dual personalities

Month: May, 2019

Mid-week dispatch

Here’s a mid-week dispatch from daughter #2! We are making steady progress in recovery and have even taken a short walk around the block and dined out al fresco this week. It is still a long road ahead, but our DP is soldiering on.

Luckily, we have had a couple of visits from the wee babes, who always lighten the mood (even if they do wear us out). On Monday, we splashed around in the backyard, which was great fun. I think I need a monogrammed seersucker swimsuit!


Just a wee bit tentative. This isn’t a bathtub!?

And today, we had another quick visit, which included some light reading. The kiddos like to sort books by color, which is really very Apartment Therapy of them.


One simply must sit down to read Carl Jung.

Lottie also had a fun time perusing the wedding album from DN and my nuptials two years ago, after asking to see “pictures of baby Lottie.” I gather that this a new habit of hers and I was happy to oblige. She was able to name all of her relatives in family photos like this…


The wee babes also had stellar seersucker outfits at this event.

…and when we looked at a bridal portrait, she said “Aunt Susie has a BEAUTIFUL dress.” This is brilliant commentary that I can certainly get behind! The wee babes will be VIPs at their Aunt Catherine’s wedding this weekend. Now I can’t wait to return such a compliment to Lottie, who will surely be wearing a BEAUTIFUL dress of her own!

In the meantime, we will continue our normal routine of reading, snacking, napping, and watching Murder, She Wrote.

Wednesday words.

A few weeks ago my boss was participating in the National Day of Prayer and I began looking up good quotes in case he needed talking points. He didn’t, but I did re-discover this classic Freddy B.

“We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not. The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or very bad. The “Ah-h-h-h!” that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to ourselves, but to something even more familiar than ourselves and even more strange than the world.”

You can read the whole thing here. And thank me later.


Small Children and Mountain Gorillas

Tomorrow is son #1’s birthday and the beginning of his last year as a twenty-something. He now qualifies as meme fodder.

It seems only yesterday (it may sound trite but it’s true) that he was a happy little guy in footy pajamas,

who liked nothing better than to read a book with his dad.

When he got very tired, he’d get cozy with Mr. Fox and his favorite ball.

Pretty soon he began to act out stories with his dinosaurs (on the charming couch that came with the house we rented),

And before we knew it he was a Ninja Turtle saving the world — or his baby brother. Can you spot the little guy waving in the background of this photo?

“He is four and a half and possesses that deep gravity and seriousness that only small children and mountain gorillas have ever been able to master” (Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys).  Here’s to being young — even at the ripe old age of 29! Happy (almost) birthday, dear James. Just remember, the best is yet to come!

What are you reading?

By way of a weekend update, I’ll ask: what are you reading? We are doing a lot of reading these days. With lots of quiet mornings and afternoons with our DP resting, we are able to make headway on a number of different texts.

Since Herman Melville’s 200th birthday is coming up, nearly everyone in the house is reading or re-reading Moby-Dick…
and I (daughter #2) am also re-reading the Mitford series. It is a great stress reliever.

He had already had morning prayer and studied the challenging message of Luke 12: “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”

There was not one man in a thousand who considered these words more than poetical vapor, he thought as he dressed. Don’t be anxious? Most mortals considered anxiety, and plenty of it, an absolute requirement for getting the job done. Yet, over and over again, the believer was cautioned to abandon anxiety, and look only to God.

Yesterday, daughter #1 and I went to two estate sales and were quite successful, which is to say, we came home with a lot of loot and collectively spent less than $10. At the second estate sale, we came across a fairly good selection of hardback novels, and when I asked the cashier how the books were priced, he asked “What would you pay for them?” A novice at haggling, I stared at him blankly. He then proceeded to joke, in escalating tones, “How about three books for $1. FIVE books for $3! Ten books for $5!! TAKE THEM ALL!!!!” even after we had left the room.

