Golden Moments #5

A perfect cup of tea out of a pretty mug on a cold morning. It was sipped while curled up under my favorite cozy but slightly ugly afghan. What a peaceful way to start the day.

A fancy box of chocolates bought for no reason and shared around the table on a Monday night after dinner.

Sitting with my husband looking out at this view. We both took the day off and went out to lunch, to the park, and to visit my grandmother. My husband proposed to me looking out at this view over twenty-eight years ago.

A book I forgot I ordered showed up in the mail. This regularly appears in "golden moments" lists but that is fine. I never can quite keep track of how many books I have ordered and I always enjoy being surprised when they arrive.

The beautiful sunsets this time of year. They make my backyard look beautiful.

My son telling me that I am a good cook but a truly exceptional baker. I had made chocolate cake.

My aunt and grandmother who found out about my blog and were flatteringly interested. Yes, I know I have had it for over two years. I just don't talk about it that much.

My son who came home so excited about something he did in shop in school that he talked for twenty minutes straight and showed me blueprints of what he was doing. I understood nothing but I thoroughly enjoyed his enthusiasm.

Jack, the cat, had surgery to remove a tumor from his mouth. Jack is my husband's baby so we were all very worried. The vet called and the tumor was benign. Jack has now recovered well and is back on a normal diet. He is distinctly irked that he no longer gets all the canned food he wants. We are distinctly pleased he will be around to complain about it for a bit longer.

All the leaves that are starting to change colors. Autumn is a bit late this year but we are finally getting the cooler nights that lead to the pretty leaves. I love the smell of autumn; the leaves, the woodsmoke, the cool, crisp air. It is all wonderful.

What golden moments have you had in your life lately?

Mini Reviews

I have a huge stack of books sitting on the coffee table. They are books I have read recently and that I keep meaning to review. However, good intentions aren't getting me anywhere so instead of full reviews, I am going to make it short and sweet with a few brief sentences on each book and whether or not I think you should read it. Are you ready?

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy. A cliffside hotel on the Cornish coast is buried when the cliff collapses. You know that from the beginning but then you go back and meet all the hotel guests and find out their stories. Who survives and who doesn't? It is a bit odd. The characters are definitely eccentric and, in some ways, it feels like a quiet story. But, at the same time, you have that cliff looming over you. Read it. I thought it was great.

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks. I have mixed feelings about this. It is the story of Rebanks and his family farm in the Lake District. His love of the land and his farming heritage is clear and appealing. His descriptions of the countryside made me immediately want to travel there. I learned a lot about sheep farming. But, at times I found myself annoyed with Rebanks as a person. Yes, I understand his farming life is wonderful but it is not the only life. He speaks a bit disparagingly of education but he went to Oxford. He loves the countryside but is annoyed by the walkers and other tourists who are also enjoying it. It all felt a bit disjointed to me. I enjoyed it on a certain level but I don't think I loved it as much as many others have. Read it if you happen to come across it but don't rush out and buy it.

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport*. This is a very detailed account of the 1917 Russian Revolution as told through the eyes of foreign journalist etc. who were in Russia at the time. This was not an easy read. The events during that time were truly horrifying and disturbing. The book was well-researched and detailed. However, I struggled with it. It sat on my "currently reading" shelf on Goodreads for way too long. I finally finished it and feel like I learned a lot about a time and a place I knew little about but I would not say I enjoyed it. Read it if you have an interest in the time period.

The Spirit of the Age and Other Stories from the Home Front by E. M. Delafield.* I loved this so I am saying right away that you should read it. It is a series of vignettes set during WWII in a little village called Little-Fiddle-on-the-Green. They are charming and funny and full of great characters who make you laugh out loud. If you loved Delafield's Provincial Lady then you will like this. It isn't quite as good, but then, few things are.

Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate.* A woman is on trial for her life. Each member of the jury has their own history that will affect how they decide the case. The reader is introduced to the members of the jury one by one and learns about their past and then is presented with the facts of the case. It made for a very interesting story and I enjoyed it quite a bit. One of the more successful of the British Library Crime Classics.

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley.* I will read pretty much anything about Jane Austen though my favorite book about her is Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin. I didn't feel this offered anything unusual or new but I basically enjoyed it and thought it was written in an engaging manner. I was worried about that since I saw the TV show based on this with Worsley and I had not really enjoyed it. I found her a bit irritating. I think everyone feels their Jane Austen is the real Jane Austen and Worsley is no exception. Her conclusions from things Austen wrote or said are not necessarily my conclusions. Of course, I am not an Austen scholar but Jane Austen is the real Jane Austen, right? Some of it was a bit too speculative for me. Do we really need to debate whether Austen ever had lesbian sex or any sex at all, for that matter? And what was that about the titillating effects of bathing in the sea? Also, I felt Worsley frequently put modern sensibilities on Austen's thoughts and actions. But, all in all, enjoyable though not the best book about Austen that I have ever read.

