ago.  This was one of the greatest high performing teams I have ever been a part of.  We worked hard and played hard. We made mistakes, we learned, and we delivered. Meeting up with them and this being St. Patrick’s Day reminds me of one of my favourite times in my life.

A few years ago, our team just hit a major milestone that took a lot of late nights and weekend work to meet…so we were going out to celebrate.  The team arranged a night out and made sure that we were going to a wheelchair accessible venue to make sure I could join.  Being new to Toronto I found this incredibly heartwarming.  I told my wife that I was going out after work for a dinner and a couple drinks and I shouldn’t be too late (so I thought at the time)…especially given this was a Thursday night.

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We celebrated like the world was ending.  Drink after drink.  We laughed, we bonded, and we drank.  We were discussing future features and functionality…and drank some more.  When I was having trouble holding shot glasses, my team would quickly help.  At 10:35pm I simply texted my wife, “I’m drunk”. 13 shots of Sake will do that.

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My team members escorted me home.  They first tried to role in the wrong condo.  I tried to tell them that it wasn’t my condo, but not until they saw the upset resident who was not too happy that they were trying to roll in a drunken disabled stranger into his house at 1:40am on a work night that they finally believed me.  He was not nearly as upset as my wife was when they finally rolled me into my condo.

At 1:45am I rolled into the condo.  My wife met us at the door.  To say she was not too happy would be an understatement.  People she never met was rolling her husband home on a weeknight.

She was not angry at me because I was drinking all night with my colleagues, she was upset because she was scared that her disabled husband was drunk and lost in our new huge city of Toronto.  Her inconsiderate husband neglected to keep her up to date about his whereabouts.  Her husband has learned a lesson and was incredibly apologetic for weeks after.  In a related note, I emailed apple about programming the iPhone Siri to better interpret drunken slur voice commands. 

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I said, “ Hey honey, meet my friends…”  I learned that introducing my friends to my wife at 1:45am is not the best time to do this. 

I fell asleep with the look of death starring at me only to wake up with the same look of death.  

Filled with Adrenaline at 6am I had my helper throw me on my exercise bike.  Five minutes in I realized I was still intoxicated.  So I jumped off.  As my helper was doing my morning routine he could not help to laugh.  He has never seen me drunk/hungover before.  There was a coelation between his laughter and how angry my wife was getting.  I said, “Hey Chuckles, keep it down.  I want to feel like George Jettson and go through the production line of shave, shower, and dress as autonomous as possible”. Soon as my wife left for work with only a few hours of sleep, I cancelled my morning meetings and handed my helper the tv remote.  I said I will pay you for a few extra hours if you let me take a nap before heading to work.

I rolled into work about 11:45am. Although I was freshly showered and dressed I could still smell last night’s alcohol.  It turns out that we must have spilled on the armrest of my char when we were doing toasts the night before.  Only me and one other person from the team made it into work that day.  I rolled to him to ask him how much I owed him for the wheelchair cab home.  He said that there were no wheelchair cabs available so the team flagged down a delivery truck and they lifted me and the power-chair into it to be driven home.

I emailed my wife to share this new piece of information and she said, “This is sending like the Hangover movie”

That night we were meeting her family to go out for her birthday dinner at a nice Italian restaurant.  I emailed her to ask her if she could get off work early to help me into bed so we could go for a nap before dinner out.  I will paraphrase her response to keep this blog post PG and say her response was a ‘no’.  It never ceases to surprise me that in my head at the time it sounded like a logical request.

I left work early, bought her birthday gift, and went out for dinner.  However, I was in bed by 8pm.

Important concepts:

  • Leadership - I empowered the teams to make decisions and produce a way home for me.
  • Agility - Transparency - I should have been more transparent with my wife on my whereabouts and well being
  • Agility - Definition of Done for a night out drinking needs to include washing the power-chair of alcohol spills
  • Team Building - Creating an exercise in which you bring home a teammate that has drank too much is effective
  • Equality - A husband with Cerebral Palsy can be just as much of a jerk than a husband without a disability

Our old team met up a couple weeks ago to do dinner as one of them was moving back home to the Philippines.  I told them that my wife had one request, “Please don’t come home drunk at 1:45am again with strangers”.  They replied with, “We have already met her, so we are no longer strangers” 😃  I was home by 9:30pm.

 You will always remember those teams you have been a part of that were incredibly effective.  They share things in common - they do amazing work, they challenge each other, and they have each other’s back.

I’m happy to say my wife and myself will be celebrating 14 years of marriage this September.

No Heros Required - A Callout to be better humans

I have been struggling over what I experienced Tuesday morning on the way to work.  

In the morning we are all in a rush to get to work to do all the things we need to do and not enough time to do.  On Tuesday, I was on my way to work to teach the Professional Product Owner Course.  I was running a little late and 3 TTC trains came that was too full for me to board with my power wheelchair.  While waiting a lady came in a walker.  I told her when the next train came I would block the people on my right to let her board first and sit in the blue seat designated for disabled people.  The next train came, doors opened and I moved to the side to block people on the right to let her board.  Some guy stepped over me to get in and shoved this lady back causing her to fall backwards on the platform.  I heard the thump and walker slide.  The rude guy waved for me to enter...but I stayed behind.  I was the only one that remained, the train left.  The once crowded platform was now empty.  I asked her if she needed me to call 911?  She said, “No, I will wait until someone comes that can help me get to my feet”.

I kept talking with her to make sure she was coherent.  I finally offered that if she held onto my powerchair that I could pull her up…and she agreed to try.  As I began to backup to get her to her feet, I had a sudden fear.  I don’t want to pull her up too fast and have her fall into my lap.  When I’m dressed for work I look pretty hot and don’t want to give her mixed signals.  She stood up and we made our way to the bench.  After a couple trains we boarded…she got off the stop before me and seemed fine.

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A little frazzled, I shared my story, people called me a hero for helping her.  I’m no hero.  I have many faults.  I can be mean, I can be politically incorrect…I am imperfectly me.

