Archive for the ‘love thursday’ Category

I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.

—Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

Serving the wedding cake

Four years ago today, we stood up in front of God and our families and our friends who are also family, and we promised each other: It will always be you.

In Maine, last weekend

Happy anniversary, love. You’re my favorite.


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Nearly a month ago now, my sister had a baby boy. And last weekend, I hopped a plane down to west Texas to see him. As you doubtless can guess, I fell instantly and deeply in love.

We spent a lot of time together – snuggling and just hanging out. For such a wee one, he was remarkably wide awake, and oh, I enjoyed getting to know him.

My grandparents came up for the weekend, to see him and to see me, and there were four generations of laughter and love in my parents’ house, which is a precious and delightful thing.

Mom, Betsy, Neno and Ryder

Dad snuggling with Ryder

And, of course, there was baby knitting. I’d been working on a cardigan for him before I left (the pattern is Puerperium):

puerperium baby cardigan sweater stripes

It’s too big for him now, but I hope he’ll fit into it by the time the weather turns cool. (More details on Ravelry.)

While I was there I knitted him some wee socks out of the leftovers. Also too big, but not for long:

baby socks knitted newborn

I’m already scheming to go back and see him as soon as I can. I am one happily besotted auntie.

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A couple of weeks ago, my dear Bethany and her husband Chad came up from Nashville to visit. I took two and a half days off work and we rambled around Boston and Concord and Rockport and Brookline, alternating between tourist attractions and the cafes, bookshops and other haunts I’ve come to love.

I took them to the beach near my house, on the first truly warm day of spring:

wollaston beach

And we drank tea and coffee with Abi at my beloved Thinking Cup:

thinking cup tea lattes

We rode the ferry over to Charlestown to see the U.S.S. Constitution and Bunker Hill, and Abi wore a fetching hat that made her look like Maisie:

straw hat bow

That afternoon, and all weekend, we ate copious amounts of gelato (I think it was Chad’s favorite thing about Boston):

blackberry gelato

When we get together, there are always board games, so we taught Chad how to play crokinole (it’s a Canadian game, and requires more skill than you’d think):


We ended with a Sunday lunch and lots of hugs:

The weather grew progressively chillier over the week, as you can see by our coats in the last photo. But never mind – we still enjoyed each other. (And, of course, the gelato.)

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I’m a longtime fan of Rachel Bertsche’s fun blog, MWF Seeking BFF, and have been eagerly anticipating her book by the same name. I was jazzed when I won an ARC through Goodreads, and immediately emailed my editor at Shelf Awareness begging to review it. “I read her blog and am so excited to read this book,” I wrote. “Is that a conflict of interest?” Marilyn responded, “No – that’s just interest!”

Spotting the book "in the wild"

So I read it, loved it and sent in my review (which appeared as my first starred review in Shelf Awareness!). And last week, Rachel came to Boston for the first leg of her book tour, and we met up for lunch. And I fell in friend-love.

Our conversation was like one long continuous sentence – topics crisscrossing and doubling back, both of us saying, “Oh! That makes me think of…” or “I thought of you when I saw…” several times. It felt more like a good gab with an old friend than a first meeting with someone I’d never seen before. (Which I suppose it was – we’ve tweeted and emailed for months.) I could have sat there and talked with her over Thai food all afternoon – but I had to get back to work, so I hugged her goodbye (I am a hugger, so I love it when my new friends are too).

That night, I headed to Brookline Booksmith to watch Rachel give her first reading ever. And judging by the packed house and the fact that they sold OUT of books, I’d say it was a huge success.

I’m kicking myself that we didn’t get a picture together – but we had a glorious lunch, and she signed my book, and then we met up with Lindsey the next morning for coffee before Rachel had to jet off to New York. The whole experience was just lovely – it’s such a treat to meet online friends in person, and discover that they’re just as delightful as you thought they were.

I’m posting my Shelf Awareness review of Rachel’s book below, and would urge you to buy it, if you’re looking for a fun, thoughtful read about friendship.*

Review: MWF Seeking BFF

When Rachel Bertsche moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally live in the same city as her boyfriend. But since she left most of her friends behind in New York, she needs to find some local pals, stat.

