Black & White Sunday: Composition

This week Paula’s theme is composition – telling us we may decide to show photos where we paid special attention to this important element in photography, where we either respected the conventional rules in photography (such as the rule of thirds) or we chose to broke them to make the image more interesting, or we may take an entirely different approach in our interpretation. The focus does not need to be on the layout of elements that make a photo; we can simply show us a photo of a composition, and that can be just about anything.

I can never pass a barn without taking a photo- this one is near where I live, and I never tire of seeing it standing in contrast to the open sky.20160818_161515_001

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Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

My husband and I visited the Morgan Library last week. It was founded to house the private library of J. P. Morgan in 1906. John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan (April 17, 1837 – March 31, 1913) was an American financier and banker who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. The library was made a public institution in 1924 by J. P. Morgan’s son John Pierpont Morgan, Jr., in accordance with his father’s will.

The walls of the library reach a height of thirty feet, and are lined floor to ceiling with triple tiers of bookcases fashioned of bronze and inlaid walnut. Two staircases, concealed behind bookcases at the corners of the room, provide access to the balconies above. A trace of the past very present in NYC today.

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The Weekly Smile

I met a dear friend in NYC for lunch- we don’t see one another often, maybe once or twice a year but that never matters. We keep up on Facebook and are in touch through email, and the time apart never makes a difference. We have known each other since she was 20 and I was 24, when at the time we were both dating brothers. Our relationship evolved into one of friendship on a familial level of sorts, we spent a good amount of time with the family of these two brothers, and time together allowing  our friendship to grow. She went on to marry the brother she had been dating for some 3 years, while I said good bye to mine. We lost touch for many years until the brother I had dated became ill 5 years ago and I reconnected with him and came back into this family’s life. I wrote about it here.

I always felt a certain “motherly” or big sister feeling towards her. We spent time together and developed a bond that ran deep as we shared an understanding of the family dynamic, the ups and downs within the family. We could talk openly and honestly to each other about our relationships with those brothers. Years later she told me she had always wished I had been her sister in law, she had envisioned our wonderful friendship continuing through the years. But even though we had been out of touch for over 20 years, once we reconnected those years in between didn’t matter at all. The foundation we had built all those years ago stood firm, our mutual love for one another still there.

When we saw each other last week we sat for hours filling each other in and then delving deeper into conversation as we had always done, sharing our innermost thoughts. The past, the present, the what ifs and the what was. She told me she still thinks of me as her big sister, and I said I had been thinking the same on my way in to meet her that morning. Our past connecting us in a unique way, brought together by two men and their family, she living with them, me having been touched deeply by them but moving on, until years later reconnecting with them all as if I had never left. I smiled on my bus ride home, remembering us as young girls, our lives ahead of us, smiling at the past being part of my present, smiling at the thought of how fortunate I was to have her in my life.frannie20162

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Black & White Sunday: Favourite

This week Paula would like us to post a photo of our “favourite”. Be it a place, a thing, a person, a pastime or a holiday. Our favourite anything. Maybe the favourite shot we have taken and still haven’t published. The only requirement for this “favourite” is to make it black and white.

So hard to choose a favourite photo, I seem to have so many. I decided to use a few of my favourites taken at my favourite place, the ocean. Sea, sand and seagullsfavourite1

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The Journey of A Thousand Miles Begins With One Step

The Adler Aphasia Center in New Jersey is a place where people who have Aphasia come to take classes, come for the camaraderie, come to improve their speaking, come to learn and laugh and know they are not being judged. Aphasia is a language disorder, usually brought about when a person suffers a brain injury (from a stroke, a car accident, an aneurysm.) It makes remembering words hard, communicating those words difficult when they are remembered, or using the wrong words. The brain is thinking one thing, the mouth another. Some people are not able to speak at all. It is a frustrating and misunderstood disorder. Very often intelligence is not affected, but people assume it is when they are not able to understand what someone is trying to say. I volunteered at the center for 10 years and I wrote about the impact it had on my life hereWhen I started working full time last year I was no longer able to volunteer, so today I paid a visit to the many friends I made there over the years, that I haven’t seen in a while.

