Unseen inheritance

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My grandmother, Loretta, with one of her beloved dogs.

I had always expected that once I got pregnant that my adoration of dogs would wane. But here I am, lumbering well into my third trimester, and I continue to find dogs far more interesting than children. They catch my eye on the street far more than babies do. Perhaps I will love dogs less once I have a child of my own. I will, at least, expect to be less focused on them. But I think they will always matter to me. My grandmother, Loretta, shown above, never lost her lifelong love of dogs. We used to joke that she knew more about the family’s dogs than she did about her own grandchildren. And yet we did not resent her for it; it was part of her everlasting charm. She craved the company of dogs, perhaps because they shared her boundless enthusiasm for life.

Whenever I’m away from home, I look for dogs everywhere. They make me feel less homesick; they instantly brighten my mood. While in Charleston, Guion knew I’d want to linger by a dog park and so he let me ogle like a creep by the fence, just to watch the pups play for a bit. I recently returned from SXSW in Austin, where there was no shortage of street dogs to admire. A dog-loving colleague and I would take pains to point dogs out to each other. And then, when I come home to Pyrrha, I am Lazarus, fresh from the tomb: You never saw such rejoicing! Such disbelief! Such yips of ecstasy!

How can you not harbor a lifelong obsession with such a creature? A silent, joyful, juvenile wolf who sleeps in your home and gives you daily offerings of unending love?

. . .

In thinking about our unknown child, our fast-approaching firstborn, I wonder about the unseen inheritances that he or she will receive. I am particularly interested in the personality traits that skip a generation or two. Will she have her great-grandmother’s infectious laugh (and fixation on canines)? Will he have his great-grandfather’s gift of playing music by ear?

“Unseen” is the word that comes to me, although it is perhaps not quite right. “Unknown” or “unanticipated” are probably closer to what I mean. But I like the idea of being blindsided by a familial similarity. You look at your kid one day, when she is six years old, and you realize she has her grandmother’s eyebrows and her great-grandfather’s genteel manner of storytelling.

This interests me. I am not sure how to say more about it than that.

. . .

“The digital clutter of our lives doesn’t merely make us anxious, interrupting our train of thought and blocking us from longer periods of silence and the deeper thinking that can go with it. Our digital clutter redesigns our world around the temporary. Constant interruptions turn us into amnesiacs who are required to respond, reply, and react from moment to moment. This is why we have so little memory of what happened last week, let alone what happened last year or twenty years ago. We are constantly threatened with interruption, so we experience each moment as something that could easily be discounted, could easily be erased or subsumed by some more important message. Our minds, in other words, are filled with the clutter of what comes next: messages and tweets and texts yet to be received. We live in a world of past and future clutter. We are boxed in. There is no space for where we are right now.”

— Heather Havrilesky, “Stuffed,” from her new book, What If This Were Enough?

. . .

Learning more about birth continues to cement my feminist leanings. I continue to trust in the incredible power and strength and wisdom of women. The main things I have gleaned thus far are that women should labor in the place they feel safest, and women should guide other women through labor and birth, as they have done for millennia. I’m not sure this is a realm where men get to have much say (and, in this way, it feels right to treat birth as holy, in the “set apart” sense of the definition). We’ll see how it goes. I am trying not to have any expectations, because I know that none of it can be organized or planned. It will be a great exercise in surrender, an act that I do not typically welcome.

Closet visit

One of my 2015 resolutions is to simplify my life, particularly my wardrobe. I’m far from declaring that I have achieved a streamlined, minimalist wardrobe, but I think I’ve made progress. It’s a start, at least.

Closet visit
Tapestry by Laura Dillon Rogers.

A physical benefit of attempting a pared-down wardrobe is that we have TINY closets. Simply, there is no space to have an expansive collection of clothes. When we moved in a year ago, I begrudged this seeming limitation and envied women with those luxurious walk-in closets. But now I feel grateful for this small space. It has forced me to become a conscientious and ruthless editor over time.

