When you get into a tight place and it seems you can’t go on, hold on, for that’s just the place and the time that the tide will turn.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Powering through these last weeks of 2020 is proving to be more than I can handle very well. Even though powering through adversity is an often used tool in my skill set drawer, it’s not working right now. Apparently it has gotten rusty.
Writing…amidst the exhausting news of rising pandemic horror, political uncertainties, isolation and various personal conflicts…is just not happening. Life has become more of a free-fall overwhelm into Twilight Zone territory. Last week’s Snow Day post made me realize where I was headed. I know I have plenty of company, but still. So my point today is that I will be taking a break from my presence here, but hope to be back with all my blogging buddies soon. You are all very important to me.
Take care, stay safe and I hope you can enjoy your holidays…whatever they may be.
Did you see the news? Kristi could be president someday!
The phone tucked under my chin, I had the long coiled cord stretched tight as I stood in the kitchen…as close as I could get to a 12″ television in the corner. I had the news on that July day in 1984 when Democratic Presidential nominee Walter Mondale announced his choice for running mate.
For the first time ever, the Vice Presidential candidate was female. It was blowing minds everywhere. Mine included. Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro of NY was joining former Vice President Walter Mondale on the Democratic ticket for the November election. My mother was the first to call me.
I did see the news! I can’t believe it…Yes she could!
I was as excited as Mom was, if not more so. My daughter Kristi, then just 2 years old and covered with remnants of lunch, was smiling and banging a spoon. A long way to go to the White House, but now it seemed possible. In my opinion, she showed great promise.
I’ll never forget that moment. It triggered my involvement in politics. Parenthood is a powerful motivator for action; but never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine a woman being elected President…or Vice President. Not that I ever doubted a woman was capable of doing the job and doing it well. That was never a question – in my mind at least. Perhaps I didn’t dream big enough – or didn’t know I could – but that day in 1984 opened the door of possibility in my mind. And in the minds of many others.
I worked on the Mondale/Ferraro campaign in NH and, when possible, on future campaigns for candidates I believed in…for my daughter and my son who came along 3 years later. For children everywhere. We all know how the 1984 election turned out, but ground had been broken.
I have a box of both local and national political tidbits and swag going back to 1984…
And then yesterday…36 years later…it happened.
Former Vice President Joe Biden will be our next President.
Senator Kamala Harris will be our next Vice President.
A highly qualified woman.
But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and to the children of our country regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris November 7, 2020
Peaceful groups of joyful citizens gathered throughout the USA yesterday. Mask wearing was evident in Portsmouth, but even so, I could tell everyone was smiling.
…think back to those moments that changed your life. No need to use the prompt; just demonstrate how “it” started.
I was only 10 years old when I got my first camera. And fell in love with photography. I don’t remember the circumstances of who gave me the camera or why. I just thought it was cool (or as we used to say back then…”Keen!”…”Sharp!”) and I’ve never been without one since.
My first attempts at photography – with a Kodak Brownie camera and black & white film – manifested as square blurry images of trees, lean-tos, and other 10 year olds at Girl Scout camp. Hard to believe that a week of rustic living became a defining moment in my life as a photographer, but I guess it did. This despite my most vivid memory being the latrines (just plywood for seats, people – I mean seriously?) and how I dreaded making the trip to That Building (no pictures, sorry).
It was also where I discovered (after the film was developed) that when I held the camera on the lean-to railing the blurring disappeared…
Over time, I slowly improved at steadying the camera and moved on to capturing my younger siblings when they least expected it. As the years went by I became the family photo historian by default. Even more so when I advanced to color film! Very exciting.
My friends knew I would always show up with a camera as the unofficial keeper of the memories. Even at a young age I became acutely aware of how quickly life – and people – could change. It became very important – for me at least – to preserve what I could. I do remember feeling all of that. Which kind of astounds me now.
Oh…and it was fun.
