Creativity

Staying in Focus: Meditation and Mandalas

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2018 began as a high stress year for us, beginning with my husband’s diagnosis of prostate cancer. In preparation for the radiation therapy he would receive, he underwent a procedure to place three gold markers in his prostate.

A few days later he developed an e-coli infection in his blood, which landed him in the hospital for three days. It could have been worse, but the hospital staff was on the ball, and started him on antibiotics immediately. Needless to say, my anxiety levels were on 24-hour alert.

Fortunately, I had developed a system for dealing with anxiety, as part of my regimen in handling my Parkinson’s disease. This is a simple system, no drugs required, consisting of Meditation and Mandalas.

My meditation is based on calming my mind and body with relaxed breathing and the repetition of two lines of a poem I wrote and use as a mantra.

Let It Go

I take a breath, I let it go
I feel the calm, I let it flow
I embrace the moment, I am still
I let gentle peace my spirit fill
I clear my thoughts, now is the time
To silence fears within my mind
I can cope with this I know
I take a breath, I let it go…

I will repeat this poem several times, and then, as I feel the calm flow over me, I’ll use the last two sentences as a mantra.

I enjoy all types of coloring books, but my favorite for calming my nerves and reducing stress are the mandalas. I have posted in the past about how stress-reducing it is to color. For years the only good coloring books for adults were available in museum stores. A few years ago, however, it was discovered how stress relieving coloring can be and suddenly there were coloring books everywhere – from bookstores to the check-out counters in grocery stores and pharmacies.

The word mandala means “circle” and they represent our connection to the universe. Coloring a mandala is a soothing process, and once I have completed coloring it, I can use it as a focus point in meditation. As I gaze at the mandala, I focus on the colors and patterns, and this helps me to clear my mind of fears and anxieties. When troublesome thoughts arise to distract me, I gaze again at the beautiful colors in my mandala and continue with my meditation.

Choosing colors for my mandalas is the artistic part of the process. I usually use 5 to 6 colors, and try to balance cool and warm colors, and a complementary or contrasting color as well. Then it is just a matter of coloring in the pattern.  A color wheel can be helpful with this step. I find that Prismacolor pencils provide a rich, saturated finish. A good pencil sharpener is vital as pencil points must be sharp to fill in small areas. An interesting  thing about coloring mandalas is that you really don’t know how it will look when it is done. As more and more of the pattern is colored, the image grows brighter and more vibrant.

The next time you have a lot of stress to relieve, give coloring mandalas and meditation a try.  Thankfully, my husband is almost finished with his radiation treatment. and my stress levels have eased. Now I can color for the sheer fun of it, but I’ve worn some of my favorite colored pencils down to the nib.  I’d better stock up because I just ordered 3 new mandala books from Amazon. It always pays to be prepared…

 

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Staying in Focus: Escape from Mount Sanctuary

ANNOUNCING the release of my novel for children:

 

 

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Although written with children in mind, the story is one you will never forget, a story of friendship, acceptance and tolerance for those different from us, of family and courage and sacrifice. It is a cautionary tale written to remind us how beautiful, yet fragile, is our world,  and how important is our stewardship of  it. It is  a story of  a boy coming of age, for readers of all ages.

 

Escape from Mount Sanctuary now available from the Kindle store at Amazon.com. It’s a bargain at only $.99. No Kindle, no problem. Simply download the FREE Kindle app  and you can view the book on your computer.  Here’s a link to the site:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover-ebook/dp/B00JYJ5AZI/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_dnr_2

 

On the lower right hand corner of the page you will see a link to the free Kindle app. The book will be available in print on demand in the coming weeks if you prefer traditional books.

Book Description

 April 25, 2014
What if you had the chance to discover the world all over again? In Escape from Mount Sanctuary, a young boy named Ke does exactly that. Ke has lived his life in special caverns built to shelter survivors and their descendants beneath the Earth’s surface following a cataclysmic event ages ago. Ke learns that there is an “outside” to his world, a world long thought abandoned. Ke is intrigued, especially when he meets a girl (Mira) from an outside settlement and a wolf named Tip, who possesses special abilities. With this pair of adventurers, Ke and his elder friend, Tuck, embark on a journey into a world far more wondrous, and dangerous, than they imagined. During their journey, Ke, a naïve young boy with dreams of becoming a storyteller, learns much about friendships and family, self-reliance and sacrifice. By journey’s end, they all come to realize that courage is not measured by one’s size or one’s age, but by the conviction in one’s heart. Their story celebrates the joy of discovery, the wonder of our world and the rewards of perseverance. It encourages its readers to follow their dreams wherever they may lead. It is about discovering the world all over again.

