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Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

disappearance damascus book plum

How is it mid-September already? I love this golden month, but my brain is all over the place lately. I have finished a few books, though, and here they are:

The Unlikelies, Carrie Firestone
Sadie Sullivan is bummed: the summer before her senior year looks like a dud. But when she saves a baby from her drunk father (and gets badly beaten up), Sadie becomes a “homegrown hero.” She and four other local teens (the Unlikelies) band together to fight hate and do some good in their town. I read this sweet, sharp, funny YA novel in one night. Recommended by my colleagues at Shelf Awareness.

Blackbird House, Alice Hoffman
I picked up this linked story collection after loving Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic: I just wanted to stay in her world a while longer. The stories wind around the titular house, on Cape Cod, and its occupants over generations. Deeply bittersweet, with a fairy-tale quality and beautiful, melancholy descriptions.

The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, Esther Perel
Infidelity is as common as it is heartbreaking, and Perel, a renowned couples therapist, argues that we need a new conversation around it. She delves into many facets of affairs: secrecy, lies, jealousy, the effects of modern technology, the politics of open marriages and the ways marriage and infidelity shape our sense of identity. Fascinating and thoughtful; a sensitive take on a really sensitive topic. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 10).

A Disappearance in Damascus, Deborah Campbell
Soon after Campbell landed in Damascus on assignment for Harper’s in 2007, she met Ahlam, an Iraqi refugee and “fixer” who worked with journalists and humanitarian groups to help tell the story of Iraqis who had fled to Syria after Saddam Hussein was overthrown. When Ahlam was arrested and imprisoned, Campbell became determined to find her, however long it took. Vivid and compelling. To review for Shelf Awareness (published Sept. 5).

On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana, a minor British royal, ends up in Italy trying to help out a friend and doing a(nother) small errand for the queen. Of course, the house party she’s attending doesn’t go as planned: there’s a murder, and Georgie tries to solve it before the killer strikes again. A really fun entry in this highly entertaining series.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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Nine years

katie jer xmas 2016

Marriage hath in it less of beauty but more of safety, than the single life; it hath more care, but less danger; it is more merry, and more sad; it is fuller of sorrows, and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but it is supported by all the strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful.

—Bishop Jeremy Taylor

I heard these lines years ago, at the very end of the movie Forces of Nature: an odd place, I admit, to pick up wisdom about marriage. I wasn’t married then, or even thinking about it. But I tucked those words into my heart, and they have resurfaced in recent months, as my husband and I have navigated our ninth year of married life.

We were married nine years ago today, in a ceremony filled with pink roses and a cappella music and rows of people we love, sitting in black folding chairs in a spacious atrium on our West Texas college campus. Our friends Tim and Julie (who are the older, wiser, more grace-filled versions of us) took turns reading aloud from 1 Corinthians 13: love is patient, love is kind, love never fails.

The groomsmen, four of our dear college friends, slung their arms around each other’s shoulders as we sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” and I choked up at the sight. (I could hear at least one of my bridesmaids – my dear friend Bethany – sniffling, behind me.) Our friend and minister, Mike, who grew up with my dad, spoke a few wise, simple words over us, and told a couple of jokes.

We walked back down the aisle to an exuberant James Taylor song, grinning at the truth of his words: How sweet it is to be loved by you. Afterward, there were fajitas and iced tea, toasts and dancing, and a brief downpour during the reception followed by a dramatic sunset. We drove to a B&B down the street, owned by friends of ours, and headed for our honeymoon in Ruidoso, N.M., the next day.

That was a beginning, but also a continuation: we have been husband and wife for nine years, but loved each other now for nearly 14.

The trick in many long-term relationships seems to be loving the other person as they are, while holding space for them to grow and change. It can be hard, sometimes, to allow for those changes after knowing each other so long and so well. We are, and yet we are not, the same people who met as college freshmen, started dating long-distance as sophomores, got engaged at 23. We have fought (though not against each other) to declare our independence, to carve out a place for ourselves in the world. We haven’t always known what that place will look like, except that we want to inhabit it together.

It isn’t always easy, this work of building a common life: it requires grace, grit, compromise, lots of forgiveness and so much listening. In our case, it is also held together by so many bowls of chips and salsa; countless loads of laundry and sinkfuls of dishes; years’ and years’ worth of inside jokes; and numberless days of blowing each other a kiss when I get out of the car in the mornings. It is rolling over to kiss one another good night when we’re half asleep at the end of a long day. It is checking in via text or a quick phone call in the middle of the workday. It is remaining near, as my friend Lindsey noted a few summers ago. It is choosing each other, over and over again – whether we are tired or frustrated, furious or sad or delighted.

