“My dad liked to draw cartoons,” explained Sharon, “that’s how I discovered he had essential tremor.” She watched his hand shake with each stroke of the pencil; every crosshatch line crude and jagged. His tremor had stayed in his hands. Her mother’s tremor was most noticeable in her head. They made the best of things and learned ways to cope: holding the “bad” hand with the “good” to try and keep things steady, allowing extra time to get ready, and refusing to take themselves too seriously.
As time passed and Sharon and her sisters grew up, several additional members of the family were diagnosed—her middle sister, a few nieces, and yes, Sharon too. With the long family history of ET, Sharon is able to offer support and be supported by those around her. A lot of comfort comes from being around those who are understanding and have compassion.
Using her parents as a model, Sharon embraced her personal challenges and pursued her love of language and learning; eventually completing her post-doctoral work in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Collaborative Literacy Intervention Project (CLIP), a reading strategies program. She has spent her entire career as an educator, continuing to follow her father’s lead, using music and storytelling to inspire a life-long love of reading in children.
“I always taught the children in my classes that we are all different and differences are good. Some of us have brown eyes. Some have blue. But we are all special.” Her students never asked about her shaking hands or bobbling head because it never occurred to them to be bothered by it. She had taught them a valuable life lesson that she hopes has followed them throughout their lives.
After retiring from formal teaching, she continued on as an educator “but just not getting paid for it”, happily volunteering at her local library. It gave Sharon the opportunity to stay engaged with children and allowed her own creative spirit and inner child to be inspired.
Retirement offered her time to rekindle her love of music and general silliness. She released two children’s sing-a-long CDs. The first “Sing Softly with Sharon: Lullabies from Around the World” contains 13 songs and classic children’s poems all sung and read by Sharon herself. Her second CD harkens back to the silly songs from her father. With “Sing Silly with Sharon”, she pulled out her memories and guitar, sang from the heart (and she even had two of her grandchildren sing back-up) and created an album that would have made her father proud.
Moving to the Sonora desert region of Arizona inspired Sharon to look for a new way to engage children. She looked around the beautiful desert landscape for inspiration. That is where she found Gq. “Gq Gq. Where are you”? is a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a very curious Gambel’s quail, a common site in Sharon’s own back yard. Published just this spring, the book follows the little quail’s journey through the desert as he searches for new playmates. It’s a delightful story that explores the concepts of friendship, as well as the diversity of life present in the local plants and animals.
Today, Sharon has the opportunity to travel throughout the United States promoting her book. “When I go out to promote my book I have an opportunity to share my knowledge. Hopefully it will help raise awareness that essential tremor is a real neurological problem.” Like her mother, her most obvious tremor is in her head, as well as her voice. “Although I am losing some of my stamina for [public] speaking” Ritt says ”I think I’m going to work with a voice coach, to see if that improves things.” Sharon has never allowed her tremor to interrupt her plans, and she surely does not intend to start now. Her warm heart and compassionate character still draw people to her, children and grown-ups alike, and she has made many new friends during her travels. And now they are ALL aware of essential tremor.
Although life can be a difficult journey and there are especially unique challenges along the way for those affected by essential tremor, with passion, dedication and maybe even some silly songs to make you smile, you can reach your goals, no matter what. Sharon’s story is proff of that. “All things are possible…even with ET.”
Find more information about Sharon and her work, visit her website at www.sharittproductions.com. For each copy the book sold, Sharon will donate $1 to the IETF.