Memorial Day – Because Sometimes We Forget

Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander died on November 30 1967 in a plane crash in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam. I did not know anything about her until I made a point to find out who she was and how she died after seeing her name at the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Eleanor Grace Alexander was one of eight active duty women who died during that war. She was 27 and unmarried.

Born the same year as my mother she would have been 70 on September 18 had she survived. Having read first hand accounts from people who knew her and several who served with her including Rhona Marie Knox Prescott who wrote this moving letter which is part of the Veteran’s History Project in the Library of Congress, I am grateful there was a record so that some of my questions could be answered.

As an American child of the sixties, it was the Vietnam War that was the backdrop of my daily life with body counts and war updates delivered each night by men like Walter Cronkite of CBS news. Sadly we are still at war, still fighting, and still burying the dead. Although we do battle in different countries now, the result is the still the same for many and unless your life has been touched directly by loss it can be easy to forget why we recognize Memorial Day, why it’s more than a precursor to summer fun and pool side parties. I’m guilty of forgetting in the past, of treating the three-day weekend that leads into Memorial Day as a much needed respite from a too full life. What I hope to never forget is that I’ve had a chance to live the life I have thanks in part to men and women who died in wars long before I was born.

I plan to take a few minutes today to think about Eleanor Grace Alexander and my great uncle, Hugh Lee Stephens who died in WWII.

Is there someone today that you need to remember … I only ask because I know from experience that sometimes without meaning to, we forget.

Budding Director Captures The Moment

Look closely at the image below and you should be able to see two figures in the distance, one in red and one in blue. If you can’t see them, click on the image to make it larger and if after that you still can’t see them, go get your glasses and give it another try.

Okay, now for the brief backstory … John and I took Jersey Girl down to the river today so I could decide where to hide the clues for my treasure hunt on Wednesday. As I was taking pictures of hiding places and counting off paces and writing down the details needed for creating a treasure map, I happened to look up and notice that in the distance there was something happening that looked kind of interesting. So I snapped a series of photographs that after viewing I just had to share.

When we first walked through the meadow, I tried to teach JG how to hold a blade of grass between her thumbs and blow on to make a series of bird sounds. After working our way through multiple blades of grass with little success, we decided to try again later. When I saw JG with John’s video camera in hand, I knew that John was probably putting the lesson on tape.

Seeing him lift his hands up and hearing him make a few sounds that sounded a bit like a squawk confirmed what I had been thinking and I was glad that I had managed to catch their cute interaction if only from a distance.

The shot below was the one I couldn’t see clearly due to the distance, but by some bit of luck I managed to snap the image of a little budding director giving her granddad the thumbs up sign signaling a successful capture.

I can almost hear her saying, ” Got it, well done, Bapa. “

While the pictures above make me chuckle at the easy confident interaction I’ve witnessed many times between them, it’s the one below that makes my heart feel tender. I haven’t see the video JG made of her Bapa today, but from the look on their faces while reviewing the footage, I think it will certainly be something to remember.

When You Are Five Going On Six

When you are five going on six,

you like to help in the kitchen by stirring the mix.

When it’s all done and ready to eat, you pour on the syrup to make it taste sweet.

It isn’t quite perfect as hearts rarely are,

but it’s crunchy and filling and will carry you far.

Boris you see sitting there in his chair, is waiting for help like a good little bear.

When Boris has had all he can eat, we take some outside to give the birds a nice treat.

Since some like a place to rest while they eat,

we’ll leave some snacks on the bird table sure to make them sing, “tweet tweet.”

As you can see we are off to a good start of our visit with Jersey Girl. She assisted in writing the story today with Boris the Bear extending a few editorial comments as well. Thanks too for the heart-shaped waffle suggestions. JG picked from the choices available and I must say, I always like it when the heart wins.

We’re Having A Child

Calling one of my local American friends today, we did a quick catch up, ” How have you been, fine how about you, ” and then I said, ” John and I are having a child …” and before I could finish my sentence, I think she said something like ” Whaaaat “

Like me, Gillian has a British husband, but they also have two children who happen to be the perfect age to hang out with John’s granddaughter, Jersey Girl. Children are out of school both here and on Jersey for the next few weeks and John flew over to bring JG back to stay with us next week. So what I was trying to say was, “John and are having a child with us next week and I want to invite you and your family to a little pirate themed party on Sunday.” Once she realized I wasn’t trying to join the ranks of older women intent on increasing the size of their family, we settled into the details of the party.