The front lobby had been redone since I was there last, and a beautiful tiled mosaic wall greeted me as I entered, with this message written in the tile: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”20160809_142041

So many that have come through the doors of the center had to take that first step- to enter a world unfamiliar to them, a world sprung upon them unexpectedly. Taking that step has led many of them to a better place than they were after first suffering a brain injury. My friend Bill had a brain aneurysm 8 years ago and when he came to the center could not utter a word. Today we sat together and he spoke in full sentences. It is still not easy for him, but how far he has come through his sheer determination and constant pushing to improve. He was a football coach in a school which he someday would like to return to. I hope he gets there.bill

The mosaic in the lobby contains mosaic flowers, each one made by a member of the center.

Here’s my friend Ken showing me which one he made.kenwall

The  mosaic artist who created the finished piece says, “The design contains a curved path representing a journey, a journey isn’t always straight, or clear or easy. Many of our journeys need courage and strength to travel. But along the journey we can be inspired by the beauty of the scenery around us and by those who help us travel along the way. This pathway goes through a bright uplifting garden of mosaic flowers.”  To my mind each of those flowers represents the person who made it and their personal journey.20160809_142130

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Once again I was reminded of the different paths and journeys we all are on, and to remember how important it is to take that first step.

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Song Lyric Sunday

For Song Lyric Sunday Helen has asked us to post a song about missing someone you love. Let’s let them know how much you miss them and can’t wait to see them again.

I’ve chosen a song from the 1970’s by the British singer Ralph McTell. I was introduced to his music by a boyfriend and this song came to have greater meaning after the relationship ended. It is still one of my favorite songs all these years later.

I’ve written words that say I’m leaving.
Words express the pain.
Old songs lose their meanings,
But new ones they gain.
From Changes that I’ve been through,
New ones I’m coming to.
You were my first song,
And I still…

Sure I still get feelings
To get back on the road.
And I still get leanings
To forget the things I know.
About myself and changes,
Gone through and coming to.
And you were my first song
And I still…

Do words express true meanings,
I mean the words I’ve still to sing.
Old loves lose their feelings,
But new ones they gain.
Changes that I’ve been through,
New ones I’m coming to
You were my first song,
And I still…

Yes, you were my first song,
And I still…

Yes, you were my first song,
And I still…

You were my first song,
And I still love you.

It’s Still Your Birthday, Even if You’re Gone

Today is my brother’s birthday. Or it would have been his birthday were he still alive, though I feel that just because he is gone does not make August 6th no longer his birthday. His age will forever remain at 54, but the date will forever be his birth date. He died by his own hand in February of 2015. I wrote about him on the first anniversary of his death here.He wasn’t married, had no children, and struggled so the last years of his life. Today I choose to remember him before all that, to think of him long ago before the demons set in. To remember him with rose colored glasses on, filtering out the sadness and anger. Remembering him with a smile.82802100-SLD-001-0015

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The Weekly Smile

This week my weekly smile was enjoying all that summer has to offer. As an assistant teacher I have the summer off and when people asked me at the end of school what I intended to do with all that free time I told them drink coffee with friends, shop, and go to the beach. That is pretty much how things have gone so far.

Yesterday the weather was wonderful and we headed to the beach once again. Getting out of the car and seeing the glistening ocean against a beautiful blue sky made me smile and kept me smiling all day20160804_100322

I think this seagull wanted to join us for lunch. He was maybe 12 inches from our blankets as you can see, but made me smile20160804_115654

Even yesterday’s beach tag made me smile with its half moons and stars. (please ignore all the age spots)

and here I am with a fellow assistant teacher after we had our coffee we walked the mall and did some shopping which made us both smile20160803_135201

Weekly smiles, summer smiles

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Feathers on Friday-Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is a very small woodland bird with a long tail, usually seen flitting about in the treetops, giving a short whining callnote. They are tiny (about 10cm or 4 inches) with long legs; a long tail; and a thin, straight bill. described as energetic and rarely slowing down, fluttering after small insects and making it almost impossible to capture them with my camera. But for once! The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is the northernmost-occurring species of gnatcatcher, and the only truly migratory one, most members of its genus live in Central and South America.

