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Posts Tagged ‘love’

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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Four days in West Texas

sunset sky west texas

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: the sunsets in my hometown are the best.

I may have lived in Boston for almost five (!) years, but every so often, I feel the gravitational pull toward the plains of West Texas, where I grew up. My parents and sister still live there, and last week I hopped a plane to go and spend a few days with them.

I love our annual holiday odyssey across Texas, but it inevitably involves a rental car, mounds of luggage and a lot of schedule-juggling. These solo trips, which I take every few months, are looser, less demanding. They’re not exactly calm (I have two small nephews), but they are their own brand of relaxation.

striped rug bare feet

We wear out the road between my parents’ house and my sister’s. I stand barefoot in my parents’ kitchen in the mornings, sipping tea while my dad brews coffee and flips through the local (typo-riddled) newspaper. We go to church on Sunday morning and watch golf on Sunday afternoon. And we eat a lot – a lot – of Mexican food.

(We also headed to my favorite soda fountain this time for lunch and a strawberry milkshake. Best in the world.)

katie milkshake

My sister has two boys now, and they’re both growing like weeds. Harrison was a tiny infant at Christmastime, but he’s seven months now, and he’s a (mostly) happy little chunk of love.

betsy harrison

Ryder is three (how is that possible?) and much harder to photograph, because he’s in constant motion. His favorite thing to do is play with trains, and his favorite playmate is my dad.

dad ryder trains

I’m lucky to get to come back here and hang out every once in a while. To answer Ryder’s thousand questions and hear him call me “Kiki.” To laugh with my mom and try on clothes with my sister and trade wacky movie quotes with my dad. To stand in a pew on Sunday morning and sing the hymns we all love. To enjoy my brother-in-law’s excellent grilling skills and quiet humor. To be surrounded by, and immersed in, love.

Boston is where I live, and where I’ve built a life I love. But West Texas is still and always my home.

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modern family promo poster season 1

Recently, the hubs and I tried Modern Family, on the recommendation of several friends. We’re not big TV watchers, but we like to have a show (preferably a comedy) to watch together, if we need a laugh in the evenings. As much as we love our Friends DVDs, we were hankering for something new.

After blowing through the first season of Modern Family in less than a month, I’d say we’re hooked.

In case you’re a little behind on your TV shows (like us), Modern Family is a comedy featuring three branches of the Pritchett clan: patriarch Jay and his second wife Gloria; Jay’s daughter Claire and her husband Phil; and Jay’s son Mitchell and his partner, Cameron (along with their assorted children). They all live near one another in California, and they manage to get themselves into an astonishing number of absurd situations in every single episode. (I haven’t heard my husband laugh so hard in months.)

The show centers on the everyday dramas of family life: juggling everyone’s schedules and needs, communicating honestly with your partner, navigating the dynamics of various relationships. There are misunderstandings and fights and a few tears, especially from dramatic teenager Haley. There’s also lots of hilarity: Claire and Mitchell recreating an old ice-dancing routine in a parking lot; Phil constantly trying to be a “cool” dad.

All the characters are great, but we each have our favorites. My husband loves flamboyant, oversensitive Cameron; I’m partial to big-hearted Gloria, with her hilarious linguistic gaffes and Colombian accent (which I love to imitate). But the character to whom I relate most is Claire.

Claire is a stay-at-home mom to three kids, a hyper-organized wife to scatterbrained Phil, a classic Type A oldest child who’s always trying to keep everyone (and everything) around her from going off the rails. She expends an enormous amount of energy holding it together, but sometimes she does break down – either because one of the kids pushes her buttons or because she’s just too exhausted.

In the first episode of Season 2, after a series of crises, Phil says to a teary-eyed Claire, “Don’t apologize. I love you when you’re human.”

That line stopped me in my tracks for two reasons. First, as a person who spends so much time trying to be perfect, I suspect it was what I – and Claire – most needed to hear. And second, I think that line holds the key to the whole show. Family is about loving each other when you’re human.

The Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker clan – like any family – doesn’t always get along. Everyone’s got rough edges and hang-ups, and they know how to drive each other crazy. Sometimes the mistakes are small, inconsequential – and sometimes they’re a much bigger deal. But over and over again, they pull together and keep on loving each other. Their humanity makes them so relatable – even though, on the surface, my family doesn’t look much like theirs.

Modern Family is a comedy – and I plan to keep cracking up at the crazy scenarios in every episode. But I’ll also keep looking for the nuggets of truth hidden amid the hilarity. Being part of a family is seldom easy – but it is a beautiful thing to love one another when you’re human.

Have you watched Modern Family? (If so, are you a fan, like me?)

(Image from Wikipedia)

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willow tree light public garden boston autumn fall

I remember understanding what a brutal thing it is to be the bearer of truly bad news – to break off a piece of that misery and hand it to other people, one by one, and then have to comfort them; to put their grief on your shoulders on top of all your own; to be the calm one in the face of their shock and tears. And then learning that relative weight of grief is immaterial. Being smothered a little is no different than being smothered a lot. Either way, you can’t breathe.”

