Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

Seven years

katie jer beach san diego

Yesterday we celebrated seven years of marriage.

It feels like a lifetime (especially since we have been together for nearly 12 years) and a moment, all at once.

We met when we were 18, started dating when we were 20, got engaged at 23 and married at 24. Together, we have weathered most of our undergrad years (in the same town), graduate school (5000 miles apart), a cross-country move, multiple job changes in Texas and Massachusetts, and (most recently) a record-setting New England winter. We have welcomed new nephews and a niece, mourned the loss of friends and family members, served on worship and ministry teams at two very different churches, and traveled to (so far) four non-U.S. countries and multiple states together.

I keep returning to Lindsey’s words from last summer: “Marriage is about abiding. It is about remaining near.” As our careers and other obligations pull us in different directions, the constant work of marriage is to stay near to one another, to pay attention and take care of each other and be kind.

My mother once told me she married my father because he was the kindest person she had ever met. I am glad to be married to a man who is also deeply kind, who is funny and handsome and musical and hard-working, who makes me laugh and whose eyes light up when he sees me.

Happy anniversary, love. Here’s to many more.

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harvard yard memorial church view

It’s summer – peak tourist season in Cambridge. Flocks of visitors, laden with maps, cameras and water bottles, trail around after Harvard student tour guides, who wear straw Panama hats with crimson bands. I get asked for directions at least twice a week.

I admit I tend to roll my eyes at tourists who stop dead in the middle of the sidewalks, but I have a little more patience for their directional queries. Navigating Harvard can be…complicated.

lowell house tower

Harvard reminds me, in so many ways, of Oxford: a storied university set right in the middle of a bustling town, with wrought-iron fences, hidden green quads and elaborate carvings on the corners of buildings. People come to both places and say, “Where’s the university?”

The answer seems like a cop-out, but it’s the truth: “All around you.”

sever hall harvard

Nearly every spire you see in the Square – with the exception of a few churches – belongs, or once belonged, to the university. Some of the undergraduate Houses are marked by colors: blue for Lowell, jade green for Eliot, gold for Adams.

memorial hall harvard

Memorial Hall (above), adjacent to Harvard Yard, invites frequent comparisons to Hogwarts, while Memorial Church’s spire reaches toward the sky, tall and white and proud. Many brick buildings around the Square – and a few modern glass-and-steel ones – are also part of Harvard.

But the heart of it all – and the place where I usually direct tourists – is the Yard.

harvard yard autumn light leaves
Harvard Yard is technically two green spaces: Old Yard, surrounded by red-brick freshman dorms and featuring the statue of John Harvard, the university’s namesake; and New Yard, bordered by Memorial Church and Widener Library, the College’s main (imposing) library. In the summer, brightly colored metal chairs dot the grass in Old Yard; in the fall, the trees in both Old and New Yard are a kaleidoscope of vivid autumn leaves.

Even though my office is two blocks away, on the campus of the Graduate School of Education, I come back to the Yard over and over again.

This patch of ground is where undergraduates live during their first year at Harvard College, and the site of President Faust’s office (in Massachusetts Hall, the oldest extant building on campus). New Yard, renamed Tercentenary Theatre when the university reached that milestone, is where the Commencement exercises take place every year. Beginnings and endings, all tied up together.

widener library harvard convocation

I’ve loved working at the Ed School, a little removed from the bustle of the Square – but I also love walking over to the Yard, to feel a part of the life that travels through it every day. I love to sit on the steps of Memorial Church, my back against one of its wide wooden pillars, or perch on the steps of Widener Library, watching the constant traffic flow: tourists and students, faculty and parents.

widener library view harvard

The Yard makes me feel a little closer to the 379 years (and counting) of Harvard’s history. I never get tired of coming back here, feeling the pulse of history under my feet – and watching the future take shape right in front of me.

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tea mug scone

Last month, I stopped in at David’s Tea in downtown Boston, to pick up a couple of teas for a friend and refill my own tin of Cream of Earl Grey. It’s a black tea blend, little lighter than a standard Earl Grey, with a hint of vanilla to sweeten the citrus. I rediscovered it this winter and have been drinking it nearly every morning for months.

