time

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:

IMG_1505

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.

Advertisements

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.

Staying in Focus: A Day For Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

On this day I am thankful :

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tall
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
Treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universe
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
With my grandkids, whom I adore
For Bill, who loves and cares for me
For my family, how I love them so
For friends and good times most carefree
For all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’m filled with heartfelt gratitude
– pc 2012

May we  take time on this special day to express thanks for the gifts we are given – our beautiful world and the people who surround us with love and support, and to celebrate our most precious gift that of life itself.  Let us not take it for granted or squander the time we are given for it is not infinite, which makes it all the more precious. Today is the perfect day to smooth over harsh words and soothe hurt feelings, to express your appreciation for  the people in your life and the world in all its beauty. Enjoy this day, relax, and  really take the time to notice each special moment – the smile on  a baby’s face, reading a book to your grandchild, telling your son or daughter how much you love them, taking a walk together in the bright sunshine, or playing in the snow. These are the moments you and they will remember. The shopping can wait until tomorrow.

Focus On: Ann and Jack

It has been a challenging year for our family.  Thank goodness we have each other to rely on for support during difficult times.  I accompanied my mother to her appointment yesterday with her oncologist to find the results of her PET scan. Unfortunately, the news was not good. The 2.5cm lesion an earlier x-ray had picked up on her lung has proved to be malignant. They have chosen to continue the treatment of oral chemotherapy to address this. Due to the mouth sores she is experiencing after one week on the protocol, this will not prove to be an easy journey.  They have held the meds up until Friday to give her mouth a chance to recoup, and have scaled back the dosage 25%. She was just getting her appetite back when the sores made their sorry appearance. In 12 weeks she’ll have another CT or PET scan to determine if it’s shrinking or at least holding steady. If it has grown, then we revisit her choices.  The  doctor said at some point the drugs will stop working and she will have to balance quality of life versus the effects of a more aggressive treatment In the meantime the doctor told her to  enjoy her life and time with family. Go to her granddaughter’s wedding, do what she has always wanted to do.

We decided some parties were in order.. We are planning a Mother’s Day celebration, a bridal shower for granddaughter Jeanette, who will get married in June, and a  party for mom’s 90th birthday  (Shh! It’s a secret invitations forthcoming). Fatigue can be a problem so she may need to tailor down her activities somewhat

.But we intend to live in the moment, thankful for whatever length of time we are given to be together and enjoy each other’s company as much as we can. We welcome the chemo drugs, despite their side effects .as her soldiers of light, marching forward to conquer the enemy.

My mom has been so strong through all of this, but are any of us really ready to let go, give up the fight and our hold on life, however tenuous it is? I think at some point the body knows,and the mind agrees and one is at peace with their decision.

I think, through this whole process so far, this was the first time it really hit me, that we could lose her far sooner than we expected. She is handling it in her usual stoic manner.  She said she suspected all along there was something more than just the breast cancer.It’s amazing how our bodies seem to know, and communicate to us, when something is wrong inside. As with my Parkinson’s disease, my body knew months before my mind would accept what I. knew in my gut was happening.

While I was visiting we adjusted some things to make it easier for her to regain her independence. We moved everything she used regularly to lower shelves and cabinets; we moved canned goods, etc. to lower shelves in the pantry and her hutch. She can no longer reach high places as a result of the surgery. We cleaned out her closet so we could put in the new clothes I had bought her, as she has gone from a size 12 to a size 8 through this ordeal. I don’t know how long she will be able to stay in her house, but she knows she has a home with one of us when the time is right.

As we rearranged things, we were cleaning out extra stuff. I spied these two  mugs pictured here, which mom was going to discard.  IMG_0228I don’t know what is was about them, except that they reminded me of a time when there was an Ann and Jack (Jack and John have passed away) who had 4 children (John, Pat, Mary Lou and Steven) who lived together in a two-story house and had  a wonderful life together. A life they thought would last forever. But nothing lasts forever, and so we must enjoy every moment that we have…

For Ann And Jack

once we walked on sandy shores
and summer flowed through open doors
and childhood was all we knew
and you were all we needed

once we thought we’d never change
and life would always be the same
and we could not imagine
that one day you would be gone

lost in youthful innocence
we squandered precious time
and let slip by too many days,
which cannot be repeated

and now from shadows cast
we must  forge another path
and make the best of time
before clouds obscure the sun

we’ll celebrate each precious day
and we will remember fondly
when childhood was all we knew
and you were all we needed
                             -pc 2013  

Staying in Focus: What If The Story had Started Like This?

