Daily Prompt

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) or Going Bump in the Night

Daily Prompt:What is the best dream you’ve ever had? Recount it for us in all its ethereal glory. If no dream stands out in your memory, recount your worst nightmare. Leave no frightening detail out.

IMG_8359Oh, you just had to get me started on dreams! The best dream I have is one in which I jump really high and find that I can keep myself aloft, for a few minutes, almost flying, but  not quite as effortlessly as soaring through the air. There is a feeling of lightness and freedom accompanying the dream.  Mostly, though, good dreams seem to disappear from my memory almost immediately. Holding on to them is like trying to grasp a wisp of fog in the palm of my hand.

The nightmares, however, can stay with me for a lifetime.  For years I had two recurring nightmares. In one of them I would look up at the sky and see row after row of enemy aircraft flying low overhead, accompanied by feelings of fear and dread. These could be a result of growing up during the cold war and the Cuban missile crisis, which sent us cowering under our desks during air raid drills at school, praying that the flimsy desktop would protect us from nuclear annihilation. 

In the second recurring dream, I was climbing a steep path in a cavern, and I knew something evil lurked at the end, but could not stop myself from moving toward it. Never quite got there, though. Did I fear something waiting to befall me, or fear releasing something evil inside me? Possibly a result of my Catholic upbringing and the fear of the devil’s temptations.

When most people dream, which is during REM sleep, their bodies are actually paralyzed from moving because these dreams are so vivid that without this, one can act out the dreams in reality. Such is the fate of many of us with Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep disorders. Thus, I have bad dreams that are so vivid, I thrash about, talk in my sleep (an interesting aside for any psychologists reading this and trying to figure me out, when I try to talk in the dream, my voice is very low, I can barely be heard. This occurs when I am actually talking out loud in the real world), wake up screaming, or the worst one, when I jumped out of bed, still asleep, and only woke up as I  felt myself falling and my husband calling to me. I had crashed into the corner of the wall in my bedroom, ending up with a black eye and a bloody nose. In my dream, I was walking with friends down a dark road, and coming toward us was a man swinging a sharp hook at the end of rope in a menacing fashion. We panicked and tried to run away as fast as we could. They made it safely away. I hit a wall.

This incident changed my sleeping life forever. REM sleep disorders or lucid dreaming are related to Parkinson’s disease itself, but can be intensified by some of the meds I take. I discontinued the dopamine agonist medicine I was taking, which helps with my tremor, as soon as I could. Coming off that med was no picnic in the park. Fortunately, my bedroom is on the first floor, so the danger of falling down stairs was not a concern. I bought a body sized pillow, weighted it down with books and now I sleep wedged in between the pillow (I have named Dudley) and my husband. I figure I would wake up by the time I was able to extricate myself from my snug little nest.

In addition, I did some research and found out that another med I was taking for anxiety was the treatment of choice for this sleep problem.  So I consulted with my doctors, and we changed the times I take the meds to just before med.Then I bought a couple of sleep solution cds, one called Sleep Solutions by Roberta Shapiro and Deep Sleep Every Night by Glenn Harrold. I listen to one of the tracks on the cds every night before bed. They assure me I can control my dreams. My mantra is “silent, still, sleep.”

This, together with a spritz of lavender on my pillow, and my dream catcher hanging by my bed has makes it possible for me to dream mostly benign dreams. If I have a bad dream, I wake up like normal people do.  I guess the enemy planes and whatever was lurking in that cave have been relegated to the “nightmares remembered only” ´file in my brain. My husband tells me I often laugh out loud in my sleep now, Sure beats going bump in the night.

 

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Daily Prompt: Staying in Focus: Cool and Green and Shady

Daily Prompt:Look out your back window or door — describe what you see, as if you were trying to convey the scene to someone from another country or planet.

When I look out my back window, what I see is green. It has been a hot summer so far here in North Carolina, with most days reaching the nineties, but we have also had a good amount of rain, courtesy of some large and noisy evening thunderstorms. On July first, we went to see the Rolling Stones in an outdoor stadium, and, thankfully, it was the only night that week we didn’t have an evening shower.

In addition to green, it is the golden hour as I write this, and the sun is bathing the bushes and trees with a golden glow. I love this time of day in the summer. The slanting rays of sun add a Midas touch to the world outside my window. The light is gentler, less intense than at noon, and softer, lacking the clarity of morning light.  It heralds the end of a busy day, a relaxing time to sit and sip lemonade, listen to the sounds of evening, the song of insects, the sounds of the chickadees as they flit about ready to settle down for evening’s rest.

