Exercise

Saying in Focus: It’s Never to Late to Learn

 

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Once more I must apologize for falling behind in posting to my blog. I had envisioned my retirement as a nice, leisurely time of life, maybe even having too much time on my hands, but that hasn’t been the case.

I have been able to slow down the progression of my pd  (parkinson’s disease) by keeping abreast of the latest developments and guidance from doctors and physical therapists and implementing them in my daily life.  Exercise of all kinds seems to be one of the most helpful tools, but it does take up time. Recently,  I happened on a website called http://www.invigoratept.com founded by Sarah King, a physical therapist. There is a wealth of information about exercise and nutrition on this site and I have joined Sarah in her challenge to exercise daily, for at least 2.5 hour a week. Today we begin week 3 of the 4 week challenge. She is also doing a series of live videos through her Invigorate Physical Therapy and Wellness Facebook page about nutrition and how what we eat affects pd. I’ve found her links to You Tube video sites of exercises developed specifically for pwp (people with parkinson’s) most helpful.

But physical exercise is only part of the picture. The brain must be exercised as well. My husband, Bill, and son, Steve, and I are into crossword puzzles and word games on our electronic devices, which help me slow down the ‘loss of words’ associated with pd.

I had never mastered Algebra in high school, so I purchased a book entitled “No Fear Algebra”and can actually say it is beginning to make some sense to me. Working out simple equations is like solving a puzzle.

I have always wanted to be able to draw, but was always too intimidated to take a class with other people. But I recently received one of the Great Courses videos – a gift from my husband – on “How to Draw”. This is perfect for me because I can pause the video as often as needed and I don’t have to rush or try to keep up with others. So far I have learned much about line and shape, aggregate shape, volume, figure-ground and positive – negative shape. There are thirty-six lectures with accompanying  lessons so it may be years before I finish.

Finally, throw in my interest in photography, poetry (see previous post for my latest) and reading, and that’s where the time goes. In a sense, having pd has determined the way my retirement will unfold, but if one has to combat a disease, why not learn a little something during the process? After all, it’s never too late to learn.

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Staying in Focus: Focus On: My Last Day

I am so far behind in keeping up with the daily prompts. I am trying to finish the final rewrite of a book project, design calendars for Christmas giving, and write my annual Christmas poem and a bunch of other stuff, including playing  a seemingly innocuous game on the internet called Candy Crush Saga. Beware, it can take over your life!  A recent prompt asked how I would spend my last day on earth.  Here is my plan

On my last day on earth I would want to spend time with my friends and family, but as they may have their own  agenda as to how to spend their last day,  I will outline mine..

I would begin the day at sea, rising before the sun, and watching it as it appears over the horizon. There is nothing more profound than a sunrise at sea. Once on shore I will don my yoga clothes and run through a few routines of the sun salutation on the beach and then meditate to the sound of the waves rolling to the shore. I’d lie on the sand and look up at the sky and try to find objects and faces in the clouds. I loved to do this when I was young, a child’s form of meditation, I guess.

I would try to eat some of my favorite foods throughout the day including a Peanut Butter Bash from Dairy Queen, a sweet potato dripping in real butter and sprinkled with cinnamon, a double chocolate donut from Dunkin Donuts, a cup of IHOP coffee and a stack of pancakes with original syrup, Butterfly Shrimp from the China Paradise restaurant in Wayne, NJ, an Entenmann’s crumb cake, a Reese’s peanut butter bunny and a large order of hot, McDonald’s fries.

I would watch my favorite movie, Gone With the Wind. I’d also like to watch While You Were Sleeping, Love Actually, Groundhog Day and the Muppets Christmas Carol, during which I will eat as much buttered movie popcorn as I can.   I would watch the last episode of Babylon 5(because it makes me cry), all the Firefly episodes (because it was the best sci/fi series on TV) and Star Trek 5 because everyone else hates it but me, but there are only twenty-four hours in a day, unless I can fly to an earlier time zone. I’ll have to work on that one.

