Tag Archives: Inspirational

Soak It All In

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Yesterday was one of those perfect, Spring days here in Kansas City. It was about 70° F with a nice, cool breeze that was just strong enough to tickle your face and run through your hair. The sun was playing peekaboo amongst wispy, fluffy clouds, helping you fully appreciate its warmth and brilliance every time it emerged from its hiding place. The plants and trees were all just starting to bud and bloom, creating a cornucopia of different shades of vibrant colors. After spending the last three months in hibernation mode to avoid the cold weather of Winter, waking up to a day like today, where everything is just perfect, was really comforting. I was so elated by this beautiful weather that I actually rearranged my entire day, just so that I could fully appreciate this gift from Mother Nature. Although I did not get everything done that I had planned to, by taking the time to enjoy this gorgeous day I was able to do something just as productive, while also being reminded of an important lesson about life.

Scott Drotar Soak It All In
Yesterday was a beautiful Spring day in Kansas City.

On my calendar, if you look at yesterday you would find things, like “get yearly physical,” “contact clients,” and “website maintenance,” listed on my to-do list. As I went through this list shortly after waking up and seeing what a beautiful day it was, I noticed that everything that I was supposed to accomplish was going to force me to be inside. While I typically view my carefully crafted to-do list as sacred and refuse to deviate from it for any reason, today I decided to make an exception. I rescheduled my physical for another day, pushed website maintenance to later in the week, and made a few other alterations to my daily itinerary, so that I could take advantage of this gorgeous weather. After finishing breakfast and taking care of a few small things on my daily agenda so that I would feel productive (I cannot waste the whole day. Or can I…?), I went outside and enjoyed the weather. I let the sun beam down onto my skin, covering me like a warm blanket. I felt the wind tickling my nose as it whipped through my mustache. I squinted my eyes as I looked across the field by my apartment, so that everything would blur into a big sea of greens and yellows that I could get lost in. I accepted this beautiful gift that I had been given and let its brilliance bring happiness to my life in a way that very few things can.

The way that this incredible weather impacted me and caused me to completely rearrange my entire week reminded me of how important it is to be thankful for the gifts that life gives you. It is crucial to be open to the little things in life, as I have said before, but you must also be humble enough to really appreciate them. You cannot merely acknowledge the fact that it is a beautiful day, go about your business as usual, and still expect to get any amount of happiness or enjoyment from it. You have to take the time to stop for a minute and soak in the full magnificence of this priceless offering that life has presented you. Just like I stopped, closed my eyes, and let my body soak in the warm, energizing beams of sunshine, you have to let yourself soak it all in any time life hands you one of its treasures. You may not get everything done on your daily to-do list and you may have to work a little more later on, but the benefits and happiness you receive by allowing yourself to fully appreciate life’s offerings will definitely be worth it.

When I woke up this morning I had no intentions of writing this post today. I had another article outlined and prepared to be written, but this total turnaround in my plans only better illustrates the benefits of this important life lesson. By taking the time to fully appreciate the gorgeous weather, not only did I get to enjoy a beautiful day and put a lot of happiness into my life, but I also was able to recognize this valuable lesson and share it with you, spreading even more joy and cheer to the world. Whether it is a delightful Spring day or some other gem life gives you, you have to take the time to stop what you are doing and really appreciate it. Soak it all in, and let this priceless treasure fill your body, heart, and soul with all of its magnificence. This will allow you to experience all of the happiness that these gifts can bring to your life. You may not get everything on your to-do list done, but that list will still be there tomorrow, and life’s offerings do not come often or stay very long. Soak it all in like rays of sunshine on a warm day, so you can fill your life with all of the happiness that life can give you.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

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Validation (Part 1)

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It feels like forever since my last blog post, and I am really excited to be getting back to my normal routine and sharing my thoughts and experiences with you. I have had a fun-filled few days, and a lot has been going on in my life. The same can be said for Roll Models and www.scottdrotar.com, as there has been quite a bit of action on that front as well. With so much happening during my little hiatus from blogging, I thought that I would use the next couple of posts to fill you in on what has transpired since my last article. You need to get up to speed on my parents’ visit, seeing my uncle, and my exciting Roll Models news, so that you can continue to accompany me on my journey through life. I hope that you will enjoy reading about my recent adventures as much as I enjoyed having them, although I am not sure that is possible. At the very least you will be entertained by my most recent escapades, and you may even get some life lessons along the way.

Scott Drotar Validation
I had a great time visiting with my parents last week.

The main reason I took so much time off was so that I could enjoy my time with my parents, who came to visit me last week. Since it was my dad’s Spring Break, they were able to spend more time catching up with me and not have to hurry back so he could get to work, which helped create a more relaxed atmosphere the entire time they were here. This made for a great visit, and we had a wonderful time discussing everything going on in each other’s lives. Making this time even more momentous was the fact that my uncle, who happened to be in town on business, was also able to come spend time with us. Since I had not seen him in over four years, it was really fulfilling to get to show him the successful, happy life that I have created out here on my own. Living over 500 miles from any of my relatives, I typically only get to share my world with them through pictures and emails, so it is quite special for me when I get to show them my success first hand. In addition to sharing my world with him, I also got to hear about how he has been doing, his work, and my cousins. The four of us had a terrific time talking about our lives, and I am so happy we were able to all be here together.

Scott Drotar Uncle Fred
It was really special to get to visit with my uncle after not seeing him for so long.

The climax of our visit was, hands down, the multiple course meal that I prepared for them. As you are well aware, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen now, and I frequently chronicle my culinary adventures on Facebook. My mom, who has been reading about all of my delicious dishes and seeing pictures of my mouthwatering creations since Christmas, told me that I had better prepare a feast for them when they visit, now that I am such a good cook. Since I am a dutiful son that would never disobey my dear mother (even I could not help but laugh at that one), I did as I was told and planned a three course, gourmet meal. Anyone who has ever thrown a dinner party knows that planning a three course meal is much more difficult than merely preparing an appetizer, entree, and dessert. You have to come up with three dishes that are not only flavorful and delicious on their own, but also work well as a group. For example, you would never serve a hearty, spicy Indian chutney with big flavors as an appetizer for baked white fish in a light white wine sauce, because your palette would not be able to enjoy the subtle, complex flavors of the fish after such a bold start. You want your courses to work together to tell a story to create a more enjoyable dining experience. While I did not fully understand how difficult this can be until recently, I now have a whole new appreciation for people who prepare entire menus for people on a weekly basis.

