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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Year in the Life: 365 Days Since Adam Named the Symptoms "Parkinson's."

            One year ago, tomorrow (September 27th), is the anniversary of the moment my life was completely changed by my Parkinson’s diagnosis. Despite this setback, I think about all of the good things that will be, whether this is day to day fun or Iceland in 2 weeks or New Orleans before Christmas. Having things to look forward to is good. That said, so is perspective.
             Today, I write about the 10 most important takeaways that I have from that life-altering moment. If you are interested in reading my initial statement about how I felt about my diagnosis, you can find that HERE.
1)      People can be stronger than they think they are. Some people see this as religion (God never gives us more than we can handle). Some people see this as Nietzsche / Kelly Clarkson (What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger). Other philosophies describe it, too, and so do our movies. Philosophies and theologies and movie quotes are a good thing. We choose the ways we will act out the roles we will play. It’s up to us as individuals to choose to ring the bell if we are so inclined to quit. As for me, I’m fighting this with all that I have. I am choosing to live life. We will go on to the end. We will never surrender.

2)      I have the best dang wife / caregiver around. Thank you Heather for never giving up (I LOVE LOVE LOVE you so much!!). We will persevere. We’ll make it through. It’s what we do. Here, I have learned that love is a good thing. You will never know what "in sickness and in health" means until you're tested. When you are, I hope you rise to the occasion like she has done.

3)      I am incredibly thankful for every member of my family who supports me in this endeavor. There’s a lot of things to understand about Parkinson’s. From what caused it to how to deal with it, they support me. That’s a good thing. I would not be in the place that I am today if not for them.
4)      I am aware that “it happens” (as Forrest Gump would say), and that we need to plan for whatever our “it” is. We need to do this mentally, financially, physically, and emotionally every day. This doesn’t mean we live in fear of the sky falling or crying over the dam after it bursts, but just like retirement, a will, and a savings account, we need to understand rainy days happen to us, those we love, those we are friends with, and those people who are our acquaintances.
5)      I am grateful for my true friends who support me as I work to understand this diagnosis and place that I am now. I am thankful for their optimism and the support / protection of who I am and what I need to get through the rough moments. This includes their endorsement of a current / future U.S. medical plan that includes protection for pre-existing conditions and a lack of lifetime spending caps. This national law creates a plan where insurance companies truly work to benefit those who pay for and utilize those services instead of finding ways to only profit off them with no regard for what is and what could be (either through price gouging or lack of coverage). THINK ABOUT IT LIKE THIS: If you support destroying a system that benefits 52 million people or wants to change these protections to allow states to randomly choose to remove their support, partially or entirely, essentially, you are saying, “Hey, disability boy / gal! I am actively rooting against you getting better / treated, and I am wishing for your family’s financial destruction that will last long after you die. However, I have a solution. Take these sticks and go out on the ice. You can make a fire that will keep the wolves away for the time being.” To me, advocating for a system that doesn't do this red stuff has everything to do with you being my friend. This isn’t like random superficial differences like you supporting the Yankees or Penn State, wanting to watch The Kardashians instead of baseball, liking to eat at Panera Bread instead of V+S cheese steaks, or disliking walking in the woods. Where those are personal preferences, this is a place where you are saying that my life's condition that I did nothing to cause doesn’t matter and that you don't care that I'm sick and will suffer through the later stages of this. This is like someone saying, "I don't care how much your neurological functions digress." This may sound like an extreme conclusion, but my life is something that I hold in extreme value. With 1 in 4 Americans having pre-existing conditions, think about how many more people are affected by this financially because their family is directly connected to this person. I'm sure everyone out there knows someone with a pre-existing condition. If you can’t understand that humans are affected by expedient and cost-cutting political decisions, I feel sorry for you, and I wonder why you want to be my friend. Really. I also hope you guessed right in hoping that these things will never happen to you or yours because this stuff sucks, and even the haters don't deserve this lot in life (that's why I advocate a cure and support).
6)      We all need heroes. I write about a lot of mine. Even if they are smaller or younger than us, we never look down to find our heroes. In this Parkinson’s world, I am thankful for Michael J. Fox, Jimmy Choi, John McCain, Susan Collins, Jimmy Kimmel, and Perky Parkie for what they do to educate and advocate for our country's own good. Whether it’s through blogs, nonprofits, education, athletics, or advocacy for this condition or general healthcare. I am also grateful for the myriad of Facebook groups I am able to participate in. You gals and guys rock!
7)      I am thankful that I can still be a husband, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, writer, hiker, teacher, music aficionado, daydreamer, supernatural enthusiast, traveler, and me instead of Parkinson’s.
8)      I am thankful that I have learned from my symptoms. Whether it’s empathy, strength, or desire, I’ve been able to keep going. Sometimes, we just need to see life through the eyes of others. It's not about being a bleeding heart. It's about being human.
9)      I am thankful for Admiral James Stockdale and Victor Frankl. I know that with the brutal truths that I confront, I may not be getting cured or having my symptoms reversed, but I can push on until a medicine comes or to help create a medicine that can cure the next generation. Here, I am aware that God demands our actions. We can ask him for help, and we can be thankful for what he does for us, but at the end of the day, we need to take the wheel and steer the ship.