I am currently reading A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell. It is an account of life in Britain during WWII. So, in other words, my perfect book. I am about halfway through and highly recommend it. What have you been reading lately?

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

A Leather Journal

A few weeks ago we went to Barnes and Noble because my son wanted to buy some expansions for his board game. He is very into board games at the moment and ropes anyone even semi-willing into playing with him. Many of them are more fun than I would have thought. Though I must admit, I didn't know there were so many Star Wars board games. I think he is determined to own all of them. We are trying to convince him to expand his collection beyond Star Wars. He says it sounds like a good idea and then he gets pulled in by the expansion sets and decides he just has to have Chewbacca or whatever. Anyway, he was taking an endless amount of time to decide exactly what he was going to buy and I was entertaining myself by browsing all the sections of Barnes and Noble I don't usually have time to investigate. This led me to the journal section and I discovered the wonders of leather journals. It was love at first sight. They were so pretty and they smelled so good and just imagine the wonders of writing in one. They were also about $40.00. I just couldn't. Not for a journal that I would fill up and then be done with. So I reluctantly walked away, towing a Star Wars laden son behind me, and regretted it as soon as I was home. Well, kind of regretted it. I wanted a leather journal but I decided the dream was a refillable one. I emerged from the depths of an internet search later that evening having discovered Portland Leather Goods. They actually have an Etsy shop as well and they were having a sale.

An endless amount of dithering later (maybe this is where my son gets it) I ordered a journal. There were quite a few decisions and I am not good at decisions. You can choose from a variety of leather colors and there are approximately 50 different brands you can choose to put on the front. I chose the compass but there were also mountains and sayings and even Calvin and Hobbes. You can add your name or initials which I chose not to do. Also, you have to decide about the stone on the wrap. Do you want one? What color? Maybe a bit of wood instead? Then do you want lined or unlined paper? So many choices and all of them appealing.

portland leather wrap journal

The notebook is held in by a sturdy elastic band. I messaged the company asking if it was possible to add a second elastic so I could have two notebooks inside the leather cover. They answered very quickly and said they were willing to do it but they did not recommend it because they felt it might make the cover not fit as well. The wrap wouldn't go around as well and the brand might be in the wrong place. I said, in that case, just stick with the one notebook. I do regret that decision now though. There is plenty of room for a second elastic and the leather cover would easily fit around. It is unfortunate, but I will probably just look for a thicker notebook when I replace the one that came with it.

This is in no way a sponsored post I just really, really love this journal. Do you know how sometimes you buy something that just makes you happy? Well, this journal is making me happy. And, because it is refillable, I can enjoy it for years to come.

Portland Leather Goods also makes gorgeous tote bags. So tempting. They are more expensive than  I would usually buy (because I am...frugal. Let's go with frugal.) but they are beautiful, probably would get better with age, and they would last forever. I really want one. Maybe one day.

Local Discoveries--Old Furnace State Park

Celia had a half day of school last Friday and it is common knowledge that half days are wasted unless they are spent in the company of your best friend. The original plan involved an entire afternoon and evening spent at our house complete with secret plans, pizza for dinner, and ending with pleadings for a sleepover. However, one ill father later and we had to come up with an alternative. They settled for a hike at the nearby state park and a trip for frozen yoghurt. Thank goodness they are still at the age to be easily pleased.

This is a walk we have done regularly over the years we have lived in the area. We first started doing it when Celia was almost four and I have clear memories of struggling up the last steep section towing an overtired small child after me. I also have clear memories of temporarily losing my son in these woods when he was younger. I freaked out and when we eventually found him he could not comprehend why I was upset. He had stayed on the path and waited at the top. What more could we ask for? Kids will be the death of me.

The girls giggled their way through the entire hike. There were endless discussions about the best breed of dog and where they should travel for the post-high-school trip they are dreaming of. The current contenders are Paris and Greece though I am sure that will change five million times in the next few years.

We did take a wrong turn at one point and ended up across the pond instead of on the cliffs at the top. You can see them in the trees in the photo above. They don't look particularly impressive here but they do feel high when you are standing on the edge.  They aren't massive but they are tall enough that rock climbers use them for practice.

Celia took one look at the bench in the photo above and asked me if I had a book in my backpack. She thought it would make a great photo opportunity for Instagram. She was right but unfortunately, I took my book out so my bag wouldn't be too heavy. We will just have to go back with the appropriate props.

It was a good day. We ended it with coffee-and-dark-chocolate frozen yoghurt. What more can you ask for? Well, except for a sleepover with your best friend....

