Staying in Focus: Focus On: Answer It, Don’t Open It

Yesterday we had a visit from a town police officer.  No. don’t worry, he wasn’t there to arrest us. He came as part of a community service program designed to help us make our home more secure from burglars and other uninvited persons.

This came about as a result of a neighborhood-wide car invasion recently. Several cars were broken into (some were unlocked) and two neighbors had damage to a window and a doorknob, but no home invasion occurred. However, several items were stolen from the cars, and some of the cars were damaged.

One of our neighbors, who had been victimized like this before, notified the police and set up a community meet with the police officers, who told us about their free program to come into our home and show where things could easily be changed to make it harder for such crimes to be committed.

We live in a town where there is not a lot of crime, but this incident shook us out of our complacency, and taught us that we needed to be aware of the fact that these crimes can be committed anywhere.

We began outside, examined our landscaping, and looked inside at doors and windows, talked about things to do when we are away on vacation, and discussed making a family plan should a home invasion take place. We learned that simple things like removing tree limbs, keeping bushes trimmed to below window level, adding deadbolts and motion detectors, and ways to reinforce windows and doors are all inexpensive ways to make our home more secure.

We realized that we’ve never really looked closely at home security when we bought our homes, aside from having a security system  installed, which we do have. But simple additions and practices can help to augment the electronic alarms, and the harder we make it for intruders to get in, the more secure we will feel.

Which brings me to the title of my post. If you are like me, and you see a solicitor roaming the neighborhood, you stay out of sight as they ring the doorbell and move on. Not a good plan, Officer Jeremy informed us. Potential intruders will often  ring the doorbell to see if anyone is home. If they do not get a response to the doorbell, they will likely try to get in, assuming no one is home. So what should we do? Answer it, don’t open it. Just shout through the closed and locked door that we are not interested and invite them to leave our premises post haste. If they do not respond immediately, we can call a number the officer gave us. If they rattle the door or threaten us, we call 911 and initiate our family plan. Officer Jeremy assured us that if we have to call 911, they will stay on the phone with us until they arrive.

So we are in the process of being proactive and making our home more secure. This is a wonderful community program, and I urge you to contact your town police and see if such a program is available to you. If not, suggest they look into one. It helps them in their job. Having citizens living in more secure houses, and who are more aware and alert as to what is happening around their neighborhood, gives them aid in apprehending the intruders.

I hope this blog encourages everyone to stay aware and alert and be sure their house is as secure as they can make it. If your car is outside, do not leave valuables in it, and be sure to lock it.  And pass the word: answer it, don’t open it!


Staying in Focus: A Bump in the Night

Sorry I have been remiss in writing this blog over the past few days but I have a good excuse. You see, I ran into a wall. Literally. I have always prided myself in being in control of my actions. I do not drink or use drugs other than those prescribed by my doctors. Therein lies the problem. Since my diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2007, I have taken a drug called Mirapex. It helps to control my tremor.  However, one of its side effects is abnormal dreams. For the most part I have tolerated this side effect. My dreams are like watching or being in a movie, vivid and very real to me while I sleep. One of the first things I noticed, or I should say, my husband noticed, was that I would talk out loud on occasion. He couldn’t make out what i was saying, so he called it my “talking in tongues”. The odd thing is. I knew when this was happening because in the dream, I would be trying to shout at someone, or warn them of danger, and my voice would be very weak, no matter how loud I would try to be. I couldn’t speak in the dream because my voice was speaking out in he real world. I never woke up from these dreams with my heart pounding as from a nightmare. but often remembered them in the morning.

The next step was waking up to realize I had just hurled a pillow across the room, or being awakened by my husband because I was clutching his arm. I decided to nix the dose of Mirapex I took at bedtime  to see if that helped and the dreams diminished in intensity until last Saturday at 5:30 in the morning. I was very threatened in the dream I was having, and frantic to escape this man swinging a hook on a fish line at me, drawing closer and closer to my face. Still asleep, I must have  gotten out of bed  and charged across the room The next thing I knew my husband was shouting my name and running toward me. I had hit the corner edge of a wall in our bedroom, then fallen to the floor. It took a few seconds to orient myself and I put my hand to my face and felt blood. Bill helped me up, We turned on the light and I could see that I had hit my nose and the area over my left eye as the blood was coming from a mark on the bridge of my nose and the area above my eye was swelling.

