Staying in Focus: Home From the Holidays

The holiday season was a full and busy one this year. In addition to the holiday festivities, we had a wedding to attend in Hamilton, NY, on January 2nd. We celebrated Christmas here at home with my side of the family, and then departed for the wedding on Dec 28th. We stopped by in Wayne, NJ, to visit and celebrate Christmas together with the Coyle side of the family, before we continued on to NY, where we stayed for three nights, celebrating New Year’s Eve and the wedding of our nephew and new niece, Matt and Whitney. We started our journey home on the 3rd and arrived here on the 4th. Unfortunately, our son, Kevin,

had a gallbladder attack at the hotel on our way home, suffering with severe pain through most of the night.  We were so ready by this time to just get home. It took me nearly a week to take down the Christmas decorations, but I can now say we have returned home from the holidays.

We had much to be thankful for this Christmas season. Both my mother and my brother had PET scans just before the holiday, and were found to be cancer free. My niece’s preemie baby is doing well, now reaching 6 lbs. Baby Ben began life at 1.6 lbs. on Sept. 25. We hope he will be able to leave the hospital soon, and join his parents and big sister, Juliana, in their new home in NJ. Kevin was checked out by the doctor, and thankfully he does not need surgery, but must follow a strict diet.

The wedding in NY was lovely, and mother nature cooperated by keeping the impact of bad weather to a minimum. We had snow showers every day, but little accumulation. One night was a bit icy, and it was cold, but that was about the worst of it.  It is so heartening to see two young people in love, looking forward to their lives together, the endless possibilities and so much to share. Their wedding ceremony was very personalized and everything came together for them as planned. We wish them all the best. (And anyone out there planning a wedding and needing a song for your first dance, Rose of my Heart by Johnny Cash will not leave a dry eye in the room.)

Despite the cold, we found the town of Hamilton quite charming. We stayed at the Colgate Inn – a historic hotel in the center of town. Across the street is a lovely village green, and we took a walk in the gently falling snow to Colgate University and enjoyed its rustic setting. With the Christmas decorations still in place, the town could have been the setting for It’s a Wonderful LIfe. From the window of the hotel, looking out over the village green, we almost expected to see the villagers heading to the park to celebrate Groundhog Day! Were Jimmy Stewart or Bill Murray and Andie McDowell to walk by us, we wouldn’t have been surprised.

I love the architecture of the houses in upstate New York.  There is something about them that harken back to a time of small town living, festivals in the village green, the kids bundled up in snowsuits, scarves and colorful red mittens. I’m sure that somewhere in this small village was the perfect hill for snow sledding and a pond for ice skating. Now if we could just find a town like that, in a little warmer climate, with low taxes and a big city nearby for medical care, we’d be there in a heartbeat. Any suggestions?


Rose of My Heart




Staying in Focus: Focus On: Thirty-nine and Counting

Thirty-nine years ago, Bill and I were standing at the altar in St. Francis of Assisi Church, where, in front of family and friends, we made our vows and began our life together. Thirty-nine years and counting. We never envisioned on that day, where the road we’d chosen to follow together would lead. And life, like a road, has its twists and turns, but if you navigate therm together, you find your way.

Our way included two babies (now grown men); two grand children, whom we love completely; many good friends; 5 different houses; a move from the northeast to the southeast; jobs in engineering, software and education; a published book; many trips to the  Poconos, where we honey-mooned all those years ago; cruises to Alaska, the British Isles, Germany and Scandinavia and many celebrations  with family and friends – birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings and new babies.

We faced the bumps in the road together –  illness; changing jobs and guiding the boys through pitfalls in their lives. We’ve mourned loved ones who have died, and support our family and friends through their challenges as best we can. All of these, the agonies and the ecstasies, are part and parcel of life, but things we could not envision on this day thirty-nine years ago. I know I had no vision of myself, or Bill, at 62 and  63 years old and grandparents to boot.

I don’t know why some marriages last a lifetime, or why others fail completely, but I do know that from the moment we made our vows, we approached whatever life brought us, together. The decisions we made, the problems that arose, the changes we considered – we dealt with them  together. He is always there for me; I am always there for him.

Thanks, Bill, for being there, my rock and my inspiration, and the love of my life. Think we can make it 39 more?:)

Happy Anniversary #39!


That was then

This is now

This is now


Staying in Focus: Focus On: Windows and Wheels

When I had shot enough pictures of historic buildings, statues, cities and the like on our cruise to Scandinavia recently, I focused in on taking photographs that conveyed the mood or feeling of a place, or represented a unique form or pattern, something perhaps a bit more abstract or symbolic, yet rooted in simplicity.

Two major themes emerged from this activity. One, the enormous number of people who ride bicycles instead of driving cars and the number of windows I gazed at, as we traversed the city streets. Perhaps because the winters are long and dark  in the Scandinavian countries, they welcome the light for as long as they have it. Midsummer is a time for celebration in these nations. We were told that the week before we arrived it was cold, and this week was their summer, arriving late but most welcome for as long as it lasts. I noticed that in most every window in the vast number of apartment buildings we passed,there was a plant, either sitting on a windowsill, or hanging from the ceiling nearby. Geraniums seemed to be a popular choice.

