Family love: Kelsey

I am writing a series of posts about why I love my (immediate) family. This is the fifth installment. You can read the other posts here. All wedding photographs courtesy of the wonderful Meredith Perdue.

Kels, Kelseyka

She was my first playmate, even though I did not welcome her to the world with kindness. Shortly after she was born, my mother would hear Kelsey crying and come in to find me standing on her little baby hands with an innocent face — or trying to ride on her back as if she were a rocking horse. I was not the best of big sisters, clearly. Yet Kelsey never showed me anything except abundant love.

It is common knowledge in our family that Kelsey is the sweetest among us four kids, followed closely by Sam. (I rank last on the sweetness totem pole, in case you are wondering.) She was born with a pure, golden heart. She loves everyone. Where I am quick to see the negative and the bad, Kelsey immediately finds the good and the positive. I think her only fault is that she wants everyone to be happy. If you could call that a fault.

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Kelsey answered my father’s lifelong prayer of an athletic child. After he had three girls, I think Dad had more or less given up on having a son, and so Kelsey was designated as his surrogate boy child. (It was determined early on that I would not be able to fulfill this role. I did not display any considerable athletic prowess; I wanted to stay inside and wear dresses and read books.) Kelsey was always climbing on things, throwing balls, twisting her body into bizarre shapes. I took ballet classes and loved the delicacy, the inherent femininity of it all; but Kelsey took gymnastics classes — the tough, intense side of little girl sports. She excelled at the gym and was a rising star until my mother pulled her out, concerned about what a gymnastics career would do to her body and self-esteem (and this was probably a good idea).

To my mother’s chagrin, however, Kelsey took up an even less feminine sport than gymnastics: She became a hockey star. What started as a nightly series of cul-de-sac games with the neighborhood kids became a prodigious career as one of the nation’s best women inline hockey players.

I have always been so proud of watching her on the rink. She plays with grace and strength. When she started out, there were no girls’ teams in our region, so she had to play with the boys. This was no problem for her, as she often outmaneuvered them all. I distinctly remember sitting on the bleachers during a game when a guy beside me said, “Whoa! Look at that dude! He’s awesome!” I followed his pointing finger and then politely informed him, “That’s not a dude. That’s my SISTER.” He didn’t believe me until the game was over and she took off her helmet. It was like a scene from one of those girl-power-kind-of-based-on-a-true-story-made-for-TV Disney movies.

Sister time

Kelsey is nicer than almost all humans. I have only rarely seen her angry (despite what the knife-wielding picture below may suggest). She always apologizes first, a quality that infuriated me when I was little because it meant that I couldn’t stay angry at her for very long.

So excited to be 21

She’d be the last person to tell you so, but Kelsey is also incredibly smart. With all due respect to Sam and Grace, Kelsey wins the title of Smartest Sibling in our family. She taught herself calculus when she was 14. She was the only one among us who displayed any talent for the more advanced topics of learning, such as statistics and science. Kelsey was accepted into numerous Ivy League universities, but she decided to come to UNC-Chapel Hill after being awarded the coveted and prestigious Morehead-Cain scholarship (which is, essentially, a golden ticket to the most charmed life ever). She was the first homeschooled student to be given this award in the program’s history. This summer, she worked as a research intern for Madeleine Albright’s consulting firm in D.C. We all expect Kels to become the Secretary of State in a short matter of time.

In short, Kelsey is the consummate woman. She is beautiful, loving, and smarter than everyone else. She can do anything and that’s something I will always believe.

Buzzing: Inheriting the family “crazy”

I want to BE this woman. Source: BBC.

Mental stability has never been one of my strong points.

This does not mean I am prone to hysterics or wild bouts of unpredictable emotion. From the outside, you would never know that I was psychologically shaky or possessed. I like to keep it quiet; my neuroses are pleasantly hushed.

More recently, I have been thinking of my brain’s inability to calm down, to move on, to focus as an inherited trait. Mental disturbance runs in my paternal family. It follows a spectrum, from clinical mental illness/borderline genius to sociable obsession. As far as I can tell, I’m definitely on the lower end of the intelligence slide with the manifestation of my instability rooted soundly in friendly obsessions.

My father is an interesting example of this murky family phenomenon. He is highly intelligent and extremely humble about it. As my grandmother likes to say, “You’d never guess that he was actually smart.” He jokes around and plays with the maturity of a 7-year-old. Yet he has three master’s degrees, in electrical engineering, computer engineering, and robotics; Mom says he was just a few classes away from his Ph.D. (but then I was born and ruined everything). He worked on an algorithm for years to figure out how to combine tracts of land in auctions; he solved it and was the first person to do so. He worked on the team in Boca Raton that built the first personal printer.  He programs computers in his sleep. Like his four siblings and parents, he has this genius thing working for him.

But he also is obsessive. I was thinking today that I am like him in this way. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit the genius bit, but I definitely picked up his inclination for obsession.

This is what I mean by “friendly obsession.” A sociable or socially normative obsessive personality, as manifested in my family, means that you have a tendency to get locked into one idea, hobby, or task and you are unable to let it go for a given period of time.

