Make A Difference

I post the following personal letter not to highlight Don’s impact through his career but to help illuminate that anyone can make a difference.  Be kind – expect great things because the people you touch will in turn DO great things!

Serving his 7th deployment in Afghanistan

Serving His 7th Deployment In Afghanistan

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A Late Bloomer “Pee Wee” Turned American Hero

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Lessons Taught Through Sports Can Equal Positive Life Lessons

Thank you Colonel for your kind words they mean the world to our family but more importantly for your amazing service and dedication to our country!

 

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Always By My Side

“I could walk a mile in your shoes, but I already know they’re just as uncomfortable as mine. Let’s walk next to each other instead…”
― Lynda Meyers

Children Living With Parkinson's

Children Living With Parkinson’s

Human Factor with Sanjay Gupta – Don’s Words

We are honored to be a part of Sanjay Gupta‘s Human Factor series today. I have blogged many times.  They asked to hear the story through Don’s perspective.  Below are his words.

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Don Horton – Father, Coach, Son, Brother, Friend and Parkinson’s Fighter

When I was 48, I was working at Boston College, O-line University, in the pinnacle of my career and raising the family we had waited for so long to start, the last thing I was ready for was being told I had Parkinson’s.  There we were, being warned, that our lives were changing forever.  Maura didn’t blink an eye.  We were both fairly sure that the progression would preclude us.  When we spoke of the disease, we were always positive and stayed strong.  In hindsight, I realize how scared both of us silently were.

My daily activities didn’t change.  I worked, as all coaches do, extremely long days, but looming in the back of my mind was the disease and its’ progression.  To thwart the development I was to stay active, something I had always been; however, I started to notice small changes, and the inability on days to complete the simple tasks I had always done.  That would come and go.  It wasn’t consistent.  One day being able to change a light bulb and the next time I would try, my hands would fail me.  Afraid to admit the decline was beginning, I never mentioned it to Maura, but I know she was watching waiting to step in.

Maura started to notice my good days and bad days, and I would see her instinctively change our plans and schedule.  She and the kids would jump in and help me the same way that my players had each others’ backs on the field.  I fondly remember the loving moments of my two girls helping me in the morning button my shirt, though those moments were bittersweet.  Isn’t it me that is supposed to help them?  My newfound clumsiness was beginning to literally be the elephant in the room, and ironically, the locker room was where it decided to expose itself.  We had just lost a well fought game and had to catch the team plane.  I had spent all of my energy on the field, and there was nothing left my body would give me.  With my hands unable to steady themselves, I couldn’t button my shirt.  A task so simple, mastered at age 5, was now gone.  My weaknesses were completely exposed, and there I was unable to get dressed on my own.  Russell noticed.  He came over and helped me in silence, like Maura or the girls would do.  I didn’t really realize that players had watched this painful process for me.   Players were always a part of our family, but here I realized that now I was a part of theirs.  This moment was the turning point in my life and changed how I was going to address my very existing condition.

My pride was out the window.  The people that I was hoping to make a difference in their lives, were watching it unfold.  Would my players still respect me?  Would I still have a job?  All those fears that I had pushed to the back came flooding to the surface.  I was afraid to tell Maura, afraid that she would think less of me as her husband, less of me as a parent.  Instead they dug in and helped secure my dignity in their own ways.  All the years of preaching perseverance was paying off.

My disease continues to progress despite the fight we rally.  I cannot count the things I’ve lost.  That list is extensive but I prefer to take the lead from another legendary coach, Tom Landry – I’ve learned that something constructive comes from every defeat – and now, I am blessed with the things that I have gained.  My path may have changed course from where I started, but I am grateful that it has not hit a dead-end.

Our Toothless Wonder

Simple life changes can seem monumental.

We have had quite a few ups and downs and the best way we know how, we try to maintain steady.

However….

Our youngest lost her first, whiter than white, tooth and I have been in a tail spin ever since.  Her age of innocence giving way to the right of passage of growing up, one pearly white at a time.

She was overjoyed from the first wiggle. Teasing it everyday. Hoping against all hope that it would fall out soon – so she could securely tuck it under her pillow case with a note.  A note about how long she has “waited” for this moment. Coupled with a thank you and promises that she will maintain all her teeth the same way.

Dear Tooth Fairy,

That precious smile, now exaggerated cuteness, with the hole front in center, almost never came to be.

That smile.....so glad we did!

That smile…..so glad we did!

Don and I struggled with fertility for 4 years after the birth of our eldest.

In Vitro Fertilization and Parkinsons are two words that are rarely combined. In the later part of my 30’s we were dealing with both issues. After being gifted a child and realizing we could maybe do this “parenting” thing, we attempted for another. We tried…insert failure…. and tried…..insert disappointment ….. and tried…..insert grief……and tried….insert devastation. What was wrong with us (really) me? How could I be a failure at something that we waited for the “right” time to happen? Immediately I learned the true meaning of the gift. After four late stage miscarriages we dove in to the science of baby making. Being Catholic, this was something we never discussed. My sweet mother, by all terms, gold medaled in the olympics of childbirth. She conceived 12 children. So how could I struggle?

The science of it all wasn’t quite adding up either.  In the midst of our third attempt at IVF, we sat in a neurologist office, just after a reproductive appointment, and heard, for the first time, the word Parkinson’s.  Don stopped in his tracks, understandably, immediately questioned the doctor about having another child.  His quote was “You have to believe there will be a cure in your lifetime.  If it were me, I would still try”.  That cycle failed- we heard, screaming louder than ever, the words again. “I am sorry you’re not pregnant.”

You would think that would have been game, set match.  Most people said to take joy in the family we already had and count our blessings. BUT something so powerful propelled us to keep pushing forward.  Most would believe that some higher being was trying to tell us something. Given our new challenge, progression of the disease and future uncertain, we thought… no. Really, truth be told, we thought ……hell NO!  We will move forward. We will preserver.  We refused to live scared. Then after many long discussions we added another reason to keep trying. We wouldn’t want Libby to have to deal with Parkinson’s by herself.  That seemed like a lot of pressure.  So, with the odds stacked against us, we tried again.  Don at this time had moved to Raleigh to begin his tenure at NC State.  Libby and I stayed in Boston, filling our days with doctor appointments, blood checks and ritualistic self injected IVF shots.

It was finally time for the “transfer”.  We had already been down this road before, with hallowed results, so I told Don he needn’t travel for the procedure.  Understandably, I had prepared us for more of the same. The disappointment was routine at this point.

The doctor implanted two fertilized eggs and the wait game continued.

This time, we heard there WAS a viable heartbeat.

Haddie Hospital

Faith in all good was restored.

When that toothless smile entered the world, we had more hope than I could ever put into words.  In the face of the unforeseeable things that were happening, we had a beacon of light and love. United together, an unbreakable bond,  Horton’s.  For those of you that haven’t met us, 4 people who will not let our lives be defined by anyone or disease.

and…… when Hadley asks about how it is she came into this world, we exclaim with the most guttural sincerity, you couldn’t have been wanted more.

Dear Dad,

Sometimes you read something that makes you pause.  I often wonder where our 10-year-old gets her wisdom.  I believe she may just have an old soul.

Father - Daughter

Father – Daughter

Libby’s Fathers Day letter closed with……I couldn’t wish for a better one.  I love you with or without Parkinson’s.  You’re the same in my heart.

Different Vantage Point

Girls Watching Their Dad Do His Thing

Girls Watching Their Dad Do His Thing

All their young lives they have stood tall, sat patiently, cheered loudly, and proudly watched their dad and countless players run thru a tunnel and take the field to the game / job he loved.  I’ve always delighted in our ability to be voyeurs in their father’s career.  Many men go into an office and disappear.  Their kids not fully understanding what it is their dads do to make sacrifices for their futures.  However, mine have been on a college football roller coaster. They feel and have joyful pride with each win and on the contrary they hear, from their peers, personalize and worry after each loss. Their vantage point of NCAA sports has been different.  They aren’t “real” fans. They have yet to choose the school they will be forever loyal to, but they are “real” fans of the players they’ve come to know and their dad.  They are aware it’s not just a Saturday ritual but a lifetime commitment of good people and hard work.

As of late, the roles have been reversed.  This has been Don’s new vantage point.

Reversed Roles

Reversed Roles

Libby decided she wanted to learn and compete in soccer.  Our Saturday’s had been occupied with pigskin, but this year we decided to make a change and let the girls build their own Saturday rituals.  The competition level, slightly diminished (thank goodness!) Field a bit smaller but the heart is equal.

Libby Hamilton Award

Libby Hamilton Award

It occurred to me this weekend as Libby received from CASL, The Hamilton Sportsmanship Award, that the outcome is the same.  Don has spent a lifetime committed to helping build a better person / student athlete and he’s still doing just that, only from a different vantage point. It is much closer to home now. Parkinson’s may have sidelined him temporarily but never will he give up on making a difference in human beings.

When Pigasso Met Mootisse – Mother’s Day

We are being besieged with print, television and corny radio ads recommending the best mothers day gifts to buy for 2013. My two are actually singing marketing jingles! Not to mention the flurry of media encouraging you that it’s not too late to send that special something to your mom. Equation: fed ex + you = happy mom. Top trending treasures this year, according to the Huffington Post, are a collection of perfumes, spa packages and home-made coupons. My children generally gift me the wonderful treat of breakfast in bed AND an explosion of their remnants in the kitchen. So when I attempt to wipe the dripping bacon grease from the knobs of my oven, I will look around and take in the vision of the real mothers day gifts my kids have made and we have preserved, framed and collected over time. Our very own exclusive art gallery. My youngest (5) recently took a session of classes on Henri Matisse. When our children were born into a competitive sporting world my main focus had always been balance. What better way to soften the edge of competition than the beauty of art.

