Summer’s End in photos

In many ways, I feel like I totally missed summer. Part of the summer it was raining and part of it was humid and hot and the heat made me pretty sick and out of it. So here we are at the beginning of Fall and we didn’t do anything I had planned for the summer. We tried to cram some swimming in before the swimming season is over but one day the pool at my parents had too much chlorine and the next time it was too cold and then there was the invasion of the spiders, but I won’t go into detail about that one.

For the most part, our summer’s end was family time, construction of a shed my dad and son built over the summer and a little bit of swimming with the neighbors. And this past weekend we closed out summer with a picnic with friends. I can’t help feeling summer was a bust and flew by way too fast.

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The Do Nothing Summer

We really haven’t done anything this summer and I’ve felt guilty about it, but part of the time it couldn’t be helped.

This has been a fairly hot, humid summer and going outside to frolic in the fields hasn’t really been an option. Of course, one has to be cautious about frolicking in fields around here anyhow with all the Lyme Disease carrying ticks that our county has. The number of people we know hitting their beds due to Lyme is a bit overwhelming. My dad has been one of them and is frustrated with the exhaustion that often hits him.

We haven’t really visited playgrounds (okay, we’ve gone to two), or gone to the local pool near us (probably because my dad installed a large one at his house), visited the local libraries (probably because I always lose library books and end up paying for them) or had a fancy vacation (because we are poor). Quite frankly, we’ve been slugs.

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We still have a month before school starts, so hopefully, we can pack in some fun days before then. In the midst of trying to squeeze in some fun activities, I’m also researching additional homeschool curriculum since I plan to start homeschooling on August 26, something my son isn’t super thrilled with.

Homeschooling has been a blessing to us so far, even on the tough days. It’s been nice to be able to visit my parents even on school days, instead of visiting them only on the weekends. My son is able to spend days and nights with my parents while my dad teaches him life skills, such as do it yourself projects. My dad is either teaching my son or using him to help complete some projects around the house, either way, it’s a good learning experience for him.

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This summer my son helped his grandfather prepare the ground for a new pool behind the house, work on a shed near the house, and repair a tombstone of a family member at the local cemetery. They have also enjoyed quite a few breakfasts out together. One thing the weather this summer hasn’t allowed much time for is the long bike rides my son and dad usually take.

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Maybe we can all find something fun to do when the weather breaks and we don’t have to sweat through it. Thanks to the flexibility of homeschooling we will be able to do that even if it happens right when classes start again.

So, how about you? How is summer treating you? Have you been able to take a lot of trips, go to the pool, play at the playground (with or without children), or take some long bike rides? Or have you been a slug, like me this summer?

 

 

Summertime, so far, in photos

We haven’t done anything very exciting so far this summer, other than my husband starting a new job and our family looking at houses in the area where he’s now working. We have had some nice family time with my parents, especially on the Fourth of July, and my son helped my dad install a pool at his house and start construction on a new shed.

I thought I’d share a collection of photos from our summer so far since I haven’t shared a photo post in a bit.

What are all of you up to this summer so far? Or winter, if you are “down under”? Let me know in the comments!

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Fiction Friday: A Story To Tell Chapter Five

Welcome to Fiction Friday, where I share a piece of fiction I’m working on.  Right now I’m in the middle of sharing a story I’m developing into a novel.
IF you haven’t been following along, or need to remind yourself of the previous parts of the story, I’ve provided links to the other parts below:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Don’t want to click from chapter to chapter? Find the book in full on Kindle HERE. 


 

Lisa R. Howeler

I loved the smell of books. I loved the feel of them in my hands. My favorite place to be, if I wasn’t in my room reading, was in the library, curled up against a bookcase in the fiction section. I fell into new and mysterious worlds when I was reading. My boring life faded away into someone else’s adventure. I spent so many days wishing the boring away.

Edith didn’t like to read. She found her excitement in the real world. We were the complete opposite for so many years. She liked her dark hair to be curled and each curl to be in its place. She liked her clothes to be the latest in fashion and to hug her curves, but not too close, so there was at least a little left to the imagination of the boys who watched her when she walked by.

