Raise Your Hand If It’s Your Birthday!

My sister Jennie has a birthday today … she’s the baby with her hand in the air. She was eight months old in this photo and that’s me holding her. My fourteen year-old sense of style was a bit lacking back then as evidenced by my summer blouse at Christmas topped off by my dad’s old army cap.

Jennie was barely five when I enlisted in the army and acquired some military head-gear of my own. I hate what hats do to my hair and I’ve never  been able to wear them as well she does. I tend to think of hats as necessary to keep the sun off or to stay warm if it’s really cold outside, but Jennie does it with flair, making them both useful and a fashion accessory.

She’s in the mountains today having a birthday weekend away with her mom, my step-mom, Cullene. I borrowed the photo below from her Facebook page. Cullene took it last year when they were snowed in and it illustrates what I mean about Jennie’s ability to pull off a hat and look good doing it.

Happy Birthday, Jennie. If there’s a party hat involved today, send me a picture so I can post it.

Calling All Photographers – A Question For You

Decisions, Decisions, Which Way To Go

This morning I left the comment below over at Chookooloonks, after reading about Karen Walrond’s big love for Nikon.

I’ve been asked a few times in the past about what I shoot with and thought this might be a good time to share that info and ask my readers for a little help as I try to decide what type of point and shoot I should buy to replace my Canon G9 which goes everywhere with me now. My abbreviated camera history can be found below. Remember it’s information I wrote in a comment this morning so it may seem a bit different that my usual posts and to make it more interesting, I’m including a few examples of photographs taken with my two favorite cameras. There are a few shots using my Nikon D200 here and almost everything on this site in the last year has been taken with my Canon G9 including the image above.

My comment to Karen –

” I know what you mean about choosing a camera, I’ve been shooting for years, and have had several important cameras, beginning with a Mamiya medium format which I bought while in the army and stationed in Germany and later traded at a camera shop in California for a Minolta SLR and a couple of lenses. After college, I found myself busy with a baby and a quickly changing life complete with all the baby things one tends to haul around each day so I went with a series of small point and shoots that were so nondescript that I can’t even remember them. Around 2000 or 2001, I was introduced to digital and that was it for me with regard to film. Eventually I went back to SLR’s and photography with an eye and intention on getting the best possible photograph. After doing loads of research that came down as it did with you, between Nikon and Canon, I went with Nikon. I have two Nikon D200’s and more nice glass than I probably deserve, but I’m afraid I tend to use my Canon G9 on a daily basis due to its size and abilities. It’s a bit of a struggle to carry my Nikon gear with me when hiking the coast path here in Cornwall or to carry it 105 miles through the Alps on the Tour of Mont Blanc, but as we make ready for our next big trip (Two months in New Zealand) I am looking towards Nikon for a new point and shoot to suit my needs.

I should add that many times since moving to England I have left what I consider my ” best gear ” behind because it seemed too much to carry and I’ve had some regrets. Later this fall when my sister is here, we’ll be headed to Paris which is one of my favorite places to photograph and I’m taking my Nikon D200 and some good glass this time even if there’s no room for clothes.

I’m off now to have another look at what the latest offerings are for top quality Nikon point & shoots, I have to say that I’m not convinced there are any that can pass the test for me as well as Canon or perhaps something else, but I’m open to any suggestions or street talk regarding your experience. I pay as much attention to the reviews of those already using the camera equipment I’m considering as I do the specs so please share what you know ”

So there it is … help me out if you can, what’s the buzz out there in your photo community … any suggestions?

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

Veterans Day – Family Extensions


Extending my tour of duty

In 1978, I stood with a group of strangers and holding up my right hand, I promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I went on to raise my hand two more times when I extended my military tour for six months and later when I joined the National Guard under a program called SMP.


Being sworn in for SMP National Guard and ROTC

Soldiering is never easy, but it is particularly difficult now when so many face the possibility of life altering injury and death everyday. I enlisted during peace time and although I was trained and ever ready for the possibility of battle, my daily life was relatively peaceful with my biggest threat to my safety coming from the sexual harassment from others who wore the uniform. To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, it was the best and worst of times for me in many ways and while there are many stories I could share on another day, today’s post has a different purpose. This is the day that Americans honor our living veterans.


Basic Training - Ft Gordon, Georgia - 1979

Today, there are many wearing the various uniforms that make up the different branches of the American military family. Men and women who fight every day committed to the words they repeated on the day they volunteered to serve, ” I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”  I use the word family with great intention because once you have assembled, trained, and lived with people in anticipation of a life threatening mission, you begin to see them as an extension of your family of origin. For many who grow up in less than ideal situations it may be the only family they know.

