Staying in Focus: Dollar Store Fun

I love the dollar store. Yesterday my two most favorite people, my grandchildren, Evelyn and Gavin, came over to play. I had picked up a bag of goodies at the dollar store and with a little creative thinking, we made a lot of fun.

We started with an iron man action figure and a paper doll, with clothes to decorate and little plastic hangers and a rack to hang them on. We taped two pieces of cardboard together to be a backdrop, one set for the doll and one for iron man. We covered the cardboard with colored cardstock and cut out pictures to hang on the walls. We made Evelyn’s a super fashion closet, with an aluminum foil mirror and a couch with a lamp beside it, all cut from old magazines Dollar Store Fun!. Gavin’s we made into a workshop for iron man, so we made  a bench and cut out shelves and cabinets and  drew some partially completed iron man suits. Gavin wanted a table and a bed, so we used leftover cardstock to fashion those.  This activity kept them occupied for some time, total cost for the fun $2.13.

Next we needed to move a little so we went outside on a bug hunt. The dollar store had these little bug containers, with pincers to use to pick the bugs up.  Breathing holes were supplied and a built-in magnifying glass made it easy to see small bugs. I, however, have had encounters with fire ants, so I picked up 2 bags of friendly plastic bugs, of generous size. Before the kids arrived, I hid the bugs on the patio, using the camouflage of plants and other objects to make it challenging. Before we started I asked if they knew what camouflage was. Evelyn, who is about to turn 8, thinks she knows everything and the scary part is, I think she does. She sure knew about camouflage. I told them to find eight bugs each and off they went. They had so much fun, they wanted to hide them and have me find them. They were pretty clever, and used camouflage to make it difficult for me, too.

Total cost for this much fun (and learning – we identified all the bugs by name) $2.13 each.

Next on the agenda was  a marble race. My house is long front to back and the rooms sort of flow one into the other. We took one of those “noodles” the children use to float on in a pool and leaned it against the back of the sofa in the family room. Inn the center of the noodle there is a hole large enough for a marble to pass through. We took turns dropping the marbles into the noodle and counting how many made it on to the rug behind the front door. More fun  for $2.13

We retreated from the hot sun to the porch, enjoyed an ice pop and Evelyn challenged me to a game of stack the chairs and tables, also a dollar store item, while Gavin relaxed on the lounge chair and iron man sat on the frog’s lap. The total cost per child for all this fun:?$4.79  Like I said, I love the dollar store!

Evelyn and her winning tower of chairs and tables


Gavin , iron man and the frog


Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Antique Antics: A Bracelet for Ann

Daily Prompt: What’s the oldest thing you own? (Toys, clothing, twinkies, Grecian urns: anything’s fair game.) Recount its history — from the object’s point of view

I had just arrived at the jewelry store a day earlier. As the jeweler laid me out on the black velvet tray, my links and beads reflected the lights overhead and I literally glowed. Just before closing time the next day, a tall, determined woman strode into the store, accompanied by 2 tall young men, one in a Navy uniform, one in an Army uniform.

“That’s enough, now, Philip,” the woman said. “Ann will be 20 years old in a few days. I have saved this money myself, earned it myself hanging wallpaper  in people’s houses, upholstering chairs and painting walls, I know there is war going on and every penny counts, but Ann is to have her bracelet.”

She walked up to the counter and laid a wad of bills on the clean, shiny surface of the display case. “Which of these bracelets will this money buy?” she asked the jeweler. He counted the bills carefully.

I knew the hard-working lady didn’t have enough to buy me, but I suddenly wanted to be her daughter’s birthday gift more than anything. I tried to outshine all the other bracelets in the display case. The jeweler put the money down and appraised what he had in the case. He started to reach for the bracelet next to me, a small, tarnished, sad little trifle, when he hesitated and swept his hand past my neighbor and picked me up, velvet tray and all and placed me on the counter.

The woman handled me gently, appraising me with a critical eye. “I think Anna would love this” she said finally. “What do you think, boys?” They shook their heads in agreement. “How much for engraving?” she asked the jeweler.

