dual personalities

Month: February, 2013

While the nearer waters roll


On this day in 1784 Charles Wesley chartered the Methodist Church in America. He believed he could not wait any longer for the Bishop of London to ordain someone for the American Methodists, who were without the sacraments after the American War of Independence. The Church of England had been disestablished in the United States and had not yet appointed a United States bishop for what would become the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. In a bold move Wesley ordained Thomas Coke by the laying on of hands although Coke was already a priest in the Church of England. Wesley appointed him to be superintendent of Methodists in the United States.

In a side note, Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT (founded in 1831) was the first institution of higher education to be named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. About 20 unrelated colleges and universities were subsequently named after Wesley. Several members of our family attended Wesleyan in the 19th century, including the brothers of our great-grandfather William Carnahan. He was thought too sickly to go to college and was sent instead to Colorado for his health.

william carnahan

He doesn’t look too fragile to me. Anyway, he met our great-grandmother Anna Barnsley Hough in Lake City.


Several years later they were married in Las Animas, Colorado, moving to Chicago thereafter. Their youngest child was our maternal grandmother.

None of them were Methodists, although you will remember that Anna’s uncle, the Colorado cattle baron, was named…John Wesley Prowers.

This is how my brain works.

A cheerful heart


A while ago I posted about the positive effects of a good cry. Well today we’ll consider the importance of being cheerful.

Every day I get an email from the Anglican monks of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. Yesterday’s message from Br. Mark Brown was about “Hilarity”. You can read the whole thing here.

“Perhaps we could think of cheerfulness,” he writes, “a gentle good cheer, as a spiritual practice, or, at least, as a spiritual good—as a way of being compassionate to those we live with (as Paul’s words suggest). A way of bringing the light of Christ, the gracious light of Christ into the lives of others. Cheerfulness can’t be an all day/every day thing. But if we’re between the storms of life and in a comparatively neutral zone, we might be more intentional about returning to a kind of emotional baseline of gentle good cheer. Rather than merely neutral, perhaps a baseline of gentle good cheer.”

I like to think of cheerfulness as a spiritual practice. One of the affirmative laws of the Boy Scouts, as you know, is “A scout is cheerful”–in fact he “smiles and whistles”. As we also know, practice makes perfect. Sometimes that means smiling when we don’t feel like it. This sign in my kitchen reminds all who enter to do so.


The writer of the Book of Proverbs says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine”, which is so true. We all know people whose cheerfulness is contagious and makes proximity to them a definite benefit. Likewise a smile from a stranger can greatly improve your day. So go ahead and smile! Think of it as your Lenten spiritual practice and do it intentionally!

If you are having a hard time smiling, it is a good spiritual practice to watch a funny movie. But why is it that I have a harder time thinking of movies that make me laugh than ones that make me cry? Anyway, here are some funny ones: Ball of Fire (1941), Best in Show (2000), Ghostbusters (1984), Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Producers (1968), The Pink Panther (1963), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), Annie Hall (1977), A Run for Your Money (1949), The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain (1995). What have I forgotten?

And if all else fails, try this:

Hooray for Hollywood?


The Oscars were more about the dresses and the ‘messy up-dos’ than the actual movies.

The host was obviously picked for being irreverent and vulgar, but the audience, which prides itself on being liberal and edgy, seemed shocked when he was just that. Clearly Seth MacFarlane knew this might happen and he and his writers even worked the joke into his opening monologue with William Shatner as Captain Kirk telecommuting from the future to warn MacFarlane that he was about to ruin the Oscars and be branded the worst Oscar host ever.

But none of it was funny really, and it all fell flat. All those self-satisfied celebrity “actors” wanted to do was pat themselves on the back. Politics is taboo. All that’s left is: Kiss kiss, you look wonderful! It was a big PC muddle. And the awards (no surprises) were all over the proverbial map. Something for everyone and no one stood out. Do you remember anything anyone said?

