Termites, Parkinson’s and Executive Function

It’s always something.

~Gilda Radner

Termites are big headaches in Florida. As a general rule, termite season is in springtime, when the weather warms up enough for termites to “swarm”. They emerge from their mature colonies in the hundreds or thousands to establish new termite colonies. When they do, it is one of the few times when homeowners can easily see these normally hidden insects. I would find them flying around the kitchen in the evening. The counter top would be covered with larvae hatching and wings.

The effective way to get rid of them is to tent the house and have it fumigated. You can attempt to just treat the affected areas with injections. The problem with that method is the termites move around. They have lots of choices with an open wood beam ceiling in dining and living room and antique furniture. We had some beams treated a few years ago, but it did not get them. We also discovered powder post beetles were feasting at our house. The beetles were in the kitchen cabinets or beams above them. Although they do not swarm, they leave sawdust clues on top of the ceramic cook top. Powder post beetles compared to wood termites are slow eaters and will take many years for them to destroy an area. Tenting has been on the “A” to do list, but not eagerly scheduled!!

My Executive Function–No Problem

The tenting project is event coordination! This really means it deals with cognition. One of the most common cognitive changes associated with Parkinson’s is executive function. These functions include making complex decisions, keeping multiple things straight, organizing tasks and doing tasks in specific sequence. I am blessed that I do not have issues with executive function. I had to work out an acceptable schedule with the exterminating company depending on their tenting commitments, the vet for boarding Chauncey, Grace and Maggie Mae keeping in mind the business is closed on Mondays, Joe’s travel schedule and my doings. Then I had to make hotel reservations. That was just the beginning!

Why Does It Cost So Much?

A few days before the tenting date, the company owner brought by the contract and preparation instructions. Somehow, someway there was miscommunication, and the contract did not show treatment for powder post beetles. Well that takes ten times the amount of gas and possibly longer for gas to disappear. Normally with just wood termites, the tent goes on one morning, comes off the next morning and house is cleared for occupancy on third morning. Plus we have a no access crawl space and that was going to require extra attention to test for gas. Of course, the treatment for termites and beetles was more expensive and went from $1740 to $4376! So he had to return to office to get new contract typed up. But the staff was  gone for the day, and it took another day for that document to be finalized. Meanwhile I had to re-contact the hotel and vet to see if extending our accommodations was possible if needed. I started to look forward to our “termite getaway” and gathered up a stack of reading materials for poolside.

Preparing House for Tenting

We had to prepare the house. Joe spent many hours/days on the outside trimming vegetation away from foundation of house. He moved potted plants and decorative items.

Potted coleus plants at entry were moved

Window liner box of flowers lifted out

The day before evacuation all food items except canned goods had to be put in special plastic bags provided by company, double bagged, twisted and folded down tops and secured. That also included refrigerator and freezer items and the bags set back in refrigerator. My housekeeper helped me bag up the pantry. All my medications had to be removed from house and taken with me. We also had to slightly open every cabinet door and drawer about an inch throughout the house to help with the gas elimination.

Evacuation Day

On the “E” day, we had to be out of the house by 8:30 a.m. with suitcases and the three fur babies! I gathered up my clothes for packing the evening before, but I waited to bring out the suitcase until we had captured each cat and placed in carrying case. They are so intuitive when their routine is about to change and will hide under beds or crawl inside box springs. Today was not the day to tear a bed apart. Been there–done that! Whew!! Now you know why I really want to sit by pool and read and do nothing for the rest of my life!!

Always A Story

Convenience was at the top of my list in selecting our hotel accommodations. The hotel was just a couple miles from house and the vet was across the street from hotel. Buffet breakfast, parking and WIFI were offered free. We had a five-minute walk to a French cafe we love. Plus the hotel served dinner. The off season hotel rates were in effect. That’s the good part. The bad part was our room was literally the next to last one to be cleaned. Despite my best effort to get into the room early, that did not happen. The hotel offered to put us in a different room, (a smaller room), but for the same rate I’d already paid. What a deal! Since done online, they could not/would not change rate. So we waited and waited. We were both exhausted. We sat in small lobby for a while, but a hotel TV screen kept showing a lady relaxing in a luxurious bed. I couldn’t stand it!! Sitting in a shaded area by the pool provided a calmer respite.

After lunch we  drove by the house to see how it looked. Warning signs had been placed on the house.

Warning Sign

A slow drip of water was left on Christmas palm tree to help protect it. It’s the tree in the middle to right of vehicle. The  black olive tree on the far right in swale next to sidewalk was treated for termites last summer. Our arborist is trying to save it.

