Staying in Focus: Focus On: Grandparents Day

Recently, Bill and I were invited to attend Grandparents Day at Evelyn and Gavin’s elementary school.  Bill’s first question was: Will we have to sit in tiny chairs? The answer, we discovered, was no, not tiny chairs, just tiny stools. But tiny stools not withstanding, we had a great time!

We were scheduled to have lunch with Evelyn (fourth grader) at 12:00 and Gavin (first grader) at 1:00. It was so delightful to see the smiles on the children’s faces when they spied their grandparents waiting outside the cafeteria. It may be hard to explain that special bond that exists between grandparents and their grandchildren, but you can see it in their eyes and in their smiles. These are my special people, those smiles say. One dedicated grandmother I spoke to had driven down from Virginia to have lunch with her grandkids! The little ones know unconditional love when they see it.

We missed Evelyn going into the cafeteria, but she spied us as she filled her tray and joined us at the table. We ate half of our lunch with her, and saved half for lunch with Gavin. She chatted with us, telling us she had the role of Blackbeard in the school play, and pointed out her teacher to us. We admired the peridot earrings she was wearing, having had her ears pieced for her recent birthday.The half hour allotted for lunch passed by very quickly, and then we loitered outside the cafeteria until 1:00. when Gavin’s class arrived .

I spied him walking down the corridor, and walking toward him, called his name. That smile that touches my heart every time I see it, spread across his face. He slipped his little hand in mine, and led us into the cafeteria. We found 3 empty tiny stools to sit on and Gavin went to get his lunch on the most incredibly slow lunchline I have ever seen. He had to eat fast to finish in time, but he told us about the things he was building with his Legos, that he was going to be a Thundercat for Halloween and what his schedule was like for the rest of the day.

We told him we would set up another overnight visit with us soon. Bill has this Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head toy (apply named Darth Tater) that Gavin likes to visit when he comes to our house. Bill told him that Darth Vader (Tater) missed him. As he ran to get on line with his class he called back to Bill, “Tell Darth Vader I’m at school!”

There was a bit of a traffic jam as the teachers corralled their students and this gave our Gavin time for3 trips back to us for a quick 3 hugs. Believe me, you can never have too many Gavin hugs.

Gavin wanted us to go with him to see his classroom. We told him that was probably planned for another day, and besides, it was time for recess. With a wave of his hand he disappeared with his class down the corridor, back to his world as we made our way back to car and ours.

It’s a good thing, I think, to visit each other’s world once in a while, to know how they spend their day, see that they are happy and well looked after, and , of course, to get a few extra hugs for the road.

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: I Walk the Line: Love Will Keep Us Together

Daily Prompt: I Walk the Line

Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life?

As I have written before, I have two precepts I follow in life. One is to love one another, the other to do unto others, as I would like others to do unto me. They may seem too simple at first glance, but they can take a lifetime of practice to achieve.

Let’s look at the first one – love one another.  Some of the others may be easy to love – our parents, siblings, spouse and children are hopefully on this list. But what about that mean boss we have at work, that workmate who tries to make us look bad, the teacher who makes us feel inadequate, the classmates who bully us? Can we truly learn to love these people? As I said earlier, what seems so simple a statement is actually quite complex.

The key is to look beneath the layers – the personas people adopt for a variety of reasons. Most likely they experienced a lack of love themselves, somewhere in life; perhaps they act as they do because that is what or how they were taught; perhaps there are biological reasons for their actions – brain injury or psychological  disorders. If we try to peel away the layers and reach the core of a person like this, we will find a lost soul, confused and abused and acting as they do because they know no other way. Even if we can’t change them or cure them, we can understand and have empathy for these lost souls, and we can succeed in loving one another.

