What is a tree (or two) handy for? Besides climbing that is.
Trees can be perfect for hanging a hammock!
A place to settle on a hot August afternoon, when a little girl says…let’s read a book daddy!
Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #117: except
Does anything ever go the way we expect? Notice that expect and except have the same letters, with a slight twist. Look forward to seeing where this prompt takes you.
Before March 2020, I would have answered V.J.’s question quite differently. Life was plodding along…as expected…for the most part. And I must admit I took it for granted and sometimes whined (mostly privately, but not always) about how monotonous everyday activities and plans sometimes were.
Not to say that I wasn’t enjoying my retirement and new adventures in writing, photography and blogging – because I was – very much so. But, you know, same old same old.
Now it’s a different story. Exception defines most days…right down to the minutia.
I will share one example.
Driver’s license renewal time came and went in the Spring – put off due to the state wide shut down. Okay, I was fine with that. I applied for and was mailed a temporary license that expired in October. I was fine with that too.
Since I needed to convert to the Real ID license format, I would eventually have to appear in person. Again, that was okay with me.
Renewing a driver’s license (every 4 years) has always been easy.
Except this time.
In August I called the NH Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make the required appointment – online not allowed – and after a 30 minute hold (totally expected), connected with a nice lady who set up a date and time. Her advice: Don’t come too early. Mmm..that’s different.
I arrived at one of the (only) four open DMV locations at exactly 12:50PM (for a 1PM appointment) on a sunny Wednesday in September. Clutching my passport, temporary license, social security card and mortgage statement, I had proof of who I was…although these days I’m sometimes not sure who that is anymore. Mask in place. So far so good. I walked across the parking lot and followed the one-way arrows up the ramp to the entrance.
The door was locked.
That’s when confusion set in. Not what I expected. What the? A few other masked citizens were milling around – staying away from each other – muffled voices asking the obvious. What’s going on? Why are the doors locked? Nobody had an answer.
So we all stood patiently. Waiting. Reading the yellowing signs on the doors about Covid-19 transmission and using hand sanitizer and masks and distancing. Nothing about why the doors were locked.
At exactly 1PM, the door opened and a woman with a DMV badge stepped outside holding a clipboard. She began shouting names from a printed list. Ostensibly those with an appointment around 1:00. I marched over after hearing my name called. A small group of us obediently lined up – spaced about 6 feet apart. I’m thinking to myself this is so weird…
And then Weird jumped to a whole new level when the woman with the clipboard started shouting again…
Does anyone have these symptoms? Fever? Shortness of Breath? Loss of taste or smell? Cough? Runny Nose? Sore Throat? Vomiting? Diarrhea?
Diarrhea? I am standing outside under a bright blue sky with a group of strangers – all here for a driver’s license or to register a car – and we are disclosing whether or not we have diarrhea. I know it could be a symptom of Covid, but seriously? And who is really going to answer any of those questions – in public – in the affirmative? It was one monotone No after another.
Even after six months experiencing the pandemic, this was NOT going the way I expected. After we all declared ourselves free of digestive and respiratory difficulties, we entered the inner sanctum of the DMV.
First the eye test.
Check-in Lady: Look in the machine. You don’t have to touch your face to it now.
Me: But it’s a bit wavy standing back.
Lady: It’s okay – what can you read?
Me: Um..the middle row has JRDL I think.
Lady: Great! You passed.
I was given a number and took a seat in the waiting area for the next step in the process.
It did not take long…
First the Review of Paperwork. I held my breath, hoping it all passed inspection and matched as I thought it should. It did.
And then…The New Photograph.
Lady at the desk behind the plexiglass: Stand over there and remove your mask. Look at the lower red light.
I attempted a smile. She let me review the photo on the screen. Oh my. I looked positively manic. Eyes popped wide open. Mouth stretched into what could be mistaken for the prelude to a scream. And I thought I was smiling.
Me: Well, I look a little tense.
L.A.T.D.: I’ll take another one.
I attempted to smile less tensely.
L.A.T.D.: Well what do you think of that one? Do you want another try?
I experienced a remarkable cosmic shift moment as I stared at my reflection. Even though the paperwork all proved I was who I said I was, this photo did not. Or did it?