Then I would fly to Sitka, Alaska, with as many friends and family members as are willing to go . We’ll gather round a large fire  and sit under the stars and talk or think about only the good and beautiful aspects of our lives  and the world.

I ‘d  listen to the songs on my iPod:  John Denver, Mike Nesmith, the Monkees, The Beatles,  Sir Paul McCartney, James Blunt, The Plain White Ts, The Moody Blues, Enya and even scary Rob (Thomas). Listening to music, surrounded by mountains and the people I love, is the way I’d like to go…

What I will not do on my last day on earth is count calories, eat lettuce, listen to ‘What Does the Fox Say’ , take my meds (won’t matter anymore) exercise (except for yoga),or waste another minute of my fast diminishing life playing Candy Crush Saga.

I’ll gaze at the stars for a while, saddened that I never had the chance to discover what the universe is really all about. Then I will sit quietly and look to the horizon, until the sun fails to appear and everything fades to black.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: On the Edge: Use It or Lose It

 Daily Prompt: On the Edge – We all have things we need to do to keep on an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?

Use It or Lose It

I’ve learned a lot during my six-year journey with Parkinson’s disease, especially how important it is to exercise – the body, the mind and the spirit. Keeping these three aspects challenged, keep me on an even keel. Daily physical exercise is vital if I plan to move at all. I usually do a few stretches right in bed  before I get up. I take my medication around 7:30 and by 8:00 I am ready to move. I alternate exercises because I get bored with them after a while.Some days  I use a motorized peddler, striving to keep my revolutions per minute at 85 to 90  I alternate this with the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home program on DVDs . I like these because  a strong musical beat helps me to keep my steps at a steady pace. The DVDs present a variety of walking sessions, from 1 to 5 miles. I enjoy doing these programs because I can pick the length of a program, walk whether it is cold, hot, raining or snowing.  I also do not have to worry about tripping over uneven pavement. The climate is always just right. I follow my aerobics with either a session of yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance; on the smaller scale, hobbies like painting, cross stitch and jewelry making keep my fingers nimble.

To exercise my brain, I write for my blogs, write poetry, do Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and am trying to conquer my old nemesis, algebra. I really enjoy online classes which I take through the Ed2Go program at my local community college. I haven taken  courses on using Photoshop Elements, Travel Photography, Pleasures of Poetry, Writing your Memoir, Making Money from your Writing and I am beginning a  Writing for Children course now. I really enjoy the exchange  with classmates through the forums and  I find the teachers excellent. I am also writing a  scrapbook style memoir and revising the first draft of a children’s book.  And I musn’t forget photography. I exercise my spirit#ith  meditation, collecting positive quotes and reading books of poetry.  I have  a scrapbook which chronicles my journey with PD. I fill it with poems, quotes and journal entries. Below  is a page from my book of collected quotes and my PD Journal. I have  a schedule that alternates these activities so I never get bored. I certainly don’t do all of them everyday.  I’m sure to leave time for outings with my buddies. This year we’ve gone to museums and movies,  a Lemur sanctuary, the farmer’s market, walks around lakes and “treasure hunting ” where I found  a perfect little  desk for my snuggery (my all-purpose writing/painting/reading/creating room.) My husband and I just returned from  a cruise around the British Isles. We went on

quotebook excursions every day, and I am proud to have completed a 5K walk the deck for the cure while we were at sea. It’s important to keep in contact with friends and family to keep you on an even keel. There i so much I want to do, I IMG_0001_NEW refuse to let the PD rob me  of the opportunity. Right now the morning sun is shining through my window. I have  a whole day ahead of me, and plenty of creative ways to fill  it.