It’s funny how many women there are with children in the six to seven age range in my local circle of friends. I fall into this weird place of being about nine or ten years older than most of them except Gillian who’s still a baby in her late thirties. She’s a natural entertainer making her great person to have at a party and I was pleased she agreed to join us. Tina, who I’ve mentioned before and Lara, a new running buddy, will be coming with their children bringing the child total up to a manageable seven.

I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have a little one to plan a party for since my own daughter will be twenty-three soon, but I have been planning a fun outing for us down by the river. It’s a perfect place for a pirates picnic compete with a treasure map that I plan to hide in the river (more like a creek in size next to the party area) in a bottle tied up with string.

I love to come up with rhyming clues and have been testing some out as I get ready to create the map. I’m off in a minute to scout out hiding places and then back home to bake and make some party treats.

I’ve already painted an egg carton metallic gold for a small treasure chest and I have a larger one that looks like a crystal jewel box for the larger candy treats. I even made pirate spy glasses and painted a styrofoam sheet metallic gold so it can be a big doubloon for the party.

Fingers crossed it goes off as well as it looks in my head. I’d hate to think there might be a mutiny because between you and me, I am not walking the plank.

February 1, 2009 - Me with Jersey Girl

UPDATE: She’s here, Jersey Girl is in the house!

After bed, bath and reading the book, Angelina’s Birthday, Jersey Girl fell fast asleep. She wants waffles for breakfast having remembered them from her last visit. I think I may have to cut them into a special shape to surprise her. Hmm, now what kind of shape should I do …. suggestions anyone?

Distractions – Bright & Beautiful

When bright flowers bloom

Parchment crumbles, my words fade

The pen has dropped …

~ Morpheus

I make deals with myself sometimes … with the life long experience of a master negotiator, I have whole, silent, in my head conversations that frequently begin with something like this, if you do this for the next three hours, then you can …

Today is one of those days.

Had I Known You Were Coming, I Would Have Baked A Cake

Atlanta – December – 2006

That’s me in the cell phone picture above, wearing a borrowed apron while presenting the first cake I ever made from scratch to my guests at a Christmas party in Atlanta. Judging from that smile and what I remember, I was clearly giddy with delight at how well it turned out. Yesterday was a day like that for me too. After clicking publish on yesterday’s post, I checked a few blogs that I read regularly and went out for a run that quickly turned into more of a brisk walk due to a pulled back muscle.

Imagine my surprise when I realized on my return that my blog had been selected by Joy, an editor at WordPress, as one of eleven blogs to be showcased on the Freshly Pressed site for WordPress.com. It is always special to receive recognition, whether it’s a group of your friends with an appreciative sweet tooth eating up your first apple cake or a group of strangers who show up all at once to see what’s shaking at your place … support like that can quickly make a girl go all giggly and Sally Field-ish.

It was great fun to see your comments and watch my sitemeter numbers go up throughout the day and although they didn’t climb quite as high as they did when Pioneer Woman sent all her friends over for a visit, it was pretty exciting on its own.

Thanks to everyone who took time yesterday to leave a comment and say hello. I haven’t made it around to all of your sites yet, but if you have one, I’ll be by later today and if you happen to be feeling like serving a little snack, I’d love a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

In case you don’t have a good cake recipe of your own, I’m happy to share my favorite from Carole Clements, The Cooks Handbook.


What Remains The Same

Elizabeth Harper – Athens, Greece – Summer 1981

Yes … that’s me. This image came from an old slide from my army days, one of many that I’ve been moving from place to place for years. With twenty-one just around the corner, this younger, thinner version of me thought she knew a few things about life and while I’d had some experiences by then that most of my friends from high school had not, like breaking down an M-16 rifle in the dark, or leaving home at eighteen for my first military assignment in Germany, I was clearly not rocking the world with my fashion sense.