“There is no extra charge. For the sacrifices you are making, with two sons off to war, it seems only right their little sister has a  happy birthday.” He scooped up the bills into his hands. “Sale is final.”

The woman looked him in the eye, and accepted his offer with a firm handshake.

“Now, what do you want engraved on this faceplate?” He aske.d

“ Mother to Ann,” she said, “and below it, the date, 1943”.

And so it was done, those words and the date engraved on my faceplate which has a gold rosette at each end. As predicted by all, Ann loved her bracelet and I adorned her arm for many years. As she grew older, she gave her jewelry to her daughters. Patricia Ann received me and she treasures me, too.

I am 71 years old now, but my links shine as they did on that day in 1943. My faceplate is a little scratched and worn, but hey, that’s a part of life, isn’t it ?Ann, now 91, is still with us, but all the others have gone, her parents, seven bothers, sister Blanche and their husbands and wives. I know Pat will keep me safe and I think she’ll pass me on to her granddaughter, Evelyn, someday. I am proud to be an heirloom handed down by generations of women as strong and determined as Minerva Struble,  Ann’s mother and Pat’s grandmother, who worked so hard to give Ann a happy birthday against the backdrop of a world at war.


Staying in Focus: Earth First: Writing 101: Longing for Gravity

Daily Prompt: You are on a mission to Mars. Because of the length of of the journey, you will never be able to return to Earth. What about our blue planet will you miss the most?

Planet earth is home. Our bodies are adapted to this world, to its gravity, its atmosphere, to the fine balance between the plants that produce the oxygen we breathe and the animals and people who supply the carbon dioxide the plants need to manufacture the oxygen. That is what I would miss leaving, my homeworld, a place where I know I belonged, where I was a very part of the ecosystem, the life of the planet itself. I truly believe there are wonders to behold out there in the far reaches of space and time, but nothing will rival the sun rising over the ocean off the coast of Alaska, the breaching of a humpback whale, the sweet sound of birdsong in the morning, sunsets and summer rain, flowers and rainbows, the uniqueness of a snowflake and the crystal fire of ice coating limb and tree. We are so much a part of this planet because this planet is so much a part of us.

On the popular British TV program, Dr. Who, the doctor delights in talking his earthborn companions throughout time and space treating them to wonders unimagined, yet in the end, where do they request to go? They want to go home. Home to that shining blue planet, which despite the foibles of those who inhabit it, it still and always will be where we want to be. On any other world we will always be like a fish out of water, an outsider, an invader.  Were we to find a planet with life, what would we bring along with us? Bacteria dangerous to their ecosystem? Viruses that mutate out of control? Much thought must go into space exploration. Once our bodies leave the confines of our gravity, our bodies begin to change, to weaken, unless artificial gravity can be provided. We would have to search for a planet with less gravity and certainly never again be able to return to earth.

In my recently published book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary*, survivors of an ancient cataclysm live underground, unaware of the wonders of the outside, of an earth healing itself from the devastation wrought upon it. Theirs is the opportunity to come forth, into the light and discover the world all over again. The discovery of what you are a part of can be every bit as exciting as exploring Mars. Now I am not suggesting we forgo space travel and exploration. I’m all for that, but it will take place after my time has run out.

So in the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the beauty of this planet as much as I can, work to protect what makes this planet special, for despite speculation to the contrary, many scientists believe planets like this one are few and far between. We may have a real treasure on our hands, a treasure to protect and defend and not exploit. What would I miss on that rocket to Mars?  – I would miss my home

. *Escape from Mount Sanctuary is available in both print and digital formats through

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Captive’s Choice

Daily Prompt  Captive’s Choice: You’ve been kidnapped and given a choice: would you rather be stranded on an island, dropped into an unknown forest, or locked in a strange building?

This one is just for fun!

I’m being held captive either on a deserted island, in an unfamiliar forest or in a locked building. Let’s examine this dilemma from the point of view of a Hollywood script writer.