She was confident and frequently had a smart or a flirty remark on the tip of her tongue.

I was the quiet, sometimes painfully shy younger sister she and her friends didn’t know how to talk to. I give Edith credit, though – she tried her best to pull me forward in life, encouraging, or rather nagging, me to experience more than a simple story in a book.

“Daddy, can Blanche and I go to the matinee while you finish your paperwork at the office?” Edith looked at Daddy and batted her eyes, chin on her folded hands.

Daddy didn’t always fall for Edith’s little eye flutters but on this particular day he must have decided she looked a lot like the little girl he used to bounce on his knee because he agreed.

“I’ll drop you off at 2 and you’d better be out front when the movie ends,” Daddy said.

Edith and I agreed.

“And what’s playing anyhow?” He asked.

“‘The Harder They Fall,’ with Humphrey Bogart,” Edith told him.

Daddy was a big fan of Humphrey Bogart. Edith knew he’d have a hard time saying ‘no’ to letting us see Boggie.

“I like that Humphrey Bogart,” Daddy said from behind his newspaper. “He’s a man’s man.”

And he was a man’s man that day on the big screen too. I couldn’t take my eyes off him but Edith’s eyes were on Jimmy Sickler a row over from us, sitting with Annie Welles. I couldn’t read the expression on Edith’s face. It seemed to switch back and forth between angry and hurt.

“I loved it. What did you think?” I asked Edith at the end as we filed to the front of the theater to wait for Daddy.

Edith shrugged.

“It was okay, I guess.”

I knew she’d missed half of it watching Jimmy and Annie.

“Hey, Edith.”

Jimmy’s voice made my sister look up sharply and I saw fire in her eyes. I only liked drama in my books and wished I wasn’t standing between them. Edith’s gaze trailed to Annie standing next to Jimmy, patting her hair into place. Her tense expression quickly softened and she smiled.

“Well, hello, James,” she said sweetly. “Did you two enjoy the movie?”

“We did,” Jimmy said. “Thanks for asking. You’re looking nice this afternoon.”

He turned his attention to me. “Hey there, Blanche. Some sister time, huh?”

His smile was sweet. I always thought Jimmy was one of the most polite boys Edith went out with. His brown hair was always combed neatly to one side and his bright blue eyes were captivating.

I nodded and smiled.

“Did you like the movie?”

“I did. I like Humphrey Bogart a lot.”

I knew I had no idea how to talk to boys and looked at the sidewalk to avoid Jimmy’s gaze, hoping he wouldn’t ask me anymore questions.

I could see Daddy’s Oldsmobile coming down the street toward the theater.

“You two have a good day,” Edith winked at Jimmy and her voice was even sweeter than before, almost too sweet, like sugar on top of a sugar cookie.

She leaned close to Jimmy, hand on his shoulder, mouth close enough to his ear to graze his skin and whispered. I could see Annie’s face just beyond Jimmy’s left shoulder. Her dark red lipstick made her pursed lips look like a cherry on its’ stem and her eyelids were half closed in a furious glare.

I cringed inwardly at Edith’s embarrassing display.

Jimmy’s cheeks and ears flushed pink and he looked as embarrassed as I felt. Edith’s hand slid down his bare arm as she backed away and then a slight smirk tilted her lips as she glanced at the stewing Annie.

Jimmy reached his arm back to pull Annie close to him, his jaw tight.

“Good to see you ladies,” he said curtly as he stepped past us.

Edith’s smile had faded into a scowl and by the time we slid into the backseat of the car the scowl was fading into obvious hurt.

“Good movie?” Daddy asked.

“Oh yes! You’ll love it,” I told him. “You should take Mama next weekend.”

Daddy and I chatted about the movie while Edith sulked, one leg crossed over the other, her foot bouncing and her arms folded across her chest. She snapped the door open and slammed it closed when we pulled up to the house, stomping up the front steps.

