Sunday, April 24, 2016


     I turned to the dictionary for a definition for community to tie my whimsical ideas of a community together into something concrete, but only found dull and simplistic definitions. What Michelle and I experienced this weekend wasn't dull or simplistic, it was powerful, uplifting, comforting, and loving.
    Dozens of friends and family converged on our backyard to give it a total makeover. We had 400ft. Of fence that needed to come down. Flower beds overflowing with weeds, dead trees that needed to come down, numerous other jobs to be done. This was a monstrous task to take on, one that Michelle and I would never be able to handle on our own. However our community rallied behind us and uplifted our yard and our home to a level we only dreamed of. Not only did people close to us shower us with grace and love but complete strangers joined the army to make a tremendous impact. Rock Valley Fencing sent a 6 man team on a Saturday morning they normally wouldn't work to build my fence with free labor. Dudes I'd never met working their ass off for what they said was a family in their community and communities lift each other up.
     Watching fellow teachers, neighbors, family members, friends, even friends of friends and children rally behind us to make such an impact while also enjoying one another was such an incredible thing to experience. ALS not only physically attacks you but also wages war on your emotions. Worry and fear have a way of blindsiding me when I'm most vulnerable, like in the middle of the night when I have nothing to distract me. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night, only I wasn't filled with worry, I was filled with peace and love.
    Many would say I've been dealt an awful hand and should be filled with grief and resentment towards God, but after this latest example of Grace in my life I can say with certainty that my life has a purpose, support and love is plentiful and my community is far from dull and generic, it's exceptional.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


    If you were to tell me after I graduated that I'd be retiring at 29 I would have figured my lucky loto ticket hit the Powerball. I would start hooking up my family members with bank accounts to give them financial security, buy Kamm that new Camero he deserves and get a piece of land on the west side of Washington Island to build a perfect getaway.
    Unfortunately I didn't hit the Powerball. ALS came crashing into my life throwing haymakers that slowly stripped me of my independence. I started this school year with strong and capable arms, and now I can't feed myself, zip my fly, or navigate a smartphone. It's as if I have spatulas for hands.  Imagine trying to use a spatula to use your phone without lifting your arms.
    If you know me well you know I'm a stubborn son of a bitch, so as my arms became weaker and I lost small motor skills, I compensated in other ways. I taught myself to be a lefty, used dictation on my phone and ate food from a bowl like a dog. I had to compensate at work as well. Being a teacher and not being able to use your arms is tricky. I can't pass out papers, type on the keyboard, point out directions for my students, my can'ts outweigh my cans. Even with all the things I can't do I can still connect with my students and advocate for them. I can "stand" in their corner when no one else does.
    Making the decision to retire from teaching was by far the hardest call I've had to make. For the past 15 years working with kids with special needs has been my passion. I've met some of the coolest kids, made lifelong friendships, and made a significant difference in multiple school districts and kid's lives.
Most folks tear up when I tell them I won't be teaching full-time next year, but this blog exists to shed light on the Grace that surrounds us even in the worst of times.
      For starters, I can find grace in the fact that ALS can't keep me from tutoring kids, loving kids, and making kids laugh. I can find Grace in knowing that this break from teaching will allow me to advocate like hell for others living with ALS with backing from my Gronk's Grace Army. Finally, I can take the time to pour love into my relationships with the people I hold so close to my heart.

    This blog was brought to you courtesy of my amazing eye-gaze technology called a Tobii dynavox . I set up my music playlist, opened my blogging app, and typed every word without lifting a spatula.