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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: coping

Was that a ....? Never mind.

Terri Reinhart

There are a lot of places where dogs are allowed to visit nowadays, but hospital infusion centers are not the likeliest places to see someone in a wheelchair with a poodle on their lap. It worried me. Had I really seen this? Sure, the poodle could have been a service dog, but .. well, how many service dog poodles have we seen? I turned to my daughter. Dare I ask? 

There's a new commercial out about Parkinson's disease. It's presented as an awareness ad; awareness of the lesser known symptoms of hallucinations and delusions in Parkinson's. The ad is very emotional, and I understand because these symptoms can be frightening, but it's also stirred up quite a lot of mixed feelings within the Parkinson's community. I mean, come on! It's hard enough to feel confident socially. Now you're going to blast it to the world that we're seeing things? The ad doesn't start explaining delusions, but just the word... it doesn't sound good. 

And that's part of the problem. As soon as we hear of the possible issues that can affect our thinking, we immediately want to say, "but that's really rare. It doesn't affect most people", and by that we mean, "not me". What we also mean is, "dear God, please not me". All sorts of our culture's worst insults come to mind, especially as they're being used often by and about people in politics these days: crazy, loony, lame, insane, idiot, screw loose, mad, demented, mental, or sad. The stigma of mental illness is often more damaging than the illness itself. When there is such shame attached to any health condition, it makes it much more difficult for people to ask for help.

Okay, with this in mind, having an awareness ad about hallucinations should be a good thing, right? By the way, this ad is put out by a drug company. Oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly), the ad doesn't mention the fact that a lot of these symptoms can be caused by certain Parkinson's drugs. There's no suggestion to have your doctor evaluate the meds you are already taking. The patient in the ad is portrayed by an actor. The sound effects and music are eerie. The whole feeling is one of sadness and fear. But they tried. They are honestly trying to bring awareness to these symptoms, the symptoms we don't want to talk about. And sell drugs. Let's be honest. They're marketing their product.

So how can we bring awareness to this type of issue without portraying the person as sad and suffering and dependent? ... without portraying these issues as a tragedy? Could we provide a somewhat more positive picture? When my able bodied friends see a commercial like this, I brace myself and get ready to hear their condolences on having this horrible, tragic illness that has obviously robbed me of having any sort of a normal life. 

Would someone like to stand up and tell me what normal is? 

On the other hand, there are those typical drug company commercials which show beautiful, cheerful, active adults swimming, climbing mountains, taking their grandchildren to the park... and hey! They are beautiful, cheerful, and active because they take this drug! All the while, of course, you hear the narrator speaking as quickly as possible describing all the possible side (ie: non-marketable) effects of this drug and all the ways it can kill you. Let's not go there.

I hallucinated once - only once that I know of. I was in a restaurant with my grandson and I watched a family come in. Someone was pushing a stroller that had a doll in it and someone else was holding a chihuahua in their arms. A couple adults took turns holding the baby doll. Why would anyone bring a chihuahua into the restaurant? And, putting the dog in the high chair? I said something to my grandson and he looked at me and laughed and said, "Grandma, you're silly!" That was my first clue that just maybe my brain was playing a few tricks on me. Will it happen again? I was relieved when I finally asked Emma about the dog I saw at the infusion center. She had seen it, too. Someone really and truly had a service poodle.

What do I need to know about hallucinations? The one I had was right after starting on new medication that gave me insomnia. I've since talked to others who've had hallucinations when taking that particular drug. My experience with hallucinations was startling, not scary. All the same, it took awhile before I told anyone about it. Had I seen this ad right after my experience, I would have totally freaked out.  

While I don't have THE answer, perhaps it's time to let a group of people with Parkinson's create these ads.

chihuahua-666413_960_720.jpg

Guest Blog - Parkinson's: The Bigger Picture

Sara Ochs

"Sara! Come sit down with me and listen to this song." Youtube is calling again and with a sigh, I try to find an excuse to get to the kitchen and help my mom with the dishes or take the dog out for yet another potty break. You see, my dad sits comfortably in his La-z-boy recliner for the majority of the day (which is hours on end), watching the endless classic rock videos taking him back to the normal life he once experienced and enjoyed...the life before Parkinson's set it.

All those around him are searching diligently to find some purpose of life for him as he slips into an isolated "coma" of the mind. My father is currently in stage 4 of the disease. Lucky for him, his grandchildren keep him on his toes with the occasional, "Grandpa, catch!", as a workout ball comes flying at him full force. Or, the newest fuzzy addition to the family jumps up on him licking his beard uncontrollably, scampering for all those yummy scraps from the previous meal. He definitely gets his fair share of attention whether he likes it or not!

