We had our much-anticipated visit from Angela, the conquering New Yorker. She is a gem! She makes everything brighter. But our gregariously pollinated country life really took it out of her, sadly. She was a marvelous sport about our very cooped-up weekend, though.
Pyrrha was especially happy to have her.
We miss WXTCHOU already! And we’re plotting our visit to Brooklyn.
Our weekend with Angela and Marshall was so peaceful and uneventful. I felt very guilty about it, though. Who wants to take a train all the way from New York City just to sit in our grubby kitchen? Apparently these two did, because they were very good sports about our weekend and about our very diminished hospitality skills.
We had slow breakfasts of Brooklyn’s finest bagels. We drank lots of tea. We sat around and looked at each other. We got a glimpse of Angela and Marshall’s high-minded New York life by watching Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan. We had “Asian fusion tapas” at Bang! We walked to the farmers’ market with Pyrrha, and Angela bought us a beautiful bouquet. We got to FaceTime with Angela’s delightful mother, which was a dream come true. We listened to music. We stood around in the backyard, looking at plants.
Now we just have to take a trip to New York and do all of the same things.
P.S. And just for kicks, here’s a shot of my sexy husband.
Angela and Marshall are coming for the weekend! We are going to laze about, drink tea, take walks, and reminisce. They are taking the train down from Brooklyn, which is very romantic of them.
Fall brings changes in various ways: The maple trees on the street look like they’ve gone up in a brilliant array of flames; Pyrrha has started barking, even though it’s not intimidating at all; our little hovel is no longer as damp; I am reading poetry again; I am writing again; Guion is… OK, Guion is the same, blessedly the same.
I am reading American Primitive, by Mary Oliver, right now. I don’t know if Oliver is a critically acclaimed poet, I don’t know if I should be embarrassed to mention her in the company of the MFA community, but I love her. I don’t care who knows it! She’s like Annie Dillard, if Annie Dillard wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry. She makes me want to go outside and sit in the leaves and carry on conversations with woodland creatures. As you do in the fall, when you are reading poetry.
Girl time = so good. Stephanie and I grabbed dinner on Wednesday night at Monsoon and talked about many things over our virgin strawberry daiquiris, including but not limited to street harassment, babies, and conflicts of etiquette. She is so lovely and bright.
It’s not exactly a gorgeous skyline, but I always like walking over the bridge toward downtown. The view always makes me remember, “Oh, I live here now, in this town where we once arrived as strangers.”
The photo is from Friday night, taken on our way to meet Guion’s beloved professor and mentor Alan Shapiro at South Street to watch the UNC vs. Ohio game. He is delightful company–so brilliant and kind and warm–and we talked of many things. I bonded with him particularly on our mutual love of Marilynne Robinson* and Wei Tchou. (*Somewhat out of the blue, Shapiro announced, “Housekeeping is probably one of the greatest novels in the English language.” And then I felt really justified in my unmitigated praise of that book. It is the greatest. Shapiro says so.)
Last night, Colin and Rita hosted a “Mad Men” season premiere party, in which we were supposed to wear our best “Mad Men”-esque outfits. For men, this just meant wearing a tie (or parting your hair with lots of pomade, as Colin displayed); for women, pearls + dress + pumps seemed to be the easy formula.
Very fun gathering (with great cocktails), but did anyone else think the premiere was kind of… boring? It was funnier and lighter than the closing episodes of last season (Stan always helps with that. And we were all humming zou bizou bizou afterward), but I felt like it was lacking some spark, some solid Draper broody moments. Or maybe the episodes will necessarily be duller in the absence of the incarnation of maternal evil.
We were lucky enough to have Angela in town with us this past weekend. She’s our most faithful and fun house guest and we had a peaceful weekend together. We lounged around on the couch, drinking tea; made dinners together; went on a doggy play date; visited our new house; and generally didn’t want her to leave ever. How nice it is to be with old friends!
Click on a thumbnail to enlarge it:
Oh, and it snowed, of course. The first glimpse of actual winter we’ve had all year. It was pretty and thick, but now it is all gone. I’m OK with that. Bring on the spring! More photos from the weekend here.
My Presidents’ Day was spent freaking out about taxes, as I am wont to do. Doing taxes when one of you is a graduate student = Zero fun times. I think I panic about it because a.) I don’t understand half of it, even with TurboTax, and b.) I get the constant feeling that we’re doing something terribly wrong and we’re going to get audited. Angela and I briefly discussed that all universities should require students take a Personal Finances 101 class before graduating. I totally agree–and I work for a finance non-profit! I should know this stuff! But I don’t. A sad and occasionally dangerous gap in higher education…
Next knowledge obsession: Plants and how to grow them. I am still going to be primarily obsessed with dogs, of course, but my next venture is reading everything I can about gardening. I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s farming memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and enjoying the practical John Seymour’s The New Self-Sufficient Gardener. As I’ve mentioned, we’re inheriting a pretty serious garden from our future landlord and I want to take really good care of it. And just learn some basics about how to keep plants alive. Any advice is very welcome.
