Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt Burning Down the House: How Much Do We Really Need?

Daily Prompt:Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

Remember this prompt, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?

I am a little behind in keeping up with the daily prompts because I have been cleaning out my closets, an activity prompted by one of this week’s prompts (so to speak).

The prompt I am responding to is the one which posed the question: If your house was burning down, what five things would you grab (assuming all humans and pets were safe)?

I pondered on this for a bit and decided, also assuming, of course, that I am already wearing clothes, on the following:

  1. If they aren’t already on my face, I must grab my glasses so I can find my 4 remaining things.
  2. My laptop. It holds all my writing –  books, poems, blogs, ideas and outlines for future books and blogs, important phone numbers, my journal, my pictures and my music. Can’t leave without it.
  3. My camera bag. I take my cameras with me everywhere I go. It is through the lens of my cameras that I build my world view.
  4. My purse – money, credit cards, medication, health insurance, ID, cell phone, house key. (Oops! Guess I won’t need that anymore.)
  5. This is tough, but I’ll have to choose one hat from my collection. Guess it will have to be the hat I purchased in Ireland. A memento of my first visit to Europe and the most expensive hat I have because I wasn’t good at converting the euros to dollars yet.

The follow-up prompt to this was leaving so much behind, what else would you go back for?

When I really thought about it, I would like to have my gold charm bracelet, which my parents bought me when I  graduated  from high school and is now covered with charms which represent the most important events in my life and some of the jewelry my husband has given me over the years.

Secondly, I‘d like to save my scrapbooks. I put a lot of work into them.

Finally, I would have liked to save my plants. The people and animals were safe, but my plants too numerous to move out whilst the flame were spreading – but, after all, they are living things.

Beyond that, I realized I could get along pretty well with what I had here, with some extra clothes and toiletries. It would hurt to lose my books, but my eBooks are stored in the cloud and I could easily retrieve them.

So, I asked myself, why do I have all this stuff lying around if I really didn’t need it? And so I decided to clean house. Now, I’m not ready yet to pare down to these few objects unless my husband finally agrees to sell everything we have and go live on a cruise ship, but it is interesting isn’t it, what little we do really need in the great scheme of things?


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: Life After the Blog

Daily Prompt: Life After the Blog

Once we become part of the online world there is no turning back. To disconnect from that wealth of information, from social networking and email, from Google and Wikipedia would be like being placed in a sensory deprivation chamber.

I look forward every morning to see the Daily Prompt challenge of the day, or the subject for photo of the week. I look forward to reading what my fellow bloggers have to say. I take online courses and have an entire virtual classroom of classmates with whom I discuss my writing or photography or poetry. I check Facebook to see how my friends are faring.

I had limited access to the internet on our recent cruise – the charge for the connection is quite hefty. I made a few entries on Facebook, but otherwise, I concentrated on my new experiences so that I could write about them when I arrived at home where my computer sat waiting for my return. I missed it, but I knew it was only a temporary separation.

A writer has a visceral need to his share words with others; a photographer yearns for others to see the world as she does, through the lens of her camera; a poet lives to see his words touch another with emotion. All these forms of communication are right at our fingertips, in the keyboard before us and through blogging we can reach so many more people than we could have before the advent of the internet and websites like WordPress to inspire us and offer a platform from which to reach out and connect with others. I could go back to a typewriter if I had to, mail my letters or submissions, but we would lose sight of one important possibility should that ever happen.

I believe that it may be the internet that finally connects us all in such a way that the barriers between us fall away and we can move on and advance our civilization in a positive way. The more you  get to know people personally, gain insights into their lives and experiences, the more they coalesce into individuals and are no longer part of that nebulous group we call “they,” and the harder it is to wish them or do them harm. Communication is the key to understanding , and communicate is what we bloggers do best.

As with anything, the internet can be used for both good and evil. But as the “blogosphere” grows, I think the interconnections we make will make the difference. Blog on, my friends!

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: RIsky Business

What’s the biggest risk you’d like to take — but haven’t been able to? What would have to happen to make you comfortable enough to do it?