Despite my inexperience and lack of appreciation for how hard it would be, I did manage to put together a delicious, three course meal for my family. It took me several weeks of strategizing and preparation, but eventually I was able to find three complimentary dishes that I thought my parents and uncle would like. After browsing through hundreds of recipes, testing dozens of different of flavor combinations, and changing my mind constantly about what would be best, this is the menu I settled on. We began our gastronomic journey with an appetizer of seared sausage medallions topped with a Venezuelan salsa criolla over a bed of rice. For the entree, I served a pear and goat cheese stuffed pork tenderloin with a soy-citrus marinade and a side of garlic-lemon new potatoes. This delightful dining experience ended with spiced wine poached pears topped with caramel sauce for dessert. Everything turned out better than I had hoped, and it must have been good because it was nearly all gone by the time the meal was over. It felt really good watching them enjoy the meal I had worked so hard to create, and I am so happy that I was able to share my new passion for cooking with the people I care about most.

Scott Drotar Pork Tenderloin
My entree of pear and goat cheese stuffed pork tenderloin with a homemade marinade.

Both getting the opportunity to share my independent, successful life with my uncle and watching my family get so much enjoyment from the meal I prepared gave me a feeling of validation. Even though I know my family and relatives are extremely proud of me, it still feels good to get to show them first-hand everything I have been able to accomplish. Although your own happiness is all that truly matters, it still feels good when you can show your loved ones all of your success. Getting some positive feedback and appreciation of your achievements in life reminds you of why you put in so much time and energy to build the world around you, and it is part of what drives you to continue to work hard to reach your goals. Knowing that your family and friends recognize how much effort you put in to achieve everything in your life, and hearing that they are proud of you, can be an extremely powerful feeling that will fuel you on your journey for future success. This is exactly the feeling I got during this visit, and I am definitely fully recharged and ready to get back to work enjoying my happy, fun-filled life and giving my all chasing my dreams.

This feeling of validation was not something I was looking for, or even thought I needed, but that did not in any way reduce how much of an impact it had on me. Visiting with my uncle and watching my folks slowly savor each bite of the meal I prepared filled me with a feeling of accomplishment that has given me a renewed focus and drive to achieve my goals. I never would have guessed that their approval and appreciation of my efforts would have such a great influence on me, but you do not always know what you need in life. No matter how much success you have or what you accomplish, we all want to feel like our loved ones are proud of us. By sharing your achievements and passion for things with your family and friends, you will often get to enjoy this feeling of validation, whether you are looking for it or not. Take the time to share your life with those who are most important to you, and help them experience some of the things you are passionate about. This will fuel you as you continue to work to accomplish your goals, and it will also help you forge even stronger relationships with your loved ones.

My feelings of validation were just starting to build after these two events though, as after my family returned home I got another dose of this powerful sensation. This second round of recognition and approval came not from my personal life, but from my professional world. Thanks to some unexpected consulting requests and Roll Models, my feelings of validation were able to grow even further. You will get to hear all about these events and how they effected me in the next part of this article.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

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Roadtrippin’ Through My Mind

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Throughout my entire life, since flying is extremely difficult for people who require the use of a power wheelchair, if I wanted to take a trip or go vacation somewhere, I had to drive. Thankfully, my family has always been able to afford a wheelchair accessible vehicle that allowed us to travel like any other family of five despite my mobility limitations. To take full advantage of this mobility and freedom, during my childhood my siblings, parents, and I went on numerous family road trips all over the United States, and I have continued this custom now that I am an adult living on my own. Having a conversion van that gave me the ability to travel about the country, not only created the opportunity for me to see some amazing things, but it also helped me make some priceless memories with my family on the open road. In appreciation of this privilege I have had to see the world as a physically disabled person, I have decided to share with you five of my most memorable road trip moments, the number of miles driven on these excursions, and what these miles have meant to me.

Dallas — This was my first road trip without my parents. When I was 23 and in my first year of graduate school at the University of Kansas, my brother, sister, and I decided to take a “siblings vacation.” After deliberating for several weeks over where we should go, we decided on Dallas. My brother, who lived with me at the time, and I drove down while my sister flew in from New York, and we stayed right in the middle of downtown “Big D.” We ate great Tex-Mex and Texas style barbecue, went to the aquarium (manatees!), and visited the JFK Museum. It was a wonderful, fun experience with my siblings, but the most vivid memory from this excursion is making the drive home in a blizzard with my brother, and laughing nervously with him as we just hoped to get home. (Roundtrip: 1,038 Miles)

Scott Drotar Niagara Falls
That is a lot of water.

Niagara Falls — This was the first stop on our family vacation when I was 12 (Toronto was the second stop), and it was the first time that I was in awe of something in nature. The only way to truly appreciate the incredible beauty and raw power of “Mother Nature” is to see something like Niagara Falls in person. That is a ton of water coming over that cliff. What made this trip so special for me was that it was extremely wheelchair friendly, especially for a national park. I could get everywhere and see everything without any trouble, and even the famous “Maiden of the Mist” boat tour was totally handicap accessible (although I did need my rain gear). (Roundtrip: 1,032 Miles)

Galveston — This was my first solo vacation, which I made when I was 25. One of the things on my “Bucket List” was to take a trip on my own with just my nurse. After several months of research and planning, I came to realize that a cruise was the best way for me to go about this. It was a controlled environment with its own medical team (just in case), did not require any travel once you got on the boat (simplifying the logistics), and would give me the vacation experience I was looking for. So, I saved some money, talked one of my nurses into a free vacation (not exactly difficult), and we road tripped down to the port of Galveston to go on a week long Caribbean cruise. It was an amazing seven days, and I got to see and do some incredible things, but the most memorable moment was on the drive home when the fuel pump in my van went out in the middle of nowhere. We ended up being stuck in a small hotel room in Texas for two days, but my wheelchair accessible wagon held up after being fixed, and got us safely back to Kansas with a great story to tell. (Roundtrip: 1,614 Miles)

Disneyworld — This is the earliest family vacation that I can really remember. I was about 6 years old, and my family drove the entire 19 hours from Northern Indiana to Florida. I can still remember getting to meet Mickey Mouse for the first time and getting his autograph. As great as the theme park was though, my favorite memory from this trip is waking up as my dad was driving in the middle of the night and staying up with him while the rest of my family slept. That alone time with my dad on the open road was a big deal as a young boy, and remembering that time always makes me smile. (Roundtrip: 2,228 Miles)

Cincinnati — The Summer before I turned 14, my brother and sister both got to attend week long, sleep away camps, which is something that I could not do due to my disability. My parents decided that since my siblings each got a little vacation somewhere, that I should too, so they took me on a trip with just the two of them to Cincinnati for a few days. We window shopped, saw Ken Griffey Jr. play at Cinergy Field, and I got my parents all to myself. As much as I love my brother and sister and the trips we have taken as a family, this road trip will always be special since it was just my parents and me. (Roundtrip: 478 Miles)

Scott Drotar Ocean
Here I am experiencing the beauty of the ocean for the first time.

