snow

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

 

 

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Staying in Focus: A Little Bit of Winter

Although it has been a cold winter here in NC, we have escaped the relentless pounding the northern states have taken in regards to snow. Fortunately, when our temps have dropped, the weather has been cloudy, but dry; when the weather has been wet, the temperature has been mild.

Until this week, when winter decided to pay a visit to NC. And wouldn’t  you know, it picked the day we had to drive our son up to the airport for a business trip to San Francisco.The first weather event was a “wintry mix”, which turned out to be lots of sleet and fortunately, less freezing rain than predicted. As our son’s flight was to depart before dawn, we were up half the night waiting to see if his flight would be cancelled. The plane which would eventually take him to California was on its way when winter was busy painting our roads with a nice, thick cover of icy white sleet. The plane had almost made it to Durham, when it was diverted to Pittsburgh. So we caught a little sleep and his departure was set for later in the day and were able to slog our way to the airport and see him off to  San Francisco, where he is enjoying weather in the high 60s.

Meanwhile, we experienced our second bout of “winter” with about 30 minutes of a rather pretty snowfall yesterday, and a plunge into near record breaking cold for our region. However, high spirits will be lifted this weekend when tempsIMG_4309 IMG_4323 reach the 50s, which is about average for this time of the year.

The weather had one upside, however, in that I finally ha something interesting to photograph.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Object:Staying in Focus

Weekly Photo Challenge: Object This week we had a rare event in North Carolina – it snowed. Anxious to see if there was anything interesting to take a picture of, I was up and about just as the sun rose. My gazing globe caught my eye and I thought that maybe it was reflecting the snow. Imagine my delight when it caught the sun just as the clouds parted and the sun appeared amidst bands of pink, orange, and blue. I’ve learned over the years to always have my camera ready because the next great picture  is just over the horizon, or reflected in a gazing globe on a snowy morning in midwinter. IMG_2565

Staying in Focus: Fun with Gazing Balls

I enjoyed taking the pictures of my gazing ball reflecting that beautiful sunrise after the snowfall yesterday. This one is my favorite. TIMG_2565he pink band of the sunrise is glowing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Today I decided to have more fun with the ball and see what it was displaying with the sun shining. Here’s what I got:IMG_2590         A lot more blue from the sky and  a

tiny sun captured inside. In the next one, instead of standing where I’d blend in with the shadows , I put myself into the scene.

IMG_2592.ajpg I look like I’m walking on the sands of an alien planet with two suns rising behind me!

The Gazing Ball

Is this gazing ball a door into a far-off place? somewhere  far above and beyond  time and space?

within its fragile form

through the heavens I

explore

with crystal clear clarity

in a gazing ball ‘s view of reality.  -pc 2014

Staying in Focus: Southern Snow

They started a few days ago,those prognosticators of weather. Uncertain as to the timing of the cold air and some rain, they were cautious in their forecasts. But yesterday those computer models began to agree that we would see some light snow. And so we did. So light in fact, that the front yard had no snow when I went out at 9;00 AM, but in the backyard we had a typical Southern snowfall. Not enough snow to make a snowman, but enough to nudge the imagination.

Southern Snow

In the north,  snowflakes fly fast

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Entenmann’s crumb cake, anyone?

for weeks the mounds of snow can last

but in the south, our snow is light

falling like feathers in the night

it doesn’t last for very long

for soon the sun will sing its song

and so bring forth a brand new day

as it melts our Southern  snow away.

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coconut frosting

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a frosty bird house

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flag of Nicaragua

pc 2014

Staying in Focus: New Beginnings, Resolutions and a Touch of Nostalgia

My kindergarten class of 1959

My kindergarten class of 1959 I’m in the first line, first child on the left

One thing I always associate with the new year is a new journal, filled with empty pages just waiting for me to fill with my thoughts, dreams, fears, hopes and challenges.  I think it hearkens back to the first day of school and a black and white composition book, shiny and new, pages crisp and clean, waiting to be filled with handwriting exercises and homework lessons. By the time the book was filled, the covers were worn around the edges, dog-eared and dog tired.  They had served their purpose, their work done. Or maybe not.  Maybe, they can serve as inspiration for a blog post 55 years later!