My husband and I are reaching the point where we must consider a very risky business : Retirement. When exactly is the right time to retire? Do it too early and the money may not last. Do it too late, and you’re either too ill to enjoy it, or your dead. How to make such a decision when:

• the stock market is on a seemingly endless roller coaster ride.

•in one day I heard  the same news channel report that the economy was well on the road to recovery in the morning and by evening  had apparently taken a u-turn, because now there were no signs of recovery and no “magic wand” waiting to stimulate it back to life this time. Maybe if Congress convened a special session, and they all clapped their hands and really believed, Tinker Bell might appear, magic wand in hand At the very least, they would all be participating and working together, and believing  in the same thing again – that their job is to find ways to work things out, to compromise and to produce something positive. A little coöperation and positive attitude can make  a lot of magic. Our country used to have this magic, but somewhere along the line  we lost it to  divisiveness, dogma and spitefulness. Let’s get back to making the magic, to being a country of the people, for the people and by the people – the best way we can spread democracy around the world is to show how it really works, and frankly, Congress, you are falling far short of being a positive example of democracy in action.

To make us feel comfortable about our decision would be to know that policies enacted will be there for us when we need them. I dislike the term“entitlement programs”when refering to social security and medicare. My husband and I have paid into these programs throughout our working careers and  they may be subsidized, but they are not free. 

All that aside, it’s really up to us to make the life changes such a risk will require. We just have to come to terms with living on less. We have already dipped our toe into the water by making some changes:

• We’ve moved to owning one small modest car. We traded in our Honda Civic and Odyssey for a H•onda Fit which we were able to pay for in full, with some money left over, from the sale of the other two and we  are also saving on insurance and gasoline.

•We use coupons and shop on Thursdays to get the old folks discount  at the grocery store.

•We have cut way back on eating out, both to save money and keep our weight down. We just have to reach that point our parents have –  given a White Castle hamburger at a restaurant they will comment on such large portions being served these days and then say, “I can eat on this for a week!”

•Our family will have adjustments, too. Once Bill retires, all meals out will require each person to pay their own way.. Birthdays  will be scaled back (we don’t want to count any higher anyway)  and  Christmas will no longer look like Best Buy or Toys R Us have set up shop under our tree.

When we reach a certain age we realize we have accumulated enough stuff. What we’d really like more of is time with family and with friends.But time is tricky, it has a way of slipping through our fingers, the  years seem to pass faster the more we want them to slow down.  My husband is tired of the rat race, tired of commuting to work every day  .We’ve made our contribution to society, now we just want to relax and  use our time wisely, however much we have left. But it is a risky business. There is no magic wand. We stand at the side of the pool. I guess we might as well jump!

Focus On: Dr. Seuss, Smiles and the Moments of our Lives

        don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened — Dr. Seuss

I came across this quote by one of my favorite writers, Dr. Seuss, and I realized how nicely his words speak to the cultivation of mindfulness.   How often do we miss out on the joys in our lives by anticipating their conclusion?.  How many moments are lost to our attention by our fear of living them and letting them go? This can apply to everything from a long anticipated vacation to a simple weekend.

Let’s take today, for example.  I have a choice.  I can fill my day up with things I enjoy doing with mindful attention, or sit here and lament the fact that it’s already 10:00 AM on Saturday morning and the weekend is already slipping through my fingers.

A great example of this is Christmas.  We spend so long anticipating this celebration. We decorate, buy and wrap gifts, plan menus and are so wrapped up ourselves in the planning that we hardly take time to really enjoy the moments of the season itself.  When we suddenly find ourselves sitting amidst the torn wrappings or looking at the remains of the holiday dinner, we feel a big letdown.  Christmas Day itself becomes anticlimactic, and we get the blues as we  dwell on the fact that it’s over, when we should be happy to have had the opportunity to enjoy this holiday with our loved ones once again.

Last summer, when we  were on our cruise to Alaska, we noticed there were floor mats in the elevators with the day of the week printed on them. Now, we could look at those mats each morning and think , “Oh, no, it’s Wednesday already.  Our cruise is almost over”, or we could choose to smile and think, “another beautiful day on this cruise is waiting for me to discover and enjoy.” A simple change of perspective can change the way you live your life.