Every one of these road trips is special in its own way, and they all impacted my life and who I am today. We do not often think about how much our ability to travel impacts our life, but your experiences with the world around you plays a large part in shaping who you are. If not for the freedom to get out into the world (like my conversion van gave me), chances are you would be a very different person. Think about all of the cherished memories you have from your own family vacations and road trips. The moments fighting with siblings in the cramped back seat, and the first time you saw the ocean, breathed in that crisp, sea air, and just gazed out at that endless blue water. These memories are not only sentimental and emotionally special, but they also helped you grow and develop into the incredible person you are. All of the miles you travelled and places you saw had an influence on your life. They helped you bond with your family, learn about the world around you, and taught you many valuable life lessons that you have carried with you ever since. Be sure to acknowledge the effects these moments with your loved ones on the open road made, and also try to continue these fun-filled adventures with your own family. Most of all, remember that your mobility and ability to travel freely is a great privilege, and that there are people who do not have the opportunity to explore the amazing world we live in. Do not take this freedom for granted, and appreciate all of the incredible gifts these trips have given you.

Total Miles Driven: 6,390

Flat Tires Fixed: 3

Gallons of Gas Used: 391

Impact on My Life: Priceless

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My Other Family

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Scott Drotar Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on August 29th, 2005, and in doing so changed my life forever.

I will always remember August 2005 as the time when I moved away from home, started my collegiate career, and began living as an adult on my own. While these were all monumental moments that were major milestones in my life, there was another event that occurred at this time that was much more important and influential. The impact of this occurrence was felt for years by millions of people all over the country, and its effects are still being felt in some areas, but it also had an unexpectedly large effect on my life as well. This awful moment that took place the last few days of August was Hurricane Katrina. This terrible event killed hundreds of people, ruined the lives of thousands more, and damaged the entire nation, but even with all of this carnage and mayhem, thanks to the strength and resiliency of the human spirit some good did come out of this horrible destruction. I will never forget that night Katrina hit, sitting in the chapel with my new dorm brothers, hoping that everyone’s family and friends were alright. As I sat there with my dorm brothers from the New Orleans area, as they were watching and waiting helplessly to hear from their loved ones, I learned an important lesson about life. This tense, stressful time filled with prayer and brotherhood showed me the power of community.

I was only 18 years old when I moved away from home and began living in the dorms at Notre Dame. Like every teenager on the cusp of adulthood, I thought I had everything in life figured out, and I was certain that my transition from living in a tiny, Midwestern town to being on a college campus with a graduating class larger than the population of where I grew up, would be a piece of cake. Also like most young adults, I could not have been more wrong. Almost as soon as I got to campus and began freshman orientation, I was in culture shock. I had spent my entire life in a one stoplight town of barely 2,000 people, nearly all of whom were white, Middle-class families, and now I was in an environment with over 10,000 students from all over the world and from every background you can imagine. I will admit, I was a little overwhelmed and taken aback by this huge shift in my surroundings. I do not want to give the impression that I was not enjoying my new life away from home or that I was not making friends, but for my first couple weeks on campus, even though I was trying to be very active socially, I never felt like I was really connected to my dorm brothers and other fellow “Domers.” This all changed though on the night of August 29th, when one of the worst hurricanes in our nation’s history struck New Orleans.

While I had been aware that a large hurricane had been heading for the United State’s gulf coast area, I really had not been paying too much attention to the specifics of this storm. Since I had no family or friends in that region, to me it was just another hurricane that the weather forecasters were trying to dramatize for higher ratings (“storm of the century” and “snowpocalypse” come to mind). The evening Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, I was going to check my mailbox that was down by the dorm’s chapel, and I noticed that there was a pretty big group of guys in the pews. This seemed a little strange to me, since there was no priest in the room and was not time for mass yet anyway, so I decided to see what was happening. As soon as I entered, before I even spoke to anyone, I could feel from the atmosphere of the room that something terrible had happened. I sat in the back next to an upper classman I had gotten to know during orientation, and once I was certain he was done praying, I quietly asked him what was going on. He explained to me how bad Katrina was, that currently there was little to no communication with people in that area, and that they were all praying for their loved ones and hoping they were safe. Looking at all of the red eyes, tears, and silently moving lips of prayer that surrounded me, I immediately felt bad for my new “siblings,” and the terrifying unknown they were currently in. Even though I am not Catholic, or even what you would call “religious,” I stayed there with my new brothers of Keough Hall and silently supported them with my presence. When one of them stood up and said that some of them were going to light candles at the Grotto, I decided to go along to offer any solace I could.

Scott Drotar Grotto
The Grotto on the University of Notre Dame campus, made famous by the movie, “Rudy,” is a very sacred place.

For those of you who are not familiar with the University of Notre Dame campus, have not seen the movie “Rudy,” and are not Catholic, I will give you some background. First, the “Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes,” or just the Grotto, is a miniature replica of the French shrine where the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette multiple times in the mid-19th century. Father Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame, was so awed by the beauty and divinity of the original site, that he vowed to recreate it in some form on campus. It contains a stone from the original site in France, and it is one of the most sacred places on campus. Every evening, no matter how cold or wet it may be, the Rosary is prayed, and there is rarely a moment when there is not someone kneeling before the statue of the Virgin Mary, lighting a votive candle, and saying a prayer. Which brings us to the second topic to cover, the act of lighting candles in worship. I believe some other faiths do use candles as symbolic offerings during worship and prayer, but it is most widely known as a Roman Catholic tradition. While I am not Catholic, as best I can understand it, the lighting of a candle during prayer is a symbolic offering of devotion when you pray for someone or something. Generally, you light a candle for someone specific, and that flame is representative of your prayer. This is a very special and holy act that is quite sacred, and it is typically only used during difficult or trying times, like the night Katrina made landfall.

