Girl with Pink Shoes by Viktor Janacek

Someone I know posted an article on Facebook a while back with this provocative title: “Is there an age limit on wearing jeans?” It only took me a second to answer it in my own mind: No way, jeans forever!

I love jeans and wear them all the time – dressed up and dressed down. My mother, who’s in her 70s, still wears jeans and looks great. Not everyone does feel comfortable in denim, though, and I can see a person getting to a place where they don’t like to wear them anymore. But, if you’re still digging jeans and they make you feel good, why not keep wearing them for as long as you want?

Generally, I think a person should wear what they want to wear… to a point. I mean, we all have lines we draw, right? There are certain styles or pieces of clothing that feel too “young” for me to wear now. For instance, I still wear short skirts, but not as short as I wore in my 20s and 30s. And aside from the gym or the beach, I wouldn’t be caught dead showing my midriff. When you do that in your 40s it just screams to me: “I still want to be 22!” And who wants to be 22 again? Well, maybe some of us do, but I don’t.

A lot goes into wardrobe choices, of course, besides the sensibilities that come with age. There are things like culture, weather, taste, budget, etc. For me it’s also about appropriateness and respect. Sweat pants at church? No. Ripped jeans at a professional meeting? Don’t think so. Does this make me old-fashioned? I don’t think so. I think respect for the people and situations we’re in, as well as for ourselves, should never be ignored no matter what we prefer to wear.

So what do you think? Are you a jeans-forever person? Are there certain things you don’t wear anymore or things you’ve begun wearing and wouldn’t be caught dead in anymore? Spill the beans!

Image: Viktor Hanacek for Picjumbo

 

 

 

 

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Sunflower by Olia Gozha

I recently re-read an article in The Atlantic about the science of happy marriages and how a central factor in making a marriage work is kindness.

It’s almost cliche, really. Everywhere you turn, someone’s writing about how we should be kind to one another. The more we hear about it, the less we seem to practice it. Kindness certainly doesn’t seem to be a hallmark of our society these days. Just look at our civil discourse. Not only do many people seem very thin-skinned and offended by anything and everything, others (and often the very same people) are disrespectful and rude. It’s like we can’t seem to find a third way — basic kindness in what we say and do, even when we disagree or even distrust one another.

Maybe it’s because we confuse kindness with being nice. Nice is fine as far as it goes, but that’s just it. Some people don’t seem as nice as others, simply because their temperament or style is not as pleasant or positive. There are also serious things that happen in life and “being nice” doesn’t always allow us to be honest and real.

But it is possible to treat even your worst enemy with kindness. Hard, maybe, but possible. Because kindness isn’t about agreement or approval, or about smiling all the time; it’s about seeing past any differences in one another so as to acknowledge the inherent dignity of the other. No matter someone’s actions or opinions, they are first and foremost a human being. Kindness isn’t a feeling, it’s an actual virtue — an attitude and an action.

In everyday life, kindness includes listening, giving the benefit of the doubt, taking the high road (when the other person is taking the low one), being compassionate, finding common ground, speaking truth in a respectful way, and sometimes just keeping your mouth shut and letting something go. It means patience and courtesy. It means being wise and thoughtful. And it means forgiveness. Kind people forgive.

This week, many of us may be sitting around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends who hold different opinions and perspectives — politically and otherwise. In the aftermath of a contentious election and much ongoing fallout, it’s a perfect time to practice kindness. Gratitude and kindness orbit around each other — the more grateful you are, the easier it is to be kind, and the more kind you are, the easier it is to be grateful. Kindness is actually very simple. Not easy, but simple. Imagine if we could bring more of it to our conversations, our social media posts, and our everyday actions?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers!

Image: Olia Gozha for unsplash

 

 

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Friday Humor

November 18, 2016

For some reason, everything felt rushed this week, like I was constantly behind. I was also trying to make sure a sore throat didn’t become something worse and so far so good. I want to be in tip-top shape for tomorrow when I’ll be joining a few friends for an aerial silks class at a circus arts school nearby. Never mind that I’m totally out of shape and afraid of heights. That should make it comical at the very least.

I’m not the only one doing a fun workshop this weekend — Ryron Gracie is coming to Baltimore and leading a class for kids at the girls’ dojo tomorrow morning. That means nothing if you know nothing about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but if you do, you’ll understand the excitement.

It seems like it’s been an intense week for a lot of people coming off the recent election, with social media still buzzing. I maintain that one must always keep their sense of humor and sometimes you just need an extra dose of funny to help you along. At the end of this week I needed a good laugh and without realizing that, one of my sisters obliged by texting me this video. Warning: if you’re offended by vulgarity or at laughing about lady parts, you might want to pass. As for the rest of you, you’re welcome. Have a great weekend!

