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

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...

Davey Day

A friend at work today was telling me about his upcoming vasectomy, so I thought I would share my experience from a chair side perspective. My wife and I decided to not have kids. I will share my thoughts and feeling about our decision in a future post as it is a deeper topic than this one. I think being a parent is the most important job in the world and I have the highest admiration to you parents out there.

This story begins when we go to the Doctor for our 'conciliation' where he explains the procedure. The doctor explains that he will give me a local sedative and freeze the area so I will be awake for the whole procedure. Having Cerebral Palsy - I'm spastic. This means I startle very easily. I explain to the doctor that I jump at the slightest tap on the shoulder let alone a razor blade approaching my goods. He tries to comfort me by saying that the sedative will make me feel all loopy and we will be talking to each other all the way through it. "It's like drinking and talking with your buddies", he explains.  I had three major problems with his explanation:

1. When I drink with my buddies we don't 'snip' each other.

2. We're not on talking terms - dude, you're snipping my berries

3. You shouldn't be talking to me - keep your eye on the prize

The day finally comes and I'm scheduled to be the first patient.  I like to handle these things head on and get it over with.  It did feel weird to be the only one in the waiting room.  I was rolled in on a bed to the operating room.  The nurse says, "Mr. Dame can you please jump up on the table".  My anxiety hits the roof...obviously she did not read my chart.  I politely asked her to read my chart.  She reads the chart and is embarrassed.  Given that my professional occupation revolves around reducing high risk and performing validation checks, I ask her to review what was to happen...one can't be too careful.

After the procedure my wife rolls me out in my wheelchair.  The fear that was in the eyes of the men in the waiting room was priceless.  Since we know that 'Disabled people can be bastards' , it should be no surprise that I announced to everyone that  I walked in there that morning.

On the way out the nurse hands us a container.  She tells us that we have to bring a 'sample' to the lab for testing in six weeks to make sure the operation was a success.  The hugest smile appeared on my face as I looked at my wife, holding up my hands and shrugging my shoulders.  For once in my life having gimpy hands was going to work in my favour - I was going to be the 'self-serve' gas pump.  My wife blushes.  The nurse cautions that the sample needs to be tested within the hour of 'procurement'

Six weeks later ...Saturday morning (forever known as Davey Day) arrives.  My wife gets everything ready as she only has less than an hour to race the sample to the lab for testing.  Unfortunately we could not get a police escort from our home to the lab so time was precious.  She 'procures' the sample and races out the door.  Having a new appreciation for what cows go through on a daily basis...I felt the need for a nap.  My wife returns home and she brings me to the barber to get my haircut.  This was a real old school barber so he used a straight razor, tonic the whole works.  This was followed by a nice afternoon walk and an awesome dinner and nice wine.  I don't know what a day at the spa is like...but this had to be pretty close.

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...