Posted by: Mr. Miller | 2015-06-25

Facing Challenges

There is simply too much good in this story not to share it. At the same time, I think we all could use a reminder that despite the struggles or problems we face in our lives – facing them head-on, with a good attitude and a solid team is the only option.

Case in point: Hugo

Hugo was born with a rare medical condition, juvenile xanthogranulomas disease. He was also diagnosed with autism and is completely non-verbal. However, I’m not here to retell his life story. You can read more on this little guy in the article Mother teaching world about child.

Service dog and his boy at a Spartan Race

A boy and his dog and a pair of Spartan Finisher Medals

What I am here to do is talk about Hugo’s recent accomplishment of finishing the Special Spartans run: an obstacle course race designed to test resilience, strength, stamina, and ability to overcome adversity. In addition to earning his Spartan Finisher Medal, it must also be noted that Hugo’s dog Koda became the first service dog to have earned the medal as well.

As I said: teamwork.

As a special needs parent, I understand why other parents – and perhaps society – would want to shelter those with special needs; to protect them from bullies, disappointments, the public stares, etc. because let’s face it: the world can be cruel and these kids already face challenges that the rest of us truly can’t imagine.

But sheltering them isn’t the answer. As a matter of fact, I think the opposite is true: challenge them more. By purposely putting them in uncomfortable positions, these kids will learn how to deal with their personal struggles even better.

That’s a lesson for all of us, actually.

The other day I heard a story about a woman who was complaining about an upcoming 5k run; something she’s never done before. She asked “How am I ever going to run 3-miles?”. Her husband responded, “How’s this? I’ll drop you off 13-miles away and you can run home.”

“How is that going to help me?”, she replied.

“Well. If you can run 13-miles, you can surely run three.”

In Hugo’s case – in addition to his autism and other challenges – he took on a half-mile to mile obstacle course that included running through tires, crawling under wire, jumping in mud, climbing over fences, throwing a spear at a target and probably the occasional 3-burpee penalty for failing any given obstacle.

And, of course, his service dog was right there by his side.

Can you imagine the confidence something like that can instill in a child? Any hesitation or doubts he might’ve had in himself about learning to ride a bike or even going to the store with his mother can be immediately resolved with the thought “The hell with that! I completed the Spartan Kids run. Let’s do this mom!”

I’ve mentioned in the past how my wife and I have purposely put our autistic son in situations that we knew he might not like. We’ve taken him to parties with a lot of other people. He’s been to hockey games and baseball games. We’ve taken him to parks, festivals, restaurants and other crowded areas. Over the years he’s grown not only to accept being put in those situations but excel in them.

And now that I think about it, the same holds true for my wife and I. We put ourselves in situations unsure if our son would have a meltdown, run away or refuse to act accordingly. We became better people and parents as a result; more vigilant of what could happen and how we would be prepared to handle it.

So let me end this with a big thank you to Spartan Race for adding the Spartan Kids and Special Spartans to their line-up.

More importantly, a big congratulations goes out to Hugo and Koda on their Spartan finish. They earned more than just medal. They also earned the admiration of many and proved that attitude is truly everything!

special-spartan3 Koda and his master at a Spartan Race

Posted by: Mr. Miller | 2015-06-22

Dr. Ben Carson, presidential candidate

Warning: the following is political in nature and should not be read by anyone.

I was recently approached by someone asking my opinion(s) of GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson. To be honest, my first inkling was to go off on the guy for something stupid he said a couple of months ago (see below) but I held back. It didn’t seem like the time nor the place and here’s why.

For one, politics has become so polarized that merely expressing an opinion on anything political doesn’t spur debate but rather creates a basis for labeling. In favor of the death penalty? Obviously you’re an out-of-touch conservative. All for gay marriage? You bleeding-heart liberal.

I’ve seen friendships erode and families split simply because someone aligns themselves with one political party and another does not. It’s pathetic. Having an opinion – or better yet (or worse?) expressing that opinion – shouldn’t divide us.

Picture of Dr. Ben Carson

GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson

Secondly, I shouldn’t form an opinion of a candidate based on a single quote; essentially one piece of information. In the past, I’ve ripped others for doing just that (and rightfully so.) We’ve become a country where scrolling headlines, social media, 10-second sound bytes or an appearance on late night television seem to provide enough information for us to decide who gets our vote.

Thus, I chickened out and admitted that I didn’t have an opinion on Ben Carson because I didn’t know anything about him. I do now, at least to some degree…

General Opinions on Ben Carson

Dr. Carson speaks his mind. Good or bad, if you ask him his opinion on something he’ll tell you. In today’s political environment, that’s a much needed breath of fresh air (coincidentally that’s also the name of a recent documentary about him: A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America.) Too often politicians beat around the bush, trying to appease the greater audience and often times end up not having strong opinions either way. Carson doesn’t appear to be that kind of politician.

Carson also spent years as an independent before aligning himself with the Republican party. This is something I can sort of relate to as I spent years identifying as a Republican before becoming more independent.

