Staying in Focus: Meditation and Mandalas



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…


Staying in Focus: As Time Goes By

An interesting combination of events occurred recently that has me thinking about time and how it simply slips by, often without our noticing its passing, until something happens that brings it to our attention.

What caught my attention was this photo of my house posted by Facebook. The photo was taken 5 years ago in 2013:

From this view, you can see my neighbor’s house and the series of small wax myrtle bushes that separate our backyards. Now here are photos of my backyard taken recently:

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Amazing isn’t it? We can’t even see our neighbor’s house anymore and every year we have to have those wax myrtles trimmed to keep them under control.  Now I ask myself, when did this happen? I don’t remember seeing these plants growing. It’s like one day I just happened to notice they were grown. The same thing happens with children. One day we are teaching them how to ride a bike, the next thing we know, we are teaching them how to drive.

Which brings me to event number two. I was in my hobby room, seated at my art desk , and looking out my large window at the street and our little park across the way.  I watched as two of the neighborhood dads began teaching their two sons how ride a bicycle.  Funny thing is, neither of these little boys were born when their families moved into our neighborhood. Ours was the first house built on our street and we have only lived here for 9 years. When did they grow from being pushed in a stroller to riding a bike?

Time keeps flowing, the earth keeps turning, and babies grow from infancy to adulthood.  I sometimes wonder, where did my babies go? How can it be that my sons will be 40 and 35 this year?

                                                                Steven and Kevin then



Steven and Kevin now

As the saying goes, time waits for no one, and that brings me to the third event. My grand kids came over to spend some time with us recently and I realized as Evelyn walked through the doorway that she was within a few inches of being as tall as I am. I remember holding both of my grandchildren when they were born, so tiny and helpless. But before I knew it they were walking and talking and, yes, riding bicycles. Evelyn will be 12 years old this year and Gavin has just turned 9.  Evelyn will be a teenager next year, and 2 years from then she will be eligible to drive a car.  After that it’s sweet sixteen, proms and off to college.


Evelyn and Gavin

I remember the year I turned sixty, thinking, how did I get here? How can I be sixty? Well, now I’m halfway through that decade and staring seventy in the face. There is a song by Simon and Garfunkel entitled Old Friends and one of the lines from the song is Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy.  This song was written in 1968, and  I couldn’t Imagine being seventy then and I am having a hard time imagining it now.

So where does this leave us? I guess it can leave us watching time go by, or making the most of whatever time we have – you know- stopping to smell the roses,  watching the wax myrtles grow, learning something new (Que pasa?), riding a bike for the sheer pleasure of feeling the wind on our faces, playing with the grandkids… or maybe just sitting on a park bench quietly, grateful to be seventy.


Staying in Focus: Focus On: Spending my Summer in Virtual Reality

If someone should ask me how I spent the summer of 2017, I’ll say well, I sat atop the London Eye (a giant Ferris Wheel) and gazed out over the city of London, where the glass of the Shard sparkled in the sunlight; I stood before the Eiffel tower in Paris in the same spot where we stood on our visit there in 2013; I re-visited the mansions of the royal family of Denmark in Copenhagen, Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway and I sat behind the  huge metal letters of the “Hollywood” sign in Los Angeles. Thanks to Google Earth VR, I did all this without leaving my home. And that’s just for starters…

Welcome to the future!

This all began when our sons, Kevin and Steven, both computer artists, were assigned to work on a virtual reality (VR) video game based on the sci-fi series, Star Trek.  As we are long time Star Trek fans, we were excited to see what this new technology could do.

Kevin, always on the cutting edge of anything computer-related, bought the necessary equipment needed to enter this strange new world, so while we awaited the publication of the Star Trek Bridge Crew game, we tried a few of the sample experiences available in virtual reality.

My son has an extra room in his house that he now uses for the VR games. It is important not to have furniture or obstacles strewn about, as once you don the VR headset, your brain forgets where your body is, and wanders off on an adventure all its own.

