A Spoonful of Sugar

A Spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down

Forty years ago I walked into West Park Elementary and introduced myself to the secretary as Carol Kleespies, the speech pathologist assigned from the Education Service District.  She took me around the corner to Principal Stine’s office and invited me to sit down in the chair right outside his door. You know the chair, the priority chair, for priority seating in the principal’s office.

If you have ever been granted priority seating in the principal’s office, you know what I am talking about.

Mr. Stine had a more pleasant greeting to me than those who regularly inhabited that same chair.

School buildings come in such a variety of designs. I don’t know of any districts that re-used the architect plans at that time. Buildings age and can become money pits. The maintenance of the roof being one of the most costly concerns.

When  the largest  district in my area needed to replace a couple of elementary schools, they saved money by duplicating the plans which resulted in twin buildings. I have heard tales of a sleepy speech pathologist  (now hired by the district) mistaking the kindergarten class in the new Sunset with the Kindergarten class at the new West Park.  You don’t know how embarrassing that can be until you’ve shown up in the wrong school on the wrong day.

I have worked in almost all the school buildings in the Education Service District coverage area.  Just as I was leaving the profession, I noticed that as new buildings were being built they included dedicated space fit for the specialists. Matched furniture, sinks, heat, electrical outlets, windows for outside light, a phone line, and later internet helped these important individuals do their jobs. In the old buildings, my students learned to find the “Speech Room”   in broom closets, converted shower room,  the nurse’s office, the hallway next to the music room, and the stage while PE was happening in the gym below. (And my husband adds the little closet next to the boys bathroom that had leaky urinals.) Sunset School had a modular that was a 15-minute walk past 20 classrooms. When the student arrived, they had to turn back around for the 15-minute walk back to class.

I had a great room at West Grade School in Stanfield.

(It should not have been mistaken with the school with a similar name but not appearance, West Park in Hermiston.)

I  had been given half of the modular at the far end of the school.  It was a great room. No sink but the heat worked. There was an air conditioner. The windows and doors opened and closed. And once upon a time, it had served as the leftover furniture room, so I had plenty of chairs.

There was one phone in the school and that was in the office. It was usually during the secretary’s lunch break that I  “snuck” into her office to see if I had any messages.  Oddly, the secretary treated phone messages as they were top secret and kept them tucked under the phone on her desk. If she was away from her desk, I got to read all the phone messages while looking for mine.

 Shortcutting across the playground to the office I passed by the windows of Mrs. Fleming’s first-grade classroom.  There was always one student who spotted me and informed all the others. Maybe this student was assigned to be a “lookout” as a classroom job for the week. 

Fall and winter brought cold wet winds blowing across the playground.  I  put on my ankle-length black raincoat and grabbed my umbrella to begin my daily traipse to the office  The wind funneled through a passageway between the 5th and 6th-grade wing and the library. This increased wind across the playground caught the umbrella just right, pulled it inside out, and tore it from my hands.  The umbrella blew and tumbled until it was caught by the walls of Mrs. Flemers’ classroom. To retrieve my umbrella I had to retrace my steps. I reached down to pick up my flattened umbrella and as I came up my eyes caught the images of 27 little noses pressed to the windows.  One of the windows opened a little voice said “ Mary Pumpkins are you ok?”   Another voice said  “Mary Poppins. She looks like Mary Poppins”.

From that time on Mrs. Flemings class referred to me as Mary Poppins.  If there were a few extra minutes when I visited her class we would all sing “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

The last week of school before Christmas break found students working on projects and gifts for their parents. The speech students were released from having to work with me that that week.  I missed the  Mrs. Poppins greetings .

Near the end of my lonely week I was startled when I heard a  knock on the door. I jumped to open it and in came Mrs. Flemers’ first-grade class.  Each of the 27 students carried a  copy of the story they wrote about Mary Poppins, and a spoon they had decorated for me. The spoonful of Sugar.

What does this  story have to do with Parkinson’s Disease?

A group I belong to, Amy Says Dance,  discusses pie.  No really.  Everyone has a favorite pie and we share that (virtual pie) as we practice our speech while introducing ourselves.  Some members of this group recognize that sugar affects them.  Other members are pie connoisseurs .

Mary Poppins sang about one spoon of sugar.  The average American consumes 43 spoonfuls of sugar a day!

I don’t believe there is a lot of research on the affect of sugar on Parkinsons patients. 

Here is an excerpt from an article I found  referencing the affect of sugar on the Parkinson’s brain. This was posted by Dr Bekky Port in the August 2020 Medium.

. Research has shown:

  • that excess sugar impairs our cognitive and memory skills, and our self-control.
  • the consumption of fructose, another type of sugar found in fruit and which can be converted to glucose, is linked to accelerated brain ageing.
  • a diet high in sugar is linked to increased inflammation in the brain in rats.

Driven by dopamine…

For many people, having a little sugar stimulates a craving for more and sugar has drug-like effects in the reward centre of the brain by activating dopamine production.

We can blame this on our evolution. Sugary foods are excellent sources of energy, and a drive to find such fuel would have promoted our survival as a species back when food was harder to come by.

Dopamine release reinforces behaviours — making it more likely that we will carry out the same actions again. So, when we eat sugary foods the brain responds with a kick of dopamine, encouraging us to consume more.

Unfortunately — in a world where doughnuts, sweets and sugary pop exist — we haven’t evolved past our brain’s love of sugar.

How is sugar linked to Parkinson’s?

Research has linked sugar and Parkinson’s in a number of ways:

  • An increase in sugar cravings may be a side effect of the types of microorganisms (like bacteria) that live in our gut that can change in people with Parkinson’s.
  • Some people report that eating sugary foods makes their Parkinson’s symptoms worse — but this has yet to be proven through scientific research.
  • Diabetes has been shown to increase the risk of neurodegenerative conditions including Parkinson’s.

