How My Accident Has Increased My Faith

7 Apr

One thing I don’t really discuss is how my accident has increased my faith. What I once saw as a curse I now see as a blessing. I realized that God never puts you in a situation that is too big for you to handle. I have found my true purpose through what most people would consider a tragedy. I have a speech for a program at a church in Avon Lake, OH called Celebrate Recovery where I will be talking to people who are working on their own recovery. Here is a video that I created today about how my accident has increased my faith.

I Want Nothing More Than To Be a Father… Here is Why

4 Apr

I do not think there is anything in this world that I would be better at than being a father. I do not think there would be anything more rewarding or even comparable. I became an uncle at the young age of seven. I remember how proud I was bringing her in for “Show and Tell” in the fourth grade. By the time I was 10 I had two beautiful nieces, Morgan and McKenna. I had the opportunity to watch them grow while I grew.

I remember how much joy it brought to me when I could teach them something new. I remember reading them stories before they went to bed and it was an amazing experience to eventually have them reading the stories to me.

They looked up to me so much. They were and always have been a huge part of my life. When you have a young child looking up to you it makes you want to become a better person and a better influence. It makes you question your own actions.

In the fall of 2008 I went into my downhill spiral. My life was consumed by drugs, partying, and irrational decisions. I lost my mind and ended up in the psych ward. When I got out of the psych ward my older sister Bobbie gave me a copy of my niece Morgan’s essay that was dated for the same day that I was admitted into the psych ward. She had to write about her hero and that hero was me.

Morgan had no idea about all the terrible decisions that I had been making. I read that essay and broke down crying. It was a wake up call for me and it was a reminder of who I was and who I should and could be. At that point I became incredibly driven to fight to become the person that I once was and more.

I became optimistic. I had a great sense of self. I knew that I was a proven leader and I set out to accomplish what I wrote in my application to Ohio State about what I would bring to the University. I stated that I would bring prominence to the Waterski Team.

Maybe I’ve made it sound like I was just a big stoner in the couple years leading up to my accident, which I was, but I was driven like never before. Growing up I learned to become a very patient teacher by helping my nieces and all of the other children that were part of my life. I was great at bringing people together and making them believe in something. I was great at making people feel like they had self-worth.

I can’t say I did it alone, but I played a huge role in building the Waterski Team up from nothing and ultimately winning a National Title. I believed in our team and I made them believe in themselves. I attribute my success of making people be able to believe in themselves from growing up helping my nieces and other children discover what they are capable of and helping them to believe in their own abilities. I’ve always been a coach and I’ve always been able to make the process fun.

I’ll never forget rounding that final buoy at Nationals that would be the end of my waterskiing career. The accident came soon and it was time for the next chapter. Morgan and McKenna were all grown up now. I now had two young nephews in Zach and Keller. Zach was old enough where I knew he would remember how much fun we had together before my accident. Keller was so young that I was scared that he would only remember me as always being in a wheelchair. I didn’t believe that I could have fun with my nephews anymore. I didn’t believe that I could be the same uncle to Zach and Keller as I was to Morgan and McKenna.

Morgan and McKenna now lived in North Carolina and they came up to visit during the summer after my accident. I was miserable and hard to be around. When before I was the one that would always lift them up, now they were trying to lift me up.

I received a letter in the mail from Morgan about a week after they went back to North Carolina. She was crushed to see her “hero” completely give up on life. She told me that she knew I still had it in me to beat this and come out on top. Once again she wrote a letter that was a huge wake up call to me. I had two beautiful nieces and two young nephews that brought so much joy to my life and I wanted to bring joy to their lives. They were who I had to live for and set an example that we are never given a challenge that is too big to handle.

Now that I have weathered the storm, my nieces use my story as guidelines of how to live their life. They know what mistakes not to make and hopefully my life is being used by them as a blueprint for success.

Zach and Keller bring so much joy to my life now, and opposite of what I thought, I bring joy to their lives as well. Keller loves sitting on my lap and driving my wheelchair around. I have so much fun with him now. Every time I see Zach, I am the first one that he comes up to with a smile and he gives me a big hug. They are both so attracted to my positivity.

Recently I have been spending a lot of time with a six-year-old boy named Trae. Spending time with him has taught me that I am totally capable of raising a child. I pick him up from school sometimes, make him food, take him all over Columbus, and most importantly just have fun, make him smile, and I can be a positive influence on his life and be a huge role model.

