Women in my family have taught me

Advice from the women in my family.

My mother

Christmas 2015Buy nice hand soap. Make your home a warm and welcoming place for guests. Be a kickass business owner who isn’t afraid to negotiate, with everyone, for everything. Never settle for uncomfortable jeans, even if they’re on sale. Take care of your nails (stop painting them). Sit down and eat a good meal, mostly derived from the earth, and don’t worry so much about hard-core exercise. Tend a garden. Take walks.

My grandmother Lucy

Ma-Maw getting some bun cuddles.Take care of your face. Invest in expensive face creams. Be proud of your family; tell them how proud of them you are whenever you see them. Create and cherish family traditions. Find your signature scent and do not deviate. Write and send cards to people on every conceivable occasion.* (*At Ma-Maw’s funeral, a woman came up to me and told me that Ma-Maw sent her dog a birthday card.)

My grandmother Loretta

GranBe direct with people about what you want; don’t hedge. Laugh a lot: loudly and daily. Tell stories and crack jokes in every social interaction. Making fun of people is a nice way to show that you care. Consider the needs of dogs, first and foremost. Take risks and do not give any weight to cultural opinions. Show off your legs.

My sister Kelsey

Easter 2016Be confident about yourself and your appearance. Marie Kondo your entire home; if you bring home one new thing, throw out one old thing. Reserve time for kissing and cuddling. Take care of everyone around you; be uncannily prescient about predicting others’ needs. Prioritize your own needs on a long road trip (e.g., chicken nuggets and a milkshake).

My sister Grace

It's so hard having hot sisters #farsonsSee the whole damn world. Do what you want with your life and ignore conventions. Hoard creative material and ideas and make no apologies for the rats’ nest that is your childhood room/closet. Dress like you just went on a trip to Japan and found out that your life calling is to be a potter (who also owns a motorcycle and two pit bulls). You can never have too many notebooks.

My great aunt Lib

Found photo: Aunt LibRead everything and write long letters full of great sentences. Tell stories in every conversation. Invent your own catchphrases and use them liberally. Preserve an irreverent sense of humor in all circumstances. Be a lady who gets things done and doesn’t let anyone stand in her way.

How to read a book

133/365If you own the book, bracket thought-provoking or beautiful passages with your favorite Japanese pen. Write the page number of the passage on the last blank page of the book, in a column, for future reference. You will then be able to pluck the book from your shelves during a dinner party and annoy/bore your guests with the passage when you judiciously drop it into conversation.

If you are borrowing the book, flag thought-provoking or beautiful passages with those plasticky flags you hoarded and then stole from your old job. Record the quotes in your Google doc before you have to return it to the library or to your friend, and remove all the flags.

Remove the dust jacket of all hardback books and neatly, gently slide it into your nightstand, lest you forget it. Forget about this dust jacket when you re-shelve the book.

If you are sitting down for a heavy reading session of multiple books, read 20 pages at a time from each book. Arrange the books in a stack next to you by alternating genres (fiction, nonfiction, fiction, nonfiction), lest your stamina begins to flag. This alternating pattern will hold your interest for some time, until a fatal interruption arrives.

If other humans are not home, read aloud from fussy passages. Sometimes, if you are feeling very bold, you will read with accents, preferably a stilted approximation of high-class British (think: Woolf’s watery, unbearably snooty dialect) or a very poor French accent.

Use bookmarks that are composed of a sturdy cardstock. Receipts and other thin tissue-like papers simply will not do. Bookmarks are often cast-offs from calligraphy projects gone wrong, and sometimes they contain obscene statements you have written on them in the throes of a bad job. Never use the bookmark to take notes, because it will be used with other books in its short lifetime, and these notes will be a distraction to you.

Always peep at the author photo and make a judgment about the author’s personality based on looking at this photo for four or five seconds. Judge especially harshly modern authors who elect to have their photos in black and white and who are making a particularly hard, erudite scowl at the camera.

Write down words you don’t know in your Moleskine notebook. Look them up later. If you look them up now on your phone, you will never go back to your book; you will get sucked into an Instagram sinkhole and never emerge.

Always read with a pen nearby. If you do not have one nearby, you will invariably need one, according to the laws of nature, and have to get up and go stomping around the house to find one, which will disrupt your flow in such a way that you may never sit down again for the rest of the day.

It is best to read by a window during the day and to not use a lamp. Read until the light goes dim in the sky. Then, you may sit in the faded blue chair under the lamp and cross your legs on the faded blue ottoman covered with faux fur and wait for Eden to bring you a slimy ball. She will endeavor to drop it right in your lap and smear the pages with drool. She will not rest until you engage her. She hates it when you read.

Never read the foreword. The only instance in which it is appropriate to read a foreword is if it is written by a famous author you already love and trust, like Eudora Welty or Guy Davenport or Annie Proulx. Otherwise, you will find the foreword irritating and if it is bad, it will color your opinions for the rest of your time with the book.