By far, I have the most caring mother a person could ask for. She is selfless  in every way towards my father. I mean, who gets a whole bowl of seasonal fruit, scrambled eggs and homemade whole wheat bread for breakfast everyday! She cares for his every need and takes on the burden of a life that was handed to her unexpectedly. We all make plans for the future and have goals we wish to accomplish. My parents longed to serve a mission for our church and travel the world together but the cards just didn't deal that hand.

The road has been a long, burdensome one. My parents have gone through the headache of 5 different neurologist who all think he needs a different medication, all with different effects that go along with them from horrible tremors to hallucinations. You have non-stop physical therapy, frequent dentist appointments because eating and brushing become very difficult, applications for breathing treatments, in-house care and the list goes on. Bottom line, those who are in this boat know that the storm is tremendous!

Now what?... Well, we all have that gift of agency. We get to choose happiness or sorrow. We can choose to mope around all day feeling sorry for ourselves or do something about it! And that is just what our family chose, to do something about it! We all decided to have an outing, at least once a month, to take my father out of his comfort zone into the great outdoors. Now, he does get outside occasionally but this is an outing that would involve a longer period of time with much more activity than normal.

So, off we go! This is where the story gets interesting. Every drug that has been prescribed to my dear old dad cannot give him the joy and stimulation that the outdoors provides. Just this last weekend we spend the day in a regional park, listening to the birds sing, watching the squirrels chase each other and laughed as we raced around in a 4-seater pedal bike. My dad had the chance to laugh, heighten his senses and experience a piece of his life before it all changed. I have to say that the worst thing for a patient with Parkinson's is for them to sit around watching TV or stay inactive. Their speech slows down, mobility is more crippling, overall they become completely immobile. We will all be making a better effort to improve his quality of life through the God given beauties of the Earth.

I think everyone would agree that the quality of life is more important than life itself. As loved ones and family, we choose quality of life for my father. As we accept the change Parkinson's has brought into our lives, we can now focus on those things we CAN change to make the quality of life the best that is possibly can be. That's the bigger picture!

Thank you, Sara, for sharing your story with us! 

Always Darkest before the Dawn

Terri Reinhart

I got up growly today. Snarling at my husband, who dared to be still asleep in bed, blankets pulled up to his chin (God, he looked... happy... damn him), I lurched out to the kitchen and took my meds. How long will it take for them to take this time?

I'm retired. There is no earthly reason I have to be up by 6:30. It's way too early, but my legs decided to argue. If I didn't get up, they threatened to get out of bed without me. Hah. I'd like to see them try. Restless leg syndrome isn't for wimps. You have to be strong and not let your legs call the shots. Get up one day at 6:00 and the next thing you know, they'll have you getting up at 5 am and going on a 5 mile run before breakfast.

I managed to hold them off till I got sick of trying to hold them still, then I got up out of self defense. Fine. I'll get the animals fed, take the laundry off the clothesline, and make breakfast. Then, if the legs have moved enough and the meds have taken effect, maybe I can have a nap.

It's raining. Not a light quiet sprinkle, but a downpour trying to make up for the last drought.  I put on my boots, coat, and hat. I slipped and slid out to the chicken yard and barely managed to get the grain out without falling on my ass. The chickens refused to come out of their house. As I walked back, I saw a couple of squirrels happily devouring the expensive feed. I growled at them, but they continued eating. As for the soaking wet laundry, it could stay outside.

Back in the house, I started to heat water for tea and sat down at my computer to see the news of the day. I should know by now. Don't get your first peek at news for the day on the internet. The weird news floats to the top and I was greeted with:

"Nebraska Woman Sues All Homosexuals", "Obama plans to invade Texas, kidnap George W. Bush, and create a new kingdom of liberal darkness", "Anti-evolution Legislation Introduced in Alabama House", and "Chance of snow for Mother's Day"

It was enough to make me want to crawl back in bed and pull the covers over my head. My legs, however, were still restless and the feeling had drifted up to my arms and chest. I did a few stretches then got my cup of tea and tried to curl up on a soft chair.  Mmmm... the tea did wonders for me and I reminded myself it is always darkest before the dawn.  My craziest symptoms often come up just before the meds kick in and... yes... My muscles were starting to relax and I could breathe easier again.

