Staying in Focus: Meditation and Mandalas



2018 began as a high stress year for us, beginning with my husband’s diagnosis of prostate cancer. In preparation for the radiation therapy he would receive, he underwent a procedure to place three gold markers in his prostate.

A few days later he developed an e-coli infection in his blood, which landed him in the hospital for three days. It could have been worse, but the hospital staff was on the ball, and started him on antibiotics immediately. Needless to say, my anxiety levels were on 24-hour alert.

Fortunately, I had developed a system for dealing with anxiety, as part of my regimen in handling my Parkinson’s disease. This is a simple system, no drugs required, consisting of Meditation and Mandalas.

My meditation is based on calming my mind and body with relaxed breathing and the repetition of two lines of a poem I wrote and use as a mantra.

Let It Go

I take a breath, I let it go
I feel the calm, I let it flow
I embrace the moment, I am still
I let gentle peace my spirit fill
I clear my thoughts, now is the time
To silence fears within my mind
I can cope with this I know
I take a breath, I let it go…

I will repeat this poem several times, and then, as I feel the calm flow over me, I’ll use the last two sentences as a mantra.

I enjoy all types of coloring books, but my favorite for calming my nerves and reducing stress are the mandalas. I have posted in the past about how stress-reducing it is to color. For years the only good coloring books for adults were available in museum stores. A few years ago, however, it was discovered how stress relieving coloring can be and suddenly there were coloring books everywhere – from bookstores to the check-out counters in grocery stores and pharmacies.

The word mandala means “circle” and they represent our connection to the universe. Coloring a mandala is a soothing process, and once I have completed coloring it, I can use it as a focus point in meditation. As I gaze at the mandala, I focus on the colors and patterns, and this helps me to clear my mind of fears and anxieties. When troublesome thoughts arise to distract me, I gaze again at the beautiful colors in my mandala and continue with my meditation.

Choosing colors for my mandalas is the artistic part of the process. I usually use 5 to 6 colors, and try to balance cool and warm colors, and a complementary or contrasting color as well. Then it is just a matter of coloring in the pattern.  A color wheel can be helpful with this step. I find that Prismacolor pencils provide a rich, saturated finish. A good pencil sharpener is vital as pencil points must be sharp to fill in small areas. An interesting  thing about coloring mandalas is that you really don’t know how it will look when it is done. As more and more of the pattern is colored, the image grows brighter and more vibrant.

The next time you have a lot of stress to relieve, give coloring mandalas and meditation a try.  Thankfully, my husband is almost finished with his radiation treatment. and my stress levels have eased. Now I can color for the sheer fun of it, but I’ve worn some of my favorite colored pencils down to the nib.  I’d better stock up because I just ordered 3 new mandala books from Amazon. It always pays to be prepared…



Staying in Focus: Angels in the House

May you have angels to guide you

And stay close beside you

Each day of the new year to come

May they all gather round you

And gently surround you

With blessings of peace

And of love. -pc 2001


My favorite part of decorating the house for Christmas is trimming the trees. We have two, one of which is an angel tree. I am always on the prowl for new and unusual angels for our tree. Here are my favorites:


Cotton Boll Angel

Woodsy Angel

Woodsy Angel


Our Angel Tree


abstract angel


Pine Cone Angel



Angel on a swing


Angel Mouse


Crystal Angel


Golden  Angel


Emerald Angel (my birthstone)


Folk Art Angel


Snowman Angel


Spun Glass Angel


Lollipop Angel


Baby Angel


Pasta Angel

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Good Time

 Daily Prompt:Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

IMG_8549 IMG_8563


a path of gold from the sun to me You have to see this place!

IMG_8485 IMG_8578

I awaken just before sunrise, after a good night’s sleep free of the crazy, Technicolor dreams induced by my medications. I get out of bed, quietly tiptoe across the room, and peek out between the drapes. The sun has just cleared the horizon and the beautiful hues of pink and orange sunrise dance across the waters toward my feet. As I take pictures of the beautiful scene, I enjoy total silence – no one would believe thousands of people surround me. As the sunrises, it reveals mountains covered with snow, their lofty peaks shrouded in mists. Small icebergs float by, jewels of aquamarine. Slightly ahead and off to the right, I am treated to the breaching of a humpback whale.

The day that has just begun will be filled with amazing scenery, more whale watching, maybe exploring a coastal town, say Juneau  or Sitka, followed by a delicious dinner, an evening’s entertainment, maybe some trivia in one of lounges. The sun is unwilling to set in this Land of the Midnight Sun and we are reluctant to stop for the day because this is an imaginary day and tomorrow reality returns.