We ended up with 8 books for $3, including a stack for DN. Now everyone around here has homework!

Here’s one I resisted. Should I have made this my summer manual?
Today, daughter #1 heads back to mid-MO and will return to work. We will miss her, and are SO grateful for how she led the recovery efforts for week one.
But I shouldn’t pretend that all we did this weekend is read great literature. We also enjoyed margaritas!

Hedgehog Wild

Recently, as I was putting my kitchen back together after the renovation, I reinstated my adorable little pine cone hedgehog on the windowsill where he belongs.

Naturally, this got me reminiscing about my first hedgehog encounter. Back in the summer of 1983 I participated in an archaeological dig at Hen Domen, a Medieval motte and bailey in Wales. Here’s an aerial view of the site:

We camped in the bailey, the open area in front of the motte (the artificial hill upon which the tower originally stood), inside the surrounding ditch and rampart. I chose my first dig very well. The location was scenic, the weather perfect, and the people great company. There was just one problem — a beast haunted our campsite at night. After an evening out at the local pub, I recorded the following in my diary:

“No sooner had I wrapped myself up in my mummy bag for the night than I heard the usual — quite loud– rustling right outside the back of the tent. I had earlier come to the conclusion that whatever vile creature was intruding on our slumbers it was no mole, but something much larger. Visions of the rat sighted by the cooking hut filled my mind. Oh, horrors! Intrepidly, I grabbed my trusty flashlight and shined it with vigor out my tent’s window — and caught the creature right between the eyes with my revealing beam. It was (and is) a cute roly-poly hedgehog! I was surprised at its size but relieved at its identity, and it was certainly surprised to see me!”

Mystery solved. The snorting, snuffling, grunting beast was just a hedgehog!

People seem to have an odd relationship with hedgehogs. Some are sensible and reduce interactions to a minimum, trying not to run them over or destroy their nests. Others, finding them irresistibly adorable, want to keep them as pets despite the threat of contracting salmonella.

Undeniably appealing

Still others see the little creatures as something diabolical, even attributing crop circles to “vast hordes of rotating hedgehogs.” No kidding, someone once wrote a letter  — one hopes with tongue-in-cheek– to the London Financial Times offering that explanation. We have the cutting around here somewhere.

drawing by Kevin Cook

Back in the 13th century, St. Anthony of Padua likened hedgehogs to sinners:

Sinners are compared to hedgehogs. Note that the hedgehog is altogether full of prickles; and if any one tries to take it, it rolls itself up, and becomes as it were a ball in the hand of the holder. Its head and its mouth are set low down, and inside its mouth are five teeth. The hedgehog is the obstinate sinner, covered all over with the prickles of sins. If you endeavour to convince him of the sin he has committed, he immediately rolls himself up, and hides, by excusing, his fault. And thus it may be said that his head and mouth are set low down. By the head, we understand, the thoughts; by the mouth, the words. While the sinner excuses himself with respect to the sin he has done, what else is it than that he bows his mind and his words down to the ground? Whence also he is said to have five teeth in his mouth, which are the five kinds of excuses that are found in the mouth of the obstinate. For, when he is blamed, he excuses himself either by ignorance or chance, or the suggestion of the devil, or the frailty of his flesh, or the occasion given by his neighbour. (Neale translation)

Bit of a stretch, that. But we’ll give him points for being creative. In any case, I do not approve of keeping wild rodents as pets (call me old fashioned) and I loathe the modern tendency to treat animals as dolls or playthings. Don’t get me started on that topic.  It’s always exciting to see a wild animal in the wild — so let’s keep them there.

Have a joyous weekend and do not interfere with the fauna in your area!


Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

Daughter #1 here. Well, we’ve made it to Friday. This week has felt both arduous and easy. Daughter #2 arrived safely yesterday afternoon. And I am thankful her flight was not delayed (though it landed 30 minutes late despite the board proclaiming the flight on time).

