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Time to make lemonade

5 Nov

A painful ankle for 4+ years, an operation to reconstruct my foot/ankle and NO weight on my right foot for 3-4 months equals a lot of free time.

Parkinson’s Disease (diagnosed at 48 years of age) already forced retirement at 55 years old.  I hung in there for as long as I could, my effectiveness as a salesman made more and more difficult as the speech went downhill along with the number of sales.  The customers were having difficulty understanding my sales presentations.  Laid off in 2009 after 25 years of sales. Then God lead me to an industrial telemarketing position part-time for 1.5  years.  My speech was still understandable in the mornings at that point, so that is when I worked.

Going from a productive 55 hour per week career to not too much to do was a transition. To keep busy and productive I do event photography for non-profits and churches, volunteer at the Life Enrichment Center, I’m involved at The Fine Art Center at Cross Pointe, at our church and I go to Parkinson’s exercise classes 3 times per week.

Now that I can’t drive or put pressure on my right leg for the next 3-4 months, am I supposed to sit here in my recliner with my foot up – for 3-4 months?????  Sounds very depressing.

NO, this necessary roadblock in life will not define me.  To sit alone and feel depressed and unproductive is not the answer.  There is my relationship with God to refine, prayers to offer, improving my knowledge of the Bible, online photography classes, books to read, and exercises to perform to keep my body as limber and healthy as possible.  This is a mental choice, an attitude adjustment, a time of growth under pressure, a trial allowed by a sovereign God who loves me and wants the best for me and all people. His love, care and concern doesn’t mean people won’t die, or be murdered, or discriminated against, or mistreated; happens all the time all over the world.  But God does not orchestrate those events and still cares and loves us even when those events happen.  He knows our every hair, personally “created our inmost being, knit us together in our mother’s womb”, and when we will sit down and stand up (even if on one leg), He knows our every word before we even say it according to Psalm 139.  “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

So, nothing surprises God. Nothing escapes His gaze.  I will remind myself of that fact in the months ahead.  He is large and in charge and more than able to knit a few bones together!!  That is simple stuff!!20151105_141351

 

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Five years after Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery for Parkinson’s

13 Mar

Gary with his halo on before DBS Surgery 2010

This is a picture of me with my halo screwed to my head just before DBS surgery.  They use the halo in surgery to place the wires accurately where they need to go (which is a good thing!).

It has been 5 years since I had Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery ((DBS) – what a miracle of science.  Place two little wires implanted in my brain, add some electricity, and wham – I get my life back – or most of it.

Let me expand on that a little – current symptoms:  I can’t speak very well, my voice is indistinct and speech garbled much of the time.  My wife, Carol, is so patient with me, asking over and over to repeat!  I learned how to write in elementary school, but have lost the ability to physically write much more than my first name.  Fortunately I can type, so I carry a tablet most of the time to take notes in – thank You Lord for the modern digital era!!  I also get easily fatigued, so I have to watch my energy level.  But I drive, dress, feed myself, etc. all of which would have been difficult or impossible without DBS.

How do I know that?  I have accidentally let the battery go dead twice – I charge it once per week for about 2 hours – and found out very quickly that without DBS and WITH medicine, I am very impaired.  My right arm is nearly paralyzed, my face drawn into a frightful mask, and the act of moving is like walking or moving through mud.  WITHOUT DBS and WITHOUT medicine, movement is nearly impossible.  Getting dressed – forget it!  Drive – You wouldn’t want to see that scene – scary.  Massive pileup.  Eating – very sketchy if nearly impossible.  The meds only last an hour or two, then I would not be able to move, stuck in cement, for another two hours when my next dose would be due.   To a lessor degree that was my life before the DBS operation.  The “On/off” was a killer.

You can see why I am thankful to the Lord for DBS!  That includes my photography career/hobby on steroids (as Carol; my wife calls it).  Thankfully I have early onset Parkinson’s which was diagnosed when I was 48 years old. I have now been under the Parkinson’s spell for 11 years!  Many people who have early onset don’t have quivering hands.  Mine are steady as a rock!  Makes for much sharper photos when the camera isn’t gyrating !!

