dual personalities

Month: September, 2019

“A house with nothing old in it seems — unseasoned.”*

I took a bit of a break from blogging about apartment updates, but I’m afraid I don’t have much else to share today. I came down with a bad cold at the end of the workweek, so I spent much of the weekend feeling sick and tired. We had planned to have our first dinner party on Saturday to show off our apartment, but we had to cancel! Quelle disappointment.


Was this how DN felt when I was awake blowing my nose from 1:30-4:00 a.m. on Friday?

I had partly invited friends over to give myself a deadline for projects, though, so not all was lost in terms of progress. DN moved things to the basement (where we have a storage unit) while I reclined on the sofa like a Victorian damsel. And then after I pepped myself up a bit with some Tylenol, we hung a number of pieces of art. On Sunday, I made great progress on the second bedroom (aka dumping grounds) and took some pictures.


We store glassware wherever we can, including the TV stand.


The quilt atop a sofa is a little bohemian, I know. But placing the old couch in a new apartment really emphasized its age! This is a temporary improvement.


The light in our apartment makes it a bit difficult to take photos — this is somehow backlit AND dim!


My grocery store flowers and table runner definitely look like I’m going for an April vibe. But Tabletop — the shop around the corner — was having a 50% off sidewalk sale and I couldn’t resist. This corner needs a bit of color. I’ll make room for Halloween and Thanksgiving one of these days…


Deodorant adds a great touch to this tableau.


I realize now that my captions are making a lot of excuses — I think it’s because the apartment really reads much better in person than in fuzzy iPhone photos. But hopefully you (literally) get the picture — it’s shaping up!

*Maud Hart Lovelace, Emily of Deep Valley

Therefore they will be like the morning cloud And like dew which soon disappears, Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor And like smoke from a chimney.*

Welcome to another rainy Saturday! We celebrated the last of the September birthdays this week. My sweet little guy

turned 24…. so for one year he can sing Neil Young’s “Old Man” (you know, “twenty-four and there’s so much more”).

He’s still my Tim — formidable beard and all — and he still has those perfect eyebrows. I wish I knew where he got them — certainly not from me!

The DH and I gave him a circular saw for his birthday. It just seemed like a fitting present for the grown-up version of this guy.

Just in case you’re worried, he’s carrying a movie prop — notice the green screen!

Although Tim is experienced with a wide variety of lethal tools, I will fret constantly about his fingers (he’s a musician!) and the cat’s tail. I can’t help it; it’s the mother reflex in me.

I confess that I’m a little sad that our family can’t celebrate birthdays and holidays together anymore, at least not often. Of course I know that it’s good for children to grow up, move away, and make lives of their own. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but permit me a little wistfulness now and then.  Metaphorically speaking, I’m not ready for October at all. I want to hold on to September a little longer.

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys.­
This is September. 

Lucy Maud Montgomery (of Anne of Green Gables fame)

I hope the weather in your area is suitably Fall-like and that the sun is shining. Have a great weekend and enjoy it for all it’s worth because it will never happen again!

*Hosea 13:3

Three notes and the truth

So I don’t know about you, but for the last two weeks I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ newest 16-hour documentary, Country Music, as it premiered on PBS.

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It was 90% pretty great. The first episode and the last episode seemed a bit tacked on and the narrative muddled, but the rest of it, which was pure history, was wonderful.

I learned a lot and I was reminded of a lot I had forgotten. I especially enjoyed the commentary by Marty Stuart, Dwight Yoakam, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee,  and Ricky Skaggs. It was a treat to see them.

I was not brought up on country music. In our house we listened to classical music and broadway musicals. We had some Kingston Trio, Harry Belafonte and Tijuana Brass records. Our older brother bought Beatles records and Bob Dylan records, but when he learned to play the guitar, he branched out quite a bit. Our mother never really approved of his interest in country artists and didn’t understand why he would try to sing like Jimmie Rodgers. But through him I became acquainted with Doc Watson, Bill Monroe  and a host of bluegrass and country musicians.

Years later, when my own children were little, we started listening to country radio in the car (better, I thought, than the Backstreet Boys) and we became fans. We even traveled to Nashville several times and went to the Grand Ole Opry! It was all great fun and my children learned something about a whole other great segment of the country.

And it was great fun to go down memory lane, so to speak, with Ken Burns.

Here’s cousin Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens:

You don’t know me, but you don’t like me/ You say you care less how I feel/ But how many of you that sit and judge me/ Have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

That just says it all, right?

Anyway, if you didn’t watch the documentary, take a look. I’m sure it can be found at PBS or streaming somewhere soon.

Have a good weekend. I think it will be a rainy one here and, therefore, probably a quiet one. Maybe we’ll get out out the old CDs and listen to some Johnny Cash. Sounds like a plan…

Another school-night concert update

On Monday, DN and I went to see Whitney at the 9:30 Club. I am not great at concerts — I don’t like all the standing up, and being in crowds, and feeling overstimulated by lights and noise. However, Whitney (whom we have seen before) always put on a mellow show, and I survived the full set — even at the end of a long workday!