This is creative writing exercise I recently  completed.  I had to find ten unfamiliar words, to include in the story, and then pick a character from a list to be the protagonist. How could I pass up Scarlett O’Hara? Length of passage 1,000 words.

ten new words:

1. bumptious   adj.   brash

2. horology n.  art of making timepieces

3. lavabo  n.   a basin holding water for washing

4. moire n.  watered silk or wool fabric

5   jass  n.  a card game for two

6. panatela   n. a thin cigar

7. ratafia n. an almond flavored liqueur

8. soidisant  adj.  so-called

9 .theorbo  n .  a 17th century lute-like musical instrument

10. nixie   n.   a female water sprite

Character:  Scarlett  O’Hara

What if the story started like this?

Scarlett O’Hara sat primly on the cushioned bench, folds of moire billowing around her.  She loved the way the forest green, watered silk material seemed to glow in the afternoon light. The forest green accented her emerald green eyes, which sparkled with delight as a horse and buggy made the turn onto the tree lined drive that lead to Tara.  Ashley had come as promised, to whisk her off to a day of visiting friends at neighboring plantations.

“My, my, Scarlett, you do look pretty today,” Ashley said as he brought the buggy to a halt.  “Quite the nixie, you are my dear.” The horse nickered softly as Ashley stepped down from the buggy and handed the reins to Jeb, one of Tara’s darkies charged with watering the horses of visitors to the plantation.

“Oh, Ashley, how you do go on with those words you find in all those books you read!  You confuse me with such talk!”

“A nixie, my dear, is a water sprite of the forest. An enchanting, elusive creature, one must treat with the utmost delicacy,” he explained, as he took her gloved hand and kissed it gently.

Scarlett missed most of what he said, trying to still her rapidly beating heart, lest Ashley hear it pounding so. To distract him she asked, “Ashley, before we depart, can I have Prissy bring you a ratafia to refresh you?’

“Ah, that would be most welcome, dear Scarlett.   May I also request a laveboto wash off my dusty hands?  It has been a dry and dusty summer.”   Ashley sat down next to Scarlett, as she motioned to the waiting Prissy to procure the requested items.  As Prissy turned to enter the house, Ashley drew a slim box out of his coat pocket, and handed it to Prissy.

“For Mr. O’Hara, with my regards, “Ashley said.  Scarlett knew the box contained panatelas, her father’s favorite cigar.

“Ashley, you are so thoughtful to remember how much Pa favors those cigars.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want your pa to think me a bumptious fellow,” Ashley replied.

Scarlett sighed.  She wished Ashley would use the same words everyone else used. She turned to him and asked, , “How do they fare at Twelve Oaks, Ashley?”  Scarlett loved Ashley’s home.  Though she also loved Tara, Twelve Oaks had a grace that the more rustic Tara lacked.  Scarlett wasn’t really concerned about the other folk at Twelve Oaks.  She just wanted to be sure that Melanie Hamilton, Ashley’s cousin, wasn’t visiting again. Scarlett did not like the way Melanie blended in with the family and the plantation.  It was as if she belonged there.  And if anyone was going to marry Ashley and move into Twelve Oaks, it would not be that mealy-mouthed cousin.  Scarlett had chosen Ashley for herself.

Prissy arrived with the basin and the liqueur.  Ashley rinsed off his hands and toweled them dry, then accepted the thin glass of ratafia and took a slip. “It has been a busy week. We learned to play a card game called jass from an associate of my father’s,   a gentleman from Charleston. We also welcomed a fascinating gentleman from Savannah who is a master in the art of horology.

Seeing the confused look on Scarlett’s face, he explained, “He is a maker of timepieces, the finest I have ever seen.” Ashley’s family seemed to be overly concerned about time, Scarlett thought.   In their garden they had a sundial on which was inscribed, “Do not squander time; it is the stuff life is made of.” Scarlett thought, however, that the Wilkes squandered time more than anyone, spending hours reading books and reciting poetry.

Ashley continued telling her about the events of the past week, but as Melanie’s name was not mentioned, she became lost in her own thoughts.  How to get Ashley to become a more romantic companion was the question which perplexed her the most.  So far he was ever the epitome of a proper southern gentleman, but Scarlett craved more than a kiss on the hand. She had to move things along somehow, without compromising her virtue, of course.

Scarlett realized that Ashley had finished his drink and one-sided conversation. She turned to him, smiling prettily, her dimples accenting her smile.  She put her hand gently on his arm.  “Well, shall we be about our business, Ashley, and pay some calls on our friends and neighbors?”  Scarlett didn’t really care about these friends and neighbors either, for to tell the truth, none of them liked her very much. She imagined it was mostly due to jealousy. Ashley was, after all, the catch of the county.  But she endured these visits because it gave her more time with Ashley, and she liked to rub their noses in their jealousy by seeing her in constant company with the dashing Ashley Wilkes.

Scarlett put on her bonnet, tying the bow securely beneath her chin.  Perhaps she could convince Ashley to give the horses some proper exercise, and let them run full out.  Jeb brought the horse and buggy around from the stables in back of the house, and Ashley assisted Scarlett into the vehicle.  As he took the reins, he filled her in on their destination.