I must admit  I did let the blues slip in when this experience in Alaska was over. It’s hard to go from a life of pampered leisure on a cruise ship, or a week hiking in a national park, or returning from a part of the world we never thought we’d see, and go back to life as usual, with the harsh reality of work, bills to pay and doctor visits to endure.

But mindfulness teaches us the importance of being present in the moment because this moment is all we really have.  It is pointless to waste it lookinging back, or anticipating the future. In this moment, right now, the sun is shining on a beautiful Saturday morning,. I am writing which gives me great pleasure, I feel good, I’m not in pain, I have much to smile about and I don’t have to be in Alaska to do it. (Although it would be nice…)

So let’s embrace the moments of our lives with attention and joy, and not squander them with regret, but  rather celebrate them with a smile – – because they happened.


Nothing is worth more than today,
A simple thought — but true,
For the past is just a memory
and no one has promised tomorrow to you.
So embrace today as the moments unfold,
Each one more precious than silver or gold,
Love and be loved, live and forgive,
and show true compassion for all living things
Then you’ll find peace of mind and joy of the soul
And your spirit will soar on gossamer wings.
                                                               pc ‘08

Staying in Focus: New Beginnings, Resolutions and a Touch of Nostalgia

My kindergarten class of 1959

My kindergarten class of 1959 I’m in the first line, first child on the left

One thing I always associate with the new year is a new journal, filled with empty pages just waiting for me to fill with my thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes and challenges.  I think it hearkens back to the first day of school and a black and white composition book, shiny and new, pages crisp and clean, waiting to be filled with handwriting exercises and homework lessons. By the time the book was filled, the covers were worn around the edges, dog-eared and dog tired.  They had served their purpose, their work done. Or maybe not.  Maybe, they can serve as inspiration for a blog post 55 years later!

For believe it or not, I actually have three of my very first black and white composition books from kindergarten (1958).  These books are more black and sepia-toned now, as they are 55 years old.

my kindergarten composition books

Here they are,  my very first composition books! I actually still use black and whites for my “morning pages”, freewriting exercises to get the creative juices flowing. I’m glad, however, that these exercises are not being graded for either handwriting or content.  One of the challenges i have with Parkinson’s disease is keeping


my handwriting legible. Perhaps if I wrote in letters as large as these , I would be more successful.  My kindergarten teacher obviously had a sense of humor when she chose  quotes for us to copy. She sure needed a sense of humor as there were 65 children in my kindergarten class!IMG_9867

I certainly hope I passed this test! I assume it was a test on writing my name, not on knowing it!

I try to write carefully as I begin a new   journal, to start off with positive thoughts, hoping it will set the tone for the new year.  I wait a few days to spell out my resolutions, trying to be honest, but not set myself up for failure. It’s disconcerting to look back in December at those January resolutions and realize I didn’t accomplish any of them!  Better to start with small, reachable goals and add to them as the year goes on.  When I was in college and taking teaching courses, we learned to write specific, measurable goals when writing lesson plans.  Also a  good plan to follow when listing resolutions.  A resolution to lose 50 pounds this year is far more daunting than to resolve to lose 12 pounds by spring, then 12 by summer, etc. The same goes for writing.  Instead of resolving to write the Great American Novel this year, I can resolve to write a page a day, and have 365 pages complete by the end of the year.  I have to see progress to stick with things, so I try to guarantee that when setting my goals.  So much better to find I’ve exceeded my expectations, than to have failed them!

A new year, like a new pair of shoes, needs to broken in gently.  I tend to take things one day at a time lately, and so I intend to enjoy what January may have to offer.  Cold days can be warmed with a bowl of hot soup, a cup of tea and one of those great books I received for Christmas.  When I get a new book by an author I love, I often put off reading it, savoring the anticipation of reading it.  A cold, dreary winter day may be just the right time.