This One Is For My Dad

My dad might possibly be my most dedicated blog reader and the person with the strongest belief in my ability to write. Within half an hour of finding out my blog existed, he had purchased a subscription to a writing magazine for me. So when he (kind of jokingly) suggested that he should make an appearance on my blog I knew it had to be done. So, here are a bunch of random facts and memories about my dad. And Dad? No complaining about the photos. This was your idea.

He has a firm belief that a good cup of coffee and a doughnut or two can solve all the world's ills. The doughnut should be cinnamon and the coffee should be unflavored. Flavored coffees are an abomination. From the time my kids were tiny they have loved sleeping over at Grandpa's because they know he will provide doughnuts for breakfast which is a tradition carried on from my childhood.

When I was young many of my friends were a bit intimidated by my dad. He decided he needed to do something about that and he started telling them jokes. Specifically, chicken jokes. For example: Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer: To avoid bad yolks. He had endless variations on this theme. It is hard to continue to be intimidated by someone who is telling you abysmal jokes and laughing at them more than you are. When my best friend and I graduated from high school he bought us sweatshirts that said: "Tell me a chicken joke." We made him very happy when we actually wore them.

My dad is completely convinced that my mom is the most wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, charming woman that ever walked the face of the earth. That alone is quite charming.

He always had jobs that involved writing (newspaper editor, public relations) and when I was young he frequently worked at home in the evenings. This was before the days of computers so he used a typewriter. I would lie in bed at night and hear the clack of the typewriter keys and the murmur of my parents' voices.  To this day, the sound of a typewriter brings back happy memories and a sense of security.

Once, when I was very little I found a sea urchin shell in a tidal pool in Maine. I was very excited and it immediately became a prized possession. Until that is, I managed to slip on the rocky shore, fall down, and smash my shell. I was devastated. We spent a long time looking for a new one but they were all broken or too hard to get to. Finally, my dad clambered over rocks and basically fell into a deep tidal pool in order to get me another one. I had it for years and years and when my kids broke it when they were younger I cried.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts is my dad's happy place. Let him walk along the National Seashore and then take him out for clam chowder and he is a happy man. With, of course, coffee and doughnuts for breakfast.

My dad firmly believes that clutter needs to be disposed of. This leads to his endless attempts to pawn things off on me. He also tends to throw things away. When I lived at home we always knew that if we were missing some vital piece of paper, or the newspaper, or anything else that looked like it didn't belong where it was, we should look in the garbage because Dad probably "cleaned it up." I still sometimes see my mom grabbing things out of his hands at the last minute as he is standing over the garbage. His intentions are good....

My dad used to have lots of black hair. Now he...doesn't. He claims that, as teenagers, I made him go gray and my sister made him go bald.

Once upon a time, he met Big Bird from Sesame Street. Big Bird came into the newsroom he worked in. There is photographic evidence of this but my daughter couldn't find it. If my dad sends me the photo I'll update this.

Once, when I was very little, our dog totally destroyed my Raggedy Ann doll. I had left all my stuffed toys on the floor even though I had been told not to and when we came home Raggedy Ann was in pieces. I cried and cried. There was no lecture about picking up after myself. Instead, we turned around, got straight back in the car, and went to the store to buy me a new Raggedy Ann. It wasn't quite the same but it did assuage some of the pain. I still think of it sometimes when dealing with my kids. There is a time and a place for a lecture and a time and a place for doing what makes everything better.

He loves elephants and trains and has developed quite a collection over the years. He finally had to declare a moratorium on elephant related gifts because their house was being overtaken by them. If you look in the background of the photo where he is holding a coffee cup you can see a little bit of his collection.

When my son was ten weeks old he had to have surgery to repair a cleft lip. After the surgery, he was miserable and swollen and had stitches in his lip and mouth. However, when Grandpa came in Tristan managed this huge, ear to ear, smile. Grandpa was the only one that got a smile that day. My kids still think "Grandpa is awesome."

 Who am I to argue?

Books Bought In August

Brattle Book Shop

The other day my kids were discussing what they would do if they had all the money in the world. Their dreams were amazingly realistic. My son decided he would build his own machine shop in our garage so he could slowly develop a small business. My daughter wants a dog. A black lab. This is no surprise. Dogs and her ongoing campaign for one are pretty much her only topic of conversation. The kids decided if their dad had all the coffee in the world and yearly trips to England he would be happy. I asked them what they would get me with all the money in the world. They both looked slightly bemused, as if there really could be no debate about this, and told me I could order all the books I wanted. My kids know me well. Apparently, I have been making a start on buying all the books I want even though we do not have all the money in the world. In my defense, I bought eleven books and I think I spent under $20.00 for all of them.

