life

Staying in Focus: The Merry Month of May

I was away last week when the merry month of May began and so I am a bit late with my May poem and photographs. May is my favorite spring month. We celebrate Mother’s Day, and my mom and I have our birthdays this month. 61 years ago on May 16th, I was her birthday present.  On May 20th, she will be 91. We are blessed to still have her with us after her experiences last year, but the therapy the doctors are using seems to be holding the cancer in her lung from spreading as recent medical tests showed everything stable. She is looking forward to the year ahead. as her 18th great grandchild was born on May 2nd.

In May, the lilacs bloom in New Jersey. My grandma would give me a big bunch of them for my birthday.  Here in the south, the leaves on the trees are still a bright spring green, and people are planting colorful annuals in gardens and around their landscape bushes, at the entrance to subdivisions, in pots and planters on decks and porches and patios. Some adventuresome houseplants move to the porch for a breath of fresh air. May is a month when life flourishes and the focus of our days is on being outside – walking and jogging, playing ball, swimming in pools and lakes and in the salt water of the sea. Barbecue grills fire up, picnics are planned, and boats of all sizes and shapes emerge from under their canvas blankets to return to the water for a day of fishing, sailing or cruising. May is, indeed,  a merry month!

MAY

Mothers and flowers and birds on the wing,

the sun warms the earth, the earth starts to sing

of sunny mornings kissed with droplets of dew,

while fluffy white clouds drift in skies of deep blue…                          Continue reading

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: I Walk the Line: Love Will Keep Us Together

Daily Prompt: I Walk the Line

Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?

As I have written before, I have two precepts I follow in life. One is to love one another, the other to do unto others, as I would like others to do unto me. They may seem too simple at first glance, but they can take a lifetime of practice to achieve.

Let’s look at the first one – love one another.  Some of the others may be easy to love – our parents, siblings, spouse and children are hopefully on this list. But what about that mean boss we have at work, that workmate who tries to make us look bad, the teacher who makes us feel inadequate, the classmates who bully us? Can we truly learn to love these people? As I said earlier, what seems so simple a statement is actually quite complex.

The key is to look beneath the layers – the personas people adopt for a variety of reasons. Most likely they experienced a lack of love themselves, somewhere in life; perhaps they act as they do because that is what or how they were taught; perhaps there are biological reasons for their actions – brain injury or psychological  disorders. If we try to peel away the layers and reach the core of a person like this, we will find a lost soul, confused and abused and acting as they do because they know no other way. Even if we can’t change them or cure them, we can understand and have empathy for these lost souls, and we can succeed in loving one another.

With the second precept, unless one is a total masochist who wants to be abused and treated badly, we desire to be treated fairly, to love and be loved, to be accepted and cared for, appreciated and needed.  To receive these desires one must transmit these desires to others – as in karma, what goes around comes around.  If we approach others with understanding rather than judgment, with kindness rather than hate, we are following this precept. If we think about how we like to be treated and carry it forth into the world, love will find a way in and spread throughout. To make changes in the world we each have to be the change; to be loved, we each have to love one another.

It is as simple and as difficult as that,

I will repost my favorite poem that reflects these  thoughts:

He drew a circle that shut me out-

Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In !

– by Edwin Markham

Staying in Focus/Daily Prompt: Always Something There to Remind Me

IMGDaily Prompt:  A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

The song that evokes the most emotion for me is the song we chose to dance to at our wedding reception, “Here, There and Everywhere” by the Beatles.  As I mentioned in my last post , neither Bill nor I were comfortable dancing but it was dancing, or rather not dancing, that brought us together. The year before we married, we were both in his sister’s wedding party.  I spent most of the reception hiding from the best man so I would not have to dance. Bill was also disinclined to dance, and so we spent some time getting to know each other in the hallway outside the reception room. We started dating before the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon.

When we arrived at our wedding reception, the band asked us what song we wanted for our first dance as husband and wife.  We didn’t really have a song we called “our song.” We had not really thought about this, having put the dancing part of the festivities to the back of our minds, but Bill suggested “Here, There and Everywhere”. It was appropriate, as he is a big Beatles fan, even if it wasn’t “our song” per se before the wedding reception.

Bill’s dad had given us some quick dance lessons prior to the wedding, and I managed to get through two dances, one with Bill and one with my dad.

