Get A Move On

I get tired of the platitudes.

“I am bigger than Parkinson’s.”

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Because there are times when Parkinson’s is bigger than I am, when life is scarier than dreams, when I’m surrounded by lemons but not vodka or sugar.

The existential argument I’m having with my belief system is reaching a draw with no clear winner. Because sometimes Parkinson’s wins. Sometimes my lack of vision wins. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if I’m stronger. Or if I’ve gained weight (muscles or alcohol, it’s hard to tell). Or if I can or can’t organize my way out of a wet paper bag.

Everyone has their own issues. Some are bigger than others, it’s just not anyone’s place to judge the depth of someone else’s suffering. But no one wants to hear you complain about lost love, lost life, lost health, lost vision, lost hope. And those who suffer don’t really want to hear another story about overcoming the odds and obstacles. At least I don’t.

Now, I am simply trying to find a way back to the life I loved. Of course, it sucks that the main reason I loved it has gone, but no one wants to hear about THAT either.

As I walk to the kitchen in the pre-dawn light, words I have lived by  all my life begin to echo around my head.

Suck it up, buttercup.  It’s time to get a move on.


Be Your Own Tiara

By Jane Miller

My life is turning out neither the way I planned it, nor dreamed it.

I dreamed of happy. Of belonging. Of place. Of love everlasting.

Of a tiara.

I have always wanted a tiara. A sparkly symbol of something … I don’t know. Acceptance? Esteem? Beauty? Altruism?

One year, as we were searching for decorations for the prom, my students found an old box up in the attic of the high school in Gold Beach. A veritable cornucopia of prom treasures. Sashes. Gold pins. Glitter and sparkles. And … a tiara. I put it on to a round of applause.

I wore that tiara all day. Then I put it away. After all, I did not earn it. No one voted for me. I didn’t inherit it from some other princess. I found it in a dusty old box.

Someone once promised to buy me a tiara. It never materialized, so I stopped asking and I did what I should have done years (decades) ago.

I bought my own tiara. The tiara doesn’t have a name the way many of my favorite objects do. But it is sitting in a place of honor atop Molly’s head on my jewelry box.


Last fall, my Sole Support for Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon team was comprised of friends from near and far. We ranged in age from 70-ish to four. From 6’ 7” to 22”. (The four-year old was Lily, daughter of my sorority sister, Christy. The 22” was Nettle, a lovely golden retriever.) In addition to the tutus we all made, I made bracelets for the team to commemorate the walk and thank them for their love and friendship. I even made one I hoped would be small enough for Lily.

The bracelet for Lily was big, and early on she began to play with it, causing it to slip up and down her arm. Christy matter of factly notified Lily that the bracelet had been a present from “Princess” Jane and she had better not lose it. Lily’s eyes widened as Christy went on to explain.

“See?” she asked, pointing to my tiara. “Princess Jane is a real princess, she has a tiara. She gave you that bracelet, and you need to take care of it.”

Not being privy to this exchange, I began to wonder why this lovely little girl kept stealing surreptitious glances my way. Lily wore that bracelet all day, taking care that it didn’t slip off her wrist, making sure nothing happened to it.

The walk began, and shortly into it, Lily made it known that she was no longer enamored with this whole 5K idea. Christy made it known that she was not about to schlep a 4-year-old around the streets of Portland.

“Look at Princess Jane,” Christy explained. “If she can walk, so can you.” Lily cast glances my direction throughout the brief walk, my migraine causing me to cut my participation short.

After our walk, we sat at picnic tables, snacking and talking about our day – the vendors, the crowd, the joy of friends you’ve known for almost 40 years. Christy began taking pictures of Lily as she stood between the tables, still resplendent in her tulle tutu, numerous leis, and bracelet.

I walked softly over to Lily and knelt down to look into her eyes.

“Lily, would you like to wear my tiara for a little bit?”

img_4638Her small hands went to her mouth as she almost trembled with excitement. She looked to Christy, then back to me, and nodded just a touch. I took the tiara off my  head and placed it gently atop hers, making sure it was perched snuggly.

Lily stood rooted to her spot, as if the slightest move would break the spell. Christy kept taking pictures while I quietly talked to Lily about tiaras and princesses.

How Lily could have a tiara of her own. How important it was to be a good princess, help other people, and be kind. She nodded but didn’t say a word.

After just a few minutes I sat down while Lily continued to stand straight and tall. Then she pivoted ever so slowly and carefully toward me, took the tiara gently from her head, cradled it securely in her tiny hands, and gave it back to me.

“Thank you for taking such good care,” I praised her, then whispered, “Are you sure you don’t want to wear it more?”

Lily gave a quick shake of her head, smiled again, and went back to her mother. Christy knelt down and hugged her, as Lily started to recount the story of how she wore a real princess’ tiara.

Lily will someday know that I am not a real princess. But she will also know that you don’t have to wait for someone to give you a tiara. You make your own tiara every day of your life.


Be responsible for those who depend on you.

Be kind to all.

Be a person you would be proud of.

And I have realized that I DO have what I dreamed of.


Happy Anniversary

by Jane Miller

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! It is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, not no man ever lov’d.


Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare, first published with the other 153 sonnets in 1609, attempts to put into words that which defies the laws of semantics.

True love is defined by what it is not. It does not alter or change if circumstances change. It has the bright permanence of a lighthouse or a star guiding us through the stormy seas of life, leading us safely home.

Love is not bound by time, cannot be measured, and will last till the end. Enduring past the limits of the physical world.

How do I know this? One, because I am an English teacher. And two, I was a witness to just such a love.

Today is the wedding anniversary of my parents, Richard Oliver Miller and Florence Henry. They fell in love when Dad returned from England after World War II.

Their love endured the trials and tribulations of raising four children, Dad going to college three times for three degrees from three universities, 27 years in the Air Force, Korea … Vietnam.

My mother is the greatest woman I have ever known. The description in her high school yearbook will fit her forever but does not begin to touch on the strength, compassion, and courage that existed in her tiny frame. Irish to her core, a true matriarch in a society and family governed by women since pre-Celtic times. She was in turn fierce, demanding, protective, and loving. So loving.

She expected the best of us and for us. Dad may have asked us at the dinner table each evening, “So, what have you done to justify your existence today?” But it was Mom who pushed me. To sit up straight. To love without conditions. To look my best because I was representing my family and myself to the world. To do my best. To persevere through life’s struggles because that’s just what one does. I have tried to teach my sons these lessons.

Dad taught me responsibility and keeping my word. Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the way it needs to be done. Neat as a pin, he kept the cleanest garage and hangar of anyone I have ever seen. Not everyone can carpet their garage and make it work. Dad did.

And he taught me the value of old goofy songs sung loudly and off-key, of a good joke, of sayings that my sons still use.

They both taught me what love is. And what it is not. “True love” is a misnomer. “Love” that is not true is not love. They were true to each other. They understood each other. They lived for each other. They valued each other. Partners always.

Love is what you take with you, and what you leave behind. It’s what lasts.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Leave the backdoor unlocked for me.