Staying in Focus: Fun with Gazing Balls

I enjoyed taking the pictures of my gazing ball reflecting that beautiful sunrise after the snowfall yesterday. This one is my favorite. TIMG_2565he pink band of the sunrise is glowing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Today I decided to have more fun with the ball and see what it was displaying with the sun shining. Here’s what I got:IMG_2590         A lot more blue from the sky and  a

tiny sun captured inside. In the next one, instead of standing where I’d blend in with the shadows , I put myself into the scene.

IMG_2592.ajpg I look like I’m walking on the sands of an alien planet with two suns rising behind me!

The Gazing Ball

Is this gazing ball a door into a far-off place? somewhere  far above and beyond  time and space?

within its fragile form

through the heavens I

explore

with crystal clear clarity

in a gazing ball ‘s view of reality.  -pc 2014

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Captive’s Choice

Daily Prompt  Captive’s Choice: You’ve been kidnapped and given a choice: would you rather be stranded on an island, dropped into an unknown forest, or locked in a strange building?

This one is just for fun!

I’m being held captive either on a deserted island, in an unfamiliar forest or in a locked building. Let’s examine this dilemma from the point of view of a Hollywood script writer.

The deserted (or not quite as deserted as we were led to believe) Island. We know, from  faithfully watching the saga on Lost unfold during its run, that some Hollywood script writers cannot write their way out of the paper bag they wrote themselves into. Let’s see we saw a polar bear on a tropical island, creepy people called “The Others”, an invisible but noisy monster, apparitions of lost loved ones, and, of course, the button that holds reality together and must be pushed every 108 minutes or the ancient Egyptians take over with hieroglyphs and a nuclear bomb.That said, they had  the last laugh, though, because  The Island, was not the real purgatory after all  – watching that series finale was. So no more islands for me. but then again, there was that cute Sawyer guy…

Ditto on the locked building. Obviously, and without needing to see anything, there are zombies either locked in the building with me, or trying to get inside. Hollywood seems to be cashing in big on zombies – brainless individuals with one thing on their missing minds. If we aren’t careful they will be successful in turning us all into zombies through the truly mind numbing offerings of reality TV. Either way, it will not end well for me, so I will avoid locked buildings and reality TV and keep what wits I have left.

So, by default, I choose the unfamiliar forest.  First of all,there are plenty of survival tools just laying about in a forest – sharp stones to whittle a spear, or throw to scare off the animals with scary agendas (like bears). I could fashion  a nest in  a tree, or makes  a hut with branches and vines. I could wash up in the nearby creek, or throw my spear to catch a fish that  I can cook over a fire I started with 2 rocks. Now I’m sure in some Hollywood scripts             there might be wolves or even werewolves, but I might just as easily (in  a Hollywood script) wander into the forest home of Robin Hood. Kevin Costner may have had a bit of (oh, okay, a lot) of trouble with his British accent, but he sure had one heck of a fine forest home with all the comforts – suspended walkways high up in the trees, an elevator powered by water, a pool for skinny dipping – what more could a bloke need?. Or, how about stumbling in on a hobbit village – those are some fine houses, although they tend to be a bit small. And if  I’d prefer a mobile home, the hobbits have trees that talk and walk you from place to place. Now these scriptwriters are on to something! Forests are so much more versatile than islands and locked buildings. I think I might just stay here!

Staying in Focus: Autumn crafts/precious moments

The finished product

The finished product

One of the things I most enjoyed about teaching was exploring the changing seasons and celebrating the holidays through art. I enjoy crafts myself and loved sharing this with my students.  Now that I have retired, I enjoy sharing these  interests with my grandchildren. This weekend they came over for a visit. Their laughter and exuberance fill the house and bring a charge of energy to their Grams and Grandpa. We decorated a Halloween scene, made puppets and then they put on a puppet show . Here are some pictures of our day together.. IMG_2416IMG_2415                                                                          Adding the finishing touches. And now it is time for the puppet show:IMG_2441

The finished product!