A friend who accompanied me on another David’s trip, a few months back, stared in awe at the packed shelves behind the counter, full of stout stainless-steel tins, with color-coded labels for black, green, white and herbal teas. “How do you choose?” he asked in bewilderment. I began explaining my tea preferences, but the bottom line was this: I’ve been drinking tea for a long time, and I know what I like.

blackberry peach tea tins

My annual summer tea order arrived last week, just in time for the season’s first heat wave. I order a tin of blackberry sage and one of ginger peach every year, alternating between them on the warm mornings when the trees outside shimmer with heat and the sunlight dances across the floor. I’ve been drinking these two blends since my long-ago summers as a barista at the Ground Floor, when I’d open the shop in the early mornings and pour my first cup of tea while brewing the day’s first pot of coffee.

According to my friend, I’m a bit of a tea snob these days. But I wasn’t always.

I grew up in Texas, where the tea is mostly iced and nearly always Lipton. I’m not a big iced tea drinker, so for years I thought I didn’t like tea at all. It took a barista job and a semester in Oxford to change that opinion – though once I discovered a few favorites, I never looked back.

But here’s the secret: my tea snobbery is firmly middle-of-the-road.

In Montréal a couple of years ago, I walked into a cafe-cum-tea-shop that boasted lots of expensive teas from single-origin estates high in the Himalayas (with prices to match). I was totally intimidated, and a bit put off. I realized I had no interest in distinguishing between first- or second-flush Darjeeling. Instead, I accepted the limits of my tea knowledge – and bought some La Crème des Earl Grey to take home.

These days I’m perfectly content with my sort-of-snobbish attitude to tea. I travel with my own tea bags, and keep a few in my desk at work, so I always have my favorites around. I breathe a sigh of relief when I’m out at a coffee shop or restaurant and I see that they carry a brand of tea I like: Harney & Sons, Republic of Tea, MEM Teas (based in the Boston area). And I do tend to turn up my nose if I order tea at a restaurant and the waitstaff brings me a cup of Lipton.

I feel this way about wine, too. And books, come to think of it. But that’s probably a post for another day.

Are you sort of a snob about tea, or anything else?

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Back in early April (which feels like ages ago now), I posted a spring list. I’ve been working on it since then – so here, an update for you.

  • Bake my favorite strawberry-rhubarb crisp. I made it for a Sunday night potluck, and we all but licked the baking dish clean.

strawberry rhubarb crisp

  • Read some poetry. (Spring makes me long for Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson.)
  • Watch the Masters. It was a great tournament, as always. 21-year-old Jordan Spieth blew everyone away.
  • Reread Jane of Lantern Hill, the perfect spring book. Love love love.
  • Knit something pink for my friend Abigail’s baby girl, who will arrive in May. I made her a sweet little dress.

pink sproutlette dress

  • Savor the new season of Call the Midwife. I’ve enjoyed it, though this season is heavy.
  • Go on a getaway with the hubs. We had a fabulous trip to San Diego, about which more soon.

katie jer beach san diego

  • Keep buying flowers from my local florist – tulips and daffodils, delivered with a smile. I’m in there twice a week.


  • Participate in Susannah Conway’s April Love photo challenge. I posted about a dozen photos. So fun.

Looks like the only thing I need to do is read some poetry. But that’s never a problem.

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red journal chai darwins

A good journal entry – like a good song, or sketch, or photograph – ought to break up the habitual and lift away the film that forms over the eye, the finger, the tongue, the heart. A good journal entry ought to be a love letter to the world.

—Anthony Doerr, Four Seasons in Rome

As a longtime journaler (I have boxes of old journals stowed away in a closet, and a stack of more recent ones teetering on a bookshelf), this passage from Doerr’s lovely memoir positively made my heart sing.

Happy Friday, friends. Hope you have a lovely weekend.

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magnolia tree tulips pink boston spring

I loved Ali Edwards’ post last week about 39 little things she’s thankful for right now. We are in the middle of a full, messy time of year – the end of the semester is approaching and there’s a lot going on, both at work and at home.

This is, as Ali noted, one of the best times to stop and take a look around. So here’s a snapshot of my life right now, with several snippets of gratitude thrown in.

Right now – in early May 2015 – I am:

  • walking around Harvard Square on my lunch breaks, enjoying the (sometimes chilly but no longer brutal) spring air.
  • sitting on the steps of Memorial Church and watching the world go by in Harvard Yard, when it’s warm enough.
  • snapping photo after photo of flowers and blooming trees. (See above.)
  • buying tulips twice a week (one bouquet for work, one for home) from my favorite florist in Brattle Square.