Here is my backyard:

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Staying in Focus: Local Flavor: A Gourd by Any Other Name…

Daily Prompt: Write a piece about a typically “local” experience from where you come from as though it’s an entry in a travel guide.

Attention vegetable lovers of the world! The wait is over and the date has been set for 74th Annual North Carolina Gourd Festival.  Located at the North Carolina Fairgrounds in Raleigh, the theme for this year’s festival is ‘Gourd Bling”.

This two-day event ,planned for Saturday (9:00 am –  5:00 pm) and Sunday,(10:00 am – 4:00 pm), September 12 – 13, 2015, will be held in the Holshouser Building on the State Fairgrounds.

This year there will be 70, yes, 70 competitions for your gourds to take part in. Be ready to cheer your gourd on in these exciting vegetative competitions.

In addition, you will be able to view gourds from around the world as well as those from our own backyards. Available for purchase are gourds (possibly those from owners whose gourds lost their competition), gourd crafts (hint: be sure to use lots of bling) and seeds for growing future gourd competitors.

As I write this, I look outside the window, as snowflakes blanket the yard, and it is hard to envision a garden of gourds growing in the warmth of the summer sun. Newbies to the gourd phenomenon might want to fill these cold, winter days, searching for gourd seed in the seed catalogs, planning a garden and researching how to grow a gourd with bling.

A last reminder: With all the excitement this announcement brings, don’t forget to plant the seeds for your award-winning gourd, as spring arrives and the earth softens for planting. You can ramp the excitement by challenging your neighbors in a gourd-growing competition.Right before the festival, gather together for gourd soup, a gourd curry, followed by bottle – gourd ice cream (which is green). This will build enthusiasm and anticipation for the festival events.

Mark your calendars now. Best of luck to gourd enthusiasts, young and old!

May the gourds be with you.:)

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: A Plot of Earth: Scottish Fantasy

 

Daily Prompt: You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?

I’m going to assume this plot of land is located in Scotland, perhaps left to us in the will of a relative, for some strange reason. (My husband has relatives who live in Scotland, so you never know). Intrigued, we fly to Scotland and discover the plot of land is located in South Queensferry. To our delight, this is a town in Scotland we have visited and it is picturesque and not too far from the capital city of Edinburgh.

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We build a lovely, snug, single floor cottage on out plot of land, with a large master bedroom suite, and a comfortable guest suite, an office for Bill and a “snuggery” for me with a view of our landscaped gardens which present a seasonal change of color and delight. Flowers spill from window boxes and there is a potters shed in the backyard, where the dappled sunlight dances on the grass beneath two large shade trees. A comfortable hammock is strung between the trees, a perfect place for reading, meditating or napping on a warm summer day. The cottage is open and airy, with a flowing floor design that lets in the light, yet snug enough to be warm and cozy in winter. When cold winds blow, the double-sided fireplace brings cheery warmth to kitchen and living room. Bookshelves line the walls of the living room, and off of it, there is a glass walled conservatory with a terracotta floor, filled with plants and some comfy lounges for reading and napping.

We sell our home in the US and rent a small apartment to use when visiting friends and family, most likely during those very long, dark winter days in Scotland. Family and friends, sorry to bail out on all of you like this, but it was a fantasy too enticing to pass up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Post: Piranha Paradise

Daily Prompt:

Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and whyt

My hair gets frizzy just thinking about the tropics. I cannot abide high humidity, I hate to be hot and sweaty, but most of all I have no desire to go where creatures can get inside you and grow and then bore their way from the inside out.

I must admit that I am quickly tiring of the cold this winter, and as I Iive in North Carolina, I realize I have little to complain about compared to those living in the northeast where the snow has piled quite high in some places, and It’s 27 below 0, but I still prefer the more temperate climes to the steamy jungles of the tropics.

Giant snake that drop from trees, huge crocodiles with snapping jaws that lurk along the riverbanks, and schools of hungry piranhas waiting for a tasty meal, not to mention clouds of stinging insects buzzing around are welcome to their tropical  paradise. I’ll stick to the temperate zones, thank you very much!

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Staying in Focus:Re-springing Your Step/Mountain Weekend

Daily Prompt: Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?

 

The last experience I had that left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated occurred last summer, when my husband and I and our friends, Kathi and Don, spent a weekend at the Cabins of Willow Winds in Asheville, NC.IMG_3539

Although last summer was not exceedingly hot or humid at home, the weather the weekend we were in Asheville was absolutely wonderful. We were worried because the forecast was for rain, but all we had was a brief shower one afternoon. It was in the evening that we really noticed the difference. The cabin had floor to ceiling windows, which we cranked open, and the most delightful breeze of cool mountain air flowed in, carrying with it the sounds of nocturnal creatures, insects and frogs and the like. Those sounds brought back memories of the summers of my childhood spent in a cabin near a lake. There, I would be lulled to sleep by the nighttime chorus of frogs and katydids.