I think daughter #1 and friends look every bit as "sophisticated'' as many of the Hollywood wannabees, don't you?

I think daughter #1 and friends look every bit as “sophisticated” as many of the Hollywood wannabees, don’t you?

I’ll just say what everyone is thinking: Why can’t Billy Crystal just do the Oscars forever–like Bob Hope used to do? And remember Johnny Carson? Back when the Academy Award Show had some class.

(Click on this gif) Sorry. No class.

Sorry. No class.

I was glad that Ang Lee won for Best Director and Daniel Day-Lewis deserved his Oscar. But I wish I had those 4 hours back. I could have scrubbed the shower. Or watched Sunset Boulevard.

"I'm ready for my close-uo, Mr. DeMille!"

“I’m ready for my close-uo, Mr. DeMille!”

The highlight for me was “drunk-texting” with daughter #1 and daughter #2–although I was drinking ginger ale and no one was actually drunk.


We had fun, although perhaps if we had indeed been drunk, it would have seemed funnier. But it was a school night after all.

Okay, I just have to say one more thing. Renee Zellweger, whom I have always despised, looked liked she rolled out of bed to drive carpool and mistakenly threw on a shiny gold dress.

(via Huffpost.com)

(via Huffpost.com)

They even screwed up the In Memoriam section by padding it with marketing executives. Well, onward and upward.

Eastward in Eden

Snow Sharks Cartoon

After our snowy end of the week, it seemed like a good idea to visit the wonderful Missouri Botanical Garden and check out the annual orchid show. Lots of people had the same idea, of course.

white orchids

purple orchids

yellow orchids

little orchids

All manner and kind of orchid was arranged for our viewing pleasure, but it was very crowded with people taking pictures with their cell phones. Have you noticed that people do not seem to enjoy things in the moment any more? We walked over to the Climatron and saw more hot house flowers arranged with helpful signs.

climatron sign


There was plenty of neat-slash-weird stuff.


Even Chihuly glass sculptures, which always seem to me to pale in the presence of the real thing. Who needs these geegaws, I ask?


Grilled cheese and tomato soup topped off our visit, plus a stop in the Garden Shop to purchase a succulent for my terrarium.


I also rescued a plant from the sale table, because, as you know, that is what I do.

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
― John Calvin

“Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?”

― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Saturday reflection

As this was an unpleasantly frenzied week and I am not someone who manages frenzy with graceful ease, I am rewarding myself for getting through it by enjoying some beautiful things and reminding myself how much I have to be grateful for — with a little help from Rupert Brooke.

White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,
Ringed with blue lines; and feathery, faery dust;

blue and white china

Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light; the strong crust
Of friendly bread; and many-tasting food;
Rainbows; and the blue bitter smoke of wood;
And radiant raindrops couching in cool flowers;
And flowers themselves, that sway through sunny hours,
Dreaming of moths that drink them under the moon;

Found this pic somewhere years ago -- alas, I can't give a credit

Then, the cool kindliness of sheets, that soon
Smooth away trouble; and the rough male kiss
Of blankets; grainy wood; live hair that is
Shining and free; blue-massing clouds…


The benison of hot water; furs to touch;
The good smell of old clothes; and other such–
The comfortable smell of friendly fingers,
Hair’s fragrance, and the musty reek that lingers
About dead leaves and last year’s ferns. . . .


Poor Rupert never had the chance to have children so he left them out, but really, what is better than happy children (suitably armed, of course)?

the boys

Come to think of it, there are a lot of things that I love and that make me happy. This post may have to continue tomorrow. In the meantime, what do you love?

[a note about the pictures: I got the top one on pinterest; I downloaded the bluebell wood picture ages ago and unfortunately have no source; and the fall wood is from here via google search. The rest are mine]

Things happen

One of the best things about being the Boss Lady is that I get to call a snow day every once in awhile. Well, yesterday was one of those days. It wasn’t Snowmageddon, but for our flyover state it was significant white stuff.

