Selling A Dream – Where Are They Now?

Elizabeth Harper 1979

Elizabeth Harper – Woolco Department Store -1979

In 1979, I worked briefly in Woolco department store which was owned by a name you may more easily recognize as Woolworth’s. While my job title was ‘Camera Department Manager’ the only thing I had to manage beyond inventory and sales was the boredom I felt on the job everyday. (See goofing off image above)

Woolco was well into its decline when I landed there as most of its potential customers had moved on to the new malls that offered more excitement than our discounted merchandise and a long-term lay-away plans.

While I did my job well enough to receive an employment offer from a local station (religious broadcasting, as I remember it) for finding some dated equipment that they had not been able locate anywhere else, the biggest deal I closed was with two young men about my age who were passing by the camera counter during a slow day in March of 1979.

After realizing pretty quickly that they were not interested in camera gear, I remember talking about the future and what I wanted to do with my life. At that point, I was secretly considering joining the military. Having graduated early from high school and spent six months studying commercial photography by the time I’d turned 18, I was back at home with my parents while working and trying to decide what to do next.

I probably told them that I had three immediate goals which were,  to see more of the world, save money for school (University) and become independent. I can’t remember what they said or how I convinced them that three years in the army might give them opportunities they could not get by staying where they were, but by the end of our across the glass counter chat, I had talked two strangers into a life changing decision.

A few days later, they met me at the recruitment office and before anyone could say, ‘ I’ve changed my mind,’ we were all in the employ of  our Uncle Sam. I came in at a higher pay grade having earned one stripe for bringing two qualified candidates in with me which fit the requirements for the Buddy program in place at the time.

All this occurred 34 years ago this month and I can’t help but wonder how things turned out for the daring young men who joined the army after talking with me. I guess I was doing a bit of life coaching before it was trendy.

One of the things I like about Facebook and the internet is the ability to see what folks you haven’t heard from in years have done with themselves. I enjoy seeing who they’ve become, what dreams came true, and what new ones are in front of them. I wish I could remember the names of the two young men who enlisted with me so I could see if the leap they took on an afternoon in March was one that helped them live a bigger life than they had imagined possible in 1979.

I know it sounds crazy, but I thought with the internet being what is today and the way we can share information, if you could pass this along to your social network, then perhaps someone who has heard a similar story from a man, describing how a young woman with a dream talked him into a bold adventure at a camera counter on an afternoon in March … maybe I might find out how things turned out for them.

Thank you.

Tree Climbing At Fifty & More From The American South

How ya’ll doing? Oops, look at that … here I am home less than a week and I am slipping back into my Georgia roots. John always teases me about how quickly I go back to sounding like a southern girl, (not that there’s anything wrong with it) when I’ve been on the phone with someone from home.

It’s most obvious after a chat with my stepmom Cullene, who hails from Alabama. My friends in the UK almost always try out their version of ‘ya’ll’ if they hear me use it in conversation which I tolerate with southern manners that would make my father proud.

I meant to post long before now having left you last Friday with the hopeful promise of another chapter of ‘ Dear Madame.’ I don’t know what I was thinking making a promise like that knowing what I had waiting for me at home. Let me show you what I’ve been doing instead of writing.

Working On My House

Fence Painting

If you haven’t painted a picket fence you are missing an experience. Actually, I wish I’d missed it too. After I debated about the merit of buying a power sprayer to paint it, I pulled out my paint roller and brushes and did it the old-fashioned way. Where is Tom Sawyer when you need him?

It may look like a small bit of fence, but after painting both sides it did not feel so small. Also, see the tree at the corner … that what I use when I’m climbing on the roof to knock the leaves off twice a year. I actually have a ladder, but prefer to climb the tree to get on the roof.

John didn’t want me to do it when he was with me at Christmas and even though I’ve done it for over ten years, I didn’t do it then as I did not want to worry him. When I went up this time, I had someone snap a few photos of my technique to share. I always like to have someone around to dial 911 should I fall in the process. So far my rock climbing skills have helped me get up every time.

Tree Climbing

Elizabeth Harper-Tree Climbing To Clean The Roof (Photo by C Taylor)

I like to go up barefoot as I feel more secure on the roof without shoes. The tree is a bit scratchy on bare feet, but I do it anyway.

Elizabeth Harper-Tree Climbing, Almost On The Roof (Photo by C Taylor)

This photo is so not pretty, but I’m sharing it so you can see how I made it to roof level.

Porch Painting

After I cleaned the roof, I took everything off the porch and painted the porch green including the trim on the columns. The tree I climbed in the photos above is behind the lattice screen at the far end.

Tree & Shrub Cutting

Once I had completed painting the fence and the porch, I trimmed the bushes and the trees and raked and bagged everything along with tying up some sticks for pickup.

Leaf Raking & Bagging

I moved on to work in the backyard raking and weeding and repainted the white garage doors and trim too. (You can’t see it in this photo)

Furniture Painting

While I was painting the garage doors, I gave my shabby chic porch furniture a bit a of paint, but not too much or else it wouldn’t look slightly shabby. I did some other things such as bagging some rubbish and leaves that were not mine, but I could see from the porch under the window of the green house next door.