I mean, really …what was I thinking with that tight curly perm and if that wasn’t bad enough, how in the world did I think it was okay to go out in public wearing those cutoff short shorts! That sock-less running shoe look while not pretty kept me from getting blisters when I ran my first marathon in those bright yellow Nikes and I was still wearing Nikes twenty-six years later when I ran my second one.

These days, I wear my shorts a good bit longer and I ditched the perms twenty years ago, but check out that camera I have hanging around my neck … most of us change a great many things through the years such as behaviors that are no longer useful, bad hair styles, career choices, and sometimes husbands and partners, but there are some parts of us that are with us for the duration and central to the core of who we are no matter where we’re standing or what direction we may be looking.

I bet you don’t need three guesses to know what remains constant for me. It’s there in almost every photograph whether it’s around my neck, hanging off my shoulder, or in my hand, a camera of some kind is always with me and while not exactly a fashion accessory, it appears now it is has become a necessory item for completing my look. How about you, is there something about you that people have come to expect will be there, always the same whenever they see you?

Elizabeth Harper – Cornwall, England – Summer 2008

Change Of Plans – Suggestions Anyone

For the last six or eight months, John and I have been planning a big trip in September. Having walked the 105 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc almost two years ago, I have been looking forward to doing it again with him this fall to celebrate a big birthday I have coming up. To make it even more special, we’ve been planning on taking my sister Margaret with us on the long walk through the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps.

Things got a bit complicated when Margaret and I began to plan her travel arrangements so that the timing might work with the schedule for the TMB. Because she was coming from Alaska, most of the flight options had her traveling for a minimum of 19 hours (it was difficult to find these) or up to 38 hours with the exception of one airline which could get her here within about 10 hours with connecting flights, but only flew from Alaska one day a week.

After all three of us had put in too many hours at the computer with no real progress and loads of frustration, I offered up an alternative plan … one that seemed less like an endurance event (which the TMB really is) and something more restful and less time restrictive.

Instead of walking a path that looks like this … or sleeping in places like this, I suggested a totally different sort of trip to Margaret and she decided it sounded good to her as well.

Even with the change, she will still be here for most of the month of September and for the first time since we were twelve and fourteen, we will be able to celebrate each others birthdays in person. She’s a September birthday too and since John’s birthday falls between ours, we’re going to be eating a lot of cake that month. The big question is, where are we going to be when we are blowing out our birthday candles.

A few days after she gets here, we’ll head for London for a week of exploring. My 50th birthday will happen while we are there, so John will come up the day before and stay overnight in order to celebrate the milestone with me too. Now here’s where you come in, I’m looking for suggestions for things you think we should see and do during our week in London and I’d like to have a plan that includes something special for my birthday.

Having been there a few times, I do have some ideas, but I would love to see if you can surprise me with something I haven’t thought of yet. I’m not sure what is on Margaret’s list, (we just decided on the change recently) but I do know that I would like to photograph London from the top of the London Eye on my birthday.


I would also like for us to see a show or two in the West End, but I am not sure what might be enjoyable. I’ve seen several there in the past. I loved Billy Elliot when I saw it in 2005, and Miranda and I saw my all time favorite musical, Les Miserables when we were there in 2003. I’m not opposed to a more serious production either as I was thrilled to see Ralph Fiennes in Brand on the same trip with her when she was fifteen. If you’ve seen or heard about a production that you think is too fabulous to miss, please let me know so we can consider it for our list.

After our week in London, we’ll be a bit closer to home as we do up the southwest part of England for a week or two. Then we’re off by plane to the next place on our list. It’s one of my favorites and if you’ve reading me for long, you may have already seen some of my photographs from there. Can you guess where we will be by the images below?

A Gift for Abelard & Heloise

This is one I snapped on our honeymoon.

I can’t wait to show Margaret where I was standing when I captured this familiar Paris scene. The seventh picture holds a clue.

Margaret and I will be spending seven days in Paris on our own for a sister’s week. We have a lot already in mind to fill our days, but tell me what you’d want to see and do if you were joining us. I’m looking for things I may not have thought of yet.