I’ve always liked windows. You can look out at the world through a window from your safe and cozy home, or look inside from the world into a sanctuary beyond. When I was young, I remember riding in my father’s car at night, and looking at the windows in the houses we passed, spilling warm yellow light into the darkness. I would wonder what the people living there were doing. Were they gathered around the dinner table, or, perhaps, watching TV in the living room? Or in the city, where here and there in an office building, the light streams out of a window, someone working late or in no hurry to leave.Some people have large windows, open to the world, while others like to draw the drapes or close the blinds, creating a cozy haven from the outside. Either way, inside or out, windows frame our vie w of the world.

Riding the bicycles serve several purposes. First, they are a lot cheaper to use than cars. With a value added tax of 25% in most of the Scandinavian countries, cars are prohibitively expensive, It also helps to lessen the traffic jams. In some cities there is a fee for driving a car into the city. It also helps to lessen their carbon footprint. These nations are dedicated to protecting their environment. Their cities are filled with green areas, parks and trees. Wind turbines are a common sight both on land and sea

Anyway, here are a few of my artistic attempts to focus in:IMG_4912aIMG_5323aIMG_5318a IMG_4980.ajpg

IMG_6084IMG_5019.ajpgIMG_5706IMG_5703IMG_5700IMG_5710IMG_5677IMG_5687IMG_5663aIMG_5134IMG_4835a IMG_4854 IMG_4901a

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: The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Signs

The Daily Post: 


This week, publish an image of a sign — from the signs you encounter on the street to more personal, less obvious signs that hold meaning for you.

We took some pictures of signs during our visit to Great Britain last year, because they were so properly British. I love the more colorful words the Brits use to describe things than the ones we use.

Rather than merge,which sounds rather chaotic, this sign in Guernsey instructs drivers to  "filter", a much more civilized-sounding process.

Rather than merge, which sounds rather chaotic, this sign in Guernsey instructs drivers to “filter”, a much more civilized-sounding process.

To save the lives of tourists, this sign reminds us to look right, rather than our inclination to look left.

To save the lives of tourists, this sign reminds us to look right, rather than our inclination to look left.when crossing a street.

This is my favorite. A zebra crossing is like the one in the second picture. A humped zebra crossing is one with what we would call a speed bump.

This is my favorite. A zebra crossing is like the one in the second picture. A humped zebra crossing is one with what we would call a speed bump.

Staying in Focus: My Eye Upon the World

I didn’t get this polished and finished for writing 101, but wanted to share it anyway. The topic was to write about my most valued possession.

If I had to choose my most valued possession, I’d have to say it is my camera. Not that my camera is an expensive, professional piece of equipment, by any means.  It is a digital camera, a Canon Rebel XSi and I have several lenses for it including  a large telephoto lens. It takes excellent pictures. I consider this camera. or any camera that I’ve had over the years, my most valued possession because it is my eye on the world. It is through the lens of this camera that I define my world, from the big picture the smallest details. It captures those fleeting moments my eyes fail to see and it preserves memories in the pictures I take, giving me a visual record of my life, from childhood to senior citizen.(Now that is  a lot of pictures! ) My camera is the first thing I grab when it starts to snow, or a butterfly alights on a nearby bush. IMG_8548a Photo05_3I keep it close at hand to catch the light from the setting sun as it paints the color of the houses across the street a rosy glow.

a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

It was my camera that witnessed with me my first sunrise at sea in the waters off the coast of Alaska.  It caught the plume from a humpback whale, and the play of light over the ocean off the coast of Scotland. From majestic mountains to a close up of a flower petalIMG_0015 - Copy, from cloud formations to bubbles in the sky, my camera and I make art where we find it, preserve memories as they happen, inspire my poetry and essays to Photo01_1 Photo01_2 - Copy Photo02_1 - Copy - Copyshare with my readers. I first became interested in photography when I received a Kodak Brownie camera for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. My family began taking road trips when I was twelve, and each summer we travelled the USA, Canada and Mexico. My little camera got a lot of use. In my teens I had a rangefinder camera, but it wasn’t until I was married that I received my first SLR from my husband for Christmas. I still believe that camera, a Canon Rebel G,took the best pictures of all. I was leery of all this digital stuff taking over the world, but now I wouldn’t go back for anything. Digital cameras are amazing. Within minutes of returning home from vacation, I have my photos downloaded into my laptop, uploaded to Facebook, WordPress and Snapfish. I can run off albums using Photoshop Elements 10, make calendars and books on Snapfish, and have 8 x 10 s framed and displayed before bedtime. I haven’t really explored photography using smart phone or my Kindle Fire HD-X tablet but I imagine technology will nudge me in that direction sooner or later. Someday when I may have forgotten much of my life experience, someone might slip a book of my photos on my lap and the pictures in it may spark a memory here and there. My camera, my eye upon the world, is valuable to me because it  has helped me leave a legacy, a story in photographs of one who lived and what she loved. Here are a few more reasons my camera is my most valuable possession. IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMGa IMG_0003aIMG_256a5IMG_2893IMG_3067stonehenge







Staying in Focus: Finding Peace Among the Flowers

Our  friends have been under a great deal of stress lately, so we  decided to take them to Duke Gardens and hang out with the ducks and the pretty flowers. It was a beautiful day for the first of June, bright sunshine , blue sky, no humidity. We walked under a canopy of tree branches, shady and cool, around a pond filled with ducks and white swans with black necks. We sat on a stone bench and just listened to the birdsong. We all felt much more relaxed after our mini vacation from the stresses of life.