It was then I decided that the face staring back at me from the screen was a perfect illustration of all that had gone on since March.
Me: No, that one is fine, thanks.
For decades I have always held out for a more flattering photo at the DMV.
Except this time.
I will own my authentic Pandemic Photo until 2024 when license renewal happens again.
A 2020 memorable “Portrait In Time” when exceptions ruled.
It will also most likely match my expression the next time I pass through the TSA checkpoint at the airport.
V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #114: What’s in the Box
This week, I challenge you to open one of those boxes, or drawers, and write about what you discover. Have fun. Be creative.
It just so happens that it was not too long ago when I was surrounded by…boxes. When we had to empty our 2 small storage units in the condo garage. Because of mold issues, blah, blah, blah which I have written about before (and hopefully gotten out of my system since it is as “fixed” as it’s ever going to be).
However, in the process of putting everything back, my husband and I made a list of what was in Every Box and Where Every Box was located – in each storage unit and on which shelf. Of course I had to at least peek inside each box/tub/container – some unopened since 2016 when we moved from our house. The lids still taped shut and some with labels. My kids might wish that while we were at it, we could have Thrown Out some of these treasures, but…sorry…not ready yet.
Out of curiosity I rescued one small box of “Miscellaneous” and brought it up to the condo. Inside I discovered a random collection of what one might put in a junk drawer. What the?…
My husband remembered where it came from…
H: This is what was in the drawer in our old hutch!
Me: The hutch we donated to Habitat Restore since nobody in the family (or otherwise) wanted old dark cherry furniture?
H: Yup! Remember?
Ahh…then it came back to me. The fancy miscellaneous junk drawer. Where you shove things in to possibly use when “company comes” or when you drag out the “good dishes” for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Or because there’s no other place to put it when sorting comes to an end.
Top of the pile would be the place cards my daughter carefully made out of index cards. Those make sense and belonged there. A sweet memento of times gone by.
But 10 (ten) shot glasses? If this box had been unearthed in a time capsule of sorts 100 years from now, it would not have given an accurate depiction of who we were. Nope – not a sit around the dark cherry dining room table from my childhood throwing back shots type of family. Although, I will admit, the subject never came up. Careful measuring for an occasional gin and tonic or…well, that’s about it. For some reason, though, shot glasses were the perfect souvenir. For years we’ve had a couple in use to hold our daily vitamin supplements. “Everyday” shot glasses placed next to the salt, pepper and napkin holder sometimes prompted odd looks from visitors, especially our kids’ friends.
Yogi Bear? Well you can’t go wrong with Y.B. and the key chain holds an impressive collection of wine glass tags. Just in case a dozen or so wine drinkers showed up. The owl toothpick holder was my mother-in-law’s, who collected all things owl. Those vintage toothpicks were probably hers too. More sweet mementos.
The never used carving set was a Wedding Present Put Away For Special Occasions. I regret the never used part. Why wait?
Tam Tam papers? Um. No idea.
So there you have it – a story of the Miscellaneous Forgotten About Box and what I discovered inside. Frankly it was a very welcome diversion from another kind of box – which my father referred to as the “idiot box,” an unkind slang used back in the era of 3 channels. Yes, that flat screen was once a box and at one time it even had ears – so to speak.
When you turn on today’s box, it is rarely a welcome diversion of any kind during prime time. Case in point: Tuesday night’s so-called “debate.” Where I could have put a few of those shot glasses to use…if I had lasted longer and was a drinker. What could have been!
So, thank you V.J. for this week’s challenge. It was a pleasure.
Now…what to do with all those shot glasses?
Four years ago next month, my husband and I moved for the first time in 36 years. We emptied our beloved home of…well…everything. Lots of “stuff” as I generally referred to it all. It actually took many years to get to the point where we could pack up and move. Little by little, carload by carload. I unearthed boxes and bags of long held treasures that needed new homes – which in this case meant antique shops, Craig’s List, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and a few garage sales (not my favorite thing as everyone haggles over the smallest items which quickly becomes tiresome).
I have written about the downsizing process when I started this blog. It was a slog, but I remained fixed on the goal: Simplify our lives and reduce stress. Unforeseen “things” had been happening for a number of years. Health issues mostly. I knew that our priorities had to shift…requiring change. Major change. Not one to wait for a crisis, I went into planning mode. It evolved into a long term plan which took place over about five years.
