Tuesday, October 27, 2020



What can you say about a  brother who once sprinkled Tabasco sauce on your Easter Jelly Beans.  Not all of them, I would have tossed out the whole batch. Vance was fiendish.   I had to pick my way through the landmine of the Easter Basket.  One was not surprised that he shared a birthday with Adolph Hitler.

  Vance was six years older than me.  He died this morning.  He had been ill for a very long time.  Oddly, knowing something will happen does not lessen the jolt when it does.  

I have another brother whom I adore, but Vance loomed large in my life.  He never once said a nice thing to me or my other brother, but his wife says he was very proud of me.  He was better with wood than with words.  He crafted beautiful furniture, forged wrought iron, took amazing photos, made wonderful castles and houses for his nephews and nieces.  By trade he was an industrial archaeologist.

   The three of us  took ownership of our childhood summer home in 1985.  The house is very old, and prone to disaster.  It  still stands, largely because of the years Vance spent bending it to his will. He was tireless.  We all worked on the house, but always under his direction.

  I wrote a few novels and  Vance became one of my best characters. ( I think he really enjoyed that.)  But really it wasn't much of a stretch of imagination.  Here is a true story: Vance came home for my wedding weekend .  My parents  had two crazy, excitable Weimaraner dogs, Misty and Storm.  Vance always addressed them German commands.   I don't know where or why Vance got the bullwhip, but he started thwacking it on the driveway.  Not at the dogs, but it riled Storm and he bit Vance.  My parents had offered us a honeymoon at their house of the Vineyard, provided we take the dogs, (My parents would arrive in a week.) Off we went with two crazed hounds. Storm had to be quarantined in a shed  for a week.  He howled and clawed at the door.  It has been fifty years, but that is all I remember of my honeymoon.

  My brother was cantankerous to us, but known for his generosity to others.  An enigma wrapped in a puzzle I never solved.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Time Limps (But May Gallop)


I started this blog ten years ago, sitting on Chappaquiddick, on the very same sofa.  Thankfully, the view has not changed.  No pink condos or mega-mansions intrude.  This view is my happy place.  

The pandemic has spoiled summer.  Massachusetts doesn't want anyone outside of New England to enter without a very recent (72 hours) negative Covid test.  Otherwise, you must self quarantine for fourteen days. There is $500 a day fine.  But, alas, the state is relying on the honor system. Given the furiously snarled traffic when we drove from the big ferry, I suspect many are not honorable. 

Chappaquiddick is a small island off of Martha's Vineyard. Usually, it is free of the drama on the main island. But just this week there was 45-car lineup to take the eight minute, three-car ferry to Chappaquiddick.  When my father bought our house in 1953, there were 75 houses on the five mile (tip to tip) island.  Now there are upwards of 400.

Usually we have lots of company with friends that gather once a year.  Much of my time is spent gathering recipes, making beds, buying liquor and grocery shopping.   Usually, I hit the Stop and Shop every other day. I love the time spent with friends, but not the time required for organizing.  

This year, no guests.   

The morning after we arrived ( with our recent, negative Covid test results) , I felt odd and a little elated. No lists. I feel as if I am in suspended animation.  I have not been to the beach, or to town or to Stop and Shop. 

I sit on the porch where time passes quietly.  

Monday, July 13, 2020

Night Music

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Summer night music. The sound of cicadas and frogs at night is a favorite balm.  Some nights, when I am unable to sleep, I will sit on the porch and absorb the lulling hum.  It has been a banner year for lightening bugs.  But this summer, there has been no night music.  It's mid July.  Where are the frogs and cicadas?  Is it just my neighborhood?

