Archive for the ‘friendship’ Category

harvard yard leaves light

For long walks under bold blue autumn skies and vivid red and golden leaves.

For bouquets of yellow tulips and sunflowers, and a florist whose smile is kind.

For two groups of bookish colleagues, at Shelf Awareness and Great New Books, who make me laugh and make my to-be-read list grow every week.

For a new temp gig in my beloved Harvard Square neighborhood, which I’m already loving.

For chai lattes and strong black tea and spiced apple cider, sipped from paper cups or my favorite mugs.

For a husband who believes in me and cheers me on no matter what.

For family and friends whom I adore, who are wise and funny and supportive and kind.

For text messages and email and social media – all the tools that allow me to keep in touch with those I love.

For good books – stories and poetry that move me, make me think, entertain me, and make me want to be a better person.

For a small but stalwart church community of faithful, loving people.

For scented candles and funny TV shows and cozy slippers – all the little luxuries that make life more enjoyable.

For the blessing of having all I need – really, as Jaclyn said this week – more than enough.


It has been a hard couple of weeks in this world, and a hard few months in my own life. But today, I am pausing to remember the good, and give thanks.

If you’re celebrating, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

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home fires masthead

It’s no secret I love a good British period drama, especially Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and Lark Rise to Candleford. This fall, I’ve been swept up in the latest series showing on Masterpiece PBS: Home Fires.

Home Fires follows a group of women in the fictional village of Great Paxford, most of them involved with the local Women’s Institute, at the outset of World War II. The show’s marketing has centered around the ongoing feud between traditionalist Joyce Cameron and new WI leader Frances Barden, but the plotlines delve deeply into the lives of several more women: quiet bookkeeper Alison Scotlock, schoolteacher Teresa Fenchurch, stoic farm wife Steph Farrow.

Most of the women are committed to “doing their bit” and to the work of the WI: making jam from local produce that would otherwise go to waste, building an air-raid shelter for the village, raising funds for ambulances. The WI gives Frances (in particular) a purpose to fill her days. But all the characters are also grappling with other challenges: family illness, raising teenagers, financial difficulties, deep marital rifts. Several of them have husbands or sons who end up going off to fight. All of them find their lives irrevocably changed by the war, and each of them has to make hard choices over and over again.

Home Fires is a quiet show: it lacks the tense life-or-death scenes of Call the Midwife or the soapy drama of Downton. So far (the first season ranges from 1939-40), there are few massive military battles being fought. But the quietness is what I love about it. It is a show about ordinary people living small but valuable lives, who are called upon to do things they never thought they would have to do.

I am not (obviously) living in a war zone or facing the same challenges as the women of Home Fires. But I am fighting my own battles every day, and I am also mourning with the world after Paris and Beirut, wondering where it will all end. I’ve enjoyed the period detail and witty dialogue of Home Fires, but most of all I have loved watching these women as they face what comes.

Sometimes they fail. (They are human, after all.) Sometimes personal tragedy shakes them to their cores. But most often, they rise to the occasion – usually with quiet humility, sometimes with all flags flying. They adapt and make do; they find new ways to solve thorny problems. They hear bad news, and mourn, and then get back up and move forward. Together.

Courage has been variously defined as grace under pressure, the judgment that something else is more important than fear, or the simple act of seeing something through. The women of Home Fires embody all these definitions, and I’m looking forward to watching them face new challenges in season 2.

Have you watched Home Fires? What did you think?

(Image from pbs.org)

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nate evie small group

On Sunday afternoon, after a day of rushing around from church to lunch to the grocery store, my husband and I hopped in the car and drove across the Boston metro area, under an already-darkening sky.

We head that way several times a month, to a house in the western suburbs where our friends Ryan and Amy live, with two kids, two cats, one dog and a general atmosphere of cheerful, friendly chaos. On Sunday nights, when we can, about a dozen of us come over for a potluck dinner, sitting around the long table on mismatched chairs, eating, laughing and catching up on our lives.