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Cemetery Visit

I went to visit the grave of a cousin last week- he is buried a short drive from where I live, unlike the rest of his family, including his parents, who live hours away.  He died 9 years ago, at the age of 50- I wrote about him, his life and death previous visit here

The cemetery is situated very high up on a hill and this time before I left I decided to drive up to highest point to take in the view.view

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It was so peaceful and quiet, I got out of my car to walk among the headstones. I stopped to read many of them, wondering about the lives of the people buried there. Some of the headstones did  tell me a bit about the person. It is not unusual to see inscriptions that read “Beloved mother or father”, but I found some had more than the customary inscriptions.

This woman had been a teacher and it must have been so much a part of her life it was also included.20160720_125606

This woman was not just a mother, but in the eyes of those who loved her the best one
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This man had not been married I guessed, as there was no inscription for husband. “A Mensch” was written there, its meaning from Yiddish “a person of integrity and honor.”20160720_125753

How wonderful to be remembered as “strong yet gentle”20160720_130536

This headstone held an inscription I had never seen before. Not only was she a wife, mother and grandmother, the Yiddish term for mother in law-shvigger- was also inscribed. What a compliment, since we all know the old jokes about mother in laws and they are usually not so complimentary.20160720_125330

I came to this bench where I sat for a bit, taking in the surroundings and feeling the warm breeze washing over me as I looked out to the mountains in the distance. Thinking of my cousin and remembering him with a smile.20160720_130749

Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past

This wonderful old building sits on the NW corner of Broadway & East 13th Street in New York City. By European standards it is not old, but built in 1894 and to have survived in New York City all these many years later it is old by our standards. It is called the Roosevelt Building, named after Cornelius Roosevelt, grandfather of Teddy Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. A trace of the past

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Traces of the Past

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Daily Prompt: Admire

My husband never had the opportunity to  learn how to play an instrument as a child, as many children do. When he was in his 40’s he decided the time had come to learn how to read music and play the piano. He took lessons for about 3 years, but life became busy and he gave up the lessons for the next 15 years. Eight years ago he decided to begin again and has been taking lessons once a week since then. A year and a half ago he decided he wanted to learn how to play the violin. He found a teacher and bought a violin and has been taking lessons once a week. Considering how difficult the violin is to play, he took to it quickly even to the surprise of his teacher. Monday is piano lesson night, Thursday is violin lesson night. And every night is practice night in our home. I greatly admire him, not only taking on one instrument as an adult, but two.20150503_103607

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Feathers on Friday-Tufted Titmouse

The tufted titmouse  is a small songbird from North America, a species in the tit and chickadee family. They are frequent visitors to feeders, often found along with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.When a titmouse finds a large seed, you’ll see it carry the prize to a perch and crack it with sharp whacks of its stout bill, as I have captured below. I find them difficult to capture with the lens as they are so fast!003

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Thursday’s Special

Welcome back Paula- Thursday just wasn’t Thursday without you!

This week Paula has given us a choice of words to choose from: Pursuit,Veneration, Effervescent, Personal, Peculiar. I have chosen Pursuit. I watched this little boy carry his surfboard to the edge of the water and position himself watching the roll of the waves, in pursuit of the perfect wave that would lift him up and carry him. He would just not give up. He waited and waited until finally that wave came in.20160727_130801
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He changed position thinking maybe he would have better luck, looking down as it came up over his feet.20160727_130826

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The Weekly Smile

I went into New York City this week to visit a friend I had not seen in a long time. I decided to walk from the bus terminal up to her apartment, close to a mile and 1/2. I know my way around NYC having worked there for close to 30 years, there is a feeling of comfort revisiting so many of the streets I walked many years ago to get to work. It was a warm day so I walked along at a slower pace, taking in everything around me just like a tourist.