The deserted (or not quite as deserted as we were led to believe) Island. We know, from  faithfully watching the saga on Lost unfold during its run, that some Hollywood script writers cannot write their way out of the paper bag they wrote themselves into. Let’s see we saw a polar bear on a tropical island, creepy people called “The Others”, an invisible but noisy monster, apparitions of lost loved ones, and, of course, the button that holds reality together and must be pushed every 108 minutes or the ancient Egyptians take over with hieroglyphs and a nuclear bomb.That said, they had  the last laugh, though, because  The Island, was not the real purgatory after all  – watching that series finale was. So no more islands for me. but then again, there was that cute Sawyer guy…

Ditto on the locked building. Obviously, and without needing to see anything, there are zombies either locked in the building with me, or trying to get inside. Hollywood seems to be cashing in big on zombies – brainless individuals with one thing on their missing minds. If we aren’t careful they will be successful in turning us all into zombies through the truly mind numbing offerings of reality TV. Either way, it will not end well for me, so I will avoid locked buildings and reality TV and keep what wits I have left.

So, by default, I choose the unfamiliar forest.  First of all,there are plenty of survival tools just laying about in a forest – sharp stones to whittle a spear, or throw to scare off the animals with scary agendas (like bears). I could fashion  a nest in  a tree, or makes  a hut with branches and vines. I could wash up in the nearby creek, or throw my spear to catch a fish that  I can cook over a fire I started with 2 rocks. Now I’m sure in some Hollywood scripts             there might be wolves or even werewolves, but I might just as easily (in  a Hollywood script) wander into the forest home of Robin Hood. Kevin Costner may have had a bit of (oh, okay, a lot) of trouble with his British accent, but he sure had one heck of a fine forest home with all the comforts – suspended walkways high up in the trees, an elevator powered by water, a pool for skinny dipping – what more could a bloke need?. Or, how about stumbling in on a hobbit village – those are some fine houses, although they tend to be a bit small. And if  I’d prefer a mobile home, the hobbits have trees that talk and walk you from place to place. Now these scriptwriters are on to something! Forests are so much more versatile than islands and locked buildings. I think I might just stay here!

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: My English Fantasy

Daily Prompt: On the Road

If you could pause real life and spend some time living with a family anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have always wanted to live in a small hamlet in rural England. Somewhere with one of those insanely delicious British names like Biggleswade, or Grange-over-Sands or Newbiggen-by-the-Sea, or perhaps Royal Wootten Bassett.  I’d live in a small village with quaint cottages separated by hedgerows. The cottage is a bit drafty in the winter, so the family and I must huddle around the Aga, an old relic that is the pride of the household. In the summer, the scent of herbs in the backyard garden adds a fragrance to the air coming in through the open window.  In the front yard a riot of summer blossoms spill over the fence and out of the window boxes with careless abandon.

Every morning I walk to the village center, greeting neighbors as I pass by. I carry a basket as it is market day and the local farmers have set up shop in the village square. I stop by the chemist for a few items and spend a good while selecting an ancient tome from the village library.  This is the highlight of my week. I find a nice spot on the green and munch on some berries as I read my book.

We have tea every day with biscuits, not cookies, and often hike miles with the dogs running free. We hike over hillocks and along the rocky shore, occasionally passing ancient stone markers as weathered as time itself in this island of ancient kings and fairy lore.

I don’t know if there are still villages of this sort in England. I suspect there probably are. And the people living in them probably can’t wait to move on to the big cities, such is how it usually works out. But I have my fantasy and my favorite novel of all things British, Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher (sorry Willy. I did buy a book of your sonnets at a bookseller while in London), which I read when I want to visit the friends I made when I first “visited” Dibton -in-Hampshire.

After visiting England this summer, I am even more enchanted with the land and its people. The richness of their heritage, their ascorbic wit and humorous take on just about everything is a delight. We had a gentleman pick us up at our hotel to take us to the bus station and his comments as we drove through London had us in hysterics. Now I know where the Monty Python Troupe found its inspiration. British humor is as much a part of the people as is the land itself. I believe it is in the very air they breathe.