My 27 year career in sales was very satisfying, mostly enjoyable and somewhat successful.  The last 5 years, however was somewhat of a challenge.  What do salespeople do – talk and talk and talk…  As I lost my ability to speak clearly I’m sure many of my customers were saying (to themselves), “What did he just tell me?”.  In 2009 I left the material handling industry (not by choice), was unemployed for a few months and was hired as an Industrial Telemarketer.  You heard right – telemarketing for a guy who couldn’t speak.  To be clear, I could get by in the mornings when I could speak better, so I worked in the mornings until 2 years later even morning speech wasn’t working and I was forced to quit, trusting God to supply our needs!  One week later I received Social Security Disability (after only one application, most of the time it takes many multiple applications!)  That was a direct supply of our needs by our Heavenly Father, who worked it out to get my application through the red tape at just the right time.

So, you might ask what am I doing today?  I am involved with The Fine Art Center at Cross Pointe, a coop art gallery in Centerville, OH.  www.thefineartgallery.org  I display my photos there and I’m the Webmaster and Facebooker.  I am an also an event photographer for churches and non-profit organizations.  And I’m a landscape photographer.  My photo website is: http://creationsourceimages.photoshelter.com/gallery-list

I can drive.  I can move, somewhat.  I can feed and dress myself.  I am so thankful to the Lord for the things I can do!!  Nothing like losing some capabilities to make you appreciate what you have left.  I am eternally grateful for my loving family who are patient with me and Jesus who died in my place on the cross! As is famously quoted from 9-11, “Lets roll”.

 

 

 

A New Look At The Declaration of Independence for July 4

3 Jul

Last Saturday morning at the Men’s Fellowship Breakfast at  Fairhaven Church, our leader, Don, read from the Declaration of Independence.  Hearing the complaints of the colonies sounded strangely present day, so I took a few minutes to look it up.  What do you think?

Declaration of Independence –

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.  (Presidential Executive Orders for illegal immigrants and other orders, bypassing Congress ).

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. (President’s Czars and 4,000 new IRS agents)

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent (Democrats jammed Obamacare through congress with one party vote, by special rules, and by paying off members of congress if they voted for the bill)

I am very concerned about our country and the current direction the majority party in the senate and this president is taking us.  My hope is for the majority of concerned citizens who believe in freedom, governance by and for the people, and a limited federal government will become involved in the election and vote for a change in administrations and the leadership of congress!  Fortunately God is sovereign over all governments.  There is hope for this country but not a promise, especially for a civilization which has largely rejected God.

Shower Mat Nazi

28 Jun

Kettering Rehab – Self Portrait on Cell Phone

Well there is a saying (or verse)-“the Lord gives and the Lord takes away”. Because of slipping on the shower mat and hitting my left leg on the side of the tub, I have broken the femur and have lost the ability to put any pressure on my leg for 6 or more weeks.  This puts a huge hole in my weekly calender!!! But on the good side I have gained enough metal in my leg to get a good start on building a battleship. The x-ray of my leg post operation looks like a huge shoehorn with scary protrusions.  I am now a “shower mat Nazi”, checking with everyone I meet to make sure they are not to using a shower mat.  My wife has put down a bunch of gritty decals in the bottom of the deadly shower.

As God’s economy goes there is always some kind of rainbow after a storm. Let me explain this rainbow sighting. For a number of months my “Parkinson’s speech” has grown less and less understandable to those around me. With Parkinson’s a patient hears himself as speaking at a normal speaking level and in their brain can not (without help) hear that they are actually speaking very softly and indistinctly (weird disease!!!). Part of my therapy at Kettering Rehab has been to work on my speech.  Speech therapy is a normal requirement for them since they get a lot of stroke patients there. Terri and the other speech therapists have been patiently teaching me what normal speech sounds like. To me inside my head I seem to be yelling but to the outside world it is a normal level or maybe a little loud but hugely more understandable. The method is for me to think “loud” and diction, breath support, etc. follow. To be honest my relationship with Carol and the kids has been impacted negatively because sometimes it just is not worth the effort, concentration, and constant hard work to be heard and understood. This causes me to withdraw into my own little world where Carol, who has loving and patiently understood, still in the end often feels left out of my life. Pressure was slowly building as I was isolating myself even from her. Because of the intensive therapy thinking LOUD is becoming much more of a habit and I am catching my times of mumbling and soft voice.