10)  Life is precious. Live each day fully. You don’t know when Godzilla and King Kong are going to rampage or when Alper's disease could strike. Enjoy other people living their lives to the fullest, no matter how young, old, or able. That’s why we have Big D, Lydia, and Little Zen Monkey. Don’t be jealous about what these people can do that you can’t. Life is all about celebrating the positive, even if you and I can't always do it to the same level (or at all). Besides, there’s lots of stuff that even “able” people can’t do. We can’t all swim like Phelps, dunk like Jordan, run like Bolt, hit like Altuve, or ninja up like Graff. Take those rants of ableism and put them away. It’s your choice to do what you can do and enjoy it while you can (while ignoring the haters). For one, most people don’t feel negatively against you. Those who do don’t deserve a special tag other than jerks (or maybe some profanity instead, but as this is a family site...). The everyday person who sees you (or I) may not understand what you (or I) go through, but it’s up to you (or I) to teach them what’s right. Let them know that you’re a person first (I try my hardest to do this). Let them see your beauty and sense of humor as well as your thirst for knowledge and desire to live life. Surround yourself with flowers or trees to feel good about life. Besides, even if you can’t do mountains, I bet you can find a special trail or path that accommodates wheelchairs and walkers as well as helpers. Longwood Gardens and Amicalola Falls (there's access to the bottom of the main falls from the road) both come to mind. Surround yourself with happiness. Listen to positive songs, but carry the loud, heavy stuff for when you gotta let it out. Find people who give you your props and hugs when you need them. Life is precious.

11)  BONUS – Thank you for reading my writing. I’m thankful for all of your traffic and support. Really. You rock! Now, go check out how to blow dandelion seeds with Little Zen Monkey!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

New York City Blackout 1977 - UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2018

Originally posted a year ago... minor updates.

            Over Labor Day weekend, my wife and I decided that we would travel from our sleepy little burg in Amish Paradise to head 8 hours north to New Hampshire. Of course, traveling on a Friday means that just under 8 GPS predictable hours is more like over 10 hours in real time. If you don’t live in this part of the country, then you should know that the difference is because of New York City traffic. To describe said congestion and the mass swarms of maniacal drivers in as few words as possible, I would express the term sensory over-stimulation.

            That said, in these states, it’s easy to get symptoms of general anxiety disorder. For me, these moments are uncommon, but they do happen. I tend to avoid situations that they are involved in, New York City traffic and putting up with the failures of self-checkout lines come to mind (I don’t work for the grocery store or Wal-Mart, and they don’t give me a discount to do it myself). I know it sounds like I’m joking regarding self-checkout lines, but last night, my wife chose to do them, so I went to the Red Box (DVD rental system, for my non American friends) while she did since I had no desire to hear the computer voice telling her to re-scan or bag her stuff in a certain way. When the process was over, it wouldn’t accept her credit card. Then it wouldn’t accept mine. Then the manager came, and we still couldn’t make it accept her card, so we had to go to a different register to import the ring-up. Finally, after 10 minutes, it worked, but I was in that, “I’m done with people tonight (except for the wife). I’m going home to unwind.” This is what we did so I could zone out.