Daddy raised his eyebrows and looked at me questioningly.

I shrugged.

“Boy troubles,” I said.

Daddy shook his head. His eyebrows furrowed slightly into a scowl

“That girl and those boys.”

Now it was his turn to look sour as he climbed out of the car.

“I don’t know why I even go out with the boys around here,” Edith said when I walked into our room. She tossed her sweater on her bed. “They don’t really like me. They don’t really want to know me or what I think or what I feel.”

She flopped back on the bed, laying on her back and starring at the ceiling.

“What do you mean? All the boys love you,” I said, confused.

“They don’t love me. They love what I give them,” Edith said.

I saw tears in her eyes.

A chill cut through me.

“What do you mean what you give them?” I asked nervously.

Edith blew her nose into her handkerchief and folded her knees up against her chest.

“Edith…you aren’t giving those boys – I mean, you’re not really…” I felt sick to my stomach.

Edith had her head on her knees and wouldn’t look at me.

“Not everything,” she mumbled. “Just enough to keep them coming for more.”

I sat on my bed and didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure what “just enough” was and didn’t even want to know what “more” was. Mama said I didn’t need to know what men and women did when they were alone, besides kissing, but I’d heard a lot what “it” was at school, in books, and from Emmy, who had an older brother.

“Why do you need them to like you so much?” I asked softly.

Edith shrugged. “I don’t need them to like me, but I like them to,” she said. “It’s nice to be adored and paid attention to, you know?”

“Mama and Daddy love you and – “

Edith snorted. “Please. Daddy likes you more than me. You’re smarter and do better in school and he knows you’ll do something with your life. I’ll just be a hairdresser.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s not true. You can be whatever you want to be. Times are different than when Mama was a girl,” I said. “Besides, Mama thinks I’ll just stay home and be a housewife. She doesn’t think I can be anything else.”

Edith wiped the tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand.

“You’re going to be more than a housewife. Don’t you let them tell you what you can be,” she said. “I’m just not good enough to be anything other than someone who cuts hair and files nails and I know that. And by the way, getting attention from your parents is way different than getting it from a cute boy. Someday you’ll understand that.”

I laid on my side on my bed and leaned on my arm.

“Are you and Jimmy even going steady?” I asked.

Edith laid there in silence for a few moments and sighed.

“I don’t know. We’ve never discussed it. But – I guess I thought we were. I guess I didn’t realize how much I liked him until I saw him with that silly Annie Welles. I just thought – I guess I thought if I reminded him what I could give him that Little Miss Prude won’t he’d want to forget about her.”

Edith wiped her hand across her face.

I flopped back on my bed on my back.

We both laid there for a few moments in silence.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a hairdresser,” I said finally. “They make women look pretty and they get to gossip all day.”

Edith laughed softly, sat up, and drew her hands down over her hair to straighten it.

“Well, those are two things I enjoy so maybe it won’t be so bad,” she said and smiled.

I sat up to look at her.

“Maybe Jimmy’s different than the other boys, Edith. Maybe he doesn’t only want one thing.”

Edith rolled her eyes and slid the record player from under her bed.

“All boys want that one thing from girls. Another lesson you’ll learn as you get older.”

She paused as she lifted a box of chocolates off her nightstand.

“Blanche? You know you don’t have to give it to them right?”

“Give them what?” I asked feigning innocence.

“You know what, Blanche. Don’t play games with me. You’ve got more going for you than I do. You don’t have to – well, you know – there’s a lot more reasons for a boy to like you.”

I touched her hand and she looked at me.

“There are a lot more reasons for a boy to like you too, Edith,” I said.

She looked away from me, and smiled a little as she shook her head.

“You’re too nice, Blanche.”

She placed a Frank Sinatra record on the turn table and we ate chocolate and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about boys we thought were cute and the newest fashions she’d read about at her beauty classes.

It took her mind off Jimmy Sickler and Annie Welles and my mind off my sister basing her worth off what a man thought of her.

