If We Were Having Coffee 8/15/20…

Good morning friends! Welcome to a cloudy but, thankfully, less humid day here in Southern New Jersey. We can virtually catch up over coffee and my husband’s homemade blueberry muffins. Sit. Relax. Let’s chat!

If we were having coffee...you would have joined me in waving to Mr D as he headed out the door a few minutes ago. He and some friends are off to the beach for the day. It’s a bit cloudy here but apparently 70 miles to the east there is part sun. I don’t know if it matters though. A day at the beach is still a day at the beach. I’m glad he will have something fun to do since it’s been a tough week for him. His girlfriend moved up to Syracuse NY this week to do a two month rotation for her Athletic Trainer’s degree at Syracuse University. Two months is a long time when you’re 25 so neither one was very happy about the placement but they knew it was a great opportunity for her to train at a really good school. They’re both really responsible young adults and have been together a few years now (I’m pretty sure it will eventually lead to the altar) so they will manage this hump just fine but in the meantime we have to live with a slightly grumpy guy! Like I said, I’m glad he’s off to the beach for the day. 🙂

If we were having coffee...I would tell you that Miss D and I are planning to walk uptown later and visit a new cookie shop that opened last weekend. “Is there anything better than a cookie shop?” you might ask. My answer would be “Only a bookstore would be better” and, guess what? We’re getting one of those too! It will be called “Words Matter Books” and the owner is now finishing up work that was slowed down due to the shelter in place. Hopefully they will open in the next few weeks. I can’t wait! In the past year the uptown business district has added an Antique Store, an English Pub and a ladies clothing boutique. Now we have the cookie shop and the bookstore added to the already established ceramic studio, pharmacy, bakery, homemade Ice Cream Shoppe, and several other eateries all three blocks from my house! This is one advantage to living in a small town.

Of course small town living certainly has it’s disadvantages too. Other than the fact that everyone seems to know your business, our population, teaching staff and business owners are embarrassingly undiverse. This is something we newer folks have been battling for years. Finally it looks like it is being addressed with a new committee on diversity and inclusion being added to the town board. I have noticed in the past few years that we’ve been inching in the right direction electing young forward thinking council people who are dragging the town into the present. There are many families that have lived here for generations (we moved in a mere 17 years ago) and some tend to be a bit stuffy and slow to change. Hopefully the archaic views are on their way out. I guess time will tell.

Anyway…

If we were having coffee… I would probably look around and realize that the day has started without me. I would love to chat longer but I really should attempt to clean some things and be productive. I’m glad we had time to visit though because after six months sheltering at home my world view has begun to narrow. These coffee shares have become extra important. They act as a window to the events outside my walls and beyond my porch. I plan on visiting some of the other posts over at our host site Eclectic Ali. Please try and stop by as well.

Thanks for visiting!!

The Literal View Part 2: Foot Traffic

The name of my blog was always meant to be a figurative view: my observations on small town America, the life of a middle class family, the simple things that happen around me. Now though, five weeks into self isolation with several more weeks on the horizon, my world has narrowed drastically making the literal “View from the Porch” so much more than it used to be…

The road that runs past my porch has always had a modest amount of foot traffic. Our street runs from one end of town to the other anchoring the Middle and High School three blocks to the left and, the Elementary school five blocks to the right. Consequently, backpack toting children are a regular site. In addition, we have, I suspect, more dogs than people living in town and they, with their respective owners walk past our house quiet frequently. We walk too, my family and I. My husband walks religiously, several miles a day, the rest of us more sporadicly. The walking isn’t a new thing but I’ve noticed, during the weeks we’ve been sheltering in place, some changes in the foot traffic. Maybe it stems from my own perception but I feel like the walks my neighbors are taking mean a lot more than they once did.

Back when things were “normal,” people walked past with a purposeful stride, getting in some exercise before the next task of their day. This was when the kids still had to get to soccer practice or be picked up from school, when meetings needed to be attended and friends met for dinner or a movie. Now my neighbors tend to stroll. They meander. Walks have become their tasks, their destinations, their social engagements. They wave and chat to people on porches or across the street, checking on news or how others are coping. The basic human contact, even from a distance, is the real purpose of the walks. After a particular rainy period, the traffic out front gets even more manic, like an awakening. The street fills with those anxious to feel the sky and the sun.

