Easter and family

A good portion of my family came to see us on Easter weekend — to celebrate birthdays, to labor in our yard, and to provide general merriment. I can’t get over how much fun these people are sometimes. I felt like my Gran when they returned to their respective homes. She, normally of the stoic and sarcastic temperament, would always turn her face and cry a little when family left. This is what I did for a moment on Sunday afternoon, but I know we’ll see each other again soon. (And, ideally, in Europe.)

Spring is finally here, and I am grateful.

Easter 2016The big project: Adding pea gravel to our little fenced garden area. We will eventually add two more raised beds, but we wanted to go ahead and finish the gravel before we depart for the summer.


Easter 2016

And after:

Easter 2016Easter 2016Didn’t the boys do a marvelous job? I’m so happy with how it turned out. To finish it up, I want to find some low-growing, flowering perennials to put around the edges.

Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016Easter 2016

We are all falling

Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park, Iceland, this June. Just because.

We are all falling. This hand’s falling too—
all have this falling sickness none withstands.
And yet there’s always One whose gentle hands
this universal falling can’t fall through.

— Rilke

Unexpectedly, owing to my grandmother’s rapidly deteriorating state and a general lack of a contingency plan, my grandparents have moved in with my parents.

Mom called me yesterday to fill me in on everything. I feel weighed down and lost and helpless about it. Mom and Dad are so boundlessly generous and took them in with no hesitation or questions asked. Mom and Dad sleep upstairs in the guest room on the double bed now. We talked and teared up for a while, and I put down the phone and felt hollow and useless.

Predictably and gratefully, Kelsey called me some minutes later (presumably after Mom had filled her in), and then we talked about our joint feeling of uselessness and schemed about how we could be helpful at Thanksgiving. Kelsey is a source of compassionate comfort and strength in hard times. I am the eldest child, but even when I was young, I relied on Kelsey perhaps more than she ever relied on me. I still feel this way and look up to her in this essential, dependent manner. I am so thankful that she and Alex are so close by (it is worth noting what a marvel it is that she married someone as compassionate and kind as herself). When I think of them, I am filled with the conviction that I could turn to them in any form of need.

Inspired by an interview I read with an author, I am keeping a five-year diary (designed by Tamara Shopshin). It is very interesting to me to note the limited phrases and sentences that come to mind, at the end of the day, that I consider necessary to record.

If you love home

DC in September
11 September: WWII Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the background.

If you love home—and even if you don’t—there is nothing quite as cozy, as comfortable, as delightful, as that first week back. That week, even the things that would irritate you—the alarm waahing from some car at three in the morning; the pigeons who come to clutter and cluck on the windowsill behind your bed when you’re trying to sleep in—seem instead reminders of your own permanence, of how life, your life, will always graciously allow you to step back inside of it, no matter how far you have gone away from it or how long you have left it. — A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

We spent a delightful weekend in DC with Kelsey and Alex, who are splendid hosts. We saw lots of old friends and spent time with new ones, and we didn’t want to leave their pristine urban paradise. But we have a Kelsey-and-Alex-filled fall, so that assuages us.

DC in September
Going out.

After leaving DC, I grew pensive and even a bit sad as I thought about my professional life. Alex just started a graduate program at Georgetown; Cristina is about to become a lawyer; Russ is starting a graduate program in California; Kelsey is seriously considering an MBA from New York University. And me? What am I doing? Reading lots of books and still schlepping around in the same job I’ve had for five years. I enjoy my work, and I am really grateful for my job, which provides me with a genuinely superb work/life balance. I am extremely happy on a day-to-day basis. But I would love nothing more than to go back to school. My graduate-degree ambitions are hindered by three major factors: (1) lack of sensible degree (I really just want a PhD in English, as deeply, heartbreakingly foolish as that is); (2) lack of money; and (3) lack of desire to move to another city. I feel stuck. I don’t have any answers, but I felt like confessing that to the void. I feel that I am getting old, and I don’t want my career to atrophy.

Smell the zinniasIn brighter news, I am finally reading John Cheever for the first time, and I am IN LOVE. The Chekhov of the American suburbs!

