COVID Diaries: Day 411

Another weekend has come and gone.  It’s back to the grind.  I have already had a long morning, and I don’t have much inspiration at the moment, so the grind is probably going to be harder… 

A few days ago, I finished my most recent puzzle.  Castle Donan Eilean in Scotland.  One day, I’d like to visit Scotland again.  Mom wants to go to Ireland – I can’t wait to travel again.  All that dreaming led me to book a weekend at the coast – a few days of beachcombing will have to do for now.

I’m loving the nicer weather, although it rained for good portion of last week. I always love seeing the blue sky peek out from the clouds!

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately – I finished three books this weekend! 

My new rock polisher came and I started in on my second batch of rocks.  So far, so good on round two. My beachcombing weekend will give me a lot of opportunity to scout for some new rocks!

Counties are being locked down again – the word is that we will miss the culling tomorrow, but we will probably get locked down again in 3 weeks.  I guess we’ll see.  It helps me to save money, I suppose.  And Cora loves it…

COVID Words of Wisdom: You never know how hard someone had it before they became soft, and you never know the ugliness they had to go through to have such a beautiful heart.  Sometimes we learn grace from the worst times of our lives and that’s what saves us.  – Stephanie Bennett-Henry

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George

Monsieur Perdu is a bookseller in Paris.  Years ago he purchased an old river barge and converted it to a bookshop that is docked in the Seine River.  This isn’t just any old bookshop, and Perdu isn’t just any old bookseller.  You see, he can read people.  He reads his customers and selects for them the perfect book to heal them.  He calls himself a literary apothecary.  

The Little Paris Bookshop

His uncanny gift has helped scores of people along the way, those trying to understand the meaning of life, refocus their goals, deal with change, or heal a broken heart.  Unfortunately, his own broken heart is the one that he cannot fix.  It has been 20 years since she left, and he still has been unable to move on…

Perdu finally is confronted with his loss when he gives a neighbor an old table he isn’t using, and she finds in the drawer a letter that he never opened.  It sets him on a path to finally address his broken heart.

The book shows how the most unlikely people can become friends, and how total strangers can help us on our path to healing.  This novel is absurd, funny, and heart-wrenching in turn.  Nina George weaves her tale in a way that is relatable and whimsical, and leaves the reader wishing to join Perdu on his journey.

5 stars. 

Book Review: Rush

Rush: Revolution, Madness, and the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father, by Stephen Fried

In my quest to learn more about the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution, I checked this out on audiobook.  I had really only heard Benjamin Rush’s name, and knew almost nothing about him.

Rush: Revolution, Madness, and the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father

Rush had a fascinating career in several roles central to the founding of the United States.  He earned the respect of Benjamin Franklin at a young age, who helped him get into the University of Edinburgh to complete his medical degree.  He already had a Bachelor of Arts degree (earned at the age of 14!) from the College of New Jersey, which is now Princeton University.  He had also apprenticed in the medical field for several years.

Rush was a prolific writer and wrote extensively both on medical subjects and the politics of the day.  His work as a doctor for many of the members of the Continental Congress opened the door for his own election into the Congress.  He was one of the youngest signers of the Declaration of Independence.  During the Revolutionary War, he was appointed to serve as the surgeon-general for Washington’s Continental Army.  He did create some controversy, as he complained about his colleagues and wrote letters behind their backs, including letters critical of General Washington.

After the war, Rush continued working as a physician and he taught at Pennsylvania Hospital.  He was a pioneer in the fields of medical illness and addiction and was also one of the first people to discuss Savant Syndrome.  However, he was also criticized, especially in later years, for holding on to the ideas of bloodletting and the use of purgatives.

The book is a comprehensive biography of his life and explores his career, his political writings, and his relationships with friends and family in great detail.  I thought Fried did a good job balancing the positive and negative aspects of Rush’s actions and personality.  And I learned so much about this less-known Founding Father.

3 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.4

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 13: Old North Church

“One if by land, two if by sea.”  We probably all learned these lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Paul Revere’s Ride, when we studied the American Revolution in elementary school.  Now I got to see where the words were inspired!

Christ Church, aka Old North Church, is the oldest standing church building in Boston, opening on December 29, 1723.  The 191 foot steeple is also the tallest in Boston.  Just before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, British General Thomas Gage made plans to capture the munitions stored by the rebels at Lexington and Concord, and to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams.  However the Sons of Liberty discovered the plot and had time to hatch their own plan to warn of the arrival of the British Army.

