Staying in Focus: Lessons from the Oldest and the Newest

The Oldest:

My 92 year old mom came up for the Labor Day Weekend, and we were having a great time until she took a fall in the bathroom . As she is on blood thinning meds we lost no time in taking her to the hospital. Fortunately, she did not break any bones, just deeply bruised a rib. She had been planning to go home the next day, but ended up staying a week. She was in a lot of pain, and the only place she could get any rest at all was on our couch.

But trooper that she is, she took this in stride, just as she had when fighting breast cancer, enduring two mastectomies and taking as much chemo as she could stand. She experiences a lot of fatigue, has an atrial fibrillation condition with her heart, and all the aches and pains that accompany old age – but she doesn’t let it stop her. I’m not saying she doesn’t have bad days or get depressed, but when she finds herself tending in that direction, she heads another way

A few days after she returned home, she called me up and said she was” turning over a new leaf” . My mom is an extraordinary housekeeper. She can still run rings around me when it comes to a clean, neat and tidy home. In her mind, she believes she should be able to keep the pace she had 40 years ago. She told me she decided from now on, she would do things in her home on her good days, and just take it easy on the off days, and not get upset if everything wasn’t perfect all the time.

Alleluia! She then proudly announced she had retrieved her fall decorations from the closet and was in the process of decorating her house for the fall season. My mother’s ability to find delight in decorating her house, and satisfaction in being able to keep up with most of her chores at 92 are what keep her connected to life. She still gets her hair done every Friday, has lunch out with friends often, and is currently cross stitching ornaments for Christmas. I hope I have inherited some of this strength.

The Newest:

On September 25th, my niece, Jeanette, gave birth to a  very premature baby. Arriving 15 weeks early, and weighing in at only 1 lb. 6 oz, little Ben Gerard came into this world with a host of obstacles to overcome. But it seems little Ben has inherited his great grandmother’s strength of character, as he fights to stay with us. He is 10 days old, has become strong enough to be weaned off the breathing machine and is breathing on his own with only an oxygen mask. His vital signs are good, the doctors have increased his feeding times and Jeanette and her husband, Jared, had a chance to hold him for the first time today.

This very tiny person has many hills to climb in the weeks ahead, but he has demonstrated to everyone that he’s got the strength and determination to try, just as his great grandmother has the strength and fortitude to deal with what ever comes her way. There is a connection between these two  people in my family, the very oldest and the very newest, one intent on enjoying what life can offer no matter her age, and the newest, fighting to stay in a world he has just entered, wanting to find out just what this life is all about. I hope I have a measure of the fortitude of little Ben when facing my obstacles.

We read books and watch videos about heroes and heroic acts on the grand scale, but must remember to pay attention to the heroic efforts of everyday people and the lessons to be learned from the oldest and the newest,


Staying in Focus: Focus On: Family and Friends

What a pleasant weekend I had! On Saturday, I attended a birthday celebration for my friend, Linda. Although Linda’s birthday was in June, several of us were traveling during that time, and this was the first date that worked for most everybody.  Most of the gals in our group were workmates at Sylvan Learning Center at one time – Debra, Julie. Karen, Linda and me. Diane, a friend of Julie, joined the group early on, followed by Debbi and most recently Denise, two of my friends formerly of Poughkeepsie, NY. Two of our original members, Michele and Susan, have moved away.

The group began as a monthly book club in 1997 and over the years as some of us pursued new jobs, retired, faced illnesses, or became caretakers for aging parents, we became more of a support group for one another. Life becomes more complicated sometimes and getting everyone together each month was tough, but we continued to get together for coffee and catching up here and there,  kept in touch through emails, and  at a gathering at my house each Christmas.

We have seen one another through good times – new jobs, new homes, the arrival of grandchildren, and tough times – the loss of parents and spouses, and facing illness. We have had members move away and have welcomed newcomers. We have seen our children grow, begin their careers, leave the nest, get married, start families, and defend our country in military service.