Five of the books came from Brattle Book Shop in Boston. I wrote a post about it here. I stopped in again very briefly on my way home a few weeks ago and bought a few bargains from their outdoor section. None of them were books I was particularly looking for but they were all books I was pleased to find. The Victorian House sounds interesting. I like reading about how people lived in different time periods. I enjoy Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry so it only made sense to snag a volume of her letters. I was pleased to find a copy of Mrs Miniver. It is a book I have read a few times but do not own. If you want you can read my review of it here. Woman Who Went To War fits perfectly into my interest in Britain during WWII. Finally, I found a copy of A Peculiar Treasure, an autobiography of Edna Ferber. I recently reread Saratoga Trunk so this seemed like perfect timing.


I found a couple of books at a library book sale. Devil Water by Anya Seton was actually on the free rack. I read it years and years ago and remember very little about it. It might be time for a reread. I bought a copy of At Home by Bill Bryson. I always enjoy his books. I had this as an e-book loan from the library but it is really more the type of book I like to dip in and out of rather than read straight through so when I saw a copy for a dollar I picked it up. 

The last few books are ones I ordered online. They are ones I particularly wanted, not ones I stumbled across like all the previous ones mentioned. I bought another Helene Hanff, Underfoot in Show Business, since I am in the process of rereading her books. Then I bought two books about books which might be one of my favorite reading categories. I finished The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller last week. It made me laugh and his enthusiasm shone through but I am still trying to decide whether or not to forgive him for not liking Pride and Prejudice. When I bought the Andy Miller book Ex Libris showed up as a recommended purchase. Who am I to argue about the wisdom of buying another book about books? It promptly went in my cart. I know nothing about it but it gets good reviews. My last purchase was The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks. I follow him on Twitter and enjoy the bits of his life I see there so decided to give his book a try. 

I may not have all the money in the world but I do seem to have an endless supply of books. And if I did have all the money in the world what would I do? Well, I have always dreamed of a home library with shelves on all the walls, a big fireplace, and the world's most comfy chair. What do you dream of?

On Dragons in the Meadow and Other Feats of the Imagination

Celia and I went for a walk the other night. It is the same walk we usually take, one I have written about before. We walk through the business at the end of our street, past a pond, skirt a development, and end up on the bike path by the river. Every foot of it is familiar. We know all the paths down to the river, all the flowers that bloom at different times of the year, and Celia knows most of the dogs that are walked on the path.

It is all so very familiar but, to Celia, it is all still an adventure. The rustle in the bushes could be a villain with a gun ready to jump out and scare us. After all, scary is thrilling if you know you are safe. The dirt path by the river is really the path made by a pride of lions in the wilds of Africa. She quietly stalks them only to be distracted by the sound of a squirrel in the trees, or is it a monkey? We head up to the open field at the end of the trail and she scolds me for walking too noisily. We must be quiet because we are creeping up to check on the hunters who have gone before us and not returned. Probably they have been captured by the dragon that has been spotted in the area. It is our mission to rescue them and tame the dragon.

Imagination is a wonderful thing and I am thrilled that at twelve years old Celia still revels in it. She told me that her head is always full of stories but when she tries to write them down they tend to vanish. Maybe one day she will work at writing them but right now I am glad she has a world inside her head that keeps her company and she hasn't yet reached an age where she feels like she needs or wants to pretend that world doesn't exist. The world of imagination adds color and interest and texture to the work-a-day world we inhabit. It provides a place to escape to when we are stressed or lonely. It helps us deal with anxieties or fears. Maybe, in a way, we are turning those anxieties and fears into dragons we can tame.

Isn't that why many of us love to read? We love stories and the escape and entertainment they provide. For many of us, that love of stories continues in our imaginations as it does for Celia. We may not even consciously realize it is happening but there is a running commentary of what could happen, what might happen, what we wish would happen. Sometimes that commentary is muted, sometimes it vanishes for a while, but sometimes it returns.

Sometimes it returns because you are in the company of someone who still sees dragons in the meadow and isn't afraid to admit it.

The End Of Summer

My kids went back to school yesterday. One is a senior in high school and the other is in seventh grade. The alarm went off at an ungodly hour to much moaning and groaning. There were frantic searches for keys and notebooks and complaints about the boring food available for lunch. There was one pair of jeans that were declared absolutely unwearable even though they had been fine the day before. Breakfast was eaten on the way out the door and, amazingly, the bus came on time. One kid went in late (sick) and then my house descended into blessed silence for the first time all summer.

It was blissful.

I always try to plan my life so I have a little bit of time off on the first day of school. It used to be because I found getting small, nervous children out the door stressful and nerve-wracking. Now it is because I want a bit of time to revel in the peace and quiet. I love my kids and I like having them home for the summer but, just occasionally, I love it when they are gone.

