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?


Daily Prompt: Bookish Choice: Staying in Focus

Daily Prompt:A literary-minded witch gives you a choice: with a flick of the wand, you can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions. Which do you choose?

As I currently have a book on the market at Amazon.com, and I visit its web page daily, eagerly looking to see if anyone else has written a review (I have one so far), or I stop by Kindle Direct Publishing to see if any more copies have been sold, I find myself caught between these two choices. I would, of course, love to have it be wildly popular, but I would also like to feel it has a lasting effect on those who read it. It is not just a flash in the pan story. The truth behind the message is important to the reader now, while there is still time to avoid the consequences of not heeding it, as it is to future generations who must live with our actions in the here and now.

I guess I opt for the combo plan – a wildly popular book with a message for the ages, a story of discovery, a tale about a second chance, taking that chance, facing the risks and dangers, growing up and growing into a family and a people sharing and caring for the world they live in. My book serves as a handbook, a guide from the present to the future for the future. Hopefully, if I ended up with the second choice, those select few studying the book are doing so in a world of light and life. Those of you who have read the book know what I mean. If so, my goal in writing it has been achieved.

Want to read it? Follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover/dp/1499353707/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1407898879&sr=1-1&keywords=escape+from+mount+sanctuary

Staying in Focus: Serendipity: Writing 101: Be Brief

Postaday:You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Today, write about this encounter. And your twist? Be as succinct as possible.
JUNE 5, 2014


It was a blustery fall afternoon with the sun a weak partner in the sky, sending tired rays of light through the leaves to dapple the path ahead with what energy it could muster. I felt the same, as I found an empty bench and sat down, placing my black bag next to me. Merely walking required more energy than I had. The break-up had hit me out of the blue, sent my head spinning like the falling leaves around me. I needed someone to talk to but knew no one in this city.
A random gust swept a folded piece of paper off the trodden path and into my hands. I looked around but saw no one I
I looked around me, but no one appeared to be in distress.
I turned the note over in my hand and spied the address of a nearby hotel printed in tiny letters across the bottom. It was the Westminster, a few blocks away. Not even sure what I was doing, I grabbed my bag, turned around and made my way down the two blocks to the Westminster. The doorman let me in and I walked into the middle of the huge reception area. I scanned the crowd and my heart skipped a beat. There on a round leather ottoman sat Steve Wyatt, the boy who grew up next door to me in Brooklyn. He was holding a baby. I hadn’t seen him since we were crowned king and queen of the prom and left to attend colleges on opposite coasts. But I never forgot him.
I crossed the room and he looked up and smiled. “I knew you’d come back, one day,” he said.
I took the child from his arms and laid him on the ottoman. I opened up my black medical bag and pulled out my stethoscope. “Let’s see what’s up with you, little fella. Then Dr. Sally and your daddy have a lot to talk about.”
The sun must have shared my surge of energy, as the clouds cleared suddenly, the rays lit the autumn leaves and filled the hotel lobby with golden sunlight.

Daily Prompt: Futures Past/Staying in Focus

Daily Prompt: As a kid what did youwant to be when you grew up?How close or how far are you from that vision?

Oh, the dreams we had in childhood! The other day, my granddaughter (age 8) was talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. She had a list of possibilities including a doctor, an entomologist, a geologist and an archaeologist – all within the realm of possibility, given her abilities and talents.  My grandson (age 5) had much shorter list: either a superhero or a dad. Also in the realm of possibility, as most fathers are superheroes, at least in the eyes of their young children.  The capes begin to get a bit tattered as adolescence takes hold, but the super powers recharge and superdad is back, once they realize that the superhero was right all along.

I, too, had a list of possibilities when I was young. The earliest I can remember considering was being a nun, part of my catholic school indoctrination. I couldn’t get past those habits they wore, though. They were heavy, dark brown, woolen gowns with headpieces that enshrouded their heads completely – all you could see were their faces and hands – everything else was a mystery. We used to wonder what color their hair was, hidden under that headgear. In second grade we had a novice nun, one who had yet to make her final vows. Her name was Sister Annette and she had a head of flaming red hair. Halfway through the school year she was whisked away to make those vows and cover that beautiful hair forever.  How sad! Another minus for the nun choice – you couldn’t have a boyfriend or get married, so by fourth grade this career choice faded away for most of us.

I briefly considered nursing, as I read my way through the Cherry Ames, student nurse books, but all those needles I’d have to stick people with was a turn-off.  I considered archaeology myself, but scorpions and spiders and hot, dusty places were not my favorite things. So I enjoyed the career vicariously through the Amelia Peabody book series about a woman archaeologist in the late 1800s, written by Elizabeth Peters. Just before I started high school, my Aunt Jeannie had a baby boy with Down’s syndrome. She became involved with the March of Dimes campaign to prevent birth defects, and I joined her efforts. This led me to my eventual choice of career in special education.

