Journey Toward Awesome

It’s one thing to accomplish something and another to be accomplished at it.

I was eleven years old and it was the beginning of august.

What I remember most about the accident was being numb to reality. There seemed to be more blood than one could have shooting out my arms. I didn’t die. I really hurt even though I couldn’t feel below my elbows anymore. The median nerves in both arms were cut by a sawblade coming loose. 100 miles in an ambulance at top speed, a skilled neurosurgeon pieced me back together and I awoke to a new life; one with no feeling in my arms and hands. My arms lived and nothing was amputated. The doctor told my mother that her son would have clothes-pins for fingers unless I learned to type or play the piano, the only hope to gain some function in my fingers.

I was destined to be a piano player. I was not destined to be an accomplished piano player. Ironically, I achieved a level of playing piano way beyond what I would have if I had not had my nerves cut off simply because I was at the piano three to four hours a day for the first three years just trying to get my fingers to work. Today I am called “gifted” when I play the piano in public. That’s bittersweet to me.

I was forced to do three things that made me at least somewhat successful in many areas of life. Three ingredients of ones “journey toward awesome” are participation, practice and perseverance. There are other ingredients but the learning and growing curve to be one of the best requires constant learning by doing again, again, and again with the goal of being better every time.

I discovered that when you work at something you get better at it

I thought of these three ingredients as I was trying to figure out how many hours I have invested in trying to photograph hummingbirds. Those little birds make me look bad. I am in awe at Sandra’s photography (she is an accomplished photographer of even hummingbirds…click on link). But I’m persistent and getting better and better. I keep finding new ways to maximize my equipment just as I found new ways to catch a basketball with no feeling in my fingers.

Yesterday I picked a very small space in mid-air where hummingbirds tend to travel to the feeder. I was hoping to get a couple of crisp clear in-focus pictures. I put the camera in “burst” mode on a tripod with a 300mm lens. I focused on the camera on that spot with the feeder on one side of the picture hoping to catch mid-air pictures. I started shooting when I heard the hum of wings hoping for a good catch. 200 pictures later I evaluate and come to some hard conclusions. I’m going to have to up my game, stretch my equipment’s capability and grow my knowledge of setting up for better shots. My best shots are worth sharing but not awesome. Click for a scroll through the slide show.

I’m working at photography. My wife asked me what would make a great shot. My answer was better color with a flying hummingbird grasping a bee in one claw and facing off with another hummingbird trying to chase it away…both in perfect focus at 1/2000 of a second to freeze frame the wings. I want to see the wings.

By the way, participation, practice and perseverance have some side issues that show up in the journey toward awesome. Patience is one of them. Imagine sticking your hand in the freezer until you cannot feel your fingers anymore; then go play the piano (or play a guitar, dribble a basketball, knit, sew, shake someone’s hand…). I spent hours getting my fingers to find notes that people with feeling could find in seconds.

Everyone’s starting point is different. Natural talent only means one could be accomplished at something quicker than most people. Ironically, most people with natural talent settle for mediocrity while those who have to really work at getting mediocre keep going.

participation, practice and perseverance spill over into every aspect of life. I have a childhood friend who became a very accomplished engineer. No small feat for someone who could not get better than a D in math in high school. He would spend hours to others minutes trying to grasp concepts. When he grasped those concepts they were for life and not just for the test.

This is our “Journey toward awesome”. Be it photography, sports, work, living on what we make financially, relationships with God, spouse, family, neighbors and country. It all counts. It all spills into the others for good or bad. I had the best compliment yesterday “you are an awesome neighbor!”…to which I replied “thanks, but I do want my Sawzall back in one piece” as he drove away on his ATV.

I walk back to another project I’m working on. One which will take me much longer than an accomplished person. The end result will make me look “gifted” when really it’s just an accomplishment. May you be bittersweet “gifted” as I have been. I have had long talks with God about how life works…he just says “I know, I’ve been there. Your journey to awesome is, well, awesome. You’ll see”.

Gary

PS: Here is a link (moms song) to my piano playing. Some of you will recognize the old hymn. I made a special rendition of moms favorite song as she was bowing to cancer.