View from across street

Well, finally at 2:55 (5 minutes before check-in) our room was ready. When we got to the room, the door sign indicated Palm West Suite which I had not booked. I had reserved a regular room with a king bed. But we had a spacious bedroom, bath, plus a huge room with sitting and sleeper couch at one end and dining/kitchen at other!! What’s that saying…good things come to those who wait!!

During our stay, something was constantly not right or working. The staff seemed accustomed to operating this way, and apologies were not given. There were key card issues on multiple occasions. We asked for a non-skid bath mat the first evening . We were informed the housekeeping supervisor was off duty, and we would probably have to wait until the next day! Someone eventually brought us a mat the same evening. The restaurant door was stuck shut for breakfast one morning and a patron saw us trying to get in and helped us. He even informed the staff, but no one rushed to fix it. The business center was located next to a housekeeping closet and elevator and was so noisy that Joe gave up on it. The morning we had to request late check-out while we waited to hear if we could return to house had to be negotiated. New key cards had to be issued since they automatically stopped working at 11 a.m., but no one told us. The phone in our suite did not work. Someone came to look at it, tried another phone and decided AT&T would have to come out which they never did!

Back to Normal–Sorta!

Friday at 7:55 a.m., the tenting company called to say we were cleared to return! Yippee!! The process I described above was reversed. Except with food sacked up, you saw that the entire refrigerator needed to be washed down. Now when did I last do that? Well, probably, never!! So each shelf and drawer was removed and washed. I also cleaned and reorganized my pantry which is like a walk in closet with lots of stuff (including a bag of powdered sugar expiration July 2010!!) There are six shelves on two of the four walls, and you need a ladder to reach top shelf. I took the challenge to declutter. I donated a trunk load of serving items to my favorite thrift store.

Time to unpack refrigerator contents

I have lived on my street since 1980 and every house has been tented, some more than once. People often wait until they are ready to sell or in our case, just can’t stand it any longer. A few years ago the house behind us had a major renovation stalled when the contractor discovered a load-bearing wall was dangerously infested with termites in the middle of demolition!

Well, there you have it. Just part of Florida living ranking just below hurricanes for things I could do without! ​

Blessings!
Linda​

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Parkinson’s My Way

Home is behind the world ahead and there are many paths to tread through shadow to the edge of night until the stars are all alight. J R.R. Tolkien

Welcome to Parkinson’s My Way

I have been a teacher and writer for over four decades. When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014, my work and literary world became one with the Parkinson’s world. Isak Dinesen believed “all sorrows can be borne if you tell a story about them”,  and I have found that to be true. Writing has always been my “go-to tool” for facing adversity.

Parkinson’s My Way is how I journey one day to the next with a chronic, progressive degenerative illness by keeping my interests alive. Days are rarely alike. A  variety of interests that still define who I am include antiques, travel, baking, animals, nature, reading, photography, family farm, education and DAR.

Along the way, I discovered a fascinating gift of this perplexing neurological disorder. Studies find some people with Parkinson’s begin a new creative pursuit such as painting, sculpting or writing. For me it is poetry. This website will share “creativity in motion” by showcasing people with Parkinson’s artistic work, as well as mine.

Before PD, my personal mission was “to make a heartfelt difference” and that is unchanged. Through my sharing in Parkinson’s My Way, the intent is to educate, to inspire, and to give hope.  Some posts will deal with Parkinson’s head on. Other times I will bake a cake or recommend a good book!

If just one of you benefits from my thoughts, experiences, recipes, poetry or photography, I will consider this mission a success. Perhaps you have Parkinson’s disease or are a caregiver. Maybe a friend of yours was just diagnosed with PD. Whatever the reason that you are visiting, I welcome you and your comments.

Blessings!

Linda

Reflections on 5 Year Parkinson’s Anniversary

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead. ~ Louisa Mae Alcott

Five years ago on an ordinary beautiful South Florida day, May 13, 2014, I left my neurologist’s office going down an unpredictable extraordinary path. I had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Signs popped up as early as 2011. However, until enough symptoms surfaced for the right doctor to observe, I thought my challenges were due to growing older.

What has my life been like the past five years? What have I given up? How have I adapted? To reflect on these questions, I turned to my lifelong personal values of helping people learn, continuing my education, preserving moments in time, expressing gratitude and having faith.

I value helping people learn.

I launched Parkinson’s My Way website, blog and Facebook page in 2018 to help people live quality lives and to showcase their creative side. Before PD, my personal mission was “to make a heartfelt difference” and that is unchanged. Through my sharing in Parkinson’s My Way, the intent is to educate, to inspire, and to give hope. Five artists and poets have been interviewed, and it’s been my honor to meet these incredible creative people with Parkinson’s and to share their talent and determination with the world.  Although I retired from a full-time career in education in 2013, I am blessed to continue teaching strategic management online for Northwood University—Michigan. In this senior capstone course, I am also my students’ loudest cheerleader to help them cross the finish line.