It could have easily gone the other way as we’ve had quite the weather week here in Missouri! Tuesday night, we were alarmed to hear the tornado sirens around 5p despite what appeared to a regular grey sky. I guess these days they run the alarms to encourage people to seek shelter. Back in my day, the sirens meant imminent danger! Regardless, we turned on the local news to catch breathless weather people tracking storms across the vast viewing area. A line of dangerous storms was heading our direction–and did eventually make it our way. It got dark and ominous for about 45 seconds. And it rained buckets.


And Wednesday night, I was awakened at 3a to thunder and lightning and more buckets of rain. It continued for an hour. I was very worried about poor car parked outside. In my apartment and at work, I park in a garage, but here in Kirkwood, my car is left on the driveway. Do I need to check my privilege with that concern? Probably.

I had no idea that hours before a tornado had actually touched down and wreaked havoc in Jefferson City! Mere blocks from my office!


The above shows the Capitol (surrounded by scaffolding and temperature controlling wrap giving it a real space station effect) and a street full of mansions that have seen better days (the entire street is boarded up homes). Apparently, they are all owned by one crazy old lady who refuses to sell them. Maybe now they can get fixed up?


The damage is pretty extensive–but I am thankful there were minimal injuries and no deaths.


Next week, I am venturing to Joplin for work–you’ll recall that eight years ago Wednesday, the town was devastated by an EF5 tornado that killed 158 people, flattened entire neighborhoods, and caused billions of dollars of damage. We are doing an event at the Joplin Public library that has been rebuilt after being destroyed.

Weather is wild. I find it fascinating. And enjoy it best from inside and at a reasonable distance.

Aging gracefully in fashion (or not)

Greetings from daughter #2, who scheduled this post ahead of her flight home today! Very excited to join the recovery team. Meanwhile, a few thoughts…

The other day, a friend sent me this list of spring trends posted at Cup of Jo. We couldn’t help but laugh: tie-dye? BUCKET HATS? The list is, in full, absurd. I find myself scratching my head in particular about beaded bags, which I have seen all over the fashion internet. They look like something I would have proudly crafted around age 11.
The post made me wonder whether a) Cup of Jo was wildly off the mark or b) these were actual trends and I’m just getting old and less hip.

Living in a college town has made me acutely aware of just how old 29 is, particularly when it comes to sartorial choices. DN and I frequently exclaim things like, “When did platform sneakers become a thing?” “In what world do basketball jerseys constitute party attire?” and “No one should be wearing shorts that short.” We are old (disapproving) fogeys, I guess.

Plus, I haven’t forgotten that last summer my mother said to me, “You know, it might be time to retire your daisy dukes.” Here’s how I heard that:
And in that vein, I have developed my approaching-30 wardrobe, which consists of high waistlines (see also: “mom jeans”) and skirts that are actually knee-length. I recently bemoaned to my mother how difficult it is to find slips these days. Is there anything that says “aging gracefully” more than worrying about appropriate, old-fashioned undergarments? No.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to shop for a ruched swimsuit a full wardrobe of J. Jill linen.

Constituents of a chaos.

Daughter #1 here. I can report that our dear Dual Personality is doing quite well. She is in good spirits, less pain than anticipated, and thoroughly engrossed in Season 1 of the OC, which is honestly the best medicine. As for me, in between responding to calls of Marge! Hey Marge!, I’ve been preparing for this summer’s hottest social event, the 200th Birthday of Herman Melville, by reading Moby Dick. Light reading for difficult times, I know.

“There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves. The tranced ship indolently rolls; the drowsy trade winds blow; everything resolves you into langour.”

As happens when you’re reading something really good and that really sucks you in, my mind is always kind of lingering in that infinite sea. This is to say, I’ve got whaling on the brain.

The other activity occupying my time is stitching. I’m currently working on this classic Prairie Schooler sampler. I am stuck on the large ship and can’t wait to finish so I can move on to something fun like the mermaid or the WHALE.

