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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

Battle Plans

Terri Reinhart

I’ve been chopping down trees again.

Some people drink when they’re stressed.  Some eat lots and lots of chocolate.  Some people go shopping.  I chop down trees.

I’ve been chopping down trees for days, which means I’ve had a stressful week.  Of course, I don’t chop down any old tree, just because I’m stressed.  If this were the case, we wouldn’t have any trees in our yard.  I chop them down only if they deserve to come down.  These particular trees were elms, covered with black scale, with leaves so eaten by bugs that they resemble lace filigree.  They were not very attractive.

They had also become a bit overgrown.  The previous owners of this property obviously felt that one could never have too many trees.  When we bought the property, we were somewhat naïve as to how much work it would be to keep up with all this vegetation.  Armed with machetes, we explored our new garden, finding a number of hidden treasures such as concrete benches, numerous old coke bottles, a BB gun, and a doorway leading to an ancient underground temple. 

After almost 20 years, we have made quite a lot of headway in our constant battle to keep the vegetation from taking over completely.  We can walk through the trees in our backyard without taking along the machete and without losing our sense of direction.  The elm hedge out front, however, has remained one of our biggest chores.  Elms grow fast.  If we had trimmed them weekly, perhaps we could have kept them at bay; however, this did not happen.  We looked out the window one day and saw that the hedges had shot up to 15 feet, during the overnight rainstorm. 

This wasn’t just an elm hedge; it was an impenetrable elm fortress.  I was getting claustrophobic.

Our neighbor wasn’t so sure of my plans to cut down the hedge.  She looked at me doubtfully and said, “You won’t like it.  It’s going to be so open; you’ll probably get more visitors.”  I didn’t think this was a bad thing at all, so I started working.

After a week of doing battle, armed only with hand pruners and a tree saw, I felt much better.  This is a wonderful way to relieve stress.  I’m surprised it hasn’t been discovered by more people.  Most of the work, I did myself, by hand.  Chris knew better than to interfere.  I cut off the branches, lopped off the tops, and cut down the smaller trees.  I got good and sweaty.  After my hard work was done, Chris came with the chain saw and cut out the trunks of the trees in minutes.

I have learned by past experience to pace myself so that I don’t collapse completely when I’m done.  I worked only for an hour each day, in the cool of the early morning, except for yesterday... and the day before yesterday.  That's when I found myself working in 100 degree weather at noon because I was excited to see the job finished. Today, I collapsed completely.

The yard looks better, too.  As we did in the back yard forest, we found treasures hidden in the elms.  A few lovely honeysuckles, chokecherries, and lilacs were valiantly struggling to survive.  We’ll prune them carefully so they can grow without being crowded and nearly strangled.   There is still plenty of privacy, even more than I need or want. 

Privacy is okay to a point, but I wouldn't ever want to close myself in too much.  My health challenges have made me more aware of how dependent I am on others, both for my physical and emotional health.  I tend to go to the opposite extreme.  Open the doors and windows! Come visit anytime!

I have always enjoyed being with people.  Walking the three blocks home from school as a teenager, I often found reason to dawdle on my way.  When I arrived home at 5 or 6 pm, my mom would not be worried.  She knew I had stopped to chat with someone.  I got to know a lot of people.  One of my regular stops was to see the Hageman’s.  Mr. Hageman was my special friend and he and his wife became my neighborhood grandparents.  Mr. Hageman always told me that he wanted to be there when I "walked down the aisle”.  Unfortunately, he died too soon, but we included his favorite hymns in our wedding ceremony.  There were others, too, customers from my paper route, and school friends.  I learned very early that everyone has stories to tell. 

Now that our elm hedge has been taken down, I don’t have any more trees I can start attacking when I have a stressful day.  I’m not worried. I’ll find something to do.  If I get desperate, Chris will find some work for me.  In the meantime, our yard is so open now. Maybe we will get more visitors. 

That would be fine with me.  I love listening to stories.  That's nice after a stressful week, too.