This is how it worked with Dad. Every few months or so, he would discover a new talent of his and make this new talent his whole life, his central pursuit. For example, he decided, when he was 30, that his new hobby would be tennis. He started playing tennis every day. He bought a device to string his own rackets. In a few years, he was playing semi-pro and winning state tournaments. A few years later, it was piano. He went out an bought a glossy, beautiful baby grand piano and plunked it in his office. He taught himself how to read music and started playing the piano every night. A year later, it was guitar. He bought five guitars and taught himself how to play them (and me, eventually). Then it was model airplanes. Then it was complex building and landscape projects. Then it was hockey. And so forth.

You see this obsessive trait played out in my paternal family. For my grandfather, it was bodybuilding. For my grandmother, it was shelter dogs and Dobermans for a while; now it’s NASCAR. For my uncle, it is his prized fleet of motorcycles. Everyone has their THING.

And I have mine. You know what it is without me having to say it again. In my own cycle of life obsessions, I don’t remember one being this powerful and affecting to my daily functioning. But there you have it. When I was young, I was obsessed with writing novellas and performing historical plays. In late elementary school and early middle school, my obsession with dogs began. Naturally, that one hasn’t died out. In high school, I was obsessed with guitar. College distracted me from this obsessive tendency for a solid four years, although it manifested itself in the continual drive to achieve and make straight A’s and write excellent papers.

Now, almost a year out of college, I find the obsession creeping back. It’s the more predictable, stubborn type. It leaks into my dreams and my solitary moments. Dangerously, it crowds out all other disciplines and interests. For Guion’s sake, I try not to talk about it (“it” being dogs, of course). This is going to be a long year, this Year of Patience. To keep my spirit aloft, I have devised a series of monthly goals (more drawn-out and relaxed versions of my Weekly Challenges) to keep me distracted from how long I have to wait for a puppy. It will be good for me. This is my new mantra.

Essentially, all you need to know is that I am an ideal candidate for becoming one of those Crazy Dog Ladies. You know the type. High-waisted jeans, outdated hair, fanny pack full of liver treats, screen print T-shirt with a cameo of her favorite breed? Yeah. That’s me at 50. Or earlier, if I’m not careful…

Monday Snax

With every day that passes, I become more and more excited that January is almost over. I know a lot of dearly beloved people who have January as their birth month, but I’m sorry, guys: It is by far the worst 31 days of the year. I will forgive it once it’s gone. However, the bright side of January is that it has given me ample time to read, drink tea, and–yes, I admit it, world!–watch “Lost” with my husband. He’s doing a pretty good job of convincing me that it’s addictive. We also bought a coffee table yesterday, which was pretty exciting, because I think it means we’re done with buying furniture for our apartment. Mainly because nothing else could possibly fit

Snax in a white bowl of pomegranate arils:

Sit. Stay. Parse. Good Girl! A Border Collie–who knows 1,000 words–teaches us about language. A quote from the article: “Chaser proved to be a diligent student. Unlike human children, she seems to love her drills and tests and is always asking for more. ‘She still demands four to five hours a day,’ Dr. Pilley said. ‘I’m 82, and I have to go to bed to get away from her.'” (New York Times)

Space Invaders: Why You Should Never, Ever Use Two Spaces after a Period. Slate Writer Farhard Manjoo, I LOVE YOU. FINALLY. Someone is talking about this! “What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces.” Me too, same as me, I’m the same! Please. If you are a repeat space offender, read this article. Spread the word. (Slate)

Same Books, Three Ways. Cate’s excellent post about how she’s chosen to display her books as she’s moved. Beautiful! (The Charlotte)

Fashion of the Future. Probably the best video I’ve seen all week: Fashion designers from the 1930s predict what clothes we’ll be wearing in 2000. Totally amazing. (The Charlotte)

Life on a Farm. Brief thoughts from Grace as she begins her stint on a New Zealand farm. (Como Say What?)

Figure-Figure. Lovely pairings of photographs and paintings. (Miss Moss)

Look: Napping. I’ve never been one who was actually able to nap; I feel guilty for napping. But these photographs could almost change my mind. Everyone looks so peaceful. (Where the Lovely Things Are)

Morbid Curiosity Leading Many Voters to Support Palin. “A recent poll shows 62% of Americans say they don’t want to vote for Palin, but just kinda have to see what what would happen.” (The Onion)

Dogs in Ginza Wearing School Uniforms and Glasses. Japan, this is taking your little dog obsession too far; too far, I tell you! (Tokyo Times)

However, Since You Are Twelve… “We appreciate your interest in the Marine Corps. However, since you are twelve, you won’t be eligible to be a Marine for a while.” (Letters of Note)

New Game! Is it Etsy or Anthropologie? Hah. Loves it. And it can be very hard to tell. (Regretsy)

This Is the Brooklyn We Live In, This Is the Brooklyn I Remember. A beautiful post about growing up in New York City and then raising your own kids there. It makes me think about what a different life she and her daughters must lead, compared to those of who weren’t raised in the greatest metropolis. (Sweet Fine Day)

Postscript: Reynolds Price. A thoughtful eulogy for North Carolina writer Reynolds Price, who passed away last week. (The Book Bench)

7 Common Investing Mistakes. A place to start, at least. (Wise Bread)

Light Locations. Such a beautiful photographs of such peaceful, bright space. I want to create rooms like this in a house one day. (Ill Seen, Ill Said)

Bruce. I feel like there’s a great short story in this. (FOUND Magazine)