I am reminded of a scene in the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray, trapped in time and made to repeat Groundhog Day again and again recalls a far better day in his past life and says,  “… that was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I have that day to live over and over…”

I try, on special days like these, to be present, in the moment, but as hard as I try, the day slips away, leaving only memories. I look at the pictures I have taken on such special days, and think to myself, was I really there?  Why didn’t I pay more attention? But I can close my eye and remember all the beautiful places I’ve seen and one of the most beautiful is Alaska. As I hold to the adage, “Think Big!” I could think of nothing bigger or more  beautiful, than spending my imaginary day in Alaska.  The following is  a poem I wrote following my visit to Alaska in 2012.

This one is a sestina.  It has 6 verses and each sentence of each verse must end in one of six words.  I chose; Alaska, glaciers, aquamarine, paradise, mountains, whales.  In each verse these words move around according to a preset form.  It ends with a tercet (3 lines) and in each of those lines are two of the six words. It is a form of poetry that uses repetition.

And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a pristine wilderness, wild and untamed,  a place called Alaska

a land of bears and  bald eagles;  graced with icy glaciers

and did I mention the water is aquamarine?

our ship slowly starts passage into the fjord, a slim slice of paradise

we pass the silent sentinels,  the mighty mountains,

a sudden disturbance in the water;  we are in the company of whales

we spy a spout of steam,  a telltale sign, we watch for the whales

in summer, they come to feed on small fish off the coast of Alaska

fresh water runs in rivers from the melting snows of the mountains

slowly they move, ages old, ever changing,  grinding rock and ice, the glaciers

glow on a rare sunny day in July. We are thankful to be here in such a paradise

enchanted,  we watch the sunlight sparkle on waters of aquamarine

this is a color rarely seen – a translucent version of aquamarine

so pretty when it swirls, and suddenly,  there appear two killer whales

azure skies, the brilliant sun, running waters, crystal ice, this is my paradise

and a dream come true – long have I waited to come to Alaska

to see blue ice glowing in the fissures of the glaciers

and marvel at the snow- capped peaks of lofty, rugged  mountains

beaches are fine, but take me to the mountains

especially those that surround waters of aquamarine

crack! the sound echoes, as  ice splits from the glaciers

in the gold of the setting sun, the breach of a whale

I’ll forever remember the unrestrained beauty –Alaska

has all the facets of a true paradise

I walk in the beauty of this wilderness paradise

where wisps of fog conceal the tops of the mountains,

the leaves strung with pearls of morning dew.  Of Alaska,

I’ll always remember that incredible shade of aquamarine

and that sound in the night – the exhaling  breath of a whale

and those blue icebergs sailing by,  spawned by the glaciers

despite their age, there is a fragile beauty in the glaciers,

which is woven in the fabric of this natural paradise

I can hear it calling to me in the singing of the whales

as it  echoes through the canyons of the waiting mountains

and reflects in the waters of aquamarine

it’s a song of the wilderness,  – the song of Alaska

I came in search of whales, and the snow-capped mountains,

which rise in silhouette above the glacier icefields, in a paradise,

a dream taken form in aquamarine – Alaska.

Focus on Saturday

I watch as the morning light 
vanquishes the darkness
followed by the sunrise
it beckons forth the nesting birds
inviting them to flight and song
and I am graced with the beauty of another day. 
                                          — pc 2012 

II appreciate all of the seven days that make up a week, but most of all I love Saturdays. (For those of you who must  work on Saturday, just substitute the day of the week you have off as you read this).  I know  for health reasons we are supposed to get up the same time everyday, but  there is no way we’re setting that alarm clock to go off at 5:30 AM on a Saturday morning!

How much better it is  to wake up and see sunlight streaming through the window, beckoning us forth to arise and start the day.   A day that can be anything we want it to be. A Freedom of Choice Day. That’s what makes Saturdays special.  The freedom to choose how to spend the day, no deadlines or time clocks, schedules or meetings.

One of my favorite things to do after I wake up on Saturdays, is just stay there in bed for a while and read!  Since reading is one of my favorite past times, browsing the bookstore is a  Saturday activity I really enjoy. Unfortunately, I do have to impose a time limit here, because otherwise, I’d still be there when the sun sets!  So my husband drags me out of the store, and I go home, get a glass of lemonade and head to the porch where a lounge chair awaits, and I check out my treasures.