“I’ll never be like her,” I told myself, not knowing then that we often become who we don’t want to be.

I am really not a photographer who “poses”

I’m rarely drawn to an image where I’ve posed someone or something for a photograph. My eye and interest is almost always drawn to an image where the moment was unscripted and unprepared. I live in an area where most requests are for sessions where everyone is posed and since I enjoy photography as a way to earn some extra funds for my family, I accept these sessions, knowing I can cleanse my pallet later by photographing my children or a freelance job.

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I know I’ve rambled about this before on my blog but I suppose why I enjoy unscripted photography so much more than posed is because of my journalism background. When I worked for small-town newspapers I never knew what a day was going to bring, no matter how well I planned it out. I might go in expecting a ribbon cutting in the afternoon and a school board meeting at night but by the evening I was writing about a car accident or a fire I had gone to or a murder the police had sent us a press release on. I grew accustomed to the unpredictable nature of small-town news, even though there were some days I longed for a “normal” day where everything went as planned.

I suppose that the spontaneous nature of my job rubbed off on my photography as well. When I was taking photos for a newspaper I preferred to capture the action because that’s what draws the readers’ eyes to the page – a well-captured image of the action – much more so than a person standing in one place and smiling at the camera (unless the person is someone famous or prestigious.) The desire to capture the action passed on to my personal photography as well and it’s essentially how I approach moments I plan to document through my camera.

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Although, if you throw something unusual into a posed photo – say a group of cows in the background – then that posed photo does become more interesting. It is moments like the one I experienced the other day with a herd of cows and a teenage boy when spontaneity can break into the posed. In fact, I often keep snapping the shutter because I know something unexpected will break the monotony of the plain ole’ stand or sit here and smile at the camera shots.

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My brain doesn’t seem to be wired for the organized and the planned when it comes to photography or art and as much as I would like the rest of my life to be more planned and organized, it doesn’t seem to work out there either. Admiring the spontaneity in my photography is something that has encouraged me to try to do the same in life and although I often find myself failing at embracing the unknown in my every day, I plan to keep doing it in my art.

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Next to the girl and her dog

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I posted this photo of my daughter and our dog on Facebook recently and my dad commented the following under it:

Next to the girl collecting Easter eggs with her dog stands a pair of sawhorses that belonged to her great great grandfather. Just to the left of them is a gnarly maple with different bark than the other maples. Behind her is a beautiful tall always liked ash. It is yellowed pale and almost dead now from the ash tree bores that have destroyed most all of Pennsylvania’s ash. To the right just out of focus is a large stone over the grave of one of her mother’s cats.

There is also a small dogwood tree planted by her grandfather nearby. Beyond that are some rotted boards of the dog house he built when nine years of age or so he claims.  A shag-bark hickory stood near there and fifty yards above that spot stood a balsa tree, the largest tree in the lot. Seventy-five feet behind the girl is a hand dug well that is now covered with heavy steel plates. This well gravity fed the house and chicken coops. Another well hidden just over the stone wall property line has a large stone covering it.

Just beyond the fence once stood one chicken coop. Water would be hand carried to that one as it was not downhill enough for gravity feed. Hid in the brush 100 feet to the left of the sawhorse is the foundation remains of the spring-cooled milk house. Also, the corn crib was near there. The granary still remains in that spot. A week later as this is being written the buds are opening to vivid green leaves, the forsythia flowers are bright yellow and life goes on.

Week in review in photos

The headline is a bit misleading because this is going to be a bit of a “photo dump” of my last couple of weeks. I haven’t really touched my camera much in the last three or four months, due to depression and losses of friendships and then more depression  (would you like me to talk about my depression some more? No? Good, because I’m done talking about it.)

The weather started to warm up a little so we spent some time drawing on the sidewalk in front of the house with sidewalk chalk, exploring at my parents, playing outside and generally all the stuff you do when you begin to emerge from the cacoon of Northern winters.

I’m hoping I get back my love of photography and begin to use it again as a therapy for the times I’m the lowest emotionally.

