Flowers from our yard

Backyard bouquet.

Guion plucked this bouquet for me straight out of our yard. I KNOW. (He even arranged the flowers himself. I, for one, am very impressed.) He is turning 25 on Wednesday and we are going to have a whole WEEK of birthday celebrations. Just because he is that special.

Sunday (and part of today), we were graced with Courtney‘s presence. Nothing like seeing an old friend to remind you how much you really, really miss them. Coco is happy and beautiful and we had a lovely (if too short) evening with her, watching the dog play-fight Guion in the backyard, eating French Silk, and introducing her to the joy of the first season of “Community.” Next time, she’ll have to come for a whole month.

Monday Snax

Another busy weekend in North Carolina: Guion backed Daniel Levi Goans at his CD release show in Greensboro, and I was in Charlotte/Davidson, hanging out with my fam and celebrating with Eva and Peter.

Grace was Eva and Peter’s wedding photographer and has just put up some of her amazing photos from their “first look” on the railroad tracks. Check it out.

Quick selection of photos below:

IMG_7021
We took Ally out for a (belated) birthday brunch at The Egg.
IMG_7036
The beautiful, happy bride gets dressed.
IMG_7057
Eva and Peter get hitched! At the Green Rice Gallery in Charlotte.
The cutest child EVER
Thumbnail from phone picture from a home video. Proof that Sam was the cutest child ever to live.

Snax!

“Cruel,” by St. Vincent. New favorite song (I’m OBSESSED) and album. I can’t wait for her concert here in October! This music video is also totally crazy and creepy. (The Fox Is Black)

The Psychologist. Why novelist Vladimir Nabokov may have actually been the greatest psychologist of his time. (The American Scholar)

The Writer’s Voice. A reflection on the experience of hearing a great writer read his or her own work–with links! Listen to the dulcet tones of Flannery O’Connor, W.B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and J.M. Coetzee. (The Book Bench, The New Yorker)

Al Gore’s Excellent Timing. You know all this apocalyptic weather we’ve been having lately? Al Gore chimes in on a reason, and it’s not the Second Coming. These statistics are chilling… or should I say warming? (The Atlantic)

Bookish Illustrations. Lizzy Stewart’s solemn and wonderful sketched book covers for beloved classics. (Wolf Eyebrows)

Meg Gleason: Personalized Stationery. Love these cards, especially the last one in the set of photos. (Design Work Life)

Farm Life. What an idyllic childhood Courtney must have had… Jealous! (Radiate)

Your Wild Horses. Wild, white horses, galloping in the surf? Of course these photos are going to be amazing. (Eye Poetry)

Got a Girl Crush On: Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Did this really happen?? Has anyone seen this movie? (Got a Girl Crush)

Pen on Paper: A Defense of Writing. Yet another article about why handwriting matters, this time from The Curator. (The Curator)

Chat History. A true and heartbreaking romance, rendered in Gchat. (Good)

The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills. Apparently, if you believe too hard, you can die. (The Atlantic)

Dr. Neubronner’s Miniature Pigeon Camera, 1903. Um, awesome. (How to Be a Retronaut)

My personal fashion icons

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

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.

CATHERINE

So hot right now
L to R: Catherine, Emily, and Jonathan. All three of them should be my lifelong fashion icons, really.

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

So fashionable right nowAngela 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.)

COURTNEY

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.

CATE

Cate and Charlie. Source: Stolen from Cate's Facebook.

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?

Tell me something I don’t already know

Source: Content in a Cottage

Like most people, I love reading things that tell me what I want to hear. I love blabbing to people about “this great article I just read” that bolsters what I already believe about politics, food, religion, or dog training. It’s obnoxious. But, simply, it’s gratifying to see someone else espouse your deeply held convictions out on the great plains of cyberspace. This is why I loved reading the hilarious memoir-like piece about a nightmarish trip to Disney World by John Jeremiah Sullivan in the New York Times Magazine last week, “You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!” One of my principal beliefs is that Disney World is a materialistic swamp of America’s lowest common denominators and one of my top life goals is to never go there. Sullivan’s article simply reinforced this conviction.

