Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Frequently people ask me, "how's work going?", or "how much are you working now?" The answer to the second question is that I'm back to work full time. The answer to the first question is generally that going back to work full time was "probably the worst decision I've ever made." I say this jokingly but, I wouldn't say it at all if there wasn't a little truth to it. That truth lies in the adjustment from a year and a half of not working and pretty much doing whatever I wanted to back to working approximately 10 hours a day five days a week.
To be honest, I got pretty lazy during that year and a half. Coming back to work has been a much harder adjustment than I thought it would be. During the period of time that I was coming in part time (1 to 3 days a week) I felt pretty useless. My responsibilities had been spread out among the rest of the managers and I wasn't really doing anything. Then, when I added a fourth day I started taking back more responsibility but I didn't feel like I was accomplishing much. When the fifth day was added things started to get accomplished but, I didn't feel that I had any time to myself. (I still feel this way sometimes) That has been the hardest adjustment, accepting that I have to work and that I have to manage my free time better.
In my head I thought I would be able to come back to work and pick up right where I had left off. What I discovered was that I had lost a lot of confidence (in regards to work) in the time I was away. I was second guessing myself and making decisions from a personal perspective instead of a business perspective. For example, a lot of co-workers came to visit me in the hospital and called to check on me while I was away. When I returned I felt that my responsibility was to take care of the employees and found myself making decisions with their interests at heart instead of the interests of the operation. Recent events have opened my eyes to this and I think I have my head on straight again.
Two months ago I had a conversation with my boss about how hard returning to work has been and shared with him my concerns about being able to work five days a week. He was both understanding and supportive. About a month after that he announced that he was being promoted and would be leaving at the end of September. Several people asked if I would be applying for the General Manager position. My response, at first, was a firm "no". When asked why, I would explain that I had decided that was no longer the direction that I wanted my career to go. As I listed the reasons why not, I began to realize that those reasons were also reasons why I should apply for the job. In the end I decided to apply and felt that, if it was what I was supposed to do it would happen and that if it wasn't then it wouldn't happen.
The company has decided to hire a General Manager from outside the property. I am in no way disappointed by this. Even though I applied for the job, I wanted the best candidate, and that's what we've got. I'm really looking forward to working with him and learning from him.
This whole process has been a turning point for me. Two months ago I didn't know if I could do it. I was very stressed and frustrated. Now, I'm much more comfortable with my job and feel that the most difficult parts of the adjustment are behind me.
Before I close, there was one thing that I left out of last weeks update. Cliff, and his Corporate Chef, won the Milwaukee Battle of the Chef's with a box of Fruitloops! A mystery ingrediant that all the contestants were given at the start of the contest.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Around 11:00pm we got to my friend Rob's house in New Carlisle Indiana where we slept for a few hours and then got up around 4:00am to head to Milwaukee. Our friend Cliff (my old roommate) was in the final round for the Milwaukee Battle of the Chef's competition. Rob, his wife Danita, their baby boy Liam, and I got into our respective vehicle's around 4:30am on Saturday morning and headed north. The morning drive through Chicago rewarded us with a beautiful view of the sun rising over Lake Michigan as we chose to take Lake Shore Drive as opposed to the Dan Ryan expressway. (I'm told the Dan Ryan is actually an expressway to slow moving traffic and adds a couple of hours to the drive.)
We got to Milwaukee around 8:00am and spent a couple of hours hanging out in the Park where the competition was to be held. They have a fresh market in the Park so we were able to find breakfast and spend sometime looking at various arts and crafts. Cliff was pretty busy preparing for the competition so we hung out with his wife Kellie and their daughter Anna. The highlight of the day was seeing Cliff win the competition!
We spent the rest of the afternoon, evening, and the morning of the next day with the Hull family (Cliff, Kellie, and Anna) and then said our goodbye's. Rob, Danita, and Liam headed back to New Carlisle, and Jamie and I began the long drive back to Indy. The drive was uneventful and we got back to Indy around 6:15pm on Sunday.