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my treasure; my new desk

What it all come sdown to in the end is use it or lose it, and losing it is not an First of all, sten/option for me.IMG_0428 IMG_0425 IMG_0429

Staying in Focus:Weekly Writing Challenge: My Rocky Road

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

The Rocky Road

I was cruising right along
when this rocky path appeared
and now I have been walking it
for many trying years
and yet it leads me onward
there’ve been obstacles, I fear
but despite the looming shadows
I have no time for tears
each day I have, I celebrate
this precious gift I’m given
and I for one have vowed to make
each one a day worth living
so moment by moment, mindfully
I take a step most carefully
along this steep and rocky road
trying not to stumble
I strive to end each day
with hope in a new tomorrow
my heart assured, my spirit free
safe within the circle
of my  friends and family,
I choose to dwell on happiness
and not waste time on sorrow.
2013 pc

One day I am living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family and the next day I receive a diagnosis that changes my picture perfect life forever. Life can be like that, and we must learn to roll with the punches.

I had noticed changes in my body a few years before diagnosis, but caught in a difficult passage through menopause, I attributed some of it – the anxiety especially, to that.  And then, in 2007, a routine colonoscopy found a polyp that we did not know was cancer until after surgery.  The anesthesiologist I had for that procedure suggested I see a neurologist for the tremor I was experiencing. I followed through once I had recovered from the colon cancer operation, already certain of the answer –Parkinson ’s disease.

And now, 6 years later, I am still living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family, but living a life quite different from what I had expected. Now I must take 3 prescription drugs, 2 of them 3 times a day to facilitate walking, control the tremor, and slow down the progression of the disease. 3 additional medications address my blood pressure, anxiety and thyroid. For dessert I have folic acid, a multi-vitamin, vitamin D, 4 fish oil capsules, and a full size aspirin to complete my daily feast of meds. Then there is exercise. I have a small, powered stationary bike that I use every day, keeping the rotations above 80/per minute, aerobic walking using the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home programs on DVD, followed by yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance. I also lift weights three times a week for strength training. It takes a big chunk out of my day but it beats the alternative. I complete my regime with a relaxing meditation

Fortunately, I am 5+ years out from the cancer surgery and so far so good. I have had a total of 7 colonoscopies to monitor things and I see an oncologist twice a year and take an aspirin daily. So far my regime has been successful in keeping me moving and slowing down the PD. This summer we took a cruise to the British Isles and I walked every day. We did an “On the Deck 5K Walk for the Cure” around the ship. So although I’ve  had to make major changes (retiring and giving up driving).  I have adjusted to life along this Rocky Road.  I take each day as it comes and try to treat it as the gift it is. I allow myself time to continue to grow and learn new things through online classes, visits to museums, and writing poetry, my memoir and currently, a middle grade children’s novel. Spending time with family and friends is paramount in keeping up the spirits and continuing to participate in life.

My mother endured months of bedrest to  avoid miscarrying me, so that I am here at all is a wonder; that I’ve lived 60 years and have had a marvelous life filled with love and support from my family and friends, and have been married for 37 years to my soul mate and best friend my husband, Bill, is simply miraculous.

Since I can’t know whether the road remains rocky the rest of the way, or smooths out for me for a time, I continue to walk along it (as best I can) try to keep healthy and fit to write and celebrate the gifts each new day brings.

Keeping Focus: Flights of Fancy

I snapped this photo of my granddaughter, Evelyn, swinging on her new swing set, which she received from her other grandparents for her birthday.  The expression on her face captures the sheer joy a child derives from the simple act of swinging on a swing.  The picture immediately reminded me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, aptly titled, The Swing:

                                                             The  Swing

                                          How do you like to go up in a swing,
                                                 Up in the sky so blue?
                                           Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
                                                 Ever a child can do!