I did realize at this concert that, for the first time, I felt so much older than the band. They noted that they were trying out something new for this performance: wearing suits. They looked so cute — in a very young way. Is this middle age?

Well, young or old — enjoy these selections!

Do you remember dancing in September?

Daughter #1 here. Well, I’m going to talk about Dancing with the Stars. It has been a year since the last season–and I was really looking forward to the premiere last week. But, I have to say, this season is not clicking for me. Part of it may be that I don’t have cable so I am forced to watch on Hulu the next day, so maybe it is missing some energy. But, also, there’s no one that is really impressive immediately. I mean, the dances are all kind of meh.


Props to you if you can identify these people without cheating.

In the first two weeks, the show has demonstrated its usual inconsistent scoring. But added this year is a twist where the judges get to “save” one of the bottom two couples. Essentially, they pick who is eliminated. I imagine this is to prevent a reoccurrence of last season when Bobby Bones won despite not actually being the best dancer. Yes, we all thought Juan Pablo would make it to the final–but we don’t really need to change the rules to prevent that from happening again. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Along with this, the crowd continues to boo everything Len says vociferously. And it’s like, sorry, Len prefers traditional dance steps and less booty. He’s always been this way. The pros know this. And when he is critical of dances that veer from the traditional ballroom style, booing isn’t necessary. And yet, apparently it is.

I don’t have a prediction about who will win or even be in the final because there are just not really any standouts. The pairings are odd. My prediction for most-likely-to-be-carried-through-based-on-his-“celebrity”-status is the guy from Queer Eye. He’s not very good but Carrie Ann and Bruno were agog over his decidedly mediocre dance. Plus, his parter is Jenna and the judges love everything she does.

I could go on and on and include reviews of each dancer–but I’ve gotta save some content for next week. I kid. In reality, I’ve got Ken Burns’ Country Music to catch up on–and Longmire to read!


“If There Ain’t There Ought’a Be”*

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Well, the fall term has started at my flyover institute, so we are really cooking now. Phew. Fall is here and the temperatures have finally dropped accordingly. The Cards clinched a play-off spot over the weekend and word is that Mike Matheny may be the new manager of the Kansas City Royals. Hmmm. I may have to start liking the Royals.

My quiet weekend turned very exciting when I found out that our friend Gary and his band, Colonel Ford, was opening for Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives at the Sheldon on Sunday night! Gary had extra tickets so I got to go and daughter #1 drove in from mid-MO on Sunday to accompany Becky and me. I took a long nap on Sunday afternoon so that I could stay up after my bedtime.

Colonel Ford did themselves proud…

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 5.49.49 PM.pngand Marty, along with Professor Scruggs, Cousin Kenny and Handsome Harry Stinson, were, of course, superlative…

Screen Shot 2019-09-23 at 8.38.45 PM.pngWe did not get to hang out in the Green Room–it was a school night after all–but it was a pleasure to see Marty again. He always puts on quite a show. And it was fun to get out and about for the first time in months!

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P.S. I’m thinking young Marty had a real DN vibe going, right?

*Marty Stuart

“They soon stopped being ten years old. But whatever age they were seemed to be exactly the right age for having fun.”*


I have been slowly reading the essay collection Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, a staff writer at The New Yorker whose internet presence I also enjoy. (Well, I should say whose internet presence I did enjoy before I left Twitter.) These essays, which largely focus on millennial womanhood, are not exactly groundbreaking, but they are interesting and well written.

Tolentino first endeared herself to me when she Tweeted about attending a Betsy-Tacy convention in Minnesota. The Betsy-Tacy series is very dear to me — perhaps the first series of books I really loved — and I’ve even passed them on to girls I babysat. I also named my study abroad blog (wow–is that a specific genre or what?) after the penultimate book in the series: [SUSIE] AND THE GREAT WORLD. Maud Hart Lovelace seems relatively obscure, so any writer who understands that precise cultural reference is legit in my book.

betsytacyIn one of the essays from Trick Mirror, Tolentino writes about heroines of literature, from girls to young adults to women. She diagnoses that it is in children’s literature that female characters most flourish: there, they are adventurous and brave, their lives are thrilling and pleasurable. (The essay surmises that all literature about women tends towards darkness, though, and that marriage is the worst thing that can happen — to a plot and to a woman. I…don’t agree, but that isn’t my focus today!)

Girls, unlike women, can be unfettered, Tolentino suggests. In these books, the girl heroines are often writers themselves, and they forge spaces of their own in which to find their voice. This certainly applies to Betsy Ray, who Tolentino characterizes as “an unusual type” because she is “happy, popular, and easygoing” on top of being clever. It’s true! I was certainly drawn to Betsy because she was smart and she had friends and at least one boy liked her. Betsy was observant, she kept a journal, she wanted to be a writer, and she had a desk. (It was an old trunk. Very cool.)


