dual personalities

Month: December, 2019

“O come, O Bright and Morning Star, and bring us comfort from afar!”*

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Well, we have had a lovely relaxed time, taking it easy over the Christmas holiday. Since daughter #2 and DN left last Friday…

Unknown-3.jpeg…we have eased into our leisure time, going to lunch at some of our off-the-beaten-track favorites, like the Fiddlehead Fern restaurant…

IMG_0644.jpeg…taking afternoon naps, followed by a late afternoon glass of wine in front of the fire…

Unknown.jpeg…and watching movies…

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On Wednesdays we wear pink.

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The OM was in complete and utter hog heaven watching this movie. I really enjoyed it too.

I also went to the funeral of my dear friend Ruby. Daughter #1 kindly drove me to St. Charles, Missouri across the river where we found her Episcopal Church next to the campus of Lindenwood University. It was packed, because, of course, she was a devoted and active member. The service, which she had specified down to the last detail and saved in her safe deposit box, was Rite I and Rite II (the communion) and included her favorite hymns. It was lovely and nearly two hours long. Her ashes were buried afterwards in the memorial garden of the church, but not in a niche–in the ground. We all threw some dirt on top of her ashes (half of which are going to Wyoming) which I had never done before. I found it to be very meaningful.

Ruby was born and raised in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas and she loved the wide open sky there.

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The Flint Hills, photo from National Geographic

She would get choked up talking about it. Several of her hymns reflected that:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun from day to day
Does his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an almighty hand.

–Joseph Addison, hymn #409

Anyway, her funeral was a true reflection of Ruby, which is as it should be. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Meanwhile, I was back at work Monday to check on things and go through 150 emails…Today we get ready to celebrate the new year: 2020! Can you believe it? Twenty years into the 21st century!

Then it’s back to the salt mine for real on Thursday. Speaking of salt mines, this made me laugh.

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Happy New Year! Make good choices!

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*John Mason Neale (1851)

On the road again

Greetings from the road! DN and I left St. Louis on Friday after four solid days of family time and Christmas celebrations. We packed the Subaru full of gifts and some large items that have been waiting for us in St. Louis. What would we do without my mother’s furniture scouting on our behalf?

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DN drives so capably; I still have a huge face

We made our way to Nashville, TN after an overnight it stop in Paducah, KY. We are enjoying our Southern tour, which includes feasting on lots of traditional cuisine…

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A crawfish pot pie with amazing pastry

Listening to lots of wonderful live music…

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At the Ryman Auditorium for the Grand Ole Opry

Touring the sights…

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We did not last long on Broadway, but we did a quick walk through after the Opry and then came back the next day for a tamer version

And shopping in lots of different neighborhoods.

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This was a very fancy store in the 12 South neighborhood. They had every extremely expensive brand that I see on Instagram, such as Lele Sadoughi, which makes $200 headbands. I bought a box of matches.

Nashville is a very interesting city with lots of different vibes: from downtown honky tonk at the Wild Horse Saloon to ritzy shopping at Draper James (Reese Witherspoon’s clothing store) and everything in between. We stayed in the hip East Nashville neighborhood, which fits into the “everything in between.” Less cowboy boots and more flannels. We ate great food and there were lots of fun places to walk and explore. More than other cities we’ve visited (like Portland, OR, where we felt conspicuously square), it seems like Nashville is an inclusive place — you don’t have to be hip, or cool, or honky tonk for that matter. Anything goes! That felt nice.

I enjoyed returning to city I visited more than once as a child (and again in college, though that was a very idiosyncratic experience tied to a fraternity outing). Country music was something we all enjoyed and I remember the Nashville trips being fun. Here we are staging an Opry photo op:

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Am I snapping?

I loved that alphabet sweater a lot, which adds to the good memories here!

Monday marks the end of our trip. Keep us in your thoughts as we drive 10.5 hours home to Maryland — we are praying that it doesn’t rain the entire way!

Playing catch-up

While my DP and her wonderful family celebrated Christmas, we have postponed ours until our children can join us. One arrived yesterday and the other two are due in today and early tomorrow. Meanwhile, the presents remain around our tree and we continue to hum Christmas carols.

The delay has been relaxing but a bit discombobulating. We never seem to know what day of the week it is, and while we haven’t hit Groundhog Day unreality, we are living in a kind of Narnia-like “always winter but never Christmas” limbo. C’est la vie. We’ll catch up. One thing’s for sure: the delay has not been good for my waistline, the state of which this cartoon accurately describes.

Obviously, the thing to do is to throw out the calendar, embrace our situation and pretend it’s December 24th. Keep the travelers in your thoughts and prayers, keep eating bonbons, and make every day a spiritual Christmas!!

There’ll be much mistletoeing/And hearts will be glowing

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The Christmas cactus bloomed on schedule and we had a lovely week, full of family and friends and good food.

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It went by too fast–daughter #2 and DN are leaving today! Hopefully next week I’ll be able to process it all and I’ll have a few more postcards from our flyover Christmas. Let’s all try to hold on to the good vibes.

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Glory to God

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“Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger

Merry Christmas! Keep it humble.

Wiggle your ears and chuckle warmly and go hee-hee and ho-ho and important stuff like that

It was a busy weekend with a Christmas celebration at DN’s parents’ house as well as another round at our own little apartment.

blog1blog2We watched Rudolph, which is always delightfully old-fashioned and surprisingly full of curmudgeons. (Santa grimacing through the elf practice before declaring “Needs work. I have to go.” is a vibe.)

On Sunday, we hit the road for Lexington, KY, about 2/3 of the way to St. Louis. DN is an expert driver in all conditions, and we hit no traffic to boot. I slept through the winding roads of West Virginia, as I am wont to do. I took a traditional road trip selfie, the angle of which always makes my face look twice as large as DN’s.

blog3See you this afternoon, St. Louis!

