I have stashed a bag underneath a coffee table at the edge of the dining area. (Like many modern plan houses, we have a combined dining and living area.) Inside I have a colored pencil set, originally 72 colors, but supplemented by very nice Prismatic pencils from Michael’s. The colors run the gamut: viridian to silver to hydrangea to carmine to peacock green. Ultramarine. Vermillion. Jade. And so forth, through the shades of the rainbow and on and on.

You would also find two tattered and dog-eared “adult” coloring books. Not the pornographic kind, but the ones with the small and fiddly areas to be filled in, that take a level of patience never found in your typical pre-teen. (Teens are, of course, too cool to do anything as pedestrian as color in coloring books.) One has a variety of themes, from realistic nature scenes to complicated abstractions. The other is filled with butterflies and flowers, again with naturalistic insects and also complicated butterflies never seen in the wild.

The pages of the book have been colored in, with differing levels of neatness, depending upon the difficulty of the picture. Each page has its own color scheme: cool – blues and greens, purples and pinks – or warm – reds and oranges, yellows and browns. About half of the pages have been completely filled; the rest are mostly empty, with only a couple half-filled and then abandoned.

These are not the pursuit of tense adults trying to let go of the stresses of the day. They’re physical therapy.

I have essential tremor. (I once asked a neurologist what that term meant and he responded “It means that essentially we have no idea what causes it.” Ha ha. Very funny.) My grandmother had tremors, my mother had tremors, one of my kids has a tremor. In my case, the tremor is exacerbated by my (absolutely necessary) medications.

The tremors have been bad enough that at times I have considered brain surgery to control them. Fortunately, my doctors and I have found a medication that reduces the tremors to a level I can live with, even if they don’t go away completely. 

And that is where the coloring books come in. They help me strengthen at least one of my hands to help control the tremor. It works, too: while my right hand still has a quite noticeable tremor, it is definitely less than the tremor in my left, which I do not use. The coloring was not my doctors’ idea but mine, but they enthusiastically supported me.

Although it was kind of fun at first, it has become somewhat of a chore. I don’t remember to do it every day, but I do color at least two or three times a week. I find it annoying; nevertheless, I persist.

Writing is still difficult, but I can eat soup from a bowl (if it is a relatively thick soup – consommé is still hard). I can use regular utensils without difficulty. Carrying cups of coffee is still tricky, so I put whipped cream on them.

And I hit a milestone yesterday. I made a bracelet.

It’s not a particularly interesting bracelet, although the color scheme (black, white, and red) fills a gap in my jewelry. (Since I was not sure whether I could complete it, I used relatively inexpensive beads – I wasn’t going to pull out the lapis or malachite for this. The most expensive item I used was Swarovski.) Other than design (which didn’t take very long) the bracelet took me about forty to forty-five minutes to make, as opposed to the two hours it took me last time I tried to make one. I found it frustrating at times, but it didn’t reduce me to tears. My tremors made it somewhat difficult, but my eyesight was more of a problem.

So those hours filling page after page of butterflies and flowers, of birds and abstractly designed elephants and hippos have partially paid off. I have a long way to go (and I have to find some way to strengthen my *left* hand) but I have definitely made progress. (Trying to string cloisonné beads – tricky little buggers – is probably beyond me still.)

So here it is. Snowflake obsidian (6mm), mother of pearl (3 mm), Siam (it’s a color) Swarovski bicones (6mm), and onyx (3mm), silver-plated toggle clasp.

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