Of course, this happened on a weekend, as usual. I felt okay – no headache, my pupils looked fine, no nausea and dizziness and I didn’t feel like hanging out in the ER for hours, so I just kept ice on the area, along with Vaseline, which i had read boxers use to reduce swelling. I spoke to the doctor on call for my neurologist and she reduced the dosage  a little more until I could see my doctor. Of course, I got a shiner of a black eye from the encounter with the wall, but more than that I was afraid to go to sleep on the chance it might happen again.  A friend suggested I get one of those body pillows to make it harder to  get out of bed in my sleep. I bought one and a cover for it, and pushed books in the bottom to make it heavy. That and 2 large bolster pillows on top make a nice fortress and I wedge myself between that and my husband, hoping he’d feel me trying to get out of bed. We have  a king size bed with a tempurpedic mattress, so unless we are close , one of us can get out of bed without disturbing the other one at all.

I saw my doctor and we are in the process of discontinuing the Mriapex. According to my doctor, when PD patients reach their sixties,  they no longer can tolerate the MIrapex. I had read that taking clonazepam before bed  can also help, as the dreams  are not solely caused by the Mirapex, but exacerbated by it. The tendency toward these dreams is a part of the Parkinson’s disease itself. Since I am already taking clonazepam, I now split the pill in half and take half in the AM and half before bed. Since making these changes, along with meditating a while before falling asleep, I have had fewer dreams  and  sleep through the night. I’ll just have to see how much tremor I have once off the Mirapex  and how I handle my anxiety splitting the clonazepam in half.

It is  a scary thing to have your conscious mind disconnected from your body. . In REM sleep, which is when we  dream, our bodies are paralyzed temporarily by something in our brains. This keeps us from doing what I did. In Pd patients and people with REM behavior disorder, this malfunctions, allowing the dream state to take control. I intend to research this  phenomenon further,

I hope by posting this, I can help other PD patients avoid what happened to me.In the meantime , I hope the doctors find a way to control this, so I can avoid going bump in the night ever again..

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Worst Case Scenario: My Last Day

Daily Prompt: Of all the awful possibilities, what’s the worst possible thing that could happen to you today? Now, what about the best?

The worst thing that could happen to me today would be to find out this was the last day of my life. As I grow older, every day is a precious one, to be lived and enjoyed and celebrated, no matter if the sun shines or the rain falls or the cold winds blow. What would I do if I knew this was the last day to see the sunrise, or the ocean waves roll to shore, to listen to the song of the birds outside my window, or see the smiles on the faces of my grandchildren when they come to visit? My last day to hear the sound of my husband’s voice as we share conversation,  feel his gentle touch and taste his soft kisses?

Well, I would focus on the best thing to happen to me today, which would be to find out this was the last day of my life. For if it was, I would not squander a second. I would fill it, sunrise to sunset with as much life as I could squeeze into 24 hours. I would bask in the sunlight or dance in the rain. I’d play with my grandchildren at the edge of the sea. I’d walk with my husband, hand in hand, leaving footprints in the sand, which last for a mere moment before being washed away by time and tide.  As with those fading footprints, so, too, are the days of our lives. I’d finish my last day sitting on a mountain peak, watching the sun set in a swirl of lovely colors before the light fades away.

Sometimes, I think, because we do not know when our last day will be, we regard them carelessly, and treat them like they will last forever.  However, since  we do not know which day will be our last, we must live each one as if it were. Celebrate the sun’s rise each day, take time to hear the birdsong. Show family and friends we love them, with a phone call or a visit, take time to travel and expand our point of view.  We get so overwhelmed with the business of making a living, we forget to live. We focus on the negative and forget that every cloud has a silver lining. Looking for it takes some effort, but it enriches our lives to acknowledge the good things and disregard the bad.

