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Sequestered Gratitude

If you are complaining about being sequestered at home, be grateful that you have a home and a place to reside through this craziness.

If you are arguing with your family member about who ate the last waffle, be grateful that you have the time to be with them.

If you aren’t terrified from this virus, then you aren’t alive.

If you are bored, then you have nothing to read, have nowhere to walk, made no attempt to expand your artistic acumen, are unable to access television, internet, radio, phone, or paper and pen.

If you have nothing to do while you are sequestered, then you know everything, have the perfect home, can do everything, and have achieved perfection. Congratulations!

If you are unable to just enjoy a few minutes of quiet time, by yourself, maybe you should ask yourself why this is?

If you aren’t grateful for this time with your family, dog, cat, or loved ones, it’s time, right now.

Take advantage of this precious time and savor your life at home!

Trying to Process Shock, Loss, and Grief

I didn’t see it coming and the shock that I feel is one full of confusion and sadness. Saturday night, our 11-year-old Chocolate Labrador, Lily, jumped off the couch for her late walk, but her eyes were unclear, her head was unsteady, and her breathing seemed shallow. We think she may have experienced a seizure. When your chronically hungry lab turns down an offering of a treat or a hunk of cheese, your warning sign has been activated. Lily was a canine vacuum, so when she turned down anything close to being edible, there is an emergency pending.

Thinking that you are flexible and easy-going can be dramatically different until, you are challenged.  Life has a way of sneaking in unexpected setbacks that knock your feet out from under you.  We recently experienced the challenge after picking up the flu, following almost a month-long trek through the southeast. This strain of the flu knocked us on our butts, hard. It lasted far longer than we had expected. Our loyal lab, Lily, helped us mend and kept us company, the whole time. She was our nurse and companion through the coughing fits. She wanted to make everything okay. She was selfless!

Angela and I were in crisis mode. We rushed Lily to the 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic. It was early on Sunday morning. Tired and scared is a bad combination, especially when you are worried about the fate of someone you love.

Lily was an exceptional dog, with great intelligence, and a stubbornness for chewing sticks and sometimes eating them. We just assumed that a stick had lodged somewhere, causing her discomfort or a blockage of some kind. Other than this new development, Lily had shown excellent health and vigor for a dog of her age. She looked spry and active and never missed a meal or a treat.

Motivation

 

Lily was a sensitive and caring dog. At first encounter when you met Lily you would see her lip raise and her teeth would come out—some saw a snarl, but if you knew her and her nature, you saw her smile. She greeted everyone with her welcoming smile. Her smile brought so much joy to so many, especially us.

It was close to midnight on Sunday morning at the emergency vet, when Lily tried to smile at her doctor but was only able to make a partial lip raise. She really tried. Her tail wagged and she searched for a greeting, but the energy just wasn’t there.

Our emergency vet was a young man in his early thirties. He was a very gentle and accommodating doctor who bonded immediately with the ailing Lily and her anxious parents. We explained our situation to the doctor. He told us he would scan Lily to check her insides for any possible cause for her discomfort.

Ten minutes after he had left the room, he returned with devastating news that she was bleeding in her heart due to a cancerous tumor. Her options were not fair to her and we were left with no choice but to give her a peaceful sendoff. We would not be taking her home again. It happened so fast and at around 1:00 AM in the morning.

 Trying to comprehend the situation and the sheer rapid pace of information and decisions that were being flung our way took all our concentration and strength. Our energy was drained, and our emotions were overwhelmed. We were not prepared for what the universe was doing to Lily and us and the speed with which it was happening. Lily was gone by 4:15 AM. All that I can say is it was a peaceful death. She didn’t suffer.

Dealing with the death of those who are close to us doesn’t get any easier with age. We are still in shock. The pain may dissipate over time, but it will never go away entirely. There are at least half a dozen places in the world that I don’t want to go– one of the top places is the emergency vet in the very early morning /late night hours, or at all.

