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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.

Filtering by Tag: art

When Do You Call It Quits?

Terri Reinhart

My friend, Ed Sikov, recently wrote a wonderful article about writing. With the title, "How Do You Know When Your Writing Career Is Over?", I was almost too scared to read it, wondering if I'd find out my writing career should be over. It's way too easy for me to believe. Scared or not, I read it anyway. Ed's a friend. He's also someone I consider to be a real writer, he has written books and articles and gets paid to do it. Any advice he gives, I'll take seriously.

Soon enough, Ed reassures his readers. All we have to do to be a real writer is... write. Write consistently. Don't say we're going to write, just do it. Don't stop because we get rejection notices or because someone thinks it's a silly thing to do (Ed words all this much better than I do). I would encourage any and all writers to read this article, more than once. Print it out and keep it handy for those times when you get discouraged.

Then, about halfway through his article, he speaks about his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease and how this affected his writing. What he had been doing for years as a professional writer didn't work anymore. He didn't call it quits; he changed how he was writing. This article of his is proof he still is very good at what he does.

I would also encourage any and all people with Parkinson's disease or other chronic health challenges to read this article, print it out, and keep it handy. It's easy to get discouraged when it's harder to concentrate, harder to find the fine motor control, harder to find the energy to do things we used to enjoy so much. We have to learn when to take a step back and change how we do things, not call it quits.

Craft work was a huge part of my life for a long time. It's not that I cannot do it anymore, but the end product of my art work was no longer up to my standards. So I called it quits on a few things, like felting and artistic books. I couldn't think art anymore; couldn't get into that special art zone. I called it quits on broom making too, but that was for another reason; it's just too hard physically. I'm cleaning out my studio and giving a lot of art supplies away.

I still make simple books from time to time and I knit. I don't think I'll be tackling any complicated lace patterns, but I can still do the basics. It's enough and it's very satisfying.

I also write. Oddly enough, I didn't really start writing until after I was diagnosed with Parkinson's. This blog began as articles I wrote simply to help me process this new direction my life had taken. I finally put them on the website because I wanted to make sure I wouldn't lose them if my computer crashed. I didn't really expect anyone to read them. Perhaps this made it more exciting to hear I made the top 15 Parkinson's blogs of 2017, chosen by Healthline. 

I've made the list for a number of years now, but I never expect it. I've run across some wonderful new blogs by people with Parkinson's disease and, if there is a year I am not chosen, I won't be the least bit offended. I won't call it quits, either. Writing seems to be in my DNA. My father wrote his first novel at age 85. Our son, John, is becoming well known for his poetry, and our daughter, Emma, has had two of her short plays chosen to be performed. I'll do my best to keep up.

And before I sign off, here's my new favorite Parkinson's blog:

Small Girl With Parkinson's by Meg Bernard

Oh, and if you haven't done it already, read Ed Sikov's article


Making Friends with the Mirror

Terri Reinhart

My dad has a wonderful attitude about growing old. He tells his doctor that, with all his aches and pains, he doubts he has more than twenty good years left. He just turned 87 last week. When he feels his age more than any other time, is when he looks in the mirror. Then he wonders who that old man is looking out at him. It's a shock, realizing that he is looking at himself. He doesn't feel that old. 

During my first year of kindergarten teaching, I had a young boy in my class whose father could do anything, at least according to his young son. I had the task of reading a story to the nap time group every afternoon and, no matter what the story was about, as soon as I finished reading, this boy would say loudly, “My dad can do that.” As his dad just happened to be one of my colleagues, I had a delightful time imagining him, in his white shirt and tie, fighting tigers, climbing high mountains, and capturing alligators.

In my own way, I tell myself the same thing all the time. When I saw home made brooms for the first time, I was immediately intrigued and looked hard at how they were made. My first thought? I bet I could do that. The same thing with binding books or sewing a diaper stacker for my new grandson. How are they made? I bet I could do that. I've gotten myself in trouble from time to time because I commit to doing something that I've never done before, assuring myself that “I know I can do that” before I realize what I'm doing or how large of a job I've just taken on. 

This is why I am now finishing numerous craft projects, starting a business, preparing to be a health mentor to a group of medical students later this week, and writing a novel. Can I do that? I have no idea, but that's not the point. If I don't try, I'll never know. 

Watching someone dance is beautiful, amazing, and awe inspiring, and it makes me squirm in my seat. I don't want to just watch, thank you very much. To be truthful, I am more likely now to say, “I wish I could do that”, but that's just my thinking. My arms and legs decide on their own and begin to follow along. I can feel it in my bones. My body decides it can dance and is just waiting for me to catch up. In my imagination, I look and move just as beautifully as the dancers whom I am watching.

Dancing in my Dance for Parkinson's class is even better than in my imagination because I'm really moving! I might miss a step or two and I might accidentally start walking the wrong way, but that's okay because I'm a dancer. I'm determined. I can do that. The music starts and I'm off. Plie, port de bras, tendu, brush forward, brush back. Even the words are beautiful.

Then we turn and face the mirror. Ohmigod. I don't really look like a dancer, do I? Who is that dumpy middle aged woman with Parkinson's disease, who is trying awkwardly to keep up with the teachers? Again I realize how much we, especially all of us females, are taught to dislike our bodies. Really, I don't look at anyone else and feel the need to be critical of their bodies. In fact, as an artist, I find myself savoring every wrinkle and all the wonderful oddities that make each of us unique. As a friend, I see you, not just how you look. I know my friends do the same for me.

Okay, my next challenge is to make friends with the mirror. That is who I am and I really wouldn't want to be any different. I rather like who I am right now. Along with learning how to dance, I'm taking on this bigger challenge. I'm going to learn to enjoy watching myself, as I am, moving and dancing, awkward as I may be, in the mirror.

I can do that.

This video is from our Rhythm and Grace dance class.  Thank you to the Parkinson's Association of the Rockies for the video and for sponsoring this class!!