Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rest Room Hilarity

On our trip north we stopped at many rest areas along the interstates. Some things I saw there were beautiful, like the flower bed at the Welcome Center to West Virginia (I think ... one loses track).

 This flower bed was truly breath-taking, and I commend the flower-bed-slaves associated with that place and their hard work! At the same rest area I read this:
 Must be some history of abuse there! And -- just finding a working pay phone was surprise enough.
Inside the ladies rest room of the same establishment I discovered this:
 Ohhhh - Kay.
The next entertainment, a splattering of stall graffiti, greeted me in a gas station somewhere:
 Well, Linda and Mark, I hope your Sammy came home to you. Nothing like the pathos of strangers to get the bowels churning, eh?
Right here at home in North Carolina, the famous home of House Bill #2, I found this fanciful addition in the ladies stall at the Grantsboro WalMart:
Under the cape, the hidden man!!
Yes, you read that right -- in two of the three stalls in the ladies' room were posted signs indicating "this is for people in skirts!" As if the same sign on the outside wall isn't enough? I just love how some humorous woman (I assume, since no men are allowed there) reminded us that one of our favorite male superheroes who protects us all from evil, also has a flowing garment.
I would have taken a picture of the alterations also done to the other little sign, but I was worried about being caught taking pictures in the bath room. What mystified me was that only two of the three stalls (the one above and the handicapped stall) had these signs. The third stall had no sign indicating its toilet was for female fannies only. Maybe they're not sure about that one?
We generally prefer our public facilities to be free of indication of human thought, don't we? We like them utilitarian. Perhaps that's why bathroom graffiti is fun (if it's not offensive), and even hilarious signs from the management are photo-worthy; isn't it nice to remember that we're all just people after all with quirky senses of humor and a touch of the dramatic?

Sunday, May 28, 2017


We have a grandpuppy.
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I don't know that I've ever, ever seen a more darling doggie face, and I say that with apologies to all the beautiful pups we've loved over the years. But seriously -- do they come any cuter? He belongs to Philip and Kara, and I think they are enjoying every little minute with him. He's a Cava-Shell, a mix of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Sheltie (our favorite breed). He clearly inherited the best genes of both breeds.
We haven't met you yet, Charlie, but we love you!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chez Linnea

 This is the lovely home in Great Barrington, Massachusetts where we stayed for Peter and Shani's wedding. Ten bedrooms and four baths, including a master suite and a tiny nursery room, make it quite spacious for a group event.
 Four bedrooms have balconies or decks off of them.
 The rear of the home shows the access to the second floor. Each floor can be rented separately. The upstairs is a bit fancier and nicer; I think Linnea stays there when she comes to visit. The kitchen is truly well-stocked except for the frig; the pantry is stocked as for a regular home. It's very welcoming!
Lots of space and big, bright windows make the upstairs living area a good place to gather.
And the upstairs kitchen is roomy with a big island.

I've never seen so many hostas in my life as in her garden! They line the driveway and most of the beds. She puts a lot of work into the landscaping.
 Someone is dividing and propagating the hostas very expertly.
The property is flanked by woods on three sides.
 A large firepit and outdoor party area lie to one side of the house. She has herb gardens there also.
 I noticed the lilac bushes out front right away. We can't grow them in North Carolina.

 The view from the front porch:
 Here is one of the rooms downstairs -- very nice. Her decorating style is kind of French shabby-chic. She's gathered many items from her travels, an eclectic menagerie throughout the house.
 She has many beautiful, large bowls for decorating. We served donuts in these two.

 Many pictures and paintings hang on the walls. I liked this one - it seems old and European.

 I loved this one of all the different shops in Provence.
 All these were downstairs, where we stayed. Here is a neat hall tree with huge pine cones at its feet. This is indicative of her style, which I love.
 Some other pieces were more of a mystery to us; as I said, she has varied and unusual taste.
 And some items were definitely "camp art" style:

Rustic pottery:
The house itself is charming and quite comfortable. We did have an issue with a clogged toilet that was not repaired while we were there, putting a lot of pressure on the bathrooms for the remainder of the weekend. The house was nearly full to capacity with 19 people most nights, and one bath is attached to the master bedroom. But we made it all work, and it was a lovely setting for the wedding. Linnea has clearly made this house a labor of love for her visitors.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Tried, I Really Did ...

I tried to like the new Anne of Green Gables series. I watched the pilot episode. I watched the next episode. I read an online article or two. I discussed it with Adam, by his own admission a devoted romantic victim of Megan Follows's sassy charm when he was a teen.
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Yesterday I argued with him that the new Anne-with-an-E is more accurate.
Nobody could call Megan Follows homely or ugly. But Amybeth McNulty?
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They are able to make her look painfully thin, quite homely, the perfect orphan.
So I watched. And I admit that I don't remember ever reading one of Lucy Maud Montgomery's books. I have a boxed set of three books, published in 1981, given me as a gift. At that time I was too snooty to read Montgomery; I was a lit major in college learning to appreciate the likes of Faulkner, Joyce, and Chaucer. I considered Montgomery a third-tier writer, if I was aware of her at all.