                                            Up in the air and over the wall,
                                                  Till I can see so wide
                                            Rivers and trees and cattle and all
                                                 Over the countryside – 

                                            Till I look down on the garden green
                                                Down on the roof so brown
                                            Up in the air I go flying again,
                                                 Up in the air and down!
                                                                by Robert Louis Stevenson

Who cannot close their eyes and conjure up the feeling of swinging as high as possible, the closest we human beings come to approximate the feat of flying.  On our recent trip to Alaska we would watch the majestic bald eagles soar overhead,  their huge wingspans effortlessly gliding them along the air currents, higher and higher they would fly, then come swooping down, usually to nab an unsuspecting fish or other prey.  Fortunately we are a little too big to be targets. Yet we are fascinated, nonetheless, by their ability to fly.

In our play, my sister and I would be pilots on a mission, our swings were our planes and often we would have to bail out – we literally jumped off the swings while they were still moving, much to our mother’s horror and displeasure.   She was also not thrilled with our taking several strands of the big weeping willow tree’s branches in hand, running and    flying over the creek at our cousin’s house grasping the branches and yelling like Tarzan!

What is it about swinging on a swing that so fascinates both children and adults?   I think it is  the sense of freedom it gives us. Flying through the air, though tethered by the ropes of the swing, we feel the rush of air on our faces, and come as close as we can to that freedom the birds must feel.  More adventuresome people take this a step further with bungee jumping and parachuting out of planes, or para-sailing but for the majority of us, you can’t beat a well made swing for a thrilling ride.  I love to take the grandkids to parks that have adult sized swings.  I still crave the feel of the air on my face, and that moment of pause at the top as the Earth exerts it control and brings us back down again.   And children have fashioned many different ways to swing, be it from an old tire tied to the branch of a tree, to an old canvas hammock that we wrapped around ourselves like mummies,as playmates spun the hammock around as fast as they could

No one would say that I am a frequent flyer.  In fact, prior to my recent trip, the last time I flew was 1985!  And so, as we  settled in our seats aboard the plane for the first leg of our journey, I tried to ignore the fact that there I was, about to be flying 400 miles an hour in a big metal tube that was far heavier than the air around us.  Who would have even imagined, let alone proved, that this was possible?  Thankfully there were men and women of vision from Leonardo DaVinci to the Wright Brothers and beyond to the Neil Armstrongs and the Sally Rides of the space program who believed in the seemingly impossible, and envisioned us flying faster and farther and eventually breaking free of Earth’s bonds and soaring into the vacuum of space.

Flights of fancy from a simple swing to an intergalactic starship.  How far will our imaginations take us, how far can we really go?    Perhaps to another planet where conditions would allow us to actually fly.  I’d love to visit that one!

Fights of fancy or flights of fact? Just ask a child enjoying a swing.  It’s the pleasantest thing you can do!

Focus on the big L – Lifelong Learning

In addition to exercise for the body, we must not forget to exercise our minds.  Now this is the kind of exercise I can get excited about!   No matter what our age or how much education we’ve had, we must continue to challenge our minds if we are to retain a sharp, focused intellect into our golden years.  Just as our bodies are faced with changes as we age, so too is the mind..  And just as forms of physical exercise can keep the aging body agile and fit, so too can exercises for the mind.  Keeping the mind alert and active can help us avoid too many “senior moments” from creeping up on us and  help us retain our independence longer. Keeping our minds challenged can stave off depression and the feeling that life has passed us by. And the best news is, you don’t have to get sweaty and hot and bothered to do it!

There are so man ways to exercise our minds.  Lifelong learning is now easier than ever  before.   From taking continuing education courses at a local community college to solving crossword puzzles, to playing games online, there is a virtual buffet of ways to stay focused  as we age..

One of the best ways to keep the old bean challenged is to learn something new.  If you’ve never gardened before, sign up for a class in that.  How about trying to learn a new language?  Or learn to sew, play chess, play a musical instrument,  make jewelry?  There are limitless possibilities.  By choosing to learn something completely new to us, we challenge our brains to create new pathways and connections, to keep those neurons firing away instead of fading away.

Spending some time each day working on crossword puzzles, word search or suduku puzzles are important in keeping problem solving and logic abilities sharp.  I never felt that I had truly grasped algebra in high school.  Being a word person, I took as little math as I needed to get into college  So I am working on that now.  Practice with both words and numbers is important.

