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Timothy E. Stevenson
About the author:
Updated: December, 2013 (each week I'll add more)
Note: The following autobiography is a work-in-progress, written to give the reader some insight into the type of life I live and my writing. It is rough, and will go through the polishing process. I'll hire an editor to work with me and clean up the grammar. (hopefully each month)
I'd like to thank the many people who have contributed to my personal growth.
Christine and Isabelle
<---- Four of my personal growth contributors. ---->
"He who suffers much will know much." Greek Proverb
Laci and Christine
I was born on September 1, 1954 and reside in the port city of Vancouver, situated on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. I have three brothers and two sisters, and were all approximately one year apart in age. My father was a boat builder (carpenter) and my mother a nurse.
On August 28, 1978 and at the age of 23, due to a head-on car accident I suffered a spinal cord injury (broke my neck) and became a quadriplegic — a low quad — paralyzed from the neck down, damaged the C6–C7 vertebrae; and thus, I'm a wheelchair bound person. I consider myself fortunate because I have 60% and 40% use of my right and left hands and arms respectively. I have about 45% of the original use of my lungs and chest. Totally paralyzed from the chest down. A simple cold or flu greatly affects my ability to cope. The cold affects my already incapacitated breathing. With the flu, confined to my bed with an ice-cream bucket with a lid, a large bottle of water, and box of Cheerios. Usually with the flu I have to tough-it-out for five to six days. I keep a box of Natural Valley Trail Mix granola bars in my bed headboard. Living alone and being ill and house-bound results in social isolation and mental health issues.
Each time I entered back into the community I had to socially re-align myself. Learning what was appropriate and not was. Especially, after a serious head concussion. (Flipped over bacwards and hit the back of my head on the corner of a cement step. Re-fractured my original neck injury.) The movie "King Fisher" with Robin Williams was me. Re-entering into public I found hard. People would ask me how's it going, and I'd didn't know how to reply. For at that time I was fighting for my life. The best response I could come up with was when asked, "Fighting the good fight, yourself?"
The upside, for me, to having the flu or cold, or working through an flipping-out-of-my- whellchair injury was that it gave me the ability to read and work on, in my bed, my poems. Plus too, at the end of my bed is a t.v.. I watch a lot of news, mostly; CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Discovery Channel, and the History Channel . So I stay abreast to the latest world news and new developments. I love the advances in green technology. I care deeply about Human Rights, Environment, and Green issues and initiatives.So one morning I'm watching the news. It said that Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson went through a Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-thru located in Amsterdam, Holland. Priceless. Well later that day I went into Simon's Bike Shop located in my city. Each winter because of the snow, I need to exchange my wheelchair summer tires for winter tires. While waiting for the the new tires to be put on, the staff started talking about Snoop Dog. I shared with them the Snoop Dog and Wille Nelson story I heard earlier on the morning news. I swear to god, they thought I was crazy. Priceless. For fellow wheelchair users, I highly recommend this store, true professionals: quick and efficient. They even have a high tech piece of equipment that re-aligns warped wheel rims to its original state.
Many people identify me with athlete paraplegics. Though many quads and paras share a common use of the wheelchair, in reality our worlds are very different. I share this, because most people see me as healthy looking and capable para. For example, if I fall out of my wheelchair I need to ask people for assistance to get back in. Here is one event, in which, two kind ladies assisted me:
Once traversing on a path through our city park ( Stanley Park ) my front right small castor wheel hit a pothole, I flipped forward out of my wheelchair and found myself laying on the ground. I sat up, composed myself and waited for someone to come along. Ten minutes passed, and two senior ladies came along. They stopped and looked at the empty wheelchair, then at me. I said, "Hello Ladies, would you be able to find someone to assist me in getting me back into my wheelchair." They both laughed out loud, and before I could stop them, they lifted me back into it. I was amazed at how efficiently they had done it. I thanked them, and to be honest felt a little embarrassed. Asking me if I was okay and finding out that I was, they continued on their walk. I was more worried that in lifting me they had harmed themselves.
