Category Archives: Big Ideas

A Quick Flag Story for Veterans Day

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I love flags. They tell stories, and they draw stories out of people, they call people to your boat with similar interests or people who might be interested in where you’re from.

The first sailing trip I ever went on was with Doc Pearson, who grew up during WWII during the blitz not far from London. He is an American citizen now, but flew the merchant ensign with the red field.

During WWII, it was the merchant ships that kept him fed. They were so careful with food, not only for their own sake, but because the risk it took to get that food to them had been impressed on everyone in the UK with posters like the one above. Imagine if every meal, every resource, was eaten with reverence to people on the front. Imagine the very real threat of a U boat taking out a ship filled with cargo that was the lifeblood of the civilian population. It was said that even though you were at home, you could fight the war just by saving scraps of metal, eating with care, and consuming less.

Doc Pearson flew the merchant flag on his boat about 65 years later- STILL THANKFUL. He’s also still affected by war. He knows what it looks like. Knows we shouldn’t be going to war because of an intimate knowledge of exactly what that means.

I want to honor veterans by demanding peace and an end to the culture of war. Somehow, with American troops all over the world and with us being at war, almost constantly, since 1939 we don’t feel the pain of war even with billions of dollars spent abroad. We felt the belt tighten at the beginning, but we see very little evidence in our daily lives of the real suffering we’re causing from our actions.

To honor veterans: I’d like the VA to wisen up (you can volunteer), I’d like the military to stop dishonorably discharging people with mental problems, but most of all I want to STOP THE WARS and spend the money on healing.


In a Moment

The body of my friend’s 5 year old daughter was just found feet from her boat this morning, a calamity with the same random chance as a star or nebula forming, the same random chance that a dandelion seed finds a good patch of loose soil, and the same random chance that brought her mother and father together, the same random chance that brought them all into the world in the first place… and yet, irreversibly, it happened. A plop into the water, maybe a bump on the noggin, no fault or bad luck or angry gods or evil spirits.


But now, in the aftermath, and because we like to order the unordered, we’ll look to make sense of the senseless. Some will say disingenuously how they never let kids out of sight or that they’re always wearing their Safety Things… that they never look away to stir a pot or to scrub a boat… that they live with so much fear for this very moment that every moment for them is some brand of agony. They react so vehemently because they merely live on the other side of a thin veil, a shared and brittle skin made of a moment and a circumstance outside of their favor.

People outside will look in, everything will draw in too close, and even my dear friend will look within herself, and find only random and sundry stars, seeds, and stories.

Some stories aren’t meant to teach anything. They’re just stories. Here we see a story that had an ending none of us wanted.

I hope the grief hangs lightly over my friend’s head, more like a cloud than a stone; that she might be in the shade of it but doesn’t have to carry it, and I hope the cloud turns into a silver coated memory, smooth and cold to the touch and strong as anything but weightless as nothing. I hope her husband sits in the sunshine today, meditating on the things outside of his control, like the way the constantly-exploding sun can heat us from so far away or how many dandelion seeds land on pavement or get stuck while floating by.

I feel so much love for these people today, a depthless compassion for them and Our Kitty.



Here’s how you can buoy this family up: Please donate.

I Don’t Have a Bucket List.

Me and our tour guide, who was a fantastic bat-lover and rock nerd! #endlesscaverns #virginia #travel

I went to Endless Caverns on a road trip to Virginia a few weeks ago. Lots of camping, the main cost was gasoline. 

It pokes at me, this whole “Bucket List” habit spreading around. Or at least in my little bubble, it seems to be a habit. I hear people, often, mentioning something nice to do or a great place to go and then, “Oh yeah, man. That’s one for the bucket list.” It’s dangerous, consistently subjugating a (sometimes just somewhat) firey desire to an undocumented, expensive, unaccounted-for list. Perhaps more sad is that, on this so-called bucket list, the idea can reside with a respectful sum of anticipation because this adventure has been categorized as something you’d like to do before you die, but it will probably sit there in that bucket and die along with you. Get going today. Ditch your bucket list or that habit of dropping things on your bucket list. Here’s why:

We’ve got to quit our ‘someday’ culture.

This is the culture that results in the servitude of countless millions of people to go to work today so that for two days a week you can pursue those things that you dream about doing the rest of the week. A bucket list is a “someday” list. If it’s longer and more beautiful than what you do with a majority of your life, think on that really hard.

Most bucket lists are merely things that with money, you just buy yourself in.