I was walking up 8th Avenue and passed a fire station between 47th & 48th streets. The Fire engines were right there and the windshield of one caught my eye20160726_103005

I stopped to take a few photos and suddenly felt someone behind me taking my phone out of my hands. One of the firefighters said “go stand by the other truck I’ll take your photo.” I started to laugh and asked if he was for real, and with that another firefighter stepped over and said, “I’ll get in the photo with you.”20160726_103024What great guys- I thanked them, smiling from ear to ear, not just for the photo but for the work they do for the city every day.

When I got home I googled the station only to find “The Pride of Manhattan” Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 Firehouse lost 15 firefighters on 9/11 — an entire shift and more than any other New York Firehouse. The 15 men killed had 28 children between them. It is the busiest firehouse in NYC answering 14,000 calls a year, and also the most visited firehouse in NYC. I was glad I stopped, to meet these 2 brave men who risk their lives in the job they do, but also to learn something new about this firehouse I had probably passed many times before. My weekly smile.

The Things We Leave Behind-High School Reunion

This past weekend was my 40th High School Reunion. I did not attend even though it was held 5 minutes away from where I live. I did attend my 10th, 20th, 30th and 35th. Having reconnected with so many on Facebook it felt a bit redundant now; I know what everyone looks like, who their children are and how many they have, what they are doing for a living and for fun. There is no mystery anymore to come together and ooohhh and ahhh and exchange photos and catch up on the life we have all led for the past 40 years.

A Facebook group for the reunion was made, and the more I saw the comments that were popping up the more disillusioned I became, to the point where I left the group altogether. People hadn’t seemed to change, those who never had a nice thing to say or used sarcasm to get their point across were commenting on FB as they had 40 years ago in high school. Those who were bullies and pushy back in the day seemed so today too.

In high school I had two very close friends and then a group of friends I had classes with and occasionally got together with outside of school. My connections to most classmates in high school were superficial. We also had a graduating class of over 600, so it was hard to really know everybody. The people I had felt most connected to were those I had gone through elementary school with, kindergarten through 5th grade. They were the kids that lived in the neighborhood, that you had play dates with, that you knew each others houses like your own, their mothers were your mother too. Those bonds ran deeper than any from high school. At past reunions those were the people I sought out to chat with, to catch up with to reminisce and share a laugh with. Sadly many have died already, 40 from our high school class, 5 of whom were childhood friends. I logged onto Facebook on Sunday, the day after the reunion, and saw a post of one of those childhood friends I had gone through elementary school with. He was visiting the library in town and posted a photo of it. I quickly sent him a message asking if he was actually there now or just posting a photo from the day before, to which he replied he was there but about to leave. I told him I was coming right over to say hello. I got there and we laughed at the perfect timing. We chatted for just a few minutes before he headed back to Washington DC where he lives, glad to have connected, glad to have shared a few minutes to recapture a time gone by. That shared understanding of having come from the same starting point, that continues to bind us together no matter what. Some things are better left behind, while some of what was left behind can still be welcome in our present.

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Discover Challenge: The Things We Leave Behind

Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Older Than 50 Years

We all have things we save and cannot bring ourselves to part with. I have learned to let go as I get older, but I still have a small box that contains things from my childhood and my husband’s childhood that stays on a shelf, looked into occasionally, and never gotten rid of. One of the things in that box is a photo viewfinder from a hotel in New York’s Catskill Mountains that my husband used to go to with his mother and step father back in the 1950’s. These viewfinders were common give away items at that time and such fun to look into and see a tiny photo of yourself staring back at you. Take a lookviewfinder1

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Song Lyric Sunday

This week Helen Espinosa says: One thing music can do is give a voice to things that need to be said; things that are hard to find words for. There are some crazy things happening in the world right now, and I feel like I’m constantly bombarded with either terrible news or really awful politics. I feel like speaking out in the form of music. It can either be a protest song or a song about surviving this crazy thing called life.

The minute I saw “protest song” Phil Ochs came to mind. As told on wikipedia: He was an American protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s and released eight albums. Ochs performed at many political events during the 1960s counterculture era, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career.philochs

I have chosen his song “I Ain’t Marching Anymore.” Ochs wrote “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” as American involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to grow. The song criticizes all of American military history from the perspective of a weary soldier who has been present at every single war since the War of 1812. The chorus notes that “it’s always the old who lead us to the war, always the young to fall” and asks whether the price of military victory has been too high. The lyrics are included in the video

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Pokemon GO!