Hadley channeling her inner Matisse

Hadley channeling her inner Matisse

These treasures litter my breakfast nook, bonus room and anywhere else I spend the majority of my day. Hadley’s teacher requested a family field trip this year. Temporarily housed in the Nasher Museum Of Art At Duke University was a collection of Matisse’s work and the modern masters, compiled together from the Cone Sisters. Prior to attending the exhibit we added to our library list for the week, children’s books on Matisse. Knowledge is power. They had a couple of great ones.

When Pigasso Met Mootisse

A Bird or Two: A Story About Henri Matisse

On the back of one book was a quote, that even if I had read it a hundred times, I only seemed to absorb it just this one reading. It said:

What I had to do, I did – the best I could – Henri Matisse 1869-1954

Libby Interpreting Picasso

Libby Interpreting Picasso – 2013

Libby's Matisse Inspiration 2008

Libby’s Matisse Inspiration 2008

Dear Girls,

Thank you for the gifts, your inner beauty and the heavenliness you create. It is something I treasure and in the end…..what I had to do, I did, the best I could is my offering back to you. I value you more than a Matisse masterpiece.

Love,

Mom

Muhammad Ali – Impossible is a DARE!

We are headed in to the fourth quarter (football pun intend) of 4th grade.  Hand in the air with the traditional four finger- last effort sprint – salute.  When the year kicked off, the phrase “Toto we are not in Kansas anymore” was referenced.  We just seemed to be entering into a whole new world.  Homework, which use to be completed on the drive home, now was taking a much larger effort- to be exact hours- sitting at a desk- immediately as we entered the house.  Snack served and sometimes she was there so long, snack rolled into dinner.  My youngest likes to pretend she has the same requirements from her pre-school teacher.  So to keep Hadley occupied for this new extended period was just as big of a challenge.  Often I heard, Mom whats 2+2 =  followed by an older voice asking what the exponent of x² + x² is.

4th Grade Historical Figure- Muhammad Ali

4th Grade Historical Figure- Muhammad Ali

Then, the first big assignment of the year, a oral book report on a historical figure, with the exclusion of sports figures.  They would take on their selected, teacher approved figure dressed in full character.  Endless options- so many to choose from.  Libby and I started brainstorming.  She was looking for someone fashion related- “too easy” I said- it wouldn’t stretch her boundaries.  A past president I suggest- “too boring”- a factual history buff she is not.  She rattled off who her friends had already selected- Walt Disney, Johnny Appleseed, Harriet Tubman, Neil Armstrong.  All with great teachable lessons to learn. Thought ensued as I went to bed that evening.  I shot an email to her teacher- in short it read….. Mrs. Adcock- I would like Libby to learn more about Muhammad Ali and present him for her book report.  I know that sports figures are not permitted but because he suffers from the challenges of Parkinson’s disease, like her father, I would really like her to learn about the man before the disease.  In true Mrs Adcock fashion, she enthusiastically agreed and we went to work.  At first Libby wasn’t thrilled with the life lesson I was imposing on her but soon after she watched a few videos and read a book – she was enjoying it.  Her book report was finished without any fights!  As a family we watched countless hours of interviews of Muhammad Ali – pre and post Parkinson’s days.  She even had Mrs Adcock cue one to the smart board during her report. She was happy with the end result, as was I.

In the process of this report, I too was inspired about the man before the disease.  We found the following quote about things being impossible.

Impossible - edited version

I printed it out on the heaviest weight paper I had and stared at it for days on my design boards.  Each glance, concentrating on a different word.

IMPOSSIBLE              –               DECLARATION              –              DARE

All seemed appropriate at different times.  As the final details of MagnaReady needed to be decided, I choose this quote to be inserted in every package that we send out. On the front is his saying and the back is our care instruction. A detail that is a declaration. Here’s to the dare.  If my 10 year old can dare to break out of her comfort zone and do a report to help educate her class not only on a story of a man but the disease he battles, and my husband can stand tall everyday while he faces the double dare this disease throws at him, then certainly, I can do my part and dare to reinvent a solution to a problem for so many.  Make life easier when it’s not. Dare to make a difference.  Dare to stand proud as a family. Dare to declare we choose to live our lives without the word impossible.

The full quote –

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

― Muhammad Ali

What’s In A Smile?

This week Don will officially become the bionic man. Watch out Lee Majors, Don Horton is after you! After four weeks of healing, the surgical implants from Deep Brain Stimulation will all be connected.  Many have questions… How does it work? Will you immediately see the results? How long will it last? and What are the benefits?

