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Life lessons, New Mexico, Western Massachusetts

In Two Years’ Time

Two years ago, Hank and I were driving somewhere in the Midwest as we made our way from Taos, New Mexico to Western Massachusetts. Hank was at the wheel. Our cat sat on my lap for almost the entire 2,400 miles.

I know for sure because Facebook reminded me. I wrote “Adios, Taos.”

We lived in Northern New Mexico for 11 years. We built a home there. I ran the editorial department of the local newspaper. Hank got into the artistic side of woodworking. We enjoyed grand views of the mesa, mountains and big skies. Great food. It was an interesting place to live.

But we had our reasons for leaving.

And a lot has happened since then. A lot of good things.

Having easier access to more of our family is an important one. Four of our six kids and our two granddaughters live in Massachusetts. (You gotta love it when your two-year-old granddaughter calls you Grandma Applesauce.) Then there is my 95-year-old mother and other kin.

We found and bought the style of home we wanted — an arts and crafts bungalow. (My wish then: we find the right house for the right price in the right location.) Youngest daughter, Julia, a real estate agent, negotiated the deal.

The home, built in 1900, has great bones. We had to fix the things the previous owners either did or didn’t do to the home. Luckily, Hank is a skilled woodworker. Me? I was the unskilled helper. The only work we hired out was the roof, floor sanding in two rooms, plumbing and electrical. But as it goes in older homes, there’s still work ahead for Hank.

We live on the Buckland side of Shelburne Falls, a charming village in a rural area. Think small shops, restaurants, and our son’s microbrewery, Floodwater Brewing, which opened last November. And for the most part, friendly people. Folks come from all over to admire the Bridge of Flowers that spans the Deerfield River. We achieved our goal of being able to walk to places from our home — only four-tenths of a mile to Floodwater.

It’s been a productive year for me writing-wise. I’ve published the first three books in my Isabel Long Mystery Series through Crooked Cat Books. I am onto the fourth.

I have a freelance gig copyediting history books for the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio. I’ve learned a lot about our nation’s history.

If that weren’t enough, I am now the editor-in-chief of The Greenfield Recorder. I didn’t think I would go back in the biz, but here I am again running the paper’s editorial department. I am glad to say I have a hardworking and friendly staff devoted to community news.

Oh, our cat, Two, who is around 15, is just fine.

Yes, we got a lot done in two years. What will the next two bring? Bring it on.

PHOTO ABOVE: A not very flattering selfie taken somewhere on our cross-country trek with our cat Two glued to my lap. She hated the carrier.

 

 

 

 

 

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Joan Brownie
Life lessons

Looking Back: I Should Have Said Hello

I found this post from 2 1/2 years ago when I was searching through this website’s archives. Here, I wrote about a lesson I learned about race as a young child, one that certainly has influenced me as an adult. Given what is happening in the news these days, I wanted to share it again.

I don’t have many regrets in my life. I can think of a few things I’ve thrown away I wish I still owned, but no biggies there. There’s some stupid stuff I’ve said. I will admit, also, to mistakes I’ve made with relationships. The one experience that bugs me, likely prompted by the news these days, happened when I was a child.

I was eight or nine, perhaps, and a Brownie Scout. That’s a picture of me above, looking awfully skinny in my uniform. One year, I found out I could go to a day camp for free if I sold enough Girl Scout cookies. My enthusiastic parents, especially my Dad, went into full gear, hitting up the people they knew. They sold enough, so I could go.

It was my first experience away from home and school. I didn’t know any of the girls, but as the week went on, I got close to one. I will also note she was Black, which shouldn’t make any difference, but it does later in this story. We did the activities and ate lunch together. We acted like the silly, little girls we were.

Later that summer, I was with my mother and sisters shopping in downtown New Bedford — a lively strip then of department and other stores during those pre-mall days. We were walking along the sidewalk when I spotted my camper friend and her mother.

I remember the girl was happy when she recognized me. But what did I do? I passed by and pretended I didn’t know her. I recall distinctly she asked her mother why I didn’t say hello. I didn’t hear her response.

I knew then I did wrong. I should have said hello. I should have told my mother we went to camp together.

But I didn’t. And I wish I had.

Yes, I was a shy girl then. (That might surprise some folks who know me now, but I worked on it.) I lived a sheltered life in a small town. Also, being fully Portuguese, I am more brown than white. It was the fifties. But still… I ponder today what stopped me then from doing what should have been a natural thing.

Compared to what is happening now, my snub may seem rather small. But I believe it’s one of those lessons I had as a kid that has helped shape me as an adult. When it comes to my fellow human beings, I try to look for common denominators. I want to know about our different experiences. Certainly, living in big cities, small towns, and in multicultural Northern New Mexico has given me numerous opportunities.

But when it comes to that little girl, I honestly wish for a do-over, but sadly that’s not possible. Lesson learned.

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Joan Brownie
Life lessons

I Should Have Said Hello

I don’t have many regrets in my life. I can think of a few things I’ve thrown away I wish I still owned, but no biggies there. There’s some stupid stuff I’ve said. I will admit, also, to mistakes I’ve made with relationships. The one experience that bugs me, likely prompted by the news these days, happened when I was a child.

I was eight or nine, perhaps, and a Brownie Scout. That’s a picture of me above, looking awfully skinny in my uniform. One year, I found out I could go to a day camp for free if I sold enough Girl Scout cookies. My enthusiastic parents, especially my Dad, went into full gear, hitting up the people they knew. They sold enough, so I could go.

It was my first experience away from home and school. I didn’t know any of the girls, but as the week went on, I got close to one. I will also note she was Black, which shouldn’t make any difference, but it does later in this story. We did the activities and ate lunch together. We acted like the silly, little girls we were.

Later that summer, I was with my mother and sisters shopping in downtown New Bedford — a lively strip then of department and other stores during those pre-mall days. We were walking along the sidewalk when I spotted my camper friend and her mother.

I remember the girl was happy when she recognized me. But what did I do? I passed by and pretended I didn’t know her. I recall distinctly she asked her mother why I didn’t say hello. I didn’t hear her response.

I knew then I did wrong. I should have said hello. I should have told my mother we went to camp together.

But I didn’t. And I wish I had.

Yes, I was a shy girl then. (That might surprise some folks who know me now, but I worked on it.) I lived a sheltered life in a small town. Also, being fully Portuguese, I am more brown than white. It was the fifties. But still… I ponder today what stopped me then from doing what should have been a natural thing.

Compared to what is happening now, my snub may seem rather small. But I believe it’s one of those lessons I had as a kid that has helped shape me as an adult. When it comes to my fellow human beings, I try to look for common denominators. I want to know about our different experiences. Certainly, living in big cities, small towns, and in multicultural Northern New Mexico has given me numerous opportunities.

But when it comes to that little girl, I honestly wish for a do-over, but sadly that’s not possible. Lesson learned.

 

 

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