I am way too old to have grown up during the heyday of Pokemon. Honestly I didn’t even know what it was, but it has been hard to ignore all the hoopla going on around the release of Pokemon Go, so I looked up what it all means. Apparently it involves fictional creatures called Pokemon, which humans – known as Pokemon Trainers – try to catch and battle each other for sport. Pokemon Go, the new virtual reality game brings Pokemon to life on your smart phone. You catch Pokemon, battle in Poke Gyms, evolve your creatures, doing it all in the “real” world. You physically walk around with the app open on your phone and your virtual avatar follows your every movement. as you find Pokemons. Always interested in keeping up with what is going on in the world, I downloaded it to my phone. I created an avatar and as I began to walk around, the avatar moved on the map using GPS. When a Pokemon is nearby, the phone vibrates and then it appears on the screen in the vicinity of my avatar. It activates the camera so the Pokemon creature shows up wherever I am actually standing. Below, I was taking my morning walk.weedle

There is a Poke Ball that you use to fling at the Pokemon to capture it. I think the point is to collect as many of these Pokemon creatures as you can and then battle it out with other creatures. There are Poke Stops which are landmarks in the area-  public pools, parks, statues, buildings. At these Poke Stops you can collect more of those Poke Balls you will need to capture the Pokemon. Sounds crazy, right? Well I love it! I walk every morning and this has given my morning walk a boost. I head to the poke stops that show up on the map, collect poke balls and then as I am walking my phone will vibrate and there is some little creature I have to catch.

 I have added an extra mile to my walks finding new poke stops and collecting poke balls while capturing more creatures. This morning I got this notification:medal

Woo hoo! My aim with those poke balls is getting better and it shows! Yesterday when I was out shopping I saw a group of teenagers all huddled together in one area of a park-I knew they had found a poke stop and headed right over. Made me laugh to be standing there probably 40 years their senior but grabbing those poke balls right along with them.

Feathers on Friday-Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers and this one decided to pay a visit to my backyard. Usually woodpeckers are not found on the ground, but Flickers eat mainly ants and beetles, digging for them with their slightly curved bill. Easily identifiable with their beautiful plumage and touch of red on the head and black on the neck. Always a welcome sight.2

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Walkway Over the Hudson

The Walkway Over the Hudson was originally a steel cantilever bridge spanning the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie, New York, on the east bank and Highland, New York, on the west bank. Built as a double track railroad bridge, it was completed on January 1, 1889. It was taken out of service on May 8, 1974, after it was damaged by fire. After many years of deciding who would take control of it, and what would happen to it, it was rebuilt as a pedestrian walkway and reopened on October 3, 2009. It is the  longest footbridge in the world and called the  Walkway Over the Hudson.

On our way back from the Catskill Mountains last week we made a stop to walk across the 1.25-mile long expanse that rises 212 feet above a stretch of the Hudson River. The views were amazing, sweeping up river and down river and across the rooftops of the town of Poughkeepsie. We walked across and back bringing our total mileage to 2 1/2, an accomplishment in the 90 degree heat, and well worth it.entrancegate

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Looking South, with a view of the Bear Mountain Bridgeview1

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I purposely left the railing in the photo below to give perspective on how high up I was. As a person with a fear of heights I was happy I overcome my fear to walk across. So worth the views.view2

View on the way back acrossview3

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Train on the Tracks

I took this photo standing on an overpass over the train tracks near my home. The early morning sun caught the reflection of the fog still in the air. There is something surreal about standing over a train as it runs underneath you. I waved to the conductor who saw me and waved back.