Bottom line is a broken leg, while not in itself a blessing or fun (and I have to say has been very painful) is in our loving and all-knowing Savior’s economy a path for me back to community with my loving, dedicated wife, great kids, and my friends who have all surrounded me with prayer, love and support. Thank you!

The Seeming Realities of Time

23 May

Every Saturday morning at 7:15 AM about 40 men gather at Fairhaven Church for Men’s Fellowship.  There is a devotional, breakfast, corporate prayer and a testimony of some sort.  Testimonies include one of the guys life story or a visiting missionary discussing their mission.  This coming Saturday is our Memorial Day Celebration.  There is a great display of military gear, a ceremony honoring vets, etc.  Looking forward to photographing it!

Last Saturday I was asked to give the devotional.  This is a bit intimating for a guy who part of each day has trouble speaking, but I gave it a try and the feedback was positive.  However, unlike before Parkinson’s, I’m forced to have a microphone and reduced to reading my text.  Oh well.  Here is my little “devo”:

“This morning I would like us to think about the concept of time for a few minutes.  I have a few questions for us to consider.

What is time?  Is time consistent?  Is time a human concept?  I think there is an atomic clock somewhere that keeps the official world time.  We can set our watches to that clock.  If time is supposed to be consistent, then why did it go so slowly when I was up at night rocking a sick child or now when I’m in line at the post office – but when I think back on the our kids growing up years, time seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye.  Why does an enjoyable evening with friends go by fast but two days with the flu seems to last an eternity?

What is the definition of time?  Has it always existed or did it start when God created the universe?  How does an eternal God react to time?  Did God create time and now He has to deal with us within time, which restricts His actions in some ways? 

God is not trapped in time but lives outside of time.  If you look at the top a table as a model of time, it begins and it goes into infinity.  Each of us has our little square inch of time on earth, then it is over for us.  We are trapped on the table inside of time’s grip.  Everything is linear for us with a beginning and an ending.  Not so with God.  We’re stuck inhabiting the top of the table, controlled by time but God looks down on the table and is outside of time.  He can impact our lives even though we live within time.  That is the answer to many of our questions about why certain things, usually bad things by our definition, happen in our lives.  God’s perspective is completely different from ours.  For instance, someone we know may die early in life or unexpectedly, but God can see an eternal purpose because of the people who will come to faith in Him in the future as they consider the witness of that person’s life.

Why do we think our particular circumstances are unique in human history and that no one has ever experienced these circumstances before?  Why are humans self-important and conceited, thinking they are very important in the history of mankind?  Psalm 39:4-5 says:

O Lord, help me understand my mortality
and the brevity of life!
Let me realize how quickly my life will pass!
5 Look, you make my days short-lived,
and my life span is nothing from your perspective.
Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

It is true each of us has the same 60 seconds every minute or 24 hours every day.  Some people use those seconds much more efficiently than others.  We need to consider what priorities God has for us in the use of our time and be careful not to squander the time we have left on earth.  Jesus said to pick up our cross daily, we need to strive for excellence in the use of our time.”

Some worthwhile questions and thoughts!  I continue to try to live my life as actively as possible.  Besides Parkinson’s, I also am currently fighting hip muscle pain and ankle pain which make each step hurt.  Hopefully those pains will subside soon with treatment!  I am still volunteering with Circles on Poverty Tuesday nights, at Target Dayton Thursday mornings, and for Fairhaven Fridays visiting people  in Rehab centers, and photographing events at various organizations.

A few weeks ago my Deep Brain Stimulator ran out of battery power (due to my not charging it soon enough).  The result of being “off” for a few hours was not pretty.  Bottom line is if I lived 20 or more years ago, I would be stuck in the house basically unable to move, talk, socialize, etc.  Needless to say I’m checking my battery more often!  Thanks to God for my present situation!!  To Him I give my allegiance and He is my power.


Human Guinnea Pig II

7 Mar

Well, I survived the Parkinson’s balance research project.  I went to a laboratory at the University of Cincinnati to be tested (off my Parkinson’s medicine) with my Deep Brain Stimulation Device on.  They put me through a number of balance tests on a square metal floor plate (like a scale but this one measured tiny movements connected with balance).  Some tests had me standing with my eyes closed, some with my eyes open, some standing on thick foam for 30 seconds at a time trying not to move.  Then, I walked on a pressure sensitive carpet for 2 minutes. After a short rest walked again while counting backwards by 3’s out loud from a number like 697.  That is difficult!