I value continuing my lifelong education.

The World Parkinson Congress took me to Portland, Oregon in 2016. My love of poetry was discovered after PD diagnosis and led me to study under the presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco at Omega Institute in 2016. I was honored with a Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion for a cat poem The Morning Visitor in 2016. I studied English Country Houses at Oxford University in 2017 residing on the Christ Church campus and dining in the Great Hall. I was selected to attend the Palm Beach Poetry Festival in 2018 and studied under Mississippi state poet laureate Beth Ann Fennelly.

I value preserving moments in time.

I have been a top rated eBay seller since 2015 of anything vintage—from buttons to books. My writing is published in twelve anthologies, seven journals and one cat book. Nine of those publications have been in the past five years. I photograph cats, country scenes and abandoned houses. I have collected brooches for 40 years and still add favorites such as Christmas trees, women’s faces and cats to my collection when I travel.

I value expressing gratitude.

Every morning before I get out of bed I express one gratitude. Today it is living my best life the past five years with Parkinson’s. Every evening before I drift off to sleep, I count ten blessings for the day. Since 2010, I have created My ABCs of Gratitude in November to represent the current year.  A sample is as follows:

2014 Lexie Lee…our 12 years together
2015 Weinberg…a special healer
2016 Tai Chi…class 2 minutes from house
2017 Knight…picture with Coach Knight & brothers
2018 Yellowstone National Park…trip with Joe for memory bank

I know I am incredibly blessed in thousands of ways. I’ll always be in gratitude to  my dentist. In 2015, I fell on my face (nothing to do with PD) but due to a poorly maintained village sidewalk near my home. An ambulance took me to the emergency room where I had x-rays and was released with my two front teeth sticking straight out. My private driver took me to Dr. David Podbielski and with phone coaching from an oral surgeon, he popped my teeth back into place without them breaking off. I was a mess for several months. My jaw was broken and eating was difficult. I cancelled Christmas travel to the farm. The stress brought out the worst in PD and my medications were adjusted.

I value faith in God.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.  Psalm 143:8

Rather than asking why do I have Parkinson’s, I ask why not me? I believe I have been given all the time I need to fulfill my life’s purpose.

How has Parkinson’s changed my life the past five years?

Before Parkinson’s,  medical appointments were routine and preventive, and the pills I took were vitamins. Now I spend over twenty hours a week on Parkinson’s self-care such as doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, support groups, exercise, tai chi, yoga, social media, reading, researching, writing and blogging. I am blessed to have Dr. Michael Okun at the University of Florida’s  Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration  become one of my doctors in 2018. Having this world renowned movement disorder specialist on my care team is worth the five-hour drive and over-night stay.

I am in better physical condition than I was five years ago. Although my brain is short on dopamine, it is stuffed with PD knowledge.  Chemistry keeps me going. I take a baker’s dozen of pills a day to manage symptoms. Gotta love chemistry! Although I have excellent insurance, not all needs are covered, so I have to budget a hefty amount each year. I have learned to be mindful of the moment and to breathe through the pain. Dr. Adam Holleman, my physical therapist taught me to rub a tennis ball on stiff muscles or ones stuck in contracted state. In most instances, I can manage the pain and trust that I will be better in fifteen minutes! I wear a Lifeline necklace  for peace of mind and flat shoes for safety and comfort.

Suffering from Rapid Eye Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD), I acted out  many terrifying dreams. I was chased, stabbed, drowned, robbed and even attended my funeral in these vivid and violent dreams. I screamed and talked out loud. When a jet plane landed in my bed, I was ready for medication. My last RBD dream was August 19, 2018 as  I started a bedtime pill the next night to shut down the disturbing drama.

In 2014-2016, I served as vice-regent of Daughters of the American Revolution of Seminole Chapter. DAR is near and dear to my heart and also represents my values of education, historical preservation and patriotism. I was on track to be on Seminole’s slate of officers as regent for 2016-2018. But due to PD, I withdrew. Two perfect trade-offs were waiting for me. In 2018, I was ask to serve on executive board as advisor to regent. I was also appointed chair of DAR School Committee and created an award winning project for Crossnore School in North Carolina.

How has Parkinson’s not changed my life the past five years?

PD has not changed the core of who I am or the essence of my soul. My longtime values still guide me in how I live and what I say “yes” to doing. A variety of interests still add richness to my life including antiques, travel, baking, animals, nature, reading, photography, poetry, family farm visits, education and DAR.

