dual personalities

Month: February, 2020

Racing through life with graceful ease?

If only I had Gromit’s ingenuity and coordination, I’d be able to navigate through obstacles AND have something worthwhile to write about. Alas, this week I cannot pause to reflect.

I’ll catch up with you next Saturday and hopefully by then I’ll have something to say!

In the meantime, have a relaxing weekend!

“And Joshua said, ‘Sanctify yourselves: for you have not passed this way before.’”*

Did you know that every year March is designated Women’s History Month by Presidential proclamation. The month is set aside to honor women’s contributions in American history. Here is President Trump’s proclamation from 2019.

Americans are so conflicted these days concerning who is a hero/heroine and who is a villain that it makes these honorific months problematic. Take, for instance, the case of  Hannah Emerson Dustin (1657–1736). Hannah was a colonial Puritan mother of nine living in Haverhill, Massachusetts when she was abducted by Abenaki Indians along with her week-old baby and nurse. When the baby would not stop crying, one of the Indians took hold of it and bashed its brains out against a tree. Later, while detained on an island in the Merrimack River, Hannah took an ax and killed and scalped ten Indians while they slept and took off with her friend and the 10-year old boy also being held by the Indians.

Hannah was considered a hero to the following generations and is believed to be the first American woman honored with a statue. There are two statues, in fact, one in New Hampshire and one in Massachusetts.

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But nowadays we can’t be proud of Hannah. No, we even doubt that the Indians killed her baby. Maybe it just died. We can’t hold her up as an example of female bad-assery, a woman who didn’t need a man to save her or wait for one to rescue her to wreck havoc on her kidnappers. No, we are just embarrassed by her wrath–remember this is a woman who has just given birth, her hormones were raging, her milk flowing–and the revenge she dealt to her murderous enemies. It is so typical that people are sympathetic to the poor Indians she “murdered” and not to the kidnapped and traumatized woman.

But no one understands context these days.

There are a couple of good stories based on Hannah Dustin’s story and others like hers, including “The Iron Shrine” by Conrad Richter and Hannah Fowler by Janice Holt Giles.



I recommend them. These authors understood context.

Meanwhile we are still in February through the weekend (leap year!) Daughter #1 is coming into town on Saturday to get the oil changed in her car, so we will be able to do a few things.

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Check this out: another good one from my favorite female priest. And in case you missed it, yesterday was the feast day  of George Herbert, priest an poet.

Our God and King, who didst call thy servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls, a poet, and a priest in thy temple: Give unto us the grace, we beseech thee, joyfully to perform the tasks thou givest us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for thy sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Watch a good movie this weekend! Since it is the last weekend of Black History Month, it might be time to view something from the Denzel Washington oeuvre. The Book of Eli (2010) is a personal favorite.

Have a good weekend!

*Joshua 3:4

Would you hang it up in your house?

Boy, the work week has already taken the wind out of my sails. I have been very productive, which is nice, but there have been a number of encounters that have just truly grated on my nerves. Ugh. The weekend and our visit to the art museum feels very far away right now. But I’ll try my best to recall my thoughts…

IMG_6039Overall, I am not the biggest Hopper fan. The exhibit was well-curated — I particularly liked the inclusion of other artists who were contemporaries or influenced by Hopper — and it was interesting to peruse, even if the vibe is not my favorite. I was struck by the narrative behind the hotel paintings: Hopper and his wife were avid road-trippers, and would spend weeks on the road. Apparently, Hopper always drove and his wife always recorded the journey. (She kept a journal and wrote correspondence — I use Instagram, but I do send postcards, too.) In that sense, we could relate!


A postcard from their visit to St. Louis

However, I couldn’t help but wonder: did they enjoy themselves? The subjects Hopper paints are always isolated, introspective (if not downright melancholy) and in various states of undress (vulnerable, I suppose). Where’s the fun of a road trip with your wife, there?

Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza

“Hotel Room,” 1931

DN did notice that his watercolors in Mexico were punchier and more colorful. So maybe it was just the U.S. that depressed him.


“Church of San Esteban,” 1946

I was struck by how much I preferred the below painting by John Singer Sargent, which also depicts a hotel room. It’s nearly iridescent!


“A Hotel Room,” 1907

One of my favorite classes in college was an Introduction to Comparative Arts course, and it was in that class that I felt like I learned how to go to an art museum. The professor (who recently died, I was sad to hear) certainly expected us to talk about paintings with some attempt at a critical eye. Someone was always ready to talk about how the “intersecting lines represented constraint but they also traveled outside the frame, representing freedom,” or whatever. But she also always asked us, of any given piece of art: “Would you hang it up in your house?” Now, in that class, the taste of many students was such that perhaps they wanted the intersecting lines of constraint and freedom hanging above their mantle. But being asked the question made me think liking something counted as a critical approach to art. Or at least the start to one.

As you might guess, I’d rather hang up something like Sargent’s painting over many of Hopper’s. But that’s just my taste.


Sackcloth and ashes

Daughter #1 usually posts on Wednesdays, but since she is on the road, traveling around the state, I am pressed into service.


