challenge

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.

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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!

Focus on: Painting and Planning and Parkinson’s

Life is a trip.Don’t miss the boat:)
– pc 2013

   

 I had a visit with my neurologist on Thursday.  So far, so good.  Meds are working and I seem to be in a holding pattern. Bill and I decided to take advantage of this and book a cruise around the British Isles in July.  It will be a 12 day cruise, with 2 days to explore London after we leave the ship.  We will tour Ireland, Scotland, England and spend a day in Paris We are looking forward to the trip.  Neither of us has been to Europe and although we took a nice stroll through the neighborhoods of Victoria, Canada last summer, the final port of call on our Alaska cruise, we have yet to acquire a stamp on our shiny new passports.
 Right now, there are days I almost forget I have a degenerative neural disease, but I know that will not always be so, unless a cure for Parkinson’s is discovered, So I want to do what I can while I can.! That means getting enough exercise to keep the body moving, and challenging the mind so it stays sharp.
  I find that anything I do with my hands is very helpful in keeping my fingers nimble In addition to exercises, So I do some cross stitch, make jewelry and I love to paint. I’m not an artist, however, but I enjoy  paint-by-number painting.  It helps my fine motor coordination; is a calming activity and I get to practice patience as well.  Here are a few of what I call masterpieces. from a wannabe artist:

I found this little garden angel irresistible

I found this little garden angel irresistible

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There’s something about a barn in the snow…

.  I  find the paint- by -number to be more relaxing because you don’t have to figure out the color   scheme. .However, as I paint, I begin to see how the artist  used the colors to achieve the total effect, so it is a learning experience as well. I am in awe of anyone who has this natural talent. My niece, Becky ,is one of them. Her paintings are so intricate,  She will work hours on just a small section of a painting, and her finished work is amazing. What a wonderful gift!

King Tut. I am fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian

King Tut. I am fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian

Just recently I came across something new in the paint- by -number scene, from a company called Diy oil paintings, and they are bright, abstract and delightful to paint. I chose the one I did because the blues match the colors in my living room. I have ordered a second one before I finished the first. What makes these stand out, besides the bold, abstract style, is that they are printed on a canvas you have to stretch over a stretcher frame supplied with the kit.I have found the paints to be of excellent quality – not the thin, runny stuff you find in other kits. Here is the finished product. Different, isn’t it? I like the bold strokes of the primary colors, the effect of wet pavement shimmering in the lamplight. In this small sample it may appear there is one person walking, but there are two, if you look closely you can make them out. Where are they going on such a cold, wet night? Maybe they couldn’t resist walking together, no one else about, under trees decked in autumn dress, the colors glowing in the lamplight, surrounded by a cloak of midnight blue. 

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I’m anxious to start the next one! I have dabbled a bit in painting on my own.  Mostly mountain, sunsets and butterflies. I’d like to try this style now.

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I painted this butterfly to match the blue-greens of my kitchen. The first mountain sunset is in acrylic, the second is a watercolor.

So for as long as I can, I will challenge myself with new ventures. Painting is much easier than my other current challenge – algebra. I never mastered it in high school, but I can say I’m getting there, There is a sense of satisfaction when I come up with te right answer. My online courses have been superb. My next one will be Introduction to Internet Writing Markets.

I have just wrapped up my course on magazine writing and will be sending out some articles to test the waters.

I also have plans for the publication of two of my books, more about that next time.

In the meantime, take some time to let your creativity loose. You may be surprised about what you can do. In                the words of my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gough, If you hear a voice inside you say ‘You cannot paint’, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.

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Focus on the Big E – Exercise

(something on the lighter 🙂  side for weekend reading)

Okay.  Enough already.  I can hear the moans and groans echoing through the Internet.  But there is no getting away from it – exercise is vital for everyone who wants to reach the “Golden Years” with enough agility and energy to at least get out of bed.  It is especially important for anyone suffering from a movement disorder like Parkinson’s Disease.  Without challenging those arms and legs and hands and feet,and even facial muscles, the rigidity will set in big time.  Now, being as I am not a medical professional, I will not give advice to anyone other than to urge you to consult your physician and together develop an exercise program that is right for you.  What I will share with you is my own experience with exercise.

It has been a love/hate relationship, for the most part..  I’m not one of those people who love to run or jog for the sheer joy in it.  But I’ve always recognized the need for it, especially as I love to eat!  But I tend to get bored quickly with any one routine.

And so, yes, I sweated to the oldies with Richard Simmons.  We toned Downtown together, and Uptown together, We stretched, worked on abs and even toned to the sound of Broadway .But boredom eventually set in and I decided to shake things up and join a class.  Maybe working out with other people was the ticket.  So my sister-in-law, Pat , and I joined Elaine Powers, but unfortunately it was located above a Friendly’s Restaurant, so we would work up a good appetite upstairs and stop for lunch at Friendly’s on the way home.  You don’t know how good a Friendly’s hot fudge sundae tastes until you’ve eaten one after an hour of exercise! I guess we didn’t quite have the commitment  we needed.