            There are a host of symptoms that go with being knocked out of order, so to speak. In a world that feels out of control, According to Parkinson’s Dot Org, “these feelings include butterflies in the stomach and nausea, trouble breathing or swallowing, racing of the heart, sweating and increased tremors.”  Fortunately, I didn't need a barf bag, but I did feel like running out of there pronto.
Whether this feeling is caused by insane NYC traffic or computer voices, this is not something that is fun for me at all. In times like this, I just wanted to be out of the moment, which in the case of driving to New Hampshire seemed to last forever with backed up traffic congestion, but at least it wasn’t as bad as it could be in that I made it through and remained sane because my wife is a good driver.

With all of the sounds of that type of traffic, I think of the word cacophony, which is defined as a mix of sounds going off together and overloading a person’s sense of being. For visuals, I think of a mix of different colors of light blended in with movement on different levels and directions so that it became tough to focus on just one. This includes cars coming and going in all directions on multiple highways above and below where we are driving and other traffic moving around us while passing or slowing down. Mix this with the feeling of the need to provide complete attention to the situation at hand, so I was incredibly happy that I wasn’t driving (smart planning on my behalf, if I don’t say so myself).
Mind you, this wasn’t even driving in central New York (something I will NEVER EVER do again – something that has nothing to do with my PD; instead, it reflects my healthy love of life and sanity). It was just driving into the opposite side of New York City from New Jersey to head up through to Connecticut, Taxachuesetts (as Homer Simpson once referred to it), and then New Hampshire for a White Mountains fun time.
It should be noted that there is a plus to this drive, which is seeing the skyline and the Statue of Liberty lit up beautifully, well as picturesquely neat as a man-made skyline can possibly look (guess that I should reserve the truly expressive adjective for natural wonders, which we can gawk at as long as certain people don’t find their way to downsize or remove protected designation from our public natural places).

It’s also important as well to know that we were heading up at 9PM, so the need to be a part of the “city that never sleeps” means that other people were out and about in large force to take part in the city’s nightlife. In this endless concrete jungle filled with construction and constriction, time doesn’t diminish the traffic, and my wife drove bravely (i.e. only commenting on aggressive butthole drivers to me rather than flipping them off and risking being shot, though it wasn’t easy to do it in that manner). Personally, I wanted to lean out the window and bark like a dog at some of those drivers – something my one uncle was alleged to have done, but frankly, I didn’t want to get shot. Life is a good thing. After all, this is Friday night insanity traffic outside of a big American city and its New Jersey and Connecticut over-spill.

            Yes, I didn’t have to drive that horror road since we were in my wife’s car and she was at the wheel, and I didn’t want the responsibility. However, that didn’t change the fact that while my wife was driving her prized red convertible Mini Cooper (Bradley), I was trying to stabilize my mind by closing my eyes and leaning back to mellow out from the overload I was feeling.
            There are things in my Parkinson’s life that overwhelm me. For instance, I have recently been “word fishing” while dealing with the effects of Artane, which is a medicine that I have been on for tremors. In addition to having to wrack my brain to make it express specific 9th grade vocabulary words (that I knew the 4th grade or lower put together expression / definition for), I would also look for Point C in my arc of discussing concepts A-F. I could clearly tell that I had lost or was losing C, and with it, this cognitive shut down scared the poop out of me (family friendly sentiment). Fortunately, in my few weeks on the medicine, I didn’t have any major brain farts. I’m currently off the drug and its whole family since it’s been known to have this effect, so with Amantadine causing livedo reticularis, I am without an anti-tremor med (relying solely on Azilect to make my dopamine production A-OK and Escitalopram to level out my moods – they seem to both work well).

AUTHOR'S NOTE - Back on Amantadine after 2 other medication failures. It's this or the levodopa / carbidopa path

In the end, this cognitive nightmare felt like New York City’s blackout in 1977 complete with the Son of Sam and Reggie Jackson + Billy Martin fighting as fires raged and looting broke out across the city. With the fear of actions with and from North Korea, the partisan divide where people can't see what's right in front of their face, continued legislation issues in my big 3 (the environment, education, and healthcare), and those mega hurricanes that just keep coming and coming, it’s as if there is no stop to the ugliness that could be, and now I am here with my brain going bonkers on its own share of stuff! And let’s not forget another predication of the end of the world and end times hovering over the whole to affect the Hale Bopp types and the Revelations crew who change the details to reflect current events as it goes.

Wondering what the hell was and is going on, I did what most anyone with Parkinson’s would do – look at medicine effects. Many effects were there including cognitive issues, anxiety, and hallucinations. Yep, I think we got our culprit, so I went off the meds thinking about what had happened over the past few weeks.
Yeah, I guess this would explain the “earthquake” I thought we were having one night at 2AM when I woke up to my bed shaking and continued shaking as I went to the bathroom.