After New Year’s Day, there are no other big holidays in January.   I find that comforting after the big Christmas rush. Things get  back to normal, time to take a breath and relax .January can be a time to plan – for spring planting, summer vacation, visits with family and friends.  Having something to look forward to keeps the blues away. Here in the south, January can surprise us with a sunny day in the 60s or 70s, and occasionally , but fortunately not often, with some snow..  Both have their positive sides.  A warm day invites a call to a friend for a lunch at an outside cafe, and there’s nothing like a snow day as an excuse to stay home from work,  cook up a pot of chili and enjoy an unexpected holiday.  I love to take snow pictures, especially since we don’t often have the opportunity to do so.  But here in North Carolina, a big snowfall can turn into many snow days  if it doesn’t warm up fast.  And as they say, too much of a good thing…  We’ll see what January has in store for us as we celebrate each day.. which is a gift in itself!


a month of new beginnings
and yet, a time of waiting –
waiting for the cold to ebb
and for the sun to gather strength
and call forth the leaves and flowers,
waiting for the birds to return
and fill the air with song.
but January has its gifts –
a blanket of freshly fallen snow
gently coating the landscape,
an icy wrap on limb and leaves
glistening in the winter sun,
the bright red of berries and cardinals,
and the green tips of crocus
poking through the warming soil,
to see if it’s time to emerge.
a month of waiting,
a month of hope,
a month of new beginnings
and treasured memories…
– pc 2009


Staying in Focus: On Blossoms and Butterflies

I just knew it was going to happen.  I looked out at the small Japanese cherry tree we have growing in our backyard, and I said to my husband, “If this warm weather keeps up much longer that cherry tree is going to bloom.”IMG_9782And sure enough, I looked out at the tree today, and it has at least twenty blooms on its spindly branches. If I look out across the backyards of my neighbors, every cherry tree in every backyard is in bloom, some fully so.  The trees, it seems, are as confused as we are about the weather.  We dress in short sleeve shirts instead of woolly, warm sweaters, and the trees deck themselves out with blossoms, instead of taking their usual winter nap, and waiting for spring to call forth their awakening with blossoms and leaves.

As happenstance would have it, I have just finished reading Flight Behavior by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver. Her prose is a delight to read.  I savor the words like sweet candy on my tongue,  as I read such phrases as, She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace.”

And so begins the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, who, at the novel’s, beginning, is engaging in her own flight behavior, trying to run away from a life she fell into by circumstance. At the same time, she discovers a host of monarch butterflies nesting in the trees on her family’s land, butterflies that are also confused in their flight behavior, choosing the mountains of Tennessee instead of the warmer climes of Mexico to weather out the winter months.

And just as the butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis when it has matured and is ready to take flight, so does Dellarobia as she faces the growth and changes this visit from the butterflies brings to her life. The two story lines are woven together in a larger tapestry encompassing  faith, climate change, relationships, responsibility, love, life, birth and death, and all is examined with both honesty and humor by Ms. Kingsolver.

Dellarobia, her young, precocious son, Preston, her disapproving mother-in-law, and her faithful but distant husband, as well as the scientist who comes to study the butterflies, all emerge from their winter, their life chrysalis as spring arrives, changed and armed with new insights and knowledge which force them to face matters long ignored and deeply buried.

And in this small microcosm Ms. Kingsolver has created, we see ourselves.  Climate change, global warming, whatever you want to call it is a reality we will have to deal with. We will have to change our attitudes for whether or not we are the cause of the changes, it is obvious something is happening and as stewards of our world, it is up to us to figure it out. Hurricanes and tornadoes are stronger and more frequent, temperatures more mild in the south well into December, droughts plague many areas on Earth, other places experience floods. Firestorms rage , heavy snow falls, ice caps melt.  There is no doubt the climate has become destabilized.  What this means to our survival as well as the other species inhabiting the planet with us, and on whom we depend for building materials, drugs, food, etc.must be determined and steps taken to turn things around before it is too late.

On our visit to Alaska this year, the naturalists at the Mendenhall Glacier explained how the glacier was receding faster than expected. On our whale watch they talked of ecosystems and how the very large depend on the very small for survival.  And the very small are speaking out, their story one of over-use, or over-development. Why are the tree frogs disappearing.? and the bees? Where have the masses of krill, which feed the mighty whales gone? Why is the cherry tree blooming in December? And what will the polar bears do when the last of the ice shelves melt?  What will we  do?