I should mention that Cliff was extremely worried about my ability to get around at his house because it is by no means accessible. With the aid of the legs this didn't worry me, however, while going up his stairs I pulled the railing off the wall which then added a new obstacle to the weekend. From that point on Cliff and Jamie had to maneuver me (in the wheelchair) down a narrow stairway. Needless to say, we limited the amount of times I had to go up or down the stairs from that point on!
That Monday I returned to work like normal and worked a pretty full week. The students are coming back and things are starting to get pretty busy. I'm still in the wheelchair a lot of the time at work but I'm starting to leave it in the office more often, due to the added stability and mobility that the C-legs offer. I've even gotten back into inspecting rooms and spending some time in the restaurant to observe the operation.
At the end of the week I took Friday off and flew to St. Louis to spend some time with my friend Jim Goodman and his wife Jennie. Jim took me to his country club for lunch and a tour in a golf cart. I'm pleased to report that I was able to get in and out of the golf cart with no issues! (Jim drove) After lunch we stopped by his office where I met some of the people he works with. (Many of them are frequent readers of the blog. Perhaps now that they've met me they might actually make comments!) The steps going into Jim's office building were fairly wide and I decided to try something new. I discovered that, in the right conditions, I could actually go up the steps facing forward instead of sideways! As Jim introduced me to people he kept bragging about how I had walked up the steps, and pointing out the new legs. (this kind of made me chuckle)
After his office we headed out to his house. As with Cliff, Jim was very concerned about how I would get around his house. There were a few obstacles to think through, for instance, getting up the stairs, getting in the bathroom (tight squeeze for the wheelchair), and the shower. All of which we were able to work out. We had a great dinner at Morton's Friday night and then hung out with some of their friends later in the evening.
The plan for the next day was to go downtown and see some of the sights. First Jim had to make some lasagna. While he was cooking I was relaxing in the living room and Jennie was at a baby shower. When Jim was done with the lasagna he was out of energy (apparently making lasagna can be exhausting) and I explained to him that I was there to spend time with him, not to see St. Louis. I also pointed out that I hadn't had many opportunities to relax lately either and so, when Jennie got back from her baby shower she found Jim on the couch and me in a big soft chair, which was exactly where she had left us that morning!
That night their friend Rebecca came over and we enjoyed Jim's lasagna, a bottle of Chianti they had brought back from their recent trip to Italy, a game of euchre, and some great scotch after dinner. (a great way to spend a Saturday night!) Jennie had put some Italian music on and, while we were playing our card game, Jennie pointed out that her grandparents (when they were young) used to sit around the same table playing cards, drinking, and listening to a similar style of music. It was kind of a neat feeling to imagine an earlier generation similar to us doing the exact same thing.
Sunday morning we had breakfast with Jim's Mom and then I flew back to Indy. Mom and Dad met me at the airport to help with my luggage and bring me my car. Then I headed out to Greencastle for an employee party. I finally got home around 7:30pm. Monday morning it was off to work again!
This week ended with a therapy session at Wishard. Renee was thrilled to hear about my experience walking up the stairs. I also surprised her with a new trick, I have discovered a way to stand up from the wheelchair without needing someone else to hold my crutches! I've also discovered that I have the balance to button, zip, and buckle without having to hold on to anything (this process is SO MUCH EASIER with two hands!). Renee was pretty pleased with all of these advancements.
We made another attempt at walking with one crutch. This was even less successful than the attempt two weeks ago. Since getting the C-legs a month ago I have only fallen once. That one time was yesterday while making the attempt. It was more of a slow kneel than a fall and Renee was protecting me the whole time. After getting me back up, which took some assistance, I tried again and didn't fall, but the sockets pinched my skin hard enough to give me a blood blister. Renee keeps pointing out that I used to think there was no way that I could walk the way I do now. I'm going to continue to work towards it but I am a bit discouraged at the moment.
