Saturday, July 29, 2017

We went up to Gloucester and had a picnic at Stage Fort Park. This seagull watched us while we ate and hoped for our scraps. He wasn't disappointed.

Gloucester is America's oldest seaport and well known for its sea monster, mad scientist, haunted castle, and ghost town. "Dogtown" was an early 17th century settlement that became a haven for witches, fortune tellers, and prostitutes when it was abandoned in the early 19th century. Locals don't go there, as there are still sightings of strange things in the area.

There are many beautiful trails at Stage Fort Park and magnificent views of Gloucester Harbor from the top of the granite cliffs.
Middle Street is home to The Sargent House Museum. For over one hundred years the Sargent House was the home of sea merchants, American patriot and community religious leaders. It was built in 1782 for Judith Sargent Murray, an early feminist writer, philosopher and social activist, and the Sargent House is "a fine example of high-style Georgian domestic features one of the finest small collections of 18th and early 19th century decorative and fine arts in the region. Paul Revere silver, Chinese export porcelain, and superb examples of early New England furniture, as well as American paintings by Fitz Henry Lane and John Singer Sargent."

Middle Street is also full of little shops and cafes, including our favorites: Mystery Train Records, Virgilio's Bakery, Toodleloos! Toys, and The Bookstore.

I bought Murder at Hammond Castle by indie author Gunilla Caulfield. Hammond Castle is one of my favorite places--I couldn't resist a murder mystery set there!

After a bit of browsing in the shops and ice cream cones, we drove down Atlantic Avenue and got out of the car at Bass Rocks. The beach roses were spectacular .

The undertow of the waves tumbling the rocks made the coolest sound. I took a little video so you could hear it. 

Gloucester is one of our favorite places. We hadn't been there since March, and it was a really lovely outing--the best part is that it is only a 35 minute drive from our house.

Look at Mr. Lucky all stretched-out on the carpet. Currently, every animal in my house is shedding. The vacuum is in almost constant use, and still there are fur and feathers everywhere.

Last Sunday at the flea market, I found a new head vase for my collection. She has little earrings as well as sparkly polka dots on her hat and dress. I love her rose corsage and the ruffle on her glove.

The scented geranium is in bloom, along with many of my roses including 'Munstead Wood' aka Baby Groot. The color of his blossoms is deeper, less purple and more velvety than it looks here.

I don't know what're better, summer evenings or summer mornings. Both are pure bliss! I am reading the story of Mary Anning, an early 19th century fossil hunter in Lyme, England. It is a quiet book; just right for my current mood.

If I have birds and roses I have everything I need. If they are the color yellow, I am rich indeed.

My teeny tiny garden is full of raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. The August harvest is going to be grand! 

Next week I have to work on putting together my end-of-year home school report, as well as my next-year-plans for the school district. To be honest, I have serious doubts as to whether the powers-that-be ever look at it, but it is a requirement nonetheless, so it gives me anxiety even though I have been doing this for nineteen years. A school report card to a parent is a skimpy thing compared to the reporting that a home school parent must provide to the school district. 

I've spent my entire adult life thinking about education and practicing it with mixed results. If you home school, everyone in your life is going to judge how your children "turn out" (whatever that means) based on that single decision. If one of my children struggles in any aspect of his education (or in every aspect of his education) it is my fault. If I send that child to school and he still struggles, the school bears little to no accountability for their results. 

There have been sleepless nights in which I have wondered if homeschooling has been a horrible mistake. What am I doing to my kids? (Are school superintendents, principals and teachers losing sleep about their decisions in our kids lives?) I remember meeting a  homeschooling mother in Texas some years ago who said to me, "If you do nothing but keep your kids at home, they will be better off than kids who go to school." I spent a lot of time pondering her statement and wondering if it was true. I honestly don't know. I can't say that homeschooling is best for every kid. However, I do not have any confidence that our public school system is best for most children (although, at one time, it may have been one of our country's greatest strengths)--there is too much money and politics involved. 

My only solid conclusions about homeschooling my children are: 
  • my children's education has been different from other children's
  • they have had a lot more freedom in their learning--time to experiment and explore and just be 
  • they think critically and understand a lot more about life than I did at their age
  • they are not peer-dependent 
  • they are creative, resourceful, and responsible
  • they are hard-working and helpful to others
  • their personalities are well-developed and intact
  • they have the confidence to follow their own path
So, maybe homeschooling has been a good thing for them. And, maybe not. Who knows? All I can say is that I went to school and university, and my life is, and always has been, a frightening, beautiful struggle. Most of the time I feel bewildered and ill-equipped for it and just do my best--which is a far cry from brilliant.  ♥

Friday, July 21, 2017

 I am surrounded by summer green even in the house. : )

 Look what I found at the flea market this week! A very nice on-canvas reproduction of Van Gogh's CafĂ© Terrace at Night for five dollars! I love it--it's my favorite find this season.

I re-upholstered my old desk chair last weekend with a puppies print. Do you see the pugs? 

I also recently re-purposed the old glass-fronted bookcase in my dining room to display my head vase collection (all flea market finds!) and a few of the pieces from my tea set, too. The bottom shelves hold my nature treasures: shells, feathers, fossils, a butterfly wing, &c.

This is Mustead Wood aka Baby Groot.--my other Mother's Day English rose. Someone was eating all of his new leaves for a while, and I really worried he wouldn't make it. Then we rigged up a little wire fence to put around him. Now he's thriving, but he's very small. I hope he still has enough time to grow. The color of his first blossoms is not as deep as I expected, but hopefully it will change as the plant matures. Also, it's quite hot out which definitely impacts rose color. The blossoms of my pale pink "Falling in Love" hybrid tea are nearly white. 