Or maybe it’s in the tea!

My Village

a new neighborhood

houses with stone and brick accents


the builders had aspirations, I think

to make it seem like an English village

American style

there’s a little village green

across from my house

I can see the gazebo from my window

we actually gather there, once or twice a year

there is a winding path which leads

to the picturesque stone bridge itself

a pond which caters to Canada geese

and within walking distance

of our own little “Stonebridge Village”

grocery, hair  salon, doc-in-a-box, yogurt shop

gas station and aren’t we lucky

our own Dunkin Donuts

although I’ve been to England

we were mostly just in London

and I imagine something

quite different in a village over there

pretty cottages, moss covered roofs

yards full of herbs and flowers and hedgerows

lining the pathways, people on bicycles

waving to neighbors, rather than

running them down with their cars

the grocer knows I like pears

the doctor was there at my birth

the book lady knows I like poetry

and the chemist greets me by name

oh, and fairy lights are strung all year long

not just at Christmas

what about my village would an English lady envy?

Probably the Dunkin Donuts

pc 2012

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: On the Edge: Use It or Lose It

 Daily Prompt: On the Edge – We all have things we need to do to keep on an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?

Use It or Lose It

I’ve learned a lot during my six-year journey with Parkinson’s disease, especially how important it is to exercise – the body, the mind and the spirit. Keeping these three aspects challenged, keep me on an even keel. Daily physical exercise is vital if I plan to move at all. I usually do a few stretches right in bed  before I get up. I take my medication around 7:30 and by 8:00 I am ready to move. I alternate exercises because I get bored with them after a while.Some days  I use a motorized peddler, striving to keep my revolutions per minute at 85 to 90  I alternate this with the Leslie Sansone Walk at Home program on DVDs . I like these because  a strong musical beat helps me to keep my steps at a steady pace. The DVDs present a variety of walking sessions, from 1 to 5 miles. I enjoy doing these programs because I can pick the length of a program, walk whether it is cold, hot, raining or snowing.  I also do not have to worry about tripping over uneven pavement. The climate is always just right. I follow my aerobics with either a session of yoga for flexibility or tai chi for balance; on the smaller scale, hobbies like painting, cross stitch and jewelry making keep my fingers nimble.

To exercise my brain, I write for my blogs, write poetry, do Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and am trying to conquer my old nemesis, algebra. I really enjoy online classes which I take through the Ed2Go program at my local community college. I haven taken  courses on using Photoshop Elements, Travel Photography, Pleasures of Poetry, Writing your Memoir, Making Money from your Writing and I am beginning a  Writing for Children course now. I really enjoy the exchange  with classmates through the forums and  I find the teachers excellent. I am also writing a  scrapbook style memoir and revising the first draft of a children’s book.  And I musn’t forget photography. I exercise my spirit#ith  meditation, collecting positive quotes and reading books of poetry.  I have  a scrapbook which chronicles my journey with PD. I fill it with poems, quotes and journal entries. Below  is a page from my book of collected quotes and my PD Journal. I have  a schedule that alternates these activities so I never get bored. I certainly don’t do all of them everyday.  I’m sure to leave time for outings with my buddies. This year we’ve gone to museums and movies,  a Lemur sanctuary, the farmer’s market, walks around lakes and “treasure hunting ” where I found  a perfect little  desk for my snuggery (my all-purpose writing/painting/reading/creating room.) My husband and I just returned from  a cruise around the British Isles. We went on

quotebook excursions every day, and I am proud to have completed a 5K walk the deck for the cure while we were at sea. It’s important to keep in contact with friends and family to keep you on an even keel. There i so much I want to do, I IMG_0001_NEW refuse to let the PD rob me  of the opportunity. Right now the morning sun is shining through my window. I have  a whole day ahead of me, and plenty of creative ways to fill  it.


my treasure; my new desk

What it all come sdown to in the end is use it or lose it, and losing it is not an First of all, sten/option for me.IMG_0428 IMG_0425 IMG_0429

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Smell You Later: Grandma’s Lilacs

Daily Prompt: Smell You Later

by michelle w. on August 9, 2013

Humans have very strong scent memory. Tell us about a smell that transports you.