I have been writing letters since I was little. As I was heavily steeped in historical fiction since childhood, I had a high, romantic ideal of handwritten letters; most of my peers, thankfully, did too, and so we started writing each other, even though some of us lived only 10 minutes apart. (This was still in a pre-e-mail era, mind you. Or, at least, pre-computer literacy for children.)
If you’ve ever written me a letter, chances are that I still have it. From my last estimate, I have 18 shoeboxes filled with letters that I have received throughout my young life. Some make me laugh in embarrassment over the things we once felt were of vital importance. Some make me tear up, like my treasured letters from my Great Aunt Lib. All of them bring me a lot of joy.
I am grateful that I still have a legion of friends who write me letters on a regular basis. My grandmother is my most faithful correspondent, and I have gotten to the point where I can decipher her compact, slanted cursive like a pro. Windy often writes us sweet notes about life in Southern Pines. I have two correspondents in the U.K., Diane and Natalie, both of whom send me gorgeous letters, often written with fountain pens and sealed with red wax. Angela writes me beautiful, thick, sincere letters, filled with well-crafted stories and confessions.
I love writing and receiving letters and I will stand behind them until the USPS goes out of business (which may be sooner rather than later). It’s not like it’s a new thing to talk about how letters are more elevated and sincere than e-mails; everyone knows that. And I like e-mail; I use it every day and it’s a wonderfully efficient mode of communication.
But I think that’s what I like about writing letters in 2011. They are not efficient. They cost you time and money; e-mail is free and costs you comparatively little time. You can write and send an e-mail in less than a second. But a letter is a serious endeavor. I like them because they require so much more effort. What kind of stationery does this letter require? Am I going to write on letterhead or in a note? Will my handwriting be long and florid, or rushed and intent? What stories will I tell? What moments will I confess? All of these things have to be taken into account. Gmail never forces me to much thought beyond the expectation of a direct and quick answer.
And so you sit down and write a letter and maybe agonize a little over it. You put it in the mail and then you wait. And wait. And maybe you get a reply; maybe you don’t. Either way, the practice of self-imposed delayed gratification builds character. I venture that it is the laboring and the waiting that matter.
We went on a long, beautiful hike up to Carter Mountain on Saturday with Win, Bo, and new friends Joseph, Lauren, and William. The day was a flawless example of the beauty of this area in early autumn.
This weekend, I got to visit the originator of the term “Monday Snax,” Catherine the Great herself. We had a lovely, foggy weekend in Virginia Beach with Ava-rice and Jonathan. Some photos below; all on Flickr!
After all of that good conversation, great food, and wine, it is hard to get back into the work week…
Ask a Gay Christian: Response. Justin Lee, director of the Gay Christian Network, answers a lot of searing questions about being a gay Christian with humility and grace. This was very heartening to me. (Rachel Held Evans)
Presented Without Comment. Angela’s new blog of her father’s collected writings and e-mails is my new favorite thing. And this photo. (The Filthy, Luxury Life)
Corner Portraits by Irving Penn. I love these! Photographer Irving Penn stuffed a bunch of famous people into corners and then took these great photos of them. Included: Marlene Dietrich, Truman Capote, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Salvador Dali, among others! (Retronaut)
I am writing a series of posts about why I love my immediate family. This is the fourth installment. All wedding photos courtesy of the brilliant Meredith Perdue.
One of my favorite qualities about my father-in-law is how easy it is to fall into a serious conversation with him. It’s not that he’s overly solemn; rather, it’s because he’s always ready to engage with you on a level that transcends small talk. He also knows a lot about a lot of things. Mike has taught me a lot about how to love people. And even more than taught: Mike has shown me how to love people. Since we met, he’s always shown me deep wells of compassion, even when I had done nothing to merit such merciful treatment.
Mike’s theology matches the way he lives. He knows more about Anglicanism than anyone else I’ve met, but he also lives a daily practice of grace and love toward everyone. Mike and Windy were YoungLife leaders back in the day, but Guion likes to say that they never stopped being YoungLife leaders. I think that’s probably true. Their welcoming home in Southern Pines has never stopped being “the hang-out place” for kids during the holidays. Mike is able to keep up with people with astonishing energy and accuracy. I like to think that he and Windy were gifted with an endless supply of social energy. It’s very admirable and it frequently amazes me.
He can switch from joking to serious life discussion in a minute’s time, whatever the group or mood or tone requires. His careful mix of humor and politeness has always astonished me, because, well, I grew up with Juju, whose humor is never tactful.