We can choose to be believers in a prosperous future, as Ms. Kingsolver writes in her collection of essays, Small Wonder:

we are much to clever an animal, it seems, to kill ourselves now. This is the lot I was cast, to sit here on this jagged point between two centuries when so much of everything hangs in the balance. I get to choose whether to hang it up or hang on, and I hang on because I was born to do it, like everyone else. I insist that I can do something right, if I try. I insist that you can, too, that in fact you already are, and there’s a whole lot more where this came from…

….What I can find is this, and so it has to be: conquering my own despair by doing what little I can.  Stealing thunder, tucking it in my pocket for the long drought. Dreaming in the color green, tasting the end of anger…..Maybe it doesn’t cost anything to hope, and those of us who do will be able to live better, more honest lives as believers than we would as cynics…Maybe life doesn’t get much better than this, or any worse, and what we get is just what we’re willing to find: small wonders, where they grow…

Blossoms and butterflies.  Small Wonders.

IMG_0013 - Copy
How sad it would be to lose these forever

How sad it would be to lose these forever

Staying in Focus: Have We found Our Missing Murray?

Please refer to my previous post “Where is Murray?” 11/11/12 before reading this one.

Now, I know I said I wasn’t a politically oriented person, but I had an interesting thought while watching the President at his news conference the other day. He was asked if there was a role Mitt Romney could play in this current crises and the President said he planned to speak with him and he said the skill set Mr. Romney exhibited in hosting the Olympics were skills that could be applied to our current needs.

And this is when I thought, could Mitt Romney be our missing Murray? Is it possible?Wouldn’t that be something! To see in action what these candidates claim over and over during their campaigns – party affiliation aside, we are running because we love this country and want what is best for all Americans.

Mr. Romney, you could make history here. You could show us you are a leader and a problem solver by working with the President on this fiscal problem, find out exactly where the wasteful spending is and turn the government into an efficient, well-oiled machine.  The President said he is willing to listen to options. I say, Mr. Romney, go for it. Put the election behind you and look ahead to see how you can serve your country now.

It would be a bold move, but if ever there was a time we need our leaders to work together for the common good, this is it.  This could be your moment.  You could be the catalyst we are looking for.

And what an example that would be to both parties in Congress. If the Republican’s  top guy can put differences on the back burner and reach across the aisle, sleeves rolled up and pastrami sandwiches ready to go, isn’t it possible the rest might follow.? And the Democrats, not wanting to be left out would join in,too? One for all and all for one?

The clock is ticking here, guys.  As it looks now, you’ll be working into the wee hours of New Year’s Eve, playing your game of chicken – who will blink first, or you could be really doing what we sent you there to do – making good policy for this nation, approving a budget we can all live with. and be the Congress that made a difference.

I said in my post a few days ago, that I wanted to be proud of my country again This might do the trick.  Being able to watch our elected representatives actually put differences aside and get this country back on track would be a major accomplishment. You can be sure when the next election rolls round, what transpires in the next few weeks will definitely be on all our minds. Who rallied when we needed it most? Did our leadership act in time, or did they fail to meet our expectations once again.?

As difficult and exhausting as it will be, won’t it be better to have a workable budget when all is said and done, rather than holding out empty hands filled with empty promises?

You,  Mr. Romney could help the President keep us from falling off that fiscal cliff.  You could help forge a new mindset in Washington. You could be our missing Murray.

Or not.

It’s up to you, I guess, to decide if you are an American first and foremost. I’d like to think you are.

Why not give it a try?

Staying in Focus: While you Wait, Write Poetry

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  There are many things going on in my life these days, and much of it in the form of challenges to body and spirit.  Just prior to our trip to Alaska we were saddened to hear that  our son, Steven’s, marriage was in all probability over.  A separation agreement has since ensued, and I have spent many hours on the phone with Steve as he sorts through all this, sets up housekeeping for himself and tries to make this as trauma free as possible for his 2 young children, ages 6 and 3.

Upon our return from Alaska, our younger son, Kevin lost his job.  Kevin is okay, financially, and is working on some personal projects before taking another job, but I still worry about both of them.