This wooded path reminded me of a poem I had written years ago while visiting poet Carl Sandburg’s home, Connemara


Follow the shady path around the pond.

Follow the shady path around the pond.










Beneath the leafy canopy

I walk each summer’s day

I pause along the woodland path

and watch the shadows play

As sunlight filters through the trees

and gentle breezes kiss my face

I know I’ve found a refuge here,

A woodland home, a sacred place


And this picture of the lake  brought to mind this one:









Still Waters

The placid waters of the lake

reflect the leaves of green

My thoughts lie calm, like waters still

my spirit is serene

I let fly loose the tension, then,

let go the stress and pain

and in my mind and in my soul

I feel at peace again.


I invite you to take a virtual tour today, let go the stress and  find peace among the flowers.



A family of geese out for an afternoon swim



Swan in black  and white


These hostas look like they were hand painted – I guess they were – by mother nature!

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Focus On: Bubbles

I never know where the inspiration for a new post is going to come from.  Who would have guessed it would come from a small plastic invention I purchased for my grandchildren for Easter? The worth of this little invention is immediately apparent to any grandparent  shanghaied into blowing bubbles for their grandchildren to chase,  for what seems like hours at a time. Now, instead of ordering an oxygen machine, grandparents can sit back, and with the flip of a switch, breathe easy as this little machine spits out a gazillion bubbles at a time.

In addition, as anyone who has ever spent a lazy summer afternoon blowing bubbles as  a child knows, it is one of life’s great de-stressors.  There’s something about watching  these little globes of psychedelic colored soap float effortlessly up into the sky and disappear that has a calming effect on us. And bubble attraction is ageless, as this photo of Gavin and Great- Nana found when playing with bubbles recently.

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With this clever little machine, you can become  a part of the show, as it spits bubbles out so fast you are literally surrounded by them, amazed at their delicate beauty. I don’t know why, but I feel the presence of faerie folk when surrounded by bubbles.Something not exactly of this world. Where do those bubbles go when they climb into the sky?

bubbles take to the sky

bubbles take to the sky

Bubbles also have an important lesson to teach. No matter how short an existence, how delicate a nature, how basic a design, one can bring beauty to the world in  ways as simple as a small bubble sitting on a rock wall. You see, as soon as I purchased this wonderful invention, the photographer inside me shook free of its winter stupor and encouraged me to grab my camera and show just how much fun people at any age can enjoy bubbles. Enjoy my bubble adventure!

It's raining bubbles!

It’s raining bubbles!

a bubble armada

a bubble armada

crystal clear view

crystal clear view

Bubbles in the sunBubbles in the sun

Bubble Christmas lights

Bubble Christmas lights

Butterfly bubble

Butterfly bubble

Another thrill seeker on the edge

Another thrill seeker on the edge

bubbles on the edge

bubbles on the edge

bubbles on patiobubbles on patio

bubbles at restbubbles at rest

Staying in Focus: Good News, Endings and Beginnnings

Great  news today from my oncologist — nothing to worry about in regard to the nodules on my lungs that showed up on my recent cardiac scan.  Big sigh of relief.  I’ll see him again in 6 months to follow up on that.  More good news, I don’ t have to have another colonoscopy until December of next year.  I thought I had to have one in January.  One of the aspects of these rather  dubious “Golden Years” are the never ending series of doctor appointments and test we get to schedule.  I’ve just realized that is why we retire.  No time to work when you’re running to and from doctors all week.

I finished my poetry class . I was really sad to see this one end.  It was such a supportive and instructive class.  I met some wonderful poets in this class.  It was interesting to see how the prompts for the exercises were interpreted by each person, as each person had their own story to tell and so the styles were quite varied in tone and point of view. Its
amazing how quickly you  can form a relationship with other people, even if it’s one  destined to be brief. Our Instructor cleverly created a classroom atmosphere even though we were separated by time and distance.  But as always, where something ends, another something begins..

Now I am contemplating taking  a course in writing the story of my life.  I really enjoyed the prose poems in my poetry class and since I discovered my “niche” in poetry to be family/memories, I thought this would give me material for my poetry as well. The next class starts on Nov. 14th. There is certainly no end to the things you can learn.

Despite the cold, windy, rather dismal week we had for vacation last week, I was  still able to take some nice shots of an overcast autumn journey up the I 95 Corridor:

A Pennsylvania Farmhouse

Extreme Fall Color

Bridge in VIrginia

Close Up on Autumn Color