You will only be able to read for about 10 minutes on your side before falling asleep in your bed. If you must read in bed, you must prop pillows up on the headboard and read sitting up, with the book on your knees. In this posture, you may read for hours on end. You will always want to read at least five pages of some book after having sex. If you do not have a book nearby after sex, you will have to go find one, and this will ruin the pleasant mood.

Avoid reading books with ugly design. Never ever read a mass-market paperback, not even if it’s the only book on a six-hour flight. Never ever read a book with a cover that shows the actors in the film adaptation. Never ever read a book that has tiny margins or Times New Roman as the primary typeface.

Stop writing things in books. You will be embarrassed by the old books you have that are filled with your high-school-era marginalia, because your husband will confront you with them when he finally gets around to reading that classic novel, and he will poke fun at you, in a loving way, but you are still embarrassed because you thought you were rather clever at the time and now you realize that you were just a moony teen with too much time on her hands and this will shatter your sense of self in a way that feels uncomfortable right after dinner.

Fashion lessons from Mom

Things my mother has said to me about clothes:

251/365“All white shoes are tacky.”

“We have to wear bohemian clothes, me and you, because of our curly hair. Do you know how bad we look in a polo shirt or a cable-knit sweater??”

“It cuts me!” (referring to the crotch region of uncomfortable jeans)

“Comfort matters a lot to me. A lot.”

“Well-made shoes are worth the investment. I’ve had these red snow boots since college, and I get compliments on them every time I wear them. I love them. You can’t have them.”

“Is this too matchy-matchy?”

“I’m cold. I’m always cold.” (explaining why she has so many cardigans)

Christmas 2013What are some of the things your mother has told you about clothes?

Monday Snax

What a busy and full weekend! I got to see my parents twice, take the train to D.C., spend a weekend laughing and making dumplings with Angela, brunch with Eric and Cristina, and see Kelsey all in a matter of two days. Whew! More photos on Flickr.

Dinner with GrandTeats and Juju
Dinner with Mom and Dad in Pantops.
Angela
Grabbed a laidback lunch at Eastern Market with the ever-beautiful Angela.
Eric and Cristina!
And got to lunch with Eric and Cristina at Meridian Pint before going to see their lovely house and my sister.

Brief reflections on D.C.: The city as a whole seemed a lot more neighborly than I thought it would be. Everyone was out on their front stoops hollering at each other. It was great. I loved how everybody so carefully and meticulously cultivates their tiny squares of grass in their front “lawns.” Free museums = totally awesome. Most stressful part of D.C.? DRIVING. I got really anxious every time we had to get in a car. I don’t know how anyone drives in that city. Those roads were not made for cars.  Or people. But the Metro was fun and you can walk just about everywhere, so that makes up for those barbaric streets.

Snax with dumplings made from scratch, which are clearly the best:

So! You Want to Get Married! Ladies, please enjoy this 1947 book for young Catholic women, advising them on how to snare a man and be a perfect wife. My favorite bit of advice? “But if you whine and complain, if you get your ‘feelings hurt,’ you can make him a nervous wreck: when that happens, you will have your hands full. You might have to go out to work to pay for his hospital expenses.” Take this to heart, wives! If you complain, your husbands might get committed to an asylum and then, heaven forbid, you might have to go WORK. (The Hairpin)

On the Desire to Be Well-Read: A Review of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. I empathize with the author’s ceaseless inner competition to read more, always be reading more and more and more… (The Millions)

In Which We Take Notes on the Important Parts. I resonated deeply with this author’s childhood self, because it was my childhood self. I was also an obsessive list-maker and I still am. I enjoyed her guesses as to why this might be, why girls like us loved Harriet the Spy. (This Recording)

George Steinmetz Lands in the Lower East Side. Charlottesville’s photo festival gets a shout-out in the New Yorker! These giant, aerial-view photos were so mesmerizing and beautiful–especially when hanging in treetops on the Downtown Mall. (Photo Booth, The New Yorker)

“Between the Folds”: An Origami Documentary. A film about folding paper? Sign me up! No, seriously. I want to watch this. (The Fox Is Black)

The Quiet Film. A thoughtful review of “Meek’s Cutoff,” which Jonathan and I have been reading about from the film critics. (The Curator)

Adult Child, What the Hell Are You Doing at Work? This is exactly what my parents should be asking me. (Postcards from Yo Momma)

Everybody Loves a Baby Dolphin. But nobody loves them as much as I do. (ZooBorns)

Wait for Meeeee. My new favorite Tumblr. (Animals Being Dicks)

Where Every Day Is Caturday. Tashirojima is an island in Japan also known as “Cat Island.” It is entirely overrun with feral cats. As one can expect, it is also unbearably cute. (Cute Overload)