It matters not how frequently we manage to get the group together, for when we do we have good times, filled with good conversation sprinkled with laughter. To quote Proust, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

Our Selfie:


Following the party, I returned home to find my grandchildren had arrived to spend the night with us and their father, who celebrated his 37th birthday this weekend.  We took him out for pizza, and returned home for an ice cream treat.  On Sunday we had a scrambled egg and pancake breakfast and we went outside for a while to enjoy a non-humid, non-nineties day. Bill and I came in from helping their mother get the kids and their stuff in the car, around 4 PM and promptly fell asleep watching the ballgame!

It was a busy weekend but one filled with family and friends. Who could ask for more?IMG_3807

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Adult Visions: Making it Look Easy

Daily Prompt: As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

The first memory that came to mind when I read this prompt was how, as a child thinking how easy my mother had it. She would wake my sister and me up at 6:00 am.  We’d wash, get dressed, eat breakfast, then lay down on the couch, for maybe five to ten precious minutes of rest, until she would rouse us again, point us in the general direction of the bus stop, and once we were safely on our way, she’d lay back down in her bed, all cozy and warm, while the bus whisked to school to face tests, oral reports and gym (three things that terrorized me at school) .

I think that misperception is the most common one children have about adult life. It’s the autonomy the child believes the adults have that they envy. Unlike the child who is told when to go to bed, when to wake up, when to go to school etc. it seems adults can do as they please. This misperception occurs because the child can see the person or persons (mother, father, teacher; etc.) who wield control over him, who restrict his autonomy with rules and regulations. What he does not see are the people who restrict the autonomy of his parents, like managers at work, doctors who want them on a restricted diet, the bank that wants the mortgage payment paid promptly each month.  Adults certainly have less autonomy than I thought they had as a child. And a lot more responsibility carried on their shoulders.

My mother was a stay at home mom. She had to be her own manager and we would come home after our day in school to a clean home, supper on the stove, clothes washed, folded and ready to be ironed after she helped us with our homework.  We put little thought to how all that was accomplished while we were otherwise occupied. We’d kiss her goodnight, then snuggle down in our beds, all cozy and warm, to the hiss of the steam iron as she tackled this chore long into the night waiting for my dad to come home from work around midnight. She had no more autonomy than we, she just did what had to be done. The thing is she loved taking care of her home and family. Maybe the need for autonomy diminishes in proportion to how much you love what you do. Taken from that perception maybe mom had it easy, after all.

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: Escape from Mount Sanctuary

ANNOUNCING the release of my novel for children:



Book Cover small


Although written with children in mind, the story is one you will never forget, a story of friendship, acceptance and tolerance for those different from us, of family and courage and sacrifice. It is a cautionary tale written to remind us how beautiful, yet fragile, is our world,  and how important is our stewardship of  it. It is  a story of  a boy coming of age, for readers of all ages.


Escape from Mount Sanctuary now available from the Kindle store at It’s a bargain at only $.99. No Kindle, no problem. Simply download the FREE Kindle app  and you can view the book on your computer.  Here’s a link to the site:


On the lower right hand corner of the page you will see a link to the free Kindle app. The book will be available in print on demand in the coming weeks if you prefer traditional books.

Book Description

 April 25, 2014
What if you had the chance to discover the world all over again? In Escape from Mount Sanctuary, a young boy named Ke does exactly that. Ke has lived his life in special caverns built to shelter survivors and their descendants beneath the Earth’s surface following a cataclysmic event ages ago. Ke learns that there is an “outside” to his world, a world long thought abandoned. Ke is intrigued, especially when he meets a girl (Mira) from an outside settlement and a wolf named Tip, who possesses special abilities. With this pair of adventurers, Ke and his elder friend, Tuck, embark on a journey into a world far more wondrous, and dangerous, than they imagined. During their journey, Ke, a naïve young boy with dreams of becoming a storyteller, learns much about friendships and family, self-reliance and sacrifice. By journey’s end, they all come to realize that courage is not measured by one’s size or one’s age, but by the conviction in one’s heart. Their story celebrates the joy of discovery, the wonder of our world and the rewards of perseverance. It encourages its readers to follow their dreams wherever they may lead. It is about discovering the world all over again.

Staying in Focus/Daily Prompt: Our House

Daily Prompt : Our House   What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall. 

