Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Four Agreements

This summer I had a chance to catch up on reading -- I always have a list of books I've been meaning to tackle.  Some are historical romance, some mysteries, some are biographies, some work related, others are self-improvement.  A book I rediscovered this month was The Four Agreements.  I had read this book a few years ago, but pulled it off the shelf again and found when I truly internalize the lessons they have a profound impact in how I present myself and how I respond to others. 

The Four Agreements:
1.  Be impeccable with your word.  Speak with integrity. Say what you mean.  Avoid speaking against yourself or gossiping.  Use words in the direction of truth and love.

2.  Don't take anything personally.  Nothing others do is because of you.  Be immune to the opinions and actions of others.

3.  Don't make assumptions.  Have the courage to ask questions.  Express what you really want.  Communicate with others clearly to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.

4.  Always do your best.  Do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.

These agreements are now written in colorful ink on an index card which I carry with me so I can review them each morning.  It sets the tone to how I want to conduct myself throughout my work day and creates a much healthier environment for dealing with the questions and situations that arise.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

New England Trip - Cape Cod

Wrapping up our trip to New England, we spent one day touring Cape Cod via a tour van that held 14 people. Terry and Des, our tour guides, were a friendly and funny married couple -- he is from Ireland and speaks with a rich brogue and loves to joke around.  She was a storehouse of information about the Cape. 

We met in Hyannis, boarded the van, and away we went.  We passed houses and learned a lot about the Cape Cod architecture, the half and the full house, and how they painted just the front of the house.  Then the coast came into view again, and we wove in and out, alternating coastal and woods views.  As the day wore on, the weather became cooler and overcast and by the end of the day it was raining.  We were reminded of the beautiful Dan Fogelberg song, "The Reach."  Please listen to it -- the melody makes you "feel" the waves cresting and falling -- and the lyrics are so meaningful.  It was one of my brother's favorite songs and he asked that it be played at his funeral so has special significance to our family.

Some of the sites we saw....
We stopped at the Jonathan Young Mill to take a tour of the windmill.

These very old steps are the ones we climbed up into the windmill.

 Everywhere we went in New England we saw beautiful hydrangeas...
...and lots of lighthouses.
This was the home of Captain Penniman.  Captain's homes were always a bit nicer than others. 
He was a whaling ship master
 This is how it looked back when Captain Penniman lived here!
At the entrance he had a huge whale jaw set as the gateway to his house.  It's hard to imagine how large the whale must have been overall to have a jaw that size! 
It makes you want to read "Moby Dick" all over again!
 We also went inside the Scargo Tower.
There were beautiful views of Scrago Lake from the Tower and parking lot.
 When Terry and Des learned that Chris, Linda and I are sisters, they told us they had a surprise for us!  It turned out that there are three lighthouses called "The Three Sisters."  So of course we had to stop by and have our pictures taken -- the three sisters at the three sisters.
The big joke was that two of the lighthouses were "topless," so we were told we had to figure out which of the three of us were going to be associated with the topless lighthouses.
 We stopped for a picnic lunch along the ocean -- you can see the gathering clouds.
 And then we came to the tip of Cape Cod -- Provincetown!
 There were some beautiful historic buildings, like the Town Hall...
...and some colorful areas of town with interesting characters.  It was much more of a "party town" than we expected.  We tried to think of a place to compare it to.  We decided it made San Francisco look tame and was more like New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
 We did see the historic Pilgrim Monument.  This monument was founded in 1892 to commemorate the Pilgrims first landing in the New World here at Provincetown in November 1620.  This is also where they drew up and signed the Mayflower Compact, which established the new laws for the new land.  They spent five weeks here before sailing over to Plymouth.
 A walk along the wharf at Provincetown ended our day there. 
 We boarded the tour van for the drive back to Hyannis just as it started to rain.  The guides had arranged videos to play on the way back, depicting stories of this important area of American history. 
It was a fabulous day!

Friday, August 16, 2013

New England Trip - The Newport Mansions!

It's funny how three grown women living in completely different parts of the country can get together for a vacation once a year and discover they have the same morning routines, same mannerisms and phrases, and same sense of humor.  Such it is when you get three sisters together!  While on our New England trip we were up and at 'em pretty early each morning, had a little breakfast and hit the road, no questions asked.  Everything cracked us up!  Trying to figure out how to open the gas tank on the rental car while two grouchy mechanics looked on, led us to fits of giggles imagining them saying, "How many blonds does it take to open a gas tank?"  So it went....