Although I could  happily spend  the day this way, there are other things calling to me .  My camera sits lonesome, its empty viewfinder waiting for something interesting to fill it.  There is that scrapbook I’m working on, a painting I’ve started,  a poem to write, my garden to play in, a walk to take around the neighborhood with my husband, or perhaps a longer hike around a nearby lake, or the Hemlock Bluffs not far from our house. Now that walking is easier for me, I want to enjoy it while I can.

The great thing about Saturdays is that, although the activities you can do are many, you don’t have to do them if you don’t want to.  You can pick and choose as the spirit moves you.  Saturday is a great day to meet a friend for lunch, or indulge yourself with a manicure or even a massage.  The possibilities are endless.   Unfortunately, Saturdays are not.  A mere 24 hours, some of them spent sleeping, and before you know it, it’s gone – for six long days.

So I would like to make a proposal to Congress, to discard Wednesday,and call it Saturday A, followed by Saturday B in its regular spot in the line-up..  Wouldn’t it be great to have a Saturday in the middle of the week?  Of course, given the name  Saturday, it would carry the same privileges as Saturday B  — a  Freedom of Choice Day.  You can work if you want to.  Or you can chill out at home and barbecue some burgers for lunch. It would be nicely balanced with 2 workdays before, and 2 after.  And you’d have three days off if you so choose.  Remember, Saturdays are Freedom of Choice Days, so it’s up to you (and your boss).

However, if Wednesday holds a nostalgic place in your hearts (kind of like Pluto), we could follow the Beatles and have Eight Days A Week.  There would still be 3 days off, but you’d  have to work 5.  Most employers will opt for this one, I think.

We’d have to get the rest of the world behind this one or air travel would become more convoluted than it already is.  And we’d  have to redo our calendars. It’s a good thing the Mayan calendar runs out in December. That one would be a dog to reconfigure.  Unless they already have two Saturdays a week. They were very smart, you know..

But who would turn down two Saturdays a week? Should be an easy sell

Now, I know Congress can do this because they’ve already been messing around with time, making us change our clocks on arbitrary days,,  to move the daylight around for whatever reason.  I suspect it’s so they have time for a round of golf after a hard day of failing to pass any meaningful legislation, (but that’s another post for another time).

So let’s give Wednesday the boot! Or add an extra day to the week.  I’m up for either choice.  Write your congressmen!  Consult the Mayans.  Then grab a book and join me on the porch.  The lemonade is cold.  Bring some burgers.!

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


The other day I was working with my camera , completing an assignment for an online course I am taking in Travel Photography  This is in preparation for a cruise to Alaska we plan to take this summer.   The assignment required use of a macro lens – a lens for close in focus. The lens I was using also had wide-angle capacity .In other words it could both focus in closely, and clearly see the bigger picture as well..  This got me to thinking about how we can , like the lens, focus in on the smaller aspects of everyday life and still have an effect on the larger canvas of our lives.

For instance, living life one day at a time, taking one step after the other, can in the long run have great impact on our lives.  We can put aside worry about the future, and truly enjoy this moment, now.  We can focus on the important things — spending time with family, playing with the grandchildren, truly enjoying a good dinner, sweet treat, an evening sunset.   A playful approach to life, can reduce stress, ease depression and just make life worth living.

Taking medication properly, eating wisely, exercising regularly all add up, day by day, to positive changes that  can alter the landscape of our lives. Of course, as the saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, so try to avoid getting mired in minutia to the point of losing forward momentum.  That’s the time to turn the focus back a little and move on.

There is so much to enjoy  in life, whether it be through the close in focus, or the wide open viewpoint.  A quiet morning snuggling in bed with your little one,is every bit as precious as winning the Pulitzer Prize.  Photographing a butterfly resting on a flower is no less wondrous than exploring the glaciers of Alaska.  It’s both the little and the large that combine to create the tapestry of our lives.

.                         Tapestry

  • we seek to know what it means
  • \we fill our lives with hopes and dreams
  • we mark times passing, day by day
  • and tell our stories along the way
  • we weave the tale, the warp and woof
  • and in the weaving reveal the truth
  • of who were are and what it means
  • it’s to fulfill the hopes and dreams
  •                                pc 1997

Let It Go

Quote for today: You gain strength and courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

One of my favorite tools to handle anxiety is a simple poem I wrote to calm myself before social activities and doctor’s appointments:

I take a breath/I let it go/I feel the calm/I let it flow/I embrace the moment/all is still/I let gentle peace my spirit fill/ I clear my thoughts/ now is the time/to banish fears within my mind//I can cope with this I know/I take a breath/I let it go