I want nothing more in my life to be a father. Who knows when that day will come, but I know that I am ready for it and I will be great at it. I know that I have shaped the lives of many children throughout my life, but I also know that they have taught me to laugh, smile, and live in the moment.

I have a picture that was framed for me with fourth-graders that I spoke to a couple years back. Below the picture is a quote that says, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was… The sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

When I Found What Love Feels Like

28 Mar

I waited my entire life to find someone that was worth the pursuit. In 27 years I never met a girl that screamed perfection to me that I knew was worth the chase. I never met anyone who would come to mind every time I listened to a love song. Never anyone who I just found myself thinking about multiple times a day and envisioning a future with. Never anyone who made it so easy to bring out the best in me. A more simple way to put it is that I never knew what it felt like to be in love.

I felt fulfilled when I was around her. I cherished every second that I got to spend with her. The noise around me became quiet when we were together and I was just living in the moment with her. Nothing could distract me. Hours would pass by that would feel like minutes. 

I made it clear to her how I felt about her. I knew how I felt about her within the first few minutes of meeting her. It is said when you meet the right one you just know. I was 100% certain that I had met the one that I had been waiting for my entire life. Life has been different since the second that I met her.

I always wonder if she feels the same way. I was too afraid to ask. I was too afraid of rejection, too afraid to ask for that first kiss or simply just reach over and hold her hand and have her let go. I always wonder how often I run through her mind. I wonder if she thinks about me every day like I think about her. I wonder if lyrics of a song speak to her and she thinks of me just like I think of her.

She’s miles and miles away now pursuing her dreams. The last thing I was going to do was try and stop her. I want the world to recognize her talent and beauty and allow her to share it with the world and have them see the beauty she has inside and outside just how I saw it in her. Her talent and beauty is meant to be shared. I would be selfish to hold her back from sharing it. 

I think two of the most beautiful things in this world are having passion for something and spreading love to everyone in your path. Those are two qualities that she has.

I am so thankful that she came into my life. I am not saying goodbye. I am hanging onto the memories that we made together and I am thankful that she showed me how to love this world and to love others. I am hoping for many more memories in the future, although I am not going to sit around waiting for her. I’m going to continue to explore my options, which will be hard because she set the bar so high. If she comes back into my life one day then I will embrace her with open arms.

Thank you for coming into my life and showing me what love is and what it feels like. We are both living out the next chapters of our lives. Maybe one day a chapter will start that includes both of us together,  but even if that does not happen I hope we both live out chapters that neither one of us could have written any better.

One Man Can Change The World

14 Mar

I remember holding my diploma outside of Ohio Stadium and reflecting back on that seven year journey that it took to hold that piece of paper in my hands. I looked at the words “Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering” and I did not think for a second about things like struggling to make the grade to pass a class. Five years of classes and I did not see myself as an authority in that area. That was not my future. Instead I thought about the struggles that I went through to get that degree outside the classroom.

I thought about two years in particular. I thought about 2008 when I lost my mind and ended up in the psych ward. I thought about the fight that it took to get back my mind. I reflected back on 2011, the worst year of my life, once again fighting to get back my mind and losing the battle to get my body back after fighting harder for it than anything else I had in my life. Those two years talk taught me more than anything you can learn in a classroom in five years. 

I saw myself as an authority on perseverance and someone that knew the difference between right and wrong. So search for a civil engineering job? Absolutely not. 

“You know that I was never going to be a 9 to 5. No, that was never me. I was born with a compass in my hand and a restless soul.” – Andy Grammer

I looked at the paper and I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew that no employer besides myself was going to allow me to do exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something special. I wanted to change the world with my story. I wanted to spread hope. I wanted to send a message to the world that no matter how how hard life gets and how many things God throws at you that you are only given these struggles to become stronger in the future. I wanted to make people see the silver lining. Difficult times always lead to better days. I saw myself as a prime example of this.

I learned very quickly after my accident that the best way to help myself was to help others. It all started with one post on Facebook where I opened up to share my story. Right away people I hadn’t heard from in years were telling me that I was giving them a different perspective on life and that they no longer would take the little things in life for granted. Hundreds of blog posts later, speaking nearly 100 times to thousands upon thousands of people, and the reactions that I’ve got from the countless people that have read my book, I know that I’ve made my mark on this earth. 

From the hundreds of letters from students about how I impacted their life, the complete strangers that reach out to me on Facebook looking for help sharing with me the struggles that they are going through and believing that I have the answer, the standing ovations, the simple one on one conversations that I have with people after my speeches who are not afraid to open up to me, to just the kids or people that want to give me a hug or handshake after my speech just to thank me, go to show me that I am making a huge impact on this world. I chose to follow my own path and along that path there are so many beautiful things that I have seen.