I sat on the couch and puttered on my computer. I read a bit of my book. I ate chocolate. I then exercised. I know those last two contradict each other but I didn't really care. I looked at the pile of books I have bought recently and considered writing a blog post about them but then I didn't do it though I am sure I will next week.

I mourned the fact that summer is over. I am not a hot weather person but I do like the freedom summer brings. The first day of school is a clear indication that freedom is over. I have such a long list of things we didn't get to this year. Summer is so short and free time is so rare. I spent some time making a list of things we must get to in September. I want to go to the shore and sit at a picnic table at a clam shack and eat clam chowder, french fries, shrimp, and ice cream. Then I want to walk across the street to the beach and look for sea glass. I want to sit around the fire pit outside and make s'mores. I want to go on a hike I have never been on before. I want to go to the huge book store in Massachusetts I recently heard about though I suppose that is a good autumn activity as well.

I puttered and lazed around for a whole glorious two hours. I did almost nothing practical. I say almost nothing because I caught myself folding laundry at one point. I think it was an instinctive reflex-walk past a basket full of clean laundry and of course you are going to start folding it. I stopped as soon as I realized what I was doing and returned to my chocolate and book.

All too soon, I had to start my usual mad dash involving laundry, trips to the grocery store, a bit of gardening and countless other routine activities. Then my kids were home and the house returned to its usual sounds of chaos, with chat about new teachers, old friends, and class schedules. It wasn't peaceful or quiet anymore.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Most of the time.

And yes, I hid the chocolate before the kids got home. Wouldn't you?

Two Years Of Blogging

My blog is two years old today. I have written 192 posts, taken hundreds and hundreds of photos and bought way too many books. I have sat down countless times convinced that I have nothing to say and frequently found that somehow the words keep coming. I have planned excursions solely to have something to write about. I have written blog posts in my head in the middle of the night and woken the next day mourning the words that I should have written down.

I post less frequently than I did at first. Every new toy loses its novelty after a while and I don't have quite as much time to myself lately. But somehow, I keep coming back. I like having a place to put my thoughts. I like having a record of things we have done and places we have been. I love having a place where it is always perfectly acceptable to talk about books. It has introduced me to books I had never heard of and made me think about what I am reading.

There are a few things I have learned about my blog and my readers over the last two years. I've learned that posts about being a parent rarely do well but I keep writing them anyway because well, I am a parent and if I can't vent about it on my blog then where can I? Neither do straight up book reviews, surprisingly enough, but that is fine because I am not good at straight book reviews.  However, a post with a list is pretty much a sure success. I've learned that people like to know a bit about the person behind the blog. I've discovered that sometimes it will be the post that breaks all the rules of what you think people like to read that will be the most read and commented on.  I've learned that I need to write what makes me happy whether people read it or not.

I've watched blogs come and go and readers come and go. Someone will comment on a few posts and then I will never hear from them again. Some posts will be popular, some won't. At first, I worried (because that is my default setting) thinking that it was my fault, that I was doing something wrong. But, in time, I realized that the online world is ephemeral.  That sometimes you catch an eye for a moment, a day, a week. Then people move on, intentionally or unintentionally, and that is okay. But for all of you who come back post after post and week after week, thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for preventing me from speaking into a void.

A few of my favorite posts from the last year.

Books As Our Identity

On Writing

This Is For The Quiet Ones

In Defense Of Fluff

Book Review--The Home-Maker By Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Book Review--The Home-Maker By Dorothy Canfield Fisher


The Home-Maker is the story of the Knapp family. Evangeline Knapp is determined to do right by her family; to keep a clean house, feed the family well, and carefully care for her children. She is admired in the neighborhood and held up as an example of a perfect homemaker. The problem is she hates it.

What was her life? A hateful round of housework, which, hurry as she might, was never done. How she loathed housework! The sight of a dishpan full of dishes made her feel like screamng out. And what else did she have? Loneliness; never-ending monotony; blank, gray days, one after another, full of drudgery. No rest from the constant friction over the children's carelessness and forgetfulness and childishness! How she hated childishness! And she must try to endure it patiently or at least with the appearance of patience.

Her husband, Lester, is just as unsuited to his life. He is a dreamer who frequently gets lost in his thoughts to the detriment of his job. He is also painfully sensitive to the feelings and emotions of his children.

All the swelling fabric of his thoughts fell in a sodden heap, amounting to nothing at all, as usual. He hung up his coat and hat and sat down on the same old stool. He was no good; that was the matter with him-the whole matter. He was just no good at all-for anything. What right had he to criticize anybody at all when anybody at all amounted to more than he! He was a man who couldn't get on in business, who couldn't even get to his work on time. He must have been standing on the sidewalk outside, not knowing where he was, lost in that hot sympathy with childhoood. But nine o'clock is not the time to feel sympathy with anything. Nine o'clock is sacred to the manipulation of a card catalogue of customer's bills.