One of the lesser known aspects of Parkinson’s Disease is the loss of smell. I used to have a strong sense of smell, and I don’t know exactly when I actually began to experience a diminishing of this sense, but I do remember one instance that occurred when I was taking morning walks with a friend.  She mentioned that she put gardenia blossoms in a bowl of water and the fragrance filled the house. I tried this and noticed nothing fragrant at all. When I could no longer smell my roses, I knew something was amiss.

However, the greatest blow this loss has dealt me is that I can no longer smell lilacs.  I grew up in the house next door to my grandmother’s. My sister and I loved spending time with her. She baked the best pies in the world, always had time to listen to us, taught us how to sew and quilt, and let us help her turn the handle of the wringer washing machine, which squeezed the clothes through the rollers to press out the water and push out the clothes paper-thin. But best of all, she had a row of dark and light purple lilac bushes in her backyard. My birthday is in May, and every year she would cut me a giant bouquet of the lilacs. The sweet smell of lilacs is one I will always associate with my childhood – of days spent with my wonderful grandmother, of childhood birthday memories, of the anticipation of spring that the blooming lilac bushes represented..

I would give anything to have one more day with my grandmother, one more day to bury my nose in a giant bouquet of lilacs, and breathe in as deeply as I can. Memories are powerful, and fortunately I have wonderful ones of the lilacs to draw on. And if I try really hard, I can visualize my grandmother, and those special birthday lilacs, bury my face in those imagined bouquets and in my mind smell that sweet fragrance once again.

Staying in Focus: Be Astonished

“Instructions for living a life.
 Pay attention.
 Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
            –Mary Oliver

I came across this quote quite by accident but as I read it, I knew it contained a tiny seed that would implant in my mind and slowly grow over the next few days into the subject for a post. How succinctly  Ms. Oliver lays out the simple recipe for a life well-lived. And although at first glance it seems simple enough, the follow-through can be quite difficult.

Pay attention.  These two words are often used in classrooms, meeting rooms, while working on homework, reading a book, learning to play a new piece of music on the piano, a new step in ballet or a clever new football play.  We must focus in order to learn. We must practice how to listen. not just hear; to perceive, not just see. To be totally present in the moment requires discipline as we struggle not to dwell on the past or anticipate tomorrow. Why? Because it is a  waste of time. We can’t  change the past, the future is beyond our reach, and so we need to remind ourselves to pay attention to where we are right now. Doing so makes us present in our lives. We become aware of the sunlight streaming through the window, the sensation of cold, sweet ice cream on the tongue, the delight on the face of a grandchild when she recognizes you, unexpectedly, in a store. Our lives are made up, not of years, but of moments, each one precious and each one can be experienced, if only we pay attention.

Be astonished. Oh, what we take for granted in our lives! We should be astonished that we are here to begin with. We have been given this gift of a life to be lived. Isn’t it astonishing how day in and day out our hearts keep pumping, hardy little machines that work tirelessly for us, for as long as they can? Isn’t it astonishing that we go to bed every night, and every morning we awake to the sun rising in the morning sky, like clockwork, painting it colors even an artist would find hard to match?  Isn’t it astonishing that a tiny seed carries within it the blueprint for a tall and mighty tree, or the exquisite beauty of a rose?  It is astonishing to be able to give birth to new life, to create music and song, to dance, to dream, to love and be loved. How can we look up at the night sky, beneath the stars and planets and galaxies of a universe we still struggle to comprehend, and not be astonished?  And finally, isn’t it astonishing that most of the time we fail to be astonished? Something to think about, isn’t it?