I’ve never heard of someone putting a delayed gratification item on a bucket list, like the sort of thing that grit and hard work could bring you to. They’re all parachuting out of airplanes, not flying the airplanes. Or going to a certain country… for a week. Go back to item #1. Why keep working and saving up for these teaspoonfuls of thrills while letting your life slip through your fingers like water?

This is not a zoomed photo. I pet this seal today and fed her a fish. Thanks, Roxie the #seal and @neaq!! #boston #ma #animals #aquarium I was pretty darn misty the whole time.

This is Roxie, a fur seal at the New England Aquarium. I was so thankful and completely elated to have been invited to pet her and get a special tour of the place, but I know it was super expensive to do. 

You can live in a way that makes it so you never, ever think about ‘bucket lists.’ 

I can imagine jobs and routines that bring a lot of joy to your life, I just don’t think a majority of us live in that world. Here’s the biggest secret: It’s not wild and reckless abandon to envision and put to motion a life boldly lived.

Even if it’s said in passing, it’s a sign of this dream/real life dichotomy in your mind.

The struggle is real, people. We get one go-around. I used to do a lot of someday type of dreaming, and now that I’ve shifted to being able to make everyday amazing (not just with the boat!) I just don’t do that anymore.

#Hope. #anchor #sailing #newengland #cemetery #bluehill #maine #carving #stone

Women Who Sail and Why We Work

WWS Members are from EVERYWHERE!

The WWS Interactive Map- One Pin Equals One Member!

I’m a member of a closed group on Facebook that plays a big role for me when it comes to sailing and living aboard. I was invited by my friend Sophi who has lived aboard for a few years now, and she was really excited to add me to the ranks of the amazing group of women known as “Women Who Sail.” When I was added, we were at about 700 members. As of now we’ve busted on through to 1185 members and counting.

The conversation is enlightening, detailed, technical, supportive, and inspiring. I can’t get enough of these people. I really feel as though they’re friends, and we meet up with each other in the real world when our paths cross.

What makes the group special is perhaps the spectrum of its participants. We are old and young; we are new and experienced. We are single-handers out on our own and timid sideline sitters whose partners carry the bulk of the boat tasks. Many well-known bloggers and book writers are among our ranks. Lin Pardey chimes in from time to time, as she’s a member, too.

A good number of the members are at the dream stage of the boating/cruising life, however, many conversations are driven by women live aboard in remote places and have many nautical miles under their belts. I’m in awe of them, I respect them, and they respect me.

As we add new members, most give an introductory post about themselves and comment on how refreshing it is to discuss boat matters in a forum and format so open and accepting. I think this says more about the environment outside of WWS than it does about us, and so for anyone who’s curious about what goes on in our little neck of the internet woods, I’m going to lay it out. Here’s why I think it works. I’m sharing this because I hope it inspires other people with like minds to build their own beautiful webs.

1. Our membership is vetted.

Not just by moderators, either. New folks who come to WWS are typically added after meeting in real life with people who are current members. Sophi is a friend from Portland, and she added me. I’ve invited women I met at potlucks and random anchorages all up and down the eastern seaboard of the US during my first trip on the ICW. This creates a membership that cares. There’s a real feeling that we have a stake in how great the group is and what its inherent value is. We all bring that to the group, not just any particular one of us.

2. Posts are monitored and discussion is moderated.

We have our moments where the moderators have had to remind people to curb their tone, but really, for being over 1000 people I’m going to boast that we’ve got some really peaceful, mindful, thoughtful folks here. I don’t think it’s because we’re women, I think it’s got something to do with the vetting AND with the clear guidelines about the purpose of the group. Some posts about electrical maintenance or ideal finishes for teak could potentially get heated. Ever read a post about the holy act of anchoring in other forums? I won’t name names, but I mean really, if you ask a question a certain way in certain places the sharks come out. I daresay WWS is proud to be shark-free.

3. Conversation flows freely from engine parts to lady parts, and it’s all good.

When it comes to living aboard, there are some serious questions from a broad swath of potential topics that most folks on a wide open forum would not be willing to post. I think that the fact that conversations float at the top of the page and then slowly sink down while new posts are created and discussed makes for fresh, lively back-and-forth banter, advice, and opinion.