One day, Lester has a near-fatal accident and is no longer able to work. He becomes the home-maker and Evangeline goes out to work. Their lives completely change for the better. Finally, each is doing the work for which they are best suited and all the family benefits. The changes in the roles are tolerated by society because they are so obviously necessary. Even then, many are bothered by the idea of Lester doing a "woman's work." When a neighbor sees Lester darning stockings she protests, shocked at the sight, saying, "Oh, Lester, let me do that! The idea of your darning stockings! It's dreadful enough your having to do the housework!" Lester replies;

Eva darned them a good many years...and did the housework. Why shouldn't I?" He looked at her hard and went on, "Do you know what you are saying to me, Mattie Farnham? You are telling me that you really think that home-making is a poor mean, cheap job beneath the dignity of anybody who can do anything else."

Eventually, the peace and contentment are threatened when there is the possibility of a cure for Lester. What will they do? Will they go back to their old, unhappy roles? What will society think if they don't?

I found this book to be fascinating. It was written years and years ago and yet, it still has so much to say about our attitudes towards the roles men and women play in the world and whether or not we really respect the work they do. I appreciated that both of the main characters were presented as good, loving people who were stuck in lives that did not suit them. It would have been easy to present Evangeline as a bad mother since she did not enjoy being home with her children but this wasn't done. Instead, Evangeline is shown to be a loving mother who is torn between her love for her children and the fact that her life with them is not fulfilling her emotional and mental needs.

Her children! She must live for her children. And she loved them, she did live for them! What were those little passing moments of exasperation! Nothing, compared to the passion for them which shook her like a great wind, whenever they were sick, whenever she felt how greatly they needed her. And how they did need her! 

Lester is unsuccessful in business but is a loving and understanding father. And he is happy staying home and being that father. Dorothy Canfield Fisher said a lot about letting people do what they are suited for and what suits them as a family and not worrying about the expectations of society around them. She wrote an introduction to this book in which she said;

We could let them alone; we could let them, without comment or blame, construct the sort of marriage which fits their particular case, rather than the sort which fits our ideas. We could leave them to struggle with a problem which, under the best circumstances, requires all their intelligence to solve, without crushing them under the weight of half-baked certainties and misquotations, such as: "No woman can be self-respecting if she is not a wage-earner." ... "A woman's place is the home or there is no home." ... "No one can take the mother's place with children."... "The care and education of children should be in the hands of experts, not of untrained girls who happen to be mothers."

The thing I found so interesting is that society today still has very strong opinions about how families should be managed. There are opinions about paternity leave and maternity leave and working after children and when you should go back to work. There are opinions about the value of staying home with children and the legitimacy of the work involved. All of this made me think of a post I wrote months ago and never published. I am posting it here since, to me, there is a clear connection between the post I wrote and the book I just read.

I was a stay-at-home mom for years.

I was a stay-at-home mom of school-aged children for a lot of those years.

In the USA often the first question you are asked after you meet someone is about what you do for work.  If you tell them you stay home but your kids are in school you immediately see a judgmental reaction.  There is a strangely common belief that if you do not work outside the home then you do not work at all. Most people understand staying home with small children but once they are in school you are expected to get a real job. When did this viewpoint come into being?  Imagine telling your mother or grandmother that they never worked and watch them laugh at you.

My husband and I chose to have me stay home.  I am well aware that this is not a choice available to all.  We are not wealthy, we made financial sacrifices at times to make it work. I could go into detail about why we made that choice but I am not going to.  I am not going to because it doesn't matter and because I do not want to sound as if I am judging people who make other choices or who don't have a choice.

What I find ironic is that women have fought for equal rights.  They have fought for the ability to work where they want, to earn the same amount as men, to be on equal footing.  But somehow, in the midst of that fight, the traditional role of women has been denigrated.  Isn't that wrong?  Equality does not mean equality only in the workforce, it means being allowed to make a choice in the first place and that choice being respected and valued.

The implication from many people is that a housewife is lazy, that she sits on the couch eating candy and watching soap operas all day.  A side point here, my own kids used to think I spent the day sitting on the couch.  When they left in the morning I would be sitting there drinking tea and when they came home I would be in the same spot still drinking tea.  What they did not realize was that I was sitting there waiting for their bus and that in the hours between I had been busy doing other things.  Kids, you just can't win.  Anyway, yes, sometimes I  would sit on the couch and sometimes my life would probably be easier than yours.  What of it?  Sometimes your life is probably easier than mine.  Do we decide a job is only real if it is miserable all the time?  If you have a friend who loves and enjoys her job does that mean she doesn't really work?  I didn't think so. That is really the problem.  Why should I have to justify what I do?  Why would my life not be viewed as adequate or real if  I do not sit in an office all day?  Some women work outside the home, some women don't.  Some days are easy, some days are hard.  In the process of valuing the opportunities women now have, we do not want to forget to value the things women have done through the centuries.