We are so grateful for the emergency vets’ efficiency, compassion, patience, and kindness. He made a very tough situation much easier when it could have been even more difficult. As hard as losing Lily has been, we see a positive in the wonderful care that she received and the tenderness that we all were shown. There was no way to prepare for this shocking experience but together we will support each other to get through this difficult time.

We miss her so much!

The Missing Month–Where Have I Been?

If you are wondering where I have been or why ASoftVoice.com has had a month of dormancy, I can explain. I am finally capable of telling you just where I have been and the mystery, behind it. The mystery is not nearly as thrilling as this build-up, but it’s fun to write something different for a change. Writing a mystery has some appeal but this is neither the time nor place. I am happy to report that my tale is one of travel. Not too salacious, not too violent, but it does explain my absence.

I am back, after taking almost a month-long adventure-road trip to Key West and back to Northern Virginia. For about 3 weeks, Angela, Lily, the Chocolate Lab, and I explored the Southeast coast and sucked up the warm breezes, compelling sunsets, and miles of open road. Ripe with photo opportunities, my cameras were consistently clicking. Above is a sample and collage of just a few of the pictures that will be in my new gallery, on the website.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, we picked up a souvenir, called Flu-don’t pick it up. It is very unfriendly and may cause you to stop off at the Emergency Room on a Saturday morning. I did. A bad cough, a fever of 103.7, and body aches made for a hard-hitting attack. Slowly, I am on my way back and am feeling human, again.

The trip was great! Getting ill has been a setback, but I’m making my way back! Please subscribe, so you never miss the latest post.

Getting What You Need-Support

 

For the first 7 years of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I didn’t see a need, nor did I have a strong desire to join a Parkinson’s disease support group. When I moved to the suburbs, my neurologist, at the time, encouraged me to see what support groups could offer. After attending meetings of a few support groups, my wife, Angela, and I envisioned what we wanted in a group. In a very short period, I went from avoiding Parkinson’s support groups to speaking at them and even starting one of my own. My wife and I ran our support group for a dozen years. I learned so much from so many amazing people. As much as I thought that I didn’t need a support group, it turned out, that I really did.

The reality is that a well-run support group offers camaraderie, information, and a wisdom that comes from so many, all in one place. A support group can show you what is working and what to avoid, doctor information and feedback, available classes that pertain to Parkinson’s, local therapists, caregiver support, Parkinson’s news, and speakers in your area. When you find a good group, it feels like another family and a place that you belong. A strong network of family and friends is crucial to your health and wellness, no matter what the illness.

Some support groups may not match your personality or may not be the kind of group that you feel comfortable with, right now. I wanted a group that focused on the sharing of information and left me more empowered than when I came in. We made a lot of friends, shared both the good times and the rocky times, and provided one-another moral support. Despite our age differences and unique situations, we all learned together and bonded together into a cohesive unit for most of the group’s longevity.

We Are All In This Together

Knowing that you aren’t alone, is so important. Something as small as telling someone that you are thinking of them or that they matter to you can save another’s life. Knowing that people are thinking about you and caring about you is so empowering. Just a simple quick text, an email, a phone call, or a good old-fashioned greeting card can make a huge impact.

Care-giving has its stressful moments. We all need a break. Taking time for ourselves is not selfish-it’s a precious necessity. Your self-care makes you a healthier more helpful contributor.

Helping Ourselves Helps Those Close To Us

Patient or caregiver, there is no shame in admitting that you need help. It takes a strong person to go outside his or her comfort zone. Tell someone close to you what you are feeling and to let them find assistance for you.

I am not an expert on mental health nor am I a doctor. This is not medical advice; it is only what I have seen for over the 30 plus years of having Parkinson’s disease. I have observed friends struggle, who may have benefited from this kind of help. If you see a friend in need, reach out and offer that help. You may be saving a life.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 or 988 in the USA. Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines for an international list of hotlines.

 

Remembering The Best Part of Ourselves

Photo by Karl Robb

Today, 9-11, marks an historic and tragic event that not only shook America but the entire World. The attacks of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA impacted the World, changing everyone’s lives. This day will forever commemorate the lives lost that tragic day and the heroism of the men and women who met the challenge of saving lives while risking their own. For a very brief period, I saw something that I had never truly witnessed, experienced, and appreciated.

