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Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

purple tulips

I’ve been talking about what’s saving my life a lot lately (because it’s the best way I know to get through this winter with a shred of my sanity intact). Today, I’m over at the Art House America blog, exploring how the act of naming those lifesavers can be a lifesaving act itself. Here’s an excerpt from my post:

This winter, I’m finding it worthwhile — even necessary — to name the things that are saving my life. Sometimes I scribble down a list in my journal (a gift from my sister last Christmas, and itself a lifesaver). Sometimes I take the time to write a blog post, with pictures of those purple tulips or a brave blue winter sky. Most often, I’m trading daily texts with my friend Laura, both of us doing our best to find and name the things that are saving our lives. The act of naming them often becomes a lifesaver, a welcome glimpse into the brighter side of this world. (Though sometimes — full disclosure — we also gripe about the things that are killing us. Sometimes venting can save my life, too.)

Join me at the AHA blog to read the rest. (And please, tell us what’s saving your life these days.)

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purple tulips

Last month, I posted a list of fun ideas to get me through the winter. We’ve had plenty of snow (so much snow) and frigid temps, but I’ve been working on the list anyway. Here’s an update:

  • Fill up the journal I started in early January.* Working on it (though my handwriting is truly atrocious these days).
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. I’m going over there once a week, and exploring a new gallery each time.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats.
  • Invite friends over for dinner. We’ve hosted three sets of friends for spinach enchiladas and spicy chicken soup.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my college roommate and our husbands. We had a fabulous time, though bad weather delayed our flight home.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I finished that cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. J and I finished Veronica Mars and are loving Grantchester, and I’m still watching Downton solo. (Also Castle, but I have to admit I am not loving this season.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. I’ve crossed off four categories already: a book I’ve been meaning to read (Beauty: The Invisible Embrace), a book published this year (the newest Flavia de Luce mystery), a book from my childhood (The Long Winter), and a book by a favorite author (Wearing God by Lauren Winner).
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. No sweat. I am on a serious Earl Grey kick.

Things that were not on my list but are happening anyway: lots of snow shoveling; many batches of Molly’s scones; several snow days; all the tulips; and fervent prayers for spring.

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bike seat cover plaid snow

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of the things that are saving my life this winter: blue sky, tulips for my desk, my light box, coffee dates with friends. Three days later, Anne wrote her own post about a quirky winter lifesaver – and promised to share her whole list today of what’s getting her through this season.

In the wake of a massive blizzard (and staring down the barrel of another one), I figured another positive post couldn’t hurt. So I’m joining in. Here are the little things that are saving my life lately:

  • The cobalt blue (now slightly chipped) mug that dates from my days as a barista at the Ground Floor. I’ve been drinking Earl Grey out of it every morning, and it makes me so happy.
  • The stainless-steel half teaspoon I use to scoop the loose tea. Three scoops is the perfect amount, and it’s just the right tool for the job.
  • My snow boots, which I am wearing every single day. (Sigh. But they’re warm.)
  • Glimpses of whimsy, like the plaid bike-seat cover above. (Makes me think of summer picnics.)
  • The adventures of Mrs. Tim (I’m on book 2). She is a charming companion.
  • My weekly trips to the Harvard Art Museums, about which more soon.
  • Fresh scones made from Molly’s recipe, with butter.
  • The zigzag silver ring I bought in Abilene over Christmas.
  • Lemon cuticle salve, vanilla hand lotion and coconut foot cream. (I smell like a bakery.)
  • Texts from a coworker and friend whose snarky sense of humor cracks me up.
  • Coffee with a new friend last week.
  • Instagram. I love it more all the time.
  • Cardigans whose sleeves come down over my hands.
  • Photos of my sweet nephews, with texts from my sister.
  • Taylor Swift’s Speak Now album, which I’ve been blasting when I need a little pep.
  • Norah Jones and the Wailin’ Jennys, for mellower moods.
  • The Yoga Studio app, which I downloaded after reading about it on Ali’s blog.
  • A few pages of The Long Winter every morning over breakfast.
  • Writing by hand in my current journal.

What’s saving your life these days? (And when will it be spring?)

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katie green coat black ink

A couple of years ago, I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s gorgeous book An Altar in the World and was particularly struck by a question in the introduction: What is saving your life now? Since then, I have asked it of myself over and over again, as a kind of reset button for my life and also as a way of giving thanks.

Winter is always a tough season for me, especially in New England where the frigid temps and biting winds make it hard to get through the day sometimes. But this winter, I’ve been employing a few coping mechanisms that are saving my life. (At least until the next blizzard hits.)

yellow tulips desk

I bought myself two bunches of tulips this week: one for the kitchen table, one for my desk at work (above). They make me smile, and they’re having the same effect on my colleagues.

I finally went back to Monday night yoga, after an absence of several months. My favorite instructor’s face lit up when she saw me, and the familiar poses – cat/cow, pigeon, downward facing dog – felt like coming home.