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The weekend I learned people of ‘a certain age’ don’t actually sleep

Apparently, once you hit 70 or so, you don’t sleep. At least that’s what I’ve learned after spending two nights and three days with my parents this past weekend.

I really thought that older people slept a lot – or at least napped – sort of like cats, but, alas, that is obviously not the case.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that aches and pains and heartburn and simple, general old-age insomnia keep many older people awake, so that’s why they don’t sleep. I’m already experiencing it at middle-age. Still, I had no idea that people of a “certain age” only need about five hours of sleep to function each day. They may not function well, and they may function on a bit more of a cranky plane than others, but they function nonetheless.

My daughter wanted to stay at her grandparents one weekend and since we couldn’t that particular day, I told her we would do it the following weekend when her brother was at a sleepover and her dad was working an extra shift. As so often happens when I plan a special weekend, I ended up having two weird health spells while there (translation: I’m hitting that special age when our hormones shift so my nasty monthly visitor came early), which wasn’t fun, but what was fun was watching my daughter spend almost our entire time there sitting next to her grandmother playing with her stuffed animals and telling my mom all she knows  about wildlife thanks to PBS kids’ Wild Kratts. Of course, she did tell Mom that some Jaguares give birth to 300 cubs at a time, obviously not accurate, so I think she may have misunderstood something Chris and Martin told her.

I don’t have a strict bedtime for my children most nights and since this was a sleepover we went to bed late that night. I crawled into my aunt’s old room around 11:30 and since Little Miss hadn’t had a nap all day she passed out within five minutes. I started to drift off at midnight while reading a book.

Before bed I had tried to figure out how to turn off the lamp next to the bed and before I even reached it, it turned off, which made me realize it must be a touch lamp. I decided I must have touched it right and went to bed, only to have the thing turn on a few moments later without me even touching it. That was disconcerting so I found the actual switch and turned that to make sure the light stayed off. I could just imagine my late aunt up in Heaven, if she can see from there, laughing at me until she couldn’t breathe. Back in bed I curled up in the flannel sheets and tried to relax after a weird day of dizziness and high blood pressure (as mentioned before, this turned out to be related to my early visitor, but I didn’t know that at the time so my hypochondria had kicked in. The blood pressure went back into normal range the next few days.).

I closed my eyes and ten minutes later a light filled the room as if the stadium lights at a night football game had been turned on. Zooma the Wonderdog had curled up at my feet, but, of course, when she heard footsteps in the hallway she was off the bed to investigate. I figured Dad had to use the bathroom while Mom was in the one downstairs so I waited for the light to click back off again. It did, but then bam! It was on 30 seconds later. I decided I’d have to join the dog to investigate so I headed down the stairs only to meet my dad, brushing his teeth, coming up to meet me.

“I turned the light off but then I thought I’d better turn it back on because I didn’t know if the dog could find her way back to your room in the dark,” he told me.

“Dad, she’s a dog. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

I flipped the light back off and went back to bed. It was about 1 a.m.

At 6 a.m. I woke up to use the bathroom and could already hear my dad opening and closing the front door and calling for Zooma to come back inside from her morning potty break. I’d had a long day the day before so I crawled back into bed and a few hours later I staggered downstairs to find my parents somewhat wide awake and freshly baked fish on the counter for breakfast (we aren’t really breakfast-food people.)

“Good grief, don’t you two sleep?” I asked.

“What? I was up at 5:30…” Dad told me.

“Yeah, but you didn’t go to bed until 1,” I pointed out.

He shrugged.

I imagined he would catch up on his sleep the next night. Instead, I was again woke up at 6 a.m., the next morning, after going to bed too late again, this time by Zooma jumping on the bed and a bright, artificial light filling the room. Apparently, Dad still didn’t think Zooma could find her way back after her morning potty break.

The last night we were there, my 4-year old daughter and 12-year old son were eating tomato soup with their grandfather at 10:30 at night.

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I was glad it was only soup this time.