Right now, just browsing the page quickly, our group is discussing internationally documented vessels and an anecdotal experience off the coast of California, optimizing a new iPad so the Active Captain app renders a chart properly, how to make your dinghy a little safer for your dog that loves to hang out right on the bow, and what we can do with beach trash if we’re in a remote place and want to do something about it. There have been many discussions about healthcare, remote family relationships, and how to report abusive partner behavior we see in anchorages. We’ve got this one conversation that has gone into the mental archives as the “bra rant.” We’ve got a handful woman who could solve pretty much ANY of your engine issues with just a couple of pictures and a description of the problem. Don’t even get me started about how crafty, creative, and self-sufficient these people are.

Other forums have big lists of topics and so many places to poke around and stick your head in, leave a comment, and then leave, maybe never to return. Facebook might have one up on the traditional forum approach when it comes to talking about big things that really matter, and that might be because the posts flow down from a spotlight position at the top of the page and they move down as things become resolved.

4. Like-minded individuals just might have the most productive conversations.

We’re all women and most of us live aboard or have dreams about living aboard. We’re coming in at a particular angle and have some pretty major things in common. Our politics, our backgrounds, our incomes and therefore our approach to cruising might be slightly different, but fundamentally, we’re coming at this with a lot to offer each other. For example, folks who daysail or go on short cruises have a very different opinions about using marinas or anchoring than we do- we have to anchor or this lifestyle isn’t possible for us, financially speaking. There are many kindreds in WWS.


So that’s about it. If you’re inspired to join Women Who Sail, please send a message- we’ll chat it up and I’ll see if I can get you in! Maybe you’re inspired to start a group of your own, you gents you, who seek to raise the level of conversation or who maybe want to stay in touch, easily, with people you meet or with acquaintances of acquaintances.

The Tally

Here are my classmates and all the great stuff we made! #diy #boat #canvaswork #woodenboat

Well, here we are. In the photo above you see various cushions, bags, handy tool holders, a dog bed, some repaired dodgers, and a couple o’ flags.

Not enough flags. DARNIT.

About midday today, even though I’m tired from a full week of focusing on this, I was really wishing we could have three more days of this class. I feel like I’ve only just started understanding all the mistakes I’ve been making with the machines so I can get more sewing done than fixing. Less ripped seams by the end of the week, less feelings of being out of control or that the sewing machine was going to eat my hand, or worse yet, eat my project. HA!

It’s one thing, and a good thing, to learn something on your own but classroom learning is the way for me. I envy the people who can read about knotwork and splicing rope and all that jazz who can learn straight from the book. That’s just not me. And like a lot of people who have been out of school for a while, I figured for a long time that if I couldn’t learn something on my own from a book, then maybe I just didn’t get it or wasn’t going to be good at it anyhow. I’ve changed my tune on that, thankfully.

I made canvas bags! #woodenboat #woodenboatschool #diy #salty

All in all I made a couple of salty-lookin’ canvas bags, a spirited pennant flag, a darn fancy cover for a flotation cushion, and I repaired the beat dodger, possibly giving it another season’s worth of oomph.

I also learned how to wield a seam-ripper like a champ, but then again, I’ve always said my epitaph will most likely be, “SHE WAS A GOOD SPORT.”

If you could take a class, what would it be?

WHAT HO! A Name Pennant!

Today's project I did at Woodenboat School- a pennant for the top of the mast! #sailing #boats #flags #diy

I have, in all seriousness, been thinking about making this one simple thing since about a year ago. A whole year of pulling in somewhere close to a boatyard and not even thinking of asking someone for some flag material and some insignia cloth. A whole year of excuses and procrastination, but I’m telling you, when I got the “MIMI” from MIMI ROSE onto this little shiny red thing that I sewed, I was in the corner of the sail loft, grinning at it. I was completely beaming right at this inanimate object.

I love flags and have a nice collection of them aboard. I love them because they invite conversation. Yacht club burgees say something about where you’re from or what you’re proud of. Our SSCA burgee says we’re proud to be a part of such a great organization and that we’d like to meet more members. Letter flags, spelling the name of a guest aboard, makes them feel so special. At the new year I hoisted up the four flags needed to proclaim “2013.”

They’re a moving decoration, alive with motion and bright in color. They’re attention-grabbers, and I suppose their land-based counterpart would be a brightly colored front door that says, “HELLO! YES PLEASE, WE’D LIKE TO SEE YOU, COME ON BY!

And that’s what this hot little number is. I made this at Woodenboat School and am so proud of it. Read more about Woodenboat here.

Holy Carp, I Made Something

That’s right, I made a cushion cover. Our old one was beat, but we still had the foam part which floats just fine. I picked a couple of cheerful colors and BAM! Jaunty new cushion cover. Of course, these photos are like the “magic of television” type cooking shows from the 80s that would leave out all the bad trial runs and the mistakes and give you a beautiful reveal at the end that’ll leave you thinking it was real easy. It totally wasn’t. It took me the better part of two days’ class time, which is embarrassing to say, but only a little bit.