A hero is someone that has to offset jerks in the world.  At best, a hero or champion is simply overcompensating for an imbalance of ignorance. At best, I was simply not being a jerk...at that moment

Let’s spend less time celebrating perceived heroism and just all try to be better humans.  This way together we can help each other in this unfair world to enjoy our time here.

Until next time...

Confessions of a Rolling B@st@rd - The Need for Speed

In my previous post I talked about the whole operations of recruiting/training/managing my personal care to get out the door each morning to work as a professional with Cerebral Palsy.  Now I will share my commute.

With my recent expanded role, I am spending more time in the downtown office which makes it easier to get to work.  Although I have to take an extended journey as not all subway stops are accessible, I have found a new exhilarating sport…slalom pedestrian racing!

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When I get off the subway I have to roll from one end of the Eaton Centre (huge mall) to the other.  With the super waxed flooring it is the perfect opportunity to dial up my power chair to top gear, full throttle.

At 7:30am the mall congestion is light enough to make top speed possible, but enough congestion to make it irresponsible.

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With my headphones blaring ‘Bulls on Parade” I blast off!  I love the feeling the wind against my face.  Things blurring as I race past them.  I love how people jump to the side when they hear me coming up on them.  Oncoming traffic (people) that are in my path look at me with fear as they are not sure that I will be able to swerve around them.  The truth is that I don’t know either…I’m just trying to beat my previous time of 3 minutes, 23 seconds.  As a coach, I help people face their fears...so I'm just doing pro bono work in the morning. 

I have learned that if I keep my swerving tight that I get a way better time.  This means I just graze their coats.  I see them saying something to me as I fly by…but my music is blaring.

As I proceed to the PATH the hallways narrow, more people, with rolling luggage….that’s when the fun doubles.  There are people that always try to squeak through the individual doorway.  These people are the brave.  If I hit you there is a good chance one of us will be hurt…I like my chances.  

Once I make it to the office my brain is clear.  Ready to start my day.

Find the joys in life no matter what your circumstances or limitations you have.  It's there if you look for it.

*Disclaimer* - there has been no able bodied people harmed in racing to date…but the journey continues.

2016 was a year of choice...

If 2015 was the year of change, 2016 was the year of choice. I chose who to spend time with. I chose where I wanted to lead. I chose my health. I chose to live...

February we chose to go on vacation with dear friends we met the previous year on vacation from Sarnia.  Kelly and I love spending time with them. My tweets from sea the first day went in this order:

  1. "I like my drinks served to me like I like software - continuous delivery' ~1:35pm
  2. "I'm drunk" ~ 3:10pm
  3. From Kelly " Having dinner with friends as Dave is passed out in our room a sleep for the night" ~6:43pm

Although Day 1 at sea was not productive by most standards - it was followed by walking up 60 steps to go on a waterslide for the first time in my life. It I climbed the stairs in fear. I slid down the slide with excitement. I stood at the bottom accomplished. You do not grow without passing through fear.  I also walked into the ocean and looked back to the beach and saw the world from a new perspective.

I did a number of speaking engagements in 2016. I did talks on 'Leading with Imperfect Feet' which talks about my walk on the beach, into the ocean and how that paralleled my leadership style in leading change in large organizations. I got the extreme privilege to do my first keynote ever at Agile Ottawa.  Although I have trouble standing, I was humbled to inspire 500 people to stand and applaud after my talk.  I'm still choked up.

I chose to move on professionally in 2016. I left my previous company to take on leading the Agile movement at Scotiabank's Digital Factory.  Although my time at BlueCat was short, the relationships I made with amazing people who I engaged with 16-18 hours a day in helping develop a leaderful-innovative culture will always be something I remember.  I do not get emotional at work often, but when 85 people assemble in your office the last day to share what you meant to them...it will bring tears to you. Love you all.

Every end is followed by a new beginning. I have the privilege of serving my amazing team of agile rockstars and Senior Leadership across the organization.  The first six months have had me focused on Digital Operations in Canada with this year also working with Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Columbia.  This has been an amazing experience both personally and professionally.

In 2016 Kelly and I chose to spend time with our family and dear friends. We have fantastic memories of Blue Jay games, the Science Center, ROM, house parties and over priced pots and pan parties.  It's frustrating not to see everyone we would love to see, but it fills our heart with the ones we do.

In 2016 I chose to continue swimming and build up my cardio conditioning.  Spending countless hours with Aimee has made me a way better swimmer.  Late this year I made the choice to start doing weight training and stretching after a 24 month hiatus I was disappointed and ashamed that I let it fall, but glad I chose that to be the start of a comeback instead of the end of the story.  If my body continues to respond favorably...stay tuned for the next challenge.

I did not get to blog much personally this year.  As I get older the years go by quicker.  No matter how fast life goes I want to make sure that the ones I love know how much you mean to ma and how you inspire me to fight through the struggle of pushing on through my challenging amazing life.  Kelly, family, and friends...I love you.  Happy New Year! 

 Me and my everything

Me and my everything

2015 was a year of change...

It's hard to believe that 2015 is already coming to an end.  This year has been one of the most challenging years I have faced because of all the change.  In the last year I have changed cities, changed jobs, and changed as a person.  Change is really scary because were leaving a story that has already been written to a story that has yet to be told.  This year was to start of that story for me.

The beginning of 2015 caused me great remorse.  I was leaving some very special people that I've met over the last nine years.  People that have watched me grow.  People that have watched me succeed.  People that have watched me learn from my mistakes.  People that made me feel loved.  I still remember in particular having to say goodbye to my awesome team that I had the privilege of building and accomplishing great things.  I still have vivid memories of B and I hugging in tears as he was telling me, "stay stubborn brother".  B is somebody that has seen me and my best and worst times and that help support me to be where I am today.  I remember closing the door of our house for the last time in Waterloo before we headed to Toronto.  That door closing was symbolic.