The new series is well-made, beautifully filmed, excellently cast. I would recommend watching it if you're interested in a tale of a traumatized orphan with horrible flashbacks who is adopted (after a couple of fits and starts) by an elderly couple not equipped to raise her. It's dark. Some call it Gothic. And although it shows Anne's imagination and inclination toward make-believe and fantasy, in this new Anne, it's a near-addiction to cope with her Post Traumatic Stress from being bullied in the orphanage and abused in various homes where she worked as a practical slave. As an orphan she used her imagination to escape the horror; as an adopted child she cannot yet relinquish these practices of escape.

Each adaptation of a book is its own digression from the text, and I won't compare this Netflix series with the previous series from 1985. They have quite different goals. The necessary comparison, however, is between the new series and  Montgomery's book. How shall we describe this series? Is it close kin to the book , a distant cousin, or a red-headed step-child? The credits describe the series as "based on" the book. I think a better description would be "loosely adapted from" or "vaguely related to," or perhaps an ironically accurate, "uses the same names as" the book.

After watching the entire scene about the missing brooch -- including Anne's banishment from the home, return to the orphanage, running away, Matthew's horrible journey to retrieve her, his head injury, and their both being gone for two nights -- I decided to to read that portion of the book. Seriously, in the series Anne travels by train and ferry, is approached by a perverted child molester, hitches a ride with the milkman, sleeps in the bushes, and tries to raise funds by reciting poetry to strangers in a train station! I think perhaps the series creator has even more imagination that Anne herself. In the book? The entire episode, from the moment Marilla notices the brooch is gone until she rectifies her mistake, is only seven pages. Anne's punishment? Being sent to her room. She stays there overnight. There's never any talk of sending her back to the orphanage, much less doing it. In fact, in the book, Marilla says of having adopted a girl she believes is a thief, "But I've put my hand to the plow and I won't look back." There was no thought of sending her back. The entire section in the series is fabrication. It has no relation to the book at all.

The passage immediately following is the Sunday school picnic at the Andrews' farm (not the Berry's farm). In the TV series, it's a sad event. Diana is not allowed to speak to Anne. The other children ridicule her openly in front of their parents, calling her names, calling her trash. Anne runs and hides in the woods and has an emotional interchange with Marilla, who finally apologizes for the brooch incident. The public bullying is horrible to watch -- and from Christians! Why would they treat an orphan girl that way? Did that happen in the book? Well ... no. In the book, Marilla doesn't even go to the picnic. The reader doesn't even go to the picnic. All we hear of the picnic is Anne's retelling of the event to Marilla when she returns home. That's it! Here's the paragraph:

"Oh, Marilla, I've had a perfectly scrumptious time. Scrumptious is a new word I learned today. I heard Mary Alice Bell use it. Isn't it very expressive? Everything was lovely. We had a splendid tea and then Mr. Harmon Andrews took us all for a row on the Lake of Shining Waters -- six of us at a time. And Jane Andrews nearly fell overboard. She was leaning out to pick water lilies and if Mr. Andrews hadn't caught her by her sash just in the nick of time she'd have fallen in and prob'ly been drowned. I wish it had been me. It would have been such a romantic experience to have been nearly drowned. It would be such a thrilling tale to tell. And we had the ice cream. Words fail me to describe that ice cream. Marilla, I assure you it was sublime."

That is the picnic in its entirety, in the book.

What bothers me most is that the plot changes are so large and so radical that they produce significant character changes. This is not Montgomery's book. These are not Montgomery's characters. The plot seems to veer over a cliff. The voice and tone are not Montgomery's.

Still -- watch the series because it's well done. Watch it because it's interesting, and the characters are complex and the story is very compelling. I cried watching it, something I think I never did watching Megan Follows. But as you watch, do not mistake this for the book. The book is light, airy, whimsical, flitting from incident to mishap to hilarity with all the bumps along the way you'd expect from a girl finding her way in a new world. But none of the bumps hurt much, and it's a world of wonder and adventure, not a life fractured by tragedy and horror. I think I may go back and read the book.

Be Encouraged, You Homeschooling Mothers ~

Adam and I are in the final throes of sending our fourth and youngest child off to college. We've had children in school non-stop since 1995 (I think) when Philip toddled off to a kindergarten class as a 4 year old at the boarding school where we worked. He walked over to his classroom across the grass from our house for a few hours each morning and walked back. Twenty-two years of education!