On that very same spot, a month later a guy jumped out of the bushes and came up to me and asked me for money. He didn't look to friendly and was wearing dirty clothes, and I said, "Buddy, I'm just as broke as you are." There was no way I was going to show him my wallet. And too, he wasn't going to get my last dollar. I could see him working it through, he looked around to see if anyone was around, and I felt threatened. He gave me that this is your kind-of-lucky day look, turned around and jumped back into the bushes. I knew, I just had a close call. I spent a couple of nights thinking about this encounter. The next time I passed through and I saw him again, he was hiding behind some trees watching a young family feeding some ducks in the nearby lagoon.
I cruised on through and made my way to the nearby English Bay lifeguard station. Told the lifeguard about the man hiding in the bushes and the confrontaition we had. I could tell he knew immediately who I was talking about. Because he headed out fast. I never saw that hiding bush guy again. I knew as I had continued on that I had done the right thing. I was worried about the two senior ladies that had assisted me. Not anymore. But just maybe, knowing these women, if he had tried to mess with them, he'd be one in for the rude awakening.
I noticed after the 1985 Rick Hansen, "Man In Motion World Tour," people were being friendlier to me. I and my friend Jerry attended the the Oakridge Mall and saw him off. Jerry is a friend of mine and a wheelchair bound paraplegic. It was a good send off. One of those "you had to be there to see it" send offs. I believe the attendees still have an annual reunion. I looked at my buddy Jerry and said, "How come your not going with him." And he replied, "How come you aren't." If I new what I knew now I would have had taken pictures. Because history was in the making.
At that time I was attending college and had started up my business. My business was building light-weight titanium wheelchairs. Most of the wheelchair users of that time were using heavy stainless steel chairs. A titanium chair is about half the weight of a steel chair. Because of its light weight titanium is used in building aircraft. The lighter the aircraft the less fuel and cost used to fly it. Titatium now is being replaced by carbon fibre. And carbon fiber in time will be replaced by graphene and super-plastics. The plastics are currently being used in lightweight green vehicles. The lighter the chair the easier for the user to push and the less energy expired. Fatigue, is a big issue for many wheelchair bound people.
Because of Rick's notoriety, I often have people coming up to me on the seawall and asking me if I was Rick Hansen. I'd say, "Nope," and ask, "Do you think I look like him? And I usually I got the same reply, "Yes." If they are children I ask them what their first name is and say the next time I see Rick I will tell him. (priceless) There are a lot of well-mannered children out there. I know when I beef up and have my hair cut short I have more people approaching me, asking. To funny.
Rick and I share a common love, we both like to cruise the Stanley Park seawall. Upon seeing Rick on the seawall I would sometimes go up and speak with him. Rick is very approachable. I wonder if he remembers our encounters. Upon our last seawall "meet" I said to him as I departed, "Keep up the good work." And he replied, "Thanks." It wasn't just a frank "thanks" but a heartfelt "thanks." For me, it was a memorable moment. I believe he was waiting to meet up with his family.
Anyone that can push a wheelchair 40,075 km (24,901.55 Mi) endure day-in and day-out the pain as he did, is one tough guy. For his work in bettering the lives of those of us with spinal cord injuries, I dedicate the poem to him, "Empowerment." This poem to me is Rick. And Rick, if by chance you read this webpage, check out the last stanza in my, "You Can" poem. "Shine on, Rick." And as honourable premier Bill Vander Zalm had once said, "May the wind always be to your back."
I frequent the seawall to exercise, cruising it in my wheelchair almost daily during the summer. For me, it is my way of running. I often go too, just to decompress (eliminate stress). I recommend to anyone experiencing large amounts of stress to walk the seawall. If you go with children beware, the the bike-riding-crazies blast through the shared walk/bike path areas. The shared walk/bike pathways are dangerous for seniors, children, and the disabled. Time and time again I shared this with those who work at The Stanley Park administration office. I even dropped a letter off at the downtown Vancouver Police station. In the summer of 2012, due to government cutbacks the city cut back on bike patrols. People were getting injured and the ambulances were showing up more frequently. During rush-hour time I avoided cruising the seawall, it was just too dangerous. Riders rushing home from work. I would confront them and say, "Slow down, children ahead." One mean looking guy racing by me said, "F the children." You would not believe the remarks I was receiving. Most speeders would slow down. It took me awhile to perfect the police slow-down hand gesture. I began too, having confrontation with the bike-riding crazies. It was always the same ones every day. Talked and informed a bike patrol officer at English Bay beach life-guard station. Thats when I learned about the city budget cut-backs and there were no longer bike patrols along the seawall from Granville Island to Science world. Unbelievable. Remember, I was going to the seawall to eliminate stress and to decompress.