I made a cushion cover with piping and everything! The first thing I've ever sewn. #sewing #beginner #woodenboatschool #diy

I’m really new at all this, and I’m enjoying that squirming, uncomfortable feeling that you get when you’re learning something new. There’s danger in it. There’s wasted time and wasted material. There’s seam-ripping and surprise. There are multiple attempts. There are slow starts.

Some people who really hate learning don’t relish that discomfort, and that’s probably the only thing between them and that thing they’d really like to do. But think of the stuff that could hold you up from doing! (How to speak a new language, how to play a new instrument, how to bake that complicated cake, how to navigate a new city.)

If I have only a couple of talents, they are these two things: I enjoy the discomfort of newness and I enjoy the journey as much as I enjoy the place I’m trying to get to. Are those talents or attitudes? Well, I’d hate to think that anyone would willingly adopt an attitude that would make them miserable most of the time, so let’s call them talents. Talents that could be learned.

Here are some photos of the process and our great space, but just a few.

Working on my piping.

My zipper panel and the cushion top, ready to attach.

Oh man, that thin is ready to turn right side out so I can see the magic!

James working in "the pit" with the machine named "Robin." #sailing #sailloft #diy #woodenboatschool

John at his beautiful old machine, Ann in the background working on her beautiful flowery cushions.

Oh heck, it’s Woodenboat School. One more photo. Here’s a picture of a wooden boat on campus.

ELATER out of the water for the season. #woodenboat #beetlecat #catboat #sailing

Earth Day is Everyday

As I write this, the boat is rolling for its umpteenth hour since the wind started kicking up from the northeast here in Oriental, NC. It’s a little calmer now. Pelicans are having breakfast. The anchorage is pretty full, and we’re at the edge of it, getting the brunt of the occasional rumpus still coming in from the Neuse River.


Rachel Carson, hero and scientist (photo from wikipedia)

I live outside. The tides, the wind, the animal life are all things that are a part of my daily life. If 11-year-old Anne could see 34-year-old Anne, she’d probably be gobsmacked. It was around 11 years old that I became enamored with Earth Day, which started in 1970 and by the time I came around to knowing about it, we had already forgotten about it for a long time (I feel like the 80s were more about serious consuming) and a new awareness had started gaining traction. Recycling came to our tiny New Hampshire town. A few people I knew even used their own shopping bags when they went shopping. Earth Day tee shirts were a big part of my wardrobe.

You don’t have to be a scientist to grasp or an activist to act on the concept that we only have so much and that there are so very many of us. Boats have brought me to places where I can see, first hand, the ways that we affect the planet. I’ve seen dead and dying coral not far from thriving tropical reefs, banks of dredging spoil made into angular, fake islands, remote beaches with plastic debris on them, evidence of animal bites on beach trash mistaken for food, high salinity water near desalination plants that choke out marine life, plumes of smoke outside of St Marys, GA and resulting ash on the windward side of Cumberland Island, and the fisheries of Maine on their knees for the lack of cod. I’ve also hiked a re-forested White Mountain National Forest after we laid off of her slopes for a while, I’ve seen a CFC ban slightly inconvenience some propellant manufacturers to everyone’s benefit, and it’s been a banner year for North Atlantic Right Whales.

Truth: we have an impact. We can make that impact good or bad.

It’s to our own benefit that we move about the world in a way that’s respectful of her carrying capacity. Cui bono? US.


John Muir, whose birthday inspired the date of Earth Day and who stuck his neck out for the preservation of wild spaces (photo from wikipedia)

Dismissive, disrespectful people who would call me a tree hugger are out there. Watch out for those people, they either lack an understanding of the grave environmental situations we face OR they stand to profit from them financially. Hell, climate change deniers say all the time that the scientific community stands to gain financially for reporting the data they report.

To say that acting locally is thinking globally goes beyond a bumper sticker slogan, and I kindly ask any climate change denier to recognize and respect where I’m coming from.

Sustainable living asks that you look within yourself and scrutinize your practices. It’s not an easy thing to submit yourself to, so let’s talk about it. It takes a humble heart. It’s something only you can do, which is why people so often resist. To make real change, you’re going to have to do more than bring your own bags to the store, carpool to concerts, and faithfully carry the recycling bin to the curb every week.