According to Danny Kaye,” life is a great big canvas and you should throw all the paint on it you can.” I keep a watchful eye on my yearning list and checked off five yearnings in the past five years. These included getting another cat (in reality the backyard stray Tortie adopted me!), returning to London for tenth time, staying in Mayfair Chesterfield, being an Oxford student for The Summer Experience and going to Omega Institute. I still go and do—but at a slower pace.

When my life gets too whacky

I do my best and forget the rest. I watch I Love Lucy and laugh until my stomach hurts. Or I make my signature dessert from the 1990s–Baked Alaska. In spite of Parkinson’s, some of my interests will never change!

Blessings!
Linda

 

Creative Springtime Easter Tablescape

 

During Parkinson’s Awareness month, I think it is important to consider that some people  live well with the disease for a long time and in some cases even decades. “Not everyone is affected by Parkinson’s equally,” Hubert Fernandez, M.D., director of the Center for Neurological Restoration at Cleveland Clinic, says. “It’s a disorder that you can live with for a long time—it’s doesn’t have to define you.”

One way I live well with the disease is to participate in a dinner club as part of a social group in the American Association of University Women. I joined in 2011, three years before my PD diagnosis.  We meet four times a year. One of those times, Joe and I host three other couples at our home usually in March or April. The objective is to meet with different couples in different homes on a rotating basis. The hostess sets the theme and provides the main entrée, and the other three couples bring appetizer, salad and dessert. I have as much fun designing the tablescape as I do preparing the food.

Salad served on rabbit plate and white charger

We hosted our dinner on April 7 with an Easter in Springtime theme. I found these adorable ceramic rabbit plates and plastic white chargers at Hobby Lobby and that inspired the rest of the setting. I did not go shopping with the goal of creating an Easter table. I was just browsing, but the creative process  unfolded naturally. It was meant to be! The new pieces were combined with my favorite vintage and antique treasures, and there you have it!

New linens form the backdrop for the tablescape

The white napkins with a brown embroidered rabbit hopped out at me at Burlington Coat Factory. The yellow mats (only had 8 and that is what I needed!)  plus the long blue and yellow plaid tablecloth (needed for table with three extensions) also came from Burlington Coat Factory. This store is next door to Hobby Lobby where I also found the garland of blue, green and yellow eggs strung on a fuzzy brown cord!

Conservatory dining room

My dining room is like a glass conservatory with all windows that are  three-feet by five- feet on two sides of the room. During the day it is a light spilled room and at night white lights strung around the patio on one side reflect in a mirror on south wall and add magic to the room. White lights also decorate an arbor on the east side. I love being in this room–day or night.

A short Fenton hobnail ruffled milk glass epergne from mid century is conversation friendly. Large yellow chysantheum heads adorn each of the three horns. Milk glass candlesticks with blue and white candles are on each side of epergne. The flatware is primarily Gorham Fairfax sterling silver, and yes, polishing silver is great therapy and keeps my Parkinson’s challenged fingers moving. I really do like to polish silver! The hand painted stemware was found in a thrift store decades ago and makes me smile.

Vintage salt cellar displays colorful jelly beans

Crystal napkin rings, salt cellars and knife rests create continuity as well as contrast with casual tablecloth and brown cord. Jelly beans are in the salt cellars and serve as a table favor for each guest. People like to talk about jelly beans and eat them as well! My mother had a lovely collection of salts, and they were passed on to my siblings and me. Salt cellars date back to classical Rome. Salt shakers took their place in 1911, but salts became collectibles.

The knife rests never fail to be a curiosity with guests. So it’s fun to share a little history. Victorians protected their fine linens from stains by using knife rests. My collection is mainly cut or pressed glass with dumb bell ends.

Entrée and dessert were served on Meissen Blue Mitterteich plates

A look into kitchen and west end of dining room

This year marks our eighth dinner club that we have hosted. I have never considered resigning due to Parkinson’s. The event is a fun social evening. It requires planning, creativity and multi-tasking. I end up with an extra clean house, patio and yard. I also do one new household project each year in anticipation of the dinner, such as new living room drapes or adding a rug. The saying “if you want something done around the house, plan a party” is true for me. The end result is this dinner club party is one way I can live my best life now!

Blessings!
Linda

Happy Easter

Raphael Tuck & Sons

 

This antique Raphael Tuck & Sons Easter postcard was chromographed  in Bavaria in 1910. It is part of Artistic Easter Postcard Series with floral and rural setting,  Lilies and a cross are to the left and trees are to the right of road.  The unique card is beaded.

Back of postcard

Blessings!