Sorry for putting this weeks update off for so many days. I worked the evening shift on Wednesday and didn't get home until 11:00pm. I had Pilate's on Thursday night and was just too tired after the workout. I was going to get to it last night but my neighbor came over and we stayed up late teaching her how to play Cribbage. Now, as I've been typing this I've been sitting at my desk at work. It's almost 5:30pm and I need to get going. Today is Mom's birthday and I have to be at their house by 6:30pm. I think, after today, it's time for some "me time"!
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Last Friday I went back to the Prosthetist's office and we hooked the legs back up to the computer. As I walked we could actually watch the motion of my legs and feet on the computer. Instead of taking big steps and walking quickly (as I had the first time we programmed them) this time I took very small steps and walked slower. I think my large steps were a direct result of changing from the old legs to the C-legs. As I walked we learned that I wasn't getting as high up on the toe as I needed to for the knee to bend. Through programming we lowered the necessary elevation and I'm now able to change speeds and step length with minimal effort. These legs really are amazing!
Tomorrow we start a new round of Physical Therapy. My goals are to be able to stand/balance without holding on to anything for extended periods, walk with only one crutch and progress to a cane (preferably one with a sword inside!), and to walk down steps going forward step over step (instead of stopping on each one). Renee says these are lofty goals (especially the last one) but that they should be achieveable.
One thing that I think will help with the steps are the remote controls. (Yes, my legs have remote controls!) The remotes allow me to put the legs into three specific modes for different tasks. The first mode is a walking mode (which is the one it's normally in). The second mode is a programmable mode which is currently set for extended standing (the knees won't bend at all). The third mode is a stance mode; I haven't played with this mode yet but I think it allows a little bend in the knees. Ultimately I want to get to a point where I can use the stance mode for standing and have the programmable mode set for steps. I think this will allow me the confidence to walk down steps the way I want to without worrying about the knees bending too fast.
Now for the anger part. I want to fill you in on something that happened this weekend. It's a situation that hadn't happened yet and my reaction was...well, it was unexpected. I went to see the Bourne Ultimatum with some friends. being opening weekend I expected it to be busy. Some of my friends went ahead to the theater to get seats. When I walked in there were so many people in the theatre that I couldn't find them and an usher asked me if I needed help finding a seat. I told him that I was here with some friends, but that I didn't see them. He approached a man that was sitting in a row of four handicapped seats and asked him to move so that my group could sit there.
The man had an empty baby carrier sitting in front of him and looked up and said to the usher that he had a baby and this was the best place for him to sit so he could leave easily. The baby was out in the hallway with it's mother. The usher told him that these seats were meant for disabled individuals and their guests. The man said that they should be allowed to sit there because of their baby. The usher pretty much froze at this point.
I was standing next to the usher the whole time, I was sweaty, starting to get shaky, and was needing to sit down. Listening to the man argue with the usher was making me angrier and angrier. Since the usher wasn't saying anything I decided to speak. What I meant to say was "hey, do you really want to be the guy who wouldn't give up an accessible seat to a guy who is truly disabled?" What came out was "HEY!" with enough force behind it to draw the attention of everyone in the theatre. I was so shocked by how loud I was that I forgot what I was going to say. The man was staring at me so I finally said "look" and motioned to my legs.
The usher asked me not to make a scene, the man said "oh come on, don't make it about that", and said "it is about that, these seats are meant for people who have disabilities. As he stood up he said "so you ask a guy with a baby to move instead of all those people over there" motioning to other people who were sitting in accesible seats futher away. He gathered his things and moved on.
As the previews began the whole scene kept rolling through my head. I don't know where the force behind my voice came from, I don't remember sucking in my breath and I certainly didn't intend to yell. I kept thinking about his reaction and what I had said. I also kept thinking that a baby is a responsibility, not a disability. That sounded so much better, why hadn't I said that?
In the end I didn't feel any better about the situation. Normally I don't even sit in the accessible seating in theaters. This was the first time I'd been to a movie that was so busy I couldn't get to any of the empty seats. My hope is that the next time I'm confronted with a similar situation I'll be able to hold my temper and react better.