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Wherein you will find posts with humor, photos, reviews, occasional rants and journalistic entries of interest to me alone but that I hope will touch you, the reader, in some way. I remain sincerely yours,
A Work in Progress

Monday, March 29, 2010

"If Going to Visit Your Grandparents Was the Thrill of Your Childhood"

This was recently posted on my favorite message boards and I replied there; but the flood of memories was so strong and so welcome that I felt it deserved more and so I am fleshing it out here for myself.

My grandparents lived in West Hyannisport in the summertime. I remember heading over there in the car and bouncing in my seat with excitement, literally getting butterflies in my stomach.  We didn't live far but it always seemed to take forever to get there. They had bought the place in the 40's as I recall and my Mom and her siblings grew up summering there.

Summer with my grandparents was sailing on the Wianno Sr. and picnic baskets with pickles and chips and my grandfather playing the harmonica while we sang old sea chanteys letting our feet skim the waves. 

They were Four Seas ice cream and penny candy at the Old Village store.  They were bocce and bluefish, croquet and bats in the car port eaves.

Visits at "Our House" meant cousins and archery and fishing and clamming with old Ked's on, and long lazy days on the beach and tar on the bottom of your feet from the walk home. 
Bathing the babies in the huge laundry sink and rinsing the dog with the hose.  Outboards clamped in garbage cans, tuning up for the season and Boston Whalers and dingys.

The old summer house bursting with bounty, it's row of high-bush blueberries, the grape arbor's purple clusters that made your nose tingle, picking beach plums with Mom and making jelly for days. Cattails and Red-Winged Blackbirds and sails in the distance.  Da's cutting flower gardens and weeding Dandelions.
Overnights in bedrooms that were my Mom's and her sister's and brother's.  Chamberpots under the beds and slightly musty comforters.  Morning smells of coffee percolating, grapefruit halves with sugar and Captain Crunch cereal. And the eagerly awaited signal,  "PSSST!"  that it was time to come jump in bed with them and have breakfast made by Da.

In the Fall, my grandmother was back to school shopping day. It was her S-A-L-E song and always a stop for Sanka and an apricot danish. It meant the closing of the summer house and a last family hurrah at Thanksgiving.  It was the torturous ritual of THE ANNUAL FAMILY PHOTO by my grandfather in the days before digital when we had to take any number of shots to make sure we got a good one.  He was a wonderful photographer but a total dictator about it.

And winter came and they would visit us.  "Shave and a haircut" went the horn and we would come flying.  My winter grandparents were peppermint Chicklets and mothballs and Chanel Number 5. Winter visits meant presents from exotic places and Nana's sealskin coat that always made me think of Narnia.  It was and remains the softest thing I ever felt and how we loved to wrap ourselves in it.

They are both gone now, my Nana of cancer far too early in "86" and my Da, not long ago at 100ish. 
The summer house is gone now too, sold and torn down for a trophy home. 
All I have left are my sensory recollections, my memories and a miniature of a painting they had done of "Our House".   

But I remember that thrill of being almost there, almost to my grandparents house.

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Another Book Review: The Works of Dare Wright

Our mother read to us often.  Though I only faintly recall her doing so, there are books, the memories of which are tightly associated with my Mom.  Some of those stories were written by Dare Wright.  

 
Dare Wright was an exceptionally beautiful and fascinating woman who found her niche when she discovered photography and created some hauntingly beautiful children's books.
In 2004, her work began to be noticed by a new generation on the publication of a biography entitled, The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll, by Jean Nathan.  Sadly, this book does Dare a great disservice and one is better off reading of her by those who knew her best.

Bringing out my own copies of these treasures and turning the pages, the photos are so familiar as to create an almost physical twinge of delight.  Dare was a master at creating a moment and a mood.  Her artistry in black and white invokes feelings so deeply as to have these books indelibly imprinted in your mind.

The Lonely Doll was her first release in the series. It was our introduction to Edith and Mr. Bear.   The book struck a chord with millions of little girls and Dare obliged their ardor with nine more books about Edith, the lonely doll.



My very favorite was Holiday for Edith and the Bears.  Growing up on the Cape, the photographs of Edith and the Bears in my world, so to speak, made this book the most tangible to me, though I knew the shells to be Floridian. 





Edith and her bears had many adventures, ten in all, and I loved them all. 

