A man with an “I can do it” attitude

Bill whips his car off the ramp and enters into the school’s busy parking lot; he quickly pulls into a space. It is around 7:25 a.m. He exits his vehicle and nonchalantly walks to the employee entrance.

Me: “Good Morning Bill”

Bill: “Good Morning Mrs. Cain

Me: “How are you?”

Bill: His face brightens with a warm smile, “I’m good!”

We enter the building and head toward the supervisor’s office to sign in on the daily sheets. After initialing next to our names on the sheets, we exchange well wishes for the day and move on in opposite directions.

Why am I writing about seemingly ordinary exchanges between me and a colleague? Because Bill is anything but ordinary; he’s quite an incredible guy who just might stir you enough for you to reflect on your personal and/or professional life.

Born at the Jersey Shore 39 years ago, Bill arrived in this world kicking and screaming like most newborns. However, Bill’s life has been extraordinary. He was born with two legs, two feet, but no arms. His birth defect is thought to be linked to Afrin Nasal Spray. Bill has one sister that is five years older. She was born without any birth defects.

Immediately after giving birth, typically a mom seek reassurance from the doctor that her baby is okay and instinctively count fingers and toes to make sure that all other faculties are in order. Can you imagine the shock and disbelief his mother experienced? I can. My daughter was born with amniotic band syndrome. She has grown up to be a witty, beautiful, and confident young woman.

Bill is a normal, self-sufficient adult living a productive life. In 1997, he earned a B.S. degree in Geology. He is now employed as a science teacher in the same urban high school where I work. Over the years, Bill taught himself how to swim, to ski, and to play soccer. He was also a pinch runner for a local baseball team. His passion for soccer lead him to coach soccer in his community for nearly 10 years and to work as assistant soccer coach for our high school soccer team.

He did not use his physical challenges as an excuse to limit himself. I love it!

Here I am with all of my limbs; know how to swim, but fear deep waters in the worst way. Every time I attempt to swim through the deep end of my pool, I freeze up and doggie paddle to the side and hold on to the ledge with one hand while I paddle through the deep end with the other hand. My heart races as if I ran 10 miles. I now realize how ridiculous my actions are. This summer when I swim in my pool and hesitate to swim through the deep end, I will think of Bill and push myself right through it.

For a few years now, I watched Bill, drive into the parking lot, enter the building, sign in and simply go about his every day routine… which appears to be effortlessly. I often tell my children, that sometimes parents make being an adult seem to be easier than it really is. In Bill’s case, the situation is probably the same.

His feet function as a substitute for his arms. He styles his hair, shaves; types, read, and can do just about everything that you or I can do. Prosthesis is something Bill never wanted. His parents tried to make him use them, but he resisted and does just fine without them. He says prosthesis are awkward and difficult to maneuver.

For the longest time, I desperately want to get to know Bill and to hear his story. Finally, one day I found the courage to approach him and asked if we could talk—I told Bill about my blog and that I wanted to write about him. Graciously, he agreed.

Anyway, each time I see Bill, I am amazed. I am enthused by his courage, his will, his energy, and most of all, his positive attitude. It is difficult to imagine the emotional, physical, psychological challenges that he’s gone through to progress to his current place in life.

Seeing Bill daily and thinking about him helps me to maintain my appetite and eagerness to worker harder to carry out my personal and professional goals. It’s hard to explain, but seeing him makes me question myself.

Am I being the best person that I can be? Am I pushing myself hard enough? In what area in my life do I lack confidence? How can I be better? Honestly, I never thought that someone whom I haven’t spent a great deal of time with, would affect me this way.

Bill was blessed with two incredibly loving parents Smart parents who nurtured him and figured out the best way to raise him. They figured out how to help him to evolve into the man that he is today; a man with an “I can do it” attitude.

Due to his physical challenges, he started his schooling at a special service pre-school. When it was time to start Kindergarten, his parents fought (with the help of an attorney) for his right to attend public school. Bill was the first disabled student in Atlantic County to gain admittance to a public school. The feat opened the doors for others.