Longing for a BFF to call for brunch or a pedicure, or a gossip partner to dissect the latest pop-culture news, Bertsche goes on 52 friend-dates – one per week for a year. She scours her existing network for potential friends-of-friends, then branches out to joining an improv class, forming a cooking club, and even going on a mortifying “date” with a “Rent-a-Friend.” As she sizes up potential BFFs, Bertsche also delves into research on friendship – from how a person’s number of friends affects her health to how our ultra-connected culture can propagate loneliness and isolation.

Throughout her quest, Bertsche’s self-deprecating humor shines through as she recounts her adventures and admits that meeting girls, juggling schedules and maintaining new relationships can be exhausting. (Comparisons with dating memoirs are inevitable here, and Bertsche wonders: why isn’t there a better vocabulary for making friends?)

By the end of her Year of Friending, Bertsche has a slew of new phone numbers, several promising relationships, and a renewed sense of confidence and warmth – because acting friendlier has actually made her a better friend. As they cheer Bertsche on in her quest, readers will appreciate the friends they have and even pick up useful – and entertaining – tips for finding new friends of their own.

*(I don’t get any compensation for urging you to buy Rachel’s book – I just think it’s great!)

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I’ve been slowly easing into 2012, doing laundry, running errands, making lists, and curling up under my new electric blanket in the evenings, reading or knitting or watching Friends (J got season 5 for Christmas). We spent New Year’s Eve at home, quietly; we spent New Year’s Day with friends, first at church and then at a cozy party replete with finger foods, mulled wine and laughter.

Perhaps because we were gone for nine days, I’m not anxious to clear out the Christmas decor. The Christmas cards are still decking our bookshelf (which stands in for a mantel this time of year); the Christmas chocolate will take us all month to finish, probably; and the Christmas tree is not coming down, not yet. And I’m still smiling over the memories of the good, good time we had with my family in Midland, and with so many beloved friends during our two days in Abilene.

At my parents’ house we spent a lot of time in the open-plan kitchen/living room, with twinkle lights and stockings, M&Ms and a few naps:

There was also – to everyone’s astonishment – four inches of snow:

It covered everything beautifully and melted two days later. My favorite kind.

My mom, after 30 years, has finally gotten her elegant “theme tree,” but she pulls out her eclectic Santa collection, and these wee reindeer my sister and I made from toilet-paper tubes and twigs, every year:

(They’re so crooked and handmade and adorable. I love them.)

We went to church on Christmas Eve, of course, and came back to open presents, and I read the Christmas story from Mom’s old, worn Bible (with a cuppa close by):

My sweet husband and I played a lot of pool – he won the series, 14-12, but I held my own, I’m proud to say. Doesn’t he look dapper in his new hat?

Stockings are my dad’s favorite part of Christmas – so he acts as head elf, passing out the goodies and donning his Cardinals Santa hat:

I didn’t take many photos in Abilene – we were too busy talking and laughing and hugging as many people as we could. Co-workers, roommates, our church small group, my beloved coffee ladies, anyone and everyone. So this photo of me with sweet Amber (friend and former colleague) represents all that love:

And, of course, we ate our weight in Tex-Mex food. (I have no photos of that – as we were too busy devouring enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa, queso and fajitas. YUM.)

Family, friends, carols, gifts, games, food, long talks, lots of laughter – even a power outage on Christmas night that had us all sitting by the (gas log) fire, telling stories. It was a lovely Texas Christmas.

Perhaps you’ve already put the holidays behind you – but how were they? I’d love to know.

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I love getting mail. And sending it. Especially in this age of email, Facebook, texts and Twitter, receiving something tangible in the mail feels even more like a gift. Related: it’s always fun to make tangible connections with those you meet on the Internet. And who couldn’t use a little extra sparkle in their days? So when I read about Kaileen Elise’s Sparkle Swap, I was in.

I put together a package to send off to Chelsea in Iowa, and about a week later, I got my own parcel in the mail, all the way from Sharni in Australia:

Delicious lemon-ginger tea, two literary pencils, fun postcards, sweet treats, a music mix, a pretty notepad, and other little bits of sparkle. Such fun.