“I have a surprise for you, my dear.  Please forgive me the subterfuge. We are actually going to Twelve Oaks.  I have arranged for several friends to meet us there.  My cousin, Melanie, is coming in from Atlanta, with a group of musicians who play theorbos. They have agreed to provide us with a concert during lunch.

Scarlett tried not to show her disappointment.  “What is a theorbo,  Ashley?”

“A theorbo is a lute like instrument, from the …”

Scarlett could contain herself no longer.  She felt her vision change to red.  With a shout of “Whoa” to the horses, she grabbed the reins from Ashley’s startled hands and said, “Please forgive the subterfuge, Ashley, and vacate the buggy.  You see, I am an actually a bumptious woman wearing a moire frock and not a proper soidisant southern belle. I like a nice glass of ratafia now and again, maybe even a slim panatela.  And I do not plan to squander time listening to theorbos all afternoon.  She gave Ashley a little push, and he climbed down from the buggy.  He stared at Scarlett, speechless, as she cracked the whip and let the horses run full out, the ribbons of her bonnet trailing in the wind.

She saw a rider ahead, riding toward her, a tall man in a black coat riding a black stallion. He doffed his hat to her as she raced by. Scarlett turned and blew him a kiss…

Word Count : 1,117

Staying in Focus: Finding Time for Friendship

Why do we let so much time pass without getting together with our friends? Last night I had  a group of special ladies over for our annual Christmas gathering.   I have known these gals for many years.IMG_1165 crop Several of them worked with me at the Sylvan Learning  Center, others came as friends of a group member and were drawn into the fold  .We formed a book group,  meeting once a month to discuss the book we’d chosen to read, but mostly we used the time to catch up with one another. New members joined, others left when they moved out of the area, but a core group of us  persisted.  After a while, though, we all became so busy that meeting once a month became difficult.  But we always make an effort to gather together every Christmas when we pledge to get together soon, and the next thing we know, it’s December again.

We had a good time last night, sharing the ups and downs of the past year.  There were, sadly, the loss of parents and divorces among our grown children to report.  We discussed everything from  dealing with illness, and questions about retirement, to the challenges of figuring out our smart phones!  And, of course, pictures of the grandchildren to pass around.

So many changes and adjustments to make or contemplate accrue in our lives over the course of a year and there is nothing like having a group of supportive, sympathetic friends to lend and ear or give you a hug when you need one.  It sends a message we all need to hear, an assurance that we are not alone. But the reality is, our lives are very complicated and the demands on our time and energy are many.  No wonder the days pass like an express train racing through our lives.

They call us the sandwich generation, an apt description.  Sandwiched between the needs of aging parents and our children, many of whom fail to be fledged, returning to the nest, sometimes with fledglings of their own in tow. Today we have our parents living longer, which is a blessing,  although medical problems can make it difficult for them to handle things on their own.  We want to keep them with us  as long as possible but caring for them can become a full-time job. Then there are our children, dealing with job loss or failed marriages, needing financial assistance, or even a roof over their heads and someone to watch the little ones while they work. Sandwiched indeed!  But at a time when we are feeling the effects of aging, too, with illnesses and fatigue of our own to handle. We see retirement slipping further and further away. We get discouraged and often depressed

But every now and then, we need to slip away and seek comfort and a sense of renewal. Caregivers must never forget to care for themselves  And what better way than an evening spent in the company of supportive friends, willing to share the joys and sorrows, the hopes and the fears, the challenges and the changes we face everyday?  I think we all need more of this . We’re not looking for answers, just for someone to listen.

This quote by Benjamin Franklin comes to mind: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time for that is the stuff life is made of.”   So look out ladies.  I’ll be  calling. Maybe in the spring, a trip to Fearrington or Duke Gardens will be in our future.

This year is going to be different.  This year we are getting together again before t the Christmas decorations go up. ( Unless, of course, I don’t get a chance to take them down till next December!)

Staying in Focus: On Doctors, Time Travel and LIfe

I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and I almost went back in time. 
– Steven Wright

First of all, I would like to apologize for the link problem.  Don’t know what I did exactly but I lost the post somehow.   Hmm.. maybe it traveled back in time. My current interest in time travel comes from a few sources. It started with our watching the Dr. Who series on TV. Dr. Who is a time lord, traveling through time and helping out where he can.

And then there was my son, Kevin’s, birthday this past week, and he turned 30.  Seems impossible I could be the mother of someone who is 30, but the fact is I am also the mother of someone who is 34. Thirty years ago this week, Kevin and I were just getting to know each other.  What I wouldn’t give to have the chance to hold that little guy in my arms one more time.