The Royal We, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

This insightful description of grief – and the heartbreaking process of dealing with the practicalities of death – stopped me in my tracks when I came across it this weekend. I was even more surprised to find it where I did: buried in the middle of a frothy, sassy chick lit novel.

Midway through The Royal We (which I loved, by the way), its narrator, Bex, loses someone important to her and has to fly from England back to her hometown in Iowa, to be with her family and to grieve. And while I have never (yet) lost a close family member, this description of grief hit me right in the chest – because I know what it’s like.

Nearly eleven years ago, just before my junior year of college, my friend Cheryl – a member of the group with whom I’d spent the previous semester studying abroad in Oxford – died in a car crash, the week before school started. It wasn’t the first time I had lost someone I loved, but it was the first time I’d had to deal with the sudden, unexpected death of someone close to me. And it was the first time I had to deal with the details of tragedy as an adult.

From the moment we found out about Cheryl’s death – late on a starry, sultry Texas evening, all of us congregating in the front yard of a house near campus – my Oxford group stuck together. We sat up most of that night telling stories about Cheryl and Oxford and our time together, finally drifting off to sleep, draped over futons and sprawled on the living room floor of a house shared by four of my girlfriends. The next morning, those of us who were able – including me – started making phone calls.

I don’t remember how many times I gave the bad news that week. I do remember the gasps of shock on the other end of the phone, the blatant disbelief, my reluctance to say the awful words. I wasn’t as close to Cheryl as some of the others were – but I learned, as Bex does, that the relative weight of your grief doesn’t matter. We were all hurting, and trying to bear the pain in our own ways.

We piled into a string of cars (including mine) to drive down to San Antonio for the funeral. We sat and watched the Summer Olympics in stunned silence, needing to be together, trying to come to grips with the loss of our friend. We wept, or clung dry-eyed to each other, and wondered how this could have happened to us.

Every time I lose someone I love, I flash back to those days in West Texas, and the awful responsibility of sharing the news with my friends, making travel plans, trying to handle questions for which I had no answers. I wasn’t at the center of that sorrow, but I remember how it felt to share it, to bear it together. So this passage from The Royal We made me say simply: Yes. Me too. I know what that’s like.

Not bad for a (mostly) lighthearted piece of chick lit.

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windy willows

Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, – but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, –
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

I came across this poem last month, about a week after Jeff’s passing. Heather Lende quotes from it in the last chapter of her first memoir, If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name.

Lende writes obituaries for her small-town Alaska newspaper, and I write obituaries for the alumni magazine of my West Texas alma mater. A couple of days after Jeff died, I sent what details I had (name, age, birthdate) to my editor (who is also my former boss, and a friend).

It isn’t much, these few lines in a college magazine, especially in light of such a loss. But it is what I can do to mark the passing of someone I loved.

I am in charge of the honoree list for the Easter lilies at church. Every year, we fill the altar with flowers, and publish a list in the bulletin of those we would like to remember and honor. The list is long this year, for some reason; we have twice as many names as last year. It isn’t much, but I understand why we do it. This, too, is a small but important way of remembering our dead.

Earlier this week, I heard about the passing of Susan, a family friend whom I hadn’t seen for many years. She fought the cancer longer than anyone expected she would, but she is gone now, and I know her children – including her three eldest daughters, whom I used to baby-sit in the summers – are grieving.

Like Millay, I do not approve, and I am not resigned. But her eloquent words have helped sustain me as I think about death and loss and grief. I share them, on this Good Friday, hoping that perhaps, when you are faced with a loss, they might do the same for you.

April is National Poetry Month, and I will be sharing more poetry here on Fridays this month.

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My parents’ daughter

family rockport I have green eyes and a deep alto voice. I am my mother’s daughter.

I have a ridiculously corny sense of humor. I am my father’s daughter.

Red is my perennial favorite color. I am my mother’s daughter.

I never miss the Masters. I am my father’s daughter.

I rarely (if ever) leave the house without makeup. I am my mother’s daughter.

I have complicated feelings about my country, but I well up when I hear the national anthem. I am my father’s daughter.

I believe family dinner sits at the center of family life. I am my mother’s daughter.

I tell the same stories over and over – and most of them are long. I am my father’s daughter.

I love deeply, feel deeply, often find it difficult to say what’s really in my heart. I am my mother’s daughter.

I hum old hymns while I putter around the house. I am my father’s daughter.

I am sometimes too proud to ask for help. I am my mother’s daughter.

I have a wide-ranging curiosity about the world. I love to visit new places and soak them up. I am my father’s daughter.

I am always looking for ways to take care of the people I love. I am my mother’s daughter.

I get deeply attached to traditions and rituals and memories. I am my father’s daughter.

I’ve inherited many things from both my parents: my faith, my love of family, my passion for the music of George Strait, my yen for Mexican food. And some things are wholly my own: my love for Oxford, my insatiable appetite for books.

But as I get older, I see pieces of both my mom and my dad more clearly in myself. I hear their voices in my head all the time (as well as in our weekly phone calls). And I am so grateful to be their daughter.

Photo: Mom and Dad and me in Rockport last summer

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merry and bright

christmas card 2014

From our household to yours, the happiest of holidays.

I’m taking the week off, friends. See you back here next week.

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