For believe it or not, I actually have three of my very first black and white composition books from kindergarten (1958).  These books are more black and sepia-toned now, as they are 55 years old.

my kindergarten composition books

Here they are,  my very first composition books! I actually still use black and whites for my “morning pages”, freewriting exercises to get the creative juices flowing. I’m glad, however, that these exercises are not being graded for either handwriting or content.  One of the challenges i have with Parkinson’s disease is keeping

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my handwriting legible. Perhaps if I wrote in letters as large as these , I would be more successful.  My kindergarten teacher obviously had a sense of humor when she chose  quotes for us to copy. She sure needed a sense of humor as there were 65 children in my kindergarten class!IMG_9867

I certainly hope I passed this test! I assume it was a test on writing my name, not on knowing it!

I try to write carefully as I begin a new   journal, to start off with positive thoughts, hoping it will set the tone for the new year.  I wait a few days to spell out my resolutions, trying to be honest, but not set myself up for failure. It’s disconcerting to look back in December at those January resolutions and realize I didn’t accomplish any of them!  Better to start with small, reachable goals and add to them as the year goes on.  When I was in college and taking teaching courses, we learned to write specific, measurable goals when writing lesson plans.  Also a  good plan to follow when listing resolutions.  A resolution to lose 50 pounds this year is far more daunting than to resolve to lose 12 pounds by spring, then 12 by summer, etc. The same goes for writing.  Instead of resolving to write the Great American Novel this year, I can resolve to write a page a day, and have 365 pages complete by the end of the year.  I have to see progress to stick with things, so I try to guarantee that when setting my goals.  So much better to find I’ve exceeded my expectations, than to have failed them!

A new year, like a new pair of shoes, needs to broken in gently.  I tend to take things one day at a time lately, and so I intend to enjoy what January may have to offer.  Cold days can be warmed with a bowl of hot soup, a cup of tea and one of those great books I received for Christmas.  When I get a new book by an author I love, I often put off reading it, savoring the anticipation of reading it.  A cold, dreary winter day may be just the right time.

After New Year’s Day, there are no other big holidays in January.   I find that comforting after the big Christmas rush. Things get  back to normal, time to take a breath and relax .January can be a time to plan – for spring planting, summer vacation, visits with family and friends.  Having something to look forward to keeps the blues away. Here in the south, January can surprise us with a sunny day in the 60s or 70s, and occasionally , but fortunately not often, with some snow..  Both have their positive sides.  A warm day invites a call to a friend for a lunch at an outside cafe, and there’s nothing like a snow day as an excuse to stay home from work,  cook up a pot of chili and enjoy an unexpected holiday.  I love to take snow pictures, especially since we don’t often have the opportunity to do so.  But here in North Carolina, a big snowfall can turn into many snow days  if it doesn’t warm up fast.  And as they say, too much of a good thing…  We’ll see what January has in store for us as we celebrate each day.. which is a gift in itself!

January

a month of new beginnings
and yet, a time of waiting –
waiting for the cold to ebb
and for the sun to gather strength
and call forth the leaves and flowers,
waiting for the birds to return
and fill the air with song.
but January has its gifts –
a blanket of freshly fallen snow
gently coating the landscape,
an icy wrap on limb and leaves
glistening in the winter sun,
the bright red of berries and cardinals,
and the green tips of crocus
poking through the warming soil,
to see if it’s time to emerge.
a month of waiting,
a month of hope,
a month of new beginnings
and treasured memories…
– pc 2009


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Staying in Focus: Winding Up the Old Year: Fun and Fantasy

Not only are the holidays over, but we are already in the fourth day of the new year.  We just arrived home on Wednesday and  I spent most of the day Thursday taking down the Christmas decorations. We had a great visit with the family in New Jersey and  our friends in Poughkeepsie.  It  was cold and one day we were pretty much snowed in. Big snowflakes floated down all day.IMG_0048

I had brought my laptop along and decided to try a creative writing exercise to pass the time.  The instructions were that the story begin with “The snow fell…”, and end with a twist.  With it being Christmas and all, and snowing to boot, here’s what I came up with.

Where do writers find their inspiration? Perhaps this is how one legend began…

The Stuff of Legends

Snow fell like a box of soap flakes shaken wildly in the hands of a young child.  Large clumps settled on the frozen ground in mounds and drifts of white. The snowflakes fell in curtains, hurtling down in perfect formation from sky to earth , as if with the intent to change the landscape into the vista of an alien world.