What’s new in your life?


Post-coital mourning doves

At lunch, I watched these mourning doves try to have sex. She rebuffed him after his failed attempt, and then they shuffled apart from each other and went back to preening themselves separately, not making eye contact. I imagine that she went back to her tree afterward, drank some white wine, and called up her girlfriends to say that she just didn’t think this relationship was going to work out.

I am reading a book about walking (Wanderlust, by Rebecca Solnit), and I’m really enjoying it. People laugh when I say this, but walking is one of my chief joys in life. It sounds funny because it sounds so mundane; it’s not like my chief joy is skydiving or horse wrangling. But there is no black mood that I can’t lift with a good, long walk. I crave a daily walk. My love of walking is also likely connected to my love of dogs and my love of solitary thinking; all three elements complement each other.

Things I could learn from Kelsey and Alex:

  • Minimalist living
  • The names of every world leader and his or her general policy stance
  • Why Ukraine is under siege
  • How world economies will adapt if the birth rate keeps falling in the developed world
  • Where to buy exercise clothes

Lemon tree

The lemon tree is getting rather ungainly. Here he is, sunbathing on the back deck. I got one fat, juicy lemon from him last year. I’m gunning for two this year. Dreaming big!

I also have a tendency to presume that all of my plants are male. I am not sure why.

I found an old diary from my senior year of high school. I wrote like I was living in a Jane Austen novel. And I, of course, was Elizabeth Bennet. And every boy was some Austenian archetype (there was a Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins, etc.). It was very weird to re-read. I was surprised to read these dramatic scenes from my young life. I felt, at times, like I was reading a young adult novel about some other girl, some person entirely different from myself. I’d forgotten so many things that I barely believe they ever happened to me.

Our Easter weekend

We loved having Mom, Dad, Kelsey, and Alex stay with us over the Easter weekend. Lots of good food (mostly made by my live-in gourmet, Guion), lots of laughter, lots of walks and dog time. I love these people ever so much.

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Easter weekend

Visiting Gran in Ohio

We were all so unprepared for the bitterness of Ohio in mid-February, but our hearts were warmed by the time we got to spend with Gran and with our family in the Midwest.

To be able to see her face, hear her classic laugh, and enjoy her characteristic expressions of disdain — it lifted the spirits.

Photos galore!

Sadie comforts Guion during his morning headache. #ohio #familytrip
Sadie, my aunt and uncle’s “corgeranian,” comforts Guion.
#olympics watching. #familytrip #ohio
Watching the Olympics.
Birthday child. #familytrip
Grace turns 22!
Fuzzy bullet. Sadie! #familytrip #corgeranian
Fuzzy bullet.
Cousins! #familytrip #ohio
Cousin Sheridan and Kels.
Work tuff. #father #familytrip
Ohio. #familytrip
Ohio. The unmarred snow.
Gran and the girl cousins! Love her. #familytrip
Girl cousins with Gran!
Young bros. #familytrip #ohio
The young bros.
The family dog lovers.





Reading birthday cards.
Brothers don’t shake hands; brothers hug!
Snowy road trip fun. #ohio #familytrip
Long drive home through a snowstorm.
Guess who loves her Aunt Kelsey now? #thisdog #homesweethome
When we got home, we discovered that Pyrrha is kind of weirdly obsessed with Kelsey.

Remember when Thanksgiving happened?

Just getting around to uploading these photos now, because, you know, moving.

We are a provocative and weird family.

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson
Whose idea was this? Why are we all on my parents’ bed? What demigod are Grace and Sam worshipping?

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson

Thanksgiving in Davidson
Awkward Family Photos to the MAX!
Everyone stands around while Guion demonstrates the technicalities of the sorority squat.
Everyone stands around while Guion demonstrates the technicalities of the sorority squat.
Thanksgiving in Davidson
At least someone had a great manicure.

(Many thanks to beautiful Cousin Emily for many of these spectacular photos.)

Pyrrha wanted no part of any of it and was instead content to patrol my parents’ neighborhood from their bay of windows.

Thanksgiving in Davidson

We did have a lovely meal. It was so good to be with everyone. I really like these people that I happen to be related to.