This fall, we have struggled to gather on a regular basis: soccer games, illness and travel have kept one family or another from joining in. But the minute we stepped inside the front door to be greeted by Telly, the resident dog, we were home.

telly dog

We piled jackets and handbags in the front hallway, carrying the food we’d brought through to the kitchen. Ryan stood at the stove, flipping pancakes, while Nate turned sausages on the griddle he’d carted over from his house. There were hugs and hellos as the kids raced around underfoot, and baby Evie, befuddled by the time change, tried to decide whether to laugh or cry.

Eventually, we all gathered around the table in a ragged circle, Evie bouncing on my knees, to join hands and hear Amy say grace.

It’s the simplest and sometimes the most difficult thing in the world: inviting people into your home, letting them be a part of your family’s life. I have missed it this fall, while we’ve all been tugged in our opposite directions, and that night, it was loud and imperfect and crazy, and just right.

Perched around the table, we dug into stacks of pancakes and munched on crispy bacon, and exclaimed over photos of the kids in their Halloween costumes: a pirate, Scooby-Doo, Princess Leia, a “zombie skeleton scientist.” We listened to snatches of a cappella songs (sung by Nate and my husband), told stories, cracked jokes. We refilled the kids’ glasses of milk and our own mugs of hot mulled cider. Telly padded around underfoot, and Nate carried a massive skillet of scrambled eggs out of the kitchen and spooned them onto everyone’s plates.

Later, I stood in the kitchen and tried to explain Daylight Savings Time to nine-year-old Michael, nearly dead on his feet after two soccer games that morning. And still later, we drifted into the living room to sing a few songs from battered hymnbooks, Abi rocking Evie slowly to sleep, the younger kids looking wide-eyed at Richard Scarry picture books while we sang “Be Thou My Vision” and “Mighty God.”

We left later than we intended (isn’t that always the way?), with bear hugs and “see you soons.” J and I were exhausted by the time we got home: we’re both introverts, and Sundays can be challenging. I was out of words and out of extrovert. But I also felt full, and grateful. This community, this warm, chaotic, nourishing thing we do on Sunday nights, saves my life over and over again.

Where do you find community in your life?

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kissing in america book striped skirt

“I loved romances because when you opened the first page, you knew the story would end well.”

Since her dad died in a plane crash, Eva Roth has found solace in romance novels – 118 of them over two years, to be exact. Her mother, a professor of women’s studies, is dismayed by what she calls her daughter’s “ultimate rebellion.” But Eva isn’t reading romances to upset her mom: she’s reading them as an escape, seeking a little stability and a few happy endings in a world that no longer makes sense without her dad.

Margo Rabb’s young adult novel Kissing in America is the story of Eva’s journey, literal and figurative, to come to terms with her grief and learn a few things about love.

I adore a good YA novel, and I don’t mind that a lot of YA novels are fairly typical boy-meets-girl stories. But Eva’s story doesn’t fit that mold, despite her addiction to steamy novels with lurid covers and dashing heroes. Instead, it’s a story about all kinds of love: friendship, love altered by grief, and the tight, complex bond between mothers and daughters.

It’s my turn again at Great New Books today, and I chose Kissing in America as my latest pick. (I read it on my trip to NYC last month and loved it.) Please join me over at the GNB site to read the rest of my review.

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rocks nubble light maine

Last Saturday, I woke up to grey skies and spitting rain. The hubs was out of town on a work retreat, and my friend Adam and I had planned to drive up to Maine in search of fall colors and fresh air.


We almost didn’t go. It had been a long week for both of us, and the howling wind made me want to hunker down and watch movies all day.

I knew I’d get cabin fever, though, and we hoped the skies would clear up if we drove north. So we hopped in my car and hit the road.

We stopped first at the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick. It was cold (and crowded, despite the photo below), but gorgeous.

nubble light cape neddick maine

We wandered around and took photos of the light and the waves, then bought steaming bowls of soup from a nearby clam shack (chowder for me, lobster bisque for him) and ate them sitting in the car.

Our next stop was Two Lights State Park, up on Cape Elizabeth. Adam had been there before, but I never had. It is windswept and understated and quietly stunning.

rocks waves two lights state park

We climbed all around the rocky cliffs – which go right down to the water, great slabs piled on top of one another to form a sort of natural terrace.

adam two lights waves rocks

Ahead, we glimpsed the blue sky we’d been chasing (though we never quite reached it).

rocks waves blue sky two lights state park maine

The wind roared in our ears, frothing the waves into whitecaps and sending the clouds scudding across the sky.