While on the mat, I had a chance to enjoy the bright pink pedicure I got last Saturday. Catching up at the nail salon and then over brunch with my friend Kristin was a real treat – even if it was 16 degrees outside. (Hence another of my little lifesavers: fleece-lined tights.)

In the mornings, before work, I’m flipping on my light box – I’ve started carrying it into the bathroom so I can switch it on the moment I step out of the shower. I move it around the apartment as needed, so I can get as much extra light as possible. That extra hit of light, and my Vitamin D pills, make a real difference on gray days.

I am (it’s no secret) a dedicated tea drinker, and I always go on an Earl Grey kick in the winter. This month, I’m drinking the Earl Grey I bought in Montreal last year, out of my favorite cobalt blue mug, every morning.

I’m wearing cozy cardigans and dresses with my favorite green coat (pictured above), including a few new-to-me pieces culled from my sister’s closet over Christmas. Having a trendy – and generous – sister is such a bonus. (We’ve also been having long conversations via text message about Downton Abbey – she’s been catching up in preparation for the new season.)

Winter can be so isolating, but this year I am making a real effort to schedule coffee dates or excursions like the above brunch-and-pedicure date with Kristin. (It’s also on my winter list to invite people over for dinner – bowls of soup or spicy Mexican food.)

IMG_1521

During the workday, I’m making a real effort to slip away for some chai and writing when things get crazy. Even 20 minutes of scribbling can clear my head and make a real difference in my day.

I’m reading and watching all the good stories I can: Downton, Castle, the brand-new series Grantchester, the newest Flavia de Luce mystery, Lauren Winner’s latest book (out in March).

blue sky bare branches

Finally and always: I am soaking up every bit of blue sky, whenever I can get it – and rejoicing that it’s not quite dark when I leave work now.

What is saving your life this winter?

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stripes tea bare feet red scarf

I love a good list, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. I’m also battling the winter blues over here (already), so here’s a list of fun ideas to help me get through my least favorite season.

  • Fill up the journal I started earlier this month. (Related: keep writing by hand.)
  • Spend some time at the Harvard Art Museums. They’re finally open again after a multi-year renovation, and my Harvard staff ID means I get in for free.
  • Start hunting for a new pair of red ballet flats. Mine are falling apart, and I know I’ll want some new ones come spring.
  • Invite some friends over for dinner.
  • Spend a long weekend in Nashville with my sweet college roommate and our husbands.
  • Knit myself something cozy. (I’m working on a cabled wrap.)
  • Watch some good stories. (Currently watching new episodes of Downton Abbey and Castle, and season 3 of Veronica Mars.)
  • Read a couple of books for the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. (Join us?)
  • Drink lots and lots of tea. (Obviously.)

What’s on your list for this winter?

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thanksgiving plate

This was our fifth Thanksgiving in Boston, our fifth time to sit down with friends in our church basement and enjoy a feast of everyone’s favorite dishes. We are no longer shy newbies: instead, we help organize, plan, set up and make the whole thing happen.

By now, we’ve learned a few things: for example, a Google doc sign-up sheet saves the day. Related: there will still be a hurried conference at church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, to make sure we’ve got all the traditional dishes covered. And lots and lots of lists. (Abi’s is on the left, mine on the right.)

thanksgiving lists

Every year on Thanksgiving morning, we head over to Nate and Abi’s to eat breakfast and watch some Thanksgiving episodes of Friends.

katie abi aprons

They are in a different apartment this year, and it was just the four of us, plus Nate’s attention was diverted by having two turkeys to baste (one in their oven, one in the neighbors’ oven) and gravy to make. But we ate blueberry scones and peppery bacon, and laughed as Rachel made her disastrous trifle and the Friends gang reminisced about Thanksgivings past. (“In this life, Phoebe!”)

rachel trifle friends thanksgiving

Every year, Abi goes to the church ahead of time to set out tablecloths and candles, and string twinkle lights. Every year we wonder if we’ll have enough food, enough paper napkins, enough glass goblets to make the table sparkle. (Every year, somehow, there are enough – even if “somehow” includes a last-minute run to Target.)

thanksgiving table turkeypalooza

The weather might be sunny and mid-50s or frigid and snowy. Either way, my husband will tuck a Frisbee or a football into the car among the casseroles. The oven will be crowded with foil-covered dishes, reheating; the two food tables will be jammed with tempting dishes, and everyone will go home with leftovers.

dessert table turkeypalooza

Every year, we say we’ll eat around one o’clock, but it really means we might all sit down by two. There is always a mix of old friends and new faces; this year there was a birthday cake for Adam, age 2. (Nate, whose birthday is the day before Adam’s, helped him blow out the candles.)