Also about this time I started writing poetry, and keeping a travel journal of my summer adventures with my family. In high school, I had great fun writing a parody of Moby Dick with my friend, Kathi. This was a class project and our revenge against a vicious literature teacher, who wielded a red pencil on our compositions like a sword, slashing it to bits and pieces. But despite this, I continued to write, took as many lit courses as I could in college, for they were easy As to boost my GPA.

I graduated from college, got married, and one day my husband  and I, both science fiction fans, started discussing some of his ideas in politics and somehow we decided that we could fit this into a science fiction novel.  It was designed to be a trilogy and I did finish the first book, but I got derailed along the way by a couple of kids and a full time job. I submitted it to several publishers without any luck. During this time, however, I began writing articles for magazines, and had some luck in the small press with that. My first published piece was on my experience as an extra in filming the movie, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood. The article is on this blog page (see title on heading above). In the meantime, I continued writing and finished a children’s book. I enrolled in creative writing classes and online courses and finally finished and self-published (thank you,  Amazon) another children’s book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary. I began this blog on May 2, 2012, and this is my 253rd  post  on this blog. As they say, the rest is yet to be written…

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: I Beleive

Daily Prompt: For today’s prompt, tell us three things that you believe in your heart to be true. Tell us three things you believe in your heart to be false.


I believe that…

1. To quote the Great Bard, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

2. “Love is all you need” – The Beatles

3. If all of us would adhere to two simple instructions from Jesus in his teachings, we could change the world forever.

1, “Love each other as I have loved you.”

2. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I do not believe that…

  1. Hate is stronger than love
  2. Evil will conquer good
  3. we are alone in this universe. It is just a matter of time.

For my fellow Dr. Who fans:


Could it be? We spotted this blue police box in Glasgow! It is the only one we saw during our 12 day visit to the British Isles. As I said, it’s just a matter of time.

Staying in Focus: Focus on: Just Between You, I and Me

Linda and I are almost finished with the revising and editing of my book, Safely to Aurora. It has been a lot of fun for Linda and me.

I hope my beleaguered editor gets a chuckle out of the sentences above, for despite her sincere efforts, I continue to exasperate her with my misuse of the I/me rule.  There is no excuse, especially as the Harbrace College Handbook and a copy of Woe is I by Patricia O’Conner sit on my bookshelf in full view, as I write. My only plea is that I write from conversations in my mind and some of those characters are as bad at grammar as I am!  I even look for such gross misuse of grammar when I proof-read and still I miss them.  That is why, I have concluded. a writer is only as good as her editor is sharp.

I must add one more plea for forgiveness from my editor, as it seems the great bard himself once wrote, in a conversation between Antonio and  Bassanio, “All debts are clear’d between you and I, if I might but see you at my death.” (from The Merchant of Venice).  Now, in all fairness to the bard, perhaps the I/me rule had not been firmly established at that time. Or, mayhap, he, being the great bard, felt himself above such limitations. Can we claim poetic license? More than likely, I think, it was just a matter of his editor not being as sharp as mine.

It’s hard to find a good editor these days, as proper grammar and correct spelling are being corrupted by the cryptic language of the Internet, so shop carefully for one. Just remember, between you and I, you can’t have mine! lol

(So, Linda, are you ready to start on my next book, The Secret of the Dreamtime Spirits: An Arthur and Eleanor Mystery?

Staying in Focus: Accentuate the Positive

One of my Facebook friends posted the following quote today:

If you cannot be positive,

then at least be quiet. – Joel Osteen

No truer words can be spoken  with so much negative news in the world today. What, I wonder, would it be like to call a moratorium on negativity for just  one day. I’m not talking scenes from Bambi, with the bunnies hopping and the birds singing, although if the negative voices were silenced, we could actually hear the birds singing.  Imagine waking up to news about only positive things, people helping people rather than shooting them.  People facing their challenges with an “I can beat this ” attitude. A government working for the people rather than holding them hostage to overblown egos and petty rivalries. You know the news has gone way over on the negativity meter when you find yourself looking forward to the “Tech Byte” section.

My non – negativity day would begin with a news report about the weather (sunny, temps around 70) traffic (no problems), stories on researchers working to cure disease, interviews with people who enjoy their jobs and do them well – teachers, nurses, UPS delivery persons, that nice woman who greets you as you enter a store or restaurant, you know, the rank and file that keep this country moving despite the inanity in Washington, which of course would not be in the news unless it was to report a government now fully operational and back in control of its senses. But let’s not lose our grip on reality completely.

On this day I would call my mom to see how she is doing, a 90-year-old woman fighting cancer for a second time, happy for each day she is given . People really like my mom because she likes people. She always greets people with a smile or a hug.  The doctors are amazed by her tenacity and good spirits, the people at the grocery store greet her by name, as do the ladies at the hair salon  which we know she will return to soon, as her hair is growing back! Surely  a positive thing. I would and will today check on my friend, Debbi, who is almost halfway through her chemo treatments for breast cancer. Debbi is another light in the positive realm, knowing she just has to do what she has to do and refusing to let it dim her bright spirit and sense of humor. Keep that light shining, Deb! And my little bro, beginning his treatments this week for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is facing it, I know, with his irrepressible humor. These people in my life inspire me in my journey with Parkinson’s disease, refusing to let a negative experience  rob them of their positive views on life and living.