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                                                                                            After all that work , it’s time for some physical activity :                                                                                                                               IMG_2420

           Each day spent with them is a precious moment.                                                                                                           

IMG_2421 IMG_2423 IMG_2424 My friend, Denise, who recently moved here is also a craft enthusiast. Here are a couple of simple crafts we made together, We took a plain pumpkin and fancied it up with ribbon and fall flowers. You can use a real or a manufactured pumpkin. The leaf mat is a simple piece of white cardboard cut into a circle the size you need, with leaves (real or silk) ironed flat and glued  onto the circle. We used a hot  glue gun. A white sock and an empty 2 liter bottle of soda become a ghost. Simply fill the bottom with beans or sand for stability . Use a little wire  to make the peak atop his head and make the arms bendable. Use scraps to decorate. A spaghetti jar and some stretchy medical bandage become a mummy. Add googly eyes and some creepy spiders to decorate. Place a candle inside. I use the battry powered ones for safety. IMG_2428 IMG_2423 - Copy IMG_2426 - Copy Filling your home with holiday crafts brings back memories of special time spent together with family and friends. Our family has exchanged homemade gifts for many years. They have included clever crafts like those above, beautiful cross stitch pieces from my mom, and cross stitch ornaments from my cousin Phyllis, painted dishes, mosaic hot plates, candles, potpourri jars, decorated coffee cups from my sister. I’ve added annual  Christmas poems with watercolor backgrounds, family photo books I designed on Snapfish, framed photography and a myriad of homemade ornaments. My brother has made us each beautiful carved walking sticks, and very clever things made from found objects like large, rusty bolts from railroad tracks, my sister-in-law Elise gave us clever scarves  made of yarn, our niece Jeanette has painted feathers and shells and framed art pieces. These are the kind of gifts you remember year to year. And the making and giving of gifts are  some of the truly precious moments of our lives. This inspiration for the ribbon  pumpkin came from all you magazine,the September 20, 2013 issue.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: On the Edge: Use It or Lose It

 Daily Prompt: On the Edge – We all have things we need to do to keep on an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?

Use It or Lose It

I’ve learned a lot during my six-year journey with Parkinson’s disease, especially how important it is to exercise – the body, the mind and the spirit. Keeping these three aspects challenged, keep me on an even keel. Daily physical exercise is vital if I plan to move at all. I usually do a few stretches right in bed  before I get up. I take my medication around 7:30 and by 8:00 I am ready to move. I alternate exercises because I get bored with them after a while.Some days  I use a motorized peddler, striving to keep my revolutions per minute at 85 to 90  I alternate this with the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home program on DVDs . I like these because  a strong musical beat helps me to keep my steps at a steady pace. The DVDs present a variety of walking sessions, from 1 to 5 miles. I enjoy doing these programs because I can pick the length of a program, walk whether it is cold, hot, raining or snowing.  I also do not have to worry about tripping over uneven pavement. The climate is always just right. I follow my aerobics with either a session of yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance; on the smaller scale, hobbies like painting, cross stitch and jewelry making keep my fingers nimble.

To exercise my brain, I write for my blogs, write poetry, do Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and am trying to conquer my old nemesis, algebra. I really enjoy online classes which I take through the Ed2Go program at my local community college. I haven taken  courses on using Photoshop Elements, Travel Photography, Pleasures of Poetry, Writing your Memoir, Making Money from your Writing and I am beginning a  Writing for Children course now. I really enjoy the exchange  with classmates through the forums and  I find the teachers excellent. I am also writing a  scrapbook style memoir and revising the first draft of a children’s book.  And I musn’t forget photography. I exercise my spirit#ith  meditation, collecting positive quotes and reading books of poetry.  I have  a scrapbook which chronicles my journey with PD. I fill it with poems, quotes and journal entries. Below  is a page from my book of collected quotes and my PD Journal. I have  a schedule that alternates these activities so I never get bored. I certainly don’t do all of them everyday.  I’m sure to leave time for outings with my buddies. This year we’ve gone to museums and movies,  a Lemur sanctuary, the farmer’s market, walks around lakes and “treasure hunting ” where I found  a perfect little  desk for my snuggery (my all-purpose writing/painting/reading/creating room.) My husband and I just returned from  a cruise around the British Isles. We went on

quotebook excursions every day, and I am proud to have completed a 5K walk the deck for the cure while we were at sea. It’s important to keep in contact with friends and family to keep you on an even keel. There i so much I want to do, I IMG_0001_NEW refuse to let the PD rob me  of the opportunity. Right now the morning sun is shining through my window. I have  a whole day ahead of me, and plenty of creative ways to fill  it.