Detective Work

I got a phone number from someone next door in order to call and complain about their yard man turning such a public space into a compost pile. The rubbish was mixed in with the leaves and revealed beer cans, a glass bottle, a couple of plastic cups, one metal fork and some plastic bags, none of which will degrade in my lifetime.

A few more small jobs and I was finished with my housework and on my way back to Cullene’s house. I was thrilled to accomplish so much and amazed how quickly I got it all done, but looking at my photos now, I regret not taking a moment to enjoy the porch swing.

Promise Making

Tomorrow’s Friday and you know what that means … I’m talking about the next chapter of ‘Dear Madame,’ not the royal wedding although I’ll be watching. Will you?

A Georgia Transplant’s Dogwood Days In Cornwall

Dogwood trees in the American south are some of the early signs of spring and one of the things I missed about my home in Georgia when I moved to the UK. I had no idea they grew in Cornwall as my first spring here came and went without the unmistakable explosion of blooming color.

We were well into a month I would normally associate with summer time when I discovered some gorgeous dogwood trees during a garden walk at Lanhydrock, one of my favorite National Trust properties. Noting my delight, my sweet husband John surprised me with one on a birthday trip later that year.

My dogwood has been growing in a pot outside since we brought it home, living through the building extension, waiting to be planted in a place in the garden where I might see it from my desk as I write. Last winter, Cornwall was blasted with freezing temperatures unusual for this part of England and I worried all the way from New Zealand where we were on an extended holiday, that it might die from the cold sitting outside in its container.

A few days ago, John gently cleaned my little tree of all the dead leaves still clinging to its branches and noted as he did so that it had new leaves. I was thrilled to hear this as I had not held out much hope as poorly as it looked a few weeks ago.

I have to thank Mary for her words and beautiful images this morning. Seeing her dogwood trees in flower made me take a closer look at my special tree. While my tiny dogwood is not in full bloom yet, it looks as if it may have flowers for the very first time later this year.

If you click twice on these photos, you can see some texture that reminds me of the fuzzy softness of a newborn lamb’s ears.

I had to add this imperfect photo which turned out to be my favorite. I went outside twice this morning in my robe and bare feet to photograph my tree and ended up loving the way my robe picks up the color in the tiny dot of pink near the bud on the tree. (Click twice to see)

* The burgundy colored robe I’m wearing was my dad’s and has kept me warm on many cold mornings in the twenty years since his death. There’s something kind of special about seeing it sneak into my dogwood picture along with my barefoot completely unnoticed by me until I downloaded the image. I’m usually pretty aware of what else might be happening when I shoot and was pleased to see this one got past me.

Why Some Goals Are Easier To Complete Than Others And Some Lessons You Never Forget

My daughter took up knitting when she was student at Virginia Tech and after she made a scarf for me and later some blankets and other things, I asked her to teach me how to knit. I picked out a yarn that I thought would be soft around her neck and had a mix of her school colors and after she started it for me, I set to work to complete it.

What I overlooked was that she doesn’t wear scarves, not now, not ever. I am known for almost always having one looped around my neck in all kinds of weather and I’ve worn them since my mid-twenties so it’s rare to see a photo of me through the years without one, but Miranda doesn’t wear them.

She did try to tell me this more than a time or two, and it took me a year of ripping out mistakes and redoing it before I heard her. I was so intent on presenting my first project to her especially as she had introduced me to it, that I never thought that this gift was more about me than it was her.

Miranda took me through the basic stitch so many times when I saw her over the last year that you think I could have worked it out, but I had such trouble with it that I began to knit only at the pub on quiz nights when my friend Jean could fix it for me when I made a mistake.

In the end, I shipped it unfinished to Georgia with my knitting needles to wait for our arrival from our New Zealand trip with the hopes of finishing it before Christmas. By Christmas day it was a major mess and when I showed it to her after lunch, unfinished and still on the knitting needles, she suggested gently that while I was good at many things, knitting did not seem like one of them.

There was something in the way she said that along with repeating once again that she did not wear scarves that I finally heard and suddenly I was able to let go of my need to finish the thing!

So she tied it off for me and I decided that I would give it to her dog for a neck warmer at least for purposes of a photo shoot because he doesn’t wear scarves either. Even though he won’t wear it again, it didn’t look so bad on him.

Afterwards, I told John that having tried my hand with the first one, I had some lovely yarn in just his color. He has not really protested, but thinking about it now, I am not sure I have ever seen him in a scarf either.

 

Life In The UK Test

There are still some things I seem to still be able to pull off with a better outcome than my knitting experience and the letter and news above was really big for me. I shared it yesterday on Facebook and received so many lovely responses that I was quite overwhelmed by all the support and since some of my readers only see me here, I wanted to tell you my news as well.

There are many steps on the way to being able to stay in the UK and most people assume if you marry a Brit it’s an easy-peasy process. Except for shaving a few years off the time it takes to become a British citizen, married folks go though the same process as everyone else.

Yesterday, I completed a major step in my goal to stay in the UK with John. I passed the Life in the UK test!

