Thursday, July 24, 2014

Do Dogs Play Ball in Heaven?

12 years ago our family got a wonderful blessing. We heard through a friend of ours that there were two dogs that had been abandoned in a shopping cart in front of the Pet Smart. Of course our kids wanted to go over to see them. I had an appointment with a client at the gym. We all went to the Pet Smart and there she was, a 3 month old black lab. Dad, can we keep her? My wife, what do you want to do? My answer, I need to go to the gym. I will let you guys figure it out. I remember my client asking me how my day was. I said we just got a dog. Really? he said. Well, I know when I get home, there will be a dog sitting there. I left it up to my wife and kids.  

As a young dog, Duchess was …well…that perfect combination of adorable and just plain bad. Weren’t there two steaks on the counter? Honey, where did that pecan pie go from Costco? This is the third keyboard in the last 5 weeks. The joy of a puppy. Naps with the kids and playing ball were her two most favorite things. Ask anyone who came over to the house and got the privilege of being handed a ball by her, then had to keep throwing that ball over and over and over. The cats and Duchess always seemed to get along. Truthfully I think she thought she was a cat for the first year, picking up many of the same wonderful habits without that entitled persona (all of you who also have cats know what I’m talking about).

Duchess picked up a friend along the way, Dexter, her high energy best friend. Dexter would love to steal her ball and took the greatest pleasure from playing keep away she would wine at us as if to say tell the brat to give it to me. A well-paced swat by her paw usually took care of the problem.

It was not Duchess who was the lucky one that we found her. It was us who had the joy of her absolute love and affection. We were the lucky ones. 


A few hours ago our Duchess took her last breath. She judged no one and loved everyone. I know many say that our animal friends don’t go to heaven. I don’t think it could be heaven without them. I know you have a ball in your mouth, wagging your tail and someone just figured out dogs don’t get tired in heaven. Love you Dutch.     

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Parkinson's and Art on the iPad

Thomas Jefferson, drawn by Pat Younts

I can lose myself for several hours drawing on my iPad. Many wonderful apps out there allow me the creativity to do art and graphics despite the effects of Parkinson’s. I wonder what the great masters would have done if they had an iPad or tablet and a stylus? What would their great works of art have looked like, or would they have spent too much time surfing the web for funny cat videos?
Mona Lisa, drawn by Pat Younts


                       


Would Leonardo da Vinci have just snapped a quick photo of the Mona Lisa instead of going for the brush or by some theories (that it was in fact da Vinci’s self-portrait as a woman) reverse the camera and take a selfie and use an app to put some long hair and a dress on. Who knows? 





Napoleon Bonaparte, drawn b Pat Younts






What I do know is that it is a wonderful outlet  for me and safer than those power tools I enjoy using around the house. So as a tribute, I have recreated these works of art to look like the paintings of the artists despite shaking hands. If I can do it fellow parkies, so can you. Don’t let this disease kill your creativity. Use the tools at your disposal, find that outlet, and claim that personal victory.

I am Pat Younts and I move to live.


                           

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Don't Let Parkinson's Be a Sad Song

While swinging the golf club at my local driving range, I was enjoying a sunny afternoon and the Zen like quality of hitting one ball after another right down the middle… Well, some of them were down the middle. I was all by myself this afternoon. A perfect time to reflect on life and why someone would spend so much of it trying to hit a golf ball or so I thought.

The outside speakers at the driving range came to life with the sound of country music. I've heard it said that the rhythm of the music can help the tempo of the golf swing. Normally I don't pay too much attention to what's playing on the speakers at the driving range, but this day was different. I actually started to listen to some of the lyrics. 

So there I was, the jumbo bucket of range balls and country music with my undivided attention as I listened and worked my way through my golf bag one club after another. I believe it was somewhere around my five iron that I had the epiphany -- I don't want my life to be a sad song. As I listened to our crooner’s tale of woe of this poor man’s life, I started to become aware of all the things he had lost. I began to wonder how he could persevere in the face of such adversity. His dog’s tragic loss of his eye. The pain he must've felt after coming back home from a long day’s work at the factory to tell his wife the bad news that the plant would be shut down and he was going to be out of a job. Only to find a note on the table saying that she was leaving with his best friend. Imagine -- wife leaves you, no job, no way to pay for that fake eye for Sparky, the brunt of jokes and ridicule by the other dogs in the neighborhood… Well, at least he still had his truck or would have if not for the repo man who he never saw coming. If he did, he might have a chance to convince him for some leniency. Just a few more days to come up with the payment, but unfortunately according to the song Sparky was also dyslexic. He was barking at the back door instead of the front alerting him in the wrong direction as the bank made off with this truck. Now it would be just him and Sparky the one-eyed dyslexic dog or would've been, but sparky hearing the meow of the neighborhood cat at the back door, ran out the front to give chase. He would have seen that car coming if he lost his right eye instead of his left. 