One day the road took us over the bridge to Newport, Rhode Island.  
We checked in at the visitor's center and then took a walk along the water front and 
through the town where there was a long street of cute shops and buildings.
From there we hopped back in the car for the scenic drive.  We stopped by historic 
Fort Adams and enjoyed the beautiful views of the bay.
One curve of the road would take us past pastures of sheep or horses and 
the next curve would reveal beautiful coastline.
We turned down a road and parked at Chateau-sur-Mer, one of the majestic Newport mansions that is open for a tour.  The chateau is an example of Italianate architecture and Victorian furnishings.  No photos were allowed inside the mansions, but if you click on their names, the links will take you to a website to take a peek.
Just as impressive to us as the chateau was a huge weeping beech tree in the side yard. 
Every child (and that includes those of us with a child within) needs a tree like this, to part the branches and find refuge inside, to have little "houses" and play areas. 
The grandest of the grand mansions is called The Breakers, the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Everything was large scale and over the top!
 A large balcony on the second floor over looked a patio...
 ...and this huge expanse of lawn leading to the sea.
The inside of the balcony is pictured above.  As we walked around the grounds we came across this cute little cottage, figuring it was the living quarters for the caretakers.  What a surprise to learn it was the play house for the Vanderbilt children!  The furniture was smaller scale, but it contained rooms to play house.
As a Downton Abbey fan I could see why the American Crawley family referenced their "home in Newport," no doubt to give the impression that they lived in one of these mansions.

Newport was a memorable place to visit.  We had planned to go on the Cliff Walk after the last tour, but it suddenly began lightning and thundering so we ran back to the car just before a cloud burst.  We called it a day and went back to the hotel for the evening.

Stay tuned for our next adventure!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Message from an Ancestor

The tombstone was sinking into the ground -- it marked the resting place of our great-great-great-great grandfather.  We had to kneel down to feel some of the letters, they are difficult to read now.  Below his name and that date in 1783 was a poem...

Farewell my children near and dear
May Jesus for your help appear
And be your Father kind and just
When I am mouldering in the dust.

Who would have thought we would stand by his grave 230 years later to pay him homage.  Mortality is humbling, but what wonderful words he left -- promises of a kind and just Helper in life through Jesus. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New England Trip - Massachusetts

Summer is racing by, so I better get after blogging about my trip.  Still have much to share!  Chris and I have been spending a lot of time doing genealogical research on our father's side of the family.  Through old family letters, and other resources, we are uncovering more and more records and could write our own episodes of the show, "Who Do You Think You Are?"

So one of the days we were in New England we drove to a couple small towns in Massachusetts to do some cemetery sleuthing.  We started at the grand old Taunton Library.
 On the way in the door, we noticed this interesting plaque about the library's history:
We even paid a visit to the Registry of Deeds to do some research, which was right next to the beautiful Taunton Courthouse.
The Taunton Cemetery was on a beautiful knoll, with graves so long forgotten.  We discovered several ancestors grave sites here.  Standing there on the land, we breathed in the air, took it all in, and tried to envision the area as our loved ones must have seen it, hundreds of years ago.
Many gravemarkers had the "death's head" symbol on them.  We had learned about these at the cemetery in Boston.  Common in the 17the century, the death's head usually consisted of a stylized skull with wings or crossed bones (in the tombstone below, all three were represented).  Some believed these were intended to represent a combination of a physical death and a spiritual regeneration.  Puritans were adamantly against such symbols. 
We stopped for lunch at a diner in town and then headed to another town where we discovered two cemeteries with more of our ancestors.  They were very small family cemeteries, tucked into neighborhoods, surrounded by rough stone fences.
We knew only the approximate location of one and asked a neighbor if he knew where there was a cemetery in that area.  He informed us that it was actually behind his house (in a typical looking neighborhood) and we had to hike down a path, designated as an easement to the cemetery, to get to it.
We were a bit awestruck, imaging our ancestors standing on this ground over 300 years ago.  Some had been ship captains, some farmers, others merchants.  I'm sure they had no thoughts that someday three sisters from a country they wouldn't believe existed as it does today would be standing there to pay their respects to them. 

Quite a thing to ponder....