Take Parkinson’s disease as an example. It was certainly a cloud on my horizon, but because of my early retirement, I’ve had time to do more writing, improve my photography, take courses over the Internet.  I know my mobility will continue to diminish, so we have taken a few cruises to places I never thought I would see in my lifetime, while I can still get around. We shouldn’t put off doing the things we enjoy; life is too short and unpredictable. We need to fill our days with as much joy as we can for as long as we can, because we have only so much time to  live and we must remember to live it well and make it last.


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: A Matter of Reflection

As I was taking pictures of the gazing globe yesterday, I began thinking about the concept of reflection. It is a term that can apply both to throwing back an image, as in a mirror, or in meditation, as in self-reflection. Not all reflections are alike, however. There are circumstances that can affect the degree of perfection (dare I say) in the reflection.

This is clear, especially in photography. When conditions for a perfect reflection are in place, it is almost impossible to tell the reality from the reflection. It’s not easy to get the conditions perfect. Whereas a mirror is relatively stable, the surface of a lake is not. With the touch of the slightest breeze, the reflection changes.In these first two pictures the conditions are just about perfect.The reality and the reflection balance each other. We are more like the surface of the lake than the mirror.  The experiences and events in our lives change us much like the breeze changes the reflection in the water, causing  us to lose focus.IMG_5103

This is where the other meaning of reflection, that of meditation, comes in.When all is balanced in meditation,IMG_0004 we are calm and focused, not distracted or scattered.IMG_3962 That isn’t to say we should  give up on meditation because we are feeling distracted.IMG_9674 - Copy We will have days when our meditation sessions are less focused than others. It remains important to continue the meditation more than ever.Through meditation we  bring to the conscious mind problems or situations that need attending to, so that we  can adjust and   regain our focus. 

IMG_0003My favorite approach to self-reflection is to meditate on the shore of a lake and watch the change a sudden breeze will bring. The reflective image  on the water’s surface becomes blurry and scattered, but in time the breezes settle and balance returns. So, too, it is for us.We will meet many experiences as we grow into who we are, and these experiences change us,and like the breeze, send us off to learn and adjust. We change, we concentrate, we seek the balance. We grow calm and focused.It’s all just a matter of reflection.

Staying In Focus: Their Future is In our Hands

Young Archeologists at Work.

My sister hit a home run when she gave my granddaughter a Smithsonian Archeology Kit for Christmas. It consists of a rectangular sunblock, goggles, a hammer and chisel, a paint brush and a magnifying glass. The aspiring archeologists “excavate” gem stones by gently tapping the chisel with the hammer and when one is discovered, carefully brush away the sand as the gem is removed from the sand block.

Both my seven-year old granddaughter and her five-year old brother had a blast searching for the gems. They unearthed 5 of the 11 gems buried in the block so far. Evelyn declared that science was the most fun and that she was going to be an archeologist/geologist/biologist because she wanted to go tomb hunting, find more hematite like the stone she had at home and work with germs. If anyone could achieve this trifecta, it would be Evelyn’

She is currently writing a “non-fiction” article about hookworms and other parasites, after reading about them in a book on the slimy side of science which Santa brought her for Christmas.  We gave her a laptop computer for Christmas, and she is already learning how to use windows 8, and drew her hook worm using a Paint program, and then inserted it into her Word file.

Although I am a proud grandmother who thinks her grandchildren  are the smartest and cutest on the planet, I know there are millions of other bright minds out there. Children who will grow up in a world where technology has exploded in its ability to transfer information, cure diseases, entertain us with the unimagined  ability to cross the boundaries between reality and the virtual world.

But I fear we are falling behind in preparing our children for this brave new world.  Our teachers are undervalued and underpaid, held to strict curriculum that allow for little in the way of creativity. This is boring for the students, and unpalatable for the best teachers. So they are leaving the profession in droves. Latest statistics show that 40% of those with advanced degrees never enter the classroom at all. Finland is reported to have the best school system in the world. Why are we not studying this model? Are we too arrogant to admit we can learn from someone else? If so, where does that leave my two future archeologists?