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere instructed Christ Church sexton Robert Newman to light lanterns in the steeple to signal the path that the British troops were taking in their advance.  One if by land, two if by sea…  Although the two lanterns only hung for a couple of moments, it was long enough for patriots in Charlestown to learn that the British were crossing the Charles River.

The original steeple was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804, and a replacement was destroyed in 1954, so Old North Church is now on its third steeple.  It doesn’t detract from the beauty of this historic site.  When I was there, there was construction going on and the street that leads to the church was fenced off.  The base of the Paul Revere statue in front of the church was covered in plywood to protect it.  On the way back though we were able to take a photo from the other side.

Stop 14: Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

Copp’s Hill Burying Ground was Boston’s largest colonial cemetery, dating from 1659.  Most of the people here are ordinary Bostonians; merchants, artisans and craftspeople who lived in the North End of Boston.  A few are notable.  Cotton Mather and Increase Mather, son and father, Puritan ministers who played a large role in the Salem Witch Trials, are buried here.  The sexton of the Old North Church who raised the lanterns, Robert Newman, is also among those who rest here.  It is also believed that approximately 1,000 free African-Americans lie here.

It isn’t all peaceful however.  The British used the burying ground as a vantage point and placed cannons here, in order to bombard Charlestown during the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.

Stop 15: USS Constitution

The USS Constitution, nicknamed “Old Ironsides”, is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world!  She was built over the span of four years, and completed in 1797!

The USS Constitution was rated at 44 guns, but usually carried between 50 and 60 guns.  She also had a larger crew than many ships she came up against.  That combined with her top speed of 13 knots gave her a competitive advantage.

Old Ironsides got her nickname in the War of 1812, when she battled against the British Frigate HMS Guerriere, and cannonballs seemed to bounce off her as if she were made of iron.  This was due to the three layers of white oak and live oak she was constructed with.  Her copper fastenings were made by Paul Revere.

The USS Constitution is berthed at the Charlestown Navy Yard and she heads out into Boston Harbor several times a year for demonstrations.  The Navy Yard and the USS Constitution are part of the Boston National Historical Park, and there are several passport stamps!  Because she is still a commissioned warship, she still has a crew of naval officers and enlisted personnel.  Clara and I were able to tour her, and it was so fun to check her out!  Watch out for the low ceilings!

Stop 16: Bunker Hill Monument

The first major battle of the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775.  Interestingly there was confusion about which hill was supposed to be fortified.  So it was actually Breed’s Hill that was incorrectly fortified due to an incorrect map, and the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed’s Hill.

During the battle, it took a force of 2,200 Redcoats three different assaults to dislodge the rebels from the hastily constructed redoubt on top of the hill.  Although the battle was a British victory, the battle showed how well the Colonial troops could fight.

A Bunker Hill monument was laid in 1825 by the Marquis de Lafayette on the 50th anniversary of the battle.  The granite obelisk that memorializes the hill is 221 feet tall, and was completed in 1842.  You can climb the 294 steps inside the monument and see some beautiful 360 degree views of Boston!  That was fun, but did show me that even though I’m in pretty good shape, Clara is much younger than me!

The Bunker Hill Monument is a part of the Boston National Historical Park as well, so there was another chance to get a stamp!  It was at this point that the official stops of the Boston Freedom Trail ended.  But Clara and I were certainly not done for the day!  We still had to retrace our steps to get back to Boston Common and the parking garage where I was parked.

Clara wanted to check out Mike’s Pastries on our way back, so we got chocolate mousse cannoli, tiramisu, and strawberry cheesecake and shared them all.  They were so delicious!

It was now evening, and Clara and I said our goodbyes and I made my way back to the parking garage, then back to the campground.  The good news was that I missed the evening traffic as well!

I had so much fun in Boston, and it was so much fun to have someone to sight-see with!  Boston was easily one of my favorite days on my trip.

Note: If you would like to see the other stops on the Boston Freedom Trail, see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

 

COVID Diaries: Day 402

We had over a week of unseasonably warm and sunny weather, with highs in the low 70s!  We even broke a record last week, with a high of 74.  It has been amazing.  I’m not one who can take the endless gray and cold days of winter and early spring around here.  Someday soon, I’ll have to change that up.  This morning, it’s back to rain…

The sunshine and warmth meant I was able to get in some outdoor dining at my favorite spots around town and soak up the Vitamin D and good food! Plus the time spent with girlfriends is always much needed.