Then I came across this quote by Steven Wright.  I love his insights – they are always spot on. And I got to thinking, would I go back in time via the instant coffee/microwave oven time machine (it is every bit as plausible as a blue police box spinning through time and space),if I had the chance.?   For a number of reasons, yes.  To see my boys as children again, before the trials and tribulations of life have challenged them; to be Parkinson’s free for a little while.  Oh, and not having those endless streams of doctor visits.  I remember  a time when  I saw my gynecologist once a year and the dentist twice, and that was it. Now  between anxiety, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, aging arteries , colon cancer and Parkinson’s Disease, I have a cast of many doctors, tests to schedule, scans to undertake, especially my all time favorite – the dreaded colonoscopy., little appointment cards to keep  track of all this, and so many prescriptions, I have devised a  chart I run off the computer, which lists all the medications, dosages, frequency and purpose, including alerts such as (I have this printed in red):

Don’t ever give me sulfa drugs (Septra) ever again!

In addition, I must wear a bracelet to inform emergency personnel that I take a Mao – B Inhibitor, and I carry in my wallet  a card that reads : I am not intoxicated. I have Parkinson’s Disease, just in case I’m found wandering erratically someday in the future.
Just sayin,  The past appears much more appealing.   But if you have to go to the doctor, it’s best to get good news , which is what I received today from my neurologist, who said I was doing  a good job keeping the beast under control, and following my visit to him, we visited the lab of the vampires, who drew blood, and my primary doctor said the old thyroid looked good. But with so many doctor visits on the horizon, escape to the past and  a healthier me might be just the respite I need.

On the other hand, if you watch any Dr. Who episodes, the past is populated with aliens who want to take over the earth, strange cracks that appear in time and on bedroom walls, which herald a time of silence, when there is nothing left at all.  That’s a little creepy so I think I ‘ll stay in the here and now, and deal with life and all the complications being alive entails.

I like this quote from Robert Frost: I can sum up in three words everything I have learned about life… it goes on.

It certainly does, and if we are lucky, we are here to go on with it as long as we can.  So I plan to make the best of it.  Maybe another cruise or two.  Time to spend with family and friends.  Places to go, like Alaska, which I never dreamed I’d see. Being in the present, with all its challenges, beats not being here at all.

But I’l keep a jar of instant coffee on the shelf, just in case.

Note: I’ve launched my new blog, Focus on Fiction, and today will be posting the final chapters of The Storyteller.  Stay tuned.

Focus on Gratitude

Today is my 59th birthday and as I sit here wondering how this could be, I am nevertheless grateful to have made it this far.  I truly believe that time is a dimension of perception.  When we are young, time seems to move so slow.  Is Christmas ever going to get here? When will summer vacation start?  Can I wear lipstick next year?

I remember the  last day of school before summer vacation began,  That feeling of relief, freedom and anticipation.  Hot, sunny days stretching out before me, nothing to do but play and swim and read Nancy Drew books in my secret place, hidden from view so no one could interrupt Nancy, Bess, George and I as we solved The Mystery of the Hidden Staircase.

We were in such a hurry to grow up. And now we look back and wonder why.  I think The Plain White Ts summed it up quite nicely in their song,  Irrational Anthem –  “I remember wishing I was older, always something big around the corner, but as the years go by I’m growing younger, open eye and head still filled with wonder, wonder….”.  What we didn’t realize then was that somewhere in the process of growing up, we have a tendency to leave our sense of wonder behind. We must grow younger.

And we certainly did not anticipate time speeding up – but it has.  Where does the time go?, I hear people ask .  One minute it’s Sunday night and everyone is moaning about going to work the next day, and the next minute  it’s Friday… again. Or so it seems.

So I’m going to dedicate the next 59 years to growing younger and recapturing the wonder. I will use my toolbox of ps – prose, poetry and  photographs to document my journey. I will slow time down by keeping my focus on the here and now, and celebrate every moment. With gratitude. Starting now.  I know just where to start, with two little people with wonder to spare.  Happy Birthday to me!

With Gratitude…

For sweeping skies of crystal blue
And mighty mountains standing tall
For the new grown green of early spring
And the brightly colored leaves of fall
For butterflies and singing birds
Morning light and summer showers
Treasured books, filled with words
A special place to read for hours
For Christmas trees and twinkling lights
For gathering with those most dear
For silent snow that frosts the night
And dreams of peace to conquer fear
For delicate flowers and a star-spangled sky
For the marvel that is our universe
For the sense of wonder as we try
To unravel things mysterious
For the light and warmth of the golden sun
For ocean waves that rush to shore
For spending time just having fun
With my grandkids, whom I adore
For Bill, who loves and cares for me
For my family, how I love them so
For friends and good times most carefree
For all there is to learn and know
And all the things still left to do
I’m filled with heartfelt gratitude
– pc 2012
.