It reminded me of being in Ireland, long ago: climbing up to an old ruined fort on the largest of the Aran Islands and letting the wind blow my hair straight back and pull the breath right out of my lungs.

katie two lights rocks

Here, on the other side of the Atlantic, I remembered a favorite line from Anne of the Island:

Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.

Without consciously realizing it, that was exactly what we had done: left the city behind to come stand on the edge of the world, letting the wind – and each other’s company – blow the fog out of our souls.

It was a bracing antidote to the daily frustrations and larger struggles of the week. Just what we needed.

Our last stop was Bug Light – a glimpse of blue sky, a dramatic sunset, and the tiniest lighthouse I’d ever seen.

bug light sunset sky

We headed home (stopping for dinner in Portsmouth) – windblown and tired, but utterly at peace.

What are your best antidotes for soul fog?

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apple trees blue sky

Every September, we head to the orchard. And every September, I am enchanted.

After five years in New England, we have established a few beloved traditions. This is one of my favorites.

apple trees branches

I am always amazed by the low, rambling trees: so different from the tidy rows I remember seeing in picture books. (There are no apple orchards in West Texas, where I grew up.)

The reality is messier, though the different varieties are clearly marked. We always head straight for the Empires, plucking them off the branches, crunching as we go.

This year, we had a big crowd: both newbies and veterans. We arrived in a pack, then wandered the rows in loose, straggling groups, picking, laughing, snapping pictures.

adam jer orchard

The guys always have to do a little climbing, and a little horsing around.

Eventually, we all met up at the other side of the farm, for apple cider donuts, chili dogs and more photos.

katie abi orchard

This is our sixth year picking apples together. Abi loves it as much as I do. We have been friends since our freshman year in college, and I am constantly grateful that we get to live this Boston life side by side.

katie evie orchard

Sweet Evie (who belongs to Abi) is too young to pick apples yet, but she happily came along for the ride.

We had such perfect weather this year: blue skies, crisp air, golden sunshine. Of course, I love sharing it all with this guy.

katie jer orchard apple trees

I’ve already made one apple crisp, and snacked on a few apples out of hand. Yum.

What are your favorite fall traditions?

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scituate ma water sky

Back in June, which seems forever ago now, I posted a summer list of all the fun things I wanted to do. As we head into fall, I thought I’d post an update (since it’s nearly time to make a new list). Here’s how I did:

  • Eat all the summer fruits (rhubarb, peaches, tomatoes and every kind of berry I can find). Pretty sure I’ve eaten my weight in peaches, berries and cherries.

cherries toast breakfast

  • Related: go to the farmers’ market at Harvard and maybe the one over at Copley Square. I’ve been to the Harvard market nearly every week, where I’ve bought lots of berries (see above), tomatoes, zucchini, and a few strawberry basil popsicles. (Also: lots of tamales.)

strawberry popsicle

  • Wear skirts and shorts as often as possible. I’ve basically been living in them for months.

snicker of magic book beach summer

  • Get a pedicure (or two). Yes.

bare feet green yoga mat

  • Snuggle my friends’ baby, Evie. I’ve been hanging out with Evie and her mama, Abi, about once a week. So much fun.

baby evie

  • Go visit my family in Texas. I had a great time.

betsy harrison

  • Laugh and laugh with J at episodes of Modern Family. We’re in the middle of season 4 and still laughing our heads off.
  • Go kayaking on the Charles River. One of my favorite new activities this summer.

katie adam kayak

  • Drink lemonade and sangria. Yes and yes.

astrid veronika lemonade stripes

  • Eat lots of ice cream (and fro-yo). Again, yes and yes. The hubs is a frequent co-conspirator.

jer lulus ice cream

  • Take lots of long walks (to counterbalance the ice cream). Definitely.

sandals rocks beach

  • Soak up every bit of summer sunshine – summer in New England is lovely but fleeting. I’ve done my best, and it has been glorious.

pell bridge sunset

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