Happy Love Thursday, friends. May you be the recipient of some unexpected (and sparkly) love today.

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The little girls of Avonlea school always pooled their lunches, and to eat three raspberry tarts all alone or even to share them only with one’s best chum would have forever and ever branded as “awful mean” the girl who did it. And yet, when the tarts were divided among ten girls you just got enough to tantalize you.

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

I didn’t eat raspberry tarts last weekend, but this quote sums up how I feel about my three days in New York. It is, of course, impossible to see all the things I want to see in one weekend – and Allison did her level best to make sure I saw as much as I could. But I just got enough of so many things to tantalize me. I only had a couple of hours at the Met (enough to get about half of a quick overview – the place is HUGE); an all-too-brief browsing stop at the Strand (partly because I knew I could have stayed all day); a short (if leisurely) stroll through Central Park; a tour of the Upper West Side cut short by heavy rain (though we braved it as long as we could).

Don’t mistake me – I enjoyed every moment, and tried my best to soak it all up. I loved seeing the knights at the Met:

And visiting Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park (as well as the other stops on my children’s literature tour):

I loved wandering through Manhattan, admiring the beautiful brownstones and wondering about the stories held in each one:

And, of course, I had to visit Cafe Lalo, site of the rose-and-a-book, he-knows-something-she-doesn’t-know scene in You’ve Got Mail:

There were so many other lovely moments: eating pie with my friend Beth on a bench in Brooklyn; a brief solo stroll around Prospect Park; hanging out in Bryant Park as I waited to meet Allison after work; watching Ramona and Beezus in Allison’s cute little Queens apartment and talking for hours; munching apple cider doughnuts at the Union Square farmers’ market. But all these moments only served to underline my already firm conviction:

I have to go back. And soon. (And bring Jeremiah with me this time.)

Because, really, who wouldn’t want more time in this beautiful city, with this lovely tour guide?

Thanks for a fabulous weekend, Allison. I’ll be back before too long.

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I wrote a post recently about how my body and my soul – quite apart from my conscious brain – sometimes remind me where I was, and what I was doing, at this time four years ago when I was living in Oxford. (This happens occasionally with other experiences – every May I get nostalgic for the two weeks I once spent writing at Camp Blue Haven in the mountains of New Mexico, often before I’ve quite registered the date on the calendar.)

Each September, my thoughts turn briefly back to a weekend spent in Wales, with a fun-loving crew of American students. But then, a week or two later, they turn to a quiet few days spent in Ireland, with a boy who is my cousin in reality if not in name. (Our grandparents, and our dads, have been best friends for forty-odd years.)

Colton’s semester abroad in Galway coincided with the first semester of my year in Oxford, and I’d long wanted to visit the Emerald Isle, so I hopped on a plane in mid-September to spend a long weekend with him. (This trip confused my English housemates; one of them asked bluntly, “But – isn’t Ireland quite similar to Britain?”)

Maybe it is, but my experience of Ireland was perhaps different from most people’s. For one thing, I spent hardly any time in Dublin (a fact I’d like to remedy some day), and I didn’t really meet any Irish people – Colton and I kept mostly to ourselves. That first night, when I arrived tired from a flight bookended by two long bus rides, we ate spaghetti with salami and Parmesan, in the university apartment Colton shared with three other guys. And I’m no drinker, so I didn’t go to Ireland for the booze (though Colton let me try a sip of his Guinness, and his roommates urged me to try mead) – instead, I ordered a cup of tea at every pub we went to.

We spent one day simply walking around Galway, taking photos of red leaves and stone churches:

And later, we went on a long walk down by the river, where, as Colton said, the dryads live:

On our stroll down the River Corrib, we spotted a ruined castle on the opposite bank (Castle Menlo, though we didn’t know it then). “I really want to go over to the other side and find that castle,” Colton commented. We looked at each other, and ten seconds later we had turned around, heading across a bridge and down the other riverbank, determined to find the castle (which eventually proved to be in the middle of somebody’s cow pasture. Only in Ireland):

We climbed around on the ruin – there were, blessedly, no barriers blocking our way or signs telling us not to – and snapped pictures of the ivy-covered buildings and walls. Eventually, we sat in one of the windows and watched the sun setting over the river, not needing to talk much, just soaking in the beauty and the green leaves all around us and the mellow, golden sunset light.