The year also started with great frustration and struggle.  I had to hire new PSW's and have strange people responsible for helping me with my morning routine (shave, shower, dress, etc.).  Hiring one PSW when you have a group of solid ones is somewhat challenging… Hiring a PSW without a base is extremely scary.  We have found one person… The rest have been horrifying experiences.  Hey, I still lived to tell my tail.

I cannot say enough about the support my wife is extended to me both emotionally and physically.  She is filled then to help me when these other PSW's have failed.  She was there to comfort me when I had 1 million things going on and struggles.  She is my everything.  She went through the same things I did… And she was able to get her designation and score a job.  I cannot think of any other person that I want beside me as we embrace life.

For the first time in my life I was able to commute to work completely on my own via the subway.  There is nothing more empowering than to be able to go where you want, when you want, and by your own power.  This new freedom has made a large city seems small.  This new freedom allowed me to go to baseball games to meet friends from Waterloo… In one case I walked to the stadium with a couple that had a daughter that was in a wheelchair.  As I shared with them my story they got all teared up and thanked me for giving them the inspiration that their daughter can still have an amazing life.

This new freedom was not my only life experience this year.  Kelly and I went on a vacation alone for the first time in ten years.  I cannot come at a better time as we were in the middle of all this change.  On this vacation I was able to walk barefoot in the sand for the very first time.  On this vacation, I was able to go snorkelling for the very first time.  On this vacation, I was able to meet some amazing people that have become great friends.  These people were the reason why Kelly and I were able to experience everything we did at the end of our vacation.

I continued the pursuit to helping out great causes this year.  I did my damnedest to raise awareness for the John McGivney Centre to help their preschool program stay open.  I was fortunate that my YouTube video went viral.

I was able to work with the company to help them make great strides towards agility.  I got to work face-to-face with a bunch of amazing people.  I have been able to assemble a fantastic team.  I have been able to form some fantastic relationships with these people outside of work.  A group of us went out for drinks one night that resulted in me having way too many shots… This combined with the lack of wheelchair cab's had these new people flagged down a delivery truck to bring us back home.

I was able to start swimming again.  My sister-in-law (who we've been able to build a closer relationship with) trained to me three times a week in the pool and at the gym.  Being in the water opens up even greater freedom.

This year filmmaker Edward Platero release the documentary about my life and doing the Terry Fox walk.  Watching myself in third person crossing the finish line was incredibly emotional for me.  Being in the moment I now realize how much of an achievement was at that moment.  Hearing all those amazing things from people that I care the world about in that documentary inspires me to keep going on.  The amount of emails I've gotten because of the documentary helps me appreciate the impact I have on others.

This is the story of my 5km walk I did in 2014 and growing up & living a full life with Cerebral Palsy. The story is told by my lifelong friend and brother, Edward Platero. I like to do the best I can today and hope to do even better tomorrow.

At the end of this year I was finally able to realize a goal that I've had for some time.  I was able to kick off my own consulting company (Dave Dame Inc.).  I was also able to speak at a couple conferences.

I learned a lot this year.  As every year, I had a lot of ups and downs.  I miss a lot of people dearly and I have had the opportunity to meet some new amazing people.  Kelly and I realized that Kitchener Waterloo will always be home for us.  We will be back there again someday.  KW is who we are.  Until then… The memories and experiences we gather until then will make our life amazing.  I am grateful to have the people, family, and amazing wife I have.

For 2016 I hope to experience many more things.  I hope to release a book that describes my challenges and tenacity of my life of being a professional with a disability and the parallel of the challenges and tenacity you need in creating high performing organizations.

The journey continues.

Looking back on the journey – one year later

Crossing the finish line (49 secss)

 

Today is the one-year anniversary of the 5 KM walk that I did to raise $30,000 for the Terry Fox foundation.  This was nearly a year and a half of preparation physically and mentally to accomplish this.  A year ago at this moment Alex was stretching me as I was hearing people starting to gather outside.  Ed Prichard was trying to keep me relaxed by being his usual humorous self.  My wife was right there with ready to support me every step as she has the last 14 years.  Alex and I spent two years training.  Our first goal was to shed 60 pounds.  Our second goal was to prepare for this event.  You build a close bond was somebody that you spend three nights a week training for over twenty-four months.

My adrenaline was flowing strong.  This challenge was not going to beat me.  This challenge was going to be a stepping stone for the next.

What made the walk so special was that I was able to reconnect with a lot of people that I have not had the chance to spend much time with for a while.  Individual lives take us in different directions and priorities.  This day allowed us to align our directions and priorities if only for a few hours.  The laughter and conversation help me forget the pain that I was going through each step of the way.

Completing the walk showed me and others that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.  Looking back it also taught me the importance of having a fantastic support system of my wife, friends, and family.  It is a moment I will always cherish.  Not only the training.  Not only the walk.  Not only crossing the finish line.  Not only experiencing this with friends and family.  Not only doing this step by step with my wife.  It's all of the above!

Since the event the journey has continued.  This last year the journey has brought me and my wife to a new city, new jobs, new opportunities, and new lives.  This has been an incredible struggle that exceeded the walk as it is pushed me personally and emotionally.  I felt incredibly vulnerable at times.  I second guessed my choice at times.  However, it's opened a world of new freedoms.  For the first time in my life I'm able to independently get around because of public transportation.  I'm able to go to and from work completely on my own.  I'm able to go meet clients without having to organize helpers to bring me.  I'm able to go meet friends for a drink or for dinner.  I'm able to run errands to help my wife.  This summer has made this huge city smaller.  (However, with the winter approaching it would dramatically impact my quality of life as I do not do well in harsh weather.  Having this new freedom makes me appreciate summer more… And despise winter more.)  

This year has also allowed me to walk barefoot in the sand for the first time.  To snorkel for the first time.  To enjoy places around the world with my wife.

This year has seen Alex move to a new city as well.  His family added a new baby.  Alex has changed careers.  His journey still continues. Although we are apart...our bond is forever.