   Fortunately, it was all the medicine, and now I’m back to normal. Like a student in Jane Elliott’s classroom in Iowa back in 1968, I had a full-blown experiment with being in another person’s shoes and the shoes that I would someday be shown into. Call it being made a bleeding-heart or just being shown the truth of the world, I was being welcomed to the show in a big and bad way, that as I said before, “scared the shit out of me.”
Of course, there will still be people who talk smack on waking others up to the feelings of what if by putting them in the bodies of those who experience things daily. How dare we let our little conservative snowflakes see anything other than the endlessly beautiful possibility of the world (while leveling endless nonsense at liberal snowflakes)? It's like they're saying that teaching people to empathize with others or preparing for what might be is "liberal claptrap" nonsense (instead of creating an understanding so we can better understand others). And not feeling for others allows them to destroy the healthcare system’s provisions (thank you, John McCain, for stopping this crap) to help those who suffer and will suffer from being given a condition (which as all of us know could happen at any time), and minimize the money insurance companies have to pay for lifelong issues. Better to bankrupt the victim, the spouses, and the extended families than taking care of the village, right?

And then there was the most immediate non-Dan situation in all of this things ending stuff: the death of my Yaris, which was coming quickly as parts slowly gave way. Should I buy a new car? If so, how long should I plan on it lasting? Do I buy a 5 figure used car with 40-60,000 miles or a new car for almost $20,000? Can I get by with 80-100,000 miles on it already for $8000ish? Do I buy another “Macho Dude” (it’s the translation of Yaris) or should I get a Juke for when my wife takes over driving it somewhere down the line? Do I go balls to the wall and get a Jeep? The answer isn’t easy, so I keep driving the car until the day I need to trade it in.

In the meantime, I keep getting used to being a passenger.

            Over the course of my adult life, I have found that I have not done as well at being a passenger, as I should. I get motion sickness to varying degrees (without the barf bag, fortunately). The front is bad, but backseats tend to be a little worse, so generally I would find that when I had a choice, I would go with driving myself.  Nevertheless, I am currently immersing myself to be ready for the time that I won’t be driving at all.
            This is something that I find myself thinking about a lot lately. As I said, my beloved Macho Dude (my blue Yaris) is closing in on 250,000 miles, and it’s slowly dying. Over the summer, I put a lot of stuff into my car, which could have been put into a new car. Had I not been so attached to my car (I’ve had it since 2007 when I bought it new), I might have bought a new one, but as I said, #1) I don’t want to pay for a new one for years and years. #2) I’m hoping to be able to be working for years and years so I can pay it off.
            It’s true that the imminent death of my Yaris has me upset. It’s a part of me like no other car that I drove. I love its gas mileage, its style, its personality, and the fact its distinctly me. Frankly, I don’t want to say goodbye to it, but goodbye is coming. When this compounds with the feeling that a fuse was blown in my head or the power went out, my life just felt like calling out a “timeout.” Unfortunately, Parkinson’s doesn’t allow for that, so yeah.
            Fortunately, I was able to figure out a cause and remedy it. It was mostly easy to get back to my brain being my brain, but now that I am sans tremor meds, I see the shaking again. I see where it's gotten since when I began to hide it in the spring. Thus, I’m adjusting in the moment with a lot of foot shaking in my life. I guess if I play more hip hop, then I can just pass it off as being in the music.

            So now, September and autumn are here, and I’m thinking of how other things diminish through the autumn months and into the frozen world of winter (the leafless cold and darkness of January and February). The leaves on the trees changing colors and falling quickly here in southeastern Pennsylvania say that winter is coming sooner than before. The cold is getting ready to set in (though the days are still relatively warm). Pumpkin everything is appearing in the stores, and I am facing more and more Parkinson’s symptoms, which are also coming faster than I expected. Granted, I dig the muffins and pie, and it’s neat to think about inviting my nieces and nephews around to carve a big ass pumpkin, but really, I’d like to have some time to slide into things and the understanding of where I’m at to discuss it knowledgeably on November 15th (my next neurological appointment).