Linda

Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Parkinson’s

Michele Keir’s First Painting Completed in 2018

Artist Michele Keir

How It All Started

“When I was five years old I overheard my kindergarten teacher tell my mother I am an artist. I knew from that moment on,” says Michele Keir. Mr. Robertson, who was her art teacher in both seventh and twelfth grades, was a graduate of Pratt Institute. He was the biggest influence on her educational choices. She grew up in New York and graduated from Pratt Institute with a bachelor of industrial design and a concentration in advertising design and pottery electives. While at Pratt, Michele won the 1968 Alumni Day banner competition where she experimented with juxtaposing colors and patterns. To this day she describes ”learning that out of all the talented freshmen at Pratt I was one of four artists to win that Alumni Banner competition is her most amazing moment as an artist. I only entered the contest because it was mandatory.”

Love Affair with Color and Pattern Begins

Blessed to Work in Art Field

Michele graduated during the 1971 recession and oil shortages. She was the only one in her department at Pratt who got a design job at graduation. She started in the Art Department of Hasbro and had the distinction of creating the images of the first two production years of the ”Weebles Family.”

She was dating her husband-to-be and dressed the father Weebles similarly to him. “He was the first “preppie” I had ever dated. Everyone else wore denim,” she says. She worked for Hasbro followed by Milton Bradley for six and one-half years. From there, using her training from both Pratt Institute and Rhode Island School of Design to be a creative problem solver and inventor and to never stop a train of thought, she made a career as a graphic designer, product designer and potter.

Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Parkinson’s

However in 2013, she was forced to retire due to Parkinson’s disease. Michele was no stranger to this disease. Her father died after a three-year struggle with Parkinson’s just before she began classes at Pratt. Although genetics is a rare reason for getting Parkinson’s, Michele’s brother and sister also eventually became PWP.

Painted Nails Inspire Abstract

Years ago, when Michele was first diagnosed, she discovered painting her nails stopped her tremor. “I was painting wild designs on my nails years before it became vogue. One day I noticed my nails looked like my tulip garden and  I took a photo of my hand with the flowers behind. Then, for no particular reason, I uploaded the photo and used my computer graphics knowledge to abstract the image. I was intrigued and compulsive about creating this way. I just painted my nails, photographed my left hand in different parts of my house and had fun abstracting the images until I saw something I liked.”

All the designs were derived from photos of Michele’s tremor hand. She printed and framed the images and sold inexpensively with an average price of $50 donation to American Parkinson’s Disease Association. In the end, she raised over $12,000 for Parkinson’s research.  She did not keep any money to cover her costs. “Except for my husband paying for my expenses, this was a one woman fundraiser,” she says.

Another Pleasure and Purpose of Parkinson’s

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, Photo credit www.gustav-klimt.com

This past year Michele started to create art as a kind of personal therapy to take her mind away from the reality of Parkinson’s. The Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt was one of her favorite artists during college because of his use of patterns and colors. Her favorite Klimt painting, The Kiss set in a profusion of patterns and colors has reemerged to influence Michele’s art. She also recalls appreciating Lee Bontecou’s three-dimensional art at the Museum of Modern Art when she was a student. “I never anticipated being a fine artist. I didn’t think I could create without a reason. Never before have I created art without a teacher, boss or client limiting my creative process. It is liberating to not have to please anyone but myself. Having disposable income to buy my materials and having unlimited time to experiment are big contributors,” she says.

Blue Dog

Michele is always evolving techniques and style. “The only constant seems to be my love of color and creating things unconsciously from my mind. I am an innovator. I surprise myself.” For example, she did not set out to create a blue dog in relief/assembled style. “I glued down found objects to a canvas and just started painting patterns. I kept turning the canvas around until the dog jumped out at me. I attribute that technique (if you can call it that) to Mr. Robertson, my seventh grade art teacher,” she explains.

Home Studio

Studio Creations–Miniature Portraits for 70th Birthday

“I create at all hours of the day and night at my home studio in Warwick, Rhode Island. Parkinson’s decides that for me as I am awake a lot at night,” says Michele. When walking downstairs to her studio became problematic, she relocated her studio in her daughter’s former room. Michele is preparing for her 70th birthday party by painting a miniature portrait  place card for each of her guests.

Happy 70th Birthday

Photo Credit: Nick Stephenson

According to The Lion King lyrics, it’s the circle of life, and it moves us all through despair and hope,  through faith and love, till we find our place, on the path unwinding. In the Health Monitor–Guide to Living with Parkinson’s Disease magazine, Michele Keir is interviewed on tips and adaptations that keep her active and fulfilled. She emphasized “use all the tools available to you.” Turning to art is one of her go-to tools. In essence, she has returned to her love of color and pattern this past year that inspired her creations at Pratt Institute over five decades ago.

What a rewarding and productive year she has had! As a result of this joyous endeavor, her home is overfilled with her explosive art. In an attempt to have her art seen by others, she began entering local juried exhibitions the latter part of 2018. Michele’s art is already exhibited in eight places the first six months of 2019. She also has four “one woman shows” scheduled through November. When she discovered an April invitation, she responded, “It is my great pleasure to be offered this one woman show at The Gallery @Sprout CoWorking in Warren. This exhibition is the best seventy year birthday present I never expected! “  See video below.