I was 14 ½ when my 4th and youngest sibling was born and he became a willing subject for photography practice. Never mind that he was exceedingly cute and followed me around constantly. I was “in charge” of him most of the time so taking pictures was easy.
The photographs I took at college and summer jobs are best left off the internet, but they are definitely treasured keepsakes.
I graduated to a Canon SLR camera shortly after I got married and burst onto the taking-pictures-of-my-children-at-every-milestone-possible scene. They were my inspiration for decades and have appeared in many blog posts, so I will restrain myself from adding them in here. Same goes for my grandson, who is now 4 and very comfortable getting his picture taken as a child of the smartphone generation.
However, now (accompanied by a Canon DSLR camera) I am also inspired by the ordinary…what’s outside my window…down the path into the woods…winding around that chain link fence. The mesmerizing waves at the beach. I am constantly looking up and down and to the side…not in as much of a hurry as I used to be.
The best photo moment – for me – still springs from the unexpected…no matter what (or who) the subject happens to be.
Last week I was able to return – after several months of Covid restrictions – to walk along the water’s edge at Hampton Beach. The tourist season is over. Crowds are gone. The parking rules have been relaxed. I couldn’t resist the trip on such a beautiful…sunny…blue sky windy day. Even with a mask on, it was worth it.
As I made my way across the sand to walk back along the street, I spotted something bright in the sky.
Off came the lens cover.
It wasn’t the surf or the rocks or what usually fascinates me about the beach.
I had to get a closer shot.
I set the camera on what I call Grandson Mode or Freezing the Action Mode.
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
Winter brings back the cold. Reliable get-out-the-thick-sweaters cold. Gotta put on a coat before stepping outside cold. Hats and gloves cold.
Most of the time, however, this season of cold shows off…with spectacular displays of snow. My favorite time is right after a snowfall…while it is still fresh and new.
Before the city plows started piling it up at the end of our driveway…
That’s how I remember winter days back when we owned a house with a driveway and a walkway and a deck. Where the oh-so-beautiful snow couldn’t remain where nature dropped it. When we had to shovel and snowblow and move it out of the way.
Color exploded in the sky our last Christmas at the house where we lived for over 36 years.
Along with Christmas comes a gathering together of family. Complete with holiday lights and decorations.
Winter also brings about changes at the beach – the sand is groomed into hills to guard against storm surges. At least that’s what the hippy guy from town told me – who I crossed paths with the day I took this picture.
A January walk in the woods isn’t totally devoid of color…if you look closely…
And last…but not least…in my growing family winter always meant… …are you ready for some basketball?
Both of my children played for their high school teams and enjoyed it immensely. As did my husband and I…watching and enthusiastically cheering in the comfort of a heated gym.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
Behind one sturdy fence lies a river
Rising and falling with every tide
Each day the moon is relied on
Nature carrying us along for the ride
I took a break from a long walk in our local park recently and took a seat…alone…on the memorial bench we had donated to honor my in-laws. My view was interrupted by the metal fence separating me from the river beyond. But I knew what was there.
Bordering trees and plant life often double as reflections on the water’s surface. River banks are exposed when the tide is low and disappear when the tide is high. There is something strangely calming and comforting about this. The predictable pull of the moon. An ebb and flow of the changing seasons and time of day.
Nature at its finest with a lesson at its core.
It was hot as blazes the day I took this photo. What did I expect for July? Exactly what happens every July.
I hold out hope upon hope that a predictable life will return someday.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” – Cynthia Ozick
Up until 2020, summer was a fairly predictable time of year. I could plan trips and get togethers with friends and family…without a second thought. Including return visits to favorite summer festivals and fairs.
I painfully realize now how much I took all of that for granted…thinking oh we can come back next summer…when the 2019 schedule got crowded. This summer…it’s all cancelled.
I actually look forward to the seasonal chore of storing away sweaters, hats and mittens. And then dragging out the “summer clothes” from a high closet shelf. Pulling out shorts, T-shirts and sandals. Ready For Summer.
