Staying in Focus: I’m Back! (I Think)

I can’t believe my last post was in August, and here it is October already.  We didn’t travel  this summer, or do much of anything, really. I lacked inspiration.  Then we had some family matters to work through.  My 93 year old mom suffered through a second round of Shingles and required  our help in getting her to doctor’s appointments, and weekly visits to help keep up with her household chores.

On the positive side, we had a lovely visit with Bill’s sister Pat, husband Rick and son Matt. They brought us a grandfather clock , which had been a gift given to their mother from their father just months before she passed away. Before his untimely death this past March, he had expressed the wish that someone in the family would take the clock. We had a space for it, and everyone agreed that it looked like it had always been there. During their stay we browsed the bookstore, looked at new houses in the area, and sampled the fare of local eateries.

Our 40th anniversary was September 4th. We finally found a few free days last week to get away to the mountains to relax and de-stress, and celebrate 40 years together. I took some nice pictures of Echo Lake. The trees were just beginning to trade their overall green color  for splashes of color like crimson, umber, sienna, red-orange and yellow.

So I’m back, I think. We are about to start my favorite season, and it is a busy one. I am preparing for our Moving Day Event – A walk for Parkinson’s disease . Pat’s  Patrol (my team) will number at least 17 this year. And I am proud to announce that we have achieved  our team goal of $720.00 raised for the National Parkinson Foundation. This will be followed by Halloween,  Thanksgiving and, of course, Christmas, with buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, cooking, and visiting. with family and friends

So, I’ll try to keep up with posting (I wouldn’t mind a little snow this year. I love taking snow pictures!)

Here are some photos of Echo Lake:












Staying in Focus: The Merry Month of May

I was away last week when the merry month of May began and so I am a bit late with my May poem and photographs. May is my favorite spring month. We celebrate Mother’s Day, and my mom and I have our birthdays this month. 61 years ago on May 16th, I was her birthday present.  On May 20th, she will be 91. We are blessed to still have her with us after her experiences last year, but the therapy the doctors are using seems to be holding the cancer in her lung from spreading as recent medical tests showed everything stable. She is looking forward to the year ahead. as her 18th great grandchild was born on May 2nd.

In May, the lilacs bloom in New Jersey. My grandma would give me a big bunch of them for my birthday.  Here in the south, the leaves on the trees are still a bright spring green, and people are planting colorful annuals in gardens and around their landscape bushes, at the entrance to subdivisions, in pots and planters on decks and porches and patios. Some adventuresome houseplants move to the porch for a breath of fresh air. May is a month when life flourishes and the focus of our days is on being outside – walking and jogging, playing ball, swimming in pools and lakes and in the salt water of the sea. Barbecue grills fire up, picnics are planned, and boats of all sizes and shapes emerge from under their canvas blankets to return to the water for a day of fishing, sailing or cruising. May is, indeed,  a merry month!


Mothers and flowers and birds on the wing,

the sun warms the earth, the earth starts to sing

of sunny mornings kissed with droplets of dew,

while fluffy white clouds drift in skies of deep blue…                          Continue reading

Our visit with our friends passed by way too quickly, but we had fun going to the design center and helping them pick out everything from appliances to door knobs. It won’t be long before they are back again, (for good this time).  In the meantime we will keep an eye on things for them, and send them pictures as their rough vacant lot is transformed into a lovely home and yard.  IMG_0256 - Copy - Copy

Yesterday,as I walked them out to their car at 6:30 AM, the birds were  singing a chorus of their song to morning, the sun was already on its way to brighten the sky, and the air was warm but pleasant.  What a beautiful day! I noticed our Bermuda grass was beginning to green up and shed that hay color it adopts during the winter months. The pansies are doing well, the mums are awakening from their long winter’s nap and the forsythia bushes in the back yard are quickly trading yellow for green as the blossoms fade and the new spring-green leaves unfold.   IMG_0270 - Copy - Copy

What I find most extraordinary is that most of this happens with very little effort on our part. Each season brings its wonders, just waiting for the right time to start the show.  I think we all have felt that spring was dragging its feet a bit this year, but who can doubt it has arrived now, with the cherry trees in bloom?

Here is my homage to spring:

when the cherry blossoms dance                              IMG_0262

spring seemed to drag its feet this year
reluctant to appear and so I took a walk
to see if I could find it
and I was quite delighted
to find a branch bedecked
with a mass of cherry blossoms                                  IMG_0261
etched against  a sky of  blue
a sudden, unexpected breeze
invited them to dance
and all along the branch
they dipped and swayed together,
to the tune of mother nature
that only  they could hear
I watched their show, enchanted
as the sun, a jewel of gold
cast its mellow rays upon the sprightly scene
my heart was filled with gratitude
and assured despite my doubt
that spring had finally come
with the blossoms , the blue sky
and the warming of the sun.
                                              –   pc 2013    

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: Sonnets and Prose Poetry

I feel like I have been remiss is writing more regularly, but I’ve been busy with a wonderful poetry class I am taking online through ed2go and my local community college. The instructor, Melody Gough, is a publishing poet and a wonderful instructor.  I have learned so much already and we are only on the fourth lesson of twelve.  My classmates are supportive, talented,and I feel as if I’ve made a whole group of new friends.

Believe it or not, I’ve actually written a sonnet!  You really have to try this in order to understand how hard it is!  Here’s mine:

Fleeting Beauty

we stroll past trees adorned in autumn dress
it seems impossible, a sky so blue
we feel a  breeze that breathes a sweet caress
as I enjoy this autumn day with you.
the mirrored lake, we view from on the shore
well-dressed, the trees are posed for photographs
their leaves, so vivid, are a metaphor
for fleeting beauty that will surely pass
for as the weather cools, the leaves will fall
their beauty spent, they rest beneath the sun
the seasons change, each one a gift for all
to be enjoyed before the year is done.
so  let us never squander precious time
as long as I am yours and you are mine.