Keeping in Touch

If you would like to contact Michele to purchase a creation, arrange an exhibit or see her additional work, please visit her website or email her at  keirdes@aol.com

Question: Pretend you are attending one of her exhibits. What would you ask Michele?

It has been Parkinson’s My Way’s pleasure to publish this interview on Michele’s 70th birthday and during Parkinson’s Awareness month.

Blessings!
Linda

 

Robin Morgan Parkinson’s Poems

 

When poet Robin Morgan found herself facing Parkinson’s disease, she distilled her experiences into these four quietly powerful poems — meditating on age, loss, and the simple power of noticing.  This Ted Talks presentation has over one millions views.

My favorite is This Dark Hour at the 9:25 mark.  Here are a few of the poignant lines that touch my soul.

4 a.m…I need no light, I know the way….there is this hour, poem in my head, soil in my hand, unnameable fullness…lived to this moment, immeasurable lightness…likely I’ll lose my way…all was unbearably dear and when I’m done with daylights…let them remember that I had this hour, this dark perfect hour.

Blessings!
Linda

 

Parkinson’s Awareness and National Poetry Month Connection

 

April is Parkinson’s Awareness month focused on spreading the word, educating yourself and supporting the cure. Five years ago what I knew about Parkinson’s amounted to very little. I equated the disease with tremors and knew about Mohammed Ali, Michael J. Fox and Janet Reno. However, when I was diagnosed with PD in 2014, I learned there was far more to this disease than trembling. In fact, I do not even have tremors. In 2017, I created a website and blog, Parkinson’s My Way….Creativity in Motion to educate, to inspire and to give hope.

I also discovered a connection between Parkinson’s and creativity which helped explain my sudden interest in writing poetry. I have been blessed to winning awards, being published, studying under presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco and studying under Mississippi poet laureate Beth Ann Fennelly since my diagnosis.

April is celebrated by the Academy of American Poets as National Poetry Month, in celebration of writing, reading and enjoying poetry and those who make it. It was first created in 1996 to encourage people to read poems, support poets and help teachers introduce their students to the form.

To kick off this first week of Parkinson’s Awareness Month and National Poetry Month, I refer you to a guest blog I was invited to write for the National League of American Pen Women in 2017 on My Parkinson’s Muse. It later appeared in an anthology, The Creative Genius.

Question: What is happening in your community that supports Parkinson’s Disease Awareness or National Poetry Month?

Blessings!
Linda

 

 

 

Learning to Write Again with Parkinson’s

I text and word process. However, technology has not replaced my need to occasionally sign my name on a check or to fill out a form in the doctor’s office. Neither has technology smothered my desire to send handwritten cards and letters to my friends and family. However, Parkinson’s has affected my ability to write legibly 24/7. Micrographia, known as small and cramped handwriting, is the reason as presented in a recent blog “Can You Read My Tiny Handwriting?” But the good news is that some people with PD can write well when on medication, and many can learn to write all over again by practice, exercise and therapy.

Writing Tools and Supplies

Select the appropriate writing instrument for your needs. Gel pens flow easily across the page and are less likely to grab at the paper. Do you prefer light, medium or heavy tips? When you shop for a pen, hold it as you will when writing. Is the grip comfortable? Is the pen slippery? Do you prefer a rubber grip? Consider the weight of the pen. If you tremor, a heavy weight pen may work better for you.

Consider the use of lined paper to guide you in writing straight. Large lined paper will also make writing easier as you fill in the lines with letters. As writing improves, you can graduate to normal spaced lines or no lines! You may always prefer placing lined paper under the plain top sheet as your secret writing crutch.

Gather up items that relate to your writing project such as addresses, return labels, stamps, cards, stationary, lined paper and checkbook.

What Works for Me

I opt for a medium point gel pens over ballpoint pens. Shopping for pens is a fun activity for me. I like to write in colors such as green, turquoise, navy blue and red. I do not have tremors, so a regular weight pen is fine. I use lined paper in spiral notebooks to write everything from poems to doctor’s remarks to webinar notes. The lined paper tip reminds me of what I have done for students with high test anxiety especially on essay questions. I draw a box and ask them to write in the box which is less intimidating than a blank page. The same premise is true when learning to write again.  While researching this blog topic, I found a complimentary 3-page download on “Improve Your Cursive Worksheet” designed by Lindsey Bugbee.  I can tell already that it is a terrific tool. I remember similar paper from Mrs. Cole’s first grade class to help with placement and size of letters! Finally, getting up and down multiple times to find an address or a postage stamp is distracting. So I prepare in advance.

