dual personalities

Month: January, 2013

Happy birthday, Mary and Dolly (and Buffy)

You may recall that tomorrow (January 19) is the birthday of my mother and also of Dolly Parton (and Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I blogged about this last year. I won’t repeat myself, but I thought I’d post a picture of Mary when she was a wistful and athletic college student at Middlebury.

mcc ski

…and a picture of Dolly “in the good old days”.


“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Happy birthday, ladies!

A sonnet for thursday and some thoughts on humility

The 'Younger Memnon' statue of Ramesses II in the British Museum thought to have inspired the poem.

The ‘Younger Memnon’ statue of Ramesses II in the British Museum thought to have inspired the poem “Ozymandias”.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

–Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ah yes, Shelley’s poem about how the mighty inevitably fall is pretty great. It is another poem that caught my fancy at a relatively young age (see yesterday’s post about Robert Service). At the time I didn’t think it had anything in particular to say to me, but it does. It’s about pride.

I have always agreed with J.M. Barrie who wrote, “Life is a long lesson in humility.” It is my mantra. It is a hard lesson, indeed, but you can’t be really happy until you learn it. Part of growing up is realizing that you are not as great as your mother told you you were. It goes hand in hand with the lesson about accomplishing a lot if you don’t worry about who gets the credit. These are lessons you have to learn yourself. The hard way.

Here is the best advice–from Jesus (of course):

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

I always used to worry about whether I would be sitting at the right table with the cool people etc. When I stopped obsessing about that and just sat at any “table” with whomever or even at an empty table, it always worked out.

People always show up and it is okay even if they don’t.

Fun facts to know and tell

For his gallantry at San Juan Hill, his commanders recommended Theodore Roosevelt for the Medal of Honor.


He was not awarded the medal at that time, but 100 years later in the late 1990s, Roosevelt’s supporters again took up the flag for him. On January 16, 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Theodore Roosevelt the Medal of Honor posthumously for his charge up San Juan Hill, Cuba, during the Spanish–American War. Roosevelt’s eldest son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., received the Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of Normandy in 1944. The Roosevelts thus became one of only two father-son pairs to receive this honor (the other pair being Arthur and Douglas MacArthur).

If I ever knew that, I had forgotten it. I am glad to know that T.R. got his Medal of Honor. I suggest a toast to him tonight!

Today is also the birthday of Robert W. Service, the Bard of the Yukon (January 16, 1874 – September 11, 1958).


When I was in Middle School, I was a big fan of Robert Service. (Yes, I was really cool.) I asked for and was given his collected poems for Christmas. I memorized large portions of my favorite poems, including “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.

Margaret Rutherford gave a dramatic recitation of the aforementioned poem in Murder Most Foul. Priceless. Here it is (with Italian subtitles!)–watch the whole thing! (Si. Si. Prego.)

Have a great Wednesday!

The postman’s knock


Isn’t it nice to receive snail mail thank you notes after Christmas?


The world these days is often a cold, harsh, impersonal place, and a hand-written note on a lovely letterpress card sure makes my day. Don’t you agree? My goal for the week is to send out a few notes, thereby practicing what I preach.


Time for some old-school desk work.

This and that

When daughter #2 was home over the Christmas holiday she made a concerted effort to read some contemporary fiction. (You can read about it here.) I told her I would read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach so we could talk about it, and, always the good mother, I did just that.

Well, I tried to read The Art of Fielding. I really did. I read at least 60 pages before I threw it across the room (metaphorically) and gave up. It is just pretentious showing off in the worst sophomoric way. For instance he gives his characters stupid names: Skrimshander and Starblind and Affenlight. Okay, we get it; you read Moby Dick. And I just couldn’t take the way he always writes “freshperson” instead of “freshman”, as in “freshperson year”. Please. The characters and story were not enough to overlook these minor irritations I’m afraid. Life is too short for this drivel. And, hey, baseball-as-a-metaphor-for-life has been done many times before, and by far better writers.

Sorry, daughter #2. I tried (but not very hard).


Luckily, I took the advice of my niece Ellen and sent away for The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich. What a find! This is beautiful prose at its best…and about Wyoming! It is a deep and true and pitch-perfect observation of Life. How could I not love a book by someone who writes, “I met my husband at a John Wayne film festival in Cody, Wyoming”?

Gretel Ehrlich is a writer from California, who went to Bennington, UCLA film school and the School for Social Research in NYC. But she left all that baggage behind when she went to Wyoming looking for solace and discovered that “true solace is finding none, which is to say, it is everywhere.” She is no sophomore.