Well, I can still switch the clothes around…but that’s about it.
However…thinking back on life “before”…
During my earlier days of parenthood, summer always included extra family time together with my children. Camera always in hand.
Nothing fancy. Sometimes just day trips…
For over 20 years we established a family tradition. A week away…to connect and just enjoy each other. Most vacations were only a 90 minute drive to a special place on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. The last 2 were cross country on the California coast.
Fast forward about 17 years…and summer included the next generation…
During the 36+ years we lived in a house with a yard, we delighted in beds of flowers that exploded into life every summer.
One of our favorites: black eyed susans…
We have continued one summertime activity through the years, despite moving to a condo and emptying the nest. Picking fresh blueberries! They are amazing when eaten within hours (or days) of being picked.
One of our neighbors, where we used to live, let us pick from his carefully tended bushes. Now we visit a local farm that has a “pick your own” field of blueberry bushes. Fortunately you can still do this during a pandemic by following the posted rules: Wear a Mask and Social Distance.
Using the the prompt words is not required, as long as you demonstrate the concept of risk-reward.
And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve navigated more than enough life changes in the last few months. (And that doesn’t even begin to address a one-more-thing aggravation that WordPress is up to tomorrow…June 1st…when the powers-that-be change the editing format whether we like it or not…)
On the much more important front…
Everything…now…is about being careful. Staying safe. To reduce your risk of catching the virus.
I get it. I really do. I struggle with health issues. I am a living breathing high risk demographic.
Vigilance is required. There is no relaxing since every action involves weighing the risk to your health. And the health of any person nearby…or at least within a 6 foot radius.
I know I am not alone.
Every action triggers a question…
Do I wear the mask in the car?
Do I wear the mask down the empty hall and one flight of stairs to get the mail?
Do I wear it into the garage where everyone parks?
If I don’t wear it everywhere, will I breathe in a virus particle and not know it?
Have I already done it and will it make me sick?
And that isn’t even the complete list of questions that ricochet in my mind when I am out in public. When encountering other grocery shoppers in the one way aisles…what is wrong with these people who aren’t wearing masks? Do they really not care about the risk to themselves…or anybody nearby?
Trying to make an informed decision about even the simplest activity becomes increasingly exhausting. Nobody in charge seems to really know what is going on. Critical thinking can grind to a halt at a moment’s notice.
I used to be a risk taker. To a point. At least I thought so. I climbed trees. Crawled across a roof. Jumped my bike over curbs. I hitchhiked. Smoked cigarettes until my late twenties. If you think about it, every action you take involves a risk of some kind. Perhaps we just adapt.
But this is different. This pandemic. I am older and supposedly wiser. They say you get more afraid of risk as you age. Whoever “they” are don’t realize that many of “us” are much younger in our heads. So there is still a bit of a risk taker inside me shouting I don’t like it ONE BIT that I can’t jump (well more like walk carefully) on a plane to go see my kids and grandson…or share a table with a group of friends at lunch…or walk on the beach.
The clock is ticking. I’m wearing a mask, keeping my distance and not getting any younger. I don’t have much more patience to be patient.
My soul never thinks of beginning to wake up for other people till lunch-time, and never does so completely till it has been taken out of doors and aired in the sunshine. Who can begin conventional amiability the first thing in the morning? It is the hour of savage instincts and natural tendencies
Countess Van Arnim
There’s a reason I have no photographs of sunrises. I am still asleep – or not yet fully conscious – that early in the day. My mornings need to evolve. I shift into fully awake mode after drinking an oversize mug of coffee. Plus finishing breakfast and the morning newspaper’s mix of news…both happy and not.
Empty nest retirement definitely has its pluses.
When I was growing up, however, my weekdays began at high speed. School day mornings…a blur…
Get Ready For School Hurry Up You’ll Miss The Bus! Finish your breakfast! Come Back You Forgot Your Lunch! Hurry! The Bus Is Coming! The Bus Is Coming!