The house I grew up in…1319 Ringwood Avenue, Haskell, NJ.It was an old house, even back then, in 1953.Photo_0039_3 It was a two story house with a screened front porch, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, a big country kitchen, living room and a semi-finished basement.  It had a front “parlor” designated for receiving guests, but we were much more casual a family, and everyone gravitated  to my mother’s warm, friendly kitchen. In later years, my father knocked down the wall separating the living room and the parlor, into one large family room.IMG_0003

The three bedrooms were all upstairs, so if we needed to use the facilities, we had to go downstairs through the living room and into the kitchen. The bathroom was located off the kitchen and contained a commode, sink and  a shower. We had no bathtub, and when we were little we were bathed in the kitchen sink!IMG_0001 The tile behind me in the picture was red as was the ceiling. Thus it became known ad Mom’s red kitchen. You can see the red ceiling in this next picture, of a common occurrence at our house -guests.IMG_0004 My mother was one of nine children and her mother, our grandma,  lived next door, so there was  a steady stream of visitors for birthdays, holidays, or to play cards on a Saturday night. The door was always open at Jack and Ann’s. Our friends were always welcome , too. The basement evolved from a playroom for little ones, to a hang out spot for cousins and friends. My earliest memory of the house was sitting on the front porch on parade day – we had them for memorial day, veteran’s day,and the Fourth of July. We’d sit with our grandma, and wave to the paraders, and then later the Struble clan would descend on us for a big picnic that lasted well after the fireflies lit the night sky. Six of us lived in that house, and four of us were raised there. I left only when I married, at age 23. Somehow we all managed to take our showers,  fix our hair and put on our makeup, with only one bathroom.

Today my husband and I live in a house with 3 full baths, one  a master bath with  a big tub and separate shower. We managed to talk to our friends on one landline telephone, no cell phones in those days. By the time   we were dating, though, dad added  a phone in the basement. Despite these austere , in today’s world, circumstances, we did not feel deprived because although old  (it even had  a coal cellar for the days before oil and gas), it was filled with what counted most – love. It started with two loving people who brought up 4 great kids, filled their home with music and books, family and friends and warm memories which have stayed with me throughout my life. It’s with a smile I recall that house, the shouts and laughter of children playing in the yard, the quiet talk of grown -ups sitting on the porch on a summer’s eve, the tinkle of ice in their drinks, I can smell the turkey my dad roasted for Thanksgiving dinner, and Mom’s pumpkin pie. They were a team, my parents, their love strong and steady for nearly 50 years before he passed away . My mom will be 91 in May. She is the last of her family – so many passed on. However, it is with ease that I can close my eyes and see them all in that house  –  a house of  family, friendship,  love and treasured memories.

I am working on a memoir/scrapbook, and I wrote this prose poem for it:

The Last Stop

this is the last stop  on our tour of  historic houses of Haskell, NJ in fact, this is the last tour ever as these 8 homes are slated for deconstruction to widen the road who could have  foreseen an interstate highway in 1930? some call it progress; I prefer preserving  –  these homes and our connection to a time now past. as you can see, this first home’s primary asset is its 19thcentury charm The wide, front porch brings to mind summer days and glasses of lemonade  enjoyed by neighbors stopping in to “sit a spell” and this large, red  kitchen is, most certainly, the heart  of the  home I can almost smell the bread and pies cooling on the counter , can’t you? off the kitchen here, is the only bathroom, but I’ve been told a family of six managed just fine, living here for nearly thirty years. can you imagine that? and take a look at this big backyard, I can hear the voices of children playing tag on a warm summer’s eve, listen closely, you can hear them can’t you?

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Staying In Focus: Daily Prompt: My Hero

Me and my dad, 1954

Me and my dad, 1954

Daily Prompt: Heroic

When you were five years old, who was your hero? What do you think of that person today?


Like many little girls, when I was five, my hero was my dad.  I could not imagine life without him. He worked d hard to provide for us, but always had time for us. His family meant everything to him and he was happiest when we were all together.

He encouraged us to achieve in school, so proud when we graduated from college, an opportunity he never had. He was there for all the important events in our lives.  He taught me how to swim and how to drive, how to bait a fishing hook, hang tinsel on a Christmas tree and change the oil in my car. He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, was always there to listen and advise.