Some of those years our kids were in classrooms, and some they were schooled at home -- about half and half. And recently I'm more thankful than before for those years of homeschooling. They created a bond between me and my children. I do think we are closer than if I'd sent them off in a bus or dropped them at school. I'm sure there were failings (many of them) in our homeschooling, and disappointments for the kids. But recently several benefits of those homeschooling years have popped up, and I want to tell you about them.

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Anna, with her students when she taught in China.
Now she teaches elementary kids in Japan.
First, our daughter is a teacher. Sometimes I forget the truth of this: she chose education as a career partly because she grew up in a learning home. She saw us teach. At some point she thought a career in teaching was appealing. She saw all the rewards of teaching in our lives, and she saw all the ugliness too -- the mean, unreasonable administrators, the deceptive and lazy students, the insane, accusing parents. She saw us cry, sit up endless evenings grading papers, get fired, get thrown under the bus, get unfairly reprimanded, be praised and ridiculed by students. In spite of this, she chose teaching.

As Julia moves away, I like to note what her mind seems to have latched onto. She and Adam talk about math! (Can you imagine? Math?!) She likes math ideas, not "how to solve this equation" talk, but "Dad, what if we did this in math? She has a good math brain, in spite of the fact that we've struggled for years to teach her math. She won't study it in college; I don't expect that. But she enjoys using math thoughts to test her own brain. It's important that she just enjoy some subjects -- that learning be for the pleasure of it. She's branching out into various disciplines in interest, and I see her mind widening before she goes away, instead of narrowing. I hope our homeschooling contributed to this. I took to heart Susan Bauer's advice that each year and each subject was a "handshake" -- a handshake with an author or with an historical figure. It's better to go broad than go deep. They can study more deeply later.

Perhaps the best reminder of our success was at the wedding this past weekend. Peter asked me to read a poem, a sonnet that he'd written. He wrote it for Shani, and he'd worked on it quite hard. He's written a good bit of poetry. (My son! A poet!) I told him it was lovely and well-written. He read it to her at the reception before they cut the cake. It was a magical moment. I asked him about it. He said it's because we had so many books around the house, we were always reading. The books sank in. The sonnet studies I did with them sank it. Somehow, miraculously, a love of poetry reached into one child, and a love of math delved into another, and a love of teaching English consumed another.

I am enjoying this moment. Homeschooling produced many tears and regrets, many doubts about myself and my choices. It's nice at last to see we did something right in all those years.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A New England Wedding

 We traveled last week to Massachusetts for the wedding of our son Peter to his bride and best friend, Shani. Peter was one happy boy!

That's the beautiful home where we stayed and where the wedding was held.
Here is Shani in her gorgeous wedding gown. She has a smile that lights up a room!

The rehearsal was done outside on Friday evening, but by Saturday rain was threatening, so we moved the ceremony inside the house. Adam conducted the ceremony.

Peter has grown his hair quite long, and it is so beautiful, the kind of hair women pay lots of money for, haha! But it was bothering him during the ceremony, so he pulled it back during the reception. 

The Searcys hosted the reception at a local restaurant with delicious food and helpful staff. It was a very fun day!
Here's the spread our family offered everyone for the rehearsal dinner on Friday -- a chicken taco bar! Adam, Philip, and Kara worked really hard to make it happen.
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Just so ya know - that's not Adam's normal smile.
Here's another photo of the house, Chez Linnea. I'll do another post later just on the house.
 Bridesmaids photo -- these are Shani's two sisters and three of her friends from college and childhood.
 Peter with his new father-in-law, James. We really enjoyed getting to know the Searcys. They are friendly, kind, sweet people!

 Julia enjoyed hanging around with an older crowd of young people :)
 Shani is just delightful. She has an infectious laugh. She loves to dance! And isn't that a great dress?
 Julia painted a picture of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the wedding. Everyone signed it as the "guest book," and Peter and Shani will keep it, because they met and fell in love in those mountains.
 They ordered the cake from a local bakery. It is so much easier to get a cake for 25 people, rather than 300!
 Peter and Shani, after long thought and discussion, decided to have what's called a "destination wedding" -- everyone travels to a beautiful location (in this case, Great Barrington in the Berkshires) and stays together for several days celebrating the new couple, holding the ceremony during that time. In this case, only the immediate family, wedding party, and a couple of other close friends attended.

 It was so good to see Philip and Kara again! And here are a few more pics from the wedding weekend, if you haven't seen enough :)
Julia lounged her brother to death!
The "first look" photo, when Peter saw Shani in her wedding dress for the first time.
Champagne with the cake!

 Bride and attendants outside with their umbrellas.
Shani's dress stood up to the rain quite well.

 Friday was beautiful and sunny. We enjoyed soaking up rays on the porch.


And of course, Beau went along. We felt he was very well behaved under the circumstances. But now he is very happy to be home on his own couch with his own food bowl, as are we.
 These two fellows hit it off! They are so much alike.
 Congratulations to Peter and Shani, and may God's blessings fall on you as you begin your new life together in Boston! We love you!