The rocks I started tumbling are finished!  They look beautiful!  I even discovered that one of them is most definitely an agate and there’s another one that I think is an agate.  I’m going to keep trying to find agates, but obviously my agate skills need polishing.  Sadly, I’m pretty sure that the motor on my tumbler went kaput, within hours of starting a second batch of rocks.  I tried to poke around in it with my very limited mechanical skills, but the sound it is making and the fact that it is no longer turning the shaft leads me to believe there’s not an easy fix for this.  It was $12.99 at the Goodwill, so I can’t say I did too badly.  I’ll keep working on the first one, but thanks to Amazon Prime, my new rock tumbler arrived yesterday and I’m back in action!  Yes, I am aware that owning a rock tumbler (or multiple rock tumblers) puts me in a very distinct category of nerd.

Now that the rain is back, I imagine I’ll make some more progress on my puzzle.  I worked on it for a bit last night and was happy with where I ended up.

I’ve been getting some reading in too, but I still really need a vacation!

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.3

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 9: Old State House

The Old State House was built in Boston in 1713 to house the colony’s government.  It was also at the center of many of the pivotal moments leading up to the American Revolution.

In 1761, James Otis gave a speech against the Writs of Assistance, which allowed Royal customs officials to search for smuggled goods without cause.  In 1768 the colony’s House of Representatives defied England by refusing to rescind their call for united resistance to taxes enacted by the British.  That lead to the occupation of Boston.

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony of the Old State House, and the building became home to the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The lion and the unicorn atop the facade are reproductions.  The original lion and unicorn, which are symbols of royal authority, were removed and burned after the Declaration of Independence was read here.

Today the building houses a Revolutionary Museum (that I would love to go back and visit).

 

Stop 10: Boston Massacre Site

The British occupation of Boston began in 1768.  By 1770, tensions were high, and fist fights and other altercations occurred with some regularity.  On March 5, 1770, Private White, struck Edward Garrick in the face with the butt of his musket for insulting Private White’s superior officer.

That lead to a mob throwing snowballs and yelling.  A regiment of Redcoats arrived to get White out of there, and they had to force their way through a group of several hundred angry colonists.  According to witness accounts, a colonist threw a club, which hit Private Montgomery.  Montgomery fired the first shot.  The crowd did not disperse, and several more shots were fired.  You know the rest; five men were killed.

Interestingly, John Adams was the defense attorney for the soldiers; all but two were acquitted of all charges.

Stop 11: Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 as a center of commerce.  It was designed with market stalls on the first floor and a meeting hall on the second floor, and remains this way today.

In 1764 American’s first protested against the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act, which set the stage for what we now call, “no taxation without representation.”  The funeral for the victims of the Boston Massacre was held here.

 

Our walking tour ended here, right at lunchtime, so Clara and I checked out the meeting hall upstairs. Then we decided to get lunch in one of the market stalls in the Quincy Market next door; they had excellent lobster rolls.  They were so delicious!

We also did a bit of shopping in the stalls, and spent some time outside watching a busker who was an escape artist.  It was fun to watch him!

 

Stop 12: Paul Revere House

Paul Revere purchased this home in 1770 when he was 35 years old. By that time the home was already about 90 years old, because it was built around 1680.  Revere lived here when he went on his famous night ride to Lexington to warn the colonial troops that the British army was on it’s way.

Revere, a silversmith by trade, had a huge family.  Revere’s first wife Sarah died giving birth to their eighth child, and his second wife Rachel had another eight children!  Several of these children grew up in this home, along with Revere’s mother.  The home served as a boardinghouse and tenement in the 19th century, and was saved by the Paul Revere Memorial Association in the early 1900s.  It has operated as a historic house museum since 1908!

Clara and I decided to tour the home for $6, and it was fascinating to see a home built in 1680 and a place where one of our pivotal American heroes lived.  Sadly, no photos are permitted inside.  According to the museum website, about 90% of the home’s building materials are original, although they had to renovate to return the home to what it likely looked like when Revere lived here.  There is a lot of good information on their website.

We also saw a religious parade in this Italian neighborhood.  Several men had religious icons held aloft, and they were decorated with bills.  There was a band playing behind them.  I never did figure out what they were celebrating.  I looked to see what Catholic saint’s days were September 9; Saint Peter Claver is the only one who came up, but he was a Spaniard from the region of Catalonia, so that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  If you know what it was about, please let me know!

Anniversaries…

In the last year, I have been examining people and their motivations, including my own. It hasn’t been any easy process, but I’ve felt that I have needed to get more nuanced in the details of human behavior. I want to understand where things have gone wrong in my own relationships, and what I could do to not fall into that trap again.