Tell about it.  We all have a story to tell, an experience to share, a dream remembered. Before the invention of writing people told stories by word of mouth, around campfires, or by painting pictures on cave walls. There were tales of great adventures, of wars between mighty gods, fanciful tales of fairy folk and forest sprites.  With the invention of writing, people were able to tell about it with papyrus and reed, then with paper and pen, in books of scrolls or bound in leather; with technology came the typewriter, the word processors, and computers. We can tell about it in music and song, in poetry and dance, movies and plays. And of course, astonishing as it is, through blogs.  To writers there is nothing more gratifying than knowing that their words can now reach across the globe, and  that long after they are gone, their words and thoughts will be swimming through the endless pathways of the internet, or the cloud or whatever replaces that. And why do we want to tell  about it.?  Well, because as astonishing as life is, our time with it is limited. We want to leave something behind, something to note that we were here, something to tell future generations about who we were and how we lived our lives.

Perhaps someday, long in the future, someone will read these words, and be reminded of the gift they are given.

So they can pay attention.
And be astonished.

Staying in Focus : Focus On: Photographs, Memories and Memoirs

I have completed my course on writing a memoir and have found the process fascinating. Writing  a memoir is so much more than merely relating the facts about one’s life.  It is more like reaching into the past and bringing it back to life. Then, through pictures and anecdotes, letters and stories, one can transport a reader to that time and make the experience real to them, as one does in writing a novel.  In fact, dialogue can play an important part of the memoir, making it feel  more like a story than a census report

I am fortunate to have my mother, who will be 90 years old in May as  a source of family history.  Only she remains of her immediate family, as her parents, 7 brothers and 1 sister have all passed on, as have their respective spouses. I also have my Aunt Ta, my father;s sister as a source of information as well.  But as with Ishmael, only these two remain to tell the tale.

And I just love old photographs.  Besides being pictures of sometimes long forgotten or even unknown ancestors, they are rich in the background information they present – vintage cars, the corner drug store (now a Walmart), an old Esso gas station, a narrow road that is now an interstate highway.So much information to be gleaned from a creased, sepia-toned piece of paper.

Here’s an example of how pictures, memories and dialogue can be used to animate a memoir.  I loved and admired my grandmother.  She was tough when she had to be (riding herd on 7 sons) and as gentle as could be with her grandchildren. She made the best rhubarb pie in the world and we all cherished her with all our hearts.  Here is a glimpse of her wisdom, as remembered by my mother:

Photo 20

I love this picture of my grandmother, Minerva Marion Struble. She stands alone, but resolute, with one foot placed firmly ahead of the other and hands clasped before her.  There is a hint of a smile on her face.  In most pictures I’ve seen of her she is staring stoically into the camera as if picture-taking was serious business. The snowy backdrop reminds me of the cold northeast winters of my childhood. It snowed longer and deeper than it does now. My grandmother was called “Minnie” by all who knew her, but there was nothing “mini”´about her.  She was a tall, well-built woman of German descent, more than capable of riding herd over seven strapping sons and two attractive daughters. They each had their chores  to complete, to keep a clean, well cared for home, and avoid the chaos that could ensue were she not there to  keep an eye on them.  My mother tells one funny story (although my grandmother was not amused by this incident) from when she was about five years old.  She was walking outside, around the house, singing a song she had made up .  I picture my grandmother, hearing her from inside the house, and running out on the front porch, drying her hands on her apron.  I imagine the conversation went something like this:

“Anna May Struble, you stop that singing and get here inside right now!”

“But Mama,  I was only singing a song I made up all by myself!”  Anna was close to tears at her mother’s reaction to the song.

“And just where did you hear those words you put in your song? Those are cuss words, Anna May and not to be known or sung by a child of 5.”

“I’m sorry. Mama.  But Philip and Al, and all the boys say these words all the time. I’m so sorry, Mama.”

“Don’t you never-mind , Anna. You go along and play.  I’ll handle those boys.”