This year I had to say goodbye to special people.  This year I got to reconnect with old friends.  This year I got to build closer friendships with friends.  This year I got to make new friends.  This year I've had the opportunity to build closer relationships with family.

The journey has taught me so much more than achieving a goal.  It has taught me The timportance of having fantastic people in your life.  I have been purposeful in keeping relationships over the last year.  I'm purposeful in telling them what they mean to me.  After the popularity of this walk I have realized the influence I have on others.  Be the person you want to be...live with mistakes not regret...struggle makes you stronger...

Luckily, Facebook memories and the amazing documentary that Edward Platero put together will always remind me of this special time.  I'm looking forward to having another compelling event to bring everyone together.  Life is a collection of these events.  The journey is not always easy… But it is definitely worth it.  What does next year have in store?  Stay tuned… Because the journey continues.

A Complete Day

Today was a cool milestone for me. I travelled to the Rogers Centre completely on my own to meet a couple of good friends for a Jays game. I have *never* been there on my own. I got to the subway filled with discovery. When I got off the subway I saw a family with a girl in a power chair all dressed in Blue Jays gear.

I asked if I could follow them as I was new to the city and I was meeting up with a couple idiots that I call friends:) While travelling they were asking a bunch of questions as they seemed enthused on how independant I was. Their daughter was 15 attending special classesand was curious how I ended up in Toronto. I shared with them my story, growing up, my parents, University, getting married, professional career, etc.

 

When I got to the Rogers Center I thanked them so much for allowing me to follow them. They were both in tears and thanked me for giving them inspiration for their daughter. I take forgranted my life. I met up with friends for an awesome time, the jays won, I downed my citcris wine cooler like a boss, helped a family, and had a life moment of getting to a game all by myself.
Pretty amazing day.

What's Life Without Living?

Most people count you out when you are born  in the 70s with a perceived short life expectancy and physical limitations.  This motivates you to exceed those expectations.  My life was focused to being able to wake up another day, establishing myself professionally, and/or meeting the next goal or challenge I set for myself. Life was focused on proving them wrong.

I have fought hard to overcome daily pains and logistical challenges to continue to get up each day.  Pushing myself to achieve professional goals and helping enterprise organizations change to optimize delivering high value to customers and their market space. Putting in a ton of hours to exercise to get the most that I can from my body, being able to walk and be more mobile.  I put all this work in to have a life.  

However, I was not leaving anytime to use this life to live.  To live to experience new things.  To live for seeing and feeling things that I did not know even existed.

Life will happen, Living it has to be deliberate.

For the first time ever my bare feet felt the sand of the beech.  It was as if I was stepping on a fluffy cloud.  I have never felt such an unusual, awesome feeling before with my feet.  It was warm and the sand hugged my feet as I walked along the beach with my wife at my side.

 Virgin feet on sand

Virgin feet on sand

I snorkelled for the very first time and got to see the most beautiful tropical fish with vibrant colours that cannot be described.  The water was the most beautiful blue I have ever seen.  The fish swam all around me.  I felt such a freedom.  I did not have to fight gravity, I was simply free.  Like floating in a beautiful new world, so peaceful, so tranquil.

 Diving down to heaven.  Yes, those are SpiderMan water wings...don't judge....

Diving down to heaven.  Yes, those are SpiderMan water wings...don't judge....

My wife and I have worked very hard at being a couple, excelling at work, and doing a number of community activities supporting various causes.  Time was flying past us, before we knew it, 5 years had gone by since we last went away somewhere outside of Canada, ten years since we had went outside of Canada just the two of us.

This made me realize that I need to balance life with living.  I’m still going to push myself both personally and professionally, but I need to take the time and reap the benefits of life by living and experiencing these moments.  I need to take advantage of this while I’m blessed to have the mobility I do and my wife s able to join and assist me with us experiencing living.

Walking barefoot in the sand and snorkelling for the first time might not seem like a big deal to most, but for me it was something that I would have never dreamed of.  

 Thank you Fred...

Thank you Fred...

I’m always in awe of the awesomeness of people.  During our vacation we met awesome peeps that made the above experiences possible.  We always see on TV and read about the people that suck.  However, the people that go above & beyond are rarely mentioned or noted as the exception.  The last two years I have seen mostly the awesomeness of the human race, making the people that suck the exception.  

Continue to push yourself.  Continue to achieve.  Remember to live for the moment, live for the experience, live for the memories, live while you can enjoy the most...simply live!

Losing a close friend this year taught me that we all have a finite amount of time...living is more than putting in time.

The Journey Continues

Can't Stand the word "Can't"

The word "Can't"bothers me.  It strikes a nerve with me.  When I hear the word "Can't" I interpret that as someone is not going to try.  Can't is convenient.  Can't is crippling.  I hear they're not prepared to go through the struggle and effort.  I hear that someone is not willing to pick themselves up when they fall. 

My wife and I recently relocated to a new city which meant I had to hire a whole new support staff to help me in the mornings at 5 AM with my personal care (shaving, showering, and dressing).  This means I have to trust strangers to whom I have only just met with my life. I have to instruct them to help me get ready in the morning.  This puts me in a highly vulnerable situation.  One person that I hired (now fired) did not take the time to learn the specifics of my morning routine.  There is nothing medical about my morning routine, but it is highly detailed to ensure everything is just right for me to be independent through out the day.  This person almost caused me to fall in the shower a number of times.  I felt crippled for the first time in a long time.  I was frustrated.  Angry.  I am trying to get ready for my first day at my new job but not sure I will make it out of the bathtub..  Luckily, my wife jumped in to help me get ready so I can be at work at 7:30 AM.  When I get dressed, my clothes have to be lined up with such precision to allow me to go to the bathroom independently at work.  The margin of failure is only inches.  This is a routine that I've continually refined over my life to strive to get more independent to allow me to have a "normal" life.  My job of being Dave and managing my needs is a 24/7 job on top of my professional job.