Visit from Kelsey and Alex

Love my sister and bro: Kels and Alex came to stay with us this weekend, with the intention of camping, which was downgraded to hiking, which was further downgraded to just “a walk on the Rivanna Trail.” Not complaining: We had the perfect peaceful weekend with them, and we even got to eat the first meal from the long-awaited cob oven. As you can see, they are an exquisite couple, and we were so pleased to have them. It is so nice to have such beloved family so close by.

So in love, these two. #younglove #siblings

Weekend with Kelsey and Alex

Stumbled on a herd of deer
Young deer, seen from the trail.
Watching the deer
Pyrrha contemplates running after the deer.

Weekend with Kelsey and Alex

Intrepid "hikers"
Intrepid “hikers.”
Firing up the cob oven for the first time. #coboven #backyardliving
Firing up the oven.

Looking for her lover

Crazy sky tonight. #lazydog #summersky #backyardliving

Sky after the rain. #backyardliving #summersky

Family in Hatteras

We spent more than week away from the “real world,” which was magical.

First, we spent a little time in the Pines with Nettles

Nettles at some lake in Whispering Pines
Chris in some lake.
Nettles at some lake in Whispering Pines
Juliana reads Jhumpa Lahiri on the dock.

and left Pyrrha at doggy summer camp with Guion’s wonderful parents, and her puppy BFF, Georgia.

Doggy summer camp

And then we went to Hatteras and ate lots of food and talked and wandered around on the beach.

View from our beach house
View from our beach house.
Grandmothers on the deck
Ma-Maw and Gran.

I didn’t get any glamorous beach shots, because I didn’t want to take Louis in the sun and water, but these two photos give you a general idea of what we mostly did (ate and talked and ate and talked, and sometimes watched appallingly riveting television, such as “Swamp People”).

Beach laziness
MM, Kelsey, and Alex.

Beach laziness

You guys, I love these people that I happen to be related to by blood (and marriage).

Visiting the District of Columbia

At the beginning of this week, I took a mini-vacation to D.C. to stay with Kelsey and Alex, visit with Mom, and see Grace off for her summer in India and Nepal.

Alex and Kelsey’s apartment is this peaceful, minimalistic oasis in the middle of the city. I was delighted to finally be able to see it!

Kelsey and Alex's apartment

Kelsey and Alex's apartment

Alex at home

I had most of Monday to myself, so I walked to the National Mall,

Capitol building

and spent the majority of my afternoon in the National Gallery (west building). Delighted to see so many paintings I had only seen before in books.

National Gallery

National Gallery

I particularly enjoyed: the exhibit on Rodin’s sculptures, the pre-Raphaelite exhibit, Van Gogh, and noting how very famous paintings are often nonchalantly placed in a strange corner of the room.

National Gallery

National Gallery

On Tuesday, Mom and I got to spend the morning at the U.S. Botanic Gardens, which was delightful, as I now share her great love of plants.

Visit with Mom to the Botanic Gardens

Visit with Mom to the Botanical Gardens

We killed time here while Grace fearlessly navigated the Metro to Georgetown to apply for her visa, and then we met up again and had the famously delicious lunch at the Native American museum.

More thoughts/highlights:

  • The quiet car on the train! The best invention. Also, the ride from here to D.C. is really beautiful. I caught up on my New Yorkers and finished The Gospel According to Woman (Karen Armstrong).
  • Dinner with Eric, Cristina, Emily, and Brian on the night I got in. So fun and lively!
  • Dinner with Patrick, shortly after Mom and Grace arrived. Just adding to the list of family time, and surreptitiously celebrating his birthday.
  • I don’t think I could make it in D.C., but I’m glad that Kelsey and Alex aren’t very far away, and I love their sweet, streamlined lifestyle there. Visiting their apartment felt a bit like visiting an upscale resort (the rooftop pool! You cannot even imagine this pool/deck area). Love those two so very much; they are perfect hosts.

And now I am looking forward to seeing (almost) everyone again in June, for the family excursion to Hatteras! It cannot come too quickly.