Focus on the Big E – Exercise

(something on the lighter ūüôā ¬†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  Рtennis.  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.



Pictures in Poems, Poems in Pictures

There are pictures in poems and poems in pictures
— Chinese Proverb

My interest in photography began when I received my first camera, a Kodak Brownie, when I was still in elementary school.  My interest in poetry began first with reading poems, then later writing my own.   As a child I enjoyed the poems of Robert Louis Stephenson,

One of my first photos. Christmas 1964. I had a little trouble fitting everyone in the frame!

especially My Shadow, and  those of A.A. Milne : Forgiven, Spring Morning and The End.  I  Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, and the poems of Emily Dickinson and Sara Teasdale remain favorites today.  And Trees by Joyce Kilmer was the first poem I ever memorized.

I suppose I am a woman out of time as I prefer rhymed verse to free verse, which is more popular now. ¬†I have written some free verse, but most often my muse comes to me in rhyme and as to where the muse comes from remains a mystery to me, I question it not, and write as I am instructed! ¬†I think what draws me to both poetry and photography is the opportunity to paint a picture of my world, be it with words or with the lens of my camera.. ¬†And they work so well together! ¬†Sometimes I take a picture that inspires a poem, other times I’ve written a poem and looking through my viewfinder, see the poem reflected in the image in the frame. ¬†In this case, the picture preceded the poem:

Harbor Sunset

liquid drops of sunlight
sparkle in the bay
and reflect a sky awash in sunset hue
the trees along the shoreline
form a silhouette in gray
and the clouds amass in shades of dusky blue
suspended for the moment
between darkness and the day
I pause to fill my senses and renew
and with deep appreciation
I continue on my way
as the sunset in the harbor fades from view.

Poetry and photography are my “go – to” coping tools. ¬†I can lose myself ¬†for hours ¬†composing a poem ¬†or in trying to get the best exposure for a picture. and worries and concerns just drift away. Best of all, ¬†both of them can be done outside, sitting in a pretty park or while hiking in the mountains.. ¬†Back at home I use the pictures and poems in greeting cards, scrapbooks and journals. ¬†I’ve made beautiful books on

On a more personal level, I explore my feelings and improve my state of mind by writing poems reflecting my journey with Parkinson’s Disease. ¬†Somehow, writing both prose and poetry help to transfer the fears and concerns from me to the paper. ¬†I gladly let it absorb ¬†the worries, and help me to stay in focus on more important things. ( More about this in my next post.)

So grab a notebook, pen and a camera and have some fun!

If you’ve haven’t explored writing poetry yet, here are a few helpful guides:

The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser
How to Write Poetry  published by Spark Publishing (
Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan
The Describer’s Dictionary by David Grambs

For photography I recommend taking a class at a local community college. ¬†It’s the best way to learn how to use your camera, especially if you are venturing into using a digital SLR. for the first time. All the buttons and knobs and settings on these cameras can be overwhelming.

Plants, Prose, Photos and Poems

As I was digging happily in my little tree garden (flowers planted around the tree in our front yard,) I realized that I should have added plants to my list of coping tools, along with prose, photos and poems. There is nothing more healing than working in a garden on a lovely spring evening.  Photographing them and writing the poems they inspire can lift the spirit as well.

One can work out a lot of frustrations in digging ¬†a nice big hole for a plant. ¬†The act of placing it in the rich¬†earth, filling in the hole and adding some fertilizer can induce a meditative state — a feeling of being at peace with the earth and building a connection with nature and all living things.

 Pruning the plants, keeping them full and green and removing spent blossoms is much like unloading the leftover bits and pieces of hurt feelings, arguments and disappointments many of us carry with us Рthese only serve to weigh us down  and keep us from feeling the lightness of a healthier state.  I know i would much prefer to look like a full, green and glossy plant, then a drooping, spindly one barely able to hold up its head. A healthy plant looks up at the sky, is nurtured by the sun and washed by the rain.  A healthy plant is a joy to look at and flowers are the stars of plantdom. I especially like pansies.  Their delicate faces light up in so many wondrous colors!

So take some time to dig in a garden, or even a large pot. ¬†Plant some pansies. You’ll smile back when you catch them smiling at you.