A great book and delicious lunch. I just finished reading Station Eleven yesterday. I know some of you have read this book, too, and I would love to know your thoughts about it. The story is set in a dystopian future a few years after the collapse of civilization. It is a book about memory and loss and art and connection--what it is that makes us human. A couple of years ago I read Laurus by Russian author Eugene Vodolazkin. That book was set in an indeterminate time period which, I realized as I was reading Station Eleven, might have been the future, although it had a distinctly medieval quality to it.  Vodolazkin wrote Laurus to show what is absent from our modern lives that was essential before: a wholeness in human experience with no separation between natural and supernatural awareness. This contrasts sharply with Station Eleven which removes the trappings of modern civilization to show us the meaning the civilized world imbues to our lives. It portrays religion as dangerous incoherency adhered to by the coercive, the weak, the deranged, and the deadly. Station Eleven speaks eloquently about the bonds people form with other people, with objects, with place, with animals, and with time.  (Interestingly, the word 'religion' is from the Latin 'religio', meaning:  obligation, bond, reverence; and 'religare' meaning "to bind".)  The book has given me a lot to ponder, and I don't think I will easily forget it. I have already recommended it to a few people. But, if I had to choose between re-reading Laurus or Station Eleven, I would pick Laurus.

The new study is becoming everyone's favorite room. Someone is always on the daybed. :)
 It doesn't hurt that it is the coolest room in the house.

This iced ruby rose tea is my summertime favorite: spearmint, lemon balm, hibiscus flowers, dried orange, rose petals, and clove. Mmmmmm.

I love roses best, but really, geraniums are star bloomers, aren't they? I just love them. 


Have you seen this? What a joke! Every number in that budget is below reality except the net income, which is more than it should be (they didn't account for state income taxes, and I'm not certain that they deducted Social Security and Medicare either). The other evening the kids and I watched 12 Angry Men--the old 1957 classic film starring Henry Fonda. (It was amazing how much it mirrored my own experience as a juror!) There was a line in it  that really got to me. One of the characters--a salesman played by Jack Warden-- brags to Henry Fonda that he made $27,000 last year selling marmalade. "Not too bad for marmalade," he said.  I should say not, considering that was a fortune sixty years ago. Today, however, it is a pittance. My daughter earns nearly double the federal hourly minimum wage and works 35+ hours a week, and yet she did not make that much last year. When I think of all of the problems that affect society, including race and gender inequality, I can see that much of it comes down to economics. In the mid-nineteenth century Irish were considered scum in this country. They lived in slums and were widely discriminated against. The same was true for Italian, Polish, German, and Jewish immigrants, as well. These groups are now privileged "white people". That's the power of money. Racisim is real, but the deep root of the problem is not primarily skin color, it's poverty. We hate the poor. Even if we donate to the local food bank and give clothes and money to organizations that help, we don't see poor people as "good as us". We don't live near them, and we don't make friends with them. 

Presley had a birthday yesterday--he's three! And still acts like a puppy. The girls and I think Presley is actually a prince who was bewitched and trapped in a dog suit. He has such soulful, knowing eyes. We are sure he understands everything we say. ♥

Friday, July 14, 2017

It has been months since I last posted--an update is certainly long overdue. : ) I really didn't mean to disappear for so long!

Summer is here now. Everything is in bloom and reaching up to the sun.

This is one of the new English roses I received for Mother's Day this year. Her name is Gertrude Jekyll. She struggled a bit at first, and I worried about her, but now she's putting out lots of new growth and just finished her second flush of deep pink blossoms.

I've had a few dogs in my life, and I have loved them all, but this pug, my Elvis, is the sweetest, funniest boy. He is my shadow, always beside me. Just look at that face--I can't take it!!!

This moment, when the sky is all lit up with delight from the day, is my favorite. Just then, there is an opening and an exchange between Everything, if you know what I mean. And under the trees are so many rabbits that you would be frightened if you have ever read Stefan Spjut's novel The Shapeshifters.

In the last week, my son sold his 225 gallon aquarium and I turned the front room into a cozy study--a little dream of mine for several years. Here is the room 'before' (the tank used to be against the brown wall). 

And, here is the room 'after':

I'm quite pleased with how it turned out.. :) We found the rug at the flea market for $40. The daybed was less than $90.00 at Walmart (we already had a hardly-used mattress on-hand in my daughter's trundle bed). The little table and the desk chair were flea market finds for $10 each, and the bookcase is from IKEA. The piano got to stay where it was, and my antique desk got a nice new corner nook (I love it there--who knows, maybe it will motivate me to write).

Elvis thinks it's a good change. :)


The garden is like a little jungle just now. Peas and raspberries are ripe for the picking.

These two girls are six years old and still laying eggs every day! 

Things are changing in the world. There is a loudness which has made me and others quiet. You can see it in the mass exodus from personal webpages to instagram. Some people have shifted to sharing more often yet less. Connecting through conversation--sharing thoughts, ideas, words--is now blasĂ©. If social media was superficial before, what is it becoming now? 

I understand that for a lot of people (most people?) the internet has expanded the world, but for a person like me, an introvert who values deep relationships, the internet has reduced my universe to a hermit's cell. I have relatives who won't communicate with me because they prefer to text, and I don't own a cell phone. I have friends who no longer keep in touch with me because they prefer facebook, and I don't have a facebook account. I could get these things, I suppose, like I got an instagram account, but I know I would never use them, just like I don't use instagram. The thing is, I don't want to be anyone's fan. I want to be their friend. ♥