Published by Gary Fultz

Outdoors Man, Hunter, Fisherman, Guide, Writer / Author, Photographer, Public Speaker, Musician, Song Writer, Story Teller, Follower Of Jesus. Love God and family and total strangers

103 thoughts on “Journey Toward Awesome

  1. Oh, Gary thank you for the awesome post! On the one hand your neighbor sounds like Robert Frost’s neighbor in Mending wall, on the other I have tears in my eyes identifying with your struggles. We all have a different path to tread in the way Jesus leads us. None of them are easy, but all of them include the lessons He has chosen for us. Have a blessed week my awesome friend!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank You Pete. I have great neighbors that feel free to lend out their stuff and borrow as well. We are very blessed here in the north woods. You are so right. Our paths and journeys look so very different. Comparing paths may be apples to hazel nuts.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That it does Joy. I found out that wings start appearing decently at 1/1600 of a second (most of the time). A camera that and more is needed. a good lens that doesn’t cut light is essential. I lack a great lens…sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Gary, I’ve never really had a significant accident so I related to your story from a place I have been and thought “Your poor mother!” I’m so glad the story ended as well as it did, for both your sakes. And I think your photos are already excellent. You must be your own worst critic. I didn’t click on the link – you clearly think the photos there are better than yours. But I am content with yours. Thank you for sharing them. Humming birds are one of God’s most amazing masterpieces! (I pretty much say that about all of His creation, but I mean it every time!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much Mamalava.. Yes, my mom actually was the one who quickly tied my arms off with towels. She traveled in the ambulance and stayed up all night through the “wait and see if he lives” period.
      And, yes, I am very critical of how far along I am with a camera…but on a good note, I do have an eye for framing a picture.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an excellent post! I am so glad that you got the feeling back in your hands and arms. Patience is key to so much of what we do in life. Sometimes, it feels like we take a few steps back from time to time, and then move forward again. All the steps matter. God is there with us, encouraging us on the ‘awesomeness’ trail. 🙂 Your hummingbird photos are wonderful. You do capture to magic of these lovely creatures. They are quick!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou Linda. I know about the steps forward and back. “all the steps matter” is actually quite a remarkable statement. True, but who wants to admit that we tend to grow more that way. I do have much of my feeling back but it’s different. If I get a wood sliver under my fingernail, it doesn’t hurt until I see it. The brain then takes over and says “I’m on it” and it then hurts like crazy. Sometimes the brain still gets my fingers mixed up so the wrong finger hurts.
      Many articles have been written about how the brain covers for our lack, all the way from one sense taking over the lack of another. A blind person can feel your face and say “I see you”…and they really do. I have that with my lack of feeling. I can play piano in the dark and feel the keys as I play. When I am not playing the keys the feeling in the same spots on my fingers need a different reference (like sight) to feel. Strange yet wonderful.

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      1. That is both strange and wonderful! There are so many mysteries that we do not fully understand. I was very near-sighted throughout my childhood and much of my life until I had corrective surgery. My mind still ‘sees’ the old way some of the time. My youngest son had a similar experience. ‘Seeing’ is really quite complicated! I do not think I would be the same person had I been born with perfect vision. I learned to see so many things in my own way, and I learned to navigate the world from my own perspective. I also had to trust other people in certain circumstances, and I learned that it was okay. Through my school years and in college, I had to borrow other people’s notes because I could not see anything written on the blackboard. It made school harder, but then, it made me try all that much harder. It taught me to never ever give up and that is a wonderful thing!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s quite a story with your eyes. Because of my journey it’s always fun to watch how people adapt with other senses or develop ways to thrive. I took a teenager fishing one time who had no hands. I had met him on the street in his wheelchair. They had been cut off at the wrists. His feet were gone also (his skin kept falling off and his fingers and toes grew together a lot and then infection…another story) He learned how to cast and he caught a big bass and several crappies. I was in awe at his perseverance and attitude. He didn’t make it to 20 but he was ready to see Jesus (his words).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is an amazing story of this young man! Thank God for his faith and his perseverance! These are the stories that need to be told. His faith allowed him to do great things, and he knew that Jesus loved him.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Your post encouraged my soul brother to remember there are no ‘accidents’ in our lives that our “…beauty for ashes…” Abba can’t use if we chose to persevere and allow Him to do so.
    Your awesome hummingbird pics are “bittersweet” . . . adding a nature ‘hum’ to my day with modicum of photographic envy 😊.
    Thanks Gary. You are a blessing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad to be an encourager Fred. Unlike our timing (even pictures at 1/2000 second), God’s is perfect. He does not seem to mind letting us know the “bittersweet” …..”Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…”
      nope, no accidents. I guess that’s an inaccurate human word