Later that evening at supper, Minerva hushed the conversation and said.  “Anna , please stand up, and for the last time ever, sing your song.  And if I hear a snicker or a laugh out of any of you,” she said with a stern eye on them all, “you’ll be heading out back to get your switch. ( If  a child behaved very badly, he was required to go out and procure a switch for a spanking.)

Anna sang her song.  A few snickers were quickly swallowed whole, and shame crept over the faces of the boys – from the neck up they glowed as bright as a winter cardinal.  Under their mother’s heated stare, they began to squirm.  Anna finished her song and sat down.

“I have told you boys, again and again, there would be no cussing in front of Anna. If she had been at school and wanted to share her song, think of her embarrassment  not to mention  the trouble she would be in.”

The boys hung their heads  down.  They all cherished  their little sister and would not want to see her hurt by their cussing.

“ Have I made my point?” asked their mother.

The boys shook their heads and said, “Yes, Ma’m.”

“To be sure you don’t forget, each of you may take a turn doing Anna’s chores for the next two weeks.”

“Yes, Ma’m”, they replied again, and  rose out of their chairs and made fast for the doors, glad to get away with just chores and not a switching.

When my mother was in her teen years, she had the unenviable duty of washing the floor of the wrap around porch every Saturday morning, with a bucket and cloth, on her hands and knees.  There was no hanging with friends until the job was done.  She told me she had to wear slacks instead of shorts when she went off with her friends, to cover the red knees she had from scrubbing the floor!

As I said, a formidable woman, my grandma, Minnie.

Photo 07

I also am intrigued by this photo of my mother. One doesn’t usually think of one’s mother as having been a young girl herself once. Yet here she sits, on the hood of this classic automobile, with her legs saucily crossed, dressed in what she told me was her green velvet skating outfit. I’m sure she was thinking she was just as cute as could be in that outfit.  They were probably getting ready for a trip to the ice pond to skate and enjoy the winter’s day.  On the left is her mother, Minnie, and on the right, my cousin Phyllis, daughter of sister Blanche. Phyllis looks like a little elf with that pointed hood! And look at Minnie, sitting on that fender with a bit of her legs peeking out beneath her winter coat.  Way to go, Grandma!

My mother looks so young here, indeed, most of her life lies ahead.  Little did they know as they sat there awaiting a driver, that clouds were gathering around the future, massing like the soldiers who would soon be marching through Europe,  obscuring the planes which would be flying toward Pearl Harbor and calling forth her brothers and my father to fight in WWII and she and my aunt to work in a munitions factory during the war years.

On this clear winter’s day, dressed in her green velvet skating outfit,  she only knew that she was young and healthy and pretty, and ready to skate the day away with her friends…

*                 *                 *              *               *                   *                   *                   *

From just 2 photographs and a bit of dialogue, I think I have succeeded in communicating
a sense of who they were at the time, a glimpse into their true personalities. Two dimensional figures become real life people using these techniques.

I am looking forward to the process of writing this memoir. I’m sure I’ll be posting more snippets as I proceed.

Staying in Focus: Winding Up the Old Year: Fun and Fantasy

Not only are the holidays over, but we are already in the fourth day of the new year.  We just arrived home on Wednesday and  I spent most of the day Thursday taking down the Christmas decorations. We had a great visit with the family in New Jersey and  our friends in Poughkeepsie.  It  was cold and one day we were pretty much snowed in. Big snowflakes floated down all day.IMG_0048

I had brought my laptop along and decided to try a creative writing exercise to pass the time.  The instructions were that the story begin with “The snow fell…”, and end with a twist.  With it being Christmas and all, and snowing to boot, here’s what I came up with.

Where do writers find their inspiration? Perhaps this is how one legend began…

The Stuff of Legends

Snow fell like a box of soap flakes shaken wildly in the hands of a young child.  Large clumps settled on the frozen ground in mounds and drifts of white. The snowflakes fell in curtains, hurtling down in perfect formation from sky to earth , as if with the intent to change the landscape into the vista of an alien world.