I would like city council to walk with their children along the seawall on Sundays. You'd see the bike patrols reinstated. At the very least, have volunteers doing traffic control. Have them walk with mothers with buggies and children. The small children were like little bear cubs scampering playfully around. And the mother's were constantly calling them back to the buggie. A tragic and preventable accident just waiting to happen. (think Children's Hospital)
Below are other seawall concerns and observations that I feel need to be addressed: See My Advocacy Work
Siwash Rock located West of the Lions Gate Bridge is probably one of my most favorite spots. The sunsets on cloudless days are spectacular. Siwash Rock for me was like a friend, it was always there for me. After surviving a harsh winter I'd make my way there and upon arriving say, "Hello, old friend." That rock for me was a constant in my life. I could understand why the First Nations community revered this spot. Because I also did. People visiting our beautiful city, be sure to check it out, you won't regret it. Even during windy-stormy days its worth going and seeing. The high wind blows the waves spraying them high up and over the seawall. Going around the seawall I got caught getting wet a few times.
Jerry (my paraplegic friend) was my roommate in the hospital, G.F Strong rehab center. This is how tough Jerry was. He had entered a wheelchair race in Hawaii consisting of seventy other contestants, and in the scorching heat had won. His arms were built like Arnold Swartz's. Hanging around with him kept me fit. He too, as my friend, would act as my sounding board. Because of his upbringing I learnt insights that I wouldn't never have. Jerry, had a very hard upbringing, and like mine, his father too was a heavy drinker.
One night Jerry and I were sitting in a pub, drinking a badly needed beer. A man fifteen years my senior came up to me and slapped me in the face. He had seen my legs spasm and thought I was faking it being in a wheelchair. I looked at the guy (processing) and he walked back to the table. The second time he came up and he slapped me a second time in the face. Like lightening Jerry punched him in the head, and the guy flew across the room. Unbelievably, we were the ones kicked out. The pub had a zero-tolerance fight policy and it applied even to wheelchair bound people. Looking back now, the first time the guy hit me. I should have gone over and notified the bartender. I recommend other wheelchair users, not to make the mistake I had made: inform someone immediately. Its not worth getting banned, especially if it is a hot-spot for girls. Jerry knew all the hot-spots. We at that time had found our mission in life: official girl-watchers, be sure in implementing the seven second only look-rule.
Jerry was notified by his sister that his mom was very ill. And he wanted to visit her and asked me to go with him. Between the two us, combining our money we had enough money to pay for the gas there and back. (Vancouver to Edmonton.) We didn't have enough money to pay for motels or eat in restraunts. Jerry had a Dodge van. One of the seniors living in his building had passed away had left it to him. We loaded up the van with our wheelchairs and headed out. What a trip. We were sleeping each night in the front-reclining seats. It was November, in Canada one of our winter months. To eat we would stop at Subway sandwich shops. Just about every town had a Subway.
Each morning, when we awoke and head to the closest Starbucks coffee shop, wash up and have a coffee. Then head back out on to the road. Jerry and I frequent Starbucks coffee shops, back then, on a daily basis. We both enjoyed the coffee. Starbucks was one of the first companies to provide wheelchair accessible washrooms. Starbucks staff treat the disabled patrons well, back then and even still today. They always made us feel welcomed. I believe it took us three days to get to Edmonton. At night to sleep we parked in remote spots. When it got to cold we would just start up the van/vehicle and warm ourselves up. We both slept with our coats over our heads, Ladies, be forwarned if your thinking of marrying Jerry, he is a heavy snorer.