You’re going to have to read and think. You’re going to have to participate, vote, and pay attention. In those moments where light bulbs start going off in your head, you’ll find out that you don’t need to “give up” anything if that’s what you’re thinking. It just doesn’t feel that way.

There’s a difference between religion and practice. A religion is an ideology not changed or tailored by or for participants, and maybe that’s what people react to when they resist the notion of living a life more attuned to ecological sustainability. This isn’t Lent, man. It’s also not a contest. You don’t have to give anything up for the sake of it and there’s no trophy awarded for it.

Ecological sustainability is a practice. A practice is something that YOU drive, and it should be fueled by your own ideas, actions, and visions. With awareness, it was easy for me to stop using plastic utensils, to build a compost pile, to carry my own coffee cup instead of using disposables, to kill a lawn and grow food instead. I still eat stuff and drink coffee, I just have a different practice now.

From clothing to food to transportation… once you figure out there are things you could change or take part in, it’s pretty easy. If you come into knowing that a change needs to happen and you choose not to take your place among the citizens of the world, then I don’t know what to tell you. I guess I’d say, “Stop being a poop.”

My main points here, I hope, are clear.

1. It’s not painful to live within our means, and in fact, there is comfort and ease to be found in consuming less. Beside actual involvement or activism, we can make a massive impact as consumers and consuming carefully is a good and easy start.

2. You don’t need to think of the oil-slicked birds at an oil spill or sad pictures of arctic animals losing habitat to spark yourself into action. Your local water source might be compromised by changes, a local farmer might be bullied by the USDA, or the price of your food might go up. YOU’RE the animal who will benefit from sustainable practices.

Cuss word warning but watch this if you like. It’s George Carlin and I can’t say it better but it’s got some language in it. To sum up: “The planet is fine, the people are f***ed… the planet isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE… pack your shit folks, ’cause we’re going away… just another failed mutation. The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.”

To Carlin’s chagrin I mention him on Earth Day and I celebrate Earth Day. But I do it with all my humanness, with love and hope and care for my neighbor. I don’t get it perfect but I do what I can because I do love this blue marble and all the things it gives me. I’m in awe of it. I can’t help it.

Repurposing: You Probably Already Have that Thing You Need

I regard pretty much everything as objects with more than one purpose, and I’m unlikely to buy something that does a particular job. Rather, I opt for things that can fill in for many jobs around house and boat. Here are a few examples of things I’ve been using or re-using that might help reshape the way you think about the stuff you’ve got or about the packaging you choose when you’re provisioning. This isn’t just for boats, by the way. Land folk will like this, too.

Net-like Produce Bags as Beachcombing Treasure Keepers

Onions, potatoes, and citrus from the supermarket come in a variety of bags, and lately I’ve been opting for the plastic netting ones so I can take them to the beach for shelling or reuse them at the farmer’s market for more produce. The bags collapse right down so you can even keep one in your backpack for spontaneous shell collecting, and when you’re done collecting and want to rinse your finds, you can dunk the whole thing in the water to get rid of sand.

Come to think of it, they’d make a good colander for produce, too. I haven’t done this yet, but I’m thinking that next time I process and clean some greens, I might wash them in one of these bags then whip it around up on deck, using the centrifugal force as a salad spinner.

It’s important to make sure you don’t LEAVE these bags on the beach. Ever. Animals can get caught in them. When you do dispose them eventually, consider shredding them up so birds don’t find them at the landfill and have trouble with their beaks.

Parmesan Cheese Containers as Handy Tupperware

I have a slight weakness for salty, dry, shelf-stable cheese of late. I’m also finding that the shape and top of these shaky containers is useful for a slew of things. Here are a couple of examples: Its long shape is perfect for storing wrapped butter as you use it, cutting from one end and leaving the rest wrapped, you just keep it wrapped end side down. Similarly, I eat veggie sausage that comes wrapped like Jimmy Dean Sausage (called Gimme Lean) and store it the same way.

I also keep popcorn toppings in it. We love to use a mix of nutritional yeast flakes, salt, italian herbs, and a dash of garlic powder on popcorn. We premix that flavor combo in a shaky cheese container and voila! Ready to go. If it’s a nice looking container and you want to give an edible birthday present, you could put together an herb blend/popcorn topping for a friend and give it to them in this, with a homemade label.