With the second precept, unless one is a total masochist who wants to be abused and treated badly, we desire to be treated fairly, to love and be loved, to be accepted and cared for, appreciated and needed.  To receive these desires one must transmit these desires to others – as in karma, what goes around comes around.  If we approach others with understanding rather than judgment, with kindness rather than hate, we are following this precept. If we think about how we like to be treated and carry it forth into the world, love will find a way in and spread throughout. To make changes in the world we each have to be the change; to be loved, we each have to love one another.

It is as simple and as difficult as that,

I will repost my favorite poem that reflects these  thoughts:

He drew a circle that shut me out-

Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In !

– by Edwin Markham

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/Daily Prompt: Our House

Daily Prompt : Our House   What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall. 

The house I grew up in…1319 Ringwood Avenue, Haskell, NJ.It was an old house, even back then, in 1953.Photo_0039_3 It was a two story house with a screened front porch, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, a big country kitchen, living room and a semi-finished basement.  It had a front “parlor” designated for receiving guests, but we were much more casual a family, and everyone gravitated  to my mother’s warm, friendly kitchen. In later years, my father knocked down the wall separating the living room and the parlor, into one large family room.IMG_0003

The three bedrooms were all upstairs, so if we needed to use the facilities, we had to go downstairs through the living room and into the kitchen. The bathroom was located off the kitchen and contained a commode, sink and  a shower. We had no bathtub, and when we were little we were bathed in the kitchen sink!IMG_0001 The tile behind me in the picture was red as was the ceiling. Thus it became known ad Mom’s red kitchen. You can see the red ceiling in this next picture, of a common occurrence at our house -guests.IMG_0004 My mother was one of nine children and her mother, our grandma,  lived next door, so there was  a steady stream of visitors for birthdays, holidays, or to play cards on a Saturday night. The door was always open at Jack and Ann’s. Our friends were always welcome , too. The basement evolved from a playroom for little ones, to a hang out spot for cousins and friends. My earliest memory of the house was sitting on the front porch on parade day – we had them for memorial day, veteran’s day,and the Fourth of July. We’d sit with our grandma, and wave to the paraders, and then later the Struble clan would descend on us for a big picnic that lasted well after the fireflies lit the night sky. Six of us lived in that house, and four of us were raised there. I left only when I married, at age 23. Somehow we all managed to take our showers,  fix our hair and put on our makeup, with only one bathroom.

Today my husband and I live in a house with 3 full baths, one  a master bath with  a big tub and separate shower. We managed to talk to our friends on one landline telephone, no cell phones in those days. By the time   we were dating, though, dad added  a phone in the basement. Despite these austere , in today’s world, circumstances, we did not feel deprived because although old  (it even had  a coal cellar for the days before oil and gas), it was filled with what counted most – love. It started with two loving people who brought up 4 great kids, filled their home with music and books, family and friends and warm memories which have stayed with me throughout my life. It’s with a smile I recall that house, the shouts and laughter of children playing in the yard, the quiet talk of grown -ups sitting on the porch on a summer’s eve, the tinkle of ice in their drinks, I can smell the turkey my dad roasted for Thanksgiving dinner, and Mom’s pumpkin pie. They were a team, my parents, their love strong and steady for nearly 50 years before he passed away . My mom will be 91 in May. She is the last of her family – so many passed on. However, it is with ease that I can close my eyes and see them all in that house  –  a house of  family, friendship,  love and treasured memories.

I am working on a memoir/scrapbook, and I wrote this prose poem for it:

The Last Stop

this is the last stop  on our tour of  historic houses of Haskell, NJ in fact, this is the last tour ever as these 8 homes are slated for deconstruction to widen the road who could have  foreseen an interstate highway in 1930? some call it progress; I prefer preserving  –  these homes and our connection to a time now past. as you can see, this first home’s primary asset is its 19thcentury charm The wide, front porch brings to mind summer days and glasses of lemonade  enjoyed by neighbors stopping in to “sit a spell” and this large, red  kitchen is, most certainly, the heart  of the  home I can almost smell the bread and pies cooling on the counter , can’t you? off the kitchen here, is the only bathroom, but I’ve been told a family of six managed just fine, living here for nearly thirty years. can you imagine that? and take a look at this big backyard, I can hear the voices of children playing tag on a warm summer’s eve, listen closely, you can hear them can’t you?