            I’ve been doing doctors lately. For instance, I went to an audiologist, who told me my hearing on soft sounds is terrible. I knew this, but yeah. Whether it came from listening to Slayer too much as a kid or the “Brady Bunch” (all the things that we get when we find bradykinesia raging through our lives), I don’t think it matters. Sometimes, people will lose sound, swallowing, smell, taste, and blinking their eyes (to name but a few problems along the way), but no combination is guaranteed. Instead, we deal with what we have and go to the doctors (and dentists) who can help the problem.
In this case, the doc immediately went to BMW level hearing aids (about $4000 after insurance). Uh, no! Not right now? So with that, I think instead about standing close to people or asking them to speak up before I buy a pair that allows me to be able to blue tooth MP3s directly into my head.

            But sound, sound… what do we do about where I’m going (as I listen to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Psychedelic Pill – damn, those senior citizens jam so much it’s like they know they’re putting the young whippersnappers to shame as they crash through 20 minute jams and guitar fury)?
            For one, I have noticed lately, that sounds affect me differently. For example, if I am talking one on one to student A (in a sitdown session to edit a paper), I can hear all of the conversations of Students D+E, M+N, S+T, and X+Y+Z on separate tracks at the same time. This tends to be something I’m not exactly happy with since it puts me on a smaller overload, so I find it easier to compensate by going outside the room and giving people in-class work to complete rather than enforce the impossible code of silence while I am speaking. Why create fights we can’t win or upsetting people when the solution can be solved by the self? Frankly, it’s better to find ways to work around it and sit like a cat on a chair, purring at all that is instead of seeing everything as a nail that needs to face the hammer.
The most important thing to know about sound is that unlike certain songs from the late 1960s with their experimental mixing (The Velvet Underground’s “The Gift” comes to mind), I can’t turn these sounds off and only hear the speaking instead of the distorted and fuzzed out instrumentals. I have also found that being in such a high impact environment with all of the qualities described before, plus billboards of static images and electronic changing images, I can easily find myself in a way that says, “Get between some trees” (and yes, we were soon able to do that for 2 full days all through the Presidential Range). This is another reason NYC traffic makes me spazzy.
Trees are generally a safe place, but I’ve had a fair bit going, so it feels like I’m in the need to do more and more of these (though New Hampshire was a welcome respite as is Iceland, which is where my wife and I are going in 2 weeks).

As for narrow escapes and future fears, the key is just to choose to live life and never stop believing that the best times are still to come as we plan out our futures to what we want to do before the lights go out for real.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

9/10, 9/11, and 9/12 Attitudes - Successful Strategies for Dealing with Change (and my Parents' 47th Anniversary)

9/10 - 9/11 - 9/12... 3 different attitudes altogether. The first represents an America that had never seen horror on its shores due to such malicious and heinous tragedy (of course, there was World Trade Center 1, the Alfred P. Murrah Building, Wounded Knee, but you know what I mean). The second date, 9.11, need not be elaborated on since many of us have our memories of that day (though in 16 years, a lot more people exist who have no memory of that day since they were too young too process it). There are things we remember (buildings falling) and things we remember seeing afterward (bodies falling out of windows). There is a vision in the dusty haze, and there is a voice on the megaphone stating how government can still hear you while another local government honors the victims at funerals every day. For this, they brought us together until “mission accomplished” became a rallying cry.

For that, the 9.12 attitude of who we became after the collapse is still present with us.
After this day, we couldn't hide our heads in the sand. We had to do something, which included ending the culprits as soon as possible (May 2, 2011, with the Miley Cyrus soundtrack on for the biggest of the criminals, though the 2nd biggest was March 1, 2003for those keeping score). That said, we still fight that war today (2,403 casualties to this date with more fighting and casualties to come). We still are mopping up and propping up in Iraq and continuing something or other in Syria as we consider making our war in Afghanistan one of mercenaries. We have threats of North Korea and Venezuela as well as unresolved issues with a nuclear Iran. We’ve also had issues over situations in Libya and Egypt. It’s like we’re in for something new every day with the reactions we and the world have had to that Indian summer day.
As for where we stand about this news, SOME DAYS WE LIKE the legislation and planning as well as the Navy SEALs doing what they do best (and let me say, I've got mad props for those people and what they do). THEN THERE'S OTHER DAYS when our attitudes have changed on what we used to like. Attitudes toward bombing countries back to the Stone Age or passing the Patriot Act, are not so simple for our isolationist / libertarian / conservative Edward Snowden realities. On that not, Sean Hannity has done his best to convince us WE DON'T LIKE those realities anymore. So yeah, our scorekeepers simply tell us to follow or growl, and we do, just like in 1984 where Oceania is or isn’t friends with Eurasia on that given day. Just like in fiction, reality seems to reflect the fictional nature of this partisan beast. As a result, this country is way more divided than ever with 2 diametrically opposed groups ready to divide themselves off from the other. I wake up, and I wonder how we've ever gotten to a point where we let the Internet trolls on the left and right make our decisions for us.
In this war, we got our heroes. Todd Beamer said, “Let’s roll.Marcus Luttrell was a lone survivor. Jessica Lynch was a POW. Pat Tillman gave up a huge football salary to be an Army Ranger. A small contingent of men won the Medal of Honor. We applauded, and then a new reality happened for some of them (Lynch’s actual situation / Tillman’s death from friendly fire and the cover up, for instance).
We just never saw it the same again, and yeah, things changed. People stopped paying attention and just kept up with the Karadashians.