Because he was learning how to use his legs and feet to perform daily tasks, his parents required him to wear a helmet (for his own safety). Was he teased in school? “No more than the average kid.” Amazing right? It would have been easy for Bill to feel as though he was teased because of his physical condition, yet he did not. Attitude is everything!

I was curious about how his students respond to him in the classroom … A supervisor commented, “You have the wow factor!” When students first walk into Bill’s classroom and see him, they are surprised and curious. However, once the school year settles in and they realize that he can hold his own and is the same as other teachers, they can move beyond the initial shock.

I sincerely hope that his mere presence and optimism in the classroom is contagious and motivates students to try to to do their very best.

What’s next for Bill? While continuing his career in education, his next goal is to obtain a Master’s degree in Special Education.

The next time you feel as though you can’t do something, I urge you to think of Bill. As the saying goes, “Whether you think you can or not, you are right.”

Bill’s advice to others,

“If there’s something that you want, go for it. Try hard. You may not achieve your goal, but you can get as close to it as possible.”


I am grateful to Bill for sharing his story with me and for allowing me to share his story with you.

Thank you Bill! Enjoy your summer break!

Valuable lessons learned from a Nintendo 3DS

“I bit my 3DS [Nintendo] because I was so mad [at] losing. I should not do that because it may give me germs. I could have lost it for good. They [mom and dad] should give it back to me because I’ve done a lot of good things. I found my mom’s [diamond] earring. I’m always good in school. I always get good grades.

I learned my lesson. I could have been grounded. My dad and mom don’t have to give it back to me. Mom tells me to be happy because she says [a lot of] kids don’t have the stuff like our place. They don’t have the money to buy toys, computers, food, bathroom, [a] Kindle, [Sony] DS, movies, TV’s, [a] pool, beds, fireplace, playground, clothes, [a] backyard or rooms, so I should make myself lucky since I have my DS.

I’m happy because I have a dog; I have toys, a sister, a mom and dad, a[n] uncle, a grand mom, a 3DS….”

This is a large part of an essay that my 9-year-old son wrote. He broke his 3DS about two months after he received it as a birthday present. Three months went by before my investigative nature discovered why his Kindle Fire was being used more for games and less for reading.

He’d done wrong. He knew that his actions were wrong.

So he hid his actions from mom and dad.

Although his game was replaced by the manufacturer, we did not give it right back to him. He needed to understand the severity of his actions.

To help my children think about their actions and behaviors, one strategy is to require them to write. They must write essays about the lessons that they learned from making poor choices and better ways to handle similar situations.

Writing an essay is productive. More productive than some of the consequences that I endured as a child. Writing involves being still, being quiet, and constructive thought time. Every child and adult can benefit from the process. To clear my mind, I often write.

After he wrote the essay, I wanted to know more from my son about his potential actions when playing his game in the future. So I asked him, what will he do the next time that he gets frustrated or “mad” because the game is beating him. In a slow and deliberate manner he said,

“I’m going to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Calm down and try again. That’s what I did to beat Super Mario 3D Land.”

Where does the “deep breath” come from? On and off (more off lately, but we’ll get back on track over the summer) from meditation.

Meditation is good for everyone, including kids. If you recognize that you feel stress– you make a conscious decision to address it constructively. Meditation is a positive way to relieve stress and to refocus. Best of all, you can meditate anywhere.

While his essay may not be written grammatically perfect, neither are some of my writings without consistent and precise editing. Another day he will put on his teacher’s hat and edit his work.

The idea isn’t for him to write a perfect essay. The point is to teach him to think about his actions, choices, and understand that consequences are the result of his choices. Children grow up to become adults. As adults we must also face consequences; some good some not so good. Either way, if we can help our children to understand the connection between the two at a young age, they should grow up to make smarter choices. Making smarter choices doesn’t equate to a perfect life, but it can definitely make life more fulfilling.