.Games on the computer, like Gardens of Time or Mystery Manor, where you search for hidden objects are fun, and can be a great exercise in focus and concentration.  Or perhaps you’d like to try your hand at Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy..  The more you play these games, the better you get at them and the healthier your brain becomes.  Games like Bejeweled  Blitz or Tetris Battle are great for eye/hand coordination, challenging you to think and respond quickly.  One of my favorite games is that old standby, Scrabble, which you play with friends across the Internet.

Speaking of the Internet, it is a marvelous source of learning, right at your finger tips.  From  taking courses for college credit, to free online access to college classes, such as at open.yale.edu/courses, to those offered by community colleges and public school systems, the possibilities are  endless, With the open Yale courses, you “virtually” sit in on an actual class being conducted at the university.   Never thought you’d get into Yale?  Well now you can — for free!

It can be overwhelming, the amount of information and learning available to us these days, so focus in on a few topics at a time and you’ll be surprised how much you cn learn –  if you put your mind to it!

the bell has rung
the time has come
for us to heed the call
this must be the day
we cast fear away
and climb over that limiting wall
where we will find
freedom of mind
and a wide open road that twists and winds
its way to a future we cannot see
do we stay where it’s safe
where we know our place
or forge with our hands our own destiny?
—   pc 2012
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Focus on the Big E – Exercise

(something on the lighter 🙂  side for weekend reading)

Okay.  Enough already.  I can hear the moans and groans echoing through the Internet.  But there is no getting away from it – exercise is vital for everyone who wants to reach the “Golden Years” with enough agility and energy to at least get out of bed.  It is especially important for anyone suffering from a movement disorder like Parkinson’s Disease.  Without challenging those arms and legs and hands and feet,and even facial muscles, the rigidity will set in big time.  Now, being as I am not a medical professional, I will not give advice to anyone other than to urge you to consult your physician and together develop an exercise program that is right for you.  What I will share with you is my own experience with exercise.

It has been a love/hate relationship, for the most part..  I’m not one of those people who love to run or jog for the sheer joy in it.  But I’ve always recognized the need for it, especially as I love to eat!  But I tend to get bored quickly with any one routine.

And so, yes, I sweated to the oldies with Richard Simmons.  We toned Downtown together, and Uptown together, We stretched, worked on abs and even toned to the sound of Broadway .But boredom eventually set in and I decided to shake things up and join a class.  Maybe working out with other people was the ticket.  So my sister-in-law, Pat , and I joined Elaine Powers, but unfortunately it was located above a Friendly’s Restaurant, so we would work up a good appetite upstairs and stop for lunch at Friendly’s on the way home.  You don’t know how good a Friendly’s hot fudge sundae tastes until you’ve eaten one after an hour of exercise! I guess we didn’t quite have the commitment  we needed.

Several years later, I tried an exercise class again, this time with my friend Denise.  We went about twice, and then Denise found out she was pregnant, and that ended that.  We moved then, from New York to North Carolina and there I met Lisa.  Always coming up with new ideas, Lisa convinced me to give an exercise class one more try. So we set out to Jazzercise.  First of all the drill, I mean dance, instructor must have just returned from washing a company of marine recruits out of the service.  I feared for my life every time I went left when everybody else was going right, which was almost always.So, if you ignore the fact that I was going left when everyone else was going right and that the grapevine step literally entwined my feet together(and I didn’t even have Parkinson’s to blame for that back then) not to mention that two days later, every muscle in my body was crying out in pain,  I guess you could say I had a terrible time.  Never looked back. Never went back.

Then there was the summer Lisa decided we would take a walk every day, only not along a tree-lined  path, but back and forth across the widest part of our Racket and Swim Club swimming pool. Two thirty something ladies, plowing through the water, back and forth.  You get the picture,  Lisa called it water walking but it was more along the lines of dork walking., especially to anyone sitting poolside and trying not to laugh.