The rest of me relaxed, too. I know our country is making progress, even though it often seems to take 2 steps back for every 3 steps forward. We're still making progress and, unfortunately, when progress becomes noticeable, it often comes with violent backlash from those who oppose it. I'm trying to stay positive, but it also takes work to continue taking those forward steps. We're doing what we can. We're getting more involved with city politics, which is where we can make a difference. In the coming weeks, we'll be helping to get signatures for a petition, going door to door handing out leaflets, and I will continue to carefully watch the actions of our local school board, which has become incredibly dysfunctional and disrespectful towards teachers and students. I'll also continue to speak out on behalf of my friends in the LGBTQ community, whose presence brings such beauty and richness to our world.

Okay, for now, it's time to take another deep breath, let my muscles finally relax, and... nap. If I'm to do all that work, I'm going to have to rest up. I curled up on the couch and was almost asleep when I heard my husband walk in the room. As I dozed off, I imagined him snarling at me. I had dared to go to sleep again, just as the day was getting started.

And I'm sure I looked happy.

Am I Losing My Mind?

Terri Reinhart

"In other words, Parkinson's may not be unique to me, but I am unique to my Parkinson's. I am not a collection of symptoms to be managed; I am a complex person, and I want caring physicians who see all of me and who are willing to walk down the path of Parkinson's with me. In my neurologist, of course, I want a doctor who understands Parkinson's inside and out, but I want him to understand me inside and out, too.

Thomas Graboys, MD from his book, "Life in Balance"

Before my diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, I was becoming anxious about my health. My balance was off in more ways than one. No one can think very clearly when they have significant health challenges that go for years with either no diagnosis or several diagnoses which the doctors won't agree on. The physical issues with balance, bradykinesia, and dystonia were just the tip of the iceberg. At best of times, we can't separate our illness from how the rest of our body and brain functions. If you've ever broken a toe, which is something quite minor in the scheme of things, you understand this.

Cognitive issues, like it or not, are a part of Parkinson's. When these cognitive issues become unrelenting and affect our daily lives - other than just when we're tired and meds have worn off (we all have off days) - it's time to check in with our doctor. Most of us have experienced the sadness of watching someone we love slowly lose their memory and cognitive abilities due to Alzheimer's or dementia. The estimates of how many people with PD will develop Parkinson's dementia vary greatly. I've seen figures anywhere from a conservative 20% to a frightening 80%. 

The percentage of people with Parkinson's psychosis is difficult to assess easily as well. Dr. Rohit Dhall from the Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center in California, spoke to me on the phone. "About a third of (Parkinson's) patients can experience psychosis at some point," he said, " and maybe 15% will have profound psychosis requiring a low dose of an antipsychotic medication." 

He continued, "Our biggest fear is losing our minds. In general, People with Parkinson's remain sharp."

With psychosis, Dr. Dhall explained, the patient is out of touch with reality. This can include hallucinations (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, or tasting something which is not there), delusional thinking (false, firm beliefs - the house is not my house, the person here is not my spouse but rather an imposter, people are trying to poison me). Often, if there is a mild psychosis due to medication, the patient will retain their awareness of what is real and not real.  

When someone comes in to their clinic with psychotic behaviors, Dr. Dhall said they look first at their medications and make adjustments if need be. All the dopamine agonists (ie: Requip, Mirapex), levodopa, and some of the others can increase the likelihood of hallucinations. The doctors also look at the patient's history. Do they have an infection or other illness which could be causing this? How long have they had Parkinson's? Do they have Parkinson's Dementia?

Psychosis can come with the advancing disease as secondary to changes in the brain related to PD. Those who have cognitive challenges of Parkinson's Dementia are at greater risk. There are medications, however, some of the common drugs which treat psychosis in the general population will worsen PD symptoms. It can also take awhile to find the right combination of medications.  

When a medication is causing or exacerbating a psychosis, it seems reasonable to simply take the person off the drug. This isn't always practical and the patient and doctor have to weigh the benefits against the undesirable effects. In this case, it would be helpful to have a medication to help mitigate the effects of the PD meds without causing further nasty stuff. This is when my head starts to spin.

Remember the old carnival fun houses with, as Wikipedia says, "various devices designed to surprise, challenge, and amuse the visitor", often incorporating activities which distort reality (mirrors) or throw us off balance physically? I was never very fond of them. Looking back, it seems like my first years with PD, especially as my medications were constantly being adjusted, were much like being in one of these places. It wasn't all bad, just exhausting after awhile. 