Another change I’ve noticed is the amount of people in each walking group. Before it was generally a single or a pair of pedestrians whereas now whole families are out, walking or biking. Those who never walked before are forced into it due to the lack of other choices.  I’ve noticed many former classmates of my children’s, now shut out of their colleges and living back at home, suddenly finding themselves out getting exercise with mom and dad. They look a bit awkward, trying to  figure out how they got back to this place, but the parents, given the unexpected gift of their young adult kids back under their roof if only for a little while are seeing some silver lining in an otherwise difficult situation. The small children, by comparison, are thrilled to have the whole family out riding bikes or going on scavenger hunts. I hope that is one trend that continues after the grown-ups return to their busy lives.

Perhaps the most signicant change I’ve noticed between myself and my neighbors as they walk past my house is the sense of comaraderie we now share. When we wave or nod to each other, it’s with the understanding that we are now part of a team experiencing something unprecidented; living through a situation we never expected. Regardless of our lives before all this started, we are now in the same place. I look at the neighbors I’ve known for years, like the families with children my daughter’s age and I know that we both understand that this required isolation is robbing our college seniors their right to a graduation ceremony or internship or even a celebratory trip somewhere, but we also realize that our children’s health and safety is a more important gift than any of those things. I wave to the parents with children from the school where I work and we understand that we need to stay positive for the young ones. We need to make this an adventure for them, keep the scarier parts at bay while still impressing upon them the importance of what we are doing.

We share this bond now, those walkers and I. We smile and wave to each other with a look that says, “We’ve got this. This will pass and when we reach the other we’ll know we did the best we could and that we did it together.”

The Literal View From the Porch

The name of my blog was always meant to be a figurative view: my observations on small town America, the life of a middle class family, the simple things that happen around me. Now though, four weeks into self isolation with four more weeks on the horizon, my world has narrowed drastically making the literal “View from the Porch” so much more than it used to be.

I’ve always loved our neighborhood with it’s quaint old houses and tall trees but now our street has become, not just my view but also, my window to the world and I’ve come to appreciate it all the more. Today, I realized, gazing out, that there are many stories I could tell just about the things going on right outside my door.

What follows is the first of what I hope will be a series of tales cataloging the world outside my window during this strange and unusual time.

The Porch Guy

Across the street and to the left of my house sit two enormous homes. Each was built well over a hundred years ago and both are grand old buildings designed with peaks, decorative molding and deep porches. They were probably the first two homes on the block and I can imagine they were once owned by well-to-do families with many children. Behind them, at the bottom of their property line, is an odd little dead end street. I’ve been told that this road was where the carriage houses and stables for those two house once stood.

The house closest to us, a big blue farm house, it’s brown roof dotted with dormers, had been converted into four separate apartments when we first moved here 16 years ago. There were two apartments on the first floor, one in front and one around back, one on the second floor and one up on the third that was accessed by treacherous wooden stairs climbing up the side. Then, about 8 years back, the house was taken over by a lovely woman named Gail and her husband, whose name constantly escapes me (Craig?). I think it was her family home since her daughter was already living in the top apartment and there has been no “For Sale” sign to state that they were actually “new” owners. I’ve never asked but I suspect that an elderly relative passed away and she and her husband were the next in line.

Gail and I are “Yoo-Hoo” neighbors. That means that we don’t hang out in each other’s kitchen drinking coffee or call each other on the phone but we do catch up any time we happen to be outside at the same time (Yoo-hoo, neighboor! What have you been up to?) Via these sidewalk conversations, I learned that Gail’s first order of business after they moved in was to turn the house mostly back into a single family home. The one apartment she left in tact was the first floor rear, which is accessed around the left of the front porch. It was this apartment that became the home of “The Porch Guy.”

The Porch Guy was an elderly gentleman who looks just like you would imagine a fine old grandfather would look, complete with a bushy grey mustache and soft flannel shirts. When he first appeared, we noticed that he spent a great deal of time sitting in the little chair beside the front door, no matter the weather or time of day. My kids would come in and say “Porch Guy is outside again” or “Do you think it’s too cold for Porch Guy to be sitting out all this time?” Sometimes he would walk up the street and back, not in a hurry, just a easy stroll. He also had a nifty grey sedan that he often took on short errands and we would speculate about where he went and what he bought. That was about all we knew about him except that he always had a wave and a “Hi-ya!” for anyone who walked past.