Lastly, I could use suggestions from my Paris blog friends on short term holiday lets. I’d like to book a place soon and I have scoured the internet looking for a place that is not too pricey, works well for two, and is in a decent location. We don’t mind walking, (I’ll need it to offset my bread intake) and I have used the Metro before so we are fairly flexible. While I would prefer a studio apartment, if you have a hotel recommendation that is reasonable, I’d be open to having a look at that as well.

I’m so looking forward to spending this time with Margaret. We’ve not had a chance to travel together since we were children and I don’t think our memories of fighting over who had more room in the backseat of the car on road trips in the late sixties and early seventies is going to compare at all with the memories we’ll be making in September 2010.

” Mister Rogers & Me ” – Nantucket Film Festival

Mister Rogers & Me (photo courtesy of Benjamin Wagner)

Many of you may remember previously when I’ve talked about Benjamin Wagner. He’s been working for some time now on a remarkable looking film titled, Mister Rogers & Me. It is a deep and simple documentary about Fred Rogers told from the perspective of Benjamin, with the help of quite a few others who knew him as well. In the trailer alone, you see folks like Linda Ellerbee and Tim Russert along with Susan Stamberg and Marc Brown sharing their thoughts on the impact Fred Rogers had on the millions of people who either watched on him on television or those like Benjamin, who had a chance to actually sit down and talk with him before he died.

I’ve written about Benjamin and his story before, and how a conversation he had with a man who really was his neighbor put him on the path towards a life that celebrates the deep and simple in a world that is too often focused on what is shallow and complex.

Benjamin’s desire to share the message of Fred Rogers and the combined efforts of both he and his brother Christofer, have led them to the place where they are now as ” Mister Rogers & Me ” is set to premiere at the Nantucket Film Festival in June along with the films of some already well known actors and directors.

I have watched the progression of this dream of his from the sidelines for the last few years and the story has had a lasting impact on me. Sometimes, I catch myself having conversations with strangers, like a cab driver on the way to the airport about living a life more focused on what is deep and simple. I can’t tell you the number of times it has come up or the places I shared it.

In the quote below, Fred Rogers talked about leaving something of yourself behind in every meeting we have with the people we meet. Sharing ” Mister Rogers & Me “ along with the deep and simple message is what I’m leaving behind today. While I can’t attend the premiere due to living in the UK, I can share the message, and you can too. If you feel inclined, would you forward this link or perhaps create a post of your own to share with the folks who matter in your life. It’s a sweet story with a powerful message and it might be just the very thing they need today.

If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.

~ Fred Rogers

I want to thank Benjamin for staying with this project and investing so much of himself into such a lasting legacy. Fred Rogers would be modest about being the center of the story, but he would be so proud of you and he would likely say it in his gentle voice, ” I am so proud of you, Benjamin.”

I like to add my own ” Well done, Benjamin,” and say that in this big global world, I’m so glad you and I are neighbors.


Special Delivery – Happy Anniversary – Blalog

I was talking with John yesterday about how I was becoming increasingly frustrated with trying to leave a comment for a blogger who comes up in my google reader. I cannot seem to make her comment button work. I certainly have given it a good try and I’ve also snooped around her site trying to make contact some other way, but with no success … given that this was not the first time I had grumbled about it, he suggested a blog post as a way to reach her.

A couple of posts ago, Blalog was talking about how it was her first wedding anniversary and she put up a sweet post (I loved the bird who was having a little bath) and I really wanted to say congratulations and hello, but still could not get the comment button to work. I think she might like to have some comments based on a blurb in her header, but from the looks of things, no one has been able to leave as much as a ” hello.”

So if you don’t mind, could you mosey over to her place here and see if you can figure it out. If nothing else, hopefully she’ll see some traffic and follow it back to me with a way to either get in touch (email) or check to ensure her comment button is working … and thanks so much for helping out.

Bird photograph by Miranda

UPDATE : Blalog received the message that I was trying to make contact. I’m not sure what tipped her off … maybe she noticed the web traffic, (thanks to you who popped over to check it out) or saw her name in the title and came by for a look. She left a message as you can see below and I’m happy to say that her comment button is now working over at her place.