Multitudinous selves

Day two
From our second day in Paris; magical mini-canal in some park.

(It’s the most cliché thing, but re-reading Proust makes me feel like I should live in Paris. We should all live in Paris. It’s the only city, right?)

Totally blissed out, throwing so much shade #gsdofinstagram #germanshepherd #doglife #shade
Eden, on Saturday.

I think about dogs a lot; probably 30% of my waking life is thinking about dogs. And I have two extremely high-maintenance dogs who are constantly underfoot, and I write a dog blog, and YET, whenever I see photos of dogs in a news story or a live dog walking down the street, my first thought, every single time, is: I need MORE dogs in my life. I inherited this brokenness from my father. I asked him once why he thought we were both so obsessed with dogs, to an almost debilitating degree. And he answered quickly, without thinking: “It’s probably because our parents didn’t love us enough.”

Walt Whitman lived at peace with the fact that he contradicted himself. He said that he contained multitudes. Proust asks the next question. How much of one’s multitudinous self can a person reveal or embody at one time? The first answer is plain common sense; it all depends. It depends on many things, from chance and volition to memory and forgetting. The second answer is categorical. No matter how we go about it, we cannot be all of ourselves all at once. Narrow light beams of perception and of recollection illuminate the present and the past in vivid fragments. The clarity of those fragments is sometimes very great. They may even overlap and reinforce one another. However, to summon our entire self into simultaneous existence lies beyond our powers. We live by synecdoche, by cycles of being. More profoundly than any other novelist, Proust perceived this state of things and worked as an economist of the personality.

— Proust’s Way, Roger Shattuck

Discussing Swann’s Way with my book club next week, and I am doing an unnecessary amount of prep to lead the discussion, but I love it so much; I love being steeped in it.

I feel really happy and hopeful and distractible. I am trying to write more, and it is going mostly badly, but I feel free about it. And maybe that, that sense of liberty, has been the goal all along.

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.

Before:

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

Patrick’s wedding and Mother’s Day in NC

We spent the weekend in NC to celebrate Patrick’s wedding and Mother’s Day. It was so lovely to be with everyone; I only regret that the time seemed to fly by. Requisite photo dump!

Rehearsal dinner and wedding festivities

Family weekend
Sexy sister & bro.
Family weekend
Jak loves to ruin photo ops.
Family weekend
Us. Playing along.
Family weekend
Paul (best man), Mom, and Patrick (groom).
Family weekend
Backup bridesmaids.
Family weekend
#truelove
Family weekend
Sisters ready to go.
Family weekend
Mom surveys the landscape.
Family weekend
Bro!
Family weekend
Sisters, redux.

Family time

Kelsey loves dog wrangling.
Kelsey loves dog wrangling.
Family weekend
Ma-Maw and Grace.

Family weekend

Family weekend
With Cousin Emz.
Family weekend
Sam and MM.
Family weekend
Da-Dan is the best.
Family weekend
Wry husband.
Family weekend
Eden getting some fetching lessons from Juju.
Family weekend
And Pyrrha gets some love from Emily.
Motorcycle mama
Finally, hot grandma on Jak’s new toy.

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

Home improvement weekend

My sweet parents came up for this past weekend to help us with a handful of home improvement projects. We had a lot of fun with them (and the pups), and we accomplished a lot!

1: Dad installed a disposal

Pyrrha consults while Jak installs our disposal.
Pyrrha was his constant assistant.

2: Guion replaced the hideous ceiling fan in the dining room with this giant paper lantern ($9 upgrade. Yeah, I’m going to brag about it)

BEFORE

Before (when we bought the house)
Before (when we bought the house)

AFTER

New dining room light

New lantern

3: Bought a mattress, and Dad and Guion built a platform bed for the guest room! With little bookshelves!

BEFORE

Top floor tour

AFTER

Guest bedroom redo
(Found the crazy, painted, Asian-inspired side tables at Circa.)

Guest bedroom redo

And I fed my houseplant addiction, which I also consider part of the home improvement processs. Lovely starlight ficus for the living room (so that the maidenhair fern can live in its desired shade elsewhere):

Newest addition to my ever-growing family of plants. #ficus #starlightficus #houseplantfever

Home sweet home

We also just had a great time hanging out, talking, walking the dogs, watching “House of Cards,” and laughing. How lucky to have such resourceful, fun parents.