On the frenzied morning of the fall of the Twin Towers, my wife and I were stranded in Atlanta where rental cars were nearly unattainable. Planes were grounded and we needed to get back to the DC area. The country seemed under attack and we were acutely alert, vigilant, and nearly paranoid–but, something beautiful rose out of the fear and chaos.

For about three weeks or so, a warm and loving blanket of compassion covered much of the World as citizens gave of themselves. In this time of immediate need, when so many were in shambles, volunteers ran to assist in various ways, just to be kind and of service. This is the best part of humanity–the caring, giving, sharing, and loving part that unites our citizen’s eternal hope and fortitude.

The acts of kindness like receiving a much needed rental car from someone that we barely knew, so that we could get closer to home, renewed our faith in doing good.The coming together and generosity reminded me that goodness still existed. An horrific event that took so many innocent lives brought us all together. I treasure the wonderful camaraderie of pride and love for humanity that shone for that gorgeous but ever so brief moment in time.

Does the Parkinson’s Profile Exist?

I have been fortunate to meet hundreds of people over these thirty plus years with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at numerous events. After a while, you notice more and more about yourself and those around you. It’s a question that I have been asking for years: Is there a firm personality profile, specifically for people who get or are more likely to get Parkinson’s disease (PD)?

Many of the neurologists that I have shared the idea with, have told me that there wasn’t a profile, while an occasional doctor thought that I might be on to something. I have always had a curious mind and having met so many people from around the world with PD, it has given me an opportunity to make some non-scientific observations and even a rough hypothesis. Here are a few of my thoughts: People with PD are mostly well-educated, professionals, type A, over-achievers, in high stress work, curious, creative, and are outgoing people. People with Parkinson’s are often risk takers and not risk averse. They appear to be determined and are driven to a result. From personal experience, people with Parkinson’s are rich in questions, have an insatiable curiosity, and are quite clever.

What if there is a Parkinson’s profile? What does it mean? Could it help lead us to helping people even before they begin showing symptoms? Parkinson’s disease affects people in so many unique ways that it has been discussed that it could be more than one disease. If PD is more than one disease, it could take several varying solutions to get this illness under control?

The complexity of the human brain and body is unimaginably daunting. It’s inner workings, connectivity with multiple systems, and the diversity of chemical reactions and maintenance is hard to fathom.

In the past thirty years, while I have seen numerous studies, trials, pharmaceuticals, surgeries, procedures, and therapies, however, I have yet to see a targeted individual plan that works for everyone with Parkinson’s. Maybe, if there were an understanding of what our universal link or links to this disease were, we could break it down and eliminate what it is that unites us all, illness-wise.

The brain and all its’ complexities have proven to be a formidable opponent in giving up answers. Parkinson’s disease is a mysterious and complex condition that is going to take multiple approaches to unraveling its’ secrets.

The Mysterious Future

 

Ben Franklin is quoted to having said:

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight”.

This quote speaks to me when discussing Parkinson’s disease or any illness. Living our best life now, prepares us for a better life in the future. For many of us who try to live in the moment but sometimes slip into predicting the future, we create unnecessary worry, fear, and anxiety. Procrastination for taking care of ourselves now, only delays our future wellness.

There are actions that we can take to prepare for our future physical health, financial health, mental health, and spiritual health. Some future planning can be very helpful in reducing future anxiety.

Our creative and active imaginations can run away with innumerable variations of what our future self will look like. Put a hold on that thinking and focus on the now. Our futures are variable, undetermined, and largely up to the decisions that we make, right now. Fate, destiny, karma, and the universe are most likely going to intervene as well, so let the winds blow and hope for the best, but don’t fret over the outcome, especially if it hasn’t happened, yet.

The quote also refers to the ‘sunlight’, something we all need but many of us with Parkinson’s are susceptible to skin problems. Due to the way our medications may impact our skin to sunlight, it is so important to  apply  sun protection to our skin, avoid direct sun exposure, monitor your skin, moles, and marks for any changes that might be a red flag to rush to your Dermatologist.