As enjoyable as it was to read that essay and others like it, I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not good for my brain–or my spirit–to read only things that I already believe. Sue Halpern’s article in the New York Review of Books, “Mind Control and the Internet,” helped bring me around to this moment of enlightenment. Halpern’s article is a terrifying one. In it, she explains how, right now, Google and Amazon are creating a detailed profile of you and figuring out just what it is that you want to hear, read, and buy. Through complex algorithms, which I do not understand, Google also tailors your search results and your e-mail ads to your interests, a fact which most people now recognize. As soon as you start telling your friends that you’re engaged via e-mail, you start seeing all of these weird “discount wedding jewelry” ads pop up.

We’ve come to placidly accept the fact that Google is watching us. While this Big Brother factor is creepy enough on its own, Halpern’s article posits that the more insidious consequence of being profiled by Google is the fact that we are sheltering ourselves from the marketplace of ideas. The Internet is becoming less democratic. Google figures out what you want to hear and it keeps telling you those things. As Halpern suggests,

a search for proof about climate change will turn up different results for an environmental activist than it would for an oil company executive and, one assumes, a different result for a person whom the algorithm understands to be a Democrat than for one it supposes to be a Republican. (One need not declare a party affiliation per se—the algorithm will prise this out.) In this way, the Internet, which isn’t the press, but often functions like the press by disseminating news and information, begins to cut us off from dissenting opinion and conflicting points of view, all the while seeming to be neutral and objective and unencumbered by the kind of bias inherent in, and embraced by, say, the The Weekly Standard or The Nation.

This is scary to me. It is also scary for the American public sphere as a whole, which seems to get more polarized every day. FOX News is proof enough that we can no longer bear to listen to opinions that differ from our own. I think that’s a very dangerous state for any supposedly democratic nation to be in.

I think back to my mom and the free-spirited way in which she gave us kids access to information. She turned me loose in the library as soon as I could read. Unlike most of her conservative, homeschooling peers, she never censored my reading habits. She even taught us about evolution, God forbid! I read everything I could get my hands on. I will always remember my mom’s quiet and humble defense to the other moms who were appalled at what she was letting her innocent daughters read. “If we think we know the truth,” she would say, “why are we so afraid of untruth?”

Her defense is more applicable to those Christians who were afraid that their children would lose faith in God if they saw proof that seven-day creationism wasn’t true. And yet I think I see it in myself today. What am I so afraid of? It is far more fun to read things that tell me what I already believe. But it is better for me, as a thinking, developing human, to encounter some disagreement, some divergent opinions. To understand why, for instance, some people actually and sincerely love Disney World.  I’ll never know unless I start reading.

This is a roundabout and self-important way to tell you that I’m trying to read more nonfiction. Courtney asked me about what nonfiction I was reading lately and I realized that I’d only been reading dog books. It’s time to challenge the brain, AFP. So I just started The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright, in which Wright argues that God has been evolving with the human race and is only getting nicer over time. It’s interesting, for sure. I also write to ask you for nonfiction recommendations to add to my already burgeoning list. Anything important I should read that I also might fundamentally disagree with? And no, Twilight does not count.

Wishful to-do list

My Japanese host sisters. Felt like this fit the post.

Things I Want To Do for Deep, Inexplicable Reasons

* Walk a dog. Any dog. For a long time.

* Cross-stitch something.

* Volunteer at the Charlottesville SPCA.

* Make pumpkin pies. Multiple pies!

* Use a typewriter.

* Ride a horse. For a long time. And then spend a few hours in the stables. I actually really didn’t mind muck-raking.

* Play with a puppy and/or puppies.

* Use all that gouache I have lying around and do something pretty and useful with it.

* Eat lots of authentic Japanese food.

* Babysit cute kids.

* Re-learn how to draw. Or, actually learn.

* Start running weekly.

* Teach Reuben how to cuddle.

* Buy weird clothes at Goodwill.

I need to read more books. There are too many books to be read! Too many, I say! I also really need a dog. If I can’t have a dog in at least two years, all of my life may have been for naught.

Jokes. (Maybe…)

All of this is really just preliminary introduction to my new feature, My Life List. Inspired my many cool lady bloggers, I thought I’d make my own. It’s a surprising adventure in personal ambition! I highly recommend it–even if you don’t plan on doing anything on your list, I think it’s definitely worth making. Courtney was planning out her bucket list months ago. I’ll be haphazardly chronicling progress here. I wonder how many of those I can accomplish before I actually die… I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.