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Walk with these 3 crazies. Sweet shades, @jfarkle.

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
Jak.
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.
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The family dog lovers.

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Reading birthday cards.
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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.

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Parents as human beings

Turkey time
Dad and Mom, Thanksgiving 2011.

One of the strangest things I know about my mother is that she lists “The Untouchables” as one of her all-time favorite films.

If you know my mom, you know how bizarre this is. This movie is about gangsters in the Prohibition Era; it was not written by Nora Ephron and it does not star Meg Ryan. There are no flowers in it (to my knowledge).

I’ve been thinking lately about the secrets parents keep. And how well do we actually know our parents?

I’ve also been thinking about the act of getting to know one’s parents as people, not as these infallible authorities or these emotion-free caregivers. Because we often think of our parents this way, as childrearing machines. At least, I do. I don’t think I’m alone.

40/365
3 October 2009.

Do you remember the first time you caused an emotional reaction in a parent? Most of the time, we were probably too young. But I remember vividly and painfully the first time I hurt my dad’s feelings. It was so startling to me. I felt wretched, but mostly I was just astonished. It was as if I really didn’t know he even had feelings to be hurt.

Obviously, I haven’t had any kids myself, which is why this slow realization of my parents as individuals is still occurring. But I have always been very interested in parents, in general. (I wrote my undergraduate thesis on mothers, after all.) With parents, I am fascinated by what happens to their personhood, to their personalities and desires, when they have children. For mothers, in particular, this personhood is often obliterated. You become a physical and emotional slave to your children. And this is often done willingly and joyfully, but you are no longer responsible for just yourself.

I remember when I was 10 and I was tasked with writing the family Christmas letter. I went around and polled everyone on their hobbies. Grace was obsessed with playing dress-up; baby Sam hoarded sports equipment (which he still does now, come to think of it); Kelsey loved gymnastics and jumping off of furniture; Dad played tennis and built model airplanes. And then I asked Mom what her hobbies were. “Raising you kids,” she said, standing at the stove, making dinner for the six of us. “That’s not a hobby!” I protested. “What do you do for FUN?” She got this far-off look in her eyes. She didn’t answer me for a moment. “I don’t know,” she said. I sighed, irritated with her for ruining my perfect holiday epistle. “Fine. I’ll make up a hobby for you.” And I did. I wrote that she liked scrapbooking.

But this is one of the joys of growing up: getting to know your parents as people. They start to tell you things they would have never told you before. They confide in you. They might even cuss in front of you now. I like this stage. I like knowing that I actually like my parents as people. I like hanging out with them. I’d invite them over to dinner at our house even if they weren’t related to me. This is great. And this is why, sometimes, I am afraid of becoming a parent. It’s because I am really enjoying being a child.

Boy time

Before dinner calm
Pre-dinner calm.

We went to Davidson this weekend, for Chris and Lauren’s wedding. It was one of those rare weekends back home in which most of the time was spent with BOYS. (With Kelsey and Grace gone, there is little incentive to fill up the harem.)

Boys, boys, boys:

Lil Bro Peep is all grown up
Sam, all grown up.
Pyrrha and Jak
Jak and Pyrrha.
Husband!
Husband.
Caleb!
Caleb.
Mom and her daddy
Da-Dan and his youngest daughter.

Gotta love boys. Patrick also showed up, but he is not featured here, as I was in the throes of post-wedding food poisoning when he arrived. So happy to get to see him, too.

Food poisoning aside, we had a lovely, calm weekend. Pyrrha acted like she owned the place. She’s become very comfortable with Davidson living and I daresay she was rather disappointed to come back to our shack after three days at the family estate. Dublin has become her constant companion and has been showing her the Ways of the Normal Dog.

You may have noticed an improvement in photo quality (although not necessarily photo skill). This is because I picked up my new camera, Louis, which I bought from Grace. I feel very honored to have him in my care. I am sure I won’t use him half as well as his first owner, but I am going to do my best to learn everything I can. There is so much to learn! It is a formidable piece of equipment.

How nice to be away, how nice to be home.