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.56.27 PM

Of course, in the stitching world, one is always thinking about what to stitch next.  So, naturally, I’ve been looking at other samplers with whales in them. See some examples below:

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.33.13 PM

Riley Harbor

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 1.29.05 PM

Oh Whale!

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 2.00.25 PM

Nantucket Sewing Kit

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 2.07.51 PM

Old Nantucket

There are lots to choose from–but mostly I’m glad to be a landlubber!

“For as the secrets of the currents in the seas have never yet been divulged, even to the most erudite research; so the hidden ways of the Sperm Whale when beneath the surface remain, in great part, unaccountable to his pursuers; and from time to time have originated the most curious and contradictory speculations regarding them, especially concerning the mystic modes whereby, after sounding to a great depth, he transports himself with such vast swiftness to the most widely distant points.”



Senior Moment(s)

You will recall that last Saturday I reorganized the pantry which duly reclaimed its status as a functional walk-in closet. I even removed the shelves and cleaned underneath!

On a roll, I decided to go to the car wash. I’ve done it a million times and never had a problem. This time, however, as I sat watching the mighty sprayers rinse the bugs off the car, I noticed a slight mist in the air. That’s odd, thought I, and checked the vents. Only when I got home did I discover that one of the back windows was open! Quelle disaster! Suffice it to say that I spent the rest of the day attempting to dry out the back seat. At least it wasn’t as bad as this:

Now that’s a car wash disaster!

But it did amount to senior moment #1.

Not to be deterred from my sense of achievement, I mowed the lawn without mishap, albeit in the most haphazard way imaginable, and then I took a walk. Imagine my surprise when a yahoo in a red pickup truck drove by and shouted “Hi, grandma!” at me. At me? Surely there must be some mistake! I looked around for a doddering old lady but I was alone. He meant me! That was senior moment #2.

I don’t mind getting older. I don’t even mind yahoos in trucks. At least he was friendly. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for — my convalescing DP for starters — and plenty to laugh about. And if I’m officially an old lady, well, so be it!

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”
Robert Browning

Enjoying May

Hello from daughter #2! I am happy to report that our dear mother is home from the hospital, feeling relatively comfortable. Daughter #1 will be with her all week and is doing a great job taking care of her! A few thoughts from me on spring…

Normally, April is one of my favorite months of the year: it is my birthday month, as well as my mother’s, which means there is always plenty of fêting and fun. And when April comes, it feels like we survived the winter and made it to spring. But every year, I remember that April also brings the hectic end-of-semester stress, when there is much to do and no end in sight. Inevitably, when wishing for spring days in the 70s, we are met with rain and bursts of heat. This year, of course, April also brought a serious diagnosis and uncertainty.

So now, I am embracing the month of May. I think it might be underrated! I am not so anxious to get to summer when right now, the sun shines hard and there is nary a mosquito in sight. (OK, I saw ONE mosquito yesterday, but I am in denial about it.) Things slow down on a college campus in May, and there’s a great feeling of wrapping up projects.

May also brings peony and rhubarb season.


I truly cannot get enough of these! From my favorite suburban peony bush care of DN’s parents.


I am not an expert food photographer, but strawberry rhubarb pie is my absolute favorite. And I think this lattice crust is pretty impressive!

Yes, May also requires that I grade a slew of final papers. But I think I can get through that if I have pie on hand, right?

Early in May, the oaks, hickories, maples, and other trees, just putting out amidst the pine woods around the pond, imparted a brightness like sunshine to the landscape, especially in cloudy days, as if the sun were breaking through mists and shining faintly on the hill-sides here and there. On the third or fourth of May I saw a loon in the pond, and during the first week of the month I heard the whippoorwill, the brown-thrasher, the veery, the wood-pewee, the chewink, and other birds. . . .And so the seasons went rolling on into summer, as one rambles into higher and higher grass.

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden