Staying in Focus: A Happy Beginning

Christmas truly arrived for us this year on January 1st. That’s when our grandkids arrived to celebrate with us.  They had just returned from a trip to Colorado, and had lots of exciting new experiences to share with us. Here are a few photos that captured the  fun!



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: Home From the Holidays

The holiday season was a full and busy one this year. In addition to the holiday festivities, we had a wedding to attend in Hamilton, NY, on January 2nd. We celebrated Christmas here at home with my side of the family, and then departed for the wedding on Dec 28th. We stopped by in Wayne, NJ, to visit and celebrate Christmas together with the Coyle side of the family, before we continued on to NY, where we stayed for three nights, celebrating New Year’s Eve and the wedding of our nephew and new niece, Matt and Whitney. We started our journey home on the 3rd and arrived here on the 4th. Unfortunately, our son, Kevin,

had a gallbladder attack at the hotel on our way home, suffering with severe pain through most of the night.  We were so ready by this time to just get home. It took me nearly a week to take down the Christmas decorations, but I can now say we have returned home from the holidays.

We had much to be thankful for this Christmas season. Both my mother and my brother had PET scans just before the holiday, and were found to be cancer free. My niece’s preemie baby is doing well, now reaching 6 lbs. Baby Ben began life at 1.6 lbs. on Sept. 25. We hope he will be able to leave the hospital soon, and join his parents and big sister, Juliana, in their new home in NJ. Kevin was checked out by the doctor, and thankfully he does not need surgery, but must follow a strict diet.

The wedding in NY was lovely, and mother nature cooperated by keeping the impact of bad weather to a minimum. We had snow showers every day, but little accumulation. One night was a bit icy, and it was cold, but that was about the worst of it.  It is so heartening to see two young people in love, looking forward to their lives together, the endless possibilities and so much to share. Their wedding ceremony was very personalized and everything came together for them as planned. We wish them all the best. (And anyone out there planning a wedding and needing a song for your first dance, Rose of my Heart by Johnny Cash will not leave a dry eye in the room.)

Despite the cold, we found the town of Hamilton quite charming. We stayed at the Colgate Inn – a historic hotel in the center of town. Across the street is a lovely village green, and we took a walk in the gently falling snow to Colgate University and enjoyed its rustic setting. With the Christmas decorations still in place, the town could have been the setting for It’s a Wonderful LIfe. From the window of the hotel, looking out over the village green, we almost expected to see the villagers heading to the park to celebrate Groundhog Day! Were Jimmy Stewart or Bill Murray and Andie McDowell to walk by us, we wouldn’t have been surprised.

I love the architecture of the houses in upstate New York.  There is something about them that harken back to a time of small town living, festivals in the village green, the kids bundled up in snowsuits, scarves and colorful red mittens. I’m sure that somewhere in this small village was the perfect hill for snow sledding and a pond for ice skating. Now if we could just find a town like that, in a little warmer climate, with low taxes and a big city nearby for medical care, we’d be there in a heartbeat. Any suggestions?


Rose of My Heart



Staying in Focus: A Birthday Wish – Time Together

After her battle last year with breast cancer, which became lung cancer, all she really wants is to see as  much of her children,grandchildren, and great grandchildren  as she can. She’d love to see the great great grandchildren, but they live far away in Oswego, NY. So my sister and I decided to surprise her on her 91st birthday. She thought she was just having dinner with  Mary and John, but Bill and I drove down from Cary and  Gary, Mary’s son, and girlfriend Robin drove in from Raleigh and we  were sitting there as she arrived . The smile on her face says it all.

When I was in school, it was  a tradition that your girlfriends make you corsages using a package bow and strips of ribbon on which were tied candy like life savers or lolly pops – 12 of them if you were turning twelve, etc. Although we had  an orchid corsage for mom, I made up one of the traditional ones from my youth. With 91 life savers attached to it, it was too heavy to wear, but she loved it all the  same. It would take her nearly three months to eat the candy, if she ate one  each day!

We had  a wonderful dinner – good food, good company, lots of laughs. She’s smiling because she got just what she wanted – a little bit of our time. Not too much to ask from someone who has always been there for us! Happy 91st birthday! We love you, Mom!










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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 : Spring and its Color Display

I love spring, planting flowers in beds and in pots, their beautiful colors combining to sing a song of life renewing itself with a flair we try to capture wi.th the lens of the camera. Here are my feeble attempts to convey their beauty from flowers received for Easter and those in pots and beds in my yard:

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flowers from my thoughtful nephew, Gary and his gal. Robin.

   flowers from my thoughtful nephew, Gary and his gal. Robin.

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pink geranium from my sister, Mary and brother-in-law, John



Staying in Focus: Focus On: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GAVIN

We celebrated my grandson’ s 5th birthday this week with a chocolate chip pancake breakfast at Bob Evans. Here are some photos of the event:

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To Gavin

How can it already be year number five

since you first arrived, so precious and  small?

but in almost no time at all

you won my heart with your winning smile,

and vibrant personalityIMG_6070

I love the special kind of hugs

and kisses that you give to me

you have such a great imagination

I look forward with expectation

to find out who you decide to be

your father says right now the choice

is between being  a daddy

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and Ironman.