Research into the impact of diabetes — both type 1 and type 2 — on the brain is a hot topic and the potential connection to Parkinson’s is becoming clearer.

High blood sugar levels can cause the brain to age and shrink. It can also lead to small-vessel disease reducing blood flow to the brain and increasing the risk of vascular dementia.

Well, there we have it. Some good reasons to think before we have that second piece of pie…or my big bowl of  ice cream and my little piece of pie.

I couldn’t image eating spoonfuls of sugar all day, but  basically, I do.  Blame it on the lack of dopamine to prompt my desire for excessive intake of sugar. 

Heres the lLyrics
Mary Poppins:
In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun

You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

And ev’ry task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see that

A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

A robin feathering his nest
Has very little time to rest
While gathering his bits of twine and twig
Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows a song will move the job along – for

Mary Poppins, Jane, Michael
A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

Mary Poppins:
Spit spot!


The honey bee that fetch the nectar
From the flowers to the comb
Never tire of ever buzzing to and fro
Because they take a little nip
From ev’ry flower that they sip

Mmm rum punch, my favorite.

And hence (And hence),
They find (They find)
Their task is not a grind.

A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

Published by Carol Clupny, author The Ribbon of Road Ahead: One Woman's Remarkable Journey with Parkinson's Disease

I am a middle aged woman with Parkinson's Disease. When I was first diagnosed I spent a lot of time researching the disease. Seeing a video of a man in the advanced stages of the disease attempting to get out of his chair and then "freezing" as he tried to walk across the room got me off my butt and moving. Great adventures on the Camino de Santiago and with TEAM Pedaling for Parkinson's across IOWA, as well as the day to day adventures of life have lead me to writing. My first novel, a memoir, was published early 2019. It is called, you got it THE RIBBON OF ROAD AHEAD. Living with the degenerative neurological disease Parkinson's, ULTREIA is a word that guides me. I have chosen it as the name of my business ULTREIA BOOKS. It comes from Latin and old French and means "unfailing courage". In the old days, pilgrims would call "Ultreïa" to each other as encouragement "Go up, go further!" Nowadays we would say "You can do this thing". It takes courage to live with Parkinson's. May I face each day with unfailing courage. Ab Here is more about me; I was living an active lifestyle riding horses, hiking, climbing and snow skiing when at age fifty I was diagnosed with Parkinsons. Retiring from my career as a speech-language pathologist I decided to “take to the road” to battle the disease. My first steps, walking out her door to the mailbox, lead to trekking over 1000 miles of pilgrimage trails on the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain. A dusty bike discovered in the garage resulted in four rides on the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa with the Pedaling for Parkinsons Team. These adventures inspired me to write a memoir The Ribbon of Road Ahead: One Woman’s Remarkable Journey with Parkinson’s Disease. I blogs about my everyday life as a middle-aged woman in the mid-stages of Parkinson’s disease. My honest, humorous, and casual narrative style brings the reader to an intimate understanding of my resilience and acceptance. My blog, sharing the name of my book ”The Ribbon of Road Ahead” can be found at www.ultreiablog.org After completing a Masters of Science in Speech Pathology from Eastern Washington University I received certification in School Leadership and Administration from Lewis and Clark College. I provided speech pathology services and later became a program director completing 32 years in the wide geographic expanse of eastern Oregon. Active in the Oregon Speech-Language and Hearing Association I received honors of the association and the presidential award for work on recruitment and retention of speech and hearing professionals. Il presented numerous papers and projects at local, state and regional professional conferences. I was appointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski to two terms of the Oregon Board of Examiners of Speech Pathology and Audiology, the state’s licensing and consumer protection agency. Since my diagnosis in 2008, I has become active in the Parkinson’s community as an advocate, an Ambassador for the Davis Phinney Foundation and support group facilitator for Parkinson's Resources of Oregon. I was appointed the regional patient representative for the Parkinson's Foundation’s Women with PD TALK study. In September of 2019 the Michael J Fox Foundation selected me to participate in the Parkinson’s Policy Forum in Washington DC. As an attendee at the World Parkinson Congress in 2016 in Portand, Oregon, I presnted a poster session examining the decision making process for patients considering deep brain stimulation. At the 2019 WPC in Kyoto, Japan I presented a poster on vision concerns of women with PD and lead small group discussions. Myr book The Ribbon of Road Ahead has provided many speaking opportunities for Carol. In 2019 and early 2020 she visited 24 support groups in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California to share her thoughts on living well with the disease. In addition, she has presented talks for The Center on Aging in San Francisco, Parkinson's Place in Las Vegas, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation in Richland WA and virtually through their HOPE online program. In late 2020 I rejuvenated her voice and narrated her book. It became available as an audio book in 2021. As part of this project I read stories over the airwaves on RadioParkies Australia with DJ Madonna and in Great Britain with DJ Johnny Parky. She and her husband Charlie have two adult sons. They live on a small hobby farm in eastern Oregon. Contact Information: Carol Clupny PO BOX 128, Hermiston, OR 97838 caclupny@gmail.com (541) 720-4256

4 thoughts on “A Spoonful of Sugar

  1. sugar is one of the officially approved addictive drugs (like caffeine) on which the US gov’t and corporate agri-business did not wage war. it’s in every processed food and drink on the super market shelves and in their refrigerators–and it is harmful. of course, it’s delicious, too. and it’s just not fair! luckily i’m sweet enough w/o it.

  2. Oh, Carol..the piles of sugar I inhale in a day (pistachio ice cream being the deadliest). Thank you for sharing, Mary Poppins🥰

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