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      1. Cool! Adding this link to the blog should not distract from its points, maybe at the end. That is how I often end some of my blogs. Course, no idea if that distracts. No one ever complained and a couple of times got thanked for the link.
        Now you just need to upload some more to YouTube! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. How amazing! Your determination to overcome puts to shame those of us unwilling to make the effort. In school, I had a natural talent for some subjects and I just leaned on that talent instead of working hard to perfect it. It was lazy of me and I regret it. I’m glad I met you brother; maybe someday it can be face to face. And if not here, then certainly in that better place.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It would sure be fun to meet you Robert. I see how insightful your posts are. It will happen some day.
      no pedestal for me though. I have other areas where I have squandered talent which is part of the reason I wrote the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What an awesome post, Gary! I loved the sentence, “Ironically, most people with natural talent settle for mediocrity while those who have to really work at getting mediocre keep going.” It is so true!

    Participation, practice and perseverance matter – when we show up and keep at it, we get somewhere. Thank you for the beautiful reminder through this lovely writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I wrote Your three P’s into my journal, Gary. The fourth P is also great. I could use some more patience. I think there’s something else at work here too, a T word: tenacity. Unfortunately it’s something we sometimes learn because of unfortunate circumstances. Thank you for sharing a bit more of your story, one that makes you a unique guy, but also just like the rest of us. You reminded me here that slow and steady often wins the race. To luck with those Hummers!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right David. Tenacity would describe how to approach persistence. It’s how I made the basketball team. As far as the hummers, I have a challenge ahead of me to just get lucky with some good Ariel footage. I also need to study the best time for the best light. Sigh…the fish are biting

      Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL…Keep worshiping the Lord Nancy, get to close to me and you will see all my warts and wrinkles under this armor. I do greatly appreciate you Nancy. You have unbelievable talents as a writer and an adventurous spirit

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nice of you to say, Gary! I, too, have plenty of warts and wrinkles under my armor; don’t we all? Thanks for saying I have an adventurous spirit, which is different from living dangerously. I gave that up years ago! Now I basically chase after my granddaughter until my son comes to pick her up after work and write as often as I can. That’s were my adventurous spirit soars 🌟 🐘

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Gary, this is a beautiful post! Your story is inspiring. Some may think accomplishments are “lucky”, but many know better. It is long, hard work. The result – hard won – but so worth it. Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Morning my friend. You are quite an awesome friend. I can’t imagine the pain you endured. Not everyone can keep focused on the good things in life when dealing with pain. Your pics are amazing. I love them. When I think of faith and determination I think of you. Thanks so much for sharing your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How do I respond to that Wayne. Here I am a grown old guy with tears in my eyes. Thank You for your friendship and encouragement. You are a good friend who also knows a lot about pain in body and life. My faith is the foundation of any determination I have, otherwise I think my life’s story would have been trying to get out of quick sand for a long long time.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks Gary.

    Sometimes we HAVE to put our heart into something whether we want to or not. We can be successful at many things and be quite accomplished without “full” heart involvement. There are other things, however, that DEMAND our entire whole heart and the work therein in order to accomplish an otherwise impossible goal. Which makes one well aware of what CAN be done when it may look highly improbable or even impossible. Sometimes life thrusts us into not so great places when we have no time to take stock or decide but must simply DO right away with no questions asked with no time to think about it or one will simply not survive. Or something very important about us will not. So if we fail to jump start whatever it may be and bore through whatever mountain to gain the important something or keep something intact and alive and protected from otherwise sure loss and thus keep future plans on track, something about our life will never happen. This could include our very survival and even our DESTINY.

    Which makes one think about major wrong turns people make that are never corrected. Sometimes it is no fault of our own. A betrayal. An accident. Speaking of which, you keep surprising me with bigger stories about yourself. We all have such stories to some degree. Maybe not as dramatic or maybe even more so. The key here, is, of course, jump in with both feet and don’t just do our best to get it done but GET IT DONE.

    If there is one extremely important thing I have learned about the Lord Jesus (among so many, so many, so many…), it is that He DEMANDS full heart involvement with Him or forget it. It must be ALL of one’s heart ALWAYS every day, every hour, etc.