They then turned off my DBS device and fed me lunch.  I gobbled down my Subway sandwich before I started feeling the effects of the DBS being off.  In about 10 minutes I was moving slower and within about 30 minutes the Parkinson’s “mask” came on my face and my speech got quieter and indistinct.  The mask is an expressionless face showing no emotion.  By the end my mouth was drawn down into a permanent frown.  The walking tests were very challenging especially the counting one.  My right arm was “stuck” to my leg (not free and swinging) and I was not walking very well.  It felt like my blood was made of molasses and I had 25 pound weights hung on my body.  My eyes were burning from lack of Parkinson’s medicine. But all in all, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it might have been.  There were times before I had the DBS surgery when I was literally paralyzed for a while until my meds kicked in. 

A lot of people were praying for me.  God has provided Social Security Disability for me and this fantastic medical device called Deep Brain Stimulation and I am thankful.  I am also thankful for our beautiful daughter for transporting me today.  I learned what it would be like if the medicine and DBS were not available.  I would not be able to function in our world and forget photography, volunteering at Target Dayton or anywhere else!  Social interaction would be nearly impossible and most of the everyday things I’m doing would be unthinkable.  My answer to the question, “who is the real me”…the real me is the me enabled by modern science to live a relatively normal lifestyle (with some major Parkinson’s limitations still involved).

I am determined to wear myself out before I rust out.  I will spend my remaining useful years serving our Lord in whatever capacity He shows me.  Someday this disease or some disease will overcome my capacity to resist it and I will be in heaven with God.  I look forward to thanking Jesus personally and to eventually being there with my whole family.  Until that time, He has work and a purpose for me to be about.  To borrow a famous phrase, “Lets Roll”.

Human Guinee Pig for Parkinson’s Research

1 Mar

                       Gary at the Butterfly Conservatory at Key West, FL

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at age 48 in 2004.  In February 2010 I received Deep Brain Stimulation surgery:  http://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/deep-brain-stimulation  I was approved for the surgery because my symptoms had grown more and more difficult, at times leaving me practically paralyzed or with way too much movement because of the level of medicine.

Fast forward to March 7, 2012.  With periodic reprogramming the surgery has been a huge success!  I still at times struggle with slurred or indistinct speech, some balance problems, slow movement, etc.  Much better than before DBS surgery, though.

I have been asked to participate in a Parkinson’s research project comparing balance with and without Deep Brain Stimulation on March 7.  I will go to the testing UN-medicated.  Fortunately my daughter, Cheryl, will be able to take me to the University of Cincinnati since she has appointments there.  Fortunately, my wife doesn’t have to take ANOTHER day off.  They will do balance tests for 2 hours, the they will turn my DBS off and do the same balance tests.  This will be the first time my DBS has been off for this long while also off my PD medicine!  I turned it off one time for 30 minutes about 6 months ago and turned it right back on because of the symptoms.  This will be about 2 hours!

I am a bit apprehensive about the process of being off my DBS and medicine for two hours but I’m willing to go through this for the furthering of research.  I am also curious to meet the REAL me – the me without medicine and DBS!  If you know me, the  me you see is not the true me.  I’m the person you see who is able to function because of medicine but mostly because of a medical device.  It will be interesting (and frightening) to meet myself on Wednesday!  Ironic, isn’t it!

God has provided for my daily functioning with medicine and the DBS.   I am eternally grateful to have the life I have!  He knew me before I was even born, “…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  (Psalm 139:15-16)  Nothing is a surprise for Him.  He will be with me through this research project as He always is.  I’ll report after next Wednesday how it all went.

Sunrises and Scenes from Florida

1 Mar

 

We just got back from a trip to Florida.  We drove my wife, Carol’s mother down so she could be there for the next 6 weeks.  After getting her settled in, we rented a car and traveled down to Islamorada in the Keys.  Each morning we were up at sunrise (Carol joined me most of the time) to photograph sunrise scenes.  They were magical sunrises and bring thoughts of God’s beautiful creation to mind and heart.  A free show hosted by God most mornings (when given good weather).  Just rise from sleep to enjoy it.  You can see the pictures at:  http://creationsourceimages.photoshelter.com/gallery-list   Just click on the first gallery (picture of a sunrise).