I don’t share this with you to feel sorry for me.  I’m simply giving background to why I have no tolerance for the word can’t or cannot accept the excuse that something is too difficult to try.  If I did not do anything that was difficult, I would not even get out of bed in the morning.

Let “Can’t” be the start of the story, not the ending.  Let “Can’t” drive you, not constrain you.  To get something you've never had, you must do something you've never done.  You have to change.  You have to endure scars to achieve what seems impossible.  You have to struggle.  You have to be resilient.  Anything worth having is worth struggling for. Try. Fail. Try again.  Our journey will be made up of falling and picking ourselves up.

These are my scars to endure.  Scars serve as a reminder to the past, but it does not tell us about the future. Change is challenging, frustrating, and terrifying.  There is no growth without change.  The struggle has to be fought, because the journey has to continue.

It was the best of times and the worst of times - Davey's Double Down Review

Please click here for background music while you read this. The song has a double meaning... When I saw the new double down sandwich commercial from KFC I remember thinking that this could be the greatest innovation to man kind since the internet.

Two chicken fillets with bacon and two slices of Monterey cheese and the colonel's special sauce...I had to try this bad boy myself.

Tonight...was the night:

Pre-Game:

I didn't know whether I wanted to just stare and admire it's greatness or to eat it.  Of course...I decided to take a taste of heaven...

 Double Down

Double Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Time:

Oh my god...my taste buds were rockin! There was a party in my mouth and I hope every one could come.  The chicken crisp yet moist...the bacon coating each bite...the cheese the icing on this masterpiece.  The sauce was heavenly...if Jesus perspired, his sweat would be this sauce.

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IMG_0013
Every bite better than the last!
Every bite better than the last!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Game:

About 20 minutes after my face began to sweat. It was like I wiped my face with the inside of a ruffle bag.  It ran through my colon like a bowling ball.

About an hour later my male ovaries began to throb.  It's times like this that I'm grateful that I can't wipe my own @$$.

Will I ever have one again?...some day. 8/10

Until next time...

Disabled Etiquette?

Yesterday I was in a meeting at work talking about 508 compliance. During the talk I was struggling to think of what the current politically correct term for physically disabled as I was pretty confident it was not 'gimp' or 'crip'. In my research for the new politically correct term, I came across this ridiculous article:

Mobility: http://www.disabilityliving.ca/people-with-disabilities-mobility-disability-communication/

Here is what they list as 'disabled 'etiquette:

1. Do not lean on someone’s wheelchair – remember, “Wheelchairs are an extension of personal space.”

Funny, so disabled guys don't mind a stripper on their lap but touching their wheelchair is off limits?

2. Do not help someone (for example, help maneuver a wheelchair) until you have first asked; do not just assume he or she needs your help.

Disabled etiquette calls for people to receive permission to help? Should we not be happy that someone wants to help?

3. “Don’t patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head. Reserve this sign of affection for children.”

So it's not ok to rub a disabled person but it's ok to be a pedophile? In my example for #1, disabled guys never minded being rubbed at a strip club.

4. If you are speaking to someone in a wheelchair for a considerable amount of time, get down on his or her eye level – this will help both of you avoid a sore neck later.

Able bodied people should drop to their knees for us? One word - "Giggity!"

5. If someone using a wheelchair asks you for directions, think ahead of any obstacles that may present themselves (weather, distance, hills, curbs, etc).

Maybe we should ask that the person providing directions lay a trail of breadcrumbs for the disabled person to follow... Really? Should we not be happy that they are providing directions? It's hard for non-disabled people to recognize the obstacles until they have spent a decent amount of time around a disabled person.

6. “Treat adults as adults. Call a person by his or her first name only when you extend this familiarity to everyone present.”

What? I don't even understand this one. When my friends introduce me to others as an idiot it's well deserved. I work hard at it.

7. Did you know that some individuals having a mobility-related disability use their arms to balance themselves? Keep this in mind when considering physical contact.

If your not sure...see if they are wearing shoes on their hands first.

8. Don’t set your personal belongings on the desktop attached to someone’s wheelchair.

If you have a desktop attached to your chair and don't demonstrate your upset when someone places items on you...your not a disabled person...your a book shelf.

9. “Keep the ramps and wheelchair-accessible doors to your building unlocked and unblocked.”

Is this etiquette or something that should just be done?

10. When possible, place things within the reach of the individual having the mobility-related disability.

Finnally, one etiquette statement I can appreciate. It took years for my wife to remember to leave the remote in my reach. I can't help to think this was done on purpose to avoid watching sports.

I'm not saying society is perfect in their attitudes toward people with disabilities. However, I don't believe we need our own etiquette category any more than any other minority.

Life is short. We can spend our time being upset that their are ignorant people out their or we can invest the time in appreciating all the great people out there that see us as no different.

This is an unfair and awesome world...Embrace it.

Until next time...

 

The Rolling Business Traveler

A number of my Facebook friends wanted the story behind my statuses on Friday...so here it is... I recently flew to Minnesota for work.  It was really beneficial to have face to face strategic talks with my colleagues.  It also gave me the opportunity to spend time with my new boss as he works remotely most of the time.

I have flown on numerous occasions in the post 9/11 era with my power wheelchair for both business & pleasure.  For the most part everything usually runs smoothly...except this time.

I was at the airport in Minnesota eager to fly back home.  Usually when I go through security they wave a wand over me, give me a quick pat down, take a quick look around my chair and send me on my way.  However, this time was way different.  The security dude walked over to me and asked if I was ready.  I acknowledged - yes. He began rubbing me all over...which even made me feel dirty. He pulled me forward and started feeling my butt.  I now have a greater understanding of how Kermit the Frog felt each time Jim Henson put his hand inside him.  If the security dude kept his hand there any longer he would have had me singing, "The Rainbow Connection".

