Staying in Focus: Focus On: Changes

Today when I went out to water my plants, I found this lying on the grass:


The first red maple leaf of fall.

The first red maple leaf of fall.











Surely a sign of changes ahead

The first red leaf falls to the ground

a signal  as one season ends

another waits to begin

autumn is approaching

with its splash of vibrant color

and its days of cooler weather;

we harvest what’s been planted

as the sun beams through the trees

and gives a warm and cozy glow

to the changing leaves

autumn is the season

when nature rearranges

and we anticipate the changes

signaled by a small red leaf.











Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Autumn Blues: A Bittersweet Transition

Daily Prompt:

As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?

A Bittersweet Transition


Ah, the end of summer. Always a bittersweet time for me as a child.  Until I was in my teens we spent our summers in a cabin near a lake.  It was the mid  1950s to the  early 1960’s, and those were our halcyon days.

On sunny days we went fishing, swimming and hiking. We took walks in the early evening to the clubhouse to watch movies, play bingo and buy penny candy. On rainy days we would color and draw, or lay on the cots on the porch and read the day away. I read everything from the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys (the last two compliments of my cousin, Ricky).IMG_3809

We kids, which included me, my sister, Mary Lou, my brother, Steven , and cousins, Ricky and Susan, and our moms stayed at the lake all summer and the dads would come up for their 2 week vacations and every weekend.

Toward the end of August we would make a trip home, to pick up our uniforms, buy our black and white saddle shoes and our school supplies. As much as I loved the easy pace of summer, the warm days, time to just lay in a hammock and rock back and forth, catch fireflies in the evening, and toast marshmallows in the outside fireplace, something inside me would awaken as we walked past aisles full of pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil cases, lunch boxes, and the icon of my school supplies, the black and white composition books. I still have my first three composition books from kindergarten.IMG_3806

To me they epitomize how I felt at the start of a new school year. The  new composition book is fresh and clean, ready and waiting for the school year to begin. On the first day of school, I, too, will be fresh and clean, my black and white saddle shoes shined and my uniform crisp and tidy.  These images spell new beginnings to me, a whole new year of learning and growing, a fresh start, a chance to get off on the right foot and fill that composition book with perfect penmanship.

But not to worry. We would return to the lake for a few precious weeks, which included the celebration of Regatta Days and the Labor Day weekend. Days filled with games, competition and barbeques.  Although at home my uniform hung ready, my books and supplies packed, all I needed was a little more time, time for swimming and fishing and rocking in the hammock, sweet and slow.

Bittersweet, those last precious days of summer, as they marked the end of one thing and heralded the start of another. I miss that transition now, but perhaps I can recapture the feeling with these:




(I don’t have a pair of black and white saddle shoes, but guess what? I looked on the internet and they are now designed by Ralph Lauren and sold at Nordstrom’s!) Anyway, back to the black and white composition book. It sits there ready and waiting for me to make that first entry, forge a new beginning, and write….the first lines of a new poem…


A month of fresh starts… a new school year… new pencil cases and clean lunch boxes…the smell of chalk …the polished sheen on my new black and white saddle shoes…and the blank pages of a composition book beckoning me to record the endless possibilities that lie ahead with the precise point of a newly sharpened pencil…(more to come)

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

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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: 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?