Friday, May 22, 2020

A Pandemic Life

  My Pandemic life has been better than I thought it would be.  I have been on 14-day quarantine twice, but so far, so good.  I never felt house bound or bored.  MOMA offered free online courses.  I took Design as Fashion and Seeing Through Photographs.  (I highly recommend both.)  I became a jigsaw puzzle enthusiast.  I painted, albeit in cramped quarters.  I missed my studio at the Torpedo Factory.  The Factory is closed but we must still pay rent
   My dog walks increased in distance, from 45 minutes to 3.5 to 4 miles a day.  I think the outdoors kept me sane. I assumed walking over 25 miles a week would result in weight loss, but it has not.  I don't understand why. So,  I have a drink every night. It used to be just weekends but the days became indistinguishable.  Oh,  and I have developed a habit for Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt, buying them by the case online.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Beware of what you wish for....

  My grandchildren live with their parents in Niger, West Africa.  They were home for Christmas.  I would not see them again until late summer before their next posting to Laos. (Two years ago when they were in Korea, I thought it was a long haul.  Laos is nearly 24 hours away.) 

Covid-19  swept through our fragile lives with a vengeance.  When they closed the schools and playgrounds, I could only be grateful that my kids were grown. No homeschooling for me!  My husband and I selfishly hunkered  down with a full freezer, stack of books, a full bar and netflix. 

 My daughter -in -law and grandkids (3 and 5)  caught the last plane out of Niger before the airfield closed down.  They were to quarantine for two weeks.  Our health is less compromised than her family's, so they stayed with us.  I really enjoyed their company and was sorry to see them go to an isolated cabin in the Shenandoah area.

My son was still in Niger where Covid 19 wasn't considered as serious as malaria and Colera.  Until the State Department thought, maybe it was.  A cargo/sickbay plane flew from Madagascar picking up the Americans. It was thirty-five hours and several stops before it got to Niger.  By the time it landed at Dulles, my son had a fever.  He stayed in a hotel room. I suggested it was Covid-19. He insisted that it was "Niamey Crud" not Covid-19.  Eventually the State Department ventured that he did have Covid-19 and monitored him by phone.  He is on the mend and looking forward joining his family.

Once again, I am reminded, everything hangs by a thread.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Offices of Tilted and Askew

                                                © 2007  Cindy Packard Richmond

 I wish I could say I embraced the future with Apple's OS 15 Catalina with its 64 bit color.  I honestly tried.  But when I tried to open my spreadsheet of expenses for 2019, nothing!  I had made backups and backups of my backups.  OS 15 wouldn't open any of them.
Apple support helped me back to the dark ages of OS Mojave and Elements 6. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Choppy Water

                        "Turmoil" © 2019 Cindy Packard Richmond

  I got my first Apple computer in 1984.  A one-piece  monolith, it sat about 18 inches tall.  Floppy disks (which did not bend much less flop) could only hold ten pages of data.  (Hence the truncated chapters of my second novel.)  I have stuck with Apple all these years, mostly for their support system.  I am not xenophobic, but by the time I call the support line I am already beyond flustered.  I need instructions in English-as-first-language help.  Apple is very good at that.
   Apple recently upgraded to the Catalonia OS system.   I might just as well have taken an axe to the head.  Suddenly, many of my workhorse applications were unusable. Apple slapped white circles with diagonals through the dock icons.  My Photoshop Elements, gone.  My scanner, kaput, my spreadsheet photos and records of 400 plus paintings, unretrievable.  Photos are essential to my business.  I paint from them and I sell them.
   I never feel so old as when I have to wrestle with a new program.  Once I upgraded to Photoshop Elements 11, but that was too daunting.   Elements 6 is my comfort zone.  I have used it daily for 13 years.  When Apple  refused to run it, I hoped the  Elements 11 version might pass muster. Ha.  Only Elements 2020 ($99)will do.   I bought two books on how to use 2020.  I am still mystified.
  Photoshop 2020 seems to have issues Apple's OS Catalina.  My printer is mad and reports that it can not print at 300 dpi.  As one website said, Catalina has ended Apple's "32-bit app support, forcing such apps to run in complex workarounds."  I'll say.
  The coup de grace came this morning.  I plugged in my shuffle to download podcasts and the computer went black.  I unplugged the shuffle and got the screen back.  Tried again.  Black again.