He started patting my crotch area.  Being away from my wife all week this dude was a few rubs away from popping the cork. He then asked me to take off my belt.  I told him that I couldn't but my helper would be able to.  Since my helper was already 'cleared' from security he's not allowed to touch me until I'm clear.  Since the security dude already had gotten to know me intimately I agreed to let him do it.  After the waist check and a mirror ran under my chair I was good to go.  Surprisingly he never gave me his number after that.

After checking in for the flight I learn that the flight has been delayed 2 hours.  I was tempted to go back to security to see what I get on the second date.

After all this I finally get to board the plane.  In two + hours I would get to see my wife.

After landing in Toronto I waited 40 minutes for the airport staff to bring a chair up for me to exit the plane.  The lady said that they were still looking for my power wheelchair.  After 30 more minutes she asked me if I could just come back tomorrow for it.  Ok, I'll put off being disabled until it's convenient for you to locate my power chair.  Shortly after the comment my chair arrived all in pieces.  Luckily my helper put it all back together again.  However, it had a lot of excessive scratches on it.  I began driving it and the right tire was making a noise.

I decided to make a claim.  The customer service guy said that they do not grant claims for superficial damages like excessive scratches.

Now, my power chair does not define me, but it is a part of me.  I'm in it from 7:30am - 5pm and present to colleagues and customers from my chair.  So when my chair is banged up it takes away from my normal good looking appearance.  No one would go to work everyday with torn cloths or present in a torn suit...so how is this superficial?  After I explained this to the customer support dude he became embarrassed.  He approved the claim now I have to organize getting it fixed with their supplier.

At the end of the day it took me 12 hours to fly back home which should have taken 4 hours.  My wife was waiting for me with open arms.  While in Minnesota I spent a total of 8 hours waiting for 15 minute wheelchair cab rides from the hotel to the Minnesota office.  Despite this I love what I do.  I would not trade it for anything.

Until next time...

A Christmas Story

It's that time of the year again when we celebrate the holidays.  It's funny how the holidays remind us of special memories from our childhood.  Playing, school pageants, and Santa. Playing in the snow was not as exciting for me as it was other kids.  Snow and disabled people don't make a great combination.  Still to this day I'm still puzzled how R2D2, the galactic cripple,  moved with such ease around the planet Hoth. My mom would spend an hour bundling me up in a snow suit and put mittens on my hands to go outside to play.  You have all seen my hands, putting mittens on me is as challenging as solving a Rubik's Cube.

Let me take a moment to list the many ways that I could play in the snow:

  1. Make snow angels

That's it. 1 hour to dress. 2 hours of play.  A lot of dumb ass snow angles in the front yard.

When I was young I attended a school with just disabled people.  Like regular schools, they too would have an annual Christmas show.  The major difference was that most of the cast was non-verbal.  It was difficult to tell whether they were singing jingle bells, frosty the snowman, or silent night...it all sounded the same!  Being that I was in the front my back was soaked from their spit.  Their Christmas play was more like an nativity set with Joseph wearing a hockey helmet, given that no one could actually move around on stage.

I remember one time that my mom brought me to sit on Santa's knee so I could tell him what I wanted for Christmas.  Sitting on his knee, Santa asks, "David, Do you want Santa to bring you a new pair of legs for Christmas?"

First off, why is Santa talking in 3rd person?

Second, isn't Santa supposed to listen to what I want instead of drawing attention to me being disabled?

Me and Santa

Third, why do I smell Scotch?

I replied, "The Millennium Falcon, page 345 in the Christmas wish book, with batteries!"

Christmas Eve always brought great excitement...Santa was coming to bring presents!  Would I get the Millennium Falcon or the 'Race 'n Chase' race track?   I remember trying to pretend to be sleeping one Christmas Eve as 'Santa' was attempting to put together (what I would come to find out) a race track.  The cusses of "God D***t, Stupid piece of sh!t," filled the air.  I remember thinking to myself, "Santa has quite a potty mouth for a jolly man".

Me and my race track

We all have special childhood memories of Christmas.  As adults we get to relive the magic of Christmas through little ones.  Instead of receiving - we give.  We give memories for the next generation.

Have a great Christmas everyone!

Until next time...

Being Remembered

I heard once that you start dying the second after you are born. My dad passed away over 13 years ago. I cannot go a single day without thinking of him. He was a great man. I regret that I have more appreciation for him now than when he was still with us. Maybe this is because I have grown into a replica of him.

I wish he could have seen first how all of the sacrifices that he and my mom endured paid off to make their son a man.  I wish he could have witnessed me falling in love to become the husband I'm proud to be.  I wish he could have seen the boy that everyone labeled a 'cripple' evolve into an adult that strives to excel in his profession.  I wish he could see me living a full and independent life.  I wish we could talk.  I wish he could see my eyes water up as I type this.  I wish I could hug him.

We had our struggles and our differences over the years.  It's only now that I know why he was so hard on me.  Society considered me an underdog but he believed in me.  My father could be considered underdog himself growing up.  With a grade 8 education and callus hands from long hours of  hard labour, he became a part owner of a company that employed over 100 employees.

My Dad

When a loved one dies it forces us to stop and take inventory of our lives.  To measure who we are and what we have become.  I don't have those answers for myself but I know who my dad was.  My dad was a strong leader that lead without having to say a word.  He was a man with a huge heart...that it ended up quitting on him from caring and loving so much through his life.  A man that loved stirring the pot and playing countless practical jokes.  A man that worked hard to give me the opportunities I have now.  A man that gave unconditionally in silence.

After my father died I heard stories of his giving nature.  I heard that my father would deliver groceries to his employee that was off work on disability and was struggling to feed his family.  Three weeks after his funeral I received a letter from a church that explained how my father worked on their their furnace many times through the years even though they could never afford to pay for the repairs.   There were many more stories that were told.  My dad never talked about any of these things...that was the type of man he was.

How will I be remembered?  I'm dying to find out.

Until next time...

