Wednesday, February 29, 2012

i decided against calling this post "hemingway steez."

While our living room trends toward Miles Redd, our bedroom is all Hemingway. When I promised Kevin a more masculine space, there was only one man to look to for decorating inspiration (and he had quite the menagerie, too... Authors! They're just like us!).

The Key West home: 
The study; photo source unknown.  The pink couch; photo by Rick Collier.

THE typewriter; photo source unknown.

Finca Vigia, the Cuban home:
The living room; photo source unknown.
Clockwise, from top left: The office, photo taken by Jane LaFazio; entryway, via CNN; trunk & L.L. Bean boots via Town & Country; a vignette of a bull and Hem's boys, photo taken by David Lansing.

Just LOOKING these makes me want to become a genius globe-trotting alcoholic philanderer.

P.S. Stylish Hemingways, past and present:
Hadley and Ernest in Switzerland, 1922, photo courtesy of the JFK Presidential Museum; Dree in Sunglasses, 2011, photo by Elizabeth Lippman for W.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

things to do at your english estate.

Once you've confessed to bedding a Turk and have miraculously recovered from paralysis, of course...

Add celebratory balloons.

Don't let stormy skies get in the way of your fun.

Buck stuffy traditions; do not release the hounds. 

Grab your faves (from upstairs and down) for a killer slumber party in the Library.

Clever photography by Tim Walker.  

I'd like to live in that last one. The last living room fort I built in our apartment failed miserably.

Monday, February 27, 2012

on hemingway.

I've loved Ernest Hemingway since the age of twenty-one, lost in a year-long hangover brought on by rowdy Parisian nights. I went to Paris twice when I was twenty, for about four weeks total. In reality, it was not a very long time.

But if you are of a certain misguided, romantic frame of mind (and you'd be hard-pressed to find a twenty-year-old girl who isn't), Paris will steal your heart and your common sense. And it will keep them both as long as it pleases.

The next year was rough. Some of the decisions I'd made at twenty led to heartbreak and anxiety and depression and... well, that was quite enough at the moment.  Floundering and terrified and utterly unsure I was going to survive, I took some (and only some) solace in reading Hemingway.

(The rest of my time was spent sobbing in rhythm with Fiona Apple slow jams, if you were wondering.)

The starkness and simplicity of Hemingway's voice was a welcome antidote to the messiness swirling around my head... As was the notion that any number of problems could be solved by a bit of bravado, a stiff drink, and a strong right hook. It took me a few additional years to realize this was not a viable way of addressing conflict.

When Midnight in Paris came out last year, I was charmed all over again, both by the man and his moveable feast.  Of course, movie Hemingway was mythic Hemingway; the Hemingway of his stories.
Finding out Corey Stoll is actually bald led to minor devastation on my end.
Real life Hemingway wasn't always so clear. He was, at many times, messy and troubled. But he was also brilliant and true. I'm figuring out that life is that way, too.

P.S. A stellar live performance of Bistro Fada, that whimsical waltzy guitar piece that played throughout Midnight:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

ten million strong, and growing.

When I was little, my parents had two sturdy woven baskets in living room that corralled a large collection of Architectural Digest back issues. It also served as the depository for half-chewed Flintstones vitamins.

Spanning the years between 1988 and 1992, I had a daily ritual of hiding half chewed vitamins in these baskets.  My hatred of those vitamins rivaled only that which I held for the god awful Cockatoo woman on Zoobilee Zoo. The purples especially.  I wasn't about to be taken for a fool just because some disgusting tablet vaguely resembled the shape of a prehistoric creature. So I'd pop it in my mouth in front of my mom and slowly begin to chew.

Then I'd sneak off to the living room to empty my mouth and put Dino where he so obviously belonged: adhered with spit to some of the finest palatial homes of the 1980s.  Some may call this the early renderings of an eating disorder.  I call it genius. I would have rather experienced that awful flavor for an extra few minutes than ever have to swallow the agony of defeat.

via bibliopolis

The jig was up when we moved and it came time to pack the magazines.

Twenty years later, I am still a jerk when it comes to taking my vitamins. Every morning, I get so beleaguered by the endless stream of tasks at hand-- getting out of bed, having to put clothes on, washing my face again-- that the last thing in the free world that I want to do is gulp down seven capsules of various shapes, sizes, and smells. Good lord, it's six in the morning, haven't I done enough?!

P.S. This is the number one hit on a Google image search that I did for this post.  I am glad it's a thing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

the brass menagerie, and other pets.

Horns from ebay, Scalamandré zebras, & brass elephant box from Antique & Resale; The first horse of the house, from Roost.

There was a time a few years ago during which I was in an on-again-off-again relationship that left me newly single approximately every other week. Let it be known that I am colorblind when it comes to red flags.