The OM and I went to the pancake supper at church last night as we usually do on Shrove Tuesday. No wild parties for us. Just pancakes–good times.

Now, on to Lent.

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Here are some wise words from Frederick Buechner to get us thinking for the 40 days of Lent:

In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness, where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?

Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?

Is there any person in the world or any cause that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are, but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.

Whistling in the Dark

Well, there’s some food for thought.

“A lamp shining in a dark place”

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty…So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

–2 Peter 1:16-21

I read this scripture passage in church on Sunday. I wish it had been possible to underscore certain parts–no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation–but I am not that good a reader! (And we all know there is really nothing worse than a lay reader who tries to make a point.)

My weekend was pretty quiet. I went to four estate sales on Saturday and wore myself out. I didn’t even get anything! But it was fun to be out on a sunny day. On Sunday after church I puttered around the house, doing laundry, vacuuming and catching up on ‘desk work.’

I took a nap before the wee babes descended on us…but it turns out that we wore them out:

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They should have taken a nap!

I finished reading The Chain by Paul Wellman. I am definitely going to look into other fiction from the 1940s…

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 4.39.48 PM.pngI have actually read a few of these and some I have heard of because they were made into movies. But who has ever heard of Frank Yerby? Well, turns out he was actually the first African-American to have a book purchased for screen adaptation by a Hollywood studio, when 20th Century Fox optioned The Foxes of Harrow, which was the first novel by an African-American to sell more than a million copies!

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“Three women threaten to destroy Stephen Fox and his Louisiana empire in the passionate days before the Civil War.”

Why isn’t Yerby more famous? 

Anyway, before I check the above titles out, I am going to read the newest Adamsberg mystery by Fred Vargas, The Poison Will Remain. The plot has to do with brown recluse spiders!

And here’s some mid-week inspo from our pal Zach Williams:

Enjoy your Tuesday!

Home again, home again

We made it home after our weekend away! I took a long nap on Sunday afternoon and couldn’t help but laugh that I really need to relax after my 3.5 days of relaxing. But of course, sleeping in other beds and gallivanting about always wears one out. We kept things very low key, but I had mis-assessed just how low-key museum-going and antique shopping would feel. All that standing and walking is really actually medium-key at least.


Museum District BnB — we recommend!

We stayed in a BnB right across from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, because the VMFA was really our main attraction. We caught the last days of an Edward Hopper exhibit and spent the whole day there on Friday. I’ll write more about Hopper on Thursday, but overall we had a lovely day. We took a long lunch break in the café to hang out with an old professor of mine, and it was just a wonderful way to break up wandering through the galleries.

IMG_6038.JPGWe ate two really delicious dinners out at restaurants around town — DN always plans ahead and makes reservations. Sometimes (lately) I have a hard time with meals because I really need big snacks every 1-2 hours, so a big heavy dinner is a lot, and then I’m still liable to get hungry a couple hours later. Well, I did my best on Friday night — a lighter entree of scallops followed by dessert. Have you ever had an affogato? It is ice cream in espresso. When it melts, it basically becomes a coffee milkshake. I was very happy.


Fondue was another story. Delicious, but filling… I had to hobble to the car after this!

As I mentioned, we went to Fredericksburg on Saturday. I went to 5 antique stores (with a lunch break in between) and only bought something at the very last one! But it was still fun to poke around and take it easy in a small town that I love. We continued our routine of taking an afternoon siesta from 3-5 p.m. or so. What a life!



An inspiring selection of vintage Pyrex

Back to the salt mines this week. I will be very, very busy at work for the rest of Spring, as we are in the midst of recruitment season for the next class of freshmen, as well as hiring season for our next cohort of faculty. Whew. I’ll survive one day at a time… and maybe have an affogato when I need one.


Winter Wanderings

It’s still winter here. I know other people in other states are still just as cold and snow-bound, so I’m not complaining. I’m just explaining why I haven’t done anything notable for the last week. I subscribe to Kenneth Graham’s wise statement in The Wind in the Willows,

“No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”

Staying home in winter seems eminently sensible to me. So, aside from the requirements of work, I haven’t done much but read, fool around on the internet, and flip channels. It’s still winter alright.

My computer surfing did uncover a few interesting sites. For example, this post about Jimmy Stewart’s military career is quite wonderful. We could use a few more men like him right now. Speaking of men, please read this mother’s plea to stop teaching boys that they are toxic. She’s right! I also found this handy site where you can find links to free e-books, photos, movies and online courses. They seem to have quite a good selection, although I have not had the opportunity to make use of their offerings yet. Incidentally, while looking for an illustration for my Wind in the Willows quote, I came across this sensible post decrying a new, abridged edition that leaves the certain chapters out of the book. Indeed, there ought to be a law against messing with the works of authors who are dead and cannot defend themselves!

I try to avoid politics like the plague, but while reading the second installment of Imogen Robertson’s Westerman and Crowther series set in 1781 London, I came across a couple of sentences that forcibly reminded me of our current crop of politicians, both male and female: “He was one of those strange hollow men. I do not think he existed in his own self at all. He was all light reflected.” Naturally, that reminded me of T.S. Eliot and Joseph Conrad and before long I was digging out “The Hollow Men” and Heart of Darkness, and contemplating watching Apocalypse Now.