Here are some things I have learned:

I have a hard time letting go.  I love hard and try hard.  I miss you a lot longer than I should.  Long after you show that you don’t deserve me.  Long after you walk away and replace me.  I’m working on this, but I’m not really sure how to stop caring about someone.

Your ego got in the way of a successful relationship.  I really just want to be treated well; with love and respect.  It shouldn’t be that hard.  I don’t want to be subjected to your narcissism, or your contempt.  I don’t want to have my boundaries belittled or trampled.  I don’t want to be raged at when I offer a suggestion or advice that you don’t agree with.  I’m not questioning your masculinity (although if this threatens you this much maybe I am); rather I just think a partnership includes a two way dialogue and input.

I want a man who acts like a man.  I don’t want to have to make all your appointments for you, or remind you 4,743 times to pick up something from the store before you actually get it.  I don’t want to have to worry about whether you filed your taxes or paid your bills or if you ever put money into savings.  I want you to take care of your shit, and do your share of taking care of the shared shit.  I want to let go of the reins sometimes, and leave things in your capable hands.

I want to be surprised sometimes.  I want a man who plans the weekend getaway, who gets the groceries for camping, who takes care of the arrangements so I don’t have to.  That’s been a rare thing in my life.  Too rare.

I need to trust.  That’s been the hardest part of this journey of mine; the disintegration of my ability to trust.  When your words don’t match your actions.  When you caused my tears yet you do nothing to try to make them better.  Trust issues are the death by a thousand cuts.  I sometimes wonder if I will ever trust a man again.

I want to hear the truth. And I want to hear the apology when it’s needed too.  I don’t accept you turning it back around on me and blaming me for your behavior.  I’m certainly not perfect, but I do apologize when I have been wrong or hurtful.

My therapist said that the best deceivers can keep up the facade for about six months.  That’s probably about right.  It’s so discouraging to think that by the time you even start to see someone for what they are, you may have wasted a half a year.  I don’t have a half a year to waste every time.  Every half a year I waste is a smattering of gray hairs and worry lines.

We always want to believe that the one who went away… still longs for us.  But chances are they don’t.  You may cross their mind in a season of unease.  Hard times always make us reflect.  But when they’re engrossed in a career, family, life in general, they aren’t thinking about the person they left.  Remember this when you find yourself wasting precious time on the ones who walked away.  They walked away.   — Alfa Holden

I’ll keep trying to get better at letting go.  It’s sad that of all the skills I thought I would need to know, this one is the one I need most.

 

 

 

Book Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber, by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall has a secret.  She’s kept it for over 20 years, but finally it is time to return to Scotland and confront her past.  Dragonfly in Amber is the second in the Outlander series, but my friend assured me that you can read them out of order.

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)

The story begins with Claire searching for historical records that will confirm her difficult to believe story.  20 years before, she went missing for months as a young, married woman, before arriving back at home malnourished and pregnant, as mysteriously as she vanished.  But where was she?

Now 20 years later, Claire’s husband has died and it is time to reveal to her daughter the truth about her father.

The book is a long saga weaving in the 1960s with the 1740s, in Claire’s attempt to stop the slaughter at Culloden during the Scottish Jacobite rebellion.  It weaves history into the novel’s story and is extremely detailed and painstakingly researched.  You will learn about the family connections of the clans in Scotland, the political motives of the various players, and some pretty gruesome medical treatments of the time.

I don’t want to give away the story, but highly recommend the book. The only challenge was that it took so long to get through (I admit I had to put it down to read other things in between), it was hard to remember the beginning once I got to the end.

5 stars

 

Choose Kindness

This year has been the holy hell of years.

For me, at first it was the the losses.  Losing my horse, relationship and friend within 6 weeks of each other in the middle of the worst part of the lockdown last spring.  It’s been the isolation.  The loneliness.

At the beginning of the pandemic, these were the things that were getting me down.

But lately, it is something else entirely.  We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  People should be filled with hope.  It is spring; the light is back and the weather is better.  But I’m struggling…  I’ve been thinking a lot, trying to figure out why.