Donning the VR headset, my first “adventure” in VR found me standing on the ledge at the top of a skyscraper. At first, I felt frozen, certain I was in danger of falling off. Now get this – I shuffled my feet back a little (hence the reason not to have obstacles lying around). I knew, of course, that I was in a room, my feet planted firmly on the carpet, but it didn’t feel that way. Once I acclimated to the sensation, however, I was able look around. When wearing the VR headset, the experience wraps around you in 3-D, meaning that if I looked up, down, behind me, overhead or in front, I was surrounded by buildings, streets with cars moving about, and pedestrians strolling along on the sidewalks. As I gaze, (careful not to fall off) sounds of city drift up from far below…

Suddenly, I am in a museum, and from around the corner a T-Rex dinosaur appears. As it approaches, it raises its head and lets out a thundering roar and I can almost feel the droplets of saliva spray over me from its open mouth. As it turns to pass me, the dinosaur swings its head closer, its bright orange eye staring right at me. It glides past and I hunch down as its tail swings by barely missing me…

Another fun experience in VR is a ride on a rollercoaster. In the program we have, the coaster runs up, over and between city skyscrapers. Donning the headset, I take a seat, and as we start to climb, I hear that familiar click -click noise of the chains, and feel a sense of acceleration (really!), as it slowly climbs upward and reaches the top. Then the rollercoaster zooms downward, and I hear the whoosh of the air as I fly by. I tend to lean right or left as if I am really moving around the curves and loops of the track (I guess, I am – virtually moving – that is.)

It is incredible how realistic these experiences are, and how easily our brains can be influenced by this effect on our visual senses. I have no doubt these are the precursors of the future holodecks of Star Trek.

Speaking of Star Trek, the Bridge Crew game is amazing. Unlike the regular video games, this one immerses the player in the game. The player sits in the captain’s chair, looks out at objects or other ships on the view screen (hopefully, not photon torpedoes, though that is a possibility), give commands and talks to the crew.

Touch controllers (you hold these in your hands) allow the player to push buttons on the control panels with virtual hands. Various missions are provided for the player and bridge crew to complete. One can play alone or with others both as a group in the home or over the internet.

Of course, I am not suggesting virtual reality as a replacement for travel and adventure. Not yet, anyway. But with the airlines beating up on people, terrorists driving into people, and gun battles in the streets, it does offer a safer alternative.

I do check on my husband occasionally when he is off planet on a mission, to make sure he remembers to return home to Starbase 1 to eat and sleep and, if he should find a better reality out there, to be sure to come back and beam us up!


Here I am sitting atop of the London Eye. (lol)


Here I am viewing the Eiffel Tower.


Here is Bill defending the Earth aboard the USS Aegis



Saying in Focus: It’s Never to Late to Learn



Once more I must apologize for falling behind in posting to my blog. I had envisioned my retirement as a nice, leisurely time of life, maybe even having too much time on my hands, but that hasn’t been the case.

I have been able to slow down the progression of my pd  (parkinson’s disease) by keeping abreast of the latest developments and guidance from doctors and physical therapists and implementing them in my daily life.  Exercise of all kinds seems to be one of the most helpful tools, but it does take up time. Recently,  I happened on a website called founded by Sarah King, a physical therapist. There is a wealth of information about exercise and nutrition on this site and I have joined Sarah in her challenge to exercise daily, for at least 2.5 hour a week. Today we begin week 3 of the 4 week challenge. She is also doing a series of live videos through her Invigorate Physical Therapy and Wellness Facebook page about nutrition and how what we eat affects pd. I’ve found her links to You Tube video sites of exercises developed specifically for pwp (people with parkinson’s) most helpful.

But physical exercise is only part of the picture. The brain must be exercised as well. My husband, Bill, and son, Steve, and I are into crossword puzzles and word games on our electronic devices, which help me slow down the ‘loss of words’ associated with pd.

I had never mastered Algebra in high school, so I purchased a book entitled “No Fear Algebra”and can actually say it is beginning to make some sense to me. Working out simple equations is like solving a puzzle.

I have always wanted to be able to draw, but was always too intimidated to take a class with other people. But I recently received one of the Great Courses videos – a gift from my husband – on “How to Draw”. This is perfect for me because I can pause the video as often as needed and I don’t have to rush or try to keep up with others. So far I have learned much about line and shape, aggregate shape, volume, figure-ground and positive – negative shape. There are thirty-six lectures with accompanying  lessons so it may be years before I finish.

Finally, throw in my interest in photography, poetry (see previous post for my latest) and reading, and that’s where the time goes. In a sense, having pd has determined the way my retirement will unfold, but if one has to combat a disease, why not learn a little something during the process? After all, it’s never too late to learn.