Another view from the overpass, facing the other direction at a different time of daytracks

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The Piano Man

My husband began taking piano lessons 7 years ago, learning how to play and read music for the first time in his life. We had an old upright piano which gave way to a very old baby grand that served him well for a few years. We met a wonderful piano “tuner” (I use quotes because today they are called technicians) Loren, through the woman we bought the piano from. He tuned the old piano a few times and finally said it was time for it to move on, that we needed something better and he would keep an eye out. A few months later he called saying someone wanted to sell their baby grand that was a mere 20 years old compared to ours which was closer to 60. We bought it after having Loren check it out for us giving it his seal of approval.

When Loren comes to tune the piano it is like an old friend coming to visit. I make a cup of coffee while he proceeds to take apart the piano readying it for tuning. DSCN7288I learned through one of our chats that Loren spent the years from 1987 to 1999 playing the piano in the  famous New York City restaurant Elaine’s. He is a master musician, serving as Head Technician for the Conservatory at New Jersey City University, responsible for the maintenance of 54 Steinway pianos. He is easygoing and always interesting to talk to. He also wears great socks

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My favorite part is when he is almost finished and he actually plays.

Nothing like the sound of an in tune piano with Loren on the keys.

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Share Your World

This week Cee asks:

What is the perfect pizza?

I have been Gluten intolerant for close to 15 years, so I cannot say. Extra cheesy is how I used to like it. I have tried gluten free pizza which little resembles the real thing. I have tried Pizza made with a cauliflower crust, it takes like mush with tomato sauce and cheese and whatever else you want to add. There is just nothing like the real thing.

What is your favorite time of day?

Morning for sure, hands down, absolutely. Nothing like the quiet, peacefulness, the sunrise. Especially at the beachsunrise1aa

Show us two of your favorites photographs.  The photos can be from anytime in your life span. Explain why they are your favorite.

This photo was taken about 7 years ago when 3 of my great nieces came to stay for the weekend. Before they left we wanted to get a photo so they all literally jumped onto the couch surrounding me. Their exuberance made me laugh and every time I see this photo I think of that. It always makes me smile.
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This is a photo of my father taken in 1975 in the dining room of the home I grew up in. I love it because my father rarely smiled in photos because his teeth were crooked, and here he is smiling. The way he is holding his hands was so “him”- we all have certain gestures that make us who we are- and this was often how he held his hands- with or without the cigarette. The digital watch a sign of the times- it was a big deal back then- new to the market. He loved watches and owned many.daddy 1975

Complete this sentence:  I’m looking forward to…. 

More of summer!! More coffees with friends, more morning walks, more shopping, more weekend trips to the beach!

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Drive

The Daily Post Prompt is Drive, so I pulled out an old post I had written about just that.

As I drove on the highway this morning, going slow enough to be able to see into the cars alongside me, I thought about how the car allows us to be within our own little world. One person appeared to be singing, another was talking on her cell phone. A man was shaving, this is not the first time I have witnessed this, and who am I to judge as I have been known to apply lipstick while driving, and I floss my teeth when stopped at red lights.Our cars provide a private space, in public, but still private. We can sing at the top of our lungs, we can cry, all while ensconced in our own little world on four wheels.

It reminded me of when I first learned to drive, and on Sundays my mother would let me borrow her car. A 1970 Chevy Impala with a bench seat.

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Being able to drive brought a new freedom. My best friend and I would drive up the highway about twenty minutes from where we lived, to visit beautiful farmland. It had always been so close, yet so far before I could drive. There was a farm stand where we could get a hot cocoa in the winter, lemonade in the summer. On the way home we would take the local streets, winding our way past beautiful homes, not really knowing where we were, just moving in the right direction, heading South, knowing sooner or later we would find our way. We always did. We kept a map in the glove compartment just in case, but never used it. It was on these drives we would talk endlessly, safe within the walls and windows of the car, with no interruptions from our parents or siblings, no homework to think about, talking and taking in the wonderful scenery. Arriving home we felt as if we had been away on vacation. Driving opened up a new world for us, before the days that we needed to drive to get to work, to get to the supermarket, to run the endless errands.

Sometimes it is good to take that drive to nowhere, allowing us the time to think, to be alone with our thoughts, no interruptions, no place to go except wherever you decide to make your next turn.

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