Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Absolute Beauty: Beauty in the Heart of the Beholder

Daily Prompt: We’ve all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you agree? is all beauty contingent on a subjective point of view?

I believe that true beauty is perceived, not by the eye, but by the heart. Certainly our eyes play a part in perceiving beauty, especially superficial beauty, which is subjective, but also influenced by our cultures and societies. Take women, for example, often cited for their beauty of face and form. One society perceives a thin but buxom woman with blonde hair as the epitome of beauty. Other societies may regard tattoos and piercings as beauty attributes, or see women of ample size as more desirable than the thin ones. But superficial beauty is fleeting, while true beauty remains with us forever.

We often buy into what is considered the latest beauty trends, buying fashion magazines and trying to meld ourselves into the models we see on those glossy, colorful pages. I grew up in the 1960’s when models were pencil thin (remember Twiggy/) and the flip was the hair style of the day (Mary Tyler Moore, for instance). With my naturally curly hair I was about as far from the flip as a girl could get. But did that stop us curly tops? No, we ironed our hair and used super large rollers with big metal clips to beat our curls into submission over night. All in an attempt to present beauty to the eye of our beholder. In this  case, the beauty was not subjective, but pressured, by an outside influence to achieve what was accepted as beauty. By the time I met my husband, I had abandoned my attempts at superficial beauty, and my curly locks did not interfere with his proposal..

As far as beauty in natural things like sunsets and puppies and the twinkling of stars on a frosty winter’s night, beauty is in the eye of the beholder who takes time to notice and appreciate all the beauty the world has to offer. Too many of us fail to behold the beauty found all around us.

But  true beauty is perceived by the heart of the beholder and unlike the superficial variety, it is evident when we are looking our worst, but doing our best. A mother laboring to give birth, a friend undergoing chemotherapy, with bruised eyes and no hair, yet strong in the true beauty of her spirit and determination.  Or the soldier wounded in battle, facing life without an arm or  a leg. To be and to behold beauty, one doesn’t have to mold oneself into a fashion icon. I behold beauty in people living each day with pain, or chronic illness. I see beauty in persons facing death with grace and resolve. I see beauty in people who are, at the core of their heart,capable of beholding the beauty in others, of cherishing them and valuing them.

My mom is 91 and has battled breast cancer twice and now is in treatment for lung cancer. She has endured  a variety of surgeries, including  two mastectomies. Her body is a battlefield, its scars and sutures her badges of honor, They represent how true beauty reveals itself – not in physical perfection but in the strength and courage to meet life’s challenges. It is this  true beauty from within that touches the heart of the beholder.

My mom looks  at her body now,and  is sometimes disheartened by what she sees in the mirror. But I tell her, that’s not what we see. .Our hearts behold the way she make people smile, the way she is ready to lend a hand, and fight the blues that come to call. We see a parent who made our childhood special, who comes to our aid when we need her. To the heart of this beholder, she is true beauty, truly beautiful to me.


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:Weekly Writing Challenge: My Rocky Road

Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to Write

The Rocky Road

I was cruising right along
when this rocky path appeared
and now I have been walking it
for many trying years
and yet it leads me onward
there’ve been obstacles, I fear
but despite the looming shadows
I have no time for tears
each day I have, I celebrate
this precious gift I’m given
and I for one have vowed to make
each one a day worth living
so moment by moment, mindfully
I take a step most carefully
along this steep and rocky road
trying not to stumble
I strive to end each day
with hope in a new tomorrow
my heart assured, my spirit free
safe within the circle
of my  friends and family,
I choose to dwell on happiness
and not waste time on sorrow.
2013 pc

One day I am living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family and the next day I receive a diagnosis that changes my picture perfect life forever. Life can be like that, and we must learn to roll with the punches.

I had noticed changes in my body a few years before diagnosis, but caught in a difficult passage through menopause, I attributed some of it – the anxiety especially, to that.  And then, in 2007, a routine colonoscopy found a polyp that we did not know was cancer until after surgery.  The anesthesiologist I had for that procedure suggested I see a neurologist for the tremor I was experiencing. I followed through once I had recovered from the colon cancer operation, already certain of the answer –Parkinson ’s disease.

And now, 6 years later, I am still living my life, happy in my home, surrounded by friends and family, but living a life quite different from what I had expected. Now I must take 3 prescription drugs, 2 of them 3 times a day to facilitate walking, control the tremor, and slow down the progression of the disease. 3 additional medications address my blood pressure, anxiety and thyroid. For dessert I have folic acid, a multi-vitamin, vitamin D, 4 fish oil capsules, and a full size aspirin to complete my daily feast of meds. Then there is exercise. I have a small, powered stationary bike that I use every day, keeping the rotations above 80/per minute, aerobic walking using the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home programs on DVD, followed by yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance. I also lift weights three times a week for strength training. It takes a big chunk out of my day but it beats the alternative. I complete my regime with a relaxing meditation

Fortunately, I am 5+ years out from the cancer surgery and so far so good. I have had a total of 7 colonoscopies to monitor things and I see an oncologist twice a year and take an aspirin daily. So far my regime has been successful in keeping me moving and slowing down the PD. This summer we took a cruise to the British Isles and I walked every day. We did an “On the Deck 5K Walk for the Cure” around the ship. So although I’ve  had to make major changes (retiring and giving up driving).  I have adjusted to life along this Rocky Road.  I take each day as it comes and try to treat it as the gift it is. I allow myself time to continue to grow and learn new things through online classes, visits to museums, and writing poetry, my memoir and currently, a middle grade children’s novel. Spending time with family and friends is paramount in keeping up the spirits and continuing to participate in life.