Every year, there is laughter and mulled apple cider and so much pie. There are roasted vegetables and five kinds of potatoes and Abi’s peanut butter balls. There are people from half a dozen countries and native New Englanders and American transplants to Boston, like us. There are family favorites and brand-new recipes and so much love.

jer katie turkeypalooza

I miss my family on Thanksgiving every year – especially this year when my sister and baby nephew have been ill. (They’re home now, and improving.) But I am grateful to gather, every year, with this group of friends, to break bread and give thanks and enjoy being together.

If you celebrated last week, I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful. (And happy December!)

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oas main building

Every November, when the leaves turn yellow and the nights begin to draw in, there’s a particular sort of grey, windy, serious afternoon that takes me right back to high school.

Along with a dozen of my fellow students, I spent the fall of my senior year preparing for the annual conference of MOAS, a mock diplomatic organization in which teams of student delegates represent the nations of the Western Hemisphere. I interviewed for the team on a whim, looking for something to fill up my schedule, never dreaming what it would come to mean to me.

Our team was assigned to represent the U.S. that fall of 2001. Mr. Walker’s English classroom was our headquarters, and we spent hours hunched over particleboard desks, heads bent over thick black binders filled with forests of paper, learning terms like rapporteur and communiqué and secretariat.

We drafted formal proposals and learned the rules of table discussion, dragging our desks into a wonky circle and holding mock debates: “Point of order, question to the speaker directed through the chair.” Along the way, we worked physics problems and held economics study sessions and piled into each other’s cars at lunchtime, grabbing burgers or tacos or sandwiches in our 55-minute escapes from campus.

The old-timers, like my best friend Jon, told stories of past conferences and explained to us newbies what to expect. We learned salient facts about various Latin American countries, most of which I have now forgotten. Walker warned that as delegates representing our own nation, we would be seen by other teams as the heavyweight, worth taking seriously but not always popular. (It was my first indication of how the U.S. is often perceived by the rest of the world.)

September 11, it need hardly be said, would have changed all our lives, irrevocably, forever. But it had a particular effect on this group of serious high school students in a mid-size West Texas town. We watched the news and read the headlines obsessively, worrying over what this meant for our country and our futures as adults, but also for our immediate futures: our trip to D.C. and the revisions now required (if we went) to accurately represent our country, in deep shock and mourning.

After days of holding our breath, we learned that the conference was still on, and by a tremendous diplomatic feat of his own, Walker persuaded most of our parents to let us go.

As the trip approached, we received detailed briefings: conference schedules, travel itineraries, handwritten packing lists, most of them headed by Walker’s no-nonsense black capitals. The packing list was divided into casual, semi-formal and formal “occations” – my friend Sarah’s handwriting joyfully misspelling the same word over and over again. After Walker advised us girls to “pack a little black dress” for the conference Gala, we met in the hotel lobby to discover that nearly every female in the group had bought or borrowed a little black dress. Somewhere there’s a photo of us, glittering and unsteady in our high heels, teetering on the edge of an exciting evening and also of something infinitely more huge and terrifying: adulthood.

gala photo

Jon and me at the Gala, and yes, I’m wearing a little black dress.

During that week of mock diplomacy, I learned a few things: one, I didn’t want a career in this field. I am not interested (part of me already knew this) in spending my days arguing with a roomful of colleagues and strangers. Walker slipped me a note during one lunch break, after catching sight of my tense expression, that read, in part: “Knowing what you don’t want is as important as knowing what you do.” I have carried those words, and many of his others, through thirteen years and two countries and half a dozen jobs.

That week, I also learned how to cook in a tiny hotel kitchen, how to wear a suit with heels, and how to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe with gleeful abandon under a roomful of bemused non-Texan eyes. I did not learn how to tie a necktie (not for lack of trying), but I learned to knock on the door of the senior boys’ suite when I needed a can opener, help with last-minute proposal revisions, assistance in tying said necktie, or simply an encouraging word. (Jon, well-spoken MOAS conference president and endlessly patient best friend, came through every single time.)

I also learned how to navigate a big city on my own for the first time, tramping around the tangle of streets that connected the OAS building to the edge of Georgetown, where we were staying. I waited for Jon after the sessions ended every night, shifting in the high heels borrowed from my mother, feeling the city’s pulse under my feet as we walked through the dark streets to our hotel. Under the city sky, crisscrossed with floodlights, we discussed committee politics and personal dramas, but we also caught glimpses of our future selves: the adults we would become long after we had left high school and MOAS behind.

These days, I hurry along sidewalks in a different city, my mind full of to-dos and writing projects and social obligations. I don’t often pause to wonder at my grown-up life; most of the time it is simply the life I’m living.

But every November, the grey skies and brisk winds bring me back to that week long ago: hovering on the edge of adulthood, nervous, exhilarated, plunging into unfamiliar, exciting territory. The world opened up for us during those days in D.C., shifting to allow us a peek into our own futures while we played at being adults. We headed back to the safety of parents and school and home, but nothing was quite the same. And every autumn, I walk under the grey skies, and remember.

(Top image from oas.org)

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