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my treasure; my new desk

What it all come sdown to in the end is use it or lose it, and losing it is not an First of all, sten/option for me.IMG_0428 IMG_0425 IMG_0429

Staying In Focus: A Timeline of a Lifetime

009I am working on a timeline for my mother’s birthday. 010 I hope she will be up to having  a party. She just had her second round of chemo on Monday and yesterday was very ill. She is staying hydrated but doesn’t want to eat as she doesn’t want to get sick again. I now can see why people with cancer lose so much weight and are so weak. At this point, the cure is far worse than the disease, but we know that won’t be so if she decides to opt out. She has 10 more treatments to go, if she can just hang on. I do so hope she can get to  feeling a little better by Saturday. My sister and I plan to take her to Lovely Lady to get fitted for a wig, and then out to lunch (something mild) for some special  mother/daughters time.

012And speaking of time, making her timeline has been quite eye-opening. I’ ve included not only family milestones. but historical and cultural ones as well. 90 years covers a lot of territory.  Here are some of the things my mother has seen happen or have  been invented in her 90 years:

The Great Depression
The attack on Pearl Harbor
World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, The Vietnam War, The wars in Iraq and 004Afghanistan
The Cuban Missile Crisis
The assassination of JFK
The Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, the Environmental Movement
Passage of the 15th Amendment giving African-Americans the right to vote
The invention of 45 rpm records, 8 track cassettes,audio cassettes, cds, mp3s and iPods
invention of microwave ovens, laser surgery, CAT and PET scans and MRIs
Tupperware
The Internet (the word wide web), Facebook
Global Warming
the advent of large corporations – IBM, Walmart, Amazon
transistor radios, car radios, black and white television, color television, VCRs, DVD players, Tivo,  DVRs, Home Box Office,  Movies on Demand, Netflicks, Streaming, reality TV
the invention of video games from pong to CGIs, MMORPGs.
Polaroid cameras, SLR, digital cameras, digital SLRs, cameras in phones, Photoshop
touch tone phones, mobile phones, cell phones, smart phones
personal computers, laptops, e readers, iPads, home printers, scanners, fax machines GPS
man reaches orbit, man lands on moon, space shuttles invented, Challenger disaster,
the International Space Station built, shuttles retired, US lands rovers on Mars, pictures from space ( Apollo and Voyager Program)
atom bombs dropped on Japan, nuclear arms race begins, rise of terrorism, 9/11
slang phrases :groovy, cool, far out, just sayin, one up, fly, lol, rotf

Isaac

Isaac Wetzel

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Jeanette and her fiancee, Jarred Tafaro

I could go on forever. It ‘s an interesting phenomenon to see  how we humans adapt to constant change. Yet, while all this was happening, my mother’s life was unfolding. She grew up as part of a large family living in a small town in northern New Jersey. She graduated from high school, worked in a munitions  factory during WWII, then married , raised her family,volunteered in the schools, worked with her husband in his plastics manufacturing business, then retired to North Carolina where she has enjoyed watching her grandchildren and two great-grandchildren grow. She has weathered her share of challenges with dignity and grace,including the deaths of her husband, her son, John, and every other member of her birth family, including their spouses.She is, in this respect, the last woman standing. And so she is  handling this latest challenge with courage and tenacity.as well. This i s her third battle with cancer.  But at 90 , though the will be strong, the body is tired, and I’m not sure how long she can hold out. I hope she can, though, so she can attend the bridal shower of her granddaughter, Jeanette, celebrate my birthday on May 16th (#60!) and her party on May 18th and the graduation of her grandson, Isaac , from Brunswick County Early College High School. . In June we have Isaac’s graduation from high school, and Jeanette’s marriage to Jarred Tafaro on June 22nd. So much to celebrate in a life of 90 years. I used a gold ribbon to run through mom’s timeline, because she has lived an exemplary life , and I believe she’s earned the gold. I was sure not to end the  ribbon, but to shape the end in an arrow and hopefully have years to add onto the magnificent life of a gracious lady.

Focus on Art and Creativity: Musings at the Museum

On Wednesday, after Linda and I perused the lovely flowers, overwhelmed at the variety, color and texture of mother nature’s artwork, we traveled over to the CAM (Contemporary Art Museum) located at 409 W. Martin Street in Downtown Raleigh.040 - Copy It is a spacious and well-lit facility with windows placed in strategic places to let the  light  flow in. We had viewed nature’s art, now it was time to delve into art created by the hand of man.

There were two artists exhibited:Alistair McClymont  and Ryan Travis Christian.

Alistair McClymont is a British artist who works in sculpture, photography and video. His exhibit was entitled, Everything We Are Capable of Seeing.  His vision is interesting, ranging from a model he built which keeps a tiny raindrop suspended in mid-air McClymont to huge McClymontsculptures made of piling MDF boards in interesting patterns. His interest in finding a connection between art and science is exemplified by his tornado series of paintings and his tornado making machine.