I must have read the books in elementary school: probably third, fourth, and fifth grade. It occurs to me now that this must have been around the same time my mother starting writing her own novels, so perhaps my love for such literary girls were wrapped up in my own maternal example. Was it was some combination of wanting to be Betsy and wanting to be my mom that prompted me to write my own novel in a composition notebook? (Let’s not forget that it loosely plagiarized the Mitford series, so Jan Karon receives some credit here, too.)

Well, I certainly did not grow up thinking that marriage, or family, or homemaking, was the end of intelligence and independence, as some contemporary fiction would have you believe. (Tolentino gives far too much credit to Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, if you ask me.) I find myself really wanting to re-read the Betsy-Tacy series now–perhaps we could all use the earnest optimism of our childhood heroines. After all, Tolentino concedes that children’s literature adheres to its own “wholesome logic” whereby “Laura Ingalls, Betsy Ray, and Anne Shirley all find husbands that respect them.” I guess that’s the trick!

*from Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill

“It is such a happiness when good people get together — and they always do”*

After months of keeping mum, having been sworn to silence until they made it official with a ring, I am finally at liberty to announce that son #2 and his lady love are engaged! They’ve even set a date, so we know they’re committed 🙂 We are delighted, delirious with joy, thrilled, over the moon, enraptured, and well, you get the idea, we’re really, really happy.  It’s about time!

After all, they have been a couple for nearly ten and a half years, which, if I can do the math correctly, means he was still 16 and she 15 when they started dating. High School sweethearts, indeed! I haven’t heard all the details yet, but I can tell you that they went to New Mexico to find the perfect white gold, turquoise and diamond ring. Here’s a close up:

Chris found a suitably awesome setting to pop the question

and I imagine him quoting his favorite poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley,

Nothing in the world is single
All things by law divine
In one another’s being mingle
Why not I with thine? 

or something similar.

Let’s take a look at the evolution of this adorable couple. They’ve come a long way since that first kiss (I found this among Chris’s Facebook photos).

I’ve never seen that hat — no doubt it was the very height of cool in 2008

They went to proms

and dressed up for Halloween

Why so serious, Ken?


(and let’s not forget this one)

and they attend one another’s graduation ceremonies — I count at least five! They’ve hiked, driven, flown, kayaked, bicycled, danced, snowshoed, boated, and floated together.

I think they’re ready for a lifetime of great adventure and hopefully plenty of downtime too! I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds! Welcome to the clan, Nicole!

*Jane Austin


“Scars make better stories than tattoos”*

So another week comes to an end. It’s Fri-yay!

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I will be taking it easy this weekend, finishing Land of Wolves by Craig Johnson. Walt Longmire is back in Wyoming (where he belongs) and all the old characters are there with him. 👍 I am enjoying it very much and trying not to read it too fast.

I’ll probably watch some baseball–the Cards are playing the Cubs. Everyone here in STL is sort of cautiously optimistic as the Cards are still in first place as the playoffs approach. We’ll hope for the best.

Since today is the birthday of Sophia Loren (she’s 85!), we will toast her and watch one of her movies, my favorites being Houseboat (1958) with Cary Grant

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and Legend of the Lost (1957) with John Wayne

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…which both feature worthy co-stars.

And who can forget when she shared the joy with Roberto Benigni when Life is Beautiful won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars in 1999?

A great moment indeed.

And here is some wee babe goodness to tide  you over…


Have a good weekend!

*Craig Johnson

Breaking ice and dropping temperatures

This week has had a much more positive vibe, and I think the weather has to do with it. We have finally had some “highs in the 70s” days. autumn-boulevard-in-paris-childe-hassamOn Monday, I was in a department-wide staff town hall where the mediator started with an icebreaker question (yes, an icebreaker among pre-existing colleagues) — “What are you excited about for fall?” I always come up with terrible responses for these, but it was notable just how excited everyone was about their answers. I ended up recycling the question for my own meetings with students, and again, there was a surprising amount of excitement to go around!isham-park-steps-new-york-autumn-thor-wickstrom
People (students and staff) are, across the board, excited for chunky sweaters. Campus will be pretty. Thanksgiving. Someone’s twin sister is going to have a baby. THE JOHN MULANEY SHOW. (There’s the only place where I wholeheartedly overlap with the students.) Students are also already quite hyped for Halloween — they’ve already picked out their costumes! This seems like significantly more foresight than is sometimes evidenced in the classroom.5a376c05edc2c9cba4755157.pnglargeAnyway, my point is that it feels nice to focus on what’s ahead, what we’re looking forward to. So — please turn to the person next to you, and let them know: what are you excited for this fall?

Paintings are “Autumn Boulevard in Paris” (Childe Hassam), “Isham Park Steps New York Autumn” (Thor Wickstrom), and “Autumn Woods” (Albert Bierstadt)