At the time, I lived alone and desperately wanted a pet to keep me company during my intermittent moments of heartbreak.  Specifically, I wanted a dog. My apartment had the dimensions of a generously-sized shoe box, and any creature of the barking variety was strictly prohibited. There was a point at which my distraught thought process became so off-kilter, I even considered adopting a cat. SICK. (Sorry, friends who are cat owners.)

Thankfully, I snapped out of it and good friend Peter took me to Home Depot, where I bought a plant.  Getting a Peace Lily somewhat sated the urge to have something to take care of, and at least it wasn't a cat. Sometimes I'd even drag the damn thing into the bathroom when I showered, thinking The internet said humidity is good for plants! I am such a good and loveable plant owner! AND PERSON!

Then I'd cry about being alone.

Cast iron coin slot bank,  purchased from an antique store in Nashville

Several years later, I still really want a dog, but alas, this building doesn't allow them either. All of this to point out that after a long time of wanting a non-cat non-plant pet,  I have a hunch I may be
overcompensating on the animal front when it comes to decor. We can call this "inadvertent animal theme, pt II."

Every American home needs a kitchen horse; his & hers key hooks from Urban.

Baby elephant also from Antique & Resale
I have known Maurice my whole life; I took him from my mother's house without permission. Clothbound books by Osa Johnson. "Busy Bodies" birds from United Thread; Ram can be found at Twosided.
"Watering Hole" print also by Michele at United Thread

"Proud as a peacork, baby!" from Lincoln Antique Mall (Name that television sitcom!)

On the plus side, none of these can die by my hand! (As the Peace Lily eventually did.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

come clean.

One of the best parts of getting older is no longer being younger.  There's insight, but with all that comes the "Oh God, did I really say/wear/do/write that?" realizations. These are the things that literally make you cringe-- nose wrinkled and shoulders drawn up to ears. Perhaps a shudder or two.

Some of the worst of it is that seductive pull to try to create yourself by cobbling together pieces of other people. And it's made all the more tempting with the lure of the internet. BLOGS!

It's painfully transparent, in the way that makes other people cringe FOR you.  (You know, as opposed to your true friends, who will cringe WITH you.)

I'd love to say I've never been there, but alas: LiveJournal,, the years 2003-2006.

Hell, I'm embarrassed by stuff from when I was 25. And 26. And 27.  A message from the future: and 31 - 43!

But the turning point around quarter life was learning that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. It comes across as cloying and disingenuous. Authenticity is key.

Anything else will have people wrinkling their noses and thinking "Oh God" about the things you're doing... years before you've earned your God-given right to do it for yourself.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

a subsequent letter.

Dear Northwestern,
hand drawn valentine by the amazing Maybelle


Backstory to the Follow Up, alternately titled "I am all Bark, no Bite":

After firing off a snide letter to the president and vice president of donor and alumni relations, I received a really prompt, thoughtful, apologetic reply.  And a guarantee it would never happen again.  And the promise of a thorough investigation. And a personal offer by the president to make a donation in my name to an area of my choice (I chose need-based undergrad grants).  For a hot moment, I was quite satisfied.

Then I started feeling really guilty for complaining. Then I felt scared about possibly getting someone in trouble. Then I spent the evening worrying about the demise of a stranger's career. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

for the sake of posterity.

Kevin had our Valentine's dinner filmed!

an open letter to northwestern university.

To the Development Offices at Northwestern University:

As an English major (WCAS '06) and current teacher I've done my fair share of textual analysis. Even my 2nd graders know that meaning isn't always what it appears to be.  A writer's intent may be implicitly embedded within a text; a negative tone can be couched in excessively flowery verbiage. (I believe simpler folk call this style "passive aggressive"-- see image 1... Familiar, no?)
image 1, courtesy of Northwestern University

The trouble is, your implicit intent (above) was made glaringly explicit when you cleverly (but not really... see what I did there?)  titled your graphic "Young Alumni Faux Thank You to Nondonors." I assume you failed to realize the image's file name would in the gmail preview feature.

image 2, courtesy of gmail
Now, usually a big faux thank you is exactly  what I like to receive at the end of a ten hour day working in one of the nation's largest public school systems, but today it really rubbed me the wrong way. 

I am the first person in my family to earn a bachelor's degree.  I know that this was because of the incredible opportunity afforded to me through Northwestern grants. I know that current students depend on these grants as much as I did. I would love to contribute more to the university, but right now, I'm barely getting by on a salary that is not commensurate with my education level or hours worked. I have expressed this, both via email and phone in response to university solicitations.