Well, one of the gifts that we look forward to seeing the most… …. is his simple smile.

Hadley asked “why doesn’t dad smile when he sees me?”  I felt my heart brake into a million pieces right before her big hazel eyes.  I responded reassuringly “he smiles”.  She’s my debater, so I knew this wasn’t going to be over as quickly as I wanted and I desperately needed to put my heart back together in my chest. “Mom, when you pick me up you always smile and I know you’re happy to see me but dad doesn’t.”  “Oh honey”, trying to stall and put together my words to be able to communicate to a five year old child as to why it seems that way. “Your dad smiles when he sees you, when he thinks about you, when he watches you sleep at night and even when you are arguing with your sister.  It’s just that there is a part of his brain that makes it hard to show emotion. You just have to feel it.  When he looks at you, when he takes you for a walk, when he reaches for your hand, when he’s playing with you and when he kisses you goodnight.  You are the highlight of dads day! You are why he wakes up. You are why he breathes and you are why he won’t give up.”  She’s 5, so I know I can relate everything to a song.  I said “Hads you know the Bruno Mars song we always sing… Just the way you are?”  THATS EXACTLY how dad thinks about you.  To quote……

bruno mars

This might be one of the harder parts for me to explain. Parkinson‘s sufferers often lose the ability to control the facial and vocal muscles which allow them to convey a range of different emotions. Although they continue to have natural emotional responses, often, they cannot indicate them in the normal manner, by smiling or frowning or by raising or lowering their voice. Instead, their face appears expressionless.

SO… if THIS

deep brain stimultion


plus (+)  THIS

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Don Horton Wedding

EQUALS (=)  THIS

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Hayes Horton and Hadley Horton – The Ultimate Smiles!

Then it will be a success!!

The Sands of Time

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I love design – reading about it, discussing it endlessly (my apologies to my friend Elizabeth), reviewing and tweaking mine, pinning my wish lists and dreaming of. I am a by nature a set designer. Everything in our home has meaning and some sort of attachment. Three years ago during the holiday season, on a trip to Anthropologie I stumbled upon a sand timer. It made me do a double take. A simple piece of beautiful handblown glass with silver crystal like sand sitting in the base. I had already checked out and then I inquired as to how many more were on hand. I only saw two. After checking the back for stock, they appeared with a total of 5. I declared I’d take all. This would be the gift to our closest friends that holiday season.

This hourglass piece, when I looked at it I didn’t just see something that was structurally beautiful or that just measured time. Some may see it as a conversation piece but I saw it as a meaningful listening tool. I had already visioned where it would live in our home. So as soon as I returned, it was placed in the living room or as my children call it, the meeting room. After school this is where I open mail and they decompress about the day they’ve conquered. Its our regrouping point. All uninterrupted by televisions or phones. We don’t spend much time in this room but it’s our sanctuary. Libby noticed it first and I explained the purpose of it. She flipped it over watching the sand for what seemed like a lengthy amount of time to transfer down through the glass channel into the bulbous end on the other side. She remarked how “cool” it was. I think she could have watched it forever, attempting to count each morsel of sand. I told the girls what my thought was for this new acquisition to our home. If any of us were ever happy, had a question, mad, sad, scared or just needed to be heard, this is the tool they would use to have the floor, uninterrupted. Our own pro-bono , free of fee therapy session. Just turn it over and start talking. You have until the sand reaches the bottom to speak your peace, deliver your news, plead your case or just be silly. With two girls I have always been focused on keeping the lines of communication open in our home. I assured them that if I were using it to speak my mind about something I was upset with them over – that by the time the last sand sliver had touched the bottom glass my anger would be gone and I would let it go. In theory, this sounds good and I attempt to maintain this commitment- but flashing forward to high school years- there may have to be an amendment to these rules! We have had a lot of fun with this. So much fun that Libby actually broke our first one. I think lots of truths have been spoken and more importantly heard. I treasure this small accessory.

The first holiday present I handed out that year was a couple of weeks early. My daughters best friends mother was fighting colon cancer at 39 valiantly. I placed a note in the box – stating what my hope for her family was. That all the hard moments would be gone by the time the sand had shifted sides. Unfortunately, she passed away a few months later. The rest I distributed to my closest girlfriends. Sharing with them a simple quote and a note about how clear I was on the importance of their friendship and how vivid I saw their roles in our life.

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”-Niccolo Machiavelli

Preparing for Dons impending surgery, we have spent a lot more time in the “meeting room” and we are a little less formal about picking the hourglass up and turning it over to speak. That is of course, unless someone is in trouble…. As our truths have been spoken lately, I wish for the same note that I placed in Lisa’s box…. a hope that the sands are shifting.