Shells or Rocks as Soap Savers

No need to go out and buy a one-job dish to take care of your soap. Just use a handful of rocks or pretty shells in a regular little bowl to help circulate air around your bar. Where’d I get that pretty little bar of soap? From this lady here.

shells in the soapdish

Packing Tape as Lint Collectors

I mail a lot of stuff and generally find that clear mailing tape has a lot of uses in general. Great for hair and lint pickup, you just make a mitt around your fingers on one hand, spiraling the tape as a single layer loosely. By making it loose and holding it to your hand with your thumb, you can flip it around to use the other side. We just had a guest over with a very hairy dog and this trick made cleaning up very easy.

Shopping Bags and Packaging as Dog-do Bags

I don’t buy those neatly rolled things anymore. Even though I’m trying to eliminate plastic from my life entirely, stupid shopping bags seem to find their way into my realm. This goes for most packaging too, like packaging and wrapping from paper towels, bread, rice, chips, beans, potatoes, crackers… you name it. Even if it’s not shaped like a traditional bag, odds are it’ll work just fine for this job. Think about it, you just need a mitt big enough for the job and enough wrapping to get it to the nearest trash bag.

On that note, digging a 6″ hole when you are in the wilderness is acceptable, too, and we keep a camping spade in the dinghy for trips like that. Ditch the plastic bags that are just for that job. You’ll save money and plastic.

Paper Towel Rolls as Bag Storage

Now that you’re saving all your packaging to pick up dog waste, you can pack bags into paper towel rolls and put those neatly away somewhere. No massive, crazy stuffing or piles, just columns of bags ready to use.

Got some tips for me? Let me have ’em!

Owning the Hardest of Things

I don’t plan to write personal things on this blog, but I’d like to share this story with you.

There’s this story in my family. It’s about my grandmother. We didn’t learn about it until one of Nana’s lucid moments way later in her life, when she wasn’t really herself anymore because what made her Nana was her cakes and her sewing and her crocheting and her long car drives to Presque Isle, Maine. But she still had her stories, and new ones were surfacing in her brain as her short term memory gave way to hours of contemplation in the nursing home.


Nana always made a big deal out of Valentine’s day. She’d make us little things and give us candy, she’d get cards and then even though the card was pretty enough, she’d plaster them with extra stickers all over. It was different than what happens in most families, I’d suppose. It was saccharine, it was the best.

My Nana

Nana was mostly deaf. She had lost her hearing at an early age, as she was born during the influenza epidemic and fell ill. She survived, but her hearing was very poor. It was the start of a long string of hardships. The kind of hardships where the word “hardship” seems like a gross understatement. Things I can’t recount here because they’re horrible. But this is a story about resilience, so I’ll move on.

Railway trellis

Well there was this one year that she got really excited about Valentine’s day, and she was a school girl. Go wild with your imagination, it’s just how you imagine. Kids of various ages, one room school house, all of it right in the middle of Maine’s dusty potato country with its long dark winters. Bright spots were manufactured by the punctuation of holidays, and Nana pulled out all the stops. She handmade Valentines for all her classmates

and received none in return.




Florence was deaf and spoke funny. She learned how to talk by watching other people, and her soft consonants revealed her lack of hearing. She got teased and mocked and was left behind a lot. Stupid Florence, dumb Florence.

My Nana

Beautiful Florence. Survivor Florence. Strong Florence. Mother Florence. Grandmother Florence.


So when I was thinking of Nana this past summer, knowing we’d go to Presque Isle to bury her remains and knowing that I’d be giving her eulogy, I knew I’d want to tell a story that could really illustrate to people why and how and how much I love her. What could we learn from her? What quality should I carry on from her that would make her most proud? What hardship did she bear for me so I didn’t have to?


Nana, more than anyone, could have been a person marred into lacking trust, love, and affection for strangers. What did she do? She took this holiday and she made it her favorite.

And this carries past Valentine’s Day. It was her Way. When black people moved into her neighborhood in Munjoy Hill and deserved welcoming neighbors, when kids who were considered trouble needed a warm meal and the feeling of home, when poor folks in the neighborhood needed a good friend- there she was.

All the hard stuff, she gathered it up and she held it close.

Unlike some holidays, you can take or leave Valentine’s Day. But for me, I gather it up and hold it close because of Nana’s reminder. Her life was more complex and she was three dimensional in every way, with her foibles and her shortcomings. But I think on this, she was right. It most likely didn’t come to her like some great epiphany that grew triumphantly through the cracks of adversity. Nah, I think she was contrarian and I’m very sure she was a hopeless romantic.

You’re all my Valentines. Thanks for remembering my Nana with me.

Nana and a Little Dog

Happy Valentine’s Day

My beloved great aunts and Nana.