  • texting a friend or two about what is saving my life, what’s driving me crazy, and everything in between.
  • looking forward to (and soon, packing for) a trip to San Diego with the hubs!
  • still eating lots of soup, but mixing in some dishes that include spring veggies.
  • wearing dresses (most of them are striped) with black leggings and my jade green coat.
  • switching between silver ballet flats, black booties and the green loafers that match said coat.
  • reading a fantastic history of the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon (out June 2), and all the cozy mysteries I can handle.
  • drinking David’s Cream of Earl Grey tea by the quart, and ginger steamers with honey and lemon from Crema (the best cure for a sore throat).

crema cup table pussy willow

  • fighting a lingering cough from that cold I caught a couple of weeks ago.
  • watching episodes of Mary Tyler Moore on some evenings, and Call the Midwife once a week.
  • blasting Taylor Swift while I cook dinner or clean.
  • celebrating my husband’s 31st birthday, which is tomorrow.
  • keeping up with the daily duties of church and work and home.
  • hanging out in the Public Garden about once a week – where the trees are blooming and the ducks are quacking up a storm.

public garden tulips may 2015

  • missing my Texas family and wondering when I can get down there next.
  • prepping for the end of the semester and the attendant Commencement craziness.
  • sorting through piles of review books, and curating a short stack of vacation reading.
  • sipping a glass of red wine (usually Cabernet) about once a week.
  • scribbling in my journal when I can.
  • stretching out at yoga class on Monday nights, and doing an occasional at-home session with the app.
  • thinking about making summer plans.

What does life look like for you right now?

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budding tree green blue sky

After what felt like the longest winter ever, the piles of dirty snow have (finally) disappeared. We’ve had quite a few brisk, chilly days and some damp, depressing gray ones, and a couple of unexpected torrential downpours. But spring is – finally! – here in Boston for real.

The trees are budding, clothed in red and white and even electric green. Last week, I was delighted to see the tulip magnolia trees burst into bloom. (I’d been watching a few of them for weeks, waiting for their lipstick-pink buds to open and reveal creamy petals.)

tulip magnolia tree

The crocuses and snowdrops are nearly done. The daffodils and the tiny blue scilla (an awful name for a lovely flower) are out in full force. I spotted a few pink hyacinth in a raised bed on Garden Street the other day. And soon, the flowerbeds in the Public Garden downtown will be a riot of tulips – my favorite. (A friend sent me a photo of the still-green buds this week, with the message, “Tulips are close to popping!”)

This is my third spring working in Cambridge, the beginning of my third year in this job, this building, this neighborhood. By now, I know not only where to find the best chai latte in Harvard Square (Darwin’s) or where to go for a French dip (Grendel’s Den), but where to find the first, faint, shy signs of spring.

I’ve built up a store of knowledge through observation on my frequent walks. And when the snow started to melt – or, let’s be honest, even before – I was watching for the crocuses to poke up through the earth. I knew exactly where to look: a triangular flowerbed in the yard of a house with a purple door. My vigilance was rewarded – those purple blooms made my day when they finally appeared.

purple crocuses flowers spring

There’s something lovely and gratifying about this ritual – a small, quiet reward of my constant attempts to pay attention to my everyday life. This time of year, you can almost see the trees budding, watch the leaves uncurling, measure the progress of a rising daffodil stem from day to day. Or – just as often – a tree or shrub will lie dormant for months, then burst into bloom overnight. In both cases, the joy is deeper, the colors brighter, if you know where to look.

red tulips flowerbed

I read a line from John O’Donohue years ago that always comes to mind in the spring: “beauty likes neglected places.” The damp earth under still-bare trees, untended corners of vacant lots – these places are splashed with new life and color, just as much as the carefully cultivated flowerbeds. Forsythia bushes are spraying their fountains of gold all over the neighborhood, seemingly out of nowhere. And even the dandelions are adding their cheerful note to spring’s symphony.

We’re not quite in the full glory of spring just yet – lots of branches are still bare, and the nights still have a nip in them. But I am savoring every bud and leaf and scrap of color. I’m giving thanks for every flower, like Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. And I am watching – always watching – for more signs of spring.

How is spring showing up where you live?

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