Okay, I might be exaggerating and might have made up some of the lyrics of the song. Actually, I made up all of them.

My point in all this is that too many times in life we take inventory of our misfortunes, holding onto them, reliving them in our minds and experiencing the pain over again. I heard a poker player say once, I can't tell you too many stories about the poker hands I have won, but I can tell you about every bad beat I ever had. Parkinson's has dealt me a bad beat in life. It would be easy to write a sad song about it, but I choose to look at the gas gauge in my truck of life as half full. I look at what I have, not what I've lost.

Oh… It seems our friend in the song on the way home stopped off at the local convenience store, took his last dollar and bought a Powerball ticket, and won the lottery. Sparky had the good fortune of a mobile vet who happened to be a former beauty queen that had answered the tie-breaking question, if you win this competition, what will you do with the money. Her answer, I will become a traveling veterinarian searching the roads for stray and injured animals. She nursed him back to health. Sparky's life was saved and he was reunited with his now wealthy owner and as for veterinarian beauty queen, you guessed it. She married the downtrodden hero of the song and they lived happily ever after. There that’s much better.


I am Pat Younts, and I Move to Live

Monday, March 31, 2014

Fear and Parkinson's

Why would I need a flu shot?

Fear is a funny thing. We have a fear of the unknown and we fear the known. One of our worst fears is that of the “it might be”, wanting and not wanting to know. I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office the Saturday after Christmas. My flu bug was not getting better and I was fearful it might turn into pneumonia, not what you want to happen especially if you have Parkinson’s. I was fortunate that the doctor could see me right away. The office was 10 minutes down the road. It seemed much longer as my beautiful wife reminded me about that flu shot I did not get. It was a wonderful way to pass the time at all those stoplights….ahhhh, what could any spouse wish for more than a good I told you so. 
  
Now the last time I was at this particular doctor’s office I was told that I would be diagnosed with Parkinson’s by the neurologist that I was being referred to, and I was. The way I looked at it was that I didn’t have anything until I was officially diagnosed. Sure I had a bunch of symptoms, but no official label of PD to go with it. What great news was I going to get this time.

“Put this mask on and have a seat,” the very friendly desk person told me. When I am out in public, quite frequently I get stared at because my hand tremors are quite noticeable. It bugs me a little. I would rather people come up to me and ask what I have than stare and whisper to each other.  “I wonder what’s wrong with him. Maybe he did not get his flu shot.” But there I was, doing that same thing I always complain about. I sat down and I was staring. I stared at this person sitting in the chair in front of me, just like people do to me. Her body moved uncontrollably from side to side as did her head. Her speech was unintelligible.  I overheard her husband telling the nurse that she suffered from Parkinson’s. My heart sank as I stared.  I wanted to put my arms around her and make it go away, but I couldn’t. “You can go in now,” the nurse said. I walked back wondering, “Is this my future?” and there it was, fear.

The phone rings

Now let me go back in time a few days before Christmas. I was home, yes, sick. The phone rings. I don’t get to it in time because I move slowly. Thank you Parkinson’s. I thought for sure that I was going to miss a great opportunity to speak to someone about my current phone plan or better yet the call you get that starts out, “Just wanted you to know I’m not selling anything, so don’t worry.” Feel free to use this response, “That’s too bad. I was really in the mood to buy something.” CLICK.  The answering machine picks up. The very cheerful voice is leaving a message for my wife, “Your mammogram has shown an abnormality in the right breast and you need to schedule an MRI as soon as possible.” I felt sick to my stomach as the fear set in.

The gift that was not under the tree

Christmas Day I felt as sick as I ever could recall, but I managed to come downstairs to open gifts with my family. Christmas morning is a grand event in our house and a big production. It was particularly so this year because the wonderful young man my daughter is seeing was here from Germany. My wife and I are thrilled that they are together and the look of joy on my daughter’s face having him be part of our family’s Christmas was truly a wonderful gift in itself. Like my daughter-in-law, he has been a blessing to our family. Those special moments helped take my mind off the lingering thoughts of that MRI and what it might reveal. We opened our gifts, but the only gift I wanted was not under the tree -- the one that would tell me that my wife would be all right. Fear was trying to take Christmas away from me.

It all came to a head  

We arrived to our dear friend’s house after the funeral of his father. It is difficult to find the right words sometimes to give comfort to someone who has lost a loved one. A life that was meaningful is one that leaves this world a better place and my friend’s father did just that, reflected by the children he raised with his beautiful and wonderful wife. Their long and loving marriage defining what happiness truly is. My heart was broken for all of them. Memories of when I lost my mom flooded back as I walked over to my friend. He thanked me for being there for him. I choked up. The best I could do was a grunt as I composed myself. I felt terrible. I could not get the words out. It all hit me at once:  being sick for that long, seeing the devastating possibility of Parkinson’s, the fear for my wife, and the grief I felt for my friend and his family -- a title wave of emotions that I had been trying to suppress. Fear, depression, and anxiety, all magnified by Parkinson’s. These are the symptoms that people don’t see. The ones that can do the most damage.