The traveler, lost in the folds of his heavy coat, pulled his wide brimmed hat over his eyes and buried his chin into the woolen scarf wrapped round his neck. He walked slowly, tensing his leg muscles to pull his feet free from the heavy, clinging snow, each step an effort which added to his growing fatigue.  He was lost in this frozen wilderness and each flake that touched him seemed to penetrate his clothes, seeking to crystallize him from the inside out.

 An eerie stillness surrounded him, and he felt as if he had been transported to another world.  The silence wrapped round him like a cocoon and ethereal shapes seemed to form and drift before his eyes.

He fought the urge to close his eyes and fall into the downy snow and rest, just for a few minutes. It looked so soft, so inviting…And then he heard the unmistakable sound of tinkling harness bells, somewhere up ahead.  He peered through the curtain of snow and vaguely made out the shapes of horses and a sleigh.

“Whoa-ho, boys,” he heard a voice shout.  And out of the swirling snow emerged a fellow, dressed warmly in furs and sturdy boots, his hair frosted white with snow beneath his cap, cheeks cherry red from the cold.

“My, my, stranger”, he said,” what brings you out on such a night, in such a desolate place?”

“I was on my way to the village of Amesbury to visit friends when I became lost in the snow,“ the traveler replied.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

“Well, let me help you into my sleigh. I’ve never heard of Amesbury but there is a village nearby. I’m sure someone there will shelter you for the night.  I am on my way there to deliver some goods,” he said, pointing to a large sack lying in the back of the sleigh.  

The traveler climbed into the sleigh with a thankful sigh. The hearty fellow jumped in and grabbed the reins.  “Onward-ho, boys,” he shouted to the horses.

Within a few minutes, the traveler saw lights ahead, the warm glow of the village homes, softening the dark and cold of the night.

“Here you are, my friend, the fellow said, “the village of Legend.”

Odd name for a village, the traveler thought. He shook hands with the jolly fellow. “How can I return your kindness, Sir?”  the traveler asked.

“If you would take this sack to the village and leave a package at each abode, I would be most grateful. They are poor but proud.  They frown on handouts, but gifts left in the night, now that’s the stuff of legends.”

. There was that word again – legends.  “Are you a writer, Sir? “ the traveler asked.

The man laughed .” I do dabble with the written word, now and again,” he replied.

The traveler climbed down and grabbed the heavy sack.  “I will do as you ask. Thank you, again, for your kindness.”

“It is I who thank you,.  The storm has slowed my progress and It’s late, you see.  I’ve  a young daughter waiting for me at home,  to tell her a story before bed.”  As he turned and grabbed the reins, he asked, “By the way, what is your name, my friend?”

“Nick. My name is Nick.”

“Ah, and so it is.”  said the fellow.  “Nick it will be..”

“I don’t understand, Sir , what do you mean?”

“Ah, remember, it’s the stuff of legends, my friend.”

And with that his horses sprang forward and disappeared, lost in the heavy snow.“And your name, my friend. What is your name?” Nick shouted into the night.

As if from far away came the faint reply.

“Moore. Clement Moore.”

Nick flung the sack on his back and headed into Legend and into the hearts of us all!                                                       

                                            The End…or the beginning?

Despite the snow, I was able to join some of my high school friends, which included my sister-in-law, Pat,and friends Joanne and Janice for a High Tea at “High Societea”  My niece, Becky, and her friend, Sheralyn, accompanied us.  The food was excellent, although the service was a bit slow.  The place was charming, however, and we had a good time.

A cozy teapot

A cozy teapot

Me at High Societea

Me at High Societea

Becky and Sheralyn

Becky and Sheralyn

Janice

Janice

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We also traveled to Poughkeepsie and visited with our good friends, Denise and Geoff and their daughters and adorable grandchildren.

Abigail and Lucas

Abigail and Lucas

Denise and grandson Colin

Denise and grandson Colin

Melissa

Melissa

Ernie and son Colin

Ernie and son Colin

So we ended 2012 with good times with friends and family.  Now it’s time to look ahead to the new year and all the possibilities it holds in store for us. May it be one of peace and prosperity for us all!