I love Taylor’s words about marriage because they capture the all of it: marriage is full of both dailiness and magic moments, tears and laughter, deep sorrow and overwhelming joy. It is a burden I’m grateful to carry alongside the man who carries so many of mine.

Nine years feels like a moment and a lifetime all at once – especially when I pause to consider the whole arc of it. And yet, in some ways (I hope), we are still at the beginning.

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

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birds art life mug

“I found myself with a broken part,” Kyo Maclear writes in the introduction to her luminous memoir, Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation. During a year of dealing with her father’s illness and other challenges, Maclear found herself unmoored. “I had lost the beat,” she writes. Struggling with her responsibilities to her father, husband and sons, she found herself with no words: a troubling state of affairs for a writer.

Searching for a way to relocate herself in the everyday, Maclear met a musician whose passion was urban birdwatching. Birds Art Life chronicles the year they spent watching birds in and around her home city of Toronto.

I’m back at Great New Books today talking about how much I loved Maclear’s quiet, gorgeous memoir, which I picked up at Idlewild Books in NYC this winter. Please join me over there to read the rest of my review.

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jer burritos

Making one last batch of chicken burritos (with homemade guacamole), in between moving boxes from the old home to the new.

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Eight years

high line selfie nyc

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, the two of us, it’s that marriage isn’t always easy, and there will be times that try us without mercy. We will sometimes – maybe even often – disagree, and things and people and events will come along that test our courage and resolve, and that’s when we will turn to the memory of this precious time together, and the knot we are weaving to bind us into one.

—Beatriz Williams, A Certain Age

I came across these sentences last month, when I read Williams’ glittering novel about tangled love and secrets in 1920s New York. My path to marriage – thank goodness – was not quite as dramatic as that of Sophie, who writes these lines to her sister near the end of the book. I met my husband on a quiet college campus in West Texas, and I married him on that same campus, nearly six years after we met (and almost five years after we started dating). We were starry-eyed and stubborn and impossibly young – and we have been married, as of yesterday, for eight years.

Eight years is a long time and not a long time, all at once. It is not quite a decade, but it is long enough that we have formed certain habits, learned and unlearned certain things, built a solid (I hope) foundation for the rest of our marriage and our lives. By virtue of meeting when we were so young, we have been together for a good chunk of our lives. But eight years is also long enough to learn this: things change.

I am married, in some ways, to the same man I met when we were 18. He has the same dark eyes and wide smile, the same clear tenor singing voice, the same love for sports and his family and me. I am also the same, in some ways, as when we met: I have green eyes and freckles and a deep love for books. I read and write both to make my living and to make sense of the world. And one fundamental thing is also the same: we love each other, fiercely and deeply.

But eight years is also long enough for a lot of change to happen. We have both changed jobs, finished graduate school, moved across the country and changed jobs again (roughly in that order). More importantly: we have both learned and grown as people, which means that our relationship has evolved. There have been times – including the past year, when I was job hunting – that have tried us without mercy. And life has tested our courage and resolve.

The work of marriage in these years has been about building a life together, yes, but it has also been about giving each other the space to grow and change. It is hard for me sometimes to admit that our life looks different than I thought it would, or that we are both allowed to change our opinions – and then that change might require some reshuffling. Like anything that is expected to endure, a marriage has to be both strong and flexible. That is, as I once heard Lauren Winner say, “hard and holy work.” And it is ongoing.

Here is the other side of that coin, though: marriage is sweet. It is deep and rich and nourishing, and it is often a lot of fun. I am grateful to be married to someone who makes me laugh, who always has my back, who gets me in ways I don’t have to explain. We love to go adventuring together and we love to stay home. We love being us, even while we are still two separate people. We love our life together. And I am grateful for it all.

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

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julies bookshelves book stack

I’m starting 2016 off right – with a few good books. Here’s what I have been reading so far this month:

After You, Jojo Moyes
The sequel to Moyes’ blockbuster Me Before You finds Louisa Clark stuck in neutral after losing the man she loved. When a lonely, angry teenage girl turns up on her doorstep, Lou is forced to make some tough choices. Compulsively readable, like all Moyes’ books, though I was consistently frustrated with Lou and her decisions.

The Witches of Cambridge, Menna van Praag
Hiding in plain sight among the spires of Cambridge (England) is a group of witches: sisters Kat and Cosima, Heloise and her daughter Amandine, outspoken Noa and shy George. During a turbulent year, they employ a little (white) magic to help each other through personal challenges. Fluffy and enjoyable; sprinkled with gentle magical realism. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 9).