He loved our annual vacations when we would load up the Ford station wagon and set out to explore all the lower 48 states, Canada and Mexico. We watched Old Faithful erupt under a star-studded sky, ate dinner out of a chuck wagon with the cowboys in North Dakota, were avid cave spelunkers, gazed into the Grand Canyon, danced with Native Americans, climbed to the top of the world in Jasper Alberta, Canada, watched fireworks over the ocean in Long Beach California, had a snowball fight on the fourth of July in the Grand Teton Mountains. These experiences combined to form the kind of person I became.

And the one thing I feared the most in life would be to see any sign of disappointment in me mirrored in his eyes. I am proud that I never let him down. He died in 1994 at the age of 74, of congestive heart failure. I spent several days helping my family prepare for the funeral, and then drove home to get my family ready. That’s when the flood gates failed and I could no longer stop the tears. I cried an ocean on that 30 minute trip, but it still took a long time to come to terms with his death. I would come across something and think, “I’ll show that to dad,” and then suddenly remember he was gone.

Today, I think of him as my hero, and my guardian angel rolled into one. And somewhere in time, maybe in a parallel universe, a little girl stands on a table top, her father standing near. She believes he will be there always to take care of her. He looks at her with love and pride in his eyes. He is her hero and always will be, somewhere in time…

Staying in Focus: DailyPrompt: Happy, Happy

Daily Prompt:

What does “happiness” look like to you?

My family makes me happy. Without the love from my mother, sister and brother, their spouses and children, my husband and two sons and my two beautiful grandchildren, I could not be happy.

My friends make me happy – a day’s outing, vacationing together, exchanging letters and email, and sharing good times together – these are the moments in my life I associate with happiness.

But I have had two totally happy moments in my life. moments when what I was experiencing eclipsed everything else, and I stood immersed in the feelings of happiness and joy, oblivious to everything else.

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The first occurred at the top of a lofty mountain peak in Jasper, Alberta. Canada. We had taken a lift up the side of the mountain, and my parents decided to sit and enjoy the view over a cup of coffee. My sister and I decided to climb to the peak of the mountain. We reached the top just as the sun was beginning to drop in the sky.  To the west, the sun set the sky on fire, rays of golden light reaching out toward us’ to the east, clouds diffused the radiance to a gentle glow. The scene just blew me away. I felt a part of something larger, something above and beyond my understanding, a feeling that touched my very soul.  I don’t know if you have ever experienced such a moment, but for me, that moment was pure happiness.IMG_0001_edited-1

Sunrise off the coast of Alaska

Sunrise off the coast of Alaska

a path of gold from the sun to me
a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

The second occurred two summers ago on our first cruise to Alaska.  I woke up just as the sun was making its appearance in the Land of the Midnight Sun.  As I watched the sun grew brighter, rising in the sky and chasing away the shadows of night. I grabbed my camera and caught the sun as it painted a path of gold across the water. In that moment, it was just me and the sun and the ocean and once again that veil of pure contentment settled on my shoulders, and my spirit filled with happiness and joy. We would go on to enjoy the pristine beauty of Alaska, the waterfalls and icebergs,  and even  encounter humpback whales, but it was that moment of my first sunrise at sea  and that sunset  atop a mountain in Jasper, Alberta that I will that I will hold close forever, and remember  as my moments of pure happiness and joy.

My poems:


standing on the summit

of a mountain way up high,

where only rocks and boulders

rise to meet the mighty sky,

to the west the sun is sinking

and it sets the sky ablaze,

to the east the rolling clouds

diffuse the colors to a haze,

and all the myriad problems

that so often trouble me.

Are forgotten as I witness

nature’s awesome majesty.

Jasper, Canada


Sunrise , Sunset at Sea


I watch the sun rise

light vanquishes the darkness

and color returns


the calm sea reflects

ribbons of orange and pink

I stand mesmerized


as the sun rises

it paints a path of gold light

for me to follow


as the sun lowers

bands of dark purple and blue

bruise the evening sky


rays of pale sunlight

reach out across the water

the sun bids farewell


I watch the sun set

the shades of night seep in

the sky veiled in gray


the calm sea darkens

a weary sun now at rest

color fades to black

                              pc ‘2012





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.

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