We finally found a new place to live that we could afford. A condominium where we would have less work to do. All on one level to reduce the risk of falling as we got older. Near my husband’s job. It is a beautiful place – certainly not perfect – with its own challenges as we discovered, but the right decision in the long run.
So, packing up in 2016, we prepared for the future…again. To make life easier for our “golden years.” An empty nest would bring new and hopefully exciting opportunities for our next chapter.
But nothing really prepared me for the very last day. That day in October 2016 when the house was finally…completely…unoccupied.
Empty of all that was us. Our family.
I was alone that last day. It was a sunny breezy fall afternoon as I made the last rounds – the final check to make sure all the closets and cabinets were empty. The holes in the walls patched and painted…erasing all evidence of the photographs that had hung there for years. Marking holidays and birthdays and sports and graduations proudly displayed down halls and around corners. We were a well documented family. Mostly because of my obsession with freezing time with a 35mm Canon.
So of course that’s what I did that last day – I took pictures with my (digital) Canon – of all the rooms in our (still ours until the following day) home. Which had grown from 4 rooms and 1 bathroom in 1980 to 7 rooms and 2 bathrooms in 2016.
I had a moment though as I stood in the original living room space that last day. Remembering through tears the very first time we had occupied it…filled with packing boxes and hand-me-down odd pieces of furniture one cloudy April day in 1980.
It was just my husband and me – so young still – in our twenties.
The first thing we did was hook up the turntable and speakers, snaking the wires between all the unpacked stuff. We found Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a box of records and dropped the needle on “Our House.”
We sang and celebrated the beginning of what would be a grand adventure.
Ragtag Daily Prompt: Unoccupied
V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #111: stuff happens
Never mind that my husband and I spent our 42nd(!) wedding anniversary Wednesday in our condo garage…wearing our finest face masks & work clothes. Emptying out our 2 storage units for hours. Yeah, we still have too much stuff, but oh well.
The Mold Remediation Company was scheduled for Thursday to clean all 32 units plus the entire garage.
It took hours to move all of our
crap stuff into our parking spaces. We were joined by our fellow masked condo dwellers…many initially embarrassed by the exposure of hidden “treasures.” I can’t believe I still have so much stuff. The thing is, there used to be SO much more before we downsized. So, don’t worry about it.
Talk about lousy timing. But that’s 2020 for you.
[Never mind that I alerted the Condo Board to this issue 3 years ago and they didn’t listen to me. I told you so.]
Never mind that even after 4 repair attempts, the refrigerator’s lights still don’t work…and is limping towards its last days.
Never mind all of that.
On Tuesday we braved the local hospital’s outpatient lab to get Covid-19 tests, so we could be sure we weren’t infected (we aren’t). Even though we have no symptoms.
Because we are going on a CovidCation.
Today we are driving to the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Pennsylvania to a house by a lake. We will enter a Covid tested bubble of love…to spend a quarantined 4 days with our “kids,” their spouse/partners, grandson and 2 dogs…most of whom we haven’t seen in 6 months or more.
My 4 year old grandson has been asking me on facetime…
Grandma are you excited to go to the lake house?
I sure am!
Never mind that we spent the better part of yesterday (Thursday, right?) moving our
crap stuff back into the cleaned storage units. Followed by packing up clothing, supplies (so many supplies when you are older), and food. Hoping we made enough lists and remembered everything. The option of “we can buy it when we get there” is no longer okay…to stay safe.
If the stars align and health prevails, we will soon be on the road today: Friday. Six hour car trips are a huge challenge physically – and I haven’t attempted one in 3 years, but…
I’m excited to go to the lake house!
My daughter made a spreadsheet of the menu and I am also excited about that. We might even make s’mores – and I’ve been told they will be GF (Gluten Free aka Grandma Friendly).
So I may be absent from my blog until next week.
CovidCation here I come.
Today is Easter Sunday.
In 2020, it almost seems like any other day. Being on the inside looking out.