I really enjoyed the mountain scenery, especially through the resort town of Banff. I like Banff. For me, it was good to get out of the city. It had been awhile since I'd been on a holiday. Well we got to his mom's house. Jerry parked out front and he went in. The house had stairs, so I couldn't go in. Jerry pulled his wheelchair up the stairs and visited his mom. I never did meet her, I believe she was bed-ridden. Because of my level of paralysis I could not scoot up the stairs. I spent the next three nights sleeping in in the van. Jerry slept in the house. Once again, washing up and eating out at the local restraunt. I thought I was going to freeze to death, but I didn't. I didn't get much sleep. Well Jerry had his visit with his mom, and we headed back to Vancouver, next to broke. Drove through a couple snow blizzards. Looking through the vehicle front window the snow has falling so hard that I couldn't see fifty feet (30 m) in front of me. For Jerry being born and raised there, driving in the winter snow for him was second nature. On occassion, we hit black ice and skid. Jerry would navigate the vehicle back into our lane. Each time I saw an 18-wheeler trucks approaching us in the oncoming lane I would close my eyes, because I thought we were going to be hit. Thinking to myself, "Just what I needed, another car accident." But God was watching out for me on that day.
I didn't drive because when I had to give-up my vehicle I allowed my over time to let my driver's license to expire (big mistake). Back then the Ministry "encouraged" us to take the Handydart. Try asking a girl out on a date, and say, "Oh by the way we'll being taking the bus." But they succeeded, I had to sell my vehicle, going and showing up to the local food bank using the Handydart. Before that in the freezing weather pushing five miles (8k) and back with a box on my lap.
Well we made it back to Vancouver, both of us broke. (no money, another trip to the foodbank) We each had to go into the Ministry and request extra living funds. The Ministry loves Jerry and I, they sometimes kind-of-sort-of help us out. I found with the Ministry, my honesty just kept getting me more in trouble. So I had just learnt to keep my mouth shut. Its hard to ask for help, when the individual has said to you, "If its that bad why don't you go home and die." Requested a new case-worker. In the poem "You Can" this provided the second last stanza. And the new caseworker said, "It must be nice to sit around all day and write poetry." Like Jerry I too, wasn't sleeping. I was working through a dislocated shoulder and severe head-concussion. (I write this not harm, but to enlighten, to provide insight)
"Often I would say to myself. How can you keep your sanity in an insane world." (go to the seawall - back to nature)
I was short of rent money. John my landlord allowed me to pay the short over a two month period. John lived in an apartment across the hall from me. On more than one occasion he would help-out and lift me back into my wheelchair. Sometimes late at night. His wife had acute hearing. She would wake and send him over to assist me back into my wheelchair.
John and Colleen upon retiring moved to live near to their daughter in Ontario. Colleen has since passed away. She had valiantly fought cancer. Like my mom. I had my eyes opened, started learn how tough women were/are. I'm sure Colleen had advanced cancer medical treatment. Vikings, in the truest sense, going down swinging. John and Colleen are deeply missed by many of the people living in our building (not all - personality types).
I would often go into John the landlord's office. Give him a salute and say, "Sergeant Tim reporting in. Captain we have a little discourse amongst the crew that needs to be addressed." And after hearing me out would say, "Thanks Tim." After that he began to call me "Escrow." I ask myself why he did. Soon in time the answer started to come to me. John had immigrated to Canada from England. ??
I was glad Jerry and I went, because shortly afterwards his mother passed away. Jerry loved his mom and she him, they would speak on the phone every week. I know this because when Jerry lived with me, I got stuck with the phone bill. Two tough guys toughing it out, if people only knew. I miss Jerry. He joined the Course of Miracles church group and they had told him that he had to disassociate from non-believers. I would not be alive today if wasn't for him. Two men working-through what needed to be. We had in religious terms, "broke-bread-together." (sharing and surviving hardship)
When I had my business, Jerry worked for me testing out and proto-typing wheelchairs. I'd say Jerry, "Go out, and give this chair a good work-over." Many times we had to go back to the drawing board.
If the internet was around in those days, I believe my company would have most likely succeeded. Marketing, was my biggest problem. Worked seven days a week while attending college. Obtained two business diplomas. One in Business Administration and another in Marketing. I picked up a third diploma in Website Design & Development. Thus, this website.
Upon reflection, I see now how in many ways I had gone wrong in the launch of my business. I'd never had set up a manufacturing company before. Now I recommend any young person wanting to launch a business, to find a mentor. A retired ceo mentor, just Google. Also, there was the need to take completely at least one day a week off. I hadn't learnt the importance of "balance and play." With the stock market crash the pressure became overwhelming, and I had lost healthy perspective. To this day I see many small and large business owners work themselves to death. This gave me the insight to the second stanza in poem "May You."