I also find it interesting that many of the things I do as a mom and housewife are careers in and of themselves.  Nanny, cook, housekeeper, accountant, the list goes on.  If I do these things for another family I have a job, because I do them for my own family I am lazy.

I understand that a working woman (aren't we all working women, but you know what I mean) juggles a lot of responsibilities.  She might feel that she works at her place of employment and then comes home and does all the same things the stay-at-home mom does.  That is a bit naive.  She doesn't have the time or energy to do all the same things.  That doesn't make her better or worse, just in different circumstances.  I am sure she sometimes wishes she could stay home with her kids just as much as the mom spooning and re-spooning applesauce into her baby's mouth sometimes wishes she could get dressed up and go to a nice quiet office.

My point is a job is a job and a life is a life.  Maybe I have kids at home, maybe I don't.  Maybe I work in an office, maybe I don't.  Maybe my life is hard, maybe it is sometimes easy.  But my life and my choices have just as much worth as any other woman's choices.

I spent years as a stay-at-home mom.

I spent years as a stay-at-home mom of school-aged children.

And that deserves respect.

Local Discoveries--Pulaski State Park in Rhode Island

pulaski state park

Celia has been feeling a bit neglected this summer. My schedule is much busier than it has been in previous years so I have not had the freedom to go off on fun adventures whenever she wants.  All in all, she needed a fun day so last week that is what we did. Well, we had a fun afternoon but that seemed to fit the bill. We went to the library and checked out stacks of books. Then we went to the local dog pound and looked at the dogs. Celia is on a years-long quest to convince us that she needs a dog and part of that quest involves regularly checking the pound for a dog that fits her perception of what would work for us. Only time will tell if her quest is successful. She does seem to be wearing her father down. After that, we went to Pulaski State Park in Rhode Island. The town we live in borders Rhode Island so it is much closer than it might sound, only about 20 minutes from our house.

pulaski state park

We have lived in this part of the state for eight years and have never been able to find a swimming spot that works for us. This looks like it has possibilities. It is close to home and not horribly crowded. That being said, Celia took one look at the kids playing in the water and promptly headed in the opposite direction. She said there were too many kids and it was too noisy and that if we wanted to swim we should go back in the evening when everyone would have gone home. I didn't know whether to laugh because she is so much like her parents or cry for the same reason. We ended up going for a walk around the pond. This did give her the perfect opportunity to lecture me on how much better the walk would be if we were accompanied by a dog. Celia is never one to miss an opportunity.

pulaski state park

lily pads

The water by the little swimming beach was clear but the rest of the pond was covered with lily pads. They were so pretty but most of the blooms were too far out to photograph properly.

pulaski state park

pulaski state park

pulaski state park

The little pond above was interesting. I am not sure what it was. A cistern, maybe? I don't think you can really tell from the photo but it is encircled with stones, just like a typical New England stone wall but around this little pond instead. There are a lot of stone walls going through the woods so I know at one point this was all cleared and settled land. It would be so interesting to see what it looked like back then.

pulaski state park

pulaski state park

The little stream was Celia's favorite part of our walk. She loved the bridge and all the rocks and ferns. She has decided we need to go back with books, Nancy Drew is her choice, and snacks and then we can spend the day there. I think that sounds like a good idea though we probably should bring bug spray too. The mosquitos were out in force.

pulaski state park

We ended our day by heading home with our stacks of library books and curling up on the couch. I am sure it won't surprise you to hear that most of Celia's books feature dogs.

A Serendipitous Find

Book--Merry Hall

My local library has a small shelf of free books in the lobby. Usually, this shelf is full of Harlequin romances and out-dated children's nonfiction books. However, since I live in a constant state of hope, I always check the shelf. Yesterday, my optimism paid off. There was a lovely hardback copy of Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols. In my pre-blogging days, this would have meant absolutely nothing to me. I had never heard of Beverley Nichols. However, several bloggers I follow are very fond of Nichols' books and I have been wanting to try one. He was best known for his gardening books which, apparently, are charming and gently humorous. Merry Hall is the first in a trilogy about his renovating of a Georgian manor house. I was very pleased to stumble across it and it brightened a rainy day. Look at the lovely endpapers. Don't you want to dive right in and live there? Though the more I look at it the more unsure I am about the faces on the vase. They are a bit disturbing, aren't they?