In the interest – and satisfying the desire – of connecting to the familiar, I am re-posting an edited version of a 2018 blog post about Easter traditions and memories…
When I was growing up, the Easter Bunny always left baskets for me – and my sisters and brothers – to hunt for on Easter morning. We each got straw baskets complete with the requisite Easter “grass” which ended up…everywhere.
Inside we’d find jelly beans, foil covered chocolate eggs, a chocolate bunny and those marshmallow peeps – which were just as bright neon colored then as they are now.
My younger sister and I often wore matching dresses and Easter hats. I actually got a kick out of the hat – I remember one had small red fake flowers around the brim. Patent leather shoes completed the look. It worked for my sister much more than me, as I’d just as soon run around the backyard and scoot up the jungle gym, Easter finery and all.
A few days before Easter we dyed hardboiled eggs different colors using the wire holders, still stained, from previous years. The kitchen table was covered in newspapers to limit the mess we’d make and the smell of vinegar permeated the air. When I was older I was allowed to drop a different color pellet into each cup and watch it dissolve. Sometimes we used wax crayons to draw designs on the eggs before coloring them. We were each allowed about 6 eggs to decorate and we took our time.
My best childhood Easter memories were when my grandparents came for the day (or sometimes the night before and slept over). We’d play cards…Parcheesi…Sorry…checkers. We always saved the black jelly beans for Opa. Those were his favorite.
One last thing…
Easter is the subject of my most treasured book from childhood.
It has the sweetest illustrations and I love the comforting story. Nobody is perfect – not even the Easter Bunny. And sometimes things don’t go as planned…and it’s okay.
This book made the cut when we downsized. The paper jacket has long since disappeared and the binding is loose and fragile.
But precious all the same……
To all who celebrate…Happy Easter!
Inspired by Frank at Dutch goes the Photo: Number
I look forward to the innumerable ways you can approach this theme!
I have always been a numbers person. When I was in grade school, I made numbered lists of favorite books, colors, records…even friends. When something was numbered, it took on a distinctive degree of significance. And importance.
It was also a way to organize. I numbered all my 45s onto a corresponding divider matched up with their titles, all stored in a bright green case.
The importance of numbers became crystal clear when I started earning money in high school. I quickly realized that saving money – after earning it – was the ticket to the independence I had been craving since entering my teens.
Not surprisingly, my habit of keeping diaries and journals morphed into meticulous record keeping of money spent and money earned. This was back in the days of cash or check. I still have the record of every penny I spent in my last few years of college. Numbers paved the way to learning how to budget. This turned out to be a crucial skill a few years later when raising a family on a limited income.
But I didn’t know that back then.
In 1974 I was still living in a dormitory…on a meal plan paid for by my parents. Food was not a major expense, but other “essentials” added up.
Apparently record albums were a priority.
Numbers added up more significantly once I moved to an off campus apartment the following year…when a garbage can, spatulas and beer mugs took the place of record albums on my list of spending priorities.
At least for a while.
Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #77: Pause
As the world bustles, and we rush to meet deadlines, check off to-do lists, and fulfill those party invites, find a moment to pause, look, and listen. Share a photograph, thought, or inspiration.
It’s been a busy week. Next week – with Christmas in the middle – will be even busier.
However, I realized the need to…pause…in my usual December madness of holiday planning, shopping, wrapping, card writing – and all that leads up to the 25th.
This past Tuesday I flew to Washington DC to attend my daughter’s commencement ceremony at the Univ. of Maryland College of Education. Where she received a doctoral degree in Education Policy. How could I not go? Even if it was the week before Christmas. She worked extremely hard and I am so happy for her. Oh…and proud too.
Traveling is one of my least favorite activities as I’ve gotten older…especially in winter weather. So imagine my rising anxiety level on Tuesday with the snow falling at a steady clip as I rode the bus to the airport. No surprise when I found out (after boarding) that the plane was delayed.
I sat and waited….with a look out the window.
Two hours passed.
All the while hoping the flight wouldn’t be cancelled.
My only choice…trapped in row 14 for 4 hours…was to pause, look and listen…
…but mostly to think…about the ceremony I would attend the following day, along with my son-in-law and grandson.
This would be the last of many graduations I’d attended for the little girl who grew up so fine and fast. Who loved school and learning from the age of 3. Passionate and driven by a desire to make this a better world for everyone. Not just for people like her…who are blessed with opportunity and privilege.