At the age of 39 while living in Surrey, British Columbia, I began to write. At first, I wrote a number of poems followed by short stories. Most of my poems were written while I was working through an illness or an injury, which makes for interesting reading. During a thirty year period, with flipping over backwards in my wheelchair and smacking the back of my head on rocks, cement steps, I've experienced a number of head concussions, three major ones, and a couple of minor ones. Head concussions can be a death sentence for a quad. I now have a heavy duty anti-tip bar mounted on the back of my wheelchair. I recommend to my fellow quads that use a wheelchair to put one on. The added bonus, is that I'm now able to recline in my wheelchair, which alleviates lower back pain. For quads, sitting for years, day-in and day-out results in lower back spinal back-bone compression. With each concussion I experienced additional brain trauma, with my memory and my ability to articulate, being affected. I believe I may be suffering from CTE. Shared this with my doctor.
From reading the newspaper and watching the news on tvI had learn't about the symptons and the many professional sport athletes suffering from it. Those with "CTE" and suffering from loud noise I recommend going to a hearing clinic and purchasing custom fitting sleep ear-plugs. When your in a public setting (or around small children) is to loud, just plug them in and adjust the penetration depth accordingly. In deep for loud, in light if not-so-loud. Why suffer. A $70 dollar solution. Sometimes, depending on the direction of the loud noise I just need to put one ear plug in. Some people listen to music wearing headphones.
One night while watching CNN news, Anderson Cooper. He was doing a piece about professional football players experiencing head concussions. A doctor specializing in treating them recommended using Omega 3-6-9. The next day I went out and bought some. Within a week I noticed a big improvement in my cognitive thinking. I thank Anderson Cooper for doing that episode. Because I was really struggling mentally. A friend of mine suggest that I eat sardines. Sardines are rich in fish oils.
Writing helps me work through the mental-fog. I attempt to write poems that inspire, empower, encourage, and enlighten. To keep myself centered, I often read my own poems.
I find writing poems intellectually challenging and receive a lot of personal satisfaction in knowing that other people enjoy and appreciate reading them.
I find it moving when people approach me and say that they have read or used one of my poems at a funeral or wedding.
The following, is a seven step "A" process I use to work through a life-struggling situation.
1. Accept : the reality of the situation or moment. Feel it, no matter how painful and let it out. For you are human.
2. Assess : available resources
3. Adapt : take small baby-steps.
4. Adjust : take the necessary action.
5. Assistance : know when to and not to be afraid to ask for it.
6. Attitude : maintain positive self-talk. Attitude gratitude. JC knew this, because it validated.
Take the high road - educate, enlighten v.s. being or acting out anger (Nelson Mandela, one of my guiding lights.
By the right-thought process, confined with prison solitarity (reflecting deep in thought), he developed his higher
consciousness/brilliance to shine through. For me, it was when I was bed-ridden from an injury or illness - isolated at home,
death staring me in the face. Like Mandela, toughing it out, making the most out of a bad situation.
I sing the song , "Free Mandela" Sing along with me.
7. Alignment : centering myself. Learning to stay in the moment. Not allowing anything or anyone to harpoon it. Learning to
work-it-through. For me, my mantra is, "The sun is always shining" Though the dark clouds block out the sun, it still shines. I
go deep within, and start there.....> Aquarius - Let the sun shine in" Sing along with me. Words are the building blocks of
intelligence, and thought is to being. Always reminding myself love heals and protects. And that love is within me.
If you like, go back to the above, and see how I worked this process through with the loss of my bed.
Who is Upoet - "Just a man with his books."
Timothy E. Stevenson
Below under development: (brainstorming)
In Canada we have a social safety net which catches people when the fall upon hard times. We also have a universal health system. If you are in need of medication or assistance you get it. I often say to myself, "God, I live in a great country." Stateside, I'd be toast. I'm definitely not a republican, I don't like to see people suffer, especially children. What shocks me about the republicans is how they cloak their evil actions/rants in religion. All great religions, share the two same truths:
1. Treat others as you would want to be treated.
2. We are our brothers keeper.