I did not make the CHOICE to be a nondonor, but someone in your development offices made the choice to be rude and passive aggressive. When I do achieve financial stability (if that's not just a pipe dream for public school teachers), perhaps I'll direct my gifts to my graduate school, which has yet to pull a stunt like this.

With faux sincerity and real disappointment,

Nondonor & Alumna
Class of 2006

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

monday night is "bachelor night."

I went through a phase in college in which I was not a very nice person to be in a relationship with. I believe the proper term for people who behaved like me is "sociopath." But that's just semantics.

Anyways, I acted very cavalierly with someone else's heart, and I ended up regretting it. HARD.

In my misguided attempts to atone, I decided I had to shun my previous ways and devote myself to being earnest. Look at me volunteering with kids; I am a good person! Look at this small cute animal I am holding; I am so nice! Mostly, I was trying to convince myself that I wasn't an awful person. (Still waiting on the outcome).

Good friend Jean dubbed this pursuit of mine "earnesty." She even made a motivational poster for me featuring the phrase beneath the photo of an Arcade Fire member singing his heart out: EARNESTY!

A lot of that season of earnesty involved crying, soup-eating, crying, journalling, crying and watching "The Bachelor" on Monday nights at Jean's apartment.  I needed to believe in love-- even ridiculous, contrived love-- and the show's heavy handed rose-scented perfume seeped into my veins. Not gonna lie, I also quite enjoyed the feeling of "Oh god, no matter how bad a state I'm in right now, at least I didn't just do THAT on national television."  I still can't get enough of this awful/awesome show on Monday nights.

I have to cringe at the girls who are just too damn earnest.


So, in high school I just straight-up refused to step foot into a pool for P.E., which was somehow okay for all of sophomore and junior years. I wrote one-page reports on tennis as a make-up. I don't know how this genius set-up fell apart senior year, but all of a sudden, good friend Aisling and I were forced to join in on the water sports.

Our revenge? Avoiding all participation in water polo in exchange for slowly moving about the perimeter of the pool, oversized white t-shirts floating around our lanky teenage frames, pretending we were waterghosts.

I ran into one of our former P.E. teachers a few months ago and offered very sincere apologies.

The point of this all is the fact that this was a full ten years ago now, which is weirder than a waterghost in a high school aquatics center. (I'm hoping that catches on as a folksy saying.)

I stepped up to do some design work for the reunion, and here's what I've been playing around with so far; our colors are maroon & silver.

I couldn't bring myself to add a clipart Mustang into the mix, though I TRIED searching for a clipart waterghost...  Zero results.

Friday, February 10, 2012

friday, three fifteen.

On Friday, at three fifteen, 

there was quiet,

and everything was right again.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

thank god

That this woman is writing again. Curses that it took something gut-wrenchingly awful to get her to do it. Isn't that always how it goes, though?

"My therapist makes me talk about my childhood and how afraid I was of my father. Very afraid, I tell her. My childhood was one long army crawl around his temper. I wasn't necessarily taught to avoid conflict, but I see a potential confrontation and hide as if it might give me a disease. Because someone might get shoved up against a wall and have a finger wagged a little too close to their face. My ten-year-old self is a specter who hovers just above my shoulder. I don't know what the hell she wants or is waiting for." (From Bad Days, by Heather Armstrong)

I have Moleskine upon Moleskine filled with grief, loss, and shame. I never stop and remember to write the good stuff. I never stop and remember to even think about the good stuff.  It's far too easy to spot that one far-off cloud on an unnaturally sunny day. STORM'S A-BREWIN'!

An anxious eight year old I know was recently given a blank book by the school counselor.  He's supposed to write good things about himself and his day.

That week, I received the same assignment from my therapist. 

That seems about right.

Friday, February 3, 2012

one liners.

Last night I fell down a wormhole of gmail archives and read LOTS of emails about love (read: about me complaining about love).

I found one line in an email that so wholly encapsulated one of my relationships that I had to write it down because there is no better way for me to remember or relate that experience:

"thanks for taking me to prom that one time, and for letting me eat the crust off your pizza."

 And that's exactly what it was.

Floral Heart by Anna Bond at Rifle

 And because it's February and almost our anniversary and it's okay to be sappy, here's a line that's a bit more current:

"i literally have had my breath taken away several times this weekend, where there's a tightness in my chest that i've never felt before and all i can do is smile. it's just all been so easy."

More (and more elegantly crafted) relationship shorts, courtesy of author/artist Brian Andreas:

I read once that the ancient Egyptians had fifty words for sand & the Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. I wish I had a thousand words for love, but all that comes to mind is the way you move against me while you sleep & there are no words for that.

You're the strangest person I ever met, she said & I said you too & we decided we'd know each other a long time.

"When I first met him, I knew in a moment I would have to spend the next few days re-arranging my mind so there'd be room for him to stay.