There is a tiny silver lining in Kevin’s being home right now.  As I have had to give up driving due to the medications I take, and some of the symptoms I experience due to the Parkinson’s disease, he has been available to drive me to doctor appointments.  A few weeks ago, I had  a calcium scoring scan done, to determine if calcium had invaded my heart, in which case cholesterol medication would be warranted.   I already take so many medications , I am loath to add another if I can avoid it.  My cholesterol readings have been marginal.  So I’m trying to lose weight, improve my diet, exercise and  I take fish oil in an attempt to avoid more medication.

Well , the results are in and my calcium score was 0.  Should have been news requiring celebration except that the scan picked up two tiny nodules on my lungs.  My primary doctor was not overly concerned as these can be common and benign.  However, given my history with colon cancer, it bears the investigation.  So I moved up my scheduled visit with my oncologist and met with him last week to assess the situation. We are now awaiting the results of my CEA blood test which can detect a protein in the blood if colon cancer is present .  So far all mine have been clear.  I am also awaiting a call to tell me when they have scheduled a CT scan of my chest and abdomen for me.  I will see my doctor again on Nov. 5th.  All this waiting is what is most excruciating about dealing with doctors and diagnosis, but the information must be gathered in order to know how to proceed.

Fortunately, my guru of positive thinking, Michael J. Fox, was recently talking to Ellen DeGeneres on her show, and he said he never imagines the worst case scenario because if he does, and it happens, he will have lived it twice.  Such an insightful man.  So I’m trying to put it out of my mind.  Whatever it is, it is there, and will have to be addressed, either by monitoring or treatment.

Alerts, like these, wake us up, remind us to welcome each day our eyes open in the morning and we realize we are still here. To spend time with family and friends.  Not to let the minutiae of life distract us from the important things: to spend our time doing what we love for as long as we can.

So I’m concentrating on my poetry class.  I held the anxiety at bay yesterday by writing this poem.  It is so cathartic – it’s like the words absorb the anxiety and fear as I take them out of your head and place them on paper. The instructor gave us a list of the names of places and we had to write about our choice for five minutes then compose a poem.

Antelope Run

driving, just driving
highway blurry through unshed tears,
tears that cling to my eyes like
raindrops to a leaf
fleeing the present, fearing the future
filling the past with the images I yearn for,
from when I was young,  when I was healthy
a sign up ahead,  Antelope Run
can I outrun my fears?
without thinking, I make the turn
down a winding, twisty road,
the wind is blowing ,
whipping up waves
of tall meadow grass
that ripple in the sun
a ranch house appears,
a ship adrift in a sea of green
I pass under a weathered sign
faint letters whisper,
“Welcome to Antelope Run”
but the house is empty,  its
windows gaze with sightless eyes
at the rolling hills that surround it
the antelope have all run away
I sit on the crumbling steps
resting my head in my hands
and a song from childhood
echoes across the years
I hear my mother‘s voice, singing,
“…where the deer and the antelope play…”*
the tears begin to fall and I run and run
but not away.

* Home on the Range was originally a poem written by Dr. Brewster Higley in Kansas, in the 1870s. His friend, Daniel Kelley wrote the music, but in the twentieth century it was arranged by David W. Guion, who is often cited as the composer.  It is the state song of Kansas.  My mother would sing it to my younger brother as she rocked him to sleep.  I suppose she sang it to me, too…

I’m also being sure to spend some time in meditation each day.  I recently bought a book/CD set by Jack Kornfield called “A Lamp in the Darkness”.  There are several quotes I really like from this book:

It’s not what you planned, but this is your life. You’re still here. Listen. Something new is coming.

It doesn’t belong to only you.  It’s the dance of conditions. You can;t choose the music, but you can choose how you will dance.

This reminds me of another recent poetry assignment.  This one is called  a villanelle, and is incredibly complicated. It consists of 19 lines, made up of 5 tercets (stanzas of 3 lines) and a quatrain (the last 4 lines), but, line 1 is repeated as lines 6, 12, and 18 and Line 3 as lines 9, 15 and 18.Wait, there’s more! In the first five tercets the last word in the first and third lines must rhyme; in all the middle lines, the last word must rhyme with each other and in the quatrain the last word in lines 1,3 and 4 rhyme and line 2’s last word rhymes with all the other middle lines.  Whip it all together and it come out like this:


Oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?
to tap, salsa, jive, ballet,
once long ago, I had a chance

somehow I missed the resonance
of waltzes, mambo, the paso-doble,
oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?