IMG_2549 IMG_2550 IMG_2551 IMG_2552 IMG_2553 IMG_2554 IMG_2555 IMG_2556

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.

There simply are not enough hours in  a day during the holiday season. Decking the halls alone is a full-time job, not to mention shopping,wrapping, and baking. My favorite part of all the hoopla is decorating my Christmas tree. When we moved into our current house (with high ceilings), I knew the time had come to indulge in a dream of mine – to have a  tree like those at the Biltmore  House or the White House.IMG_2490

After my son and my husband wrangle it down from the attic and we get it standing straight and tall, I spread out its branches and begin the process – lights, strings of berries and beads, and finally , the best part, hanging the ornaments. I start with some shiny red and green balls, placed  inside the branches, adding  depth and color to the display. Then one by one I greet each old friend, the ornaments that tell the story of  our life. Beginning with our first Christmas together in 1976 ( I have dated ornaments for each year – 37 Christmases so far), to our newest, a bright Scotsman we picked up while in Scotland this summer.IMG_2459IMG_2458

Our ornaments reflect the different stages in our lives, such as the birth of our boys, and our two grandchildren, and thus, a grandma’s first Christmas ornament, given to me by my friends at work. It is important to remember the giver of the ornament because that is what makes them special.IMG_2465 IMG_2461 IMG_2462

We also have ornaments that reflect our interest like scrapbooking, reading, baseball, playing tennis (this one given to me by my friend, Lisa, back in the eighties when we were dedicated tennis players. We even played in the winds of hurricane Hugo as it passed on its way to Charlotte. It was the most hysterical game of tennis ever played, I think, as the ball would make right and left turns on its way over the net!) It’s memories like these  that the ornaments evoke in our minds and touch our hearts with fondness.  IMG_2473 IMG_2463 IMG_2471

We have a hand painted ornament of our last house given to us by our friend, Debbi, to mark our first Christmas there. We have  handmade ornaments from family and friends and some I made myself.  The handmade ornaments bring back memories of  a time when the children were young and my friends,  Denise and  Shirley and I would get together for tea and work on our ornaments. Happy memories of days gone by. And I treasure the ornaments made for me by the mothers of the students I taught.


And we have  iconic figures on our tree as well – Indiana Jones, Darth Vader, Kermit  The Frog, the Beatles and even a Dalek from the Dr. Who series!IMG_2466

IMG_2483 IMG_2470

IMG_2484The Christmas tree is much more than the place under which we pile presents for family and friends. It is a record of our lives,  a reflection of what has been important to us during our lives , a repository of memories fondly recalled, and each tree decorated around the world every Christmas  is as unique as the family it represents. The tree  is the center of each gayly decked hall, and be it the size of a Biltmore House tree, or one which graces a table top, or even one as small as a Charlie Brown tree, it is cherished nevertheless. And whether it carries the memories of 37 wonderful years together, or the first of many memories yet to be made, may your Christmas tree light up your life  and warm your heart this holiday season.                                  

Staying in Focus: A Day For Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

On this day I am thankful :

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tall
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
Treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universe
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
With my grandkids, whom I adore
For Bill, who loves and cares for me
For my family, how I love them so
For friends and good times most carefree
For all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’m filled with heartfelt gratitude
– pc 2012

May we  take time on this special day to express thanks for the gifts we are given – our beautiful world and the people who surround us with love and support, and to celebrate our most precious gift that of life itself.  Let us not take it for granted or squander the time we are given for it is not infinite, which makes it all the more precious. Today is the perfect day to smooth over harsh words and soothe hurt feelings, to express your appreciation for  the people in your life and the world in all its beauty. Enjoy this day, relax, and  really take the time to notice each special moment – the smile on  a baby’s face, reading a book to your grandchild, telling your son or daughter how much you love them, taking a walk together in the bright sunshine, or playing in the snow. These are the moments you and they will remember. The shopping can wait until tomorrow.