Where to Write

Set up on a flat surface such as desk or tabletop and not your lap. A firm chair is preferable to provide support and to encourage you to maintain good posture (another problem area for Parkinson’s people). Consider times of the day that you may be distracted by noise such as lawn service or by family members. If you find soft background music soothing, set up before starting to write. You should also consider location to ensure you have the advantage of natural light.

What Works for Me

I often write in the dining room where the view overlooks the patio, pool and tropical landscape. I sit as straight as possible at the dining room table. The dining chair works well and and provides firm support. The lighting is appropriate. This location is a change of pace from my third story office. Morning distractions include services such as the housekeeper, lawn crew and pool guy; however, these are manageable. I need quietude  when I am writing.

When to Write

Plan to write when you are in peak performance, that is when your meds are working and you are not having an “off period.” You will be happier with the end product and less frustrated. Do a few simple warm-up finger, hand and shoulder exercises before starting to write. Before signing your name on the get well card, doodle first on a scrap of paper. Write for short periods of time, take a break and resume writing. Avoid writing at the end of the day when you are tired and your meds are about used up for the day. Day rather than evening may be preferable for your writing projects.

What Works for Me

I do my handwritten notes and letters in the morning unless service companies are a distraction. I am well rested and dopamine is flowing freely through my brain from my morning dose of carbidopa levadopa and Azilect. My mother suffered from arthritis. Sometimes it took her several days to finish her handwritten letters to me. I can still hear her comment, “I’m no good today.” Sometimes that’s the way it is living with Parkinson’s. Finger exercises such as opening and closing hand and shoulder shrugs help me warm up before writing. I double check that I am in top writing form by doodling and writing a few words.

Adaptation

If you are signing a myriad of forms or checks every month, consider having a rubber stamp made. Pre-printed inserts may be the way to go for such writing as a holiday letter. Instead of writing, you may need to word process a note or letter and only hand sign your name. Imprinted return labels are easily made. Watch for marketing from associations who include labels for your use in hopes of donation. Some people with Parkinson’s print better than they  write. Some also report that when they close their eyes, they write legibly.

What Works for Me

I use a pre-printed thank you form to tuck into my customers’ purchases for my eBay business. I hand write their name at the top and sign my name on bottom. I add a couple of handwritten sentences to customize. When I write to friends, I usually word process the letter since it is often a couple of pages. I purchased a voice activated software system in 2015 when I had some Parkinson’s challenges. But as my medicine was tweaked and I practiced handwriting therapy, I decided this adaptation was premature. So I sold the software! I print as often as I write. Writing with my eyes closed does not work for me!

Handwriting Training

Practice, practice, practice. According to occupational therapist Uzma Khan, writing one practice page daily can help you manage and improve your writing. Do the daily writing in a dated journal so you can review your progress. Think big when you are writing. Exaggerate the letters. Before you start writing, do some finger stretches. Set an alarm for ten minutes and start writing the months of the year or names of relatives or lines from a book. Alternate between cursive writing and printing. Your printing may be far better. Every two to three minutes, you can rest for a few seconds.

Strength and flexibility exercises for your hands, fingers and wrists should be part of your routine. Squeeze your fists and hold for ten seconds. Flick your hands open and stretch your fingers as far as part as possible. Squeeze a ball or hand grip. Wring out a wet cloth and have someone else wring it to see how much water you left. Shuffle and deal cards. Play jacks. Google Parkinson’s handwriting exercises, and you will find many YouTube videos and other therapy resources. They are easy and fun to do. Positive results are possible.

Dr. Sarah King, PT, DPT at Invigorate recommends a Hand Booster exercise to help writing. Do as follows: (A) Clench a strong fist, then spread your fingers wide apart. Repeat 10 times on each hand. (B) Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of each finger consecutively. Repeat 10 times on each hand. (C) Spread your fingers wide in a “stop” position, then push your palm down flexing at the wrist. Repeat 10 times on each hand.

What Works for Me

I think big letters when I write. Or I say “write big” just as I might say “heel toe, heel toe” if I am not walking properly. I no longer do a one-page written/printed practice page daily—only when I decide I need a refresher course! My yoga teacher has me write the alphabet letters in the air with my feet doing both print and cursive. I do the same with my fingers. I tap my fingers together as fast as I can, squeeze a ball in my hand, wring a wet cloth and open and close my fingers. I raise and lower my wrists. These exercises and more can be done while I watch television, stand in line in a store or sit in stalled traffic.

How are you learning to write again?