It was a dark, balmy August night as my dorm brothers and I made the quarter mile trek over to the Grotto. I do not think anyone said a word during the entire walk. There was nothing to be said anyway, as we all knew how each other was feeling, and there were no words that could make things better. When we arrived at our destination, some guys lit candles, others were kneeling with their rosary beads gripped tightly in their devoted hands, and a few, like myself, simply took a seat before the Virgin Mary, but we were all doing the same thing in our own way. We were all praying, not just for our own family’s safety, but for the safety our new brothers‘ families as well. This moment of destruction and terror had forged between us a bond that we would carry with us the rest of our lives. We now belonged to two families, our biological family and our Notre Dame family. Sharing in each other’s pain and suffering that night brought us together, and it did not matter what our backgrounds were, because we were all in the same family. Our group slowly dissipated as guys slowly trickled back to the dorm, but I will never forget how I felt walking back to my room that night. In just the couple hours I was out that evening, I had gone from a home sick, culture shocked fish out of water to a confident man with over 200 new brothers that I could count on. After that night I never felt like I did not belong or wonder if I was fitting in around the dorm, because I knew that we were all family.

Scott Drotar My Other Family
My second family is so precious to me that I have the Notre Dame logo and my graduation year tattooed on my chest.

I am not trying to compare my relationships with my parents and siblings to my relationships with my dorm brothers, as that is comparing apples and oranges, but this connection I formed that night in the Grotto is something special. It showed me the strength of banding together in a common goal, and how by coming together in your shared pain you can alleviate your suffering. Most of all though, this story teaches you the power of community and brotherhood. In that one evening, we created a union between us that to this day is extremely strong and has a major impact on our lives. If you have the courage to open up and let yourself feel with others, empathize with them, and support them without judgment, you can harness the true power within your hearts and minds. Whether you call it resilience, the might of the human spirit, or something else entirely, you will know it when you feel it, and its impact will last a lifetime. The force of this banding together will pleasantly envelope you and help you overcome whatever you are going through together. Sharing this powerful, emotionally charged experience will create a connection between you that will never weaken. It is a bond forged in the fires of suffering and despair, and like iron hammered on a hot anvil, it is unbreakable. It is a relationship you can only describe as family, and just like your original family, you will be much happier having these amazing connections in your life.

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A Life Of Service

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Late last Thursday night, the Notre Dame community, and honestly the world as a whole, had to say goodbye to a very special and influential man, Father Theodore Hesburgh. Before I delve into who this man was and discuss what he accomplished throughout his amazing life, I want to share with you my initial, emotional reaction at hearing about his passing. While some of you may have already read it, here is the Facebook post I wrote immediately after I learned of his death, as I was trying to cope with this unexpected and depressing news.

“Today we mourn the loss of a great man and patriarch of the entire Notre Dame family. He served for 35 years as the university’s president, but his impact on the Irish community goes far beyond his time in office. From his work on civil rights that earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964 to running with the Olympic torch that now resides in his private office atop the library named in his honor, “Father Ted” was always working to make “our lady’s university” a better place for its students. His work and dedication has played such a large part in the lives of every graduate of the university, that his impact can be felt in all of the good that Notre Dame alumni have done throughout the world. Whether you were lucky enough to actually meet him or merely talked of him in rumors about how to sneak into his “penthouse” via his secret elevator, every student who was lucky enough to study under the Golden Dome had an enormous amount of respect for this man and his service. He will be missed by all of ND Nation, but he will never be forgotten, as his works and wisdom will forever be reminders of what it means to lead a fulfilling life in service of others. As we mourn this great loss and celebrate his incredible life, it is important to remember that we, the University of Notre Dame graduates that he dedicated his lifetime to serving, are his legacy. It is now our privilege as brothers and sisters of the Notre Dame community to live our lives the way he taught us, with overflowing kindness, unending compassion, and an insatiable curiosity.”

As you can tell from my words, even though I never got the privilege of meeting him personally, Father Hesburgh had an enormous impact on me. In recognition of this amazing man, I would like to share with you a bit about who he was, and more importantly, how he was able to make such a large influence on the lives of others.

Scott Drotar Father Hesburgh
Father Hesburgh served his country by working on appointments for six different presidential administrations.

Theodore Martin Hesburgh was born in 1917 as one of five children, and in his 97 years he achieved some truly astonishing things. He took his vows and was ordained as a priest with the Holy Cross Congregation in 1943, served as the president of the University of Notre Dame for 35 years from 1952 to 1987, and made a major impact on numerous political and theological issues for over 50 years. He had a Guinness world record of over 150 honorary degrees, was appointed to over a dozen White House positions under six different presidents, and even unofficially broke the speed record of 2,193 miles per hour at the age of 62. He held many high ranking positions and was awarded countless, prestigious awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and serving as the chairman of the board for the Rockefeller Foundation. Even with everything that he accomplished throughout his life and all of the accolades he was given though, those of us who are lucky enough to call ourselves sons and daughters of our lady’s university will remember him for a much different reason. We will remember this incredible individual, not for what he achieved throughout his life, but for the way he achieved it.

Father Hesburgh lived his entire life in the service of others. Whether it was serving his students on campus, serving his country by working with the president on civil rights issues, or serving the worldwide, Catholic community by bringing more progressive thinking to the Church, he was always trying to make the world a better place for everyone else. What is even more impressive though, is that he did all of these amazing things, not because he wanted prestige, fame, or money, but because it was the right thing to do. Even when he knew his decisions or actions would not be in agreement with major political or religious groups, like his disagreement with President Nixon over the use of federal troops to limit campus anti-war protests or when he went against the Catholic Church by endorsing the search for truth over religious indoctrination in 1967, he would still do what he believed was best for others. He made such a huge impact on the world simply by living his life with a generous, kind heart, a ravenously curious mind, and the unquestioning belief in doing what was right. This is the most important gift he gave those of us who were fortunate enough to be touched by his work. He modeled how to lead a fulfilling, successful, and meaningful life for thousands of Notre Dame graduates, and by showing us how to live in service to the world, he gave us the ability to change it. It is these teachings, and the work done by Notre Dame alumni because of them, that will be his lasting legacy.

Scott Drotar Father Ted
“Father Ted,” as Notre Dame students call him, served as the university’s longest tenured president for 35 years.

“Father Ted” probably had a greater impact on my life than any other person that I have never met in person. His never-ending devotion to living life the right way and in the service of others is in large part the example I try to follow as I pursue my mission of helping people lead happier lives. In addition, his lifelong pursuit of truth and passion for learning was a major influence in my own insatiable thirst for knowledge. The most important lesson I took from Father Hesburgh however, was how crucial it is to have the courage to do what you know is right, even when you know that the people around you will disagree with your choice. You have to have the strength and conviction to stand up for what you believe in, in order to make a difference in the world and improve the lives of others. This is something that he modeled with perfection for half a century, and it is the standard I am trying to live up to in my own journey. I, like so many other loyal sons and daughters of Notre Dame, will always remember Father Hesburgh, and he will forever be an influential part of our lives. We now have the privilege of continuing his work by making our own mark on the world using the lessons he taught us, and in doing so ensuring that his legacy and impact on the world will never be forgotten.

Scott Drotar A Life Of Service
Father Hesburgh lived his entire life in the service of others, which is something we should all strive to achieve.

“My basic principle is that you don’t make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right.”
–Theodore Hesburgh

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“We Have The Technology.”

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Scott Drotar Microchip
I have always had a fascination and curiosity for technology and anything with a microchip.

My entire life I have been a huge uber-geek when it comes to computers and technology. Ever since I was 4 years old and got my very first Apple II computer, courtesy of the Make A Wish Foundation, I have been hooked. Not only have I always been interested in figuring out how various gadgets work and learning to program in as many languages as I can, but I also realized at a fairly young age that modern technology had something special to offer me due to my disability. It became obvious to me early on in my time tinkering with computers, and later on the internet, that in the virtual world of microprocessors and internet protocols my physical limitations were no longer a disadvantage that I had to overcome. For the first time in my life I was on a level playing field with the people around me, able-bodied and disabled people alike. I realized that learning as much as I could about programming, operating systems, and computers in general that I would be able to create an environment where I could operate on the same level as everyone else. Not only does technology level the playing field for me, but it also provides me with the tools to prevent my disability from limiting my world as my body gets weaker with time, which is something that I was reminded of during last year’s Holiday Season.

I have discussed in some of my earlier articles about how travelling long distances is difficult at best when you have a severe, physical disability, even if you are fortunate enough to have your own wheelchair accessible vehicle. One of the effects of not being able to make long trips is that I cannot go to visit my friends and family who live in other parts of the country. Whether it be visiting my old college roommate, attending my 10 year high school reunion, or going to one of my best friend’s wedding, unless it is less than a few hours drive from my apartment, I am probably not going to be able to make it. This could definitely make it difficult for me to maintain relationships and have a fulfilling social life, but thanks to the recent technology boom and my fascination with anything containing a microchip however, this is fortunately not the case. By taking advantage of some of the new features available on our phones, tablets, and the countless other “big kid toys” in our lives, I have been able to find alternative ways to keep my social and professional worlds from being restricted to the greater Kansas City area and maintain a very fulfilling social life.

While I have been aware of my use of technology in expanding my world for a long time now, during the Holidays last year this is something that was really brought to my attention. The Holidays are a time to be with friends and family, and since my loved ones are scattered all across the country, not being able to travel very far makes it difficult for me to share this festive time with some of the the most important people in my life, at least in person. Thanks to several different technological features that are now almost commonplace on most technological devices, I was able to share my Christmas celebration with all of the people who make my life so great. Touchscreen displays for example, which are pretty much a standard feature now, have helped those of us with weak muscles more use of technology, as they require far less pressure and range of motion than previous control options. Live video streaming, available free through programs like Skype and Google Hangout, allow disabled individuals who cannot travel the ability to still be present at any event nearly anywhere in the world, at least in a virtual sense. I was able to still share the Holidays with several of my old dorm brothers thanks to video chatting, despite the fact that they live hundreds of miles away. Even the recent advancement that allows anyone to purchase nearly anything without ever leaving their home has been a major improvement for people with disabilities. I was able to have wonderful gifts for my family, wrapped beautifully and waiting under my Christmas tree, without having to put my body through the physical toll of going out in the cold, subjecting myself to millions of new germs, and risking spending my Christmas in a hospital bed, thanks to the amazing service of websites like Amazon and Overstock.com.

Scott Drotar Social Media
The social media boom has helped open up the world for many physically disabled individuals.

I am so thankful that the various technology companies have inadvertently improved the lives of thousands of disabled people over the last several years. As they have worked to develop more and more new features before their competitors, they have also been giving new levels of freedom and independence to people with physical limitations. Although these companies will probably never realize it, and it will definitely not show up in their stock values or quarterly reports, organizations like Apple, Samsung, and Google have allowed people with severe, physical disabilities achieve goals and experience things that would have never been possible without the developments in technology that they have produced. These advances, which are so often thought of in terms of dollars and cents, to people like me are so much more than that. Being able to chat with one of my best friends about his new job and getting to be a part of my loved one’s Christmas festivities without ever leaving my home are things that are so special that I could never put a dollar value on them. These features have given me a happy, fulfilling life that I am so proud of, and that is something that is priceless.

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Just Listen

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Here in the Kansas City area, we have had one of the strangest Winters that I have ever experienced. About every four or five days for the last couple months, the temperature has shifted by at least 30 °F. It will go from being barely 20 °F with blustering winds and snow, to 65 °F and sunny, back to 10 °F with sleet and ice, all in a single week. Even for a born and raised Midwestern boy like myself, who is used to the frequent meteorological fluctuations of the “plains states,” this has been a little tough to handle. When you never know what the weather will be even 48 hours from now, it can be a little hard to plan various activities and such. As inconvenient as this has been for everyone in the area though, for those of us with certain types of chronic pain and disabilities it has been much more difficult to deal with. This increased hardship is a result of the fact that every one of these large shifts in temperature comes with an equally large change in the barometric pressure, which can cause increased discomfort in some types of pain (anyone with severe arthritis knows what I am talking about). In trying to cope with my elevated pain every few days, I have been reminded of how quickly my body can go from completely healthy and fine all the way to agonizing pain and illness, as well as how you can easily avoid this potentially life threatening problem.

Scott Drotar Changing Weather
The frequently changing weather in the Kansas City area lately has made my chronic pain much worse.

As the weather has been fluctuating so often recently, I have gotten many opportunities lately to examine the sensations that my body goes through as the shifting barometric pressure amplifies my chronic pain. You would think that this would be a gradual process, and as the new weather front moves in my discomfort would slowly grow in magnitude, but this is not the case. There is nothing gradual about it. Instead, it is like a switch gets flipped in my body once the atmospheric pressure changes a certain amount, and this switch instantly causes my pain to increase substantially. I will be sitting, writing on my tablet or even just lying back in my wheelchair watching television, and in the blink of an eye I will go from feeling my normal level of aches and pangs, to being in agony in all of my joints. My hips feel like they are filled with sandpaper that grinds on my bones with every movement, and my shoulder feels like it is covered in broken glass that cuts into my flesh with every breath. I will get this instantaneous increase in my pain, and I will look at my nurse and say, “The front has moved in hasn’t it?” They will go outside or get online to check, and without fail, every time the new weather front will have just passed over us. As excruciating and difficult as this is to deal with and as much as I would love to be rid of my internal, weather forecasting system, it has had the one bright spot of reminding me of the important life lesson of how critical it is to listen to your body.