    This is why those who do make such a commitment to Him and stick with it understand that our success according to His will is not so much because of our intelligence or ability or anything else, even though such things may be high and great and we may be extraordinarily gifted in some or several ways, but is because of our 100% heart involvement and full dedication with no wavering whatsoever.

    The reason for this is because there will be times in our walk with Him when, without a full dedicated heart, WE WILL LOSE OUR SOULS AND GO TO HELL. I am not trying to be over dramatic here or hard core but am simply stating spiritual facts. Our faith will be TESTED. He will sometimes allow the enemy to get a shot at us. We will be thrust into situations in which there is absolutely no way out and no solution unless He brings it and in which He cannot and maybe even WILL NOT bring it unless we are fully on board and willing to do whatever is required.

    Amen.

    That’s great piano work! Do you wonder that maybe you accomplished more in life because of that terrible terrible accident?

    Blessings to you Brother

    (Very good pictures, Gary. Until you compare them to Sandra’s, anyway. I too have been amazed at Sandra Johnson’s photography. You have set a very high goal. You’ll never get there in a million years, of course, unless…)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RJ
      You amaze me at your insight. I recognize danger and the possibilities of good and bad things happening quicker than many people. I have always credited it toward being accident prone and surviving (slow learner, but a learner).
      You are right about my life accomplishing more because of that accident. The traits of character learned were thrust on me. Not my character to choose that.
      You are also right about following Jesus. Following him is not a weekend sport or something to think about laying in bad and can’t sleep.
      And photography. Sandra is to the photo as Michael Jordan was to basketball. I might make a small college team??

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Not many outdoorsmen can attribute their fishing and hunting success to hours of piano practice. You have an incredible story and valuable lesson to teach from this experience. “Bittersweet gifted”- so counter cultural- so Biblical. It immediately brought to mind the opening verses of James- “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” For the record, several of your hummingbird pictures had me audibly saying “wow.” I also enjoyed humming along to your Mom’s song. Those fingers certainly know how to praise the Lord.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Beth. Kind words and a great verse to describe how God builds the character he wants in us. Where the world is at today, if we are not counter-cultural in many of our ways and thoughts…well, let me just shudder at the thought for awhile.
      Mom hummed that song while dying of cancer. I marveled at the irony of the words…that’s counter everything in life unless Christ was who he said he was and 101% trustworthy

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  12. I am in awe of your journey towards awesome!
    But I also believe that we all have that bittersweet gift GOD gave us – for me, it is the gift of discernment of spirits and my “battle skills” in spiritual warfare.
    They came because I had to learn to survive in the middle of black magic attacks – and I now fight against darkness more and more successfully, on my own behalf and to help set others free as well. But I would never have raised my hand if anyone asked me if I want this gift and if I had been told how I will receive it… just like I am assuming you would never have asked for your condition, which brought about this ability of yours to bring joy to others.
    I believe it is just what HE does – that HE uses what is supposed to destroy us and turns it around to our own and others’ blessing…..
    What an awesome GOD we serve!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow, that’s some calendar. I love it. I’ll take it. The only problem is…tomorrow may be quite different. God might be shaking his head tomorrow saying “I still love that boy, but…??”

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There is always a little fear (which is probably good) in putting ones self out there in a more vulnerable way. I rewrote this post many times, never satisfied but ok with what I shared. I am just an example of many many people who have overcome or learned how to navigate life by facing it head on and tackling their shortcomings. I also hope to point to God, as He is the foundation of my story. It’s my story and no one else, yes so many people relate on a deep level and that ties us together. That human element that says we are all in the same water hoping to find a boat.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Wayne. I, l credit C.A. for the piano link. He asked for one in the comments. It’s a good thing when we encourage others from our own victories…you do it in finance and in good insights so well.

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  13. Life gave you lemons… but your response to that is well received. Encouraging. So when you fish the BWCA, it’s without feeling in your hands?? I’m a bit in awe, good sir.

    Also the accident… have you written about that anywhere a bit more in depth?