To be both of then, I think you can –

but in my heart and memories

you’ll always be my little man.

Happy Birthday!



Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Memories of Holidays Past

Daily Prompt: What is your very favorite holiday? Recount the specific memory or memories that have made that holiday special to you.

This prompt is quite timely, as  my Christmas card theme this year is “Remember When”. I wrote this poem as the verse on the card:

Remember When

Cherished memories come to mind,

every year at Christmas time

As the year draws to an end,

they invite me to ‘remember when’

Remember when Christmas

was covered with snow,

the flakes would fly

and the cold wind blow?

Remember when we trimmed the tree?

Dad hung the tinsel

as straight as could be

Remember when it didn’t snow,

and we feared Santa wouldn’t show?

Remember when family and friends

dropped by,

for conversation and pumpkin pie?

Remember when we’d go a caroling,

into the frosty night

with hearts full of cheer and spirits bright?

Hold moments like these close in your heart

and when you want to revisit them

sit back and simply ‘remember when’

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. I love everything about it from the decorations to trimming the tree, finding the perfect gift for someone special, wrapping and hiding presents and baking cookies, and  watching our favorite Christmas movies on TV. We used to attend midnight mass, where candles would fill the church with light, but these days it is too hard to stay up that late, especially after attending my sister’s annual Christmas Eve celebration of food, fun and presents.  So we go to an earlier mass. I love the joyful sound of Christmas carols filling the church, and listening to the children play carols with the bells. Then we drive home through a city aglow with luminaries lining driveways and roads.  At home, mom and I get cozy and I usually buy her a special gift – new pajama, a robe or slippers. This year having been so tough on her, I bought us each a pair of elf slippers, for a little laugh. I will be sure to post some pictures on Christmas Eve. Before bed, Mom and I watch “White Christmas”.

Christmas memories are the best memories. I remember decorating the outside of the house with the snowflakes flying, buying our tree on the coldest  night of the year, making our own decorations, wrapping and hiding presents, teasing each other with hints of what may lie beneath the colorful paper. One of our family traditions was to draw a name and buy a small gift to exchange on Christmas Eve. I don’t know why this memory has stuck in my mind, but I remember my dad giving me  a novel  – a madcap mystery with the Monkees as the main characters, and I see myself sitting by the tree reading my book. An earlier memory is that of receiving a Shirley Temple Treasury – seems most of my favorite memories involve books. I still have that book, 53 Christmases later.

It has long been  a  tradition in our family to exchange handmade gifts. These have ranged, over the years, from Mom’s beautiful cross stitch on pictures, pin cushions, bookmarks, pillows and ornaments, to my nature photography, paintings, poetry and jewelry. My sister has provided many of our treasured decorations –   painted lamps, needlepoint Santa candles,  angels, and  painted bottles, plates, and mugs. My brother is a genius at making things from found objects like driftwood, railroad spikes, odds and ends he turns into art and  treasured memories. My favorite is a carved walking stick. His family, my sister-in law, Elise, and children Sammy and Isaac have added ornaments for our tree. Last year Elise made very clever scarves made from yarn. My niece, Jeanette, also an artist, paints on found objects like a bird’s feather or a seashell. All of these add to the special holiday that is Christmas, because of the thought and time given in their creation.

The promise of Christmas is a message of peace and love, the hope that  one day we will  achieve them, the joy we find  in family and friends, This is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

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: Focus On: Caregivers

Yesterday I wrote about the unsung heroes we walk amidst everyday, those facing a battle with disease, or intense pain, perhaps even death. Life is a mixture of joy and pain. Our job is not to let the pain diminish the joy. This year has been a lesson in that for me. Mom, joyfully celebrating 90 years of life amidst the nightmare of cancer and chemo; a wonderful vacation in Europe, to return to the news my brother has cancer, too; two weddings, full of youth and promise, followed this week by the death of an old and dear friend. And, most joyfully, the news that my sister’s first grandchild will be born in April.
As someone with a degenerative disease, I am ever thankful for the caregivers in my life. The friends who drive me places, my husband who picks up the slack of things I can no longer do alone like grocery shopping or taking me to my hair appointment, my son who calls at lunch time to chat and make sure I am okay my sister who will bring mom up for a visit or pick her up to take her home.

While everyone asks how I am, few people think to ask Bill how he is feeling and coping with the changes this disease has brought to our lives.  I wrote this poem for all the caregivers out there, who out of love offer all they have and all they can do for a loved one requiring special care. People like Debbi’s partner Richard, Julie, wife of Dick , my husband, Bill, and friends Debbi, Linda and Denise my mom’s friend, Betty. In my book, you are all heroes. And angels come in many forms. There are people in your life that may  be angels or aspire to be. Let them shoulder some of the burden once in a while. In other words don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Step by Step

with burdens heavy on your shoulders
sometimes you want to run away
but the sun will rise again tomorrow
the gift of light, another day
another day to love and care
to find the strength to carry on
for step by step you walk together
although the road is rough and long
do not despair, you’re not alone
for angels walk beside you
to give you strength to carry on
and toward the light they guide you
from the darkness into peace
and  all your burdens, they will ease.

.                                                    -pc 2013