IMG_1737

Touring John Lennon’s house , July 2, 2013

This summer we travelled to England and visited the city of Liverpool. We took a Beatles Tour and actually had the opportunity to tour both John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s childhood homes. Of course, the bus driver had Beatle songs playing while we drove about, and “Here, There and Everywhere” was one of them. When it came on, I said, “Hey, they’re playing our song. “

As we drove along listening to the words, the feelings of that special day so long ago came flooding, back – excitement, nerves, anticipation in beginning our life together.  The future was ours, the path ahead open and inviting. All the experiences we would have together, the family we would create, the ups and down’s of life we would face – all ahead of us, all, yet, unwritten.

The words of the song ring true to us now as they did thirty-eight years ago, on September 4 th, 1976:

Here, There and Everywhere

By John Lennon and Paul McCartney

To lead a better life I need my love to be here…

Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with the wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there’s something there

1044916_10201236706772461_285093644_n

Bill at Paul McCartney’s house

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there

I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere
Knowing that love is to share

Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there

I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere
Knowing that love is to share

Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there

I will be there and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere

A bi tof trivia about the song:  It was named 4th best song of all time by Mojo in 2000. Paul McCartney has said it is one of his favorites, and John Lennon once commented that he thought it was the best song on the album (Revolver).

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Let’s Dance

Daily Prompt: Let’s Dance:In my earliest memories of dancing, I’m under my auntie Nancy’s dining room table, (which had been pushed off to the side of the room), watching my mom, dad, aunties, and uncles all dancing on the hardwood floor to a never-ending stack of 45 records, dropping one after the other. I remember foot-high stacks of 45s all around the record player. The song that I remember playing most? Twistin’ the Night Away by Sam Cooke. Every time I hear that song, I remember auntie’s spontaneous dance parties. What are your earliest and fondest memories of dance?

Sadly, I have no fond memories of dancing from a personal perspective. I have absolutely no sense of rhythm and my mother’s sincere attempt to help me by enrolling me in dance lessons lasted about one lesson. I suppose my earliest exposure to dance was watching the various animated characters waltz and twirl their way across the movie screen in Disney films.  A little later, I was an avid fan of American Bandstand, enjoying the music and the gyrations of people in tune with it.

I love music in many forms from classical to rock, folk to pop.  I was 7 years old in 1960, 11 when the Beatles made their Ed Sullivan début, a time when music and dance wove their way into the tapestry of our lives.  Everybody wanted to be in a band.  We all had ‘nine transistor’ radios. We all knew the top ten hits and grooved with Cousin Brucie.

However, school dances were fraught with anxiety. I wanted to attend, to hear the music and participate  in high school activities, but the thought of trying to dance in front of others filled me with fear.

I tried dancercise with a friend once. I was going left when they were going right and I never did figure out that grapevine step. I know the instructor was relieved when I failed to return, because I messed up her choreography.

My lack of rhythm with dance and music accompanied my inability to sing, as well.  I attended a Catholic school and every morning before school started, we were required to attend Mass. One day, in fourth grade, I think, we attended Mass in the choir loft with the church choir director playing the organ.  She was on the lookout for new voices for her choir. I employed my usual strategy of just mouthing the words, without sound. She wasn’t fooled, however, and brought me down next to the organ so she could hear me sing.  She asked me if I were an Alto or a Soprano. You tell me, you’re the one with the, organ and sheets of music in front of you, I wanted to say, but I just shrugged my shoulders. She listened to me sing the next song and obviously couldn’t figure out what I was, either, because she promptly returned me to my seat, and never asked me to sing again. I was happy though; relieved I didn’t have to pretend to sing anymore. Instead, the nuns assigned me to leave the choir early and go down to the teacher’s lounge and put on a kettle of water for their morning tea.

It’s just as well I decided early on not to pursue a career in the performing arts.  There’s not a lot of need for a tone-deaf singer/dancer with two left feet and Parkinson’s disease!

I did not despair, however. I can exercise to the “Oldies” with panache, stretch and meditate to new age music as I do my yoga and tai chi practices and pedal my exercise bike to hundreds of songs on my iPod. Music and movement are in my life, just not in the form of dance.