Even though I lacked the elegance
to pull off the tango or merengue
once long ago, I had a chance

To twirl and whirl in pure exuberance,
to shimmy, shag  and schottische
oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?

I must continue to advance
and find an answer, straightaway
once long ago, I had a chance

Then nothing more of relevance
will this question now convey
oh, why didn’t I learn to dance?
once long ago, I had a chance.

After my headache subsided I got into the swing of things with this villanelle.  It’s better than going crazy (I think!)This class has been such a joy.  It’s amazing how you can bond with other people over the internet.  No one needs to be alone with a computer handy.

Well, just got a call from the doctor – scan is set for Monday at 8:00 am.  Meanwhile, I wait. It’s going to be a long week!

Staying in Focus: On Doctors, Time Travel and LIfe

I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and I almost went back in time. 
– Steven Wright

First of all, I would like to apologize for the link problem.  Don’t know what I did exactly but I lost the post somehow.   Hmm.. maybe it traveled back in time. My current interest in time travel comes from a few sources. It started with our watching the Dr. Who series on TV. Dr. Who is a time lord, traveling through time and helping out where he can.

And then there was my son, Kevin’s, birthday this past week, and he turned 30.  Seems impossible I could be the mother of someone who is 30, but the fact is I am also the mother of someone who is 34. Thirty years ago this week, Kevin and I were just getting to know each other.  What I wouldn’t give to have the chance to hold that little guy in my arms one more time.

Then I came across this quote by Steven Wright.  I love his insights – they are always spot on. And I got to thinking, would I go back in time via the instant coffee/microwave oven time machine (it is every bit as plausible as a blue police box spinning through time and space),if I had the chance.?   For a number of reasons, yes.  To see my boys as children again, before the trials and tribulations of life have challenged them; to be Parkinson’s free for a little while.  Oh, and not having those endless streams of doctor visits.  I remember  a time when  I saw my gynecologist once a year and the dentist twice, and that was it. Now  between anxiety, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, aging arteries , colon cancer and Parkinson’s Disease, I have a cast of many doctors, tests to schedule, scans to undertake, especially my all time favorite – the dreaded colonoscopy., little appointment cards to keep  track of all this, and so many prescriptions, I have devised a  chart I run off the computer, which lists all the medications, dosages, frequency and purpose, including alerts such as (I have this printed in red):

Don’t ever give me sulfa drugs (Septra) ever again!

In addition, I must wear a bracelet to inform emergency personnel that I take a Mao – B Inhibitor, and I carry in my wallet  a card that reads : I am not intoxicated. I have Parkinson’s Disease, just in case I’m found wandering erratically someday in the future.
Just sayin,  The past appears much more appealing.   But if you have to go to the doctor, it’s best to get good news , which is what I received today from my neurologist, who said I was doing  a good job keeping the beast under control, and following my visit to him, we visited the lab of the vampires, who drew blood, and my primary doctor said the old thyroid looked good. But with so many doctor visits on the horizon, escape to the past and  a healthier me might be just the respite I need.

On the other hand, if you watch any Dr. Who episodes, the past is populated with aliens who want to take over the earth, strange cracks that appear in time and on bedroom walls, which herald a time of silence, when there is nothing left at all.  That’s a little creepy so I think I ‘ll stay in the here and now, and deal with life and all the complications being alive entails.

I like this quote from Robert Frost: I can sum up in three words everything I have learned about life… it goes on.

It certainly does, and if we are lucky, we are here to go on with it as long as we can.  So I plan to make the best of it.  Maybe another cruise or two.  Time to spend with family and friends.  Places to go, like Alaska, which I never dreamed I’d see. Being in the present, with all its challenges, beats not being here at all.

But I’l keep a jar of instant coffee on the shelf, just in case.

Note: I’ve launched my new blog, Focus on Fiction, and today will be posting the final chapters of The Storyteller.  Stay tuned.