As I touched on in a different way in the latest post in my Roll Models series, “A Recipe For Success,” it is extremely important to be aware of what your body is trying to tell you. Your body has evolved to be able to monitor and communicate to you what it is feeling and what it needs in order to stay in a healthy, working condition. We so often turn to the internet, books, and doctors to make decisions about what to eat, how to exercise, and how to determine our health, and while I am all for being well educated and learning as much as possible before making a decision, more often than not we can make a good, well informed decision simply by taking the time to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. Are you tired all the time? This is your body’s way of telling you to get more rest. Gaining weight? Your body is telling you that you are getting more than enough energy from your diet, and you could eat less. Shoulder hurting? Maybe you should take it easy on the racquet ball court for a couple weeks. Your body will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about your health, if you are just willing to listen. Even though the examples above may seem a bit mundane and not all that critical to your overall health and well-being, there are also times when your body tries to prevent you from serious harm, and you can avoid a lot of pain and suffering by merely being aware of these signals. There are even situations where your very life could be in jeopardy if you do not pay attention to your body, which is something I know all too well.

As I wrote about in my most viewed article and most popular Roll Models talk, “I Can’t!” when I was 15 years old I nearly lost my life. I had three different types of pneumonia at once, both of my lungs collapsed in the span of a few hours, and there was a period of time when it was not clear whether or not my body would be able to fight off the infection and recover. Thankfully, not only did I pull through this near death experience, but I also

Scott Drotar Just Listen
If I had listened to my body and skipped the marching band competition, I could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering.

learned many important life lessons through this process. One of these critical pearls of wisdom was how vital it is to listen to your own body. Two days before I went to the emergency room and ended up being diagnosed with pneumonia and such, I woke up not feeling well. Even though I did not feel good at all having chills, body aches, and a ton of chest congestion, the regional marching band competition that I had spent weeks preparing for was that afternoon, and I did not want to miss it. So I did what any teenager who thinks they are invincible would do, completely ignored what my body was telling me and went to the all day band competition. I spent the afternoon sweating in the hot sun in my black, polyester band uniform, and then spent the evening freezing in a cold drizzle after the sun went down. When I woke up the next morning, surprise, surprise, I felt like death. I could barely breathe, ached all over, had a fever over 103 °F (my father actually thought the thermometer was broken because my fever was so high), and within 12 hours would be fighting for my life. All of this suffering and hardship could have been avoided too, if I had simply been willing to listen to my body.

While I hope that you will never be put in a situation where listening to your body is a matter of life and death, I do hope that you will think about my story and keep it with you as a reminder to pay attention to your body’s signals. Just like I could have avoided nearly dieing and everything that my family and I had to suffer through as a result, you can save yourself a lot of effort and discomfort by simply taking the time to listen to your own body. If you really give this a try, you will quickly see that your body is truly an amazing machine and will tell you everything you need to know to maintain your health and well-being. After a week or two of focusing on how you are feeling and what your body is communicating to you, this process will become second nature, and you will find that without even thinking about it that you will be more aware of your well-being and in tune with your body. Just take a few moments throughout your day, shut up, and listen to what your body is saying, because no one knows what you need better than you. Not only will you avoid nearly killing yourself by attending a marching band competition, but you will also feel healthier. This newfound improvement in your well-being will allow you to put more of yourself into your life and relationships, which will bring more happiness and success to your life.

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Her Many Hats

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Scott Drotar Mom's Birthday
It is a big day for Roll Models, because it is the day that one of the most influential people in my life was born. Today is my mom’s birthday.

Today is a very special day both for me and for Roll Models. Today is the day that one of the most important and influential people in my life was brought into the world (many, many years ago). Today is my mom’s birthday. I was having trouble trying to decide what to write about this amazing lady, who will always be the number one woman in my life, and I thought that my writer’s block was because I had already written so many articles about my magnificent mom. I have shared with you the sacrifices she has made for me, how she is always ready at the drop of a hat to travel the 600 miles to come take care of me, and the courage she has shown in letting me live my own, independent life. I actually thought that maybe I had run the well dry on this topic and would need to come up with some other way to celebrate her birthday. After I thought about my creative constipation for a while and why I could not think of a suitable way to honor my mother on her special day though, I realized that my mental block was not because I had too little to write about, but because I have too much. There are so many incredible things I could share with you about this wonderful woman that it is hard to pick out just one. It would be like picking the best Beatles song or your favorite Robert Frost poem. You cannot pick just one since they are all great and meaningful in their own way. To solve this little quandary, I decided to not pick just one thing to write about, and instead tell you about several of the countless ways that she has made my life so successful and fulfilling.

My mother went to Ball State University and graduated with a degree in both instrumental and choral music education. While this is her only official academic training, like all mothers out there, she also has a thorough understanding of all of the various techniques necessary for raising happy, healthy, well-behaved children. Things like being nurturing and soothing when her children are upset, being the warden when they misbehave, and all of the other skills that moms seem to possess almost like magic. However, unlike most other mothers, whose role as caregiver and such decreases over time as their kids grow into teenagers, due to my disability my mom had to continue her caregiver role until I graduated and moved off to college. Not only did she have to continue to take care of me for 18 years, she also had to learn a myriad of other skills in order to keep me safe and make my life as “normal” as possible. When I think about all of the different things she had to learn to do over the years, often with no prior training or notice, I often think of her as wearing many different hats, each of which represents another part she had to play in the story of my life. Most of these roles were not things she had ever wanted to be or had much knowledge of, but if there was a hat she needed to wear to make my life work, she put it on without saying a word. To celebrate her birthday, I have decided to share with you a few of the many hats in my mom’s closet.

Scott Drotar Nurses Hat
While she received no formal training, my mom learned the skills she needed and put on her nurse’s hat to keep me safe and healthy.

One of the hats she wore the most, in fact she probably wore out a few, was her nurse’s cap. My mom has absolutely no medical training, nor did she ever plan on getting any, but as soon as I was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy she put this hat right on. My mom knows more about the respiratory system, physical therapy, and pain management than a lot of second year med students, and she learned it all on the fly, without any training, and without a safety net. Despite all of this, she absorbed it all and kept me safe and healthy my entire life. Another piece of headgear that she never would have dreamed of wearing is the trucker style hat of the wheelchair technician. My mother will be the first to admit that she is not mechanically inclined, and she has no interest in tools, axles, or motors. Even though she had little natural ability or previous interest though, as soon as my wheelchair broke down for the first time, she was happy to

Scott Drotar Chef's Hat
It is a-me, a-chef a-mommy.

put on that foam-billed cap and get her hands dirty. She is even more skilled than many actual wheelchair techs, because she often had to work with next to no tools (it never failed that my wheelchair would break down away from home), and instead just try to “MacGyver” a quick fix. One of the more fun hats she had in her arsenal is her nutritionist/dietitian/chef’s hat. When you have a physical disability that keeps you immobile and in a wheelchair, it is often very difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Most people who use power wheelchairs are either much too heavy or, as in my case, much too thin (this is a generalization not a rule). Throughout my life my mom has been painstakingly cooking anything and everything she can to try to entice me to eat more and fatten me up. Whether it was driving 30 minutes to get some fast food because that is what sounded good to me or spending hours in the kitchen after working all day to make my favorite meals, she was always quick to dress up like Chef Boyardee and put some pounds on me.