My next immigration appointment is on the calendar and if all goes well, I will have my Indefinite Leave to Remain approved after we are interviewed in a few weeks. Passing the UK life test was necessary to complete before the interview so I managed it just in time. I had mistakenly thought it was not required until you applied for a dual citizenship so I was on a tight timeline to get it done.

After I get though the next stage in a few weeks, I can apply within a certain period of time to become a naturalized citizen and have the right among other things, to vote, run for public office, and carry a British passport.

I don’t have to give up my American citizenship to do this and will have a dual citizenship when I finish the process.

I do want to acknowledge my long time friend Diane and her unknowing help with my test yesterday. We were roommates during my first year and her last at the university we attended together in New York. After she graduated, I transferred to the University of Georgia and she spent a year with an élite group of educators traveling and teaching University students study skills they might have missed in high school.

As a nontraditional student, I was older and had already served in the army and even though I was doing well in my classes, I spent many, many, hours studying to make this happen.

When Diane came to town in 1985 to spend a few weeks with the brainy young women of Agnes Scott, a college in Atlanta, she took a some time to show me a few things about note taking and review which changed my life and still help me to this day.

I kept the book she left for years until Miranda went off to VA Tech and I offered it to her in case she found she needed help to keep up. I don’t think she ever used it and I cannot remember the name of the book, but I will send a link to Diane in hopes that she can leave the title in a comment below.

Long story today to talk about lessons learned, but I did want to acknowledge how Diane’s help back in 1985 made prepping for the important test I took yesterday fairly easy and made me feel pretty confident going in to it.

If you live in the UK and want to test how much you know about your own country, you can take an online official practice test of 24 questions by going here.

I want to thank Miranda too for her patience in teaching me how to knit and let her know that I may try to make something else for her in a few years after (if) I manage to finish John’s scarf.

 

Power Shots & Love Lines

Earlier this year while John was driving us to Tenby Wales, I spotted this sight and I shouted something like, ” Stop, please … I want to take a picture! ” Being the patient and accommodating man that he is, John pulled the car over so I could take a couple of shots that would probably not appeal to many.

I pulled these two photographs today because they reminded me of how often John puts my needs first even when he’d rather be doing something else. He’s been busy lately helping me get ready for my upcoming trip to my home in Atlanta, Georgia where I’ll soon be for the next few weeks.

He’s been patient and calming even when travel worries have left me a bit stroppy. I love some of the new words I discovered after moving here. Stroppy is a perfect description for my mood lately and I think it’s because I’m really going to miss him. As an independent, space loving woman, this represents a big shift for me.

Even though we’ve only been together for about two and half years I’ve come to love sharing my time with him. I still need of lot of time to myself, but there’s something really easy about the way we move in each other’s lives and space and if we were dancing, I’d say we had definitely mastered the steps.

Of course I’ll have fun on my trip home to the US and it’s going to be good to spend time with Miranda and Cullene and the rest of my family and friends, but now while any family gathering is still sweet, not having him there to share it makes it feel a bit incomplete.

I’m not gone yet, but soon I’ll be writing from the other side of the Atlantic where the high temperatures and humidity may be just enough to distract me from missing him too much.

I’ve already scheduled a run/walk/hike with a blogger friend, Jules who John and I met on the TMB a couple of years ago along with her husband. If you’re reading me from Georgia and want to meet up to say hello, you can leave me a message here and I’ll get in touch with you. We don’t have to brave the heat like Jules and I will be doing … I am content to sit in a cool air-conditioned space and drink iced coffee with you instead.

A Few Spoken Words From Elizabeth Harper

Have you ever wondered what some of the bloggers you read regularly actually sound like? Do you hear a particular voice in your head when you read my posts?

Not long ago two things happened that made me think I might like to share my voice with you and I’m hoping that you might feel inclined to do the same. Mariellen Romer and I exchanged a couple of emails where the topic of tea came up, sweet tea in particular, and cold, the way southerners where I’m from in Georgia tend to like to drink it.

She said this reminded her that I was a Georgia native by birth and as such, my spoken voice might sound a bit different from the one she heard in her head when reading my blog. Additionally, there was a post by Jennifer Trinkle written for a contest on NPR called Three-Minute Fiction that asked for submissions which could be read in three minutes and prompted me to want to give the three-minute thing a try for fun.

The piece you can hear below is not fiction and is something I wrote a few years ago based on an actual event. It’s also a tiny bit longer than three minutes clocking in at 3:03.

Have a listen below and tell me … does my voice fit the one you hear in your head?

The Secret In Her Smile



Almost Time To Go

It can’t really be possible that it’s almost time for her to go … didn’t we just pick her up at the airport the other day? I still have a million things I want to show her and things I want to say. I know I’ll see her in July when I go back to Georgia for a few weeks, but I want to teach her how to make pasties while she’s here and have time for her to teach me how to knit again while sitting side by side in my studio space. I want to see her feeding the wild ponies too many sugar cubes on Bodmin Moor and take her picture on Jubilee Rock and Helland Bridge. I want to have enough time to ride bikes along the Camel Trail and walk with her through the buttercup field and show her how magical the bluebells look lining the hills of Lavethan Wood. I just want more time