Meanwhile, my Saturday estate-sale-ing turned up no Big Finds, but some good books.


Have a great week and happy reading!

Office Space

Like my dual personality I love my office — it contains most of my favorite books and many of my cherished belongings (at least the ones that can find no appropriate place at home). It’s not perfect and it’s certainly messy, but it’s my space. I recently rearranged portions of the wall art because I got a really cool poster for Christmas:


In a miniscule font, the text of “The Iliad” creates the images of fighting warriors. I love this. After teaching “the Iliad” I’ve become a huge fan — it’s simply wonderful and right up there with the Bible and Shakespeare (and probably Emerson, Whitman, and Melville, too!). I put the poster above my bulletin board as that really was the only open space large enough that would work, and here is how it looks:


Note my Assyrian relief, a long-ago gift from my parents, leaning up against the desk and bookcase. A closer view of the poster:


On my bulletin board I put up choice quotes and pictures that inspire me. From niece, Susie, I borrowed the Walt Whitman that she blogged about earlier this year here and I love to look at family photos and beautiful landscapes such as this magical English wood:

England 08 019

The dual personalities value the aesthetically pleasing work space — and we’d love to know how you make yours inspiring. How do you decorate your office?

Rule Britannia

Yesterday I drove #2 son to the airport in Burlington VT to send him off to London for the semester. Here’s the intrepid traveler after checking his luggage

channeling Dean Winchester

Channeling Dean Winchester

Note that his carry-on included a large backpack, violin, and box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins (courtesy of girlfriend Nicole), of which he had already consumed a goodly portion. I don’t suppose any of them made it to England.

Burlington airport is a wonderful place. It’s small, navigable, and the people who work there seem delighted to have someone to serve. Really. In this day and age! Here is the jocular TSA guy greeting Chris as he goes through security.


I know he was ‘jocular’ because Chris told me so on the phone later and because I could see them all laughing. I gather that the other security people were just as willing to crack jokes. I bet it wasn’t like that at JFK.

After I bid him adieu and wiped away a tear or two (well, not quite), I drove to Barnes and Noble and bought the Lumineers CD to listen to on the long, lonely drive home. The music definitely helped keep my spirits up through the choppy ferry ride and the pouring rain. Thanks to my dual personality for introducing me to the Lumineers!

The winter ferry crossing sometimes makes one feel like Shackleton

The winter ferry crossing sometimes makes one feel like Shackleton. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite like this yesterday — it was choppier and raining

Though I don’t have an empty nest, the house has that after-the-holidays, back-to-the-grind feeling now. Imagine my delight this morning when I booted up the computer to discover a nice email from the traveler, who has arrived safely in London:

The flight wasn’t too bad, though someone did throw up on me just a little bit. I feel ok and have the whole day off, and the only thing I have tomorrow is cocktails with with Cowser [the program head]. My hosts are lovely people, an older couple, two kids, one out in the real world, one at college. My room is large and comfy and I have excess shelf and drawer space, so I’ll just have to buy lots of stuff.

I’ll have to remind him that however large the furnishings, the suitcases stay the same size. Do you have any advice for him?

The end of the week approacheth

This has been my first full week back at work since the holidays ended and my daughters returned to their far-flung homes on the east coast. I have half-heartedly assumed my usual routine–and I am a routine person–but it is always hard to get back into the swing of things after an extended time off with my girls.



I try to keep in mind what Emerson wrote:

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”


So I do my best to own the day!

Did I mention that it rained all day yesterday? Thank goodness it was in the 50s, so no snow. Today they say it may get up to 66-degrees. Hello. Carpe diem.

And that’s my opinion from the blue, blue sky

I am obsessed with this song: “Stubborn Love”. And, yes, I am 15 again. No apologies.

And by the way:

“Movement and change are the essence of our being; rigidity is death; conformity is death: let us say what comes into our heads, repeat ourselves, contradict ourselves, fling out the wildest nonsense, and follow the most fantastic fancies without caring what the world does or thinks or says. For nothing matters except life.”

Virginia Woolf, Montaigne

Note to self


I felt my spirits rise when I had got off the road into the open fields, and the sky had a new appearance. I stepped along more buoyantly. There was a warm sunset over the wooded valleys, a yellowish tinge on the pines. Reddish dun-colored clouds like dusky flames stood over it. And then streaks of blue sky were seen here and there. The life, the joy, that is in blue sky after a storm! There is no account of the blue sky in history. Before I walked in the ruts of travel; now I adventured.

Henry David Thoreau, Journals, Jan. 7, 1851

Oh so many books to read (and re-read) in 2013! Do you have a pile of new books to read in January?