We took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, climbed up to the visitor center atop Mount MitchelIMG_3526l and ate lunch at the restaurant there, the wall of windows providing a spectacular view.IMG_3527IMG_3478 IMG_3481 IMG_3388 - Copy - Copy IMG_3392 IMG_3426 IMG_3435 IMG_3437 - Copy IMG_3448 IMG_3456 IMG_3471

We went on a ghost tour, and walked through the botanical gardens. IMG_3542Kathi and Don tried their hand at fishing in a pond on the premises of the cabin and we made our dinners in the cabin. Last year was an especially tense one with family illnesses and other stresses, but those three days in Asheville stand out as a small oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation.IMG_3600 There’s something about mountains that have always had that effect on IMG_3586me.

Blue Ridge

the mountains gather round me

endless folds of smoky blue

and the sun ignites the crystal drops

of early morning dew

wisps of misty water vapor

wreathe a distant mountain peak

and I feel a deep connection

with the spirit that I seek

in the mountains, in the places

of the wild and the free

are the answers to the problems

that quite often trouble me

so I come for grace and comfort

and I come for sweet release

my spirit seeks the mountains

here I find my inner peace

-pc 97

Mountains

When the pressures of life build to a peak

Some people find solace in shorelines and sea

But it’s often the higher ground that I seek

For it’s always been mountains for me

When I stand on a ridge at the top of the world

From worry and care I am free

I sing in the sun with my spirit unfurled

It will always be mountains for me!

-pc’03

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt:Verbal Confirmation: To Be or Not, I Think

Daily Prompt: to be, to have, to think, to move — which of these verbs is the one you feel most connected to? Or is there another verb that characterizes you better?

“To be or not to be,” wrote the British bard, so perhaps that is the answer to the question. Then again the French philosopher Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” making thought a key to existence. However, his quote includes I am, a form of the verb to be, so it is hard to choose which one, to be or to think, takes precedence.

Certainly, from a mindfulness point of view to be is the goal. Not to have this or that, not to have our minds mired in thought, or to move aimlessly about, but to be in the moment, aware of the now, present and accounted for. To be one with creation, with the universe, with all there is. To be alive certainly beats non-being. In fact, recently, my son and I had a conversation about not-being. He said he really couldn’t fathom that state – what it would be like not to be. It’s not something we care to think about so, “to be” seems a likely choice as the verb that I’m most connected to.

That is not to say that to think lacks importance as a characteristic. It’s just that we have to achieve the state of being, before we can think, have or move. At least, I think so? 🙂

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Autumn Blues: A Bittersweet Transition

Daily Prompt:

As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?

A Bittersweet Transition

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Ah, the end of summer. Always a bittersweet time for me as a child.  Until I was in my teens we spent our summers in a cabin near a lake.  It was the mid  1950s to the  early 1960’s, and those were our halcyon days.

On sunny days we went fishing, swimming and hiking. We took walks in the early evening to the clubhouse to watch movies, play bingo and buy penny candy. On rainy days we would color and draw, or lay on the cots on the porch and read the day away. I read everything from the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys (the last two compliments of my cousin, Ricky).IMG_3809

We kids, which included me, my sister, Mary Lou, my brother, Steven , and cousins, Ricky and Susan, and our moms stayed at the lake all summer and the dads would come up for their 2 week vacations and every weekend.

Toward the end of August we would make a trip home, to pick up our uniforms, buy our black and white saddle shoes and our school supplies. As much as I loved the easy pace of summer, the warm days, time to just lay in a hammock and rock back and forth, catch fireflies in the evening, and toast marshmallows in the outside fireplace, something inside me would awaken as we walked past aisles full of pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil cases, lunch boxes, and the icon of my school supplies, the black and white composition books. I still have my first three composition books from kindergarten.IMG_3806

To me they epitomize how I felt at the start of a new school year. The  new composition book is fresh and clean, ready and waiting for the school year to begin. On the first day of school, I, too, will be fresh and clean, my black and white saddle shoes shined and my uniform crisp and tidy.  These images spell new beginnings to me, a whole new year of learning and growing, a fresh start, a chance to get off on the right foot and fill that composition book with perfect penmanship.

But not to worry. We would return to the lake for a few precious weeks, which included the celebration of Regatta Days and the Labor Day weekend. Days filled with games, competition and barbeques.  Although at home my uniform hung ready, my books and supplies packed, all I needed was a little more time, time for swimming and fishing and rocking in the hammock, sweet and slow.