Revolutionary War Heros

4 Sep

I recently spent some time in the “Bellbrook Pioneer Cemetery.”  You might ask, “Why spend time in a cemetery?”  Like a funeral, a cemetery can spur thoughts of life even thought they are places of death and darkness.

I ask questions to myself among the tombstones.  “What was your life like?”  “What challenges in life did you face?”  “Who did you love and who loved you back?”  Many of these people lived 50, 60, 70 or more year on this planet in a very different time from today – no electric lights, no cars, no computers, no trillion dollar deficits.

Link:  Pioneer Cemetery:

http://creationsourceimages.photoshelter.com/gallery-list

The very interesting thing about this particular cemetery are the tombstones of Revolutionary War Soldiers!  There are little bronze standards showing their status.  These people had to be born in the 1700’s, obviously!  That puts them as witnesses to the birth of our nation!  The cycle of life shows up here!  Questions come to mind like, “Does my life have meaning?”  “Will I be remembered after I am dead?”  “Why is being remembered (a legacy) so important to many people?”

I also visited the Wright Brothers cemetery plots.  It was an interesting feeling being close to their final resting place.  It seemed as if I could touch a little piece of their lives by standing there.  They became much more than words in a history book.  Their accomplishments have changed the world!

This life is short, little more than a single comma would be in the whole Bible.  But, through Jesus’ sacrifice as a substitute for us, taking the punishment for the sins we committed, our comma turns into an eternity busting reality in HIM!  People may not remember me in the future years, but I am secure in the eternal nature of God.  I don’t need a library to be named after me or the invention of the airplane  to be significant.  My significance comes from God’s love, from the service I give to the people around me and from my efforts to make His name known around the world.

Blessings in the storm

4 Sep

I am trying to get used to my new designation – disabled.  After contracting Parkinson’s in 2004 then having life-giving Deep Brain Stimulation surgery in February, 2010, I received Social Security Disability acceptance in July about 3 months after applying (a God-thing!).

That is a great thing because even though many of my symptoms are muted because of the operation, I still can’t speak clearly much of the time, I can’t make my hand write, I get fatigued easily, etc.  NOT a good resume to take to an employer!

So, how can God use an old, washed up salesman who can’t speak right a lot of the time?  I am determined to answer that question!  My daughter, Cheryl, told me most of her clients (social work) have some sort of disability and sit around all day watching TV.  Is that God’s best for me?  NO!  He has many jobs for me to do yet.  Sometime in my life, perhaps the near future, Parkinson’s may progress to the point where I may not be able to do much.  Even at that time I can have a ministry.  Perhaps a prayer ministry?  But in the meantime, as long as I can move, I want to serve the Lord.  I just need him to show me how.

One answer is through Target Dayton, where I am volunteering 1 day per week at 6:00 AM when they serve breakfast.  Serving the homeless coffee when they enter the building is a joy.   I’m also Target Dayton’sunofficial photographer when they need me.  Link:

http://targetdayton.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=1

I am  working on putting together a number of organizations where I can be their volunteer photographer for events, etc.  So far I am part of a team of photographers at church, the Gospel Mission in Dayton has me take photos of their special events (one coming in October), and I have taken pictures at a Parkinson’s fund raiser.

http://parkinsonswellness.org/steady_strides_2011.html

I will also be taking pictures at the Parkinson’s Sunflower Symposium on September 10. They used one of my pictures on the front cover of the brochure!

http://ucgardnercenter.com/sites/ucgardnercenter.com/files/Sunflower-brochure-2011.pdf

So, I’m getting some opportunities to serve God as a photographer.

God has a purpose for everyone on earth.  Sometimes that purpose may be hidden, but the sanctity of life holds true.  It is sometimes hard to see unless viewed from God’s perspective.  When someone has Alzheimer’s, or a brain injury, cancer, or some other difficult ailment God seems unfair – why don’t you let them die, Lord?  Why don’t you heal them?  I can’t answer those questions, but I know the Lord loves us and is just and perfect.  Psalm 34:8-10, 15-18 says:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Fear the Lord, you his godly people,
for those who fear him will have all they need.
Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,
but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.

The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right;
his ears are open to their cries for help.

But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil;
he will erase their memory from the earth.

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
      he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

As you go through various cloudy or stormy events in your life, remember that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”