dual personalities

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“So lift your head and keep singing/ Praise the Lord”

As of this morning, I only have two more radiation treatments! I should be finished next week on Tuesday. Praise the Lord. 🙏🙏🙏

Earlier in the week a friend from my former church gave me a prayer shawl which she had made. They have a Knitting Ministry at this church–their mission being “to offer fellow parishioners and friends tangible and spiritual love, comfort and prayers through the knitted objects that they make–Mantles of Comfort, Baby Blankets of Love and Chemo Caps.” I was touched to receive this mantle of comfort. I do feel “uplifted and affirmed.”

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Sunday is our mother’s birthday (along with Dolly Parton and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) so I thought I would feature this photo of her and my older brother from the Worcester Sunday Telegram in 1954.

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These days I am am looking a lot like my 3-year old brother here. At least my eyebrows and eyelashes have started to come back. Praise the Lord. 🙏🙏🙏

Thankfully the weekend is upon us. We are probably in for more bad weather, but in the words of the Puritan Anne Bradstreet, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

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I’m in.

*Mat Maher

“It’s easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.”

81csmmrq2b2blI am skipping around in Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which my sister gave me for Christmas. I never lived in New York City, but I think the essay I quoted above also reflects a process of growing up that we can all relate to. And I would suppose that my sister does especially get what Didion is talking about, since she said her own “Goodbye to All That” when she moved to mid-MO a couple of years ago.

Even though I didn’t have a “New York” phase, I was struck by how Didion characterizes one’s twenties — the sheer optimism, the lack of concern for resources and the feeling that money would come from somewhere, the belief that there would always be new faces at every party. It reminded me of a comment an acquaintance made to me once: that it was so romantic DN and I fell in love when we were poor. Although obviously in bad taste, the comment wasn’t entirely incorrect — we do have fond memories of the early days when my apartment was primarily furnished by IKEA and we mostly entertained ourselves by going on walks for free, a la Didion’s New York days. But we did move on, too.

On Monday I posted about getting the guest bedroom set up in our apartment. Well, many of you know that what we are really doing is setting up a nursery (!), albeit with a guest bed for visitors.

unnamed (2)Now we can all admit why my blog posts primarily focused on resting and lounging for about 3 straight months. We are going to have a baby at the end of May, and I have been very immersed in this “beginning of things.” I suppose there’s an inherent end, too, as Didion suggests. People keep telling us to enjoy sleeping while we can, to take one last vacation alone, etc. I suppose the message is, “life as you know it is ending.” But for now, I just feel very, very excited.

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Will it be a little me or a little DN?

This old heart needs a break.

On Monday, I had to drive to Springfield to meet my boss so that he could do about 3 1/2 minutes of television and then I drove back to Jefferson City. I like to minimize my time in Springfield, but it was still a lot of driving for a tiny bit of purpose.

The thing about driving anywhere from Jefferson City is that nothing is convenient to or from the capital city. Thus, the drive to Springfield is a drive that is on a minimum of three minor highways. And a substantial part on roads with intermittent passing lanes.

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Well mid-day Monday driving is not unpleasant, even if it is exhausting. And, at the very least, one can find some good radio stations. I love to find random country stations that play old-timey music. Now, I will say that I currently live in a town with a station that plays the “best mix of the 70s, 80s, and today.” Of course, the “today” spans 30 years, I guess. Whatever, it’s a great station.

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I heard some old Dolly, some old Waylon, Hank Williams, and oddly, a lot of Keith Urban whilst scanning the various radio stations between Jefferson City, the Lake of the Ozarks, and Springfield. Midland (featured in the photo I took so I’d remember the song) is a current band, with an old-timey sound. And I like them. And I liked this song.

I was exhausted when I got back to work (and the multiple meetings etc that awaited me), but I was also grateful for the approximately six hours alone in the car with nothing but the radio. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a hurry and the music was fine.

“And then one day, I’ll cross the river”*

It rained, it snowed, it sleeted (a little), so I stayed in most of the weekend. However, I did go to two funerals. The first was to the OM’s Aunt Freida’s at a big Assembly of God church. It was about as far from an Episcopal service as you can get, but it was very nice, and I got choked up several times, especially when singing the two hymns, “Because He Lives” and “It is Well with My Soul”. There were no congregational prayers and only one psalm (the 23rd) which the minister read. The sermon consisted of a lot of scripture passages (of which I approved) woven together and there were “reflections” by two elderly church lady friends who regaled us with stories of Freida. The congregation sat and watched, only rising to sing the two hymns. Lunch followed.