These are just a handful of the hundreds of different hats that my mom has worn over the years to make my life better. While I have taken over most of these jobs and wear these hats myself now that I am grown and living on my own, there is one role that I hope she never gives up. As great as she was as a nurse and as cool as she looked in her chef’s hat, it is the role she plays when she takes off all the headgear that is the most important to me. She is at her best when she is not wearing any hat, when she is being my mom. When she is being the person I want by my bed when I am sick and the person that texts me any day I do not post an article on my blog. When she is willing to, in an instant, learn any new skill or trade and wear any hat, if it means that my life will be better or easier, even if it is something she has no interest in. When she is being the woman who will always love me more than anyone else. That is when she is in her natural role, being my mother.

As I go about my life out here on my own, wearing many of the hats that my mom had to wear for so many years, I am so thankful for having the amazing mom that I do. I now know how hard it is sometimes to have to fulfill a role that you have no training in or desire

Scott Drotar Her Many Hats
I may be the one wearing her many hats now, but my mother will always play her most important role in my life, being my mom.

to learn at a moment’s notice, and I am thankful that my mother carried that burden for so long. I am also thankful that she not only wore all of these hats, but also taught me how to wear them as well, to prepare me for a life on my own. I am most thankful though that she will always be there playing her most important role, and one that I could never take over, of being my mom. I know that no matter how far away I move or how independent I become, that she will always be there for me, ready to do anything I need her to. She will always love me more than anyone else, and more than I could probably even fathom, and that is by far the most important part she plays in my life. To my mom, Happy ##th Birthday (I will not put the number for all to see). I hope you have an amazing, perfect day, and that dad is taking you someplace nice for dinner. Most of all, know that I love you. Even if I do not say it often, it is always true. You are, and always will be, the number one woman in my life, even if you do not get to wear any more terrific hats.

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His Greatest Achievement

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Scott Drotar Lifetime Achievement Award
My father was given a lifetime achievement award for his more than two decades of service to the students of John Glenn High School.

This year the school district where my father works awarded my very deserving dad with a lifetime achievement award for his nearly 25 years of service as a teacher and coach to the students of John Glenn High School (JGHS). In bestowing this prestigious honor upon him, I am sure that they will bring up the numerous teams he has coached, the dozens of different classes he has agreed to teach over the years, and his work to improve the school’s AP program for college bound seniors. While all of these accomplishments are worthy of praise and recognition, these types of things are by no means his greatest achievements as an educator. His most important accomplishments as a guide for his students did not occur in the classroom, on the football field, or softball diamond, and the impact that he has made is far more valuable than any tackling technique or test score. His greatest feats as a teacher are things that his students will remember and carry with them for the rest of their lives, as they mature into successful, happy adults.

One Summer several years ago, I had gone out with my father to run some errands around town, and he needed to stop by the high school to grab something out of his classroom. As he ran down to his room to grab whatever he wanted to pick up, I decided to stop in the school’s main office to say “hello” to my old guidance counselor. While I was in the office talking about my time at Notre Dame and such, the newly hired assistant principal of the school walked in. After introducing ourselves, I came to find out that even though he was now going to be my dad’s superior, he had actually been a student of my father’s years before at another high school. This was strange enough to hear, but as I was waiting on my dad to return, this young administrator told me a story about my father that I will always remember. Not only will this story forever remind me of how amazing and wise my father is, but it is a great example of the way he has made a lifelong difference in the lives of so many of his students.

Scott Drotar Young Teacher
Even as a young teacher and coach, my father was extremely devoted to making an impact on the lives of his students.

When my father was just starting his career as a high school teacher, he worked at a school in a rural, farming community in Northern Indiana as the government teacher and football coach. During this time, the new assistant principal of JGHS was a senior and both a student of my father’s as well as a player on his varsity football team. He was a popular guy and a leader on the team with a bright future ahead of him, but as so often happens with hormone crazed teens however, life happened, and he and his girlfriend got pregnant. An unplanned pregnancy is something that fully grown, mature couples can barely deal with, and for a couple of high school kids, who cannot even buy a lottery ticket, this type of situation is even more impossible to manage. A few days after learning this life altering news, this young father-to-be went to speak to my dad after school one day to discuss how it may affect his ability to remain on the football team. It was this conversation with my father that this young man credits with having the greatest impact on him during this trying time in his life. He even believes that without my dad’s guidance that he would not have been able to overcome this adverse set of circumstances and create a successful life.

After hearing about his life changing situation, my father had this troubled teen take a seat in one of the student desks in his classroom, and my dad sat down in a desk right across from him. Out of everyone this adolescent had spoken to about the pregnancy, this 18 year old was being talked to and treated like a man for the first time, because that is what he had to be now that he was having a baby. My father did not talk down to him as an adult to a child, but instead like a man, an equal, advising another man. My dad basically said that the most important thing was to do right by this child, and that he would have to sacrifice some things in order to make this kid his number one priority. My wise father did not pretend to have all the answers or know what to do, but by helping this young man gain some perspective and re-prioritize his life, he got him on the right track to overcoming this difficult situation. While he did not receive any specific advice on how to move forward, the scared, 18 year old kid that entered my father’s classroom that day left that room a much more confident, mature young man, thanks to the wisdom and guidance of my incredible dad.

This emotional, inspirational story about how my father helped this distraught teenager keep his life on track was moving enough on its own, but the look on the face of the now assistant principal made it even more powerful to hear. As I listened to him recount this tale from his past, I could see the tears welling up in his eyes as he remembered how my father had made him feel that day many years ago. The look on his face and the inflection in his voice made it obvious how much that conversation meant to him, and the immense amount of gratitude and respect he had for my dad because of it. You could tell that this young administrator truly believed that if not for the guidance of my father, he would not have been able to keep his life in order, graduate from high school, raise a family with his high school sweetheart, and become a high school principal. And while you would think that this sort of life altering event would be a one time occurrence for the careers of most teachers, and for lesser men than my father that would probably be true, but this is just the tip of the iceberg for Mr. Drotar. I cannot begin to tell you the number of former students and players we have bumped into over the years who have that same look on their face when they come up and shake my dad’s hand. Even though most of these thankful individuals did not have anything as life changing as a teen pregnancy to deal with, they all had the same feelings of respect and admiration for my father and the way he treated them as adolescents. They are all grateful for the way he treated them as young, emerging adults and the life lessons and wisdom he was always willing to share.