We started with sleet in the morning.


And continued as snow throughout the day.


I hunkered down with my little home version of a potbelly stove:

potbelly stove

I read more of The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather and munched on Valentine’s candy.


I watched Stagecoach on TCM.

Ringo: I used to be a good cowhand. But things happen.
Dallas: Yes. Things happen.

What a great movie! What a great day!

Unfortunately, although I called a snow day for our students today, I have to go in myself. C’est la vie!

Hot dog, I feel lucky today

Mary Chapin Carpenter (born February 21, 1958), an American folk and country music singer, songwriter and musician, turns 55 today.


Born in Princeton, NJ, she went to Princeton Day School and The Taft School and Brown, so she grew up in a world similar to the one I did, but she also has that bad-ass cowgirl alter ego with which I readily identify. Who else could have written:

Dwight Yoakam’s in the corner, trying to catch my eye
Lyle Lovett’s right beside me with his hand upon my thigh.

And her monogram is the same as my mother’s.

Anyway, I have been a fan of hers for many years. One of my favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter memories is of the time I (once again) was having a Girl Scout earning-a-patch event at our house. The plan was for Daughter #1 and her small troop to learn to line dance. Not that I was an expert. Uh huh. Priceless.

We moved the dining room table against the wall so we could practice in a large space, which coincidentally had one wall that was a giant mirror, sort of like in a dance studio. The girls lined up and we played “Shut Up and Kiss Me” over and over and (yes) over again, carefully counting one, two, three, four before trying again. And remember, this was in the days of cassette tapes! So there was a lot of rewinding involved. Good lord, how I wish I had a videotape of this coolness.

Here she is singing this great song. In the original, Leroy Parnell was in her band, but oh well.

So happy birthday, Mary Chapin Carpenter! Salut!

This is great

Have you ever run across this in your internet browsing? Well, a big hat tip to the New York Times for this wonderful tour of New York City: Walking in Holden’s Footsteps, which is from Peter G. Beidler’s book, “A Reader’s Companion to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye” (Coffeetown Press, 2008).

I have no doubt that it is a sure sign of my unwavering immaturity, but The Catcher in the Rye never dims in my estimation. Nor does my devout love for old J.D.


The next time I am in NYC I want to walk the “41 gorgeous blocks” from Ernie’s to the Edmont Hotel. Maybe I’ll pay the big bucks and go inside the Museum of Natural History. Now that daughter #1 lives there, I am relaxed as hell about going there. Well, the Upper West Side anyway. I’m crazy. I swear to God I am.

Music from the New World

I am reading The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. It is very good. Here is a quote about going to see a concert in Chicago, which reminded me of my dual personality and how, when she was a very small child–3 or 4–she got a record of the “New World Symphony” for Christmas.


She loved it and insisted on listening to it over and over. She would walk around the house singing Dum dum dum dum de dum, dum dum dum dum duuuuuum.

She had been to so few concerts that the great house, the crowd of people, and the lights, all had a stimulating effect…During the first number Thea was so much interested in the orchestra itself, in the men, the instruments, the volume of sound, that she paid little attention to what they were playing. Her excitement impaired her power of listening. She kept saying to herself, “Now I must stop this foolishness and listen; I may never hear this again”; but her mind was like a glass that is hard to focus. She was not ready to listen until the second number, Dvorak’s Symphony in E minor, called on the programme, “From the New World.” The first theme had scarcely been given out when her mind became clear; instant composure fell upon her, and with it came the power of concentration. This was music she could understand, music from the New World indeed! Strange how, as the first movement went on, it brought back to her that high tableland above Laramie; the grass-grown wagon trails the far-away peaks of the snowy range, the wind and the eagles, that old man and the first telegraph message.