I would take the time on this day of positives to note the bright sunlight streaming through my study window. We haven’t seen the sun in almost a week, but now the sunbeams are filling my room with morning light. I’ll take time to  sit in my chair and think positive thoughts, enjoying my quiet home and perhaps some oatmeal for breakfast.  I will positively do my exercises (2 mile walk, yoga ), work on my book, and publish this post. Then it will be time to welcome home my husband, Bill, the most positive time of the day.  Life is such a gift, we ought not to let the negativity weigh us down and rob us of its delights. We need to make an effort to accentuate the positives and  ignore or eliminate the negatives. And if we can’t do that, then we at least can be quiet.

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 a – z: A Big Clumsy Dog

Daily prompt; Write a poem or story in which each line begins with a letter of the aphabet a to z



A Big Clumsy Dog

”Aargh!”  I said

but where could she be

creating a ruckus

dousing paint on me?

“expect  she’s hiding

from  your angry tone

gals like my Sally

have always come home;

if you want to find her

just quiet down

keep  still as you can

lose the loud sound

making a fuss

never is the right way

old Sally’ll stay hiding

perhaps through the day;

quietly listen

remember, don’t shout

Say, “Sally, where are you?

time to come out!”

under the bed

vacant of sound

without whining apology

*xanthous hound

yawns and stretches

zips  by with a bound!


Focus On: Challenges, and Gratitude

It has been a year of challenge for us, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon. Mom wasn’t able to tolerate the pill form of the chemo, and now, after a week or so to recover from that protocol, she is starting weekly intravenous chemo, which will more than likely cause her to lose her hair as well as having to weather the same side effects .as before – mouth sores, diarrhea and nausea.  We explained the situation as clearly we could, and she is determined to try again.

We are born with an innate strength to survive and hang on to life as long as we can, to struggle to beat the odds for a little more time. Time to be with family and friends, time to enjoy what this world has to offer.

When I wake up in the morning, the world seems full of possibility. I sit in my favorite chair in my “snuggery” and watch the sun rise. It does so, like clockwork, and everyday we can count on it to be there . The birds awaken and the sweet morning air is filled with their cheerful song. We are surrounded by gifts too great to count, and too often we fail to express the gratitude we should have for them.

Sadly, life, the greatest gift of all, is often treated with the least amount of reverence and care and we are bombarded daily by the news of yet another war, another murder, another threat  to our lives and our well-being. It’s no wonder so many people are depressed and anxious.

I look at my mother, at 90, facing the fight of her life, for her life, with a strength I can only hope to emulate as my disease progresses. Her current battle has me looking my own mortality right in the face. I can either crumble before it, or refuse to be intimidated, and continue to find joy in the things I’ve always loved – my writing, my  photography, gardening and nature, the joy I find in this beautiful world, in the people I love and who love me  in return. Time passes too quickly not to grasp at joy and happiness while we can.

Michael J. Fox once said, “Parkinson’s disease is the gift which just keeps on taking.” With his characteristic, positive insight, he can acknowledge that even within the diagnosis of a progressive disease,there can be  found a hidden gift. In his  case the diagnosis was a wake-up call. He was, at the time, partying a little too hard, his train on the wrong track. In his book, Lucky Man, he says, “I am no longer the person described in this chapter, and I am forever grateful for that. I would never want to go back to that life – a sheltered, narrow existence fueled by fear and made livable by insulation, isolation, and self-indulgence. It was a life lived in a bubble, but bubbles, being the most fragile constructions, are easily destroyed. All it takes is a little finger.” He goes on to explain that absent this neurophysiological catastrophe, he would have never have embarked on the journey he has taken, or been so profoundly enriched. I am not yet at the point of saying I am glad I have PD, but I admit I am more conscious of the gifts I have been given, and  am grateful for them. Right now, I am grateful for the meds that keep me moving and the researchers working on finding a cure.

At some point most of us will be faced  with a serious challenge. Some of us will win, and some of us will lose, but most of us will have fought the good fight and will know when it is time to let it go. My mother is prepared to take another stab at fighting this disease. With her fortitude, I think she can make it, but I also think she’ll know when enough is enough.  I know I will have a hard time dealing with that and I ardently hope that it is much later than sooner,  In the meantime, we will make the most of our precious moments, and  express gratitude for what we have, right now.. My gift to you, this poem, on gratitude: Take some time to think about what you are most grateful for, and  tomorrow morning, when the sun rises again and the world is full of possibilities, go out and find them.

With Gratitude…

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tallPhoto06_1 - Copy
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
For treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universeIMG_7633
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
with my close friends, whom I adore
For the doctors who take care of me
For my family, how I love them so
For the best of times, most certainly
and for all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’ filled with heartfelt gratitude.
                       -pc 2012