Another piece, this one a prose poem, has really come along with Melody’s guidance.  It’s about my grandmother.

What I’ll Never Forget

Just across the driveway, Minerva Struble’s kitchen awaits our arrival on baking day.

Minerva, “Minnie,” Struble

Smells assail us – rhubarb pie, my favorite; apple, rich with cinnamon ; thick slices of warm bread spread with jam, and tall frosty mugs of milk stand ready for hungry children. Teaching us how to quilt takes infinite patience. Tongues held between teeth, we concentrate. Make those stitches march in line like ants on parade.  Deep in the basement, we run clothes through the wringer on laundry day. They emerge flattened like pancakes and we hang them outside on the line in the bright sunshine.  Lilac bushes bloom in her backyard.  Each May, for my birthday, the gift of a big bunch. The scent fills my nose, the deep purple is best.  Fourth of July, parade day.  We sit on her front porch and watch the town march by – boy scouts, girl scouts, marching bands, veterans, the mayor waves from a red convertible; we wave tiny flags in return. Later a big picnic at her house, my seven uncles and their families, my Aunt Blanche and her daughter Phyllis, countless cousins and second cousins join in. We could form our own country. Minerva never had a chance to learn how to read.  Once, she gives us Exlax wafers, thinking it is chocolate candy.  We survive. As we grow older, Minerva grows frailer.  She falls and breaks her arm.  Pain shows now, in her face, but she never fails to flash that special smile she reserves just for us. Then doctors and hospitals. Looks exchanged between grownups, but we know.  It’s a stormy night. My mother’s tears fall like diamonds to the floor and pool around her feet;  the family arrives and my sister and I escape outside.  The thunder rumbles.  Raindrops fall, mixing with our tears.  The world weeps with us. We sit on the glider, and rock back and forth. We look across the drive, and her kitchen is dark.

When I finally got this one to flow smoothly beginning to end, Melody told me she was doing “her happy dance.”

As you can see, I have been busy. I look forward to Wednesdays and Fridays  when the lessons are released.  I urge anyone out there who desires to learn something new in a well thought out manner, with supportive instructors, to look into these classes.

I’ve been dabbling in poetry for years, but now I see all the ways I can make my poems richer, with emotional honesty, word painting, imagery.  I have  a lot of revising to do! And so much more to learn.

Best get to it!

Staying in Focus:Welcome Fall

Each season is a verse in the story of our lives
— pc 2012

And so, we reach the end of the summer season and welcome the advent of autumn. Time to enjoy cooler weather, rake leaves ( and jump in the piles).  Our last home was inundated with leaves in the fall –  by the millions (no exaggeration here) .  We would literally rake leaves until we put up the Christmas lights.  Some days they would be falling faster than we could rake them up. I really don’t mind raking leaves, but that property was a challenge! We did learn an important life lesson, though: When you buy a house, always look up, and imagine those leaves on the trees falling to the ground in the fall.  Then run away as fast as you can! (only kidding).   I drove past that house one fall, and the new owners were out there raking, knee-deep in leaves. I was almost tempted to stop and lend a hand, but  I was afraid they would bury me in a pile of leaves!

But that is one of the rights of childhood – jumping in the piles of leaves their parents have just created. Why, when we grow up, do we have to trade the fun stuff for the hard work? It’s not fair!

.Having  grown up in the northeast, I am always surprised at how long it takes the trees to start changing their colors here in the southeast.  This year they are predicting the leaves may turn earlier due to weather conditions this summer. We were out in the Blue Ridge Mountains a few years back.  It was early September, still summer warm, but I spied

this one leaf on a nearby tree, brilliant yellow,backlit by the sun, surrounded by leaves clinging to their summer dress.  I wrote this poem:

It’s September on the Blue Ridge
and yet summer lingers still
the mountains bask in warm sunlight
no sign of autumn chill

but here and there a weary leaf
proclaims its work is done
and trades the green of summer
for the color of the sun!

Several years ago, we were staying at a Pocono Resort in Pennsylvania in the fall. Our room was situated overlooking a lake, and one morning the fog was thick but rising from the lake quickly as the sun rose, to reveal crystal blue skies and the lake, quiet and reflective, surrounded by autumn color.  This poem came from that experience.

The last wisps of fog begin to clear…


and the crystal blue sky returns. The lake, still and reflective, surrounded by autumn beauty.


upon the lake, in early morn
the misty vapors rise
and when the morning sun arrives
the lake reflects the azure
sunlight sparkles on the water
when the gentle breezes blow
the trees bedecked in autumn dress
reflect the mellow glow

we stand along the shoreline
lost in deep reflection
an autumn morning on the lake
a moment of perfection!              

Don’t miss out on the fun aspects of this season – apple-picking, making apple cider, bobbing for apples, pumpkin patches, hay rides , carving jack-o-lanterns,  skeletons, Halloween,  haunted houses, candy, Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, turkey, The World Series, football, chrysanthemums and ornamental cabbage, scarecrows, crisp nights, sunny days, low humidity(we hope).  I could go on and on.  I love this season!  Does it show?

Wishing you a delightful fall season in this chapter of the story of your life .  Take the time to enjoy the beauty of a crisp autumn morning, gaze into that brilliant blue sky  and if you are near a lake, take a minute to enjoy the reflection mirrored there -it just may lift your spirit and  soothe your soul. And don’t pass up the chance to jump in a pile of leaves – just for the fun of it!