Blessings!
Linda

Digital Dog Portraits by Artist Donna Krenicki

Double Delight

“Lively”
“Full of personality”
“The eyes are looking right at me”
“Amazing eyes captured so expertly”
“Follows my movement with relentless gaze”

These reactions reflect appreciation for Donna Krenicki’s artistic talent and innovative digital dog art.

Donna Krenicki

Donna grew up in Connecticut, and she has been creative since a child. Her father encouraged her to paint, and her mother taught her to knit, crochet, embroidery and sew. Eventually, those interests led her to earn a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Connecticut.

Married for thirty-four years, Donna and her husband John have three kids and two kids-in-law, a dog, a grand-dog and a grand-cat.

Living in Awe

Donna Krenicki found the ideal settings where she can pursue her passions and care for herself. She and her husband live on Longboat Key in the winter and Cape Cod in the summer. As a result, Donna photographed these soul-stirring sunsets.

Longboat Key, FL Sunset

Cape Cod, MA Sunset

Young Onset Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Donna was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease in 2010 when she was forty-nine-years-old. For at least five to six years before that conclusion, she was told her symptoms were due to menopause. Since diagnosis, she only has a minor tremor. She also has been successful in silencing  her symptoms such as dragging left foot, stumbling, and cramping hands, arm and feet  due to three commitments.

Hiking in Acadia National Park

Body, Mind and Medicine

Donna believes that keeping her body and mind active is not negotiable. Therefore, she stays active physically by walking, running, swimming, playing tennis, golfing and biking at least two hours a day. Although she has always exercised, one hour a day was common prior to Parkinson’s diagnosis. Through her creative endeavors including painting, knitting and cooking, she is active mentally. Finally, she takes medication. She says “the effect Parkinson’s has on my art is that I paint much more because I know I have to keep my mind active. I feel I need to get it done today because who knows what tomorrow brings.”

Open to Innovation

Her love of dogs is a powerful inspiration. However, her method of painting digital dog portraits was discovered by happenstance. Donna shares, “I paint on my iPad using my finger. I use an app called Sketches. I found the app while I was sitting in an airport, trying to pass my long layover time about four years ago. I was immediately hooked.”

Dots on Pots

During the first six months of digital painting, she concentrated on flower and food still lifes. Then she experimented with buildings and cities. Meanwhile, her dog Abby was patiently waiting to be her Muse. All it takes is one look at Abby’s portrait and you know Donna is going to be in demand for pet commissions for a long time to come!

Digital Dog Portraits and A Cat

Abby–Donna’s Awesome Aussie “You can always find hope in a dog’s eyes.” Author Unknown

Not to be overlooked, the grand-dog and grand-cat digital portraits were Christmas presents for the kids.

Grand-Dog Bucky

Grand-Cat Sunday

Contemporary Realism

Donna describes her style of art as contemporary realism. “I paint realistically but not photographic real. I like to stop painting when the subject begins to be recognizable. I use bold, intense layers of color.” When she paints with acrylics and oils, she works in her home studio, often in the evening.

Acrylic Work

Portable Painting

Donna creates digital artwork wherever she carries her iPad. “I paint in bursts. Sometimes five to six hours a day. Sometimes days go by without painting. But I do draw/write in a journal every day,” she says. It is not unusual for a person with Parkinson’s to experience creative bursts of activity. Prior to Parkinson’s diagnosis, she was busy raising her children and driving them around. Months would pass by without any painting.

Artist Cottages Orleans, MA

Open For Business

During the summer of 2018, Donna exhibited at the Artist Cottages in Orleans, Massachusetts for two long weekends and three weeks. This charming group of eight garden sheds located at Orleans Market Square is available to Cape Code inspired artists to sell and showcase their work.

Keeping In Touch

If you would like to commission Donna or to see more of her work, please visit:

Website:   dkrenickiartist.com
Facebook:  DKrenickiArt
Instagram: dkrenicki_artist
Email: krenickij@aol.com

Question:  Of the art featured in Donna Krenicki’s profile, which one is your favorite and why?

Blessings!

Linda

 

Safe or Out?

Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first base. ~ Frederick B. Wilcox

Safe or or Out? You make the call!

I am a baseball loving gal who is fortunate to live ten miles from Roger Dean Chevolet Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. It is the spring training home for the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals. March weather in Florida is glorious, and March 13 was a perfect day for me to be at the park!

This action shot was fun to get. First of all, my seat was in direct alignment with home plate, so I could take the photo without standing up. Six players and two umpires were in my line of vision. Action shots tell a story, and the play at second base did not disappoint.

While the home plate group is watching the action unfold, each of the remaining figures has a specific role to play. I snapped the photo  just as the infielder leaped to catch the ball.

Sunshine, spring training, ballpark, lemonade, pretzels, popcorn, and photography! My kind of day!!

Blessings!
Linda

Photo by: Linda A. Mohr