When the first movement ended, Thea’s hands and feet were cold as ice. She was too much excited to know anything except that she wanted something desperately, and when the English horns gave out the theme of the Largo, she knew that what she wanted was exactly that. Here were the sand hills, the grasshoppers and locusts, all the things that wakened and chirped in the early morning; the reaching and reaching of high plains, the immeasurable yearning of all flat lands. There was home in it, too; first memories, first mornings long ago; the amazement of a new soul in a new world; a soul new and yet old, that had dreamed something despairing, something glorious, in the dark before it was born; a soul obsessed by what it did not know, under the cloud of a past it could not recall.

Makes me want to listen to the “New World” symphony, how about you? Well, here you go!

The Cameron saga continues…in Canada

Family lore has Daniel Cameron heading to Canada at sixteen, probably with monetary help from the Baptist church, for its hard to imagine that he could afford his own passage. Somehow our young protagonist landed in the tiny hamlet of Clarence, Ontario where he got a job with a lumber company. To begin with he hiked deep into the Canadian woods with an Indian guide to mark trees. He also did plenty of actual cutting:

Daniel Cameron second from left

Daniel Cameron second from left

Clarence was a small community that had been going since the 18th century and as was the case in most Ontario towns most of the people were either Scottish or French. There were few enough people around so that intermarriage between French Catholics and Scottish Protestants was common, albeit the conversion always seemed to favor the Protestants. As it happened Daniel fell for the product of one such marriage, a lovely girl, Susan Louisa Blais, the daughter of Fabien Blais and Louisa Taylor. The Blais children were brought up Baptist and even Fabien himself eventually converted. Now Fabien’s wife, Louisa Taylor, was the daughter of Isaac Whitney Taylor (b. 1791 in Massachusetts) and Elizabeth Thompson (b. 1804 in Ireland) and one of twelve children. Three of her sisters — Elizabeth, Susan, and Anna — married three Scottish brothers, William, James, and John Erskine. After Louisa Taylor married Fabien Blais, they bought a farm next to James and Susan Erskine.

Fabien Blais and his wife Louisa Taylor had nine children, of whom four died before they could marry. In 1868 Louisa and her two year old son, William, died within 10 days of each other, some say of Diphtheria, others of Smallpox. Grief stricken, Fabien sold the family farm and moved to Nepean with some of his children. He left his daughters, Susan and Laura, with their uncle and aunt, James and Susan Erskine, who raised them. All of the Erskine children died young so the girls filled a void. Tragedy struck again when their brother, Edwin James Blais, fell through the ice on the Ottawa River as he was crossing alone to go to a New Year’s Eve party in 1880.

It gives me shivers just to think about it! Susan’s elder sister, Elizabeth, married Duncan McIntyre, who was a witness at Susan’s and Daniel’s marriage. He and Daniel Cameron were best friends. After Elizabeth was killed in a buggy crash, Duncan married another sister, Laura, who survived until 1909. Life was fragile and it is no wonder that the small community was full of devout Baptists.

The Clarence Baptist church in 1991

The Clarence Baptist church in 1991

Daniel and Duncan McIntyre, who was reportedly a delightful if unsteady sort, attempted to open a grist mill and store, but the business soon went bust through McIntyre’s mishandling (or so I understand from neutral sources). Hardworking Daniel learned his lesson and that was the last time he attempted such a business venture. He went straight back to the lumber company where he became a clerk. After the financial scare, life settled down. Daniel and Susan had a daughter Leila Erskine in 1885, a son James Erskine in 1892, and a daughter Hazel Stuart in 1897. The year Hazel was born my great grandfather Daniel was promoted and moved to Burlington VT. The family joined him within a year and it was there that their youngest son, my grandfather, Daniel Herbert Hilton Cameron was born June 17, 1900.

Stay tuned for the next installment, in which Daniel senior becomes treasurer of the Robinson-Edwards lumber company, buys a nice house, and becomes a naturalized American citizen.