We each have our own special gifts. Some people can dance and sing, some people, like me, enjoy writing and photography.  I am most grateful for my special gifts. Speaking of which, I have finished the manuscript of my book and am getting ready to upload it. (See my Focus on Fiction Blog for the latest updates and a sneak peek at Chapter 2 ). patcoyle76.@wordpress.com

Once I received my Parkinson’s diagnosis, I realized there was no going back for certain things – like dancing, and that there was a time to let go of others like tennis and driving. To every season, there is a purpose and mine now is to enjoy the gifts I’ve been given for as long as I can. Still, one can wish…

Belated Wishes

I wish that I had learned to dance

to glide with grace

my feet in place

I wish that I had learned to dance

(long ago,  I had the chance)

I wish that I could really sing

notes as pure

as birds in spring

to be in tune with everything

(I would have loved to sing)

I wish that I could walk with ease

and go everywhere I please

(and never worry my feet might freeze)

Moving now is a challenge, though

Count your steps

Heel to toe

Moving is a challenge

(though it wasn’t always so)

and when I had the chance

I wish I’d learned to dance.

-pc2009

Staying in Focus: Sweet Sixteen: The Bracelet

Daily Post: Sweet Sixteen

Write a post inspired by your sixteenth birthday

On my sixteenth birthday, I received a silver charm bracelet from my parents. Dangling from the silver chain was one round charm with the words “Sweet Sixteen” embossed on it. I wrote this poem last year, for a poetry class I was taking at the time. It is now an entry in my scrapbook memoir.

the bracelet

reflecting the spring  sun

with a delightful sparkle

I move my arm gently

to hear the delicate tinkle

of a single charm

IMG_2626

“sweet sixteen”

dangling alone from a

bracelet of silver links

empty but waiting, like me

to be filled with the moments

of my life;

reflecting the autumn sun in a

burst of brilliance,

so many memories dangle now

filling the links, elbowing for attention,                    IMG_2628

places I’ve been,

milestones, celebrations

an aspen leaf, a graduation cap, a heart

here and there, a  few scratches

mark the passage of time

but the sparkle remains

and the once delicate tinkle

is louder now,  confident

sounding more like wind chimes

singing their song in the

blowing wind,  singing

the moments of my life –

pc 2013

I will leave both my silver and gold charm bracelets to my granddaughter, Evelyn. I have identified each charm on the bracelets, and what it meant to me, so she’ll know a little more about me and the things that mattered most to me, the places I visited  and the hobbies I pursued. We continue to exist as long as someone remembers us and a charm bracelet is a great starting point to adding color to those memories.

Staying In Focus: Daily Prompt: Luckiest People/Lucky Me, Loving You

Daily Prompt: The Luckiest People

Who was the first person you encountered today? Write about him or her

The first person I saw this morning was the same person I see first most mornings, my husband of 38 years, Bill. He is the lucky one who gets to see me with my hair sticking out from my head in one place, and mashed to my skull in another place. He gets to see me before I wash my face, brush my teeth and generally make myself presentable to the world.

However, since I get up, make him an egg breakfast a few mornings a week, and pack his each workday, he chooses to look past my frightful appearance and even kiss me goodbye before he leaves for work.

I consider myself one of the luckiest people, because I have married my best friend Photo39and soul mate and the nicest guy I know. He has stood by my side during the scariest moments in my life. He was there when I experienced complications following childbirth, when I woke up after having colon surgery to remove a cancerous polyp, and sat next to me as the neurologist confirmed the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. When I dragged my feet about seeing a neurologist, he wisely reminded me that not knowing would not change anything. If it was there, it was there and we would deal with whatever the future held.

When I stressed over a job situation I found intolerable, he bought me a video of music and whales (I have a thing for whales) to calm me, and took to me to the beach that weekend.

When I joked that the perfect Christmas would be to receive a roll top desk, a fur coat (fake), and a Gone with the Wind video, he made it happen. This Christmas he gave me an official Atlanta Braves uniform shirt (I have a thing for the Braves) and a silver necklace with an Egyptian hieroglyph pendant that spells ‘ I love you.’ (Yes, I have a thing for ancient Egyptians, too). But far more meaningful than material things are the ways he makes me feel special, of his belief in me when I doubt myself.

He never complains when he is rudely awakened by my alarm going off at 6:00 AM to remind me to take my first pill of the day and by my second alarm at 7:30AM when I begin the Parkinson’s meds for the day.