There are three veterans in particular that I like to think of as part of my family and while we never served together, I have heard bits of their individual stories over the years and have an understanding of the collective cost of their time in service. While my path was easy, these three men who fought in Vietnam, Jamie, Joe, and Bill have a different story to tell. I know what it’s like to be ready, but they know what it means to go.

Today, as advertisers hawk big sales on various goods or you sit in frustration outside a public office closed for the day, please remember the real reason for Veterans Day and offer those currently serving or those who have served, a much needed and simple…thank you.


Remembering Without Regret


At 18, On A Weekend Pass Between Basic & AIT Training (Letting My Hair Down)

I am generally not bothered by birthdays. I tend to see getting older as just a different set of opportunities and I haven’t been worried in any significant way about the proximity of 50 as I turn 49 in a few weeks, but something shifted this morning.

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of the day scanning slides and old photographs into the computer. These images captured moments from my army days or just before and I was reminded how very young I really was then. I can’t believe how much responsibility the military gave a woman barely old enough to vote, someone whose parents still wanted her in by midnight when she was already 18. Going from grumbling about a midnight curfew, to rushing down to the motor pool on alert at 3:00 am before getting my M-16 rifle from the Arms Room was a shift of substantial proportions.

Sometimes I forget how significant that time period that was when I think back to the decisions that led me to where I am now. Looking back at those photographs, I see a young woman… still a girl in many ways, jumping into the water with barely a look to see how deep the level or even a pause to test the temperature. I’ve always been someone ready to take a chance, but seeing all the people and places in pictures yesterday made me go back to memories I’d packed away..many of them shut away in a small box of slides I’ve been moving from place to place over the years. I found myself reflecting with sadness at times about some of the decisions I’ve made over the last 30 years and I am amazed how easy it can be for both regret and gratitude to share the same space.

It’s good you don’t know everything when you’re 18, but I do wish I’d had a better understanding of one thing back then. It’s a simple concept that took me years to get…that a moment lost is really gone forever. I still struggle with letting go of worry about the future and even worse…looking back at things I wish I’d done differently. It sounds trite and we hear it all the time, this talk of living in the moment, being present in your own life, but it is a common theme and one which has been illuminated by a variety of quotes for hundreds of years. I’ll leave you with the one that makes the most sense to me this morning. If you have one you’d like to share, I hope you’ll take a minute to leave it in a comment.

We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.

~Fulton Oursler

Tell Me A Story Tuesdays – Lemons Into Lemonade

Baumholder Germany HHB Divarty Load Up

“This’d be a great place to set up our lemonade stand.”

Madeline said, turning her head in the direction of the row of military trucks. “I just know my daddy’s here somewhere and we’re going to find him,” she said more to herself than the ratty old Pooh Bear she had wedged in her backpack. “Maddie my girl,” said Pooh, “if anyone can find him, I believe you can.”  Pooh tended to call Madeline Maddie in same way her mother did and it wouldn’t be until she was much older that she would look back and think of all the advice she’d attributed to her bear when she was little and wonder if it had really been the voice of her mother all along. Leaving Mrs. Ulster behind in the house just before daylight, she’d packed up the things she remembered her mother used when making lemonade last summer. Mrs. Ulster was staying in the house with her until they could find what she had heard her say was, “Her next of kin.” She’d  heard Mrs. Ulster say this while talking softly to someone on the kitchen phone unaware that Maddie could hear her while sitting in her secret spot in the hallway upstairs.

Maddie had discovered it a few years ago when she was five or six and it was the best place to hear what was going on downstairs in the kitchen especially on the nights when her Aunt Judy stayed over with her mom. Her mom would say they were staying up for some girl talk as she kissed Maddie goodnight and then go back to the kitchen where she could hear them talking and laughing long after she should have been asleep. Sometimes when she was feeling restless, Maddie would creep out to the landing and tuck herself on the far side of the hall table out of sight of the kitchen, but still within hearing range and it was on one of those nights she first heard her mother telling Aunt Judy about her daddy. Aunt Judy asked a lot of questions that night and her mother’s answers had left Maddie confused. She had not considered that a daddy was something everyone had before hearing her mom’s explanation. Maddie was still was young enough then to think that Mommy was a name like her name was Maddie and that the man living in her friend Lucy’s house across the street was named Daddy.  She didn’t realize back then that everybody had a daddy because she didn’t seem to have one….at least not until she heard her mother telling tell Aunt Judy what happened to hers.