Dare also wrote and photographed another book that resonated deeply with my sister and I.  It was called Lona and my sister would not rest until she owned a copy for her very own.  It is an evocative tale of a girl named Lona who is under the power of a wizard called Druth and her struggle to challenge him and become free.  It was photographed in Scotland and it is a visual masterpiece.

Dare also did a series of educational children's books called the "Look at" series.  I only ever saw one of these but it is a gorgeous photographic essay on the life of a seagull.  I am proud to own a copy of this one as well.


 While I am a collector of vintage children's books, (to the extent of my non-existent budget), I don't collect them for the sake of having them.  I collect them because of what they mean to me.  These books are friends, memories, links to my childhood, part of my makeup, treasures more than gold or jewels.  These are gifts from the author for me to share with my own children and they to theirs.  Thanks Mom.  Thank you Dare. 

The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out to be thrown on the rubbish heap of things that are outgrown and outlived.  ~Howard Pyle


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Friday, March 26, 2010

Facebook and an Old Friend

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I love that I am able to reconnect with old friends, keep tabs on family and amuse myself putting status updates that are generally movie quotes.  I hate that, when I let myself, it can be a total time sucker.  My kids have called for my assistance or my attention on occasion to hear the response, "Hold on honey, timed game!"  Bejeweled Blitz is my nemesis.  For a game that takes only 60 seconds, I am always baffled when an hour has slipped away.  I know I have played too long when I realize I am drooling and the little gems are just twinkling at me and I no longer see a pattern. 

But I digress.  One of the folks I have reconnected with is an old high school chum.  She was an exchange student from Denmark and we were pretty tight.  We did Drama Club together and skipped school together and we had a fantastic time.  She is funny and sweet and kind and natural.  I have not seen nor heard from her since then until I found her on Facebook.  And guess what?  We have so much in common still and we have spoken on the phone every Friday for weeks.  She blogs and I blog.  We each have a 13 year old and a 9 year old.  She is a teacher and I am a homeschool teacher.  We have so much catching up to do and it is a little hard with a short time burp on the phone to chatter on the way we do.  We keep accidentally cutting the other off and missing half of what we were saying.

But all that changes tonight.  Ellie is coming for a visit with her kids and if all goes well she will arrive at my doorstep around 9 o'clock this evening.  I don't know who is more excited.  The kids or me.  They have been hard at work making welcome gifts and can't wait to meet their new Danish friends.  The house is sparkling,  the larder is full, a turkey is thawing and except for a stinking cold my husband was kind enough to share, we are good to go for our company.  I hope when she gets here I am not sitting at the computer drooling.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Old Favorite for Wordless Wednesday

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Not All Who Wander are Lost

 Re-posting this favorite  for the blog carnival.


While I hold some literary pretensions and love Austen, Twain, Bunyan and Dumas, I have long been a fan of science fiction and fantasy.  It is years ago now that I first went through the Wardrobe.  A small part of me still holds my breath in anticipation every time I open a closet door.

 
  The first book club that I signed up and paid for myself was the Science Fiction Book Club.  I was 13 and earned money washing dishes by hand at a little 6 table Finnish restaurant. My first paycheck banked, I filled out the form and eagerly awaited my first volumes.  The box finally came and as I read, I fell in love with the wildness of Pern, the Free Amazons of  Darkover, and the machinations in Amber.  I giggled my way through The Spellsinger series and outright howled with laughter reading the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  These and their sequels have been a staple on my shelves for years.  Old friends I still own and return to again and again. 

Then, along came Harry Potter. I resisted reading them for a long time due to all the hype.  Never one to follow the crowd, I snubbed them.  By the time I decided to delve in, there were three books already and I got them from the library.  And fell in love.  While not the unrivaled prose of Tolkien, Harry and his friends grabbed my heart.  These are the kind of books I adore.  I was swept away into a new world with new friends that I came to deeply care about and I couldn't wait to go there and back again.

It was about that time when I became aware of an "issue".   I suddenly found myself in the unique position of being called a bad Christian for reading them.  The home school message boards I frequent became a house divided.  Those that read Harry Potter and those who believe that Christians should not read them.  Friends in my church disapproved as well and I found myself warning the children to just not mention Harry Potter.  As if it were a secret.  And I mulled it over.  Were my reading habits unpleasing to my Lord?  And if it was, why? 

It must be stated that I am highly selective about the books allowed in our home. It is one of the privileges of homeschooling.  Twaddle is rarely allowed.  As defined by CS Lewis, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty.”  I concur.  Some of the books I love best I read first as a child and delight in still.