Staying in Focus: We the people


We the People

the malaise spreads, as the shadows descend

to bring an end to all we believe in,

our lady now weeps for those who would seek

the light of her torch in the dark of the night,

we are fast losing hold of the dream we were told

of liberty and justice for all,

 for anger divides as much as a wall –

and united we no longer stand;

the land of the free must rally once more

from mountains to desert, from shore to far shore,

and erase all the lines that are blue or red –

We the people can color them purple instead,

if we embrace compromise and compassion

we can begin to heal our nation

 and strive once more for our ideals,

if not, soon, we will rue the day

when we let the dream slip away.


Staying in Focus: Moving Day is a Winner


We had a super time at our Moving Day Event this year. The weather was beautiful – a warm, sunny day, but with a nice breeze.

 First, we were thrilled that our team picture was chosen to for a billboard advertising our event. Our two weeks of fame.


Second, our team raised $1,035 for the National Parkinson Foundation, an all-time high! Total for the event: $187,133!

The day dawned warm and sunny. We began with breakfast at my house, then drove over to the Koka Booth Amphitheater where my granddaughter, my friend Diane and I made it through the haunted house, the kids painted pumpkins and demonstrated their skills with cartwheels and hula hoops. We learned some Salsa moves to limber up for our walk, which was pleasant meander through the woods filled with giant spiders, spooky characters, witches and ghosts, across the parking lot, along the road and past a lake quite scenic on a warm fall afternoon.

I am always amazed and extremely thankful for the number of people willing to get up early on a Saturday morning to come out and support us.  A great big THANK YOU goes out to all of you!


Staying in Focus: I’m Back! (I Think)

I can’t believe my last post was in August, and here it is October already.  We didn’t travel  this summer, or do much of anything, really. I lacked inspiration.  Then we had some family matters to work through.  My 93 year old mom suffered through a second round of Shingles and required  our help in getting her to doctor’s appointments, and weekly visits to help keep up with her household chores.

On the positive side, we had a lovely visit with Bill’s sister Pat, husband Rick and son Matt. They brought us a grandfather clock , which had been a gift given to their mother from their father just months before she passed away. Before his untimely death this past March, he had expressed the wish that someone in the family would take the clock. We had a space for it, and everyone agreed that it looked like it had always been there. During their stay we browsed the bookstore, looked at new houses in the area, and sampled the fare of local eateries.

Our 40th anniversary was September 4th. We finally found a few free days last week to get away to the mountains to relax and de-stress, and celebrate 40 years together. I took some nice pictures of Echo Lake. The trees were just beginning to trade their overall green color  for splashes of color like crimson, umber, sienna, red-orange and yellow.

So I’m back, I think. We are about to start my favorite season, and it is a busy one. I am preparing for our Moving Day Event – A walk for Parkinson’s disease . Pat’s  Patrol (my team) will number at least 17 this year. And I am proud to announce that we have achieved  our team goal of $720.00 raised for the National Parkinson Foundation. This will be followed by Halloween,  Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas, with buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, cooking, and visiting. with family and friends

So, I’ll try to keep up with posting (I wouldn’t mind a little snow this year. I love taking snow pictures!)

Here are some photos of Echo Lake:











Staying in Focus: A Beautiful Day in My Neighborhood

What is it about spring that makes us want to go outside and play in the dirt? Is it the warm, earth-scented breezes that draw us outside, or the warmth of the sun, or the intensity of green that brings such delight to our eyes? Or perhaps it’s the birds, filling the morning air with song, as they go about building nests for their families. I imagine it is life, calling us forth to join in the return of light and warmth, growth and change.

We had a lot of rain in the early spring months here in North Carolina. Everywhere you look, flowers are blooming, trees and bushes are lush with spring green leaves, the grass, a soft carpet of beneath our feet.

Now as we near the summer solstice, the bright green of spring is deepening into the dark green of summer.  We have had a few days of uncomfortable heat and humidity, but in between, Mother Nature has gifted us with absolutely perfect days of cool weather, pleasant breezes, bright sunshine. They are the kind of days I where I simply cannot go inside, intent on savoring every minute of clear blue skies and fresh air. In fact, this coming week has a few days predicted with highs in the 70s.

I know that soon the heat and humidity will fall on us, like a heavy wet blanket draped over our shoulders and our bright blue sky enveloped in a pall of hazy white. But, for now, I will cherish each low humidity day, pottering outside with my plants, listening to the chorus of birds in the trees.

I invite you to enjoy a beautiful day in my neighborhood:

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