Maddie wished she could talk to Aunt Judy now because she was more like a second mommy  than an aunt often staying with her when mom had to go away on business trips. This time though was different, Mommy and Aunt Judy had gone off together on a trip and Mrs. Ulster had come to watch over her. It was only now though that she was beginning to understand that they were not coming back, not next week like they’d planned, not ever. Mrs. Ulster had sort of fallen down on the old sofa when the policeman came in to talk to her a few days ago and even from upstairs, Maddie had heard the sound the cushions made when someone plopped, as her mommy would say, too hard when sitting down. Peeking over the railing she could see Mrs Ulster’s face and heard the policeman say, ” It looks as if they both went instantly.”  Went instantly…Maddie had wondered what he meant then…”went where?” she thought to herself.  It wasn’t until later that Mrs Ulster explained that they’d gone to heaven, snatched out of the car by the hand of God because he needed them with him more than they were needed on earth. Maddie had been confused by this as she remembered more than a time or two hearing her mom say that people blamed a great many things on God that had nothing to do with what she called, ” An act of God.” Besides, how could they be needed more in heaven when she needed them here.

All this talk about next of kin and what to do now with Maddie made her remember what she’d heard her mom tell Aunt Judy when they’d had what she thought of as the daddy talk. She heard her mother as she said, ” Maybe I should have told Jim about her…I don’t know, it’s just he didn’t seem ready for fatherhood and I sure didn’t want to be the wife of a soldier.” Sitting in the hall that night she’d listened as her mother talked about this daddy fellow whose name was really Jim. Aunt Judy had asked her mom if she knew what had happened to him and she’d told her that she saw in the newspaper where he’d been accused of something he hadn’t done and managed to prove it to the military police before being tossed out of the army. She heard her say that after all the drama, he’d landed on his feet receiving a promotion and a cushy job at the military post in Fairfield, the next town over where so many soldier’s families lived.

Laughing softly, she’d heard her mother say, ” That man always could turn life’s lemons into lemonade.”  Maddie remembered this when she’d heard Mrs. Ulster on the phone talking with someone about not wanting to put her in the system just yet. She wasn’t sure what the system was, but it didn’t sound too good and Maddie decided she was going to have find this soldier Jim who her mom had said was her daddy. She wasn’t sure how to do it just like she wasn’t quite sure how to make lemonade, but she had the sugar and she had the lemons and maybe if she set up a little stand like she did last summer when her mom had helped her, she might be able to find her daddy and he could help her with the rest.

Remember it’s practice writing not perfect…still hoping someone will join me on a Tuesday with a story of their own posted on their blog. Go on over to Tell Me A Story Tuesdays to leave a topic sentence for next week or see what I’ve posted. Thanks this week to Karen for her opening sentence suggestion in bold at the top of this page and you can go here to check out her blog.

In The Air Again


I’ve “moved house” as they say here in England so often I feel as if I could almost do it in my sleep. As a child, we moved so many times that I missed a good bit of what was important in school…thank goodness I was a big bookworm or I’m afraid I’d know very little. By the time I was in the ninth grade, I’d been to 10 schools and in one extreme year of elementary school, I occupied a desk in 4 different schools on both the east and west coast. It’s no wonder that I grew up with a fierce case of wanderlust.

At 18, I joined the Army and left home moving after completing basic training to my first duty assignment, a post in Baumholder, Germany. I arrived there with what I could carry in two large suitcases and an over stuffed military duffel bag. The rest of my childhood things stayed in Georgia with my family so deciding what to pack was not too difficult. These last few months have presented a different set of choices with regard to packing and moving… some of which have been more difficult than others.

As I leave to fly back to Atlanta today, it is with a clear goal in mind. During the next few weeks, I’ll be sorting through what’s left of my physical life in Georgia. Ever a saver with too much stuff, I’ve been going through things since early last year when John and first considered the possibility of sharing a life together in Cornwall.

It was during the first bit of sorting and selling that I came up with the name of my blog…Gifts Of  The Journey. Having surrounded myself so long with things that held memories that I considered part of my story, I never would have believed I would or could consider letting them go. It would have seemed almost as if I were being asked to slice off a finger or a toe. I thought I needed those things to help me balance and connect to what was important. It was during the time when I was selling off the furniture and things that made my house so cozy, that I realized the gifts I was receiving in learning how to let go of the physical stuff in exchange for my deepening connection with John. I had no idea where we would go or really how we would get there, but what I did know was that my house and all the things inside were not what made it a home. Freeing myself from the belongings that I thought had to have, gave me the opportunity to start over in a life I could not have imagined would be so right for me.

I’m back in the air again soon and my next post will find me sorting through books and art and bits of my old life…choosing with the care and heartache my immigrant ancestors must have felt when moving to America so many years ago.  All I can think is…thank goodness, I don’t have to only bring what I can carry.