Ever since the attack, I always wondered what would possess someone to plan a suicide attack like that. Even more than that, I wondered how so many men (19) would logistically plan and fulfill the "responsibilities" that they had toward participating in a suicide mission against innocent human lives. Maybe it’s the educator in me, but I just felt that knowing this could help us eliminate the situation in the future. Maybe it's the human in me, but I just can't see how someone could harbor that much hate for that long of a time. Then again, unlike those people, I'm not a sociopathic freak and existential threat to mankind who is bent on complete domination. Well, I hope I'm not, though some people might find me to be the spawn of Satan for other things that I accept or don't accept regarding my tolerance of people's rights to be themselves in their lives that don't hurt others to live as they want to live.
Sixteen years later, I still don't know, but the horrific event’s effects to the economy, the airline industry, the never-ending grudge to fulfill Toby Keith’s mantra (as opposed to Alan Jackson’s reflections), and the partisan divide coupled with the inability for our country to leave the situation scares me because it will fulfill the educated reality of George W. Bush’s “war without end” promise (though it might have played differently had we not gone to Iraq).
Since that day, we’ve given a lot of money, effort, and lives to continue a situation without a definite goal. Maybe that’s because we don’t know what our goal should be. Maybe it’s because we’re scared of nation building. Perhaps, it’s because America doesn’t have the stomach for seeing General Sherman march to the sea all over again. Maybe it’s because we don’t want this thing to turn into the Crusades again. Who knows why it is? The reality is that we’re here, and in hindsight, just like every other war, politicians get attacked for saying long war (see also the Civil War's political casualties). Bush definitely understood that even if he didn’t understand the fear of commitment Americans had to his Crusade.
As I ponder this today in our Brave New World, I think about North Korea and their threat to detonate an electro magnetic pulse over the US (via hydrogen bomb) in retaliation for oil sanctions we might inflict on them, and I wonder what the heck has happened to this world. I think about what would happen to an America where computers were fried and unworkable en masse (I’m thinking life like the Walking Dead without zombies, but just as bad). I think about how we’d respond to that, and yes I know, the news is fear-mongering (especially when it's picked up by the extreme right or left) and Kim Jong Un might not have this power, but… But I think of what could happen to South Korea, Japan, and Guam if a man who is only liked by Dennis Rodman goes berzerk. I wonder if China would stop it to keep getting paid by their favorite trade partner. I wonder what Russia would do to escalate it since their presence in the United States’ foreground has been majorly changed since Wikileaks and their Trump dealings.

I wonder what would happen in Trump America if we went from fantasy football to the draft and able-bodied soldiers in waiting had to ask, “What the heck just happened? Why are you drafting me?” (since it’s clear that many people don’t follow the news except entertainment and sports on Facebook’s trending column).
And all this stuff bothers me since we live in a country facing Equifax fallout, 3-4 different hurricanes at once, a presidency that wants to legislate without Congress's input almost every day on things we need to get rid of or add into the system based on the fact that they were enacted by the last guy.
I think about all of this, and I go back to reflecting on a few events that occurred, though none of them ending up in a history textbook.
The first is from an interview that Wilco’s lead singer Jeff Tweedy had where he talked about playing with his toddler son instead of watching the news on 9/11. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about the power and the impact of the moment; it’s just that he wanted more time with 9/10’s innocence before plunging into 9/12. It was such a human thing to do, and all things considered, it was so much better than just staring at the news and the bottom ticker 24/7 (at least until the Onion and South Park came along and truly spoke about what we were all thinking).