I’m fulfilled in what I do… I never thought that a lot of money or fine clothes — the finer things of life — would make you happy. My concept of happiness is to be filled in a spiritual sense.
Coretta Scott King

Quitting is not an option

Emphatically blinking to hold back the tears, her aged but youthful eyes spoke for her. In a moment though, her glossed over and molten eyes released the flow of tears that stained her flawless almond colored skin.

Three years senior my daughter, this young woman is experiencing the harsh realities of life. Life as a single mother of a three-year old. Life as a daughter to a mother who has grown tired of mothering. Life as a role model for her younger sister, whose same mother has grown tired of mothering her too. Life as a divorced mother, who is uncertain about the future.

I listened attentively. She thanked me for sharing my story at the luncheon. Even better, she tells me that she had felt discouraged, but the speakers at the luncheon influenced her to believe that quitting is not an option. In spite of her situation, she attends college and is working hard to carve a better future for herself, her child and her baby sister. Her journey is one of challenge, but I’m convinced that she can overcome and continue to move forward. Quitting is not an option was the topic of today’s luncheon.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’ve trudging seems uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile,
but you have to sigh,

When your care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Someone whom I admire and have a great deal of respect for asked me to speak to a wonderful group of young ladies today. Young ladies that have been erroneously written off as failures, although I disagree! They are smart, creative, witty, strong-willed, determined, and rebellious but they are genuinely trying to see their way through dim clouds to a brighter future. They simply need nurturing, support, guidance, positive influences from patient women and adults who won’t quit on them.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,

You may succeed with another blow.

Earlier in the day I was also inspired and emotionally struck by a conversation that I had with an extraordinary recent college graduate. Why extraordinary? For nearly four years, he fought, what seemed like an endless battle that most adults would have given up on.

As a young child, he came to the U.S. (undocumented) with his mother. He attended the public school system. He was raised by a single mother of two boys who earned modest wages. Most challenging? Peer pressure, the absence of his father, and the unsettling and dangerous community where he lived.

In spite of the obstacles and roadblocks, he sustained and ultimately acquired citizenship and graduated college. During college continued to work through obstacles, however he participated in many social and political groups and helped to raise $1,000,000 for his University! I am so proud of him. He accomplished what many said was impossible. Quitting was not an option for him.

Success is failure turned inside out.
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when is seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worse,
that you must not quick.

Be inspired and do encourage others. Regardless of what ever it is that you’re moving toward, remember that quitting is not an option!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My version of a spinach salad

I admit; I LOVE spinach! I will eat just about anything with spinach… steamed, fresh spinach, spinach balls, spinach stuffed in turkey, chicken, or anything else. I no longer eat the traditional spinach salad served with delicious fresh crisp bacon bits right off the griddle. But I will always recall the smell and remember the taste. As a little girl, daddy started me on my bacon frenzy by leaving me several crispy and very greasy pieces before he left for work. I looked forward to those bacon slices at least five days a week. Mmm… Wait! I did say that I don’t eat bacon anymore, but I know this isn’t reading that way. Lol! These days, I’m eating a completely different version of a spinach salad that I’ve literally thrown together and it is scrumptious.

Spinach salad

2 (about) cups of fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup of spring salad mix
1 red, yellow, and/or orange bell pepper sliced into small strips
1 fresh finely shredded carrot
1/4 cup (about) dried cranberries
5 or 6 cherry tomatoes or a similar variety halved
1/3 cup of black beans (drained & rinsed)
1 small boneless and skinless grilled chicken or turkey breast
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
drizzle of olive oil (preferably garlic roasted) to taste

Place spinach and spring mix in a bowl, thoroughly wash, dry, and cut peppers and tomatoes and toss in bowl. Drain black beans and rinse in water. Add chicken or turkey, black pepper and toss. Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Now enjoy your delightful spinach salad.