Lately, it has been the absolute vitriol that emits from the mouths (and fingers) of people who once were (or at least seemed) kind and reasonable.  It’s the disregard for people’s feelings; it has turned into hatred for anyone who doesn’t agree with them.  It’s the not knowing anymore who you can trust; it’s best to say nothing rather than cross someone.  It’s the lies, the twisting of facts and the misrepresentation by meme…

I see some of my friends’ social media posts laced with profanity, name-calling anyone who might disagree with them.  I see other friends using an opposite tactic – the I’m so enlightened/morally superior and I just can’t understand those morally inferior peons that believe something different.  It’s tiring.  It’s draining.  The only thing I know is that opinions are like @s$h*l&s; everybody has one and they all stink…

I wonder if people think about the fact that you might someday need that person who has a different viewpoint than you.  Maybe they have an in at that job you really want.  Maybe they own that horse that your daughter really wants to ride.  Maybe they can pull a few strings to get your husband that oncology consult…  Why napalm the bridge?  Maybe kindness really is the best policy. It used to be that you helped your neighbor.  Now it seems like you first ask them to fill out a 5 page questionnaire to find out if their opinions align with yours… When did we stop being kind?

If it is draining for me to see so much hatred, I wonder how tiring it must be for them to carry it in their hearts.  And I tell you, I am exhausted.  Like about to go take a Vitamin D supplement and an Iron pill exhausted.

Please people.  What happened to lifting each other up?  What happened to straightening each others’ crowns?  What happened to the Golden Rule?  Listen to hear and learn, rather than to respond.  This world won’t last very long if we don’t stop trying to tear each other down.

As for me, I’ll keep trying to claw my way back to happy.  It hasn’t been easy.  I haven’t been ok.  There are days when I feel so let down by people that I want to give up and move to an off-grid cabin in the woods.  I’m not quite ready to give up though…

“She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.” ― Donald Miller

Circus Trip 2018: Boston Freedom Trail, Pt.2

Day 56, Sunday, September 9, 2018
Boston Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

Stop 5: King’s Chapel & King’s Chapel Burying Ground

The original King’s Chapel was built in 1688 on the town burying ground, when no one in Boston would sell the Royal Governor land to build a non-Puritan church.

By 1749, the congregation had grown too large for the church, and American architect Peter Harrison was hired to design a church that “would be the equal to any in England.”  The steeple that was part of the original design was never built, but it does contain a colonnade, which was completed after the Revolution.

The King’s Chapel Burying Ground remains next to the chapel and was Boston proper’s first burying ground. It contains the graves of many notables, including Mary Chilton, the first woman to step off the Mayflower.

Stop 6: Boston Latin School Site/Benjamin Franklin Statue

Boston Latin is America’s oldest public school, founded in April 1635.  Five signers of the Declaration of Independence attended here: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, and William Hooper.  Interestingly though, Ben Franklin did not graduate; did you know that he was a high school dropout?

This building was torn down in 1745 in order to expand the King’s Chapel next door, but there is now a statue of Benjamin Franklin on the site as well as a historic plaque on the sidewalk.  The school has moved to the Fenway neighborhood and continues to this day.

Stop 7: The Old Corner Bookstore

The Old Corner Bookstore began in 1718 as an apothecary shop.  The bookstore and printing shop that occupied this site was opened 1828 and operated until 1903.  It first produced the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Wardo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and Louisa May Alcott.  Many of these notable authors visited the building.

The building has been preserved, but sadly there is no longer a bookstore here.  I believe it currently houses a Chipotle restaurant.

Stop 8: The Old South Meeting House

This building was built in 1729 as a Puritan meeting house, and was at one time the largest building in Boston.  It was also the site where some of the most dramatic discussions and decisions leading up to the Revolution occurred.  A meeting on December 16, 1773, set the stage for a historic event that every school child in the United States studies.  Over 5,000 colonists met to discuss the fate of 30 tons of tea that was waiting to be unloaded from the holds of three ships in Boston Harbor.  If the tea was unloaded, the colonists would owe the tea tax, when did not had a representative in the British government.  The colonists had attempted to have the tea sent back to England but the attempt failed.  So what to do?

Samuel Adams addressed the crowd, saying, “This meeting can do nothing more to save the country.”  Some believe these words were code to the Sons of Liberty to begin the Tea Party.  Men dressed as Mohawk Indians then went down to the wharf and dumped 340 crates of tea into Boston Harbor.  The rest, they say, is history…

As we were still on the tour, I apologize for the poor quality of my photos.  We didn’t stop directly in front of many of these buildings, so I was shooting from a distance with scores of people around!  I hope you get the gist…  One thing I found very interesting was seeing these historic sites from hundreds of years ago juxtaposed with modern construction and a bustling city life!  There is a Walgreens just out of frame of this last photo!