My mother endured months of bedrest to  avoid miscarrying me, so that I am here at all is a wonder; that I’ve lived 60 years and have had a marvelous life filled with love and support from my family and friends, and have been married for 37 years to my soul mate and best friend my husband, Bill, is simply miraculous.

Since I can’t know whether the road remains rocky the rest of the way, or smooths out for me for a time, I continue to walk along it (as best I can) try to keep healthy and fit to write and celebrate the gifts each new day brings.

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: A Pat on the Back

Daily Prompt Tell someone you’re proud of just how proud you are.

I have several people I am especially proud of . Two of them, my mother and my friend Debbi, are battling breast cancer.
Mom has had it 3 times – she has had 2 mastectomies, radiation and chemo in her battle with this relentless disease. At 90 years old, the chemo proved to be too much for her, and she has chosen quality of life in the time she has left, verses weeks of such debilitating  side effects.  I applaud her strength in deciding for herself  what she wants her last days to be like.

Through all this she has not lost her sense of humor, telling me that every morning. by the time she washes up, puts in her hearing aid, her false teeth, her glasses, fastens on her prosthesis and “harness” as she calls it, and puts  her wig in place, it’s time for a nap! We wonder about what percentage of these morning add-ons you must have to reach android status! Now we want to get her an alert system and she sighed saying another thing to attach to my body!

Debbi has had her surgery and is about to complete her radiation, and then begin chemo after Labor Day.  She, too, retains her sense of humor, saying at least with the wig she will not have to worry about bad hair days. The worst thing about it all, my mother has said, is that it changes your body image so drastically. Even at 90, she mourns the loss of the body of her youth. But these are strong women, who know what they have to do to survive, and for them, retaining their sense of humor is the key. They’ve learned to live day by day, celebrate all the moments when they feel a little better, or the sun seems a little brighter and keep on keepin on. So to them, I dedicate this poem:

My True Heroines

You are beautiful…

the light that shines from within

cancer cannot  reach nor dim

your sense of humor is your strength

nothing can touch your inner grace

the body may have to take it’s blows

but as everybody knows

you are the spirit that lives within

though the body may change

you’ will always remain

a heroine to me

for you are beautiful….


Focus On: Ann and Jack

It has been a challenging year for our family.  Thank goodness we have each other to rely on for support during difficult times.  I accompanied my mother to her appointment yesterday with her oncologist to find the results of her PET scan. Unfortunately, the news was not good. The 2.5cm lesion an earlier x-ray had picked up on her lung has proved to be malignant. They have chosen to continue the treatment of oral chemotherapy to address this. Due to the mouth sores she is experiencing after one week on the protocol, this will not prove to be an easy journey.  They have held the meds up until Friday to give her mouth a chance to recoup, and have scaled back the dosage 25%. She was just getting her appetite back when the sores made their sorry appearance. In 12 weeks she’ll have another CT or PET scan to determine if it’s shrinking or at least holding steady. If it has grown, then we revisit her choices.  The  doctor said at some point the drugs will stop working and she will have to balance quality of life versus the effects of a more aggressive treatment In the meantime the doctor told her to  enjoy her life and time with family. Go to her granddaughter’s wedding, do what she has always wanted to do.

We decided some parties were in order.. We are planning a Mother’s Day celebration, a bridal shower for granddaughter Jeanette, who will get married in June, and a  party for mom’s 90th birthday  (Shh! It’s a secret invitations forthcoming). Fatigue can be a problem so she may need to tailor down her activities somewhat

.But we intend to live in the moment, thankful for whatever length of time we are given to be together and enjoy each other’s company as much as we can. We welcome the chemo drugs, despite their side effects .as her soldiers of light, marching forward to conquer the enemy.

My mom has been so strong through all of this, but are any of us really ready to let go, give up the fight and our hold on life, however tenuous it is? I think at some point the body knows,and the mind agrees and one is at peace with their decision.

I think, through this whole process so far, this was the first time it really hit me, that we could lose her far sooner than we expected. She is handling it in her usual stoic manner.  She said she suspected all along there was something more than just the breast cancer.It’s amazing how our bodies seem to know, and communicate to us, when something is wrong inside. As with my Parkinson’s disease, my body knew months before my mind would accept what I. knew in my gut was happening.

While I was visiting we adjusted some things to make it easier for her to regain her independence. We moved everything she used regularly to lower shelves and cabinets; we moved canned goods, etc. to lower shelves in the pantry and her hutch. She can no longer reach high places as a result of the surgery. We cleaned out her closet so we could put in the new clothes I had bought her, as she has gone from a size 12 to a size 8 through this ordeal. I don’t know how long she will be able to stay in her house, but she knows she has a home with one of us when the time is right.

As we rearranged things, we were cleaning out extra stuff. I spied these two  mugs pictured here, which mom was going to discard.  IMG_0228I don’t know what is was about them, except that they reminded me of a time when there was an Ann and Jack (Jack and John have passed away) who had 4 children (John, Pat, Mary Lou and Steven) who lived together in a two-story house and had  a wonderful life together. A life they thought would last forever. But nothing lasts forever, and so we must enjoy every moment that we have…

For Ann And Jack

once we walked on sandy shores
and summer flowed through open doors
and childhood was all we knew
and you were all we needed

once we thought we’d never change
and life would always be the same
and we could not imagine
that one day you would be gone

lost in youthful innocence
we squandered precious time
and let slip by too many days,
which cannot be repeated

and now from shadows cast
we must  forge another path
and make the best of time
before clouds obscure the sun

we’ll celebrate each precious day
and we will remember fondly
when childhood was all we knew
and you were all we needed
                             -pc 2013