There is a season for everything, however, and I did not allow my children, when they were younger, to read Harry.  There is much dark in his life and I felt a certain maturity was in order.  For this same reason we read children's versions of Egyptian,Greek, Roman,Celtic and Norse mythology during our history studies.  Clearly there are themes in the original versions inappropriate to younger children.  By the same reasoning, we first read children's versions of Shakespeare and do not jump into "Titus Andronicus".  But we do read them.  Not only because they are part of the Western Canon, but because to not know them is to have a life less enriched and to be culturally more poor. And to have such familiarity with them when they are young will enable them to enjoy the original versions more thoroughly when they are older.   Not unlike finding out new things about old friends.

My children are a bit older now.  And they have read and seen the Tolkien Trilogy and the Harry Potter series.  Their current favorites are the Sister's Grimm series and the Lightning Thief series.  And none of their reading has caused my children to be shaken in their Christian faith.  They understand what is real and true and are not confused by reading fantasy.  They love everything about fairies and the idea of fairies as I did and my mother before me. Are not children supposed to play games using their imagination?  What harm in books and stories with classical themes of good and evil, danger, hate, love, perseverance, and self sacrifice?  What harm in fairy folk, trolls, orcs, giants, wizards, hobbits and house elves? What harm in pretending to be Hermione, Eowyn, or Annabeth?  I see none. 

I do not believe these books or the reading of them to be wrong.  And I can't give you chapter and verse on why I believe what I hold to be true.  For me it is a heart issue.  On examination of what I know to be true,  I have come to the conclusion that my life would be somewhat poorer had I not grown up with these books; had these friends not lived in my heart alongside the Bible verses I have memorized.  I do not find that they conflict.  The struggles that they have and the lessons that they learn are all part of the human condition.  
They hold a commonality to our own lives and our own struggles and if they did not, they would not speak to me the way they do. And if that is naive, then I determinedly remain so.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

More photos of my new Library!!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Renovations

You might have heard that my sister has moved out.  It took a few weeks but I finally got excited about having the space she left behind.  My Mom, knowing my heart's desire, footed the bill for lumber and my beloved, also aware of my secret longing, went to work.

First, it got a fresh coat of paint.  Benjamin Moore's Smokey Taupe and Athens Blue.
Then, the work on the shelves began......  It took longer than I hoped and less time than I expected.  Our library/music room project was firmly underway!!

Yesterday, I spent all day staining them with a walnut polyurethane.  
(and my shirt and my neck and my fingers. )   And my wrist and arm were so sore that it actually woke me up last night.  Probably due to the fact the every square inch of them, including the undersides, got done.  Thank God for Biofreeze. Yes, it could have been done to the wood prior to putting them up but you'd have to see our workspace to know why that was simply not feasible. 

First thing this morning, I cleaned and vacuumed and then, joys untold, it was moving day for my books.  7 bookshelves worth in the main living area, one in the upstairs hallway, 3 boxes and a chest full of curricula, a shelf from our bedroom, one from Jenna's and one from Rowan's room.  Oh and the 4 boxes from the attic.    Thank the Lord Mike wasn't going in to work until 1:00 or I would still be carrying books down the stairs.  I don't know how long I had been working but my husband made us lunch and I was starving!  Next thing I knew, it was 5:30 and I was all done!!!!  I still have some micro managing to do but on the whole, I am pretty thrilled with them.

The holes are left for my Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation books that I have loaned out. The upstairs now looks like a hurricane hit it and I can't really finish the room RIGHT NOW like I want to because we need half the men in the church to move the piano downstairs and Mike needs to get a desk from a friend's house.  So I can't rearrange anything upstairs yet and reclaim my living space nor can I move Mike's computer and Rowan's desk yet. 

Maybe if I just take my glasses off I won't notice the chaos. :)

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daylight Savings Time, An Idea Whose Time has Come and Gone

I hate it.  I suppose, in an agrarian culture it made some sort of sick and twisted sense but now?  Really?  Why?  I mean it isn't like we all have to go out and milk the horses and weed the dandelions anymore and even if we did, I am sure they could wait another hour or two. 
Getting up in the dark should be reserved for very VERY few occasions, Christmas and child-bearing for example.  It should not be a regular gig, it just isn't right.
It is dark, it is stormy, it is windy and pouring and the greenhouse got torn to shreds.  None of this says, "Hey, great day to get out of bed an hour earlier!"
I am NOT a fan.  It's time has come and gone!