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Staying In Focus: Daily Prompt: Luckiest People/Lucky Me, Loving You

Daily Prompt: The Luckiest People

Who was the first person you encountered today? Write about him or her

The first person I saw this morning was the same person I see first most mornings, my husband of 38 years, Bill. He is the lucky one who gets to see me with my hair sticking out from my head in one place, and mashed to my skull in another place. He gets to see me before I wash my face, brush my teeth and generally make myself presentable to the world.

However, since I get up, make him an egg breakfast a few mornings a week, and pack his each workday, he chooses to look past my frightful appearance and even kiss me goodbye before he leaves for work.

I consider myself one of the luckiest people, because I have married my best friend Photo39and soul mate and the nicest guy I know. He has stood by my side during the scariest moments in my life. He was there when I experienced complications following childbirth, when I woke up after having colon surgery to remove a cancerous polyp, and sat next to me as the neurologist confirmed the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. When I dragged my feet about seeing a neurologist, he wisely reminded me that not knowing would not change anything. If it was there, it was there and we would deal with whatever the future held.

When I stressed over a job situation I found intolerable, he bought me a video of music and whales (I have a thing for whales) to calm me, and took to me to the beach that weekend.

When I joked that the perfect Christmas would be to receive a roll top desk, a fur coat (fake), and a Gone with the Wind video, he made it happen. This Christmas he gave me an official Atlanta Braves uniform shirt (I have a thing for the Braves) and a silver necklace with an Egyptian hieroglyph pendant that spells ‘ I love you.’ (Yes, I have a thing for ancient Egyptians, too). But far more meaningful than material things are the ways he makes me feel special, of his belief in me when I doubt myself.

He never complains when he is rudely awakened by my alarm going off at 6:00 AM to remind me to take my first pill of the day and by my second alarm at 7:30AM when I begin the Parkinson’s meds for the day.

He drives me where I need to go, because I no longer drive.

He took me to Alaska to see the humpback whales.IMG

He took me to Great Britain and was sure to include Stonehenge because, yes, I have a thing for Archeology.

He took me to  a Monkees Concert because, well, you know…

But above all, I have a thing for him, and always will. A few years back, I wrote him this poem, which fits nicely in with today’s prompt:

For the caring, and the sharing

and the way you kiss goodnight

for the loving and the giving                                      IMG                 

and the way you hold me tight

And for listening and supporting me

in everything I do                                                                                             IMG_0002

I wrote this poem

to simply say

lucky me, loving you!

Staying In Focus: Love is All We Need

Although 2014 has not started out as auspiciously as I had hoped, there is a certain balance to the universe that can bring us some measure of peace. One of the people I wrote about earlier, my friend’s husband, who fought a valiant fight against cancer, passed away on December 27th.  I now have four friends, who are widows far sooner than they ever expected, but their strength and courage in care giving and in facing the death of their partner in life, is a true testament to the power of love – to love them enough to let them go.

But hiding in the shadow of death and loss, is the promise of new life.  For even as my friend and her family were dealing with the loss of their beloved husband and father, their good friend received news of the birth of her new grandson.  One soul departs this world, and another soul enters it. Life goes on, renewing itself, generation after generation.  And what fuels it is love. As the Buddha said, “In the end these things matter most:  How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?”

Some of us reach a ripe old age and others are lost far too young.  We don’t know how much time we have and so we mustn’t waste it.  We must love with all our  heart for as long as we live and the universe will find its balance – a man who loved his family; a new baby surrounded by the love of family. As crazy and cruel as the world  is, I prefer to stay an optomist. Lorraine Hansberry sums it up nicely. “I wish to live because life has with it that which is good, that which is beautiful and that which is love. “  And, as those of us who grew up in the 60’s know, love is all we  need.