The Hired Girl, Laura Amy Schlitz
Joan Skraggs longs to better herself and to see the world, but she knows she’ll never do either working on her father’s farm. Running away to Baltimore, Joan changes her name to Janet Lovelace and ends up working for a wealthy Jewish family. I loved Joan’s narrative voice – guileless, plainspoken, often funny. Also a sensitive exploration of faith, both Jewish and Christian. Recommended by Shelley and Nina.

Heirs of the Body, Carola Dunn
Daisy Dalrymple’s 21st case hits close to home: helping her cousin Edgar, Viscount Dalrymple, find the heir to the family estate. Several potential heirs from various countries make up an ill-assorted house party, and when one candidate ends up dead, Daisy and her detective husband Alec must help solve the mystery. Reminded me of the first season of Downton Abbey (with a mystery angle). Really fun.

Flight of Dreams, Ariel Lawhon
On May 6, 1937, the airship Hindenburg met a spectacularly disastrous end when it went up in flames over a New Jersey airfield. The cause was never clear, and the ship’s fate has long been a subject of debate. Lawhon brilliantly weaves the facts together with several intertwined narratives of passengers and crew members, over the ship’s three-day journey from Frankfurt to the U.S. Taut and well-crafted, with complex, vividly drawn characters. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 23).

The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook, Ellen McCarthy
As the weddings reporter for the Washington Post, McCarthy interviewed hundreds of couples, and gleaned some solid advice for how to find “the one” and make love last. She shares what she’s learned through wise, often hilarious anecdotes, with glimpses into her own love story. Funny, smart and so readable. Recommended by Anne.

The Year of Miss Agnes, Kirkpatrick Hill
Teachers don’t stay long in Frederika’s remote Alaskan village. The smell of fish and the lack of amenities drive them away. But Miss Agnes is different. Fred tells the story of Miss Agnes’ time in their village, and how she makes everyone see the world in a new way. Fun and fresh and well told. This is the first pick for the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club, co-hosted by Jessica and Sheila.

Ruby Red, Kerstin Gier
Gwyneth Shepherd comes from a family of time travelers, but she never expected to become one. But when she suddenly finds herself thrust backward in time, she has a lot to learn: about her own history, a secret lodge of time travelers and an infuriating (but handsome) time-traveling boy. A reread, and so much fun.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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katie jer maine view

To celebrate being married for seven years (and because we really needed a vacation), the hubs and I recently took off for a little trip to Maine.

When we go on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. (I also like to sleep in and poke into every bookshop I can find. My morning-person, not-quite-so-book-nerdy husband handles both of these things with great patience.)

studio apartment rockland

We rented a tiny studio apartment in Rockland, a short walk from downtown. There was really just enough room to turn around (or snuggle on the loveseat watching Modern Family on DVD), but it was all we needed for a weekend.

rockland maine main street

Mid-coast Maine is full of little towns with ridiculously cute Main Streets. We browsed the shops in Rockland and Camden to our hearts’ content: books, toys, yarn, T-shirts, cool things carved out of wood.

camden maine harbor

The harbor views are stunning.

camden maine public library

We also explored the Camden Public Library, because I cannot resist a beautiful library.

camden maine library interior

We had a delicious dinner at In Good Company, where we shared several small plates: deviled eggs, stuffed peppers with goat cheese, crusty baguette with fancy butter and thin slices of Parmesan.

appetizers

We also had bowls of gingery carrot-beet soup, and finished with lemon cake drizzled with lemon-thyme syrup.

lemon cake

A little bit fancy and a whole lot delicious.

ocean view mt battie maine

On Saturday afternoon, we drove to the top of Mount Battie, just outside Camden, for some truly amazing harbor views.

jer mt battie view

This spot supposedly inspired Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Renascence.”

jer lulus ice cream

Ice cream, of course, is an important part of vacation. The wild blueberry ice cream at Lulu’s, in Rockland, was delectable. (J is enjoying strawberry-balsamic sorbet in this picture.)

Sunday was rainy, windy and cold, but we braved the elements and drove to Belfast to meet our friends Isaac and Katelyn for dinner.

friends dinner

We hadn’t seen them in a year, and we spent hours catching up on our lives, first over cups of tea, then over Italian food and glasses of red wine. The best.

We drove back on Monday (stopping in Portland for lunch), relaxed and so happy after four lovely days together.

selfie mt battie

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