Closet visit

Closet visit
Shaker dictum calligraphy print, by me.

This is it:

Closet visit

Closet visit

And then I have three drawers (grunders not pictured).

Closet visit

Closet visit
Shirts, transformed by the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (a la Marie Kondo).

My shoes live on a little shelf outside the closet.

Closet visit

The surrounding goals are to (1) discard/donate more, (2) reduce colors, (3) refine what I consider to be my personal style, (4) buy less, and (5) buy better-made clothes when I do buy.

Closet visit
Silk blouse from Everlane.

I still have lots of progress to make, but I am feeling refreshed and inspired with this small start. An added benefit is that my mom and sisters (and some of Grace’s friends) are joining in this goal to simplify our closets, and so I have a good deal of peripheral, personal support. I am thankful for them, and for this year of new beginnings, even if it is starting with something as ordinary as a collection of clothes.

“Through housewifely care a house recovers not so much its originality as its origin. And what a great life it would be if, every morning, every object in the house could be made anew by our hands, could ‘issue’ from our hands. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh tells him that we should ‘retain something of the original character of a Robinson Crusoe.’ Make and remake everything oneself, make a ‘supplementary gesture’ toward each object, give another facet to the polished reflections, all of which are so many boons the imagination confers upon us by making us aware of the house’s inner growth.”

— The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

Inspiration

2015 goals

Back in the saddle again. Happy new year! #calligraphy #moderncalligraphy #minimalism

It’s goal-setting time! I approach these resolutions loosely, as you can see from last year’s goals, with commentary in italics:

2014 Goals

  1. Read 100 books. Read 167.
  2. Read through the Bible in a year. Nope.
  3. Make exercise a regular part of my life. (Even if I can only walk for 30 minutes a day, do SOMETHING.) I don’t know about “regular,” but I spent more time walking and I felt better, having converted to a standing desk at work… does that count?
  4. Get strong. Do some kind of strength training? Hahahahaha.
  5. Buy a bike and use it to run errands around town or to get to work. No. I still should get a bike, though.
  6. Eat meat only once a week. (Excluding fish.) We didn’t do this faithfully every week, but I think we got pretty close.
  7. Keep a tidy, peaceful home. More or less, I think I accomplished this.
  8. Read at least three-fourths of each New Yorker issue I receive. Often.
  9. Be a better businesswoman, regarding my calligraphy studio. There are still many things to do to improve my business, but I felt like 2014 was a good year for Bluestocking Calligraphy.
  10. Continue weeding colors out of and cultivating a minimalistic wardrobe. I’ve made a lot of progress on this front, and I’m happy about how my wardrobe looks now. I don’t feel like I truly need anything. Except for those Everlane loafers…

This year, here are some simple things on my mind.

2015 Goals

  1. Read 120 books.
  2. Continue the pursuit of minimalism and eschewing clutter in my approach to our home and my wardrobe, specifically. I stumbled on the website Into Mind a few weeks ago, and I feel so radicalized by it.
  3. Invest in higher-quality and ethically made clothes and shoes. Stop buying cheap crap. Jump off the fast-fashion train.
  4. Style myself like a French woman, as much as it is within my power.
  5. Take either a Japanese or a French class, for credit. Maybe both, if I’m feeling extra-ambitious.
  6. Eat healthier lunches. I am wary of leftovers and I’m fundamentally lazy, so this means I’m usually eating Trader Joe’s frozen pasta lunches every other day. Which is pretty terrible. What do you health mavens eat for lunch?
  7. Figure out how to read the Bible for pleasure. In a related gesture, think more about the meaning of freedom in Christ.
  8. Practice morning prayer/meditation/timid yoga sessions at home on weekdays. I have the time to do this; I just don’t. Because, as I mentioned before, I am profoundly lazy. I’d like to spend more time in the Book of Common Prayer at home. And to pray with more sincerity/regularity.

What would you like to do in 2015?