Focus on 9/11: We Remember

    SEPTEMBER 11, 2012   – WE REMEMBER. 
 Freedom’s Light


The towers fell as evil rained
destruction from the sky,

Our nation roused to anger 
 as we counted those who‘d died,
But the spirit of our people
 would not falter or dissolve
To eliminate this evil would
 become our firm resolve.
So we stand as one, united,
as we turn to face the night
And dispel the evil shadows
with the beam of freedom’s light
 We will not forget the fallen
 nor the families left to mourn
 We will heal the cratered cities
 and the symbols, once reborn,
Will illuminate the future with
 the message of our time:
 We stand fast against the darkness,
    let the bells of freedom chime!
                                              –  pc ‘01

Today is a somber day, and will always be so for our country.  Families are gathering as I write at the new Freedom Tower, which has risen from the ashes of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. This is the first year that no politicians will speak at the ceremony there.  It is for families of the victims only. A moment in time changed the lives of these people forever.  Who can measure the loss of  a parent or a  son or daughter in the lives of those left to mourn? It is simply incalculable.  What, really, can rhetoric and platitudes do to relieve their pain or replace their loss?

All the promises and rhetoric in the world cannot change the impact of this event on their lives, or on the lives of countless others who have lost loved ones in the wars  that have followed. Let us not forget them, or any of the young men and women who have served their country, facing situations and environments too hostile for us to even imagine. Our heartfelt thanks must go out to all of them on this day, for surely the events of 9/11 paved the path they have had to follow, paths that can be difficult and far different than they had planned.

Maybe, someday, people will live in a future free of days like 9/11.  Exactly how we get from here to there is a path still shrouded in shadow.  To shine some light on that path,  people will have to begin to let go of hate, envy and the need to force their beliefs and ideologies on others.  They’ll have to build on the similarities between us and be open to accepting  the differences. They will, simply, have to give up their pursuit of power over others, whether it be through acts of terror or threats of nuclear annihilation.

As  Marilyn French writes in her book, Beyond Power, ” We all have power–the capacity to influence, alter, affect the lives of those around us. And until all of us use our power in the public world, it will continue to be dominated by those who are driven to domination, rather than by those who wish to use power as a means to non-controlling well being,.” Later she continues, “The idea that we can transform the world may seem Utopian,  idealistic or just simple minded. But I repeat what I said before,  the world will change anyway.  It is not inconceivable that human beings can participate in forming the direction of the change…In rearranging our lives, we participate in rearranging the life of society…. the past had its moment; we have ours…All of us members of transitory generations help to create the bridge by which the past continues into the future.  But if our lives are filled with self-denial, self-punishment, empty rewards, illusory goals and the mutilations of power and obedience, then neither our lives, nor our legacy is worth the pain. Only pleasure in the journey can make the journey worthwhile; and our pleasure in our journey is a legacy to those who follow.”  And finally, she concludes, “There is no final end; there is only the doing well, being what we want to be, doing what we want to do, living in delight.  The choice lies between a life lived through and a life lived; between fragmentation and wholeness; between leaving behind us, as generations before us have done, a legacy of bitterness, sacrifice, and fear, and leaving behind us, if nothing more than this, a memory of our own being and doing with pleasure, an image of a life our young will want to emulate rather than avoid.  The choice lies between servitude and freedom, fragmentation and integration.  The choice may be between life and death. There is no choice.”

I have always clung to the belief that love will conquer hate and goodness best evil, but at some considerable cost.  Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I witnessed the unfolding of the civil rights movement, the struggle for women’s rights and equality, the Kent State massacre, the loss of life in the political quagmire that was the Vietnam War.  We,as a transitory generation, are charged with holding on to what has been won through the blood, sweat and tears of those who preceded us ,and dedicate ourselves to using our power to continue to move forward and create that bridge from past to future.