One other time we were stranded at their house in a snowstorm when my mom began shoving several pieces of chocolate into my then 3-year old daughter around 11:30 at night. Fine, maybe Mom wasn’t shoving them in, but simply opening them one-by-one so my daughter could shove them in. We were awake until at least 1 a.m. the next morning. When I discovered the empty wrappers, I asked my mom what she was thinking and she giggled and said “I don’t know! She was just so cute!”

I swear when people hit grandparent age they forget about all those rules they had when they were parents. I can’t imagine my parents ever letting me shove candy down my gullet that late at night, or even being awake that late at night.

And also when they hit grandparent age, they apparently, forget how nice sleep can be.

 

Spring has finally sprung in Pennsylvania but it’s always possible another snow storm will come

“There are robins on the hill,” my dad said and we rushed to the windows and “ooohed” and “aahed” because in Pennsylvania we know that the sight of the robins in our yards means spring has sprung. Sure, the grass may still be brown and yellow, the trees may still be naked, and the flowers aren’t yet budding, but when the robins appear, back from their trip South, we know it won’t be long.

Soon there will be flowers (and for our family sneezing), warm days spent at the playground (though we already squeezed a playground visit in this week),

I have to be honest, during our first warm day this spring, I found myself briefly wishing for cold again. After months of waiting for weather warm enough to get the children out of the house, I felt a rush of anxiety at having to talk to people again while walking the dog and pushing my daughter up the hills on her bicycle. I’m anti-social at heart (which is weird, considering the 13 years I worked in newspapers) and find the older I’ve become the more I prefer sitting at home, reading a book, writing nonsense on here, or watching another episode of “Somebody Feed Phil.”

Not having to wear a coat to walk to the car or around the block was welcome for those three warm days, before cold weather set back in, though. I walked to the local diner on the second warmer day, after a family friend invited me for lunch. I was fed what was possibly grass with some dried cranberries, the smallest sunflower seeds I’ve ever seen and a pile of oregano. Apparently, I’m not as “natural” as I like to think and found myself wishing the black beans sprinkled on as my source of protein was a huge steak.

Showing that I’m not yet prepared for the normal warm weather walking of five paces behind my daughter on her bike while trying not to let the dog yank me onto my face on the sidewalk on her short leash, I decided to try to cut corners and let the dog pull my daughter on her bike. I wasn’t really going to leave the leash hooked there long, but truly thought the dog might pull her forward a few inches instead of yanking the bike onto its side and leaving my preschooler laying under it at the exact moment a local police officer drove by.

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The officer’s SUV slowed down and he looked through the tinted window at me as I lifted her off the sidewalk and checked her skinned elbow and grabbed the dog’s leash to keep her from running away. He gave me a thumbs up as if to ask “You okay?” and I gave one back to let him know I was and then waved a ‘thank you’.  One thing that is nice about small-town life is the local police presence.

He drove away and I looked closer at the mark on her arm was about the size of the top of a pin, but you would have thought she had almost lost her arm the way her lower lip was pushed out and she started making demands we turn around and go home. In the past two weeks, she’s become very attached to bandaids and seems to think she needs them on even the smallest scratches.

Even her animals are receiving their own bandages, especially if the dog happens to grab on to one of them and run off with it. Also in the past two weeks, she has become much more stressed about – well, everything. I had a feeling what she needed more than a bandaid was a nap after a couple of hours at the playground earlier with her dad and even more running through the house chasing the dog, before our walk.

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By Friday night the warm air had faded and I was receiving texts from my husband, who was at work, reminding me to turn on the heat. I refused, telling him it was still warm out and I wouldn’t close the windows and turn the heat on until I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. This resolved faded shortly after that declaration and I found myself craving a warm cup of tea and the shawl that used to be my aunts. 

For now I’m happy to sink back into a little bit of introvert isolation, content with the excuse that it’s simply too cold to go outside and interact with others. And who knows, maybe we will have a March blizzard like last year and I’ll have even more of an excuse to stay inside.

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