Over time, we learned that “Porch Guy” was actually Gail’s father-in-law and that his name was Larry. Not “Mister” something, just Larry. That’s what he prefered. So we took to shouting “Hello” to him whenever we came and went and he in turn learned our names (although he still refers to Miss Dee as “Girl” occasionally-“Hi-ya, Girl! How was school?”). The best thing about Larry though is his disposition. I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone as upbeat and pleasant. He unfailingly has good words to say to anyone who passes and has become the unofficial ambassador of the neighborhood. He also has the most wonderful laugh, often chuckling at his own jokes. It seems to come from deep down and bursts out with an unapologetic blast! Sometimes in the evenings, if the windows are open, we can hear Larry laughing and laughing with someone who has stopped to pass the time.

Three Springs ago we noticed that Larry had been absent from the front porch for some time. D-man ran into Gail’s husband who told him that his dad was in the hospital. He had fallen down, a result of ongoing health issues and would probably not be home for several weeks, if at all. We asked him to please send our regards and to wish him well. After that, we watched and waited, The neighborhood seemed so quiet. No one calling out greetings or making corny jokes. Finally, a month or so later, as I was getting out of my car, I heard a gravelly voice call out “Hi-Ya! How ya been?” There he was, right back at his post next to the front door. I crossed the street and stood there talking, catching up, happy to see he was still just the same joyful, positive guy. The first thing I said to my family when I went in was “Hey, Larry’s back!”

The last few years we’ve made a habit of taking a tin of cookies over to Larry at Christmas time and, of course, we never pass without exchanging greetings. He walks with a cane now and his hair is a lot more grey. I’ve also noticed that he doesn’t drive anymore but I don’t think he minds. There is always someone to talk to especially now with the shelter in place. Our street has become a parade of families out walking with children or dogs. Each and every one of them gets a “Hi-ya!” from Larry.

Our old friend being there with his kind thoughts and positive outlook, happy just to have his comfortable seat and a place in the sunshine, helps to remind me that this anxious time will pass and life will undoubtedly, go on.

If We Were Having Coffee…Fireworks, Films and Felines

Morning friends!

If we were having coffee I would invite you inside the house for coffee and apple cider donuts because this…

definitely says it’s way too humid to sit on the porch! The soupy New Jersey air is actually attempting to infiltrate the house but we’re keeping it at bay thanks to the air conditioning. The cat’s kinda annoyed because she can’t keep a proper eye on the squirrels. I’m just happy I don’t need to leave the house. D-Man left an hour ago to mow his mom’s lawn before it got too bad but I’m hoping he’ll stay in after that.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you we went out with friends last night to see the film “Yesterday.” I quite enjoyed it. It certainly helps if you are a Beatles fan since so much of the movie centers around their music but, it was a sweet story anyway. Absolutely no CGI, explosions or aliens which was a nice change from most of the other films we usually go to see. (Which reminds me, Spider-Man Far From Homeis definitely on next weekend to-do list!)

If we were having coffee…I would ask those of you here in the United States if you enjoyed any special Independence Day celebrations? We have a lot of traditions for that holiday.

Miss Dee and I always attend the town “Miss” pageant the evening before. The winner this year was a former student at the elementary school where I work so that always makes it fun. The newly crowned “Miss” then rides in the town Fourth of July parade the next morning. After the parade (which was a rather hot and humid event this year), we head to my father-in-law’s home for a BBQ.

My in-laws have a lovely house and a large yard in a very wooded area. We always make sure to cover ourselves in bug spray since they also have zillions of insects! My FIL ends the day by setting off fireworks, a tradition that has made me nervous since my children were wee. It makes me even more nervous now since Mr D is old enough to help light them!!! Happily we made it through another year with no casualties although one box fell on it’s side and started shooting out stars in random directions. That was exciting.

We usually end the night by attending our town fireworks. Traditionally, this is a nice way to end the day but this year Miss Dee and I were both wiped out. I suspect it was mostly because of the heat, so we decided to opt out. We both took long cold showers and then watched the first episode of Stranger Things 3! For us, this was every bit as exciting as the fireworks!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that we acquired a new kitty this week. He was abandoned in front of an animal hospital where one of my son’s friends work. She told him that if they didn’t find a home they would have to take him to the shelter. We have been looking for a friend for Darby since we lost our sweet senior cat Chrissy earlier this year so we thought we’d give him a try. He’s all dark gray and quiet the charmer, always rubbing against you and purring, very dashing so we’ve took to calling him Dash. The vet said he seems to be about 3 years old and well cared for. He is currently living in the laundry room and we’ve been introducing him to Darby slowly. There’s been a bit of hissing but I think they’ll work it out in time. Stay tuned!