The second memorial service was for a dear friend who was a devout Christian Scientist. The service consisted of a hymn sung by the congregation, scripture passages and quotes by Mary Baker Eddy read by a daughter, a soloist singing “The Lord’s Prayer”, and his adult children singing the 23rd Psalm. At one point people were invited to say a few words about Art–a tribute–spontaneously. College friends from The Principia, students from the Sunday School class he taught for over 40 years, members of his church–even I felt moved to say something. I said that as the mother of an Eagle Scout I know that it is important for a Boy Scout to be cheerful and that Art was a good scout. He embodied the scripture, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.” Indeed, Art was one in a million. Starting off at IBM as a salesman, he had eventually started a fast food restaurant that became a national chain. He was a Boy Scout leader, a world traveler, a fisherman, a singer. He was a facilitator at our flyover institute for many years until his memory failed and he couldn’t do it anymore. He was a much loved man. I do not know much about Christian Scientists, but I was struck by the love that abounded in this assembly and in his family.

So two very different services for two saints.

Speaking of saints, the OM and I watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019). It is not a terrible movie, but it is not a good one.

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It is badly directed by Marielle Heller in an inappropriately solemn and reverential way. Mr. Rogers is treated as if he were some pocket saint…

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…and not the happy-go-lucky, slightly nerdly, but joyful guy he was.

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He may have been a saint, but the tone was all wrong. Tom Hanks obviously watched hours of videos, trying to get the mannerisms down and he does, but he has slowed everything down until he comes across like some saint savant. I thought he missed the mark. The fact that Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister is never mentioned, but I will give the screenwriter credit for at least mentioning that he read scripture daily and prayed for people by name. They even show him kneeling at his bedside in prayer. But again, this is to demonstrate how different he was from everyone else, and how saintly. The real Mr. Rogers would have scoffed at this.

Furthermore, the movie moves at an excruciatingly slow pace and is never enlivened by any humor. Surely they could have included some funny moments. But scriptwriters and directors these days just do not know how to construct a film. This movie was a fail and it does not surprise me that it is a box office disappointment. [However, I will note that the OM enjoyed this movie and was obviously moved by the story of the journalist and his estranged father–until I ruined it for him by pointing out all the things that were wrong with the movie. So go figure.]

So my weekend was full of saints, but I missed the baptism of this little Episcopalian by the wee laddie’s godfather, because I went to the 8:00 a.m. service.

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Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces
of wickedness that rebel against God, Riley Mae?

You can’t have it all.

* “Because He Lives” by Bill and Gloria Gaither

Visitors welcome!*

We had a productive weekend, which was made more fun by the fact that it was sunny and in the 60s. We even opened the windows and could air out the apartment in all its winter stuffiness. What a treat!

One big accomplishment: DN’s parents brought over a twin bed frame and mattress and accoutrement that they had very generously gifted us for Christmas. I picked out the bed frame at our favorite antique store in Baltimore, Ryan’s Relics. It never ceases to amaze me how something old is really much nicer than something new — and a fraction of the cost!

IMG_5600When they arrived and we put everything together, we did have a small snafu when we realized it had not come with slats. However, DN’s dad is a whiz in his workshop — he went to the hardware store and cut some to size in time to bring them to his own birthday dinner later that night! I am very grateful to have a handy FIL.

IMG_5601This mattress came all rolled up in a box, if you’d believe it. It’s quite comfortable because it has coils and foam (a “hybrid” model, I take it). Well, we are excited to really get this guest bedroom set up. Rearranging the furniture is forcing us to address some boxes of odds and ends that have been hiding in the room since we moved in August. We will also have to tinker with what’s hanging on the walls (and hopefully hang some more things — we have a huge pile of framed items waiting for a home). Far from finished, it feels great to at least get started!