Merry Hall--endpapers

There was also a copy of Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford on the shelf. I already own that so I left it for someone else. It was hard though. What if it languishes there while all the Harlequin romances are chosen? That would be so sad. If it is still there the next time I visit the library you know I am going to have to bring it home. Some people feel impelled to provide a good home to all the stray animals they encounter. I house all the stray books.

Have you read anything by Beverley Nichols?

Life Currently

Currently, I am sitting in bed in a mediocre motel room. I am over-tired, slightly stressed, and determined to stop Googling all my ridiculous worries that rise to the surface when life gets to be a bit too much. Really, life was more peaceful when I didn't have the answer to things right at my fingertips. Does anyone else occasionally feel nostalgic for the days when you had to go to the library to look something up? By the time you got there you frequently forgot what you were worried about and ended up researching some random bit of fascination like the weather in the Himalayas or the possibilities of a cross-Europe train journey. Now we have answers so quickly we don't have time to stop being worried, we just cascade into the next worry. And no, I have nothing really to worry about. But try telling that to my over-tired brain.

Currently, I am reading The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I can tell already that I am going to have a lot of thoughts about this book. I actually set it aside for tonight because I want to really concentrate on it and did I mention the over-tired thing I have going on? So for the rest of this evening, I am reading 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. I haven't read it in ages and there are few things as soothing as reading about someone who loves books. I bought this copy online and I am a little annoyed that someone wrote their name right across the top and that the seller stuck a sticker right on top of the author's name but for the price I paid I guess I can't complain too much.

Currently, (well, not right this moment. I am in a motel but you know what I mean.) I am eating endless slices of toast and countless biscuits. I can't eat American wheat without getting migraines and digestive issues but I can eat wheat in the UK. I have no idea why. So the obvious thing to do was find a way to have UK wheat products delivered to me. Through the wonders of the internet, I now have five loaves of bread, sixteen packages of biscuits, more scones than any sane person needs, and bag after bag of flour. Not to mention the tea, chocolate, and Elderflower cordial I added to the order just because I could. You should have seen me when my very large parcel arrived. Now I just have to decide what to bake when I get back home. Victoria Sponge Cake maybe? It seems only appropriate to bake a quintessentially British cake with my British flour.

Currently, I am very happy to have a new phone. My old one was getting a bit glitchy. I was content to put up with it until last week when the camera stopped working. That I am not willing to put up with. While I have a very nice fancy camera, I depend quite a bit on my phone for quick snaps while I am out and about. It was messing with my world not to have a camera on my phone. The kind man at the store took my old phone in trade, and I was able to get a new phone for me and a phone for my daughter without having to sell either of my children. Plus, I am now my daughter's favorite parent since she was convinced she was the only almost-twelve-year-old on earth who still didn't have a phone.

Currently, I am feeling grateful that almost-twelve-year-olds seem to be basically indestructible. Celia was at a friend's house and didn't know that the bike she was using had faulty brakes. She lost control going down a hill, crossed a road, and went over the handlebars face first into a tree. She is banged up a bit and looks like she has been in a fight but is otherwise fine. It could have been much worse. The hysterical phone call I received, however, probably aged me ten years.

Currently, I am wondering why everyone who walks through the corridor of this motel has to speak at the top of their voice. Didn't their mothers' ever teach them about indoor voices?

Currently, I am thinking I might be slightly grumpy and that it is time to read 84, Charing Cross Road and dream of having my own Marks & Co. to fulfill all my bookish desires.

So what is currently happening in your life?

Wildflowers and Walks

Right now it is pouring down with rain. There are flash flood warnings and it is steamy and sticky outside. It is the kind of weather where all you want to do is to stay inside with the air conditioning blasting away and a good book on your lap. Of course, I think that is a good way to spend most of the summer. However, over the weekend we had gorgeous weather and we went for a walk down by the river. The wildflowers are out in force and look absolutely beautiful.

I wish my flower beds looked half so bright and colorful. Maybe I should just fill them with weeds and call it a day? So many weeds really are beautiful if you look at them closely.

The trees are filling out nicely for the second time this year.  We had an absolutely awful infestation of gypsy moth caterpillars in our section of the country. They ate every leaf on many of the trees. They seem to particularly like oaks. The one in our front yard didn't have a leaf left on it. It looked like winter. The front of our house was black with caterpillars and the grass was literally moving with them.  It was disgusting. But you can see in the next few photos that the trees are making a comeback.

We meandered on home with our daughter riding her bike in circles around us. It was a peaceful and relaxing way to end the day. If the rain lets up we will have to do it all over again. In the meantime, the air conditioning and my book are calling to me.