The Dating Game

Everyone wants to love...and to be loved.  Everyone wants intimacy.  Everyone wants someone to grow old with.  Finding this person is the end game of many trials and errors.  This game is called dating.  It comes with optimism, discovery, anxiety, awkwardness, and self realization.  Dating is a challenge to everyone...especially for me.  This game  started for me in high school and continued to my early 30's. The most common question people have about someone with a disability is if they can have sex.  Let's put it this way, I didn't go through my vasectomy for a good time.  However, this question was always in the back of the mind of  everyone I dated.  Over time I wanted to have my opening line be, "Hi, I'm Dave...and I can do it".  I can disappoint a lady just as well as my walking peeps can.

I didn't start dating until later in high school.  I had to wait until girls got their driver's license.  I realize that dating a disabled guy might not be considered cool, but having my mom drive would have made it worse.  My mom's singing along to her 8-track of Glen Campbell singing 'Rhinestone Cowboy' would not have set the right mood for the date.

Caveman used clubs to begin their courtship.  Our generation used mixed tapes.  I know I'm going to get heckled about admitting this...but I'm sure I wasn't alone in doing this in high school.  When looks are not your selling point, nothing sealed the deal like spending hours making a mixed tape that included  'In your Eyes' and 'Somebody' for that special lady.  If you were smart, you used your dual tape deck to make multiple copies of this love potion in case that week's attempt didn't workout.

When preparing for a date I would think ahead to what I might say.  Obviously she isn't going to be interested with my boring self...so I have to portray what I would be like if I was interesting.   I guess telling her that I scored 4 touchdowns in the high school championship would be a stretch...

In addition to this I would have to manage how much I drank during the day.  No,  not 'liquid courage' but ANY fluid.  I would quit drinking anything at 2pm for a 6pm date.  I didn't want to take the chance that the restaurant washroom wasn't accessible, and asking her to help me might be considered a perverted request.  Gigity!  Alternatively, wetting my pants would not likely lead to a second date (unless I was lucky enough to connect with her freshly after a really bad relationship).

I did not use my wheelchair on dates too often.  Since I'm able to walk with assistance, I would have my date walk me.  Something I discovered while dating, and verified over my 5 years of marriage,  that women do not wear practical shoes out.  Walking me is usually easy...unless you are wearing 4 inch heels.   It was like being walked  along a tight rope.  Having my date walk me assured that at least we would hold hands during our date.  Who's got game?  Davey's got game. Plus, I got to make sure she didn't have 'man hands'.

In an attempt to be independent I would always order chicken fingers so I would not have to ask her to cut my meat up.  Chicken fingers is one of the last socially acceptable thing to pick up and eat with your fingers.  The fact that chicken fingers were on the menu tells you the type of places I would bring my dates too.  Shut up, I'm frugal.

We have all been exposed to being on a date where the other person will talk your ear off over the most uninteresting things imaginable.  When this happened to me, she would say, "You are such a great listener".  Not really...I just can't walk away.  Falling out of the booth and crawling away might have given her the hint.

Even though dating was excruciating, I would not change anything  After a long time playing this game, I finally won my soul mate.

Until next time...

Forever grateful

A lot of my coworkers have little children or are about to have a child.  This has had me thinking about my parents. My parents dedicated their lives to make sure that I have the life I have.

I was born in 1971.  At this time a lot of parents were advised to have their disabled child checked in an institution so they can get the 'care' they need.   Parents were told to not have high hopes as their was not much hope in the world for a disabled person. They  chose the path that no one dared to travel.  They were committed for me to have a life.  A life with highs and lows.  A life of love and heartbreaks.  A life of laughing and crying. A life of success and mistakes.  A life to the fullest.  A life I can call my own.

I'm grateful for your numerous battles with school boards who were not ready to accept me.

I'm grateful for you being a hard ass by making me work all hours of the night to one finger type my assignments.

I'm grateful that you didn't make excuses for me.

I'm grateful that you helped me build an armor shield that I would need to depend on when you weren't around.

I'm grateful for the many hours you spent with me in the hospital rooms telling me the pain would not be forever.

I'm grateful for all the sacrifices you made to buy the special equipment I needed.

I'm grateful for everything I have now.

You did an amazing job in raising someone who is a husband, who is a brother, who is an uncle, who is a son-inlaw, brother-in-law, uncle, and co-worker.  You did an awesome job raising Dave.

We had stairs in our house while growing.  Stairs that were a huge obstacle for me.  Despite asking my dad many times to build a ramp he never did.  For the longest time I thought it was because he couldn't be bothered.  A week before he died he told me that the reason why he never built the ramp was because he would not always be around to build ramps for me in this world...so I needed to be prepared to climb for myself.

For those of you that have children or are about to have a child, remember it's not the material things you give them, it's not about knowing all the right things to do, it's about giving them the opportunity to experience a full life.

I think I'm going to call my mom right now.

 Left to right: Mom, Sister, Dad, Me

Left to right: Mom, Sister, Dad, Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time...

Disabled people can be bastards

To help provide insight to the dark side of disabled people I thought I would share a story of a practical joke that me and my disabled friend 'pulled' on a helper (PSW) that we both shared. This helper had been working with my friend for a lot of years. This helper only had been working for me for six weeks when we played this practical joke on him. As you will read, he is quite gullible. I wish I could take the credit for thinking of this, but it was my disabled buddy who thought of it.

I scheduled this helper to accompany me on an off-site management meeting for the company I was working for at the time.

While working with my buddy this helper says, "I'm going out of town with Dave for a few days."

My buddy replies, "Did Dave tell you what he needs for his 'bedtime' routine?"

The helper replied, "No".

My buddy proceeds to tell him that because my spasticity is so bad that the only way I can relax to fall a sleep is to be 'massaged in his private place' at night. After a bit of back & forth words between them, my buddy has him believing the story.

That day my buddy called me at work and told me what he had done. He encourages me to play along...I was just hoping I could do it with a straight face.