He drives me where I need to go, because I no longer drive.

He took me to Alaska to see the humpback whales.IMG

He took me to Great Britain and was sure to include Stonehenge because, yes, I have a thing for Archeology.

He took me to  a Monkees Concert because, well, you know…

But above all, I have a thing for him, and always will. A few years back, I wrote him this poem, which fits nicely in with today’s prompt:

For the caring, and the sharing

and the way you kiss goodnight

for the loving and the giving                                      IMG                 

and the way you hold me tight

And for listening and supporting me

in everything I do                                                                                             IMG_0002

I wrote this poem

to simply say

lucky me, loving you!

Staying In Focus: Love is All We Need

Although 2014 has not started out as auspiciously as I had hoped, there is a certain balance to the universe that can bring us some measure of peace. One of the people I wrote about earlier, my friend’s husband, who fought a valiant fight against cancer, passed away on December 27th.  I now have four friends, who are widows far sooner than they ever expected, but their strength and courage in care giving and in facing the death of their partner in life, is a true testament to the power of love – to love them enough to let them go.

But hiding in the shadow of death and loss, is the promise of new life.  For even as my friend and her family were dealing with the loss of their beloved husband and father, their good friend received news of the birth of her new grandson.  One soul departs this world, and another soul enters it. Life goes on, renewing itself, generation after generation.  And what fuels it is love. As the Buddha said, “In the end these things matter most:  How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?”

Some of us reach a ripe old age and others are lost far too young.  We don’t know how much time we have and so we mustn’t waste it.  We must love with all our  heart for as long as we live and the universe will find its balance – a man who loved his family; a new baby surrounded by the love of family. As crazy and cruel as the world  is, I prefer to stay an optomist. Lorraine Hansberry sums it up nicely. “I wish to live because life has with it that which is good, that which is beautiful and that which is love. “  And, as those of us who grew up in the 60’s know, love is all we  need.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Don’t Miss the Magic

Daily Prompt: You have been transformed into a mystical being who has the ability to do magic. Describe your new abilities in detail. How will you use your new skills?

Don’t Miss the Magic

One really doesn’t have to be a mystical being to experience magic, for magic is all around us, unfolding every day; but were I a mystical being, my task would be simple:  to open people’s eyes to the magic that surrounds them.

There is magic in the rising sun IMG_8448as it heralds the break of day. There is magic in the wisps of fog, which wreathe a distant mountaintop, and in crystal dew, shining like diamonds in the morning sun.

There is magic in the delicate wings of a butterfly Photo05_3and the intricate veins of a leafIMG_8125

There is the magic of birdsong in the morning, and in the mystery of the stars in the evening sky. There is magic in the velvet petal of a rose,IMG_0015 - Copy
in the first flower of spring and the vibrant leaves that dress the trees in autumn splendor.IMG_2260

I see magic in the very existence of bubbles,

a bubble armada

jellyfishIMG_0973 - Copy - Copy - Copy

My Whale Ivory

My Whale Ivory

 


and whales.

 There is magic in birth, the creation of life; the soft touch of a newborn baby’s skinevelyn2and in a hug from a 20130828_190029great grandchild. 

Where would we be without the magic of family?coyle family

and friendship:

Pat and Bill,Geoff and Denise Pat and Kathi; 1971 IMG_1165 cropMost of all, there is magic in falling in love,n1015159936_332755_8561 in living a life together, sharing and enjoying he magic that is our world.IMG

Don’t let it slip by unrecognized. Take time to see it, feel it and enjoy it for momentary is our life and elusive the magic it brings.

Staying in Focus: Accentuate the Positive

One of my Facebook friends posted the following quote today:

If you cannot be positive,

then at least be quiet. – Joel Osteen

No truer words can be spoken  with so much negative news in the world today. What, I wonder, would it be like to call a moratorium on negativity for just  one day. I’m not talking scenes from Bambi, with the bunnies hopping and the birds singing, although if the negative voices were silenced, we could actually hear the birds singing.  Imagine waking up to news about only positive things, people helping people rather than shooting them.  People facing their challenges with an “I can beat this ” attitude. A government working for the people rather than holding them hostage to overblown egos and petty rivalries. You know the news has gone way over on the negativity meter when you find yourself looking forward to the “Tech Byte” section.