The MRI came back. It was negative and my wife was fine.  No poem ever written. No lyric ever sung could have be more beautiful than those words. My prayers go out to all those who are battling breast cancer. God bless and heal all of you.


Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is what you do in the presence of fear. Sometimes it takes courage to talk about your fears. Me, I wrote this blog instead.   

I am Pat Younts and I Move to Live.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Roses on Mother's Day and Parkinson's


It is Mother’s Day and children everywhere are making breakfast - a symphony of spilt pancake batter, over and under done eggs, burnt toast, all carefully made and delivered with a smile, a tight hug, and the words I Love You spelled in syrup.

Our moms are our guardian angels, always there by our sides, wiping our tears, picking us up, and cheering us on. The moms in our lives are not always the ones who gave birth to us. Sometimes they are the people who step in and take their place when we lose the person who brought us into the world.  My mom left me too soon. It was not sudden. She knew her time was short. The cancer she had was not treatable. The fear, anger, and sadness she felt was not that her life was ending, but that she was leaving her boys. Mom did not want to lose the most special job there is, that of being a mother. I am fortunate that I have someone special in my life that filled that void after mom passed, my mother-in-law. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a time when a son needed his mom the most, my mother-in-law was there for me. Her constant support and love given as only a mom can give has meant the world to me. My mom rests easier knowing that she’s looking after her son. My mom-in-law always says, “Give me my roses while I’m alive.” I give them to you in words.

Tell your moms you love them and more importantly show them because every day should be Mother’s Day. To my wife, my mom, and my mother-in-law and all of the wonderful women in the world called mom, Happy Mother’s Day!       

Friday, April 12, 2013

Parkinson's Disease and Awareness

It’s April and that along with showers will bring May flowers or is it spring flowers? I never can remember that one, but most importantly it is also Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. I can’t think of any rhyme for that. If you do, please post it in comments.

Back to the post, apparently this is the time of the year we try to let everyone know we exist. This is very important because like the old question goes, “if a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, will it get the funds it needs for research?” I think not. People cannot help those of us with Parkinson’s if they are unaware of us and this terrible disease we are challenged with. Parkinson’s is a disease of solitude. As movement becomes more and more difficult, we start to stay home more where our surroundings are comfortable and familiar, and where our dignity is not challenged by the stares of strangers. We lock ourselves in a fortress of anonymity where we are safe, where we have become silent trees.

Our voices soften and it is hard to be heard. Our steps shorten and slow, and we stay behind. What can we do in this month of Parkinson’s awareness? We come together. A thousand voices, even though softened, brought together is a choir singing a song of hope that all can hear. A thousand feet walking slowly together is an army that is marching towards a cure. We have all been burdened with a great task -- to do our part in making a nation and a world aware of us.

All of the major Parkinson’s organizations are organizing events throughout the month of April and in October the World Parkinson Congress will convene in Canada. Go to their web sites and find out how you can do your part to help yourself or loved one by raising awareness.

World Parkinson Congress
Parkinson's Disease Foundation
Michael J. Fox Foundation
National Parkinson Foundation
Davis Phinney Foundation

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Homelessness, Parkinson's, and Kindness


On our way back to our car after enjoying a wonderful evening with my family at the Wizards game --a wonderful Christmas gift from my daughter, my wife and I came upon a group of homeless people all lined up on a grate fast asleep covered in layers of matching blankets, probably given to them by an organization or person in hopes of providing some comfort. It was a surreal site to see them laying there in this metropolis as people walked by almost oblivious to their existence. My heart sunk as I looked into their faces, eyes tightly shut, smudged with dirt, free for a few hours from their reality before they awoke to it again. Six human beings seemingly discarded, like broken furniture that no longer served a purpose. I do not know what happened in their life that led them to this point, what adversity or bad choice set them to this path. I just knew that they were my brothers and sisters, human beings like me and you and it hurt to see them like this.

I know how difficult life can be sometimes.  Parkinson’s has taught me that, but I lead a blessed life, held up by the love and support of friends and family. I wonder if any of their lives would be different if the people in my life were in theirs. Would they be sleeping on a grate with no place to call home?  I don’t think so. At what point in their lives would a word of encouragement, an intervention, or bit of guidance, or to hear the words I love you perhaps for the first time from someone, possibly change the course of their lives.

We can protect ourselves by choosing not to care to avoid the hurt and sadness, overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems of other people, or we can chose to do something.  We can all make a difference in each other’s life with a simple act of kindness like the matching blankets that at least kept people warm that night.

From all of us who face adversity in life to all the people who choose to be their brother’s and sister’s keeper, thank you for that blanket of kindness.    

I'm Pat Younts and I Move to Live.