I did all of this by making myself vulnerable. There are no secrets that I hold and nothing that I have not shared that cause me to feel shameful. By sharing my mistakes I know that I am teaching others not to go down the same path that I went down and now I’m teaching others to follow me down the path that I am going down now. 

Every day I wake up happier and more optimistic about the future than the day before. I wake up every day like I’m on a mission. I know that I will not have an impact on everyone that I come in contact with, but I do know that I have changed many lives. I’m not trying to be arrogant. I just want you to believe that one man can change the world and show you how you can as well. All you have to do to do the same is to realize that you will find true happiness by helping others. We all have made mistakes in our life and learned from them and all you have to do is share them and make yourself vulnerable because you can help someone else not to make the same mistake and suffer any amount of misery.

I finished my book back in February 2013 and ended it with this quote by Steve Jobs:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

I’m one of the crazy ones. Are you?

No Complaints – How to Change One Life at a Time

17 Feb

I’ve been quiet for a while now. That doesn’t mean that nothing has happened. I have found great satisfaction in just helping someone one-on-one and seeing the progression. When you speak to a large group of people you do not get the satisfaction of following up with them and seeing if something you said made a difference in their life. When you work with someone one-on-one and you get to follow them and see how their life plays out. You can see the mistakes that they are making and relate it back to your own life and explain to them the consequences that you suffered. Sharing your own life lessons from both your successes and your failures, you can drastically change the life of an individual and prevent them from experiencing the hardships that you had to face throughout your life. If you stick with that person long enough, have faith in them, and see the growth of that individual, I promise you that it is more rewarding than anything.

Often at my speeches I get the same question, which is, “do you have any regrets?” I think people expect a long list of things that I regret about my past. Although I have the same answer every time and that answer is “no”. I go on to explain that everything I ever did, whether right or wrong, led me to become who I am today. I have found true happiness, purpose, patience, opportunity, and a life where I take nothing for granted. I am who I am today because of the mistakes that I made, but I do not regret those mistakes because I was given a second chance to use those mistakes as guidelines for others not to follow in my footsteps. My purpose now is prevention and to spread hope.

The wheelchair is an incredible tool. I believe that it makes the audience want to listen more closely to what I have to say. I do not want to spread fear, but I believe it does that in a way. Although by spreading that fear and capturing the attention of the audience, they will listen and see that I actually have a message of hope. Being disabled there is a stereotype that people believe that you’re miserable and do not live a high quality of life. People probably look at me before I start speaking and pray that they never end up in my shoes. When I tell people that I am happier now than I’ve ever been, I wonder if they actually believe it. I want to spread the message that no matter what situation you are in you are in charge of your own happiness. No one else can change your mindset and a positive mindset is all you need to find happiness. You can’t compare your life to others. You can’t focus on what you don’t have or what you can’t do. You need to focus on the things that you have in your life and you truly just need to appreciate being alive. The one thing you should never do is complain.

This brings me back to working with people one-on-one. You can’t speak to a crowd for an hour and expect a story to completely change their lives. Maybe they don’t believe you that you have found true happiness. Although when you work with someone one-on-one they see that you’re actually living the way that you claim to be living. This motivates them to believe that they can change their mindset.

Those people that are happily living with a disability are often called an “inspiration”. I’ve heard it many times before, but I do not believe it is fair because so many people have struggles in their lives that aren’t visible, unlike the disabled, and those people never get credit. We all have our own struggles and we can’t compare ourselves to others. It should be inspiring to see anyone living in true happiness without complaints in this high-pressure society. We need more people like that in this world. Those are the people that will change the world one life at a time.

I challenge you to be one of those people. I challenge you to live each day without complaining. If someone complains to you don’t agree with them. Try to help them focus on all the positive things in their life. Try to help them envision a better future. Positivity is contagious.The same goes for negativity. Positivity will attract positive people and make those people with a negative mindset think twice about their life. Change your mindset. Change the people around you. Change the world one life at a time.

The Blue Notebook: The Lost Journal from the Worst Year of My Life

8 Jan


In exactly two weeks it will be four years since the day of my accident. Life changed dramatically to say the least. I always talk about that first year and just how hard that was to get through. My mindset then was completely opposite of what it is now. I saw my accident and disability then as a curse and nearly four years later I see that day as a blessing. It was my second chance, but during that first year I thought my life had come to an end. Happiness was nowhere in sight and today I understand the true meaning of happiness and embrace this second chance with nothing but a positive outlook and a smile on my face.