My non – negativity day would begin with a news report about the weather (sunny, temps around 70) traffic (no problems), stories on researchers working to cure disease, interviews with people who enjoy their jobs and do them well – teachers, nurses, UPS delivery persons, that nice woman who greets you as you enter a store or restaurant, you know, the rank and file that keep this country moving despite the inanity in Washington, which of course would not be in the news unless it was to report a government now fully operational and back in control of its senses. But let’s not lose our grip on reality completely.

On this day I would call my mom to see how she is doing, a 90-year-old woman fighting cancer for a second time, happy for each day she is given . People really like my mom because she likes people. She always greets people with a smile or a hug.  The doctors are amazed by her tenacity and good spirits, the people at the grocery store greet her by name, as do the ladies at the hair salon  which we know she will return to soon, as her hair is growing back! Surely  a positive thing. I would and will today check on my friend, Debbi, who is almost halfway through her chemo treatments for breast cancer. Debbi is another light in the positive realm, knowing she just has to do what she has to do and refusing to let it dim her bright spirit and sense of humor. Keep that light shining, Deb! And my little bro, beginning his treatments this week for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is facing it, I know, with his irrepressible humor. These people in my life inspire me in my journey with Parkinson’s disease, refusing to let a negative experience  rob them of their positive views on life and living.

I would take the time on this day of positives to note the bright sunlight streaming through my study window. We haven’t seen the sun in almost a week, but now the sunbeams are filling my room with morning light. I’ll take time to  sit in my chair and think positive thoughts, enjoying my quiet home and perhaps some oatmeal for breakfast.  I will positively do my exercises (2 mile walk, yoga ), work on my book, and publish this post. Then it will be time to welcome home my husband, Bill, the most positive time of the day.  Life is such a gift, we ought not to let the negativity weigh us down and rob us of its delights. We need to make an effort to accentuate the positives and  ignore or eliminate the negatives. And if we can’t do that, then we at least can be quiet.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Anticipation

Daily Prompt : When you’re giddy with excitement, does time speed up? Slow down? Tell us about the experience of anticipation.

For me, anticipation varies with the type of event it precedes. Take Christmas, for example.  I find the anticipation more enjoyable than the celebration itself. I enjoy finding that perfect gift for someone, keeping secrets, hiding gifts, wrapping, decorating, trimming the tree and writing my annual Christmas poem.  These all combine to make the event itself almost anticlimactic.  Time begins to speed up as the holiday grows closer, and by Christmas Day, the presents are given and received, and anticipation lies discarded, along with the torn wrappings left in a pile on the floor.

Then there is vacation. I love anticipating vacation. When I was younger, my family would load up the station wagon and head out cross-country for two weeks. We traveled the country coast to coast, from sea to shining sea. We also visited Canada and Mexico. Sometime in February, when snow-covered the ground, we would decide where to travel and I would send for travel brochures from the states we would be visiting. While the winds howled outside, I would happily schedule our trips, planning each day’s itinerary. Then in June we would go shopping to buy our clothes for the trip – new bathing suits, shorts and tops, shoes and sandals. Unlike Christmas, however, time would slow down as vacation approached. There was school to finish – projects, papers, final exams. But finally the day would arrive and off we would go.

I still enjoy anticipating vacations, but now that I am older, I find that time in general seems to accelerate its speed constantly. This year my husband and I spent two weeks on a cruise of the British Isles/tour of London, and at times I cannot believe we were really there.  Our first cruise seemed to go by so quickly, I promised myself I would take the time to pay attention on this one, try to slow time down and not let the days pass by so quickly – no luck. It went by in a flash.

Then there are the events I prefer not to anticipate like dental visits, colonoscopies, and mammograms. And somehow, these events roll around even faster than I could anticipate if I wanted to.

But, all in all, I find having something good to anticipate is important to my mental health. Whether it makes me giddy with excitement like Christmas or a cruise, or something simpler but equally important like an outing with friends or a visit from family, having something to look forward to gets us through the tough times, adds sunshine to a rainy day, keeps our spirits up when the cold winds are howling.. Life is what we make it, and anticipation keeps us engaged in life.

I can’t wait for Christmas.

Hey, Bill, have you booked that next cruise?