The traveler, lost in the folds of his heavy coat, pulled his wide brimmed hat over his eyes and buried his chin into the woolen scarf wrapped round his neck. He walked slowly, tensing his leg muscles to pull his feet free from the heavy, clinging snow, each step an effort which added to his growing fatigue.  He was lost in this frozen wilderness and each flake that touched him seemed to penetrate his clothes, seeking to crystallize him from the inside out.

 An eerie stillness surrounded him, and he felt as if he had been transported to another world.  The silence wrapped round him like a cocoon and ethereal shapes seemed to form and drift before his eyes.

He fought the urge to close his eyes and fall into the downy snow and rest, just for a few minutes. It looked so soft, so inviting…And then he heard the unmistakable sound of tinkling harness bells, somewhere up ahead.  He peered through the curtain of snow and vaguely made out the shapes of horses and a sleigh.

“Whoa-ho, boys,” he heard a voice shout.  And out of the swirling snow emerged a fellow, dressed warmly in furs and sturdy boots, his hair frosted white with snow beneath his cap, cheeks cherry red from the cold.

“My, my, stranger”, he said,” what brings you out on such a night, in such a desolate place?”

“I was on my way to the village of Amesbury to visit friends when I became lost in the snow,“ the traveler replied.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

“Well, let me help you into my sleigh. I’ve never heard of Amesbury but there is a village nearby. I’m sure someone there will shelter you for the night.  I am on my way there to deliver some goods,” he said, pointing to a large sack lying in the back of the sleigh.  

The traveler climbed into the sleigh with a thankful sigh. The hearty fellow jumped in and grabbed the reins.  “Onward-ho, boys,” he shouted to the horses.

Within a few minutes, the traveler saw lights ahead, the warm glow of the village homes, softening the dark and cold of the night.

“Here you are, my friend, the fellow said, “the village of Legend.”

Odd name for a village, the traveler thought. He shook hands with the jolly fellow. “How can I return your kindness, Sir?”  the traveler asked.

“If you would take this sack to the village and leave a package at each abode, I would be most grateful. They are poor but proud.  They frown on handouts, but gifts left in the night, now that’s the stuff of legends.”

. There was that word again – legends.  “Are you a writer, Sir? “ the traveler asked.

The man laughed .” I do dabble with the written word, now and again,” he replied.

The traveler climbed down and grabbed the heavy sack.  “I will do as you ask. Thank you, again, for your kindness.”

“It is I who thank you,.  The storm has slowed my progress and It’s late, you see.  I’ve  a young daughter waiting for me at home,  to tell her a story before bed.”  As he turned and grabbed the reins, he asked, “By the way, what is your name, my friend?”

“Nick. My name is Nick.”

“Ah, and so it is.”  said the fellow.  “Nick it will be..”

“I don’t understand, Sir , what do you mean?”

“Ah, remember, it’s the stuff of legends, my friend.”

And with that his horses sprang forward and disappeared, lost in the heavy snow.“And your name, my friend. What is your name?” Nick shouted into the night.

As if from far away came the faint reply.

“Moore. Clement Moore.”

Nick flung the sack on his back and headed into Legend and into the hearts of us all!                                                       

                                            The End…or the beginning?

Despite the snow, I was able to join some of my high school friends, which included my sister-in-law, Pat,and friends Joanne and Janice for a High Tea at “High Societea”  My niece, Becky, and her friend, Sheralyn, accompanied us.  The food was excellent, although the service was a bit slow.  The place was charming, however, and we had a good time.

A cozy teapot

A cozy teapot

Me at High Societea

Me at High Societea

Becky and Sheralyn

Becky and Sheralyn




We also traveled to Poughkeepsie and visited with our good friends, Denise and Geoff and their daughters and adorable grandchildren.

Abigail and Lucas

Abigail and Lucas

Denise and grandson Colin

Denise and grandson Colin



Ernie and son Colin

Ernie and son Colin

So we ended 2012 with good times with friends and family.  Now it’s time to look ahead to the new year and all the possibilities it holds in store for us. May it be one of peace and prosperity for us all!