He’s for a flat tax – a notion I find intriguing. He’s against Obamacare, favoring instead a federal health savings account. He supports school vouchers and charter schools. He also wants the U.S. to destroy ISIS. It’s unfortunate, however, that he’s also critical of the theory of evolution, isn’t convinced that global warming is a real thing and has used the bible to back his political beliefs.

That’s where I begin to tune out. With me, facts hold a lot more weight than faith. Not just with Dr. Carson but with any candidate.

The Stupid Quote

Here’s the original problem I had with Dr. Carson. He was quoted recently as saying that homosexuality is a choice. It’s not an uncommon belief, but it was his reasoning that’s highly questionable.

He said, quote, “Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight – and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that.”

For a well educated man (he’s a retired doctor and neurosurgeon), this is asinine. He backtracked and apologized but unfortunately, the damage was done.

Endorse or not?

It’s far, far, far too early for me (or anyone for that matter) to start endorsing any of the potential candidates. Personally, I need to become more educated on not just any given candidate’s beliefs but more importantly – how those beliefs align with my own. I mean, I believe in evolution as much as the next guy but that’s not very relevant in an election where education spending, taxes and job growth are bigger priorities in my opinion.

So I look forward to hearing more about what Dr. Carson believes. After all, we should all vote for candidates based on their beliefs on the issues and not their party affiliation.

Posted by: Mr. Miller | 2015-06-11

All work and no play? No thanks.

First off, let me start out by saying that I’m not here to tell anyone how they should live their lives. Trust me, I’m one of the last people on this spinning space rock who should be giving advice on what’s right, what’s wrong and/or how people should make their social, career or familial decisions.

However, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about work-life and careers – specifically about those individuals who spend 60+ hours a week at their job or at the office. In doing so, my mind inevitably has to ask: Why? Is it worth it? What exactly do they get out of it?

Years ago I met a guy who was a store manager at a big retail chain. This mid-to-late 20-something year old consistently put in 60-hours a week and at one point actually bragged about working seventeen days straight. (And no, he didn’t get paid overtime. He was salaried.)

More recently, I’ve been noticing that my Outlook in-box is filled with more emails sent after 10:00 p.m. than sent between 9-and-5.

somEEcard about being overworked

This one from seemed appropriate.

Why? Are employers actually expecting that kind of “dedication” from their employees? Are the employees, themselves, so career-driven that they would take on so much extra work, forgo friends and family, all in pursuit of a promotion, a bigger paycheck and, ultimately, more work?

Now, I completely understand that some people need to work a lot of hours to make ends meet. At the same time, I get that there are deadlines that have to be met and the occasional late night is expected. And I certainly won’t tell anyone that they shouldn’t go that extra mile to prove their worth. There are legitimate reasons for working longer hours.

But at what cost?

I know for a fact that the former mid-to-late 20-something (now in his late 30’s) is making a lot more money than I, drives a hell of a lot nicer car than I do, lives in a bigger house and continues to have a managerial-level position (although not in retail.)

He’s also on his second marriage and at last check, he was in debt up to his ears. His career took priority over family as he spent a greater part of a decade climbing the corporate ladder.

As I mentioned, there are exceptions and I love the idea that if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll never work a day in your life. But how often is that really the case?

I’m all for being loyal to an employer; putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, blah, blah, blah. Of course I’d like to earn more money, have more “things” and save more for retirement but not at the cost of missing my kids grow up. Or having a strained marriage. Or being unable to go out with friends, have fun and live life.

I remember years ago first hearing the phrase: “No one on their death bed wishes they had worked more” and I really took that to heart.

So find a balance. Step back and think about what’s truly important. Otherwise when you look back and ask yourself if it was all worth it – more than likely your answer will be NO.

Posted by: Mr. Miller | 2015-05-20

An Autistic Girl at McDonalds

This is probably going to be more of a diary post than a blog post. As to what the difference is between the two, well, that’s probably negligible. I guess when I write longer blog posts, they’re meant for everyone to read; a larger audience. In this case, I don’t know, it might be just for me. Either way, I just feel a bit compelled to write about an experience.

I was just at McDonalds for lunch and there was a large group in the dining area – a couple of adults and about seven kids. Yet even before glancing over at them or giving them any sort of attention or acknowledgement, I knew that at least one of them was special needs and more than likely autistic.

It was the stimming.

Read More…

Posted by: Mr. Miller | 2015-05-03

Autistic Speech

It’s been just over four years since my son Matt was diagnosed with autism. After developing normally and learning to speak like any other little boy, one day he just sort of stopped talking all together. His emerging vocabulary dropped from around 20 words to zero basically overnight.

It was more than heartbreaking, it was devastating.

My wife and I soon learned that many children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) never speak again or in many cases have very limited speech for the remainder of their lives. Fortunately, though, we also learned there are many examples of those who fully regain their ability to talk. Read More…

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