Franklin was focusing on staying positive and keeping a positive attitude for the future, in his quote. This is a message for us all to remember when we look to the future. The unknown isn’t to be feared but should be a fresh opportunity. The future may be different than we expect it to be, but it doesn’t have to be negative just because it is out of our control.

Perpetuate Kindness!

Recently, I have been the recipient of kind acts from those who I don’t know. I am grateful. It warms my heart that an Etsy store owner gave us a beautiful serving spoon as a gift when we bought a book from her. Unprovoked, out of the blue, it was simply a kind act that touched both me and my wife.

Touching other’s lives, whether it is directly or from afar, can change the direction of one’s day or one’s life, depending upon how long you hold on to that feeling. Kindness begets kindness and perpetuates goodwill. It feels good to know that you have made another human being feel good. Kindness comes at anytime and can be displayed anywhere. Here are 15 ways to consider passing on kindness and making those around you and those not so close a little happier:

  1. Share at least 1 genuine compliment with anyone you encounter in person or online.
  2. Do a little more for someone than what they asked, if you see that they are in need.
  3. Buy a homeless person a warm drink and a blanket on a cold evening.
  4. Keep an eye out for animals that may need medical care or shelter from the weather.
  5. Start a Go Fund Me page for someone in dire straits.
  6. Take time out of your day just to listen to someone who needs to be heard, without criticism.
  7. Offer your expertise to the less fortunate at a reduced rate or for free for your services.
  8. Join a non-profit board to help get an organization off the ground.
  9. Buy a cup of coffee, a morning sandwich, a side of fries, or a cookie for the person behind you in line.
  10. Give the person in line at the grocery store with 1-5 items, the right of way and let them go before you.
  11. Offer a stranger a smile, a laugh, or just a kind word of encouragement to make their day.
  12. Be a mentor, a friend, or just be a good listener to those seeking your counsel.
  13. Offering compassion and understanding to one in need is a wonderful experience.
  14. A phone call to alleviate a neighbor’s loneliness or sharing homemade cookies with the family down the block can change lives.
  15. Be kind to yourself and share that feeling with those around you.

Sometimes just being a good listener is enough. Just helping one other can create a chain reaction of goodness. When we assist others, we help ourselves in the process. Be creative in how you make a positive impact in another’s life.

 

 

 

 

It’s The Little Things That Aren’t So Little!

I had a conversation the other day with a good friend who had a hard time seeing eye to eye with me about this tragic government shutdown. I say tragic because during this time, those who are living paycheck to paycheck and those in need of medical care, families trying to pay their rent or mortgage, those who are unsure whether they can pay this month’s heating bill or pay their cat’s vet bill are struggling to get by only because our politicians are unable to relate to the families that they are hurting . For anyone just trying to put food on the table, the shutdown can only make life harder.

Appreciating those calm moments of the day, a good laugh, or even a brief nap, may seem simple daily occurrences that are the good stuff of life that we too often take for granted. Too often, we are waiting for something big to land in our lap, but while we are waiting, we miss some of the crunchy goodness. Simple pleasures are often the best.

Playing with your dog in the first snowfall of the season or watching a seagull soar are just two of the magical moments to savor, treasure, and truly appreciate. These are moments that cost nothing and are beyond any kind of currency.

There is a great deal of kindness out there out but much of it gets silenced by louder voices. Many of the soft voices may not get heard, at first, but in time, with commitment, can lead positive change. Loud and noisy can only do so much, but one soft voice only needs to spark one other person to go viral. When the mission is right, everything can fall into place. Kindness isn’t in short supply, it just may need to be cultivated.

Hardships, shocks, tragedies, disasters, illness, deaths, and life tests will be with the human race as long as we occupy the planet Earth. The question for all of us is how often do you take the time to recognize those not so little moments of your life? It’s so easy to get caught up in daily life and forget to be grateful for those simple and little things. Practice gratitude today!

The Start of My Christmas Countdown!

For the next 12 days, I will be offering some words of thought and inspiration on a daily basis. I hope that you enjoy it!

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