The second event is my parents’ 47th wedding anniversary. In many ways, it’s totally unrelated to 9/11 stuff except that it happened on 9/12 and their anniversary airline flight and trip was cancelled due to the no flights going in or out mandate. I think about their anniversary today, and I realize that in the end, life is about love, happiness, family, and the good life. Not every day is a clown party, but when we learn to accept one another for the good, bad, and indifferent, we have the potential to do and be our best since we are a like-minded collective (even if we're different in so many other ways). I think about that and realize that, yeah, we can hold our grudges, but we also have the opportunity to find ways to be better with what we have learned throughout our years. This isn’t saying that some things aren’t worth fighting for and defending (this is definitely true and we really do need to get rid of Al Qaeda and ISIL), but in the end, we need to see that there are also values and everyday life that is also worth defending. If all we see is the opportunity to fight people we've always looked upon as heathens, we’re missing the truth about what makes our country so great.
I think of the words of love and living and purpose with regard to religion, too. There's a lot of great stuff out there when we're not choosing to be holier than thou or asking for coming out on top via the aid of a "please let me" selfishness prayers (and not all prayers are selfish, but this variety are). However, for some people, this isn't true. For these people, Christianity is all about a “snuff film” (be it The Passion of Christ or the obsession with Jesus’s bloody death to impress upon themselves and others a code of living). Now I in no way claim to speak for a religion (since I'm in no way capable or interested in that), but it’s like we forget the words of the living Jesus or the possibility of resurrection, choosing instead to focus on instruments of torture and days of brutality instead. And yes, the crucifixion is a big part, but what's more important is who that man was (at least if you claim to subscribe to any of these groups who fall under the Christian umbrella or buffet). 
I think back to a Christian day care center where I helped a young boy who had Autism, and how one of the workers would show his kindergarten age classmates miniature mockups of the nails (which were part of some game). I couldn’t see what good it would do them to contemplate this torture, but I held my tongue (I like working and making $ to pay my bills) as the 60-something woman explained what Christ went through for us and them, even though they were 5 or 6 and didn't need these nightmares to understand God's ways and love.
I think about this today, and I wonder where making a better world and sharing love and happiness for this time on earth are. I think about people who say that good deeds alone aren’t enough to get in good with the big G. I contemplate that and I think about “grudges” and how people just want to fight and hate and divide themselves off from others who can’t get with their politics and theology. I contemplate that way of life, and I just can’t accept it at all.
And I think about how 9/11 just exacerbated this whole situation.
This brings me back to our 9/12 attitudes on 9/11 or pretty much anything that represents that moment of great change. As this is a Parkinson's blog, I can reflect this attitude to that. For instance, if I think about my day after diagnosis approach to Parkinson’s. I can wake up miserable or I can make a better world for me and all others with my predicament. I can hold a grudge against PD, or I can choose to live life. If I think of 9/11, I can think that we can eliminate evil to create a better world, or I can carry out more wars with no path to victory or fulfill vile, racist sentiments. On a smaller scale, I can hold my daily life's grudges against individuals and this can lead me to hating and hurting others with my thuggish mentality, or I can work to solve my problems like an adult so all people can just get over and through it. In the end, I can look to my life’s philosophy, and I can shove its exclusivity and violence down people’s throats with the threat of some real or metaphorical Hell, or I can take its living tenets to make a better life for me and others (in this, accepting Christ’s teachings instead of just saying that I accept God in a moment of “checking the box” and my allegiance to him, without good deeds, is more than enough).
That said, here on 9/12, I’d rather focus on what goes into making a 47-year relationship work than focusing on how someone upset someone else 36 years ago. Sixteen years after 9/11, I don’t need to watch a historic plane crash to feel for tragic loss of the victims (those 2977 people are very real to my sense of history and humanity). That said, those events are past. If we haven’t solved these issues in 16 years, what difference is 1 to 100 years going to make? We need more Wilma Derksen's out there than angry thugs.
If you’re still here and not offended and / or praying for my soul, I’ll sum it up in 4 quotes and be gone as you reflect on what these can mean to you.
1)      Love is a good thing (ME!).

3)       (CARL SAGAN)