In panic mode but enjoying every minute

I’m a stress eater and it has been a stressful week. I’ve eaten so much chocolate that I feel like Bart:

Don’t get me wrong — my week wasn’t bad, just busy. In fact, my birthday on Wednesday was wonderful. I received loads of lovely presents, including this pretty party-platter from my sweet DP. I can’t wait to use it!

The Christmas spirit is so pervasive that I’m having a hard time focusing on work. Wrapping presents and baking are much more fun.

The tree is about halfway decorated,

and presents are appearing under it (albeit not in that photo). Christmas is almost here! It’s definitely time to dig out seasonal music, movies and books. I may be a little late to the party, but so what?

Prayers for all those traveling this week! Go slowly and keep both hands on the wheel, your eye on the road, and God in your heart!

One thing and another

As I have mentioned, I am reading the book of Luke, one chapter a day, in the month of December. I am enjoying it very much. It is all very familiar, but it is amazing how you forget specific things, such as this great passage in chapter 18:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

What a great reminder to all of us that we Pharisees need to be mindful of being sinners ourselves. “God be merciful to me a sinner!” indeed.

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 9.32.03 PM.pngIn other news, it took two days, but we finally got the big tree up! The boy came over twice!

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We had to go to Walgreen’s twice to buy more  lights! Are we getting old or what? Don’t answer that!

It is that time of year when TCM Remembers all the Hollywood types who have died during the year:

There are a lot of familiar faces in there, including Valentina Cortese, Albert Finney, Rip Torn, Stanley Donen, and, of course, Doris Day. I was surprised to see Herman Wouk included–I somehow missed that he died in his sleep at the age of 103 in May. He was an interesting guy who wrote some good books that were made into good movies. Also, it might be time to dust off The War Wagon (1967) in memory of Robert Walker, Jr., who played Billy, the demolition expert, so affectingly.

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Anyway, I also just heard about a dear friend and fellow Episcopalian who died shoveling snow earlier in the week. Ruby had to be in her mid-eighties at least, but no one was going to tell her not to shovel her own driveway. I always said that Ruby would have made a good pioneer and, indeed, she died with her boots on, literally. I will miss her so much.

Into paradise may the angels lead you, Ruby. At your coming may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.

On the brighter side, daughter #1 comes home for Christmas today. Daughter #2 and DN are driving here from Maryland and should arrive on Monday.

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Even I am getting excited.

“A man must have a code.”

Over the last few weeks, DN and I have been re-watching the show The Wire, an HBO drama that began airing in 2002. I don’t think I had heard of this show until I moved to the mid-Atlantic, but its setting of Baltimore makes it rather beloved around here. Not that it paints Baltimore to be a wonderful place to live, or something — somewhat the opposite. The show, created (and produced, written, etc.) by David Simon, follows the drug wars of the Baltimore projects, as well as the corruption that runs from the street cops all the way up to state senators.

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Homicide detectives Bunk and McNulty

It is truly a good show.

I’ve written a lot about movies and shows that fall short; one of my personal pet peeves is when the theme of good and evil is deployed as a shortcut, or worse, is ignored altogether in favor of a sort of defeatist, cynical view that everything is bad.

On The Wire, there are good people, bad people, good people in bad situations, bad people in good situations, and everything in between — which is entirely the point. Bunk and McNulty believe that MURDER IS WRONG, but they’re also drunks and terrible husbands. The drug dealers, Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell, are masterminds of crime who perpetuate — and profit from — the basically third-world conditions of west Baltimore. And yet, the show respects their business acumen, leadership, and loyalty. (Really!)

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Stringer Bell, played by a very appealing Idris Elba, and Avon Barksdale

And it is a nemesis of Barksdale’s crew, Omar, who shows Bunk and McNulty that even cold-blooded murderers draw a line: Omar doesn’t kill anyone who isn’t involved in the “game,” who isn’t connected to the drugs. As Bunk summarizes, “A man must have a code.” The complexities of those codes — and the Baltimore police’s unraveling of such codes and interrogations of its own codes — makes for a highly engaging show.

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The “pit” boys

Well, I highly recommend the show if you have access to HBO or even want to buy Season One on DVD. Watching too much at a time can get intense — I’m definitely more prone to bad dreams if I overdo it, but I think it is worth it. What strikes me the most is that, over the course of a season, all of the characters learn, grow, and change as they come to better understand the conditions in which they’re working. How often do we see that in television and film these days? Not enough!

Added bonus: if you watch long enough, you’ll get to discover the provenance of this oft-memed gif:

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Joy to the world.

The holidays can be stressful–lots of pressure (real or perceived) etc. etc. etc. I got my presents wrapped during the snowstorm on Sunday. And I finished all of my stitching projects. So now I’m just kind of basking in the glow of my Christmas tree. I’m pleased with my decorations this year–and if I had any friends, I would have had a party. Maybe next year…

So, I’m going to go through a few things that bring me daily joy.

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I like to put my presents under the tree even though I’ll have to bring them to St. Louis. 

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These three kings are part of nativity set I bought after Christmas last year and was surprised to find in my closet this year! I love the whole set.

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All of these things bring me joy.

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My first of the Prairie Schooler Santas. In the cross-stitching world, these qualify as “highly collectible” and I’ve been lucky to find two large bunches for like 10 cents each at estate sales so that I’m really only missing the most recent years.

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That Galleria Santa was a good one–even if that pink bench was extremely 1987.

I’ll leave you with some good, modern Christmas songs. These will get you dancing, with or without a glass of wine.