I asked Dr. Dhall if there was anything we could do to lower our chance of getting PD Dementia or PD Psychosis. Fortunately, though there is nothing we can do to guarantee we won't have severe cognitive challenges, the standard recommedations for avoiding demetia are valid here. 

They are:
Take care of your heart health. Eat right and exercise. 
Exercise your mind with problem solving tasks and word retrieval games. If you are regularly engaged in exercising your brain, it will help. Be engaged in the community. When withdrawing from community work, some people decline more quickly.
Pay attention to mood. Mild depression will affect cognition, often because you give up quickly. 

Let's face it, we're all control freaks. It's engrained in our society right now. Not only are we supposed to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we also must take charge of our life, be the change we want to see in the world, learn to dance in the rain, and always be positive. Our society still has to learn to accept and value times of weakness. 

This morning, I visited a lovely woman who has Alzheimer's disease. She couldn't remember her granddaughter or her son-in-law. She couldn't create full sentences or ideas. It didn't matter. I had heard she was a fighter and a feminist. When I said this to her, she straightened in her chair and said, "Yes!" And she let me know, in her halting, disjointed way, she wished she could still be out in the world doing things. "I love it," she said, smiling. 

Later, I wrote to her son, "When I get old, I hope I can be as delightful as your mom. I've experienced this with other people, but she was a reminder that, even though Alzheimer's can be very sad, SHE isn't. I'm sure there were times of real struggle and may still be, but her warmth shines through."

As Dr. Thomas Graboys said, as he was battling Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia, we're much more than just a collection of symptoms to be managed. 

Learning How to Grow Older

Terri Reinhart

As I watch my parents get older, there are so many things I think about. In fact, there are so many things, I have to keep lists. Most of this is purely practical: the paperwork I need to get done so they can move to their assisted living apartment, what they will need to bring with them, what are all those things they can't take with them and what will be do with them. That's a long enough list to last a few months right there. 

For better or for worse, we can't be only practical when it comes to our parents aging. There's a whole range of emotions and memories, as well. There's also some dirty laundry to deal with, even if it's just in my own mind, and it has to be sorted, cleaned, and hung out on the line to dry. 

It's also made me look at how I want to be as I get older. Do we have a choice?

It's debatable how much of our health is due to our lifestyle choices and how much is due to luck, karma, and good genes. Eating healthy and exercising is good, but then my grandmother ate lots of rich desserts and she lived to be 97.  My choice, my ideal, would be to live a full life and be able to say at the end, as my mother-in-law did, "It's been fun, hasn't it!"

What I've learned this summer is I don't ever want to resent being a year older. I'm not going to buy into the youth obsessed culture. I don't want to pretend I'm still 35. I'm not. I don't want to dye my hair or hesitate when someone asks my age. Why would I? Being 57 is cool! Each time in our life is unique and I'm enjoying my life right now.

Don't tell me I'm 57 years young. We wouldn't tell a child he is 10 years young. I'm getting older, not younger. All of me is getting older. I don't have the physical body of a teenager or young adult and, thankfully, I don't have the mind of a teenager, either. I wouldn't want it. A lot of work goes into learning and developing as an adult, and the work never stops. 

I don't want to fear getting older. I don't even want to fear getting very old. Many people don't make it that far. I'm not afraid of nursing homes. I worked in one. There's also the example of our former neighbor who, at the age of 92, met a lovely old lady in the nursing home where they both lived. They spent their days holding hands and talking to each other. No one else understood what they were saying, but they enjoyed every moment. I'd like that. If the other person was my husband getting very old with me, it would be even cooler.

The only thing that scares me about dementia and Alzheimer's is the possibility of becoming mean to people I care about. Even then, I know it's a phase which sometimes, but not always, accompanies these diseases and inevitably will disappear in the fog of memory loss. The memory loss doesn't worry me nearly as much. The heart often remembers, even if the brain doesn't. At least I believe this is true.

Ah, if I wasn't in the middle of taking care of my elderly parents, I wouldn't be spending time thinking of what it would be like to turn 85 or 90 years old. I've still got a long ways to go and I'm far too busy being 57 and spending time with my favorite 60 year old, 33 year old, 32 year old, 30 year old, 21 year old, 4 year old, 3 year old, and 1 year old.... not to mention my 85 and 90 year old parents.... and all those friends in between... to dwell on.. well, anything at the moment. 