The next day this helper was working with me and brings up the conversation that he had with my buddy. I cut him off before he could finish and said, "Look, this isn't a rose garden for me either and rather not talk about it"...the truth is that I wouldn't have been able to keep a straight face if the conversation went on any longer.

The day before the trip this helper asked my buddy if he had any last minute advice. My buddy told him, "If I was you, I would bring condoms. If Dave is a 'quick trigger' you really don't want to clean that up"

My buddy calls to give me the update of their conversation. I decided to share this story with my wife, giving her another opportunity for her to shake her head in disbelief at me. To my surprise, she played along. When my wife filled my suitcase she packed condoms. I feel lucky to have found a woman that has a gimp fetish AND a twisted sense of humour!

When we got to the hotel the helper opened my suitcase to find the condoms...I still remember his look of fear as he noticed them.

Like every company offsite there is the usual team building exercise at a bar in the evening. My helper was taking every advantage of the free liquor to prepare him for what he thought he would be doing later. Near the end of the night I told him that I was tired and ready to check in for the night. My helper downed 3 drinks and proceeded to push my chair back to the hotel. I NEVER recall being pushed so slow in my life. It was like the final walk of a death row prisoner about to go in the electric chair. All we needed was the Imperial March theme from star wars playing in the background to set the tone better.

Before I continue on with the end of the story I think it's important to pay tribute to this helper's dedication to his job. This dude was about to 'churn my butter' out of commitment toward his job. The military would love to get this blind loyalty to duty!

We got back to the hotel, put my pajamas on, and asked for instructions for the rest of the routine. I said there is one thing before you start...can you sing "I'm a little tea pot"?

At that moment he realized we were 'pulling' his leg. He said, "You crips are warped bastards"...and to all a good night.

Until next time...

Ordinary Life…what an extraordinary effort

The last couple of months have been insane. For the first time in 5 years I became incredibly sick. I have no one to blame but myself for stretching myself thin in all areas of my life. However, for me to have an ordinary life it requires an extraordinary effort.

Balancing work/life is challenging for everyone. We all want to make an impact in our chosen profession and it’s easy to allow our passion to consume us as we strive to leave our footprint with our organization. When I got sick it made sense for ‘rest’ and me to stay home. How great would it be to do this spontaneously as the cold sets in. For me, staying home and resting involves more structure than it should. Having to be independent while home alone requires me to stay in my office chair so I can move around independently to the washroom and around the house while home alone. When you are sick wanting rest…an office chair is NOT the most comfortable thing to sit in…trust me, I’m a professional sitter. However, getting loaded on Buckly’s made it a little easier. I was getting a little grief from co-workers that I was working when I was supposed to be resting…considering I couldn’t lay down and daytime tv sucks, working in pajama bottoms & t shirts was the next best thing. Unfortunately for my wife, luckily for me, she came down with the cold and stayed home the next day allowing me to sit in my spot on the recliner couch. Having these challenges seemed ‘normal’ to me but was a moment of discovery when explaining it to my work peeps.

For those of you that don’t know, I have Personal Support Workers that come in the mornings (5:30am-8am) to help me get ready (bike, shower, dress, try and make me look good) and drive me to work. They also come at night (4:30pm-6:30pm) to pick me up from work, assist with my work out and do light housekeeping (my wife likes this perk of marrying a gimp). Having the right Personal Support Worker is essential for me to have an enriching life personally and professionally. A common question I’m always asked is why doesn’t my wife do my care. ..it’s because she is my wife and I don’t want the lines to be grayed between life partner and caregiver. Also, at times I might say something to stir the pot…and I wouldn’t want to be stuck in bed all day from my big mouth. However, on vacation, it’s just the two of us…2 is company – 3 is definitely a crowd.

Anyway, two weeks ago both my PSWs gave their notice. My anxiety level rises, as I need to find all new staff with the dependability & personality that will allow me to continue living my life. The resumes I initially received was terrible…no effort to lie to make themselves sound good. I usually like students as they have flexibility to do early mornings, afternoons, and travel with me for work. I have to put my life in these people’s hands…given that they help me with showering I hope these hands are also gentle. If they do not show up in the morning my day cannot begin. I have to recruit, interview, schedule, and manage my helpers to just get into work to start working. In the interview I have to get the sense if I can trust this person with my life…sounds easier than it is. Secondly, we need to interact well. Spending a few hours a day with someone you want to make sure you enjoy being around them. I took this for granted in the past and wished I could have asked those socially challenged helpers to snap my neck so I wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore. Thankfully, experience has made me wiser. The two new hires start training this week…fingers crossed.

After all this it is definitely time for a vacation for my wife and myself. This should be straightforward to arrange. We have booked a Hawaiian Cruise 18 months ago, life is short so it’s important to experience everything while you can. In making special arrangements to board the airplane for our trip the lady on the phone asked, “Do you have a Dr.’s note confirming your disability?” Could there have been a cure for Cerebral Palsy in the last few days that I just didn’t hear about? Doesn’t a power wheelchair and gimpy looking hands mean anything anymore? I have 39 years of Cerebral Palsy expertise so now I just have to get certified in Cerebral Palsy. My professional signature should now read: Dave Dame, PST, CSP, CSQA, CSM, IIA, CP (Cerebral Palsy).

People always ask me, “If you could start your life over without Cerebral Palsy, would you?”. This is a tough question…but my answer is no. I don’t think I would be the same person or have the same special people in my life that I do. The challenges I have endured has made me who I am today, personally and professionally. I have done things that others say was impossible. I have learned to fall and to always get up. What I need to learn is it’s ok to be vulnerable., it’s ok to not fix everything, it’s ok to be fallible. My life has always been to live without regret. I can live with a mistake…but I can’t live with wondering ‘what if’

Although living an ordinary life is an extraordinary effort, it’s also an extraordinary accomplishment. You don’t have to be a rockstar to everyone…just a rockstar to those loved ones, friends, and co-workers that help inspire you on a daily basis. To everyone that is in my life that reads this, thank you for making my life awesome.

Until next time...