As a contrast to fearing the world is too full of hatred and greed to ever be free and open to love and a life lived with pleasure and delight, I leave you with my very favorite movie voice- over.  In the beginning of the film Love Actually, we see airline travelers arriving at Heathrow Airport, running to greet their loved ones with hugs and kisses.  We hear the voice of Hugh Grant say:

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.  General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed.  But I don’t see that.  Seems like love is everywhere. Often it is not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.

When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls of the people on board were of hate or revenge; they were all messages of love…”

.Enough said.

A Tribute to My Mother, a Cup of Tea and a Red Kitchen

I am so privileged to have had the love and companionship of my mother for such a large part of my life. Although thirty years in age separate us, we have a closeness and a friendship that transcends the years.  We both have birthdays in May, and as I turn 61, she will turn 91.  Although the years have slowed her down somewhat, she is still a force to be reckoned with.  She comes to visit and in minutes everything in my house stands a little straighter and shines a little brighter.  She can beat me in folding clothes hands down and in ironing she has no equal. Her quick hands still fashion the loveliest Barbie doll clothes, some for me (I have an extensive doll collection) and now some for her great-granddaughter.  I wish I had the foresight to preserve the clothes she made for my Barbie doll in the 1960s.  All of the clothes were stitched by hand, and she would work long into the night so that when my sister and I awoke the next morning,  our Barbies would be sitting on our dresser sporting new outfits.  While Jacqueline Kennedy was First Lady, our Barbies had a collection of pillbox hats to complete their ensemble.  My mother supported us in everything we did, volunteered at our schools, and was always home, in her red kitchen, waiting for us to return from school.

As I grew our relationship changed, but I never lost my respect for her. She became a confidante, companion and friend, and her wisdom and advice helped me through many a tough time. While in college, we would often come home from class, and sit around the kitchen table sharing our day over a cup of tea.  My mother and her red kitchen formed the heart of our home, a place of stability and comfort. I will always remember it with a heartfelt nostalgia.

My mother’s life was not without challenges.  She had several miscarriages, surgeries and a partial mastectomy from a breast cancer that returned when she was 84, requiring several weeks of radiation.  She  weathered through a long bout of painful polymyalgia, arthritis,and suffers from a heart arrhythmia. Last year a  different breast cancer led to another mastectomy. Chemo proved too hard for her body to endure and she called a  halt to it, despite the fact that the breast cancer had moved into a lung. She endures shots in her hips every month to help slow the spread of the cancer (possibly cure it).It is  a milder form of chemo, and it gives her  a few bad days afterwards but this she can tolerate.  She lost her husband (my dad) in 1994 and my older brother passed away at 53 in 1999 from a massive heart attack.

But through it all she has remained strong and a great inspiration to all who know her.  Her tenacity and positive view on life have helped me meet my challenges with cancer and Parkinson’s disease.When she visits we often do crafts together, shop a little, share what’s going on in our lives.  On a recent visit she brought albums from her early life and  as we gazed at pictures of her past, she told me stories about her life back then.  Bittersweet stories, because although she can envision them as if it were yesterday, of her parents, seven brothers and one sister, only she remains..

My mother is one of the kindest, compassionate individuals I have ever known.  Yet there’s strength and courage there as well.   She is my friend, my teacher, my heart.  She is my mother. And I love her.

The Red Kitchen

  • at the kitchen table on a warm fall afternoon
  • rays of golden sunlight suffuse the cheery room
  • I sip my mug of tea while mom and I discuss
  • all the happenings that day
  • and that is why I have to say
  • this kitchen(which is painted red)
  • is our home’s heart, our binding thread;
  • and when my thoughts begin to roam
  • I often envision my childhood home
  • and I see my mom waiting there
  • with a cup of tea to ease my cares
  • in that red kitchen, they remain a part
  • of my center and of my heart
  •                  –pc 2012