*single occupancy only 😉

It’s a mad, mad world and getting creepier every day

Recently, my DH showed me a web site that offers ‘generative media’, otherwise known as AI invented human faces that “can be used for any purpose without worrying about copyrights, distribution rights, infringement claims, or royalties.” The web site owners claim they are “democratizing creative photography and video.” Uh huh, sure. Here are some examples of their product.

Retrieved from https://seths.blog/2020/01/the-end-of-someone/ (a blog about the phenomenon)

None of the people in the photo above are real; an algorithm designed those faces. The implications are enormous and deeply disturbing. Sure, such things will mostly be used for tricking us into buying merchandise we don’t want. It’s the “any purpose” use that bothers me. Fake news abounds already; we don’t need ways to make it easier to create. Not so long ago we could believe “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” (P.K. Dick). Not anymore.

The world is getting way too strange for me and I long to run away to some safe haven of sanity. Alas, I live in the crazy state of New York, where clearly we’re headed for “the biggest interdimensional cross rip since the Tunguska blast of 1909!”* I just have to accept that and deal with it. I stay home a lot and try to laugh. Over Christmas, we enjoyed much merriment. Despite the dearth of picture taking, I did get one photo of the best socks ever. Meet the Birkenstock sock or “Birkensocks” that I gave to my middle son (the pajama pants, a gift from his intended, are pretty great, too).

The socks even have real-looking soles! In a world where AI can generate fake humans, we have to expect socks that mimic sandals, right? Zut alors, but what next?

We’re supposed to get an ice storm this weekend and our Minister is already talking about canceling church. Whatever happens, I plan to stay home and enjoy my own little corner of normality, whether or not it’s an illusion!

*Ghostbusters (1984)

 

 

Pick a little, talk a little

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I have had a very busy week at work. I got a lot done there, but there’s not much to write about here. So here’s a Wendell Berry poem to ponder.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Have a good weekend. It is raining here and it is supposed to continue into the weekend, maybe turning to snow at some point. I am sleeping in.

“The Gossips” by Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, children’s author: wood block print on cloth for the Folly Cove Designers near Gloucester, MA.

What we’re watching: B- and C-grade comedies

In the past few weeks, DN and I have watched a couple of new-ish comedy movies that have been pretty-OK. Given my lackluster feelings toward most newer films, pretty-OK feels like a win!

The first, The Spy Who Dumped Me, might have been graded on the curve of vacation-viewing. We watched it from an Airbnb bed while on our road trip in Nashville. In other words, we were very relaxed and expectations were low. In whatever context, though, it hit a few key notes: first and foremost, spy movies (particularly spy comedies) seem to be a genre that pleases many viewers in our family.

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Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon together do not add up to the appeal of Melissa McCarthy (who could?), but they are, overall, quite likeable. Mila Kunis finds out that a boyfriend who has recently ghosted her was actually a spy, and he gives her an assignment just before being assassinated. (To give away the first twenty minutes or so.) Novice-spy hijinks ensue. The plot stops making sense around the third or fourth twist, but if you don’t think too hard, it doesn’t really matter, right? Some of the gags are actually funny. I will note: the frequency of f-bombs would probably offend my mother.

We also recently watched Long Shot after I read a review claiming it was the most underrated romantic comedy of 2019. I would make a similar assessment to the above paragraph: the main characters (played by Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron) are likeable. Seth Rogan lands a spot as a speech-writer for Charlize Theron, the Secretary of State, after running into her at a party and realizing they were childhood neighbors. (To give away the first twenty minutes or so.) Political hijinks ensue. The plot stops making sense around the third or fourth twist… you see what I’m saying.

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Long Shot loses points along the way because of its politics, I’d say — with very, very thinly veiled representations of current affairs (a former-TV-star president; a female Secretary of State and president-hopeful), it lost me when it tried to swing from blatantly liberal vibes to a “but everyone is OK” tone. It attempts to challenge some political stereotypes, but only at the expense of doubling down on other stereotypes. The pivot is strange and make you wish they’d just stick to making fun of Republicans (or whatever).

I think part of the mistake of the “pivot” is that it takes place at all. It marks the point at which we began to wonder when this movie would end. At least 30 minutes too long, it sort-of-ends about three times. Such a common problem! I can’t help but agree with this writer who declares that all movies (particularly bad movies) should be 97 minutes long. As I think I’ve suggested, there is a time and place (vacation Airbnbs) for B-grade comedies. But that B-grade comedy shouldn’t go past 100 minutes.