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Tornado Machine

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The second exhibitor was Ryan Travis Christian. This fellow is obsessed with lines and patterns. He basically builds his vision around diagonal lines and a pair of googly eyes.

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the lower floor taken from up above

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close up of the googly eyes

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I Guess You Had to be There

His exhibit is entitled Well Here We Aren’t Again and consists of a floor covered in diagonal lines and some surreal drawings, one a large panel called   I Guess You Had To Be There (small section of the panel  below)

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My musings as I toured this museum:

Whether or not this art form appeals to you, it is an example of 2 people expressing themselves, celebrating our gift for creativity in a positive way. Contrast this with the 2 young men who have wrought havoc in Boston these past days. Instead of putting something useful out there, they choose to maim and destroy. What a waste of the precious life they were given. Thankfully, there are more people in the first group, people who contribute to this world, and make their life matter.

I’ve heard about a quote from Mr. Rogers bandied about lately and it has a powerful message for those of us overwhelmed by what seems to be a continually rising threat of evil in the world today. Mr. Rogers says:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.(www.slate.com)

I think of the firefighters running into the towers on 9/11; the doctors who were running in the marathon in Boston helping the injured; the teachers who gave their lives to protect the innocent children in New Town and I am comforted by Mr. Rogers words. There are a lot of caring people in the world. People who share their gifts and their vision in a positive way. We must celebrate them, emulate them, and teach our children to be kind, to be helpers and maybe one day the evil in this world will be vanquished.

Focus On: Quiet Courage

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” -Mary Anne Radmacher.

the voice of quiet courage
                    by pat coyle

it is an office with a cut glass chandelier in the lobby
brilliant pictures grace the walls
framing a much different world
than the one they inhabit –
those who must come here
those who fight the silent battle
with fortitude and  quiet courage

Called forth by a smiling nurse
one on each side, the three musketeers
questions are asked, answers given
blood pressure taken
he will be in soon
and we wait

I look over at her she sits quietly
lost in her own thoughts
lost in a world not of her choosing
searching for a beacon to show her the way
the way out, the way back, the way home

he  arrives

strange words float in the air
metastatic, PET scan, estrogen, radiation,
but then they fade and scatter
diminished by one word,
which fills the room with the taste of fear
chemotherapy

 he explains

she nods
not understanding some of it
bewildered by most of it
but knowing her musketeers are getting it
and will explain it to her

taken orally, not as harsh
less side effects
no hair loss

he leaves

to give orders
write prescriptions
arm her with the weapons needed
to win the day
we relax somewhat and breathe again

she gazes down
she does not recognize this body
crisscrossed with battle scars
this is not me, she thinks
but it is, and she knows
she will do what she must
she will take what she should
for as long as she can

she is a fighter
she is a survivor
she is our mother
and we, her musketeers

And so we enter the next phase in Mom’s battle against breast cancer with a visit to the oncologist.  My sister, Mary Lou, and I accompanied her, both for moral support and because, despite her hearing aid, she misses a lot of what is being said. And who wouldn’t, hearing impaired or not, when the doctor is throwing our words like metastatic, Pet scans, and chemotherapy at you.

The bottom line is that the first cancer she had (22 years ago) was estrogen driven. When it re-occurred  later, which was 5 years ago, it was treated with radiation, and then she was given tamoxifen , a drug that helps suppress these estrogen driven tumors. The doctor was curious as to why the tamoxifen failed in light of this third occurrence and then the pathology report arrived and showed that this was not an estrogen driven cancer, but a metastatic one, capable of moving to other parts of the body. It is  a completely different cancer. So she must have a PET scan to see if any of it has metastasized elsewhere. If not, then she will take six chemotherapy pills orally each day for two weeks, then be off for a week, and this rotation will last quite some time, perhaps for the rest of her life. If cancer is present elsewhere, then a new protocol will have to be addressed.

The good news is that side effects are milder than intravenous chemo, she won’t lose her hair or experience the vomiting associated with it either. Some nausea, maybe, and we have to watch her coumadin dosage, as the new medication will boost its blood thinning properties.

So again we wait, for the PET scan to be scheduled and the new meds to be acquired.
We will try to do so with the same fortitude and quiet courage she has exhibited through all the challenges of her life. No matter what the future holds, she knows the three musketeers will see it through together  — all for one and one for all!