    Headed to listen to the song now. Talk soon, -AJ

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi AJ
      I actually began to have glimmers of spotty feeling within a couple of years. I probably peaked as far as nerve regeneration in my early 20’s. I have spotty feeling and good blood flow, probably all due to the amount of concentrated work on the piano. I still don’t feel slivers under my fingernail until I see it. Then the brain kicks in and says…”wow, that should really hurt” so it does. I may have as much as 50% which is great as many people say nerve tissue doesn’t regenerate (I am told it can as long as there is concentrated effort and lots of time).
      Check out https://garyfultz.com/2013/05/11/from-whence-we-came/
      I go into what happened a little bit but that is not the slant of the post.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I just read a commentary on Job’s experience with affliction-I call it his time of temptation. But this commentator said Job was gifted by God for he took him from just an ordinary person to a persevering hero of faith. Yours and Jobs are some hard gifts, but God does say he works all things for our good.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m quite sure in the long run we will see our pain as a gift. When we break a bone and it heals, it’s the strongest part of the bone after that. The short run is painful though Donna. I would like to disagree with your commentator but I can’t. There is too much truth there. Only God can take really awful things and make not only good but better than before.

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      1. We don’t ever like the pain, but then Jesus didn’t either. He kept looking beyond it. By his strength we can too—but never find it easy. And yes, the Lord always makes us stronger, even if it hurts!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deb…high praise. I’m glad I can hide most of the splices to the tapestry. A post is a lot like life… I think it takes other people to make a post complete. you are a great encourager.

      Like

    1. I am grateful as well Alan. To be molded into who we are when we don’t have much of a clue for the big picture and end result is truly a testament to the potter, even with sometimes surly clay.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. What an incredible story! Never could you have imagined that fast-forward however many years since the accident, you would be able to use that as a life lesson. Combining the spiritual with the practical in our own personal journeys toward awesomeness. And I really love the pictures of the hummingbird. It’s a viewpoint that I’d never get to experience in person, so I greatly appreciate your ability to capture the beauty.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you like the hummingbirds Stephanie. I can fritter a whole day away trying for a “Better Shot”
      Sometimes I wish life lessons were as easy and took about as long as writing (or reading) a post, but no, it really doesn’t work that way. Many things, accidents, praise, encouragements, pain and so on, affect us for life. but then God wants to use us to affect others for eternity.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Gary, what a beautiful post full of wisdom and truth. I’m sorry I’ve been absent. “Everyone has a starting point”…the 4 P’s. I’m following you on YouTube and sang along. I grew up around the piano singing hymns; I play a bit–but not like you. The hummingbirds are simply miracles. This post has touched my heart and grown my grit today, Gary. God bless you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh Karla. From my perch here you have a tremendous amount of grit. I am so glad you could be stirred a bit today. God does have his timing for stirring us with his creation, music and even posts from others…you are on my prayer list most days as I flip a page or two every day for reminders.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Gary. I feel the prayers and support. God’s timing…some may say they found my cancer too late, I say God found it on time~HIS. Blessings to you and yours.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank You Steve. Sometimes I shake my head and wonder how much was God’s grace. A bit like my 5 year old grandkid thinking he drove the tractor (sat on my lap and had his hands on the wheel).

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I love your 3 P’s. I coach teenagers in academics and college prep. and use a similar formula. However, I qualify the Practice portion as “guided practice”. Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t necessarily lead to improvement. We have to target our weaknesses and refine our performance. How fortunate you are to be able to make the piano sing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “guided practice” is a great addition to the conversation here Evelyn. I know what you mean. As a teenager going through this process I recognized I could just “maintain” and not really get better but I happen to have a very competitive (mostly with myself) spirit.
      Your position with teens is a very important role. I have a son in law and a brother who are college professors. That’s another subject though.

      Like

      1. I work privately, primarily with high schoolers but also some college students. I had years of classical ballet training, so I know the pitfalls of “poor practicing”. Every detail counts, from the position of the wrist, the pointed foot, angle of the head.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank You Jennifer. It really helps that I can look way back and see how much God’s grace and strength was behind any good results. At the time I inwardly blamed God for not stopping the accident. That process of realization is a long story in many segments.

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    1. Thank You Alicia. Mighty in Character sure does describe the hummingbird. They do not think they are small as they stand up to almost anything. I am in constant awe of their quickness and speed.

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  18. Love all the humming birds, they are so fun to watch. Great words of wisdom and insight one needs to staying the course in a life with trouble always lurking around the corner. God has those corners and will meet us no matter circumstances. Blessing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for noticing RJ. I am helping on 2 building projects, building my own cabin in the woods for a personal retreat-writers cabin, helping my wife with our handicapped daughter less than I should and taking time to take grand kids fishing…I do very little reading and almost no writing. Just trying to keep up with some select bloggers and zero time for news media. A busy season.

      Liked by 1 person

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