Before the holidays, we considered seeing Knives Out in theaters, because several friends had strongly recommended it. We never found the time, and I do wonder now if it would skew more B-grade or C-grade in terms of some of the appeals (and turn-offs) I’ve mentioned here.

Well, I just checked: the run time of Knives Out is 130 minutes. Sounds like 30 minutes too long to me.

What are you reading?

Well, welcome back to posts from Daughter #1. My blogging days for the past two weeks fell on national holidays so I took them off. Apologies to those I disappointed.

Tonight, my boss, back in town for the start of the legislative session, wanted to go to the bar after work. And you can’t say no to the bossman, right?

Over the holiday, I read a number of books. A friend proudly wrote on insta that she normally only reads like one book a year (I kid you not), but in 2019 she read 17. Using audible. Congrats. I read five over the holiday. I read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, which was engrossing but very depressing. I re-read at least three Longmire books, which always feel like visiting old friends. And I read Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. I knew I would love this book from page one.

It was what the social columnists liked to refer to as “a superlative affair.” The men were in black tie, echoing the palette of the photographs, and the women wore brightly colored dresses hemmed at every length from the Achilles tendon to the top of the thigh. Champagne was being served off little round trays by young unemployed actors with flawless features and the grace of acrobats. Few of the guests were looking at the pictures. They were too busy enjoying themselves.

A drunken young socialite in pursuit of a waiter stumbled and nearly knocked me to the floor. She wasn’t alone in her condition. At formal gatherings, somehow it had become acceptable, even stylish, to be drunk before eight.

As my mother wrote in a post about Amor Towles’ A Gentleman from Moscow, “when I finished, I was tempted to turn back to page one and start again.” But seriously. What an absolute treat to read a book that felt so effortless. I tried to read it slowly and was a little sad when I reached the end.

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I loved, too, that many scenes happen in my favorite building in New York City, the Beresford. The building was around the corner from my apartment (the difference between Central Park West and Columbus Ave is rather vast) and was my beacon when figuring out where I was when running in Central Park.

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My mother gave me this picture for Christmas and I absolutely love it. I am not someone who found New York, as it is commonly described, as feeling full of possibility. To me, New York felt out of reach, even while living there. Because of course, when imagining what it would be like to live in New York, one pictures witty dinner parties and interesting people. Being caught up in whatever is happening. I pictured it more Nora Ephron and less How I Met Your Mother (that is, less meeting your friends at the same dive bar for eight years). I only ever made it to an apartment with a terrace overlooking the park at the Nightline holiday party.

The reality is that few people are actually interesting anymore–and those that are, don’t live in New York City. I’ll take happy hour at Paddy’s in Jefferson City over drinks in a bar with people who impress themselves any day. 

Now, I’m reading A Gentleman from Moscow and really can’t believe they are going to let Kenneth Branagh ruin it. Except that I can. Talk about people who impress themselves.

The thoughts you think

This made me laugh…

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newyorksocialdiary@instagram.com

And I have to agree with this…

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vegaslady42@instagram.com

I am not on Facebook or Twitter, but I do have an Instagram account, so I know about wasting time. But as you can see, it is not all a waste of time.

Classes have started up again at my flyover institute. Busy, busy again. Thankfully I got all my Christmas decorations taken down and stored away over the weekend. The OM and the boy even took the extra leaf out of the dining room table and the wee laddie freaked out, screaming that they were breaking the table (“my table”). Who knew he felt so strongly about the table? Life can be very disturbing.

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The wee babes are back in school too. It’s good to get back to a normal routine.

And lest we forget:

“When bad news is riding high and despair in fashion, when loud mouths and corruption seem to own center stage, when some keep crying that the country is going to the dogs, remember it’s always been going to the dogs in the eyes of some, and that 90 percent, or more, of the people are good people, generous-hearted, law-abiding, good citizens who get to work on time, do a good job, love their country, pay their taxes, care about their neighbors, care about their children’s education, and believe, rightly, as you do, in the ideals upon which our way of life is founded.”

― David McCullough, The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

Yes.