Childhood weekends – thankfully – were a different story…
Early on a Saturday morning…the year I was 9: my 7 ½ year old sister, 6 year old brother and I would tiptoe down the hall of our small ranch style home. Careful not to disturb our sleeping parents.
If our 2+ year old baby sister was awake and willing to be quiet, she joined us.
A carpeted hallway covered the short distance from our bedrooms to the living/dining room. After just a few quick trips we had gathered all the toys we needed. Since the black & white television was in my parents’ room at the time, we were on our own to entertain ourselves.
And entertain we did.
The Barbies – (with friend Midge) – strutted around straight legged showing off their tiny don’t-step-on-them-with-your-bare-feet shoes and stretchy outfits. Ken made an appearance, but usually as an afterthought. My sister’s pink Barbie car transported B&K in a circular route under the dining room table…often without their clothes on. Sometimes Ken’s arm was removed and inserted in his torso backwards. Creativity on the loose. I’ll admit those adventures were mostly my idea. My sister loved Barbie like crazy, but I was quickly bored. Hence the unusual Saturday morning escapades. Which we all considered quite clever and hysterical.
My brother brought to the excitement an assortment of small green plastic army men, a GI Joe and an array of stuffed animals – many based on cartoon characters. Yogi Bear. Huckleberry Hound. Barney Rubble. Bugs Bunny – with a string…which when pulled…gave voice to What’s Up Doc?
Despite the differences in size and species, plush bunnies & bears interacted with dolls without a single problem. In whispers and hushed tones. Barbie to Yogi: Where’s the pic-a-nic basket?. Bugs to Ken: Got any carrots?. And so on.
Miraculously the 3 (or 4) of us played seamlessly together during those early childhood mornings. We didn’t argue. Or poke each other. We took turns. It was quite remarkable. And unusual.
Our common goal: Don’t wake up mommy and daddy!
Those Saturday hours with my sisters and brother are precious in memory. They represent moments of our best times together.
Reality and its rivalries shifted back to normal when my parents woke up. And the day started for real.
Until the next weekend…when the crowd gathered once again.
The most extraordinary thing about writing is that when you’ve struck the right vein, tiredness goes. It must be an effort, thinking wrong.
Two years ago today I started posting on oneletterup.com. At first I just “practiced” and kept the blog private, as I built up courage to go public 2 months later on April 15. I began with my adventures in moving. The empty nest. Stories from childhood.
I had always been a “writer” since I first took pencil to paper in a diary at the age of 9. I put the word writer in quotes because I was in awe of real writers who crafted stories that transported me to exciting places. Writers of actual books! How could I call myself a writer too? A real writer. I could not possibly be in that league.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t help myself. I wrote letters. Cards. Notes. I kept journals. I took a writing class in college. Joined local writing groups. Attended a week long writing symposium at a university in 2007. I wrote story after story about my children’s childhood moments. When the details were fresh in my mind…I couldn’t help it…I just had to record the sweet magic I witnessed. I put together memory books and stories for family. In the 1990s I submitted stories to magazines. A few held on to them…we’ll see if we have a need for this…but ultimately no publication.
There was never enough time to make writing a top priority. Without feeling guilty that there were more important things I should be doing.
Until my husband and I moved from our house to this condo. Until my children were grown and independent. Until I retired from my consultant job in dietetics.
Until I had a room of my own.
Two years ago, I took the plunge and thought…why not? After all, I wasn’t getting any younger…or healthier.
A blog would be a place to write what I wanted. Try to ignore the inner critic. And see what happens.
I discovered the creative fun of writing challenges, photography challenges…and what has turned out to be the best part…
…Meeting and interacting with other bloggers. It is like being in a virtual writing (and photography!) group. I’ve learned so much from all of you.
My mission in February 2018 was to start writing and not look back.
So far…mission accomplished!
A big thank you to all my blogging friends for your support and encouragement, one letter Up
(aka Andrea 🙂)