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mud Season

We have had a beautiful week weather-wise. It was mild enough to shed the coats and sweaters. Outside, I raised my face towards it, like a flower following, to thrive.  It felt warm, almost tangibly spring.  Yesterday I went out and did a huge clean-up in the yard and it is ready to be out in and to enjoy.  The snow is gone, the crocuses are up, the birds are merrily singing their spring songs....Hang on a sec, what?

Little reality check folks, this is Cape Cod where the weather fairies are capricious and malicious. The forecast for tomorrow looks dismal and we have a good old fashioned weekend of wind and rain heading this way.  Ah well, we knew, deep down, that is wouldn't last.  In March it never does. 

The Cape only really has three seasons.  Summer (short and glorious), Winter (long and gray with sporadic joyous amounts of snowfall) and Mud.  We don't get a real spring here. 

We get teaser days when the sun announces itself with authority and we can't wait to get out there and be in it and soak up the warmth.  We get spring flowers galore, daffodils and tulips, crocuses and hyacinth.  The pussy willows and the catkins come out, the forsythia is everywhere. The birds come back and hit the feeders hard, malnourished from their long journeys. 

And then we get rain.  And mud.  And then the mud freezes.  And then we get more rain.  Which leads to more mud.  And the birds come, soaking wet,  to the feeders, probably wishing they had delayed their return a few weeks.    The flowers, heavy under their droplet burdens, droop and hang in the mud at their feet.  The dog looks at us accusingly before going out and the carpets are hopeless of ever being clean again as more and more mud is tracked in.  The euphoria of those glorious teaser days is gone and it is more depressing than winter.


The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday, Monday, la la, la la la la

It is a beautiful Monday.  The sun is not only shining but warm.  Hints of spring are in the tiny details of tree-bud and birdsong.  Bad things and hard times seem distant, if only for a moment in the quiet of the morning.

Early morning suits me.  Peaceful though it may be, there is also a business to it if you are looking.  The birds, up with the sun, are already foraging along with the squirrels for food.  Turning over leaves, pecking for insects and feasting at the feeders, like mine, their days begin early. While I, inside the house, feed my own menagerie and get ready to wake the children.

The little wood rat forages too, beneath the feeder where food items fall as the birds take their turn above.  As I prepare my husbands lunch inside, outside the chipmunks bustle, cheeks full, to and fro from their nest among the stones.

As the sun rises and warms the air, the birds begin their ablutions, bathing merrily, scattering water about as their heads bob under and back up flinging droplets down their backs.  My own consist of scattering the laundry looking for yesterday's outfit and brushing my hair and teeth.

As their frantic hunger subsides, the birds go more matter of factly about their daily routines and we follow the same pattern inside the house.  School beings to get underway, the dishwasher runs, the laundry is drying, the pets are napping.  Routine is comforting and familiar.

Much like Monday mornings.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

An Off Day

Ever have one of those "off" kind of days? 

It feels later than it should be.  I feel more tired than I ought to be and the whole thing just feels unsettled to some degree.  As I was beginning to take care of the animals I noticed my husband was taking care of the fish-tanks.  It was surreal.  Nobody ever helps me take care of the animals in the morning.  (In their defense, I am usually awake at least an hour before anyone else and one can't exactly explain to the pets that they have to wait until their respective owners get up.)

I let the kids sleep in by an hour and for the first time in memory, I actually want to go back to bed.  I am not a "go back to bed" sort of person.  I am a "get up and hit it hard"  kind of person.  I get up and I get it in gear and thus the day passes.  I think the kids are "off"  too, they seem to have gone back to sleep because I don't hear them getting up and dressed.

Even the kitten is "off".  He is cranky and sore from his vaccinations yesterday and not himself at all.  He didn't do a single halo jump off the window screen last night and there were no sweet little chirrups looking for someone to play with him.  He wanted to go back to bed too and has.

Also "off" is the big empty room in the basement where my sister and her husband are usually having coffee and checking email and talking back and forth with me.  She called on her way to work.  It isn't the same.

I woke up to low barometric pressure and an inch and a half of snow directly contradicting the spring songs of the cardinal and the voice of the Red-Winged Blackbird I heard yesterday.  The birds are "off" too. 

So, off we go, embarking on the usual adventures in this off kilter sort of day.  Let's see what it holds.

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