Every September, when the winds turn crisp and the grass and trees seem to glow brilliantly green before they begin to turn yellow and red, and when I start craving Yorkshire or Earl Grey tea with milk in the mornings instead of summer fruit teas, I think back to that weekend in Ireland, and I remember the light glowing on the stones of the castle and the sun sparkling on the river, and the long, quiet walks and talks with a friend I’ve known literally all my life.

The second part of our trip took us to the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland – but those deserve their own post, which I’ll share soon.

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Hello, friends. It’s been a discombobulated week. Or two, really, since J and I have spent six of the last 12 days hosting houseguests. Our beloved friends the Becks came up from Erie, where they were visiting family, to tour Boston and spend some time with us (and the rest of the Abilene transplants); and then my parents came for their second visit to our new home, which included a day trip to Concord, fresh lobstah for my dad (who loves seafood but can rarely get it in West Texas), a rain-soaked Sox game at Fenway, miles of walking, and a meal at the Bull & Finch (the original Cheers pub).

We’ve been hosting people regularly – every two weeks or so – since Katherine and Andrew came to visit in May. Tucked in between these long visits have been shorter encounters with people we love, like coffee with Roxanne, chatting with a former professor at church (he came to Boston to escape the heat, just in time for a record-setting heat wave), and most recently, dinner with my friend (and former fabulous hairstylist) Camille. (Her husband was in town for a conference, and of course she volunteered to tag along.)

As I’ve said before (a few hundred times), it’s been tough to feel like we belong here in Boston – though we are grateful for the friends we brought with us, and also for the new friendships we’ve established. Putting down roots in a new city is hard, though, and I’m so deeply thankful to be in a place where people end up from time to time, so we can spend a few minutes or hours or even days together, catching up on each other’s lives.

Boston is not yet a place where everybody knows my name – nor will it ever be, in a literal sense (though we’re getting there at Brookline, thank God). But I’m always thrilled when old friends drop by my new home, when they call or email and we meet up for dinner or coffee or a stroll around the Common. Because they know my name, and my story, and I know theirs. And I’m always so glad they came.

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For our third anniversary last Tuesday, J and I decided to eat at home instead of going out. Since I work downtown and he works way south of the city, going out on weeknights can be a scheduling challenge – plus we’d just spent a weekend on the Cape with lots of eating out. So we planned a special meal of manicotti with tomato sauce and homemade blackberry cobbler (a summertime favorite).

We did have our special dinner (and it was delicious), and we did exchange cards and gifts and spend some time laughing and talking and just being together. But we also had a long, rich, deep Skype conversation with a friend who is spending a life-changing summer interning in New York, and later I talked to my parents and told them all about our Cape weekend.

This connectedness has been a hallmark of our marriage – time alone together interspersed with deep friendships, for both of us individually and as a couple. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our evening reminded me of a favorite passage from Madeleine L’Engle, in A Circle of Quiet, the first of her four memoir volumes:

It’s all right in the very beginning for you to be the only two people in the world, but after that your ability to love should become greater and greater. If you find that you love lots more people than you ever did before, then I think that you can trust this love. If you find that you need to be exclusive, that you don’t like being around other people, then I think that something may be wrong.

This doesn’t mean that two people who love each other don’t need time alone. Two people in the first glory of new love must have great waves of time in which to discover each other. But there is a kind of exclusiveness in some loves, a kind of inturning, which augurs trouble to come.

Hugh was the wiser of the two of us when we were first married. I would have been perfectly content to go off to a desert isle with him. But he saw to it that our circle was kept wide until it became natural for me, too. There is nothing that makes me happier than sitting around the dinner table and talking until the candles have burned down.

I cherish this idea of keeping the circle wide – because it means we’re keeping our lives big, letting plenty of space and light into our relationship, allowing ourselves room to stretch and grow. There’s a balance to be struck, certainly, and we both cherish our solitude and just-the-two-of-us time. But I love the image of a wide circle, glowing with candlelight, making room for all the people we love and who love us.

How do you keep the circle wide in your life?

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