Several years later, I tried an exercise class again, this time with my friend Denise.  We went about twice, and then Denise found out she was pregnant, and that ended that.  We moved then, from New York to North Carolina and there I met Lisa.  Always coming up with new ideas, Lisa convinced me to give an exercise class one more try. So we set out to Jazzercise.  First of all the drill, I mean dance, instructor must have just returned from washing a company of marine recruits out of the service.  I feared for my life every time I went left when everybody else was going right, which was almost always.So, if you ignore the fact that I was going left when everyone else was going right and that the grapevine step literally entwined my feet together(and I didn’t even have Parkinson’s to blame for that back then) not to mention that two days later, every muscle in my body was crying out in pain,  I guess you could say I had a terrible time.  Never looked back. Never went back.

Then there was the summer Lisa decided we would take a walk every day, only not along a tree-lined  path, but back and forth across the widest part of our Racket and Swim Club swimming pool. Two thirty something ladies, plowing through the water, back and forth.  You get the picture,  Lisa called it water walking but it was more along the lines of dork walking., especially to anyone sitting poolside and trying not to laugh.

But then I discovered a sport I was really semi proficient at  – tennis.  Once again the indefatigable Lisa talked a group of us into taking lessons with the club tennis pro.  He must have been the most patient man on the planet, and he taught us well enough that we were even able to play against our husbands.

Watching tennis players is a sport in itself.  Early on, each of us developed our own style…Lisa would scamper across the court and try for any shot possible, Kathryn would stand at the back of the court and with a mighty swing lob those returns with as little movement as possible. If the ball didn’t fall into her zone,  it wasn’t worth pursuing.  I just  ran around the court  trying not to look too much like a dork and keeping my eye out for that Jazzercise instructor. We were so dedicated to our sport that one time we played as  a hurricane was approaching.  We laughed so hard as the ball, would make sharp right and left turns in its journey across the net.  We continued to play tennis until the Parkinson’s symptoms interfered with my ability to run and after a nasty fall while on vacation,  I decided to hang up my racket.  To everything there is a season…

Next up, I found out that my friend, Kathryn, was walking early every morning around our neighborhood.  Sounded like  a good idea at the time, and so I joined her. For FIVE years we walked diligently, in the dark of winter and the humidity of summer.  We solved not only all of our own problems, but those of the rest of the world as well because we could talk as fast as we walked, but we never lost a pound.  We had read that if you walked three miles a day for five years you would lose 20 pounds.  We decided it must be waiting for the last day to melt away all at once and our svelte, toned bodies would emerge, – but nothing. Nothing lost  (and nothing gained!)  Not even a pat on the back  from the President or the Nobel Peace Prize for solving the world’s problems!

Anyway,during all this time there were two forms of exercise I came across that I actually liked.  One was (in those olden times) a video cassette of a walk at home program  designed by Leslie Sansone.  Now this I could handle.  Walk in place with  a few variations — kicks, knee lifts, side steps and kick backs. I still do them today.  I really like one of her recent ones, now on dvd, in which she adds intervals of an easy jog to the walk.  The music helps you keep the pace and as long as you’re moving, you’re doing okay. Sounds easy, but you do build up a sweat.  I’ve written her to ask if she has ever considered adapting her program for people with movement disorders because I envision a time when I will not be able to keep up with the regular programs.  I hope they do.

The second one was yoga.  I had practiced it for years, and attribute the degree of flexibility I have to it.  Despite the Parkinson’s I am able to bend at the waist and place my hands on the floor next to my feet without bending my knees.   I may not be able to twist myself into  a noodle but I can do downward facing dog and the warrior II poses and my balance, so far,is okay.

Lately I’ve been exploring Tai Chi, and can do simple routines but the more complex ones are beyond my ken.   I also have trouble moving slow enough (odd thing for a Parkie to say) but it’s true. In Tai Chi you move real s-l-o-w.

I round out my exercise routine with cycling and weight lifting.  There is a study being conducted to determine if forced cycling (90 RPMS +) helps Parkinson’s patients with their mobility.  Many claim it’s true so I decided to give it a try, I feel like my gait is smoother, and its great exercise, nevertheless.  I join my husband and son three times a week for weight lifting to keep my muscles strong.

It’s a lot for someone who prefers reading on a chaise lounge or writing this blog,  to getting all sweaty and hot and bothered but, for me, at least, it’s part of my arsenal, helping me to stay focused on taking control and standing firm, and so:

…I prepare for the fight, the battle’s begun
like it or not, there’s nowhere to run
for there is a precious life on the line
though it’s hard to believe… that life is mine
but with bat in hand, I step up to the plate
and I take a good swing, before it;s too late
I hit a home run, it’s out of the park
I consider this,  a very good start
I’m in control and, it’s easy to see
I’ll never let it get the best of me!

Now guess what? Time to exercise.  Hold on Leslie, I’ll be right there.

Pat