Miss Darby is still considering whether or not a new brother is a good idea?

Well, if we were having coffee, we would probably agree that Ive been monopolizing the conversation! Time for you to tell me what you’ve been up to. Let me refill you cup. Have you done any traveling? Seen any movies? Read any good books?

I’m so glad you stopped by. Don’t forget to visit our host Eclectic Ali, see what she’s been up to and visit the rest of the Coffee Share Gang.

If We Were Having Coffee…Busy mornings!

Happy Sunday morning!

If we were having coffee I would welcome you up onto the porch and hand you a cup of French roast coffee or whatever beverage you preferred. There’s lemonade, tea or crisp cold ice water. We are looking at a sunny Sunday here in Southern New Jersey with a high of 79 degrees. Perfect!! I’m enjoying it while I can before the stifling humidity returns.

How has your week been? We’ve been slogging our way through the last two weeks of school, trying to keep a lid on the students building excitement and maybe get a little bit of learning done as well. It’s been a bit of a challenge! I may need to give myself several pep talks just to get through this final week.😊

Thursday morning, some of our fifth grade students put on a talent show for the rest of the school. There were only 9 acts but they ranged from dancing or singing to comedy and karate! I give each one kudos for being brave enough to perform (I’m a behind the scenes girl myself.) It was a fun way for us to start the day and a fun way for them to cap off their time in elementary school before moving on to middle school.

Friday morning I accompanied the third grade class and teacher on their annual walking tour of our town. The final social studies topic for that grade is always about communities including founding and development of ours. The culmination of that is a visit to the many places we’ve learned about. I love that we live in a town that is walkable and has an actual Main Street with a library, small stores, restaurants and police station/borough hall. We toured the police station and the local museum and checked out some other landmarks including our Veterans Park and an old stone horse watering basin that still stands just next to where the railroad station used to be. The students really enjoyed the trip and behaved very well.

Saturday morning Miss Dee and I went shopping for new kitchen appliances which was fun. Mine are all over 15 years old and showing serious wear. The D-man and I decided last month to take out a small loan in order to do some updating around here. New counter tops (our current ones are red laminate, straight out of the 80s!) and appliances are the big purchases. Ahh, to have an oven that actually keeps the proper temperature and a dishwasher with a door that doesn’t drop down spontaneously scaring the sh#% out of us and the cat. I’m simply tingling with anticipation!

Miss Dee thinks I might get nostalgic and start missing the red counter tops. I’m not so sure….

That’s the thing about home ownership, isn’t it, there is always something that needs fixing or updating. I’ve got a list of other summer projects as well. I guess we will see how much of it gets accomplished. Usually something has to really start bugging me before I’m willing to spend money on it. I’m kind of cheap, and the fact that no money is coming in during the summer makes me even cheaper!😊

So now it Sunday morning and you might wonder what my plan is for today. Well, after all those busy mornings, I think that this one will be spent sitting on the deck, reading a book or working on some art work. That sounds just about perfect, like the weather! I’m so glad you could join me for a chat. You should run on over to Eclectic Alli and visit with the rest of the Coffee Share crew. I’m sure they’re serving up some great conversation as well.

The Weekly Smile #2…A Smile and a Wave

My smile this week is dedicated to one of my favorite people. Her name is Ellen. and she is one of a small army of dedicated crossing guards that watch over our children as they walk to and from school.  After retiring eight years ago she couldn’t stand “just sittin’ around” and so went back to work crossing students at the corner next to my house. I would guess she is in her early seventies.

My own children are among the kids she has crossed so I know for a fact that she greets each child by name and wishes them a good day. She also notices if someone is home sick and watches for their return. The students, in return look forward to seeing her, and can’t wait to share any exciting news they have.

As I left my house this morning at 8:15, there was a fridge wind and the temperature was hovering at 18  degrees fahrenheit.  Winter, it seems, has finally arrived in South Jersey! Ellen had already been on the job for over an hour. This is how she was dressed…

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This is a woman who could be spending her retirement anyway she likes and she chooses to get up at the crack of dawn and stand outside in the elements watching over other people’s children.

As I drove past, she called, “Good morning!” and offered a friendly wave and a big smile just as she has done every single morning from September to June for the past eight years.

How could I not smile? 😊

More smiles are available at Trent’s World! Stop over and check out the rest of the Weekly Smile posts!

 

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