Bittersweet, those last precious days of summer, as they marked the end of one thing and heralded the start of another. I miss that transition now, but perhaps I can recapture the feeling with these:

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(I don’t have a pair of black and white saddle shoes, but guess what? I looked on the internet and they are now designed by Ralph Lauren and sold at Nordstrom’s!) Anyway, back to the black and white composition book. It sits there ready and waiting for me to make that first entry, forge a new beginning, and write….the first lines of a new poem…

September

A month of fresh starts… a new school year… new pencil cases and clean lunch boxes…the smell of chalk …the polished sheen on my new black and white saddle shoes…and the blank pages of a composition book beckoning me to record the endless possibilities that lie ahead with the precise point of a newly sharpened pencil…(more to come)

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: New Dawn

Daily Prompt: How often do you get to (or have to) be awake for sunrise? Tell us about what happened the last time you were up so early (or late…).

Sunrise Revisited

Those who have followed my blogs for a while now, know how much I love to photograph sunrises and sunsets. This may be a bit repetitive, but it was fun putting all the best in one blog. My photos often inspire my poetry. The first sunset photo was taken of the harbor at Wrightsville Beach with an old style 35mm Canon Rebel G camera back in 1998:

Harbor Sunset

liquid drops of sunlight sparkle in the bay,

and reflect a sky awash in sunset hue,

Harbor Sunset

Harbor Sunset

the trees along the shoreline form a silhouette in gray,

and the clouds amass in shades of dusky blue.

suspended for a moment between darkness and the day,

I pause to fill my senses and renew,

and with deep appreciation I continue on my way

as the sunset in the harbor fades from view.

My next favorite encounter with the sun over water was while on a cruise off the coast of Alaska. I just happened to awaken about 4AM, and saw the faintest light peeking out behind the curtain. I stood there and watched as the sun slowly cleared the sky of the dark shadows of night and let spill in the colors of  a magnificent sunrise. Later that day, the sunset was more the play of light upon the water and not color that captures the eye. These were taken with my digital Canon Rebel xsi.  This experience inspired the following Haiku poem:

Sunrise , Sunset at Sea (Haiku)

we watch the sun rise
light vanquishes the darkness                                 IMG_8448 IMG_8592
and color returns

the calm sea reflects
ribbons of orange and pink
we stand mesmerized

as the sun rises
it paints a path of gold light
for us to follow

as the sun lowers
bands of dark purple and blue
bruise the evening sky

rays of pale sunlight
reach out across the water
the sun bids farewell

we watch the sun set
the shades of night seep in
the sky veiled in gray

the calm sea darkens
a weary sun now at rest
color fades to black

 

 

Last summer I took this photo off the coast of Scotland:

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The rays of sunlight  spilled  from the clouds like rain:

 

on a sea of inspiration

cruising round the British Isles

with sailboats as companions

tacking toward the setting sun…

and in coves,  ships find safe harbor

as the captains in their  cabins

dream of voyages  to come…

the sun bids clouds to gather

as rays of gold rain gently down

and  illuminate the sea;  for a

a sunset over Scotland forms

a memory not forgotten

easily.

-pc 2013

Finally, one needn’t be at sea to enjoy a summer sunset. A s the Fourth of July was winding down, my  mother looked out the window and saw this lovely sunset. I took these photos off my back porch:

 

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My favorite chair in my favorite room looks out at the sun rising over the neighboring houses. Until my husband retired, I was up

before dawn and able to catch the sun rising more often . Now I fall back asleep in between my first meds of the day at 6:00 AM and the next bunch at 7:30AM.But each sunrise is so special, heralding the gifts it brings light, warmth, life, and another beautiful day to enjoy, we should not miss it or take it for granted.  As Ke, says to Tuck, in my book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary, upon seeing the sun for the first time, “In all my imaginings, Tuck, never could I have envisioned a world of such glory.” “For certain, Ke, it is a world beyond imaginings.” The awe in his voice matched mine. We stood together then, hand in hand, on the precipice of our new wold. We were spellbound by the beauty before us, and humbled by a grand design we could not even begin to understand.*

If I had not been up early to catch the sunrise after a  rare southern snowfall, I would have missed taking this sunrise photo, my most unusual yet. My garden globe was situated perfectly to catch the sunrise after the storm.

As the characters in my book learn during their journey, we inhabit a beautiful planet, one t hat welcomes the day with the rising sun, and it calls us to rest as it sets.

To read more of Escape from Mount Sanctuary, it is available in print and Kindle editions at:

http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Mount-Sanctuary-Imagine-discover/dp/1499353707/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409335777&sr=1-1&keywords=escape+from+mount+sanctuary

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