I was cleaning out some of the drawers in my apartment and I came across this old blue notebook. Before I started using voice dictation to write on my computer, I wrote some entries in this notebook. I’ve heard that a spinal cord injury is the hardest injury to adapt to. Also take into account that I have bipolar disorder and my medications were not completely straightened out at this point. To say the least, I was not in the right mindset to handle such a life changing injury.

I want to share a couple of those entries with you for you to understand just how down on myself I was. I also want you to understand that no matter what your circumstances are you are able to push through them, learn from your mistakes, and find a better more fulfilling life in the end.

This page kind of sums it up…



I absolutely hate this new life. Everyone tells me to focus on what I can do and not to dwell on what I can’t, but what can I do now? I can read it, which I’ve never had the attention span for. I can watch TV, which is getting very old. I can watch movies, which I am tired of. I can write, which is what I’m doing right now. Although I have to handwrite everything because I can’t use my left hand. I used to type as fast as I could think. I can go out to eat and hang out with friends. I can also ride my hand cycle, but I wrecked it so that is not an option right now. I can listen to music, which just reminds me of driving my car around or being in my apartment. I can also draw. This is not much if you ask me. I know there are a few more things to do, but not compared to my old life.

I’m angry at the world.



Lyrics from “Nothing” by The Script:

“Am I better off dead? Am I better off a quitter?”

Sometimes I think so… Well most of the time actually. The only thing that makes life worth living are my family and friends. They love me too much to see me go. Maybe I’m alive for them. To be there to help them. To make them realize what they have because I feel like I’ve got next to nothing now. Life has changed so much and it’s hard for me to stay positive. I’m constantly told to focus on what I can do and not on what I can’t, but I’m still hung up on what I can’t do. When I see certain things they remind me of what my life used to be.

It kills me to see my waterski knowing that I’ll never be riding it again or to see my longboard just thinking of all of the times I rode it back-and-forth to class and around campus. I watch the kids in my neighborhood ride their bikes by and I just dream of riding again. To take a long bike ride on a perfect 70° day. When I listen to music I imagine myself in my car with the music pounding and the windows down. I remember the feeling of the gas pedal under my feet cruising down the highway. I just miss the freedom of driving wherever I want rather than being driven places. I feel so restricted now. I miss it all so much.

If I could just stand up right now I would give my mom the biggest hug and cry. If I could get up and run, I would never stop running. I would rather be able to walk again and have my life back than to have a billion dollars or any amount of money. I want out of this chair more than anything.

I lost my independence when I crashed my car. I am now completely dependent on others to survive. I need help to get dressed, get out of bed, make food, shower, and go to the bathroom.


See the change? Now I look back at the day that I woke up in the ICU as the start of a new life filled with more opportunity than I could ever imagine.


In these pictures you can see that I wrote in the notebook all of the things that I missed and many of these things were things that I thought I would never do again. The ones with the pink checkmark next of them are things that I have already done. There are also still so many things on this list that I am still capable of doing and plan on doing.





I somehow survived this…


and I went from this…


…to this.


That is a genuine smile. What I learned from having one year of misery is that you should never live your life in self-pity and that you should treat every day as a gift. No matter how bad your situation is, there is always a way to find joy in your life. I consider myself lucky and blessed to the point where I cannot be thankful enough for all that I have in my life.

The Bipolar Questionnaire: Share Your Story ANONYMOUSLY to Be Included in a Book with a Compilation of Stories About Bipolar

9 Dec


BIPOLAR? Share your story anonymously to be included in a book that will change the world’s perception about bipolar.
There are many misconceptions regarding bipolar disorder. People tend to only focus on the unstable mood changes going abruptly from happy to angry. Why is it that the world perceives it this way? It is because naturally we are afraid to admit we are bipolar and we do not want to share our story. There are over 6 million Americans that have bipolar so you are not alone. You should not be ashamed.

Now is your chance to share your story with the world anonymously. All you have to do is simply fill out the questionnaire. Please be as descriptive as possible. Make yourself vulnerable! No one is going to have any idea who the story is about.

Sharing your story may help someone realize that they are bipolar and it may help them to seek treatment. You may be able to help someone that is struggling with it now. Most importantly you will change the perception that the world has about bipolar. Never has there been a book like this and this is your chance to be a part of this movement.

Change lives! Share your story! Thank you for your help and for how much you are going to be helping so many others in this world that are struggling right now!

Thanks again!


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