And THAT got me thinking about how fortunate I am to have been educated in the humanities, despite its being under siege from STEM (and subject also to treachery from within). I’d have to agree with Philip Roth:

“In my parents’ day and age, it used to be the person who fell short. Now it’s the discipline. Reading the classics is too difficult, therefore it’s the classics that are to blame. Today the student asserts his incapacity as a privilege. I can’t learn it, so there is something wrong with it. And there is something especially wrong with the bad teacher who wants to teach it. There are no more criteria, Mr. Zuckerman, only opinions.”  (The Human Stain)

Whew! This is quite the meandering post. Please indulge me. This is what happens in winter and when we give our minds free range. Try it!


What’s playing at the Roxy?

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What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

–Philip Larkin

Another week flies by–the highlight of mine being Tuesday, when the wee laddie came over after work for a wee visit while his dad took Lottiebelle to her dance class. (Their mom was busy practicing with her varsity cooking team.) He was not thrilled about being left alone with Mamu, so we settled down in the den and watched quite a few truck/construction videos.

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This placated him. (Usually the den is off limits, so the mystery factor played a part in his acquiescence.) Trucks, as you know, are his passion. This is a subject he knows a lot about. And now I know more about it.

On another note I have been reading The Chain by Paul I. Wellman, a bestseller from 1949.

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Why? you ask. Well, I was prompted from something I read on the Mockingbird website:

Well, it turns out there are some conscious Christian masterpieces out there, which were very successful in their day but have been almost completely smothered, in the reception, by This World. I mean, who has ever heard of The Chain by Paul Wellman? Yet it is simply the most touching story of a young Episcopal minister in Jericho, Kansas, who preaches and acts out Grace in a stratified and complacent city with great sacrifice yet great success. The Chain is a must read! Yet it’s been almost completely buried, as have been many other works like it, by “the World, the Flesh and the Devil”.

Long out of print (and not available in my university’s library) I found a used copy online and bought it. Paul Wellman also wrote The Comancheros, so I had heard of him. The novel is pretty dated, especially when it comes to its female characters, but most everybody in the book is recognizable if you have spent much time in an Episcopal church. Times have not changed that much when it comes to power players in a church. I’m sure in 1949 it was considered to be quite risqué and sexy, but it is not in the least shocking by today’s standards. I’m sure you can imagine. Even though I would hardly call it a “Christian masterpiece,” it has held my interest and I want to see how the young minister fairs. I think I may check out some other mid-level fiction from days of yore. It beats most of what’s published today.

The OM and I watched Little Caesar (1931) this week. It is the movie that made Edward G. Robinson a star and typecast him forever. It also features a very young Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. miscast as Robinson’s friend. I can’t say the gangster genre is a favorite of mine–not now, not ever–but Robinson is unforgettable and his death scene is worth the price of admission.

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I could not find a clip, but here’s the Muppet reenactment–almost as good.

I have no plans for the weekend. What are you doing?

(The painting is by Hendrick Averkamp, b. 1585)

Headed down south

This morning, DN and I are starting off for a long weekend away from work to take it easy. We will spend two nights in Richmond, VA and a night in Fredericksburg, VA on our way back.

Here we are in 2017, the last time we visited RVA:

unnamed (4)unnamed (5)We think it is the perfect quick getaway… just a couple hours’ drive, with plenty to do in a low-key setting. This time, we are upgrading from an AirBnB to a real BnB, so I’m looking forward to the nicer touches. I decided my “condition” merits such comforts.

Well, we cant drive south on I-95 without doing some antiquing, so we will spend Saturday in Fredericksburg. I’ve been several times, and I always find lots of good treasures. I will report back on Monday!

“It’s the kind of place that makes a bum feel like a king. And it makes a king feel like some nutty, cuckoo, super-king.”

Well, guess who had Monday off and forgot that today was Wednesday, not Tuesday? That’s right, Daughter #1. So apologies for the late-in-the-day post. I hope that logging on to the internet and finding no fresh post didn’t set your day off on a downward trend.

As you may know, I was in Washington, DC last week for a work-related conference. The first two days I was in town, it was lovely and sunny and the city looked nice and bustling. The second two days featured rain and cold winds and had the opposite effect.

The fancy event of the conference was held at the Museum of Women in the Arts, which was filled with lots of important art including Frida Kahlo’s self portrait dedicated to Trotsky and the below:


The joke is too obvious. Maybe that’s the point?

The best part of the trip (and one of the main reasons I wanted to go at all) was getting to see my sister, DN, and their lovely apartment. Sleeping in a guest room (!) and not on an air mattress in the living room was a major upgrade and much appreciated. They are wonderful hosts and it was a delight to spend time with them on their turf.

Of course after almost four full days in the nation’s capital, I was ready to return to Missouri’s small-town capital, the land of no traffic and open skies. We may not have copious farm-to-table restaurant options, but we do have two Burger Kings.

*Simpsons Reference