So I'll just leave you with a few good quotes from some amazing women:

Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
— Betty Friedan
At 20, we worry what others think of us. At 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.
— Ann Landers
The great thing about getting older is you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.
— Madeleine L'Engle
I’m a person who gets better with practice. Getting older is awesome because you get more practice.
— Zooey Deschanel

                                                                                                        


Living Well - Exercising the Heart

Terri Reinhart

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.

The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.

The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.

The opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” 

Elie Wiesel

In other words, I'm not talking about aerobics.

Physical exercising will help keep my physical body strong, yet there may come a day when my body isn't strong anymore. Making lifelong learning a priority will help keep my mind sharp, yet there may come a day when my mind slows and I don't remember things so easily. Life doesn't come with guarantees.

Even if there aren't any guarantees, I'm still going to place my bets on living a long life and staying upright. If there's any possibility I can keep myself going longer by doing something about it, I'll do something about it, but I won't go overboard. Once in awhile I'll even have a McDonald's cheeseburger. I'll fudge a little here and there. I won't fudge when it comes to taking care of my heart – and doing whatever I can to help care for the heart in every person I come in contact with.

Six years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's, I went back to the very first article I wrote for this journal. Do I still feel the same way?

Here's part of what I wrote.

* * *

If I ever need others to take care of me, I want people around me who will allow me to live a normal life.

This means:

· Friends and family who will get me out of the house and into the world, even if I am grumpy about it.

· Friends who will pour me a glass of wine and help me drink it, even if I’m not supposed to have it.

· Friends who will tell me bullshit stories and make me laugh.

· Friends who will make me cry.

· Friends and family who won’t mind if I tell the same stories more than once.

· Gossip. If there is a juicy story, I will want to hear it.

· Adult stories. I don’t ever want to be talked to as a child. Politics, religion - don’t stick with “safe” subjects!! I want to always have an opinion. You can even swear, if you need to.

· Friends who will get mad at me from time to time. And who will take it if I get mad at them.

· Friends who will tell me if I’m out of line.

· I want my friends and family to tell me what is going on in their lives, even if it’s painful. Don’t keep things from me so I don’t worry. You are my family and my friends and I have every right to worry about you.

· Friends and family who will hold my hand or put an arm around my shoulder.

· At least one friend who is not afraid to kiss me on the lips, even if I drool.

· Someone who will sing with me, no matter how I sound.

Being normal, being a real living human being means experiencing life. And life is both beautiful and painful. Experiencing life means experiencing disappointments and triumphs, joy and intense sadness. Sometimes it means getting really pissed off, too. And it can be delightful to get really pissed off from time to time. It’s energizing and it keeps the brain working.

I don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool. Being safe doesn’t mean padding all the corners and keeping me from falling down. Being alive means getting hurt from time to time. I don’t ever want to be too protected. I want to be able to struggle – physically and emotionally. I want to wrestle with the real questions of life and love and friendship and what does it all mean, anyway?!

I want to keep bumping into life and crashing into love. Life does make its marks on each of us, but don’t worry. The marks you see on me?

They’re just love bruises.

* * *

Do I still feel the same way? Yes, but I rarely think about it. When I do, I know that what I want more than anything is to be able to do all this for my family and friends.

Six years can make a difference.

If I was a car, my husband would have traded me in by now

Terri Reinhart

Today is the official last day of the year. Everything, even the planet, is a year older. Time is taking its toll on our household. During 2012, our washing machine went out on us twice, our dishwasher gave up completely, everything needs to be painted, and my doctor tells me I need my electrical works rewired.

If I was a car, my husband would have traded me in by now. Let's face it, would anyone keep a car around if the shock absorbers were shot, the heating and air conditioning came on by themselves, often getting mixed up as to which was which, and the transmission had gone haywire? It's not as if we get rid of cars when the ashtrays get dirty, but there comes a point.

Our old Toyota had a sticky valve in the carburator. When it stalled, I immediately turned on the hazard lights and popped open the hood. Our son, John (age 10), got out, took off the air cleaner and stuck a pencil into the valve to keep it open while I restarted the car. Then he put everything together and jumped back in. We kept that car going like that for a long, long time.

Another old Toyota had problems with the ignition. If we took the key out, we had no assurance we could get it back in and turn it. We had the same problem with the door lock. No problem. We simply drove the car and left it unlocked with the key in the ignition where ever we went. Either we got lucky, or it was actually stolen many times, driven around the block and returned.

Our Ford van had a lot of miles on it, but we still kept it – until the transmission went out. At first, I would put it in first gear and rev up the engine for several seconds before suddenly it would kick in and jerk forward. Gradually it gave up and refused to go anywhere. By that time, it had over 200,000 miles.