She was also the commencement student speaker.
I told my grandson, snuggled in my lap…Mama will be making a speech!
Why? he asked.
Because she has important things to say! I answered.
She proposed a different approach for those graduates entering their postgraduate lives – the flip side of talking and sharing their voices…
….Pause. Close your mouth, calm your mind, allow for silence. Cultivate humility. Acknowledge the limits of your education and engage in the practice that scholars and advocates call “radical listening.” Community organizer and activist Chanel Lewis describes radical listening as “intentionally quieting your internal voice and judgments thereby offering your full mental space to the speaker and suspending what you presume to know about someone and their experience in our shared society.”…Radical listening, I argue, is a crucial skill to help move our world toward greater justice….
Dr. Kristin Sinclair
This is just a snippet of her three minute speech, but it caught my attention.
You don’t hear that advice very often.
Usually it’s…Speak Up. Talk. Be heard.
Pause and listen…listen without judgment.
Perhaps that is radical.
But I like it.
It gave me much to think about on the plane the next day…before returning home to my holiday to-do list.
Inspired by Frank at Dutch goes the Photo: Groceries
If you need to buy groceries that are gluten free (GF) or, as my 3 year old grandson says, “Grandma Friendly,” there are more choices then ever before. Ten years ago, when I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, “Gluten Free” supermarket aisles didn’t exist. You either made your own version of bread/muffins/cake or ordered from a catalogue or online. Crackers, pasta and snacks were hard to find.
Gluten free used to be synonymous with cardboard – both texture and flavor-wise. Since manufacturers jumped on the GF bandwagon (for better or worse) in the last decade, the situation has improved. GF versions of staples such as bread, crackers and cereal almost taste like the gluten filled real thing. If you close your eyes…and have a short memory. Some are tastier than others.
Labeling accuracy is still sometimes iffy, but for the most part a bit of research is all that’s necessary before venturing down the grocery aisle.
Unless, of course, you want to skip some of the label reading and head to an outside aisle.
Also Grandma Friendly.
Inspired by Lens-Artists Challenge #65: Pick a Place
We’d like you to capture the spirit of a place that is vivid in your memory. What was it that drew you in and why did it capture YOUR heart?
You have to go to Coronado!
Stop at the Del for dessert since it’s cheaper than getting a meal!
My friend Barbara was adamant. My husband and I were planning a week’s vacation in San Diego (this was 1996…before the internet…back when you talked to friends and read travel books to prepare for a trip). I had always wanted to explore southern California – specifically San Diego – and Barbara insisted we include a trip to nearby Coronado.
She grew up in California, so I figured her advice was solid.
We dutifully signed up for one of those trolley tours you can take when visiting a popular tourist destination. Coronado (often referred to as an island, but as we were informed many times – it’s a peninsula – NOT an island) is just across the bridge from San Diego. Lucky for us…it was a stop on the route.
When the trolley let us off on Coronado’s Orange Avenue….we fell in love with what we saw. Palm tree lined streets, friendly locals, an amazing ice cream shop, a restaurant advertising the world’s best margarita, thriving community theater…and the best part: the Beach. Sparkly sand like I’d never seen before. Or since.
Yes, we also drank tea and enjoyed a snack at the “Del” (aka: The Hotel Del Coronado…the iconic location of the classic film Some Like It Hot). Thank you Barbara.
We discovered that Coronado Beach goes on for what seems like forever. Dotted with people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Tourists and townspeople alike. Kids building sand castles. Teenagers tossing beachballs. Runners pounding footprints into the sand. Even a section for dogs and their humans to play.
It’s also a perfect beach for walking, even at high tide. An ideal spot for stretching out on a rented chair or towel. Reading. Writing. Listening to music. Staring at the horizon. Quenching one’s thirst. Unwinding.
We returned to my favorite place a half dozen times and found something new to do every visit.
My last visit was a solo trip in 2006 for a week’s R&R.
No need to rent a car. Walking or riding a bicycle was enough.
From a walk by the pier…to the shops…to the beach.
After dinner…perhaps a concert at the bandstand.
And back to the beach for a sunset goodnight.