Scott Drotar His Greatest Achievement
My father has accomplished many things during his career, but his greatest achievement are the successful individuals out in the world whose lives he has touched.

Anyone who has worked with my father for any length of time would definitely agree that this recognition of his years of dedication and service to the students of JGHS is much deserved and long overdue. While this award may focus on his students test scores and the number of winning teams he has put on the field during his career, the people who really matter, the thousands of young men and women who have sat in his classroom, know that his greatest professional achievements have little to do with academics or athletics. His greatest accomplishments as a teacher are the happy, successful individuals that were able to grow into functioning members of society thanks to the wisdom my father passed on to them. These life lessons and guidance will never show up on any spreadsheet of test scores or in a box score of a high school football game, but that does not mean that they are not important. If anything, the fact that these words of wisdom he has shared with so many young minds were done without any recognition or acclaim makes his sage-like guidance that much more incredible. I want to say congratulations to my incredible father for this much deserved award for his life of dedication to his students. I am so extremely proud that I get to introduce you as my father, and I hope that the wisdom you have imparted on me has helped me to grow into a man that you are proud to call your son. You are a terrific teacher, an amazing coach, and most of all a phenomenal father. I love you and hope that you enjoy your time in the spotlight (although I know you will want to return to your spot behind the scenes as quickly as possible).

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If You Can’t Take Muhammad To The Mountain,…

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The Braun Corporation creates mobility solutions for people with physical disabilities.
The Braun Corporation creates mobility solutions for people with physical disabilities.

Today’s post is located on the BraunAbility Blog website. I discuss how my disability has impacted, not only my life, but the lives of my entire family in major ways. Thanks to my amazing parents, siblings, and the incredible bond we share however, we always find a way to focus on what is really important in life and make things work. By working together and combining our efforts, the five of us are able to overcome the obstacles presented by my physical limitations and lead fulfilling, happy lives together. 

***There was an issue with posting this article on the BraunAbility blog, as they are in the process of remodeling their website, so I am posting it here instead. My apologies for any confusion.***

Even though I am fortunate to have a van with a Braun hydraulic lift that allows me to travel as I please, this does not mean that my disability does not still present obstacles that make it difficult for me to travel, especially long distances. Without even considering the logistical issues that come with venturing far from my home, like arranging lodging that will meet my needs, finding a caregiver to travel with me, and being sure to pack enough medication and medical supplies, the physical toll that spending all day travelling has on my fragile, weak body is an issue that can make driving great distances very tough on me physically. While I can easily recover from shorter trips in my van, the cumulative effects of the repeated abuse from spending hours getting tossed around on the road are much harder on my body. Due to the nature of my disability and my chronic pain, every crack, pothole, and bump I hit during these long days on the highway hits me like a body blow from Mike Tyson, which for short trips is not a big issue, but withstanding this over an extended period of time is a completely different story. The total effect of repeatedly getting bounced around for hours on the freeway often results in me having to spend two to three pain filled days recovering for every day I spend on the road, so unless my destination is something really special, the trip is probably not worth it. Since I cannot travel long distances and live more than 600 miles away from my family, you may think that I lead a very isolated life having no way to visit my family for holidays and such. And for most people this may definitely be the case, but thanks to my incredible family and by making the most of the distances I can travel thanks to having my own vehicle, I have been able to not only maintain, but improve, my familial relationships and enjoy a fulfilling social life despite my inability to spend long days on the road.

Up until a couple years ago when my body could no longer handle the long drive to my parent’s home, like most families, during the Holidays my siblings and I would all trek to my parent’s house to spend time together as a family. These were always fun visits as they allowed us to practice our family’s Christmas traditions, escape from our busy schedules, and retreat for a few days back to the simpler times of our childhood. Two years ago however, it was fairly obvious that me making the 12 hour drive home was not a good idea, which meant that we could no longer all get together at my folks like usual. My phenomenal family however, was not about to let my inability to make this lengthy journey stop us from enjoying the Holidays as a group, so they adopted the old saying, “If you can’t take Muhammad to the mountain, you bring the mountain to Muhammad.”

Instead of everyone journeying to my parent’s house in Indiana, my loving mother, father, and siblings all travelled to my home here in Kansas City for Christmas. This allowed me to avoid having to spend all day on the road, while also letting us celebrate together as a family. While they were making arrangements to head my way, I was making the most of the mobility my van provides me to create the most festive atmosphere as I could for them. Having my own vehicle allowed me to make the necessary trips to do things like pick up the ingredients to make our favorite Holiday treats and shop for tinsel, lights, and other items to decorate my apartment. My ability to make these short trips allowed me to cook the same foods that my mom would have made back home and decorate my apartment like Santa’s workshop at Macy’s, which created a Winter Wonderland for everyone to enjoy. My family’s willingness to modify our Christmas celebration to accommodate my disability, along with me maximizing my mobility to run errands and such, allowed us to have a wonderful Christmas together despite the obstacles posed by my physical limitations. While doing all of this allowed us to continue our family customs, spend Christmas together, and enjoy the Holidays though, the most important thing was that even though we were not in the same city as usual, we were all together. In the grand scheme of things, this is really all that mattered in the end. Regardless of where we meet, so long as the five of us are together we know we will be happy.

This was our second year of holding our family’s Christmas gathering at my apartment, and I am happy to say that this year was even better than the first. Not only did I avoid having to spend a long day getting beaten up on the road, but we were also able to carry out our family traditions of putting up the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving night, opening gifts one at a time Christmas morning, and watching our favorite Holiday movies (“Elf,” “Christmas Vacation,” “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” etc.) together as a family. Even though I would like to think it was my improved decorations and other preparations that made our family Christmas so great this year, the truth is that the ornaments, garland, and Santa shaped sugar cookies had little to do with it. It was our strong family bond and our ability to focus on what I can do instead of what my disability takes away that really made the difference. In the end, the thing that makes the Holiday Season feel so special is that we are all together around our family Christmas tree on December 25th. No matter what city we are in, how many miles of tinsel we hang, or how much Christmas fudge we make (and eat), so long as the five of us get to wake up Christmas morning and sit together around our tree, it will feel like Christmas.

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