Aside from Angela, I think Mike has been mine and Guion’s biggest fan. His unconditional support to us while we were dating, engaged, and now married has been invaluable to us both. He often reminds me that he and Windy have been praying for me since I was born. I smile, thank him, and feel overwhelmingly grateful.
I’ve never purported to be fashionable. I tend to wear things until they wear out. I might dress like a soccer mom sometimes. Almost all fashion blogs are extremely boring to me. I don’t know anything about how to put an outfit together.
And yet. I really want to be “fashionable,” whatever that means. I am surrounded by many women who unfailingly rock whatever they are wearing. I envy them and simultaneously I love watching them wear just about anything. These are not famous people, but they should be, because they know how to wear the hell out of a garment.
To name a few of my personal fashion icons:
Grace has been obsessed with fashion since she was a child. She wore my mother out by insisting on changing her clothes every few hours. When Grace was five, my mother finally gave up battling her every Sunday on what she would wear to church. So, little Grace showed up for Sunday school in a “101 Dalmatians” bathing suit, a pink tutu, and snakeskin cowboy boots. The kid was very forward-thinking.
Once Kelsey and I left home, Grace took over the giant walk-in closet that was supposed to be shared between the three of us. Instead, it’s now a bedroom-sized space for her gargantuan wardrobe. Kels and I like to joke that she has a preternatural sense of where everything is, despite the fact that it often looks like a disaster. If we happen to borrow a T-shirt from a folded stack of about 50 T-shirts, Grace knows. She comes into the closet, sniffs the air like a wolf tracking something, and says, “Did you take something?” (We swear she knew when we took some of her dresses and skirts and other enviable pretty things home with us when she was abroad.)
Grace is the person you want by your side when you venture into Goodwill or any other thrifting location. Scanning for gems in a thrift store might be her spiritual gift. She pulls things off the rack that look totally absurd and gross, but the minute she puts them on, they are transformed and she looks like a goddess. We all hate her for it.
Her style has evolved over the years and I think it’s become increasingly crazy, which I like. She is a huge fan of layers. Whether she’s layering vests or skirts or bangles, she likes to wear many things at once. She does not believe in minimalism when she dresses and yet she always makes it work. Grace, thanks for being my perpetual wardrobe inspiration and for always showing me how I can wear something better.
From the first day I met Catherine at UNC, I have been enamored with her wardrobe. I always want to look exactly like her.
Even though I have never been to Europe, my general sense is that Catherine has a very European style. (She’s half English, after all, and has family in France.) Catherine is extremely cultured and elegant. She partakes in the finer pursuits; she is a gifted ballerina and violinist and speaks beautiful French.
Her wardrobe always speaks of this elegance, and yet it is very versatile. One day, she will wear a gorgeous dress from some Paris boutique; the next, she will look incredible in her running skort, t-shirt, and big earrings. I don’t know how she does it.
One of my favorite things about Catherine’s style is how she picks an accent piece and wears it with everything for a week or more. Sometimes it would be a pair of earrings. Sometimes a bracelet. Sometimes a lavender-colored pashmina. Regardless of the weather or the situation, Catherine would wear that one piece. She brought class to every environment. Whenever I see her, I am usually stunned by how amazing she looks. I think she can do anything.
Angela pretends like she doesn’t know about fashion, but she always looks 110% incredible, so I don’t believe her. I’ll give her a compliment about whatever fabulous thing she’s wearing and she just says, “Abby, stop it! I love what you’re wearing!” And I’m wearing some dingy T-shirt and jorts or something like that.
Angela excels at minimal outfits with a lot of personal panache. On their own, the separate items of her dress seem simple and plain, but when she puts them all together, she looks nothing short of magnificent. (It helps that she’s also exceptionally beautiful.)
I think Courtney was probably an artist in her former life, because if anyone knows how to use color, it’s this girl.
I had the great fortune of getting to live with her during my senior year of college. CoCo was always busting up in the living room wearing something fabulous and making the rest of us jealous. Her use of color is inspiring to me and I wish I had her sense of how to combine things for maximum effect.
Courtney is also very capable with mixing and matching, as her 30-day project demonstrated. She has a way with clothes and should be soundly commended for it.
Mary Boyce and I were talking at church the other day about how we want to dress more like Cate. Cate just had a baby and looks like a rock star. She has the most incredible look that’s a mix of spontaneity and deliberate lines. She also dresses almost exclusively in whites and neutrals, which I find compelling and amazing. Because of Cate, I want to buy more white things. I foolishly think that if I only had more white pieces, then I’d look as fabulous as she does all the time.
Also. If I had a friend who was my male fashion icon, it would definitely be JONATHAN (see photo above with Catherine and Emily). He’s taught me the dire importance of tailoring. And I very often just want to steal most of his clothes (especially his shirts, which are amazing).
Do you have any friends, family that you’d consider your personal fashion icons?