But then I discovered a sport I was really semi proficient at  – tennis.  Once again the indefatigable Lisa talked a group of us into taking lessons with the club tennis pro.  He must have been the most patient man on the planet, and he taught us well enough that we were even able to play against our husbands.

Watching tennis players is a sport in itself.  Early on, each of us developed our own style…Lisa would scamper across the court and try for any shot possible, Kathryn would stand at the back of the court and with a mighty swing lob those returns with as little movement as possible. If the ball didn’t fall into her zone,  it wasn’t worth pursuing.  I just  ran around the court  trying not to look too much like a dork and keeping my eye out for that Jazzercise instructor. We were so dedicated to our sport that one time we played as  a hurricane was approaching.  We laughed so hard as the ball, would make sharp right and left turns in its journey across the net.  We continued to play tennis until the Parkinson’s symptoms interfered with my ability to run and after a nasty fall while on vacation,  I decided to hang up my racket.  To everything there is a season…

Next up, I found out that my friend, Kathryn, was walking early every morning around our neighborhood.  Sounded like  a good idea at the time, and so I joined her. For FIVE years we walked diligently, in the dark of winter and the humidity of summer.  We solved not only all of our own problems, but those of the rest of the world as well because we could talk as fast as we walked, but we never lost a pound.  We had read that if you walked three miles a day for five years you would lose 20 pounds.  We decided it must be waiting for the last day to melt away all at once and our svelte, toned bodies would emerge, – but nothing. Nothing lost  (and nothing gained!)  Not even a pat on the back  from the President or the Nobel Peace Prize for solving the world’s problems!

Anyway,during all this time there were two forms of exercise I came across that I actually liked.  One was (in those olden times) a video cassette of a walk at home program  designed by Leslie Sansone.  Now this I could handle.  Walk in place with  a few variations — kicks, knee lifts, side steps and kick backs. I still do them today.  I really like one of her recent ones, now on dvd, in which she adds intervals of an easy jog to the walk.  The music helps you keep the pace and as long as you’re moving, you’re doing okay. Sounds easy, but you do build up a sweat.  I’ve written her to ask if she has ever considered adapting her program for people with movement disorders because I envision a time when I will not be able to keep up with the regular programs.  I hope they do.

The second one was yoga.  I had practiced it for years, and attribute the degree of flexibility I have to it.  Despite the Parkinson’s I am able to bend at the waist and place my hands on the floor next to my feet without bending my knees.   I may not be able to twist myself into  a noodle but I can do downward facing dog and the warrior II poses and my balance, so far,is okay.

Lately I’ve been exploring Tai Chi, and can do simple routines but the more complex ones are beyond my ken.   I also have trouble moving slow enough (odd thing for a Parkie to say) but it’s true. In Tai Chi you move real s-l-o-w.

I round out my exercise routine with cycling and weight lifting.  There is a study being conducted to determine if forced cycling (90 RPMS +) helps Parkinson’s patients with their mobility.  Many claim it’s true so I decided to give it a try, I feel like my gait is smoother, and its great exercise, nevertheless.  I join my husband and son three times a week for weight lifting to keep my muscles strong.

It’s a lot for someone who prefers reading on a chaise lounge or writing this blog,  to getting all sweaty and hot and bothered but, for me, at least, it’s part of my arsenal, helping me to stay focused on taking control and standing firm, and so:

…I prepare for the fight, the battle’s begun
like it or not, there’s nowhere to run
for there is a precious life on the line
though it’s hard to believe… that life is mine
but with bat in hand, I step up to the plate
and I take a good swing, before it;s too late
I hit a home run, it’s out of the park
I consider this,  a very good start
I’m in control and, it’s easy to see
I’ll never let it get the best of me!

Now guess what? Time to exercise.  Hold on Leslie, I’ll be right there.

Pat