And me? I have to warm up my engine a lot longer these days. It takes at least a couple cups of tea with caffeine. Of course, there's always the chance of flooding the engine. Then we're delayed while I make several trips to the bathroom. Once my engine is running, I try putting myself in gear; however, the transmission is faulty and I often end up going backwards or sideways.

I tend to veer toward the right, which ordinarily means the tires need to be rotated. As I don't have tires, I just keep veering. I think it's my electrical system. At least my mechanic, I mean my doctor says so. She has decided it would be best to get a system in place so I could be hotwired. This would be the DBS or “Drive Better with Science” system. It is run by the “Darn Battery System” which would be implanted in my chest, turning it into a “Durable Boxy Square” 3rd breast.

The fact that the real name is “Deep Brain Stimulation” doesn't help me in the heebie jeebie department. That I've talked to many people who've had this done and speak very highly of it, doesn't really help, either. I'm not ready to do the complete overhaul. For now, I'll make do with the jalopy veering and stalling and crashing.

The crashing has been happening a lot more lately. I won't make any comments on my exterior shape, except it would be worse if I hadn't added larger bumpers in recent years. I admit, from time to time, I worry a little. It's a pain to put up with a beat up old car. Will my husband continue to put up with a beat up old wife?

Not to worry, he says. I'm an old classic and he's sentimental about old classics.

When Life hands You a box of Rotten Peaches

Terri Reinhart

Forget the lemons. We know what to do when life hands us lemons, and lemonade is just the not so creative beginning. There's lemons in furniture polish, cleaners, and laundry detergent. Honey-lemon tea can help soothe a sore throat, and socks soaked in lemon water and put on your feet can bring down a fever*. There are so many incredible uses for lemons. If life hands you lemons, that's cool.

But what do you do when life hands you a box of rotten peaches? Years ago, a friend told me this story:

At a time when dishonest peach salesmen roamed the country, a man bought a box of peaches from a roadside stand. When he got home and looked carefully in the box, he discovered that underneath the top layer of good fruit, everything else was rotten. You can't make peach cobbler or peach juice with rotten fruit. In fact, there's not much at all you can do with a whole box of rotten peaches. The peach pits are even poisonous.

What do you do when life hands you a box of rotten peaches?

The man was angry at first and went back to the roadside stand to complain, but when he arrived at the place, both the stand and the dishonest peach salesman were gone. What could he do?

What do you do when life hands you a box of rotten peaches?

The man walked home with his box. As he had paid a good price for the peaches, he didn't want to just throw it all away. After taking out the few good pieces of fruit, he took the rest to a place in his garden where nothing was growing. He dug some shallow trenches and buried the rotten peaches. He didn't just leave it at that. Over the next few years, he tended all of his garden, including the area where the peaches had been planted. When the first tiny seedlings appeared, he carefully weeded around them, keeping the soil moist. In the winter, he added mulch to protect the new trees from freezing.

It takes four years to go from peach seedling to peach harvest. That's a lot of patience.

I tend to get impatient when life hands me lemons. I spent many years dutifully trying to make lemonade, trying to cover up the sour taste by adding something sweet. Eventually I realized what a bitter aftertaste this had for me. For a long time after that, I simply complained about how sour the lemons were. It has taken a long time for me to learn all the other more creative things one can do with all those sour lemons. I still forget from time to time, but fortunately I have friends who gently remind me to shut up and stop complaining.

There are a lot of positive, inspirational quotes out there. I enjoy many of them, but this story is my favorite. It reminds me to have patience. It reminds me that thinking positively isn't enough and can, if not done properly, be a bit like adding sweetener to lemons. It's good, but not if I use it to cover up my challenges and pretend they aren't there. I need to remember to work positively with all the ups, downs, lemons, and rotten peaches in my life; and keep working, even when I don't necessarily feel positive.

It would be a lovely fairy tale ending if the dishonest peach seller came back and the man graciously gave him a box of good peaches. The thief may have even turned over a new leaf and become an honest man. Ah, but even good farmers are still human, and for all I know, he might have punched the salesman first, then given him a peach or two.

It's more likely the two never met again, for the story is true. I once knew this peach farmer, which makes this story just that much sweeter.

peach tree.jpg

Written in honor of all those friends to whom life has recently given large boxes of rotten peaches and all those who have tended their gardens faithfully for so many years.

 * http://www.steinerhealth.org/health/fever/   instructions for fever wrap