 

 

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Friday Inspiration

November 11, 2016

Hiking Appalachian Trail

Feel like you need a drink at the end of this week? Plenty of people do! While something like whiskey might be your first choice, I suggest you consider this:

Iced minted lemonade

It’s not alcoholic, and may be a bit summery right now, but it’s a nice tonic when you need a boost. It’s called an iced minted lemonade and my mother-in-law ordered it recently at a Greek restaurant we all went to. Everyone liked it so much that the next time we were there, S and H insisted they have one.

Today I’m lifting a glass not simply to toast that the election is over (and c’mon, no matter what your politics, there is surely some relief across the board that it’s now over… Facebook was becoming unbearable); I also want to wish my sister Kate a very happy birthday today, and acknowledge with gratitude the many and profound sacrifices of our veterans on this Veterans’ Day.

Any plans this weekend, friends? Last Saturday, we got out of the city, booked a hotel (with a pool for our little fish) on points, and took a short fall hike along the Appalachian Trail just west of Frederick, Maryland. The girls lasted, oh, about half a mile before the complaining began. They’re not bad little hikers generally, but it was mostly steep and rocky going up and that was a bit tough. The weather was perfect all weekend, though, and we found some good food, stopped at an apple orchard, and visited a beautiful shrine before making our way home. This weekend there are practical things on the agenda instead… catching up on a freelance project, doing a little Christmas shopping, (yes, I am determined to get a  head start his year in order to make December slower and more meaningful!), and some much needed house cleaning.

Hope you have a peaceful one, and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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The Day After

November 9, 2016

Road in trees by Geran de Klerk

Wow. Here we are.

I don’t write about politics at SlowMama, but it’s hard to ignore today. I have friends and family across the political spectrum and I knew that whatever the outcome of this election, half the country would wake up deeply sad, discouraged — and even afraid. And I’m seeing this all over my social media feeds.

For the record, I myself am not hiding under the covers. I’m concerned, yes; distressed, yes — but I didn’t have a horse in this race; I was going to be unhappy no matter the outcome, for different reasons. I don’t completely understand how either candidate garnished such strong support — as it seemed to me so much had to be overlooked to do that for either one of them. At the same time, I do get it because I believe the candidates we got reflect where we are politically and culturally in this country.

I empathize with those who are devastated today, but since I’m an optimist and a person of hope by nature (and quite cynical about politics), what comes to mind right now is a quote by Mother Teresa, which I think provides a helpful directive to each of us, no matter how we feel today. Americans are often accused of having short memories, which isn’t good, but the flip side of that is that they, collectively, seem good at licking their wounds and moving on in hopes of a brighter day. It’s one of the things I have come to love about this country in the 20 some years I’ve lived here. So while  it might be too soon for some, these words seem like good marching orders:

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.

Image: Geran de Klerk at unsplash

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Election Day 2016

November 8, 2016

Seal by Alec Weir

All I can say is, I don’t think I have enough alcohol in the house today.

Image: Alec Weir at unsplash

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Big Cats!

November 1, 2016

Leopard and cheetah

You may not have heard, but there were two big cats prowling around south Baltimore on Halloween this year — a cheetah and a leopard, to be exact. And don’t be getting them mixed up because they are not the same at all. I only know this because I live with two big cat experts. And those experts are very lucky that they have such a talented grandmother who works very hard to see to it that they’re the best dressed trick or treaters in the neighborhood. Nana outdid herself again this year and the girls had a blast.

I myself wore a crazy frog hat, because I’m that kind of mom sometimes, and gave out candy after we got back. Actually, I mostly gave out little bags of chips and it was the more popular thing by far. I’m a stickler for costumes, though. You think you’re going to get a treat with just a sweatshirt and jeans? That is not the deal. (Okay, I do hand it over, but not with a scowl.)

Did you have tricker or treaters at your house and did your kids dress up and go out?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

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Great Fall Days

October 25, 2016

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Fall is finally here to stay in Maryland — at least, I think so. It’s my favorite time of year, but also usually one of the busiest and this year has been no exception. I was missing in action around here last week because I just couldn’t carve out a spare 15 minutes to get a post up. Some slow mama I am!

My mother-in-law arrived last Wednesday. She usually visits every fall and this year she timed it with the occasion of S’s and H’s First Communion. Usually First Communions, at least in the Catholic Church, are in the spring and early summer, but I can’t seem to do anything the normal way. And since we were preparing them ourselves and I wasn’t ready this past spring and didn’t want to wait until next spring, this October it was.

Those dresses, huh? We borrowed them from my dear friend and the girls’ godmother, who made them. I’m dating myself here but they remind me of something out of Princess Diana’s wedding. I bought some tulle and found a local florist to make the crowns and we were all set. Never mind that S had a bad cold and H – who rarely injures herself – somehow managed a bad rug burn near her right eye. But it was a meaningful and celebratory day and I was very proud of my little princess brides.

October is flying by far too fast, but we’re hoping to enjoy the season before the leaves are all gone and we dig out winter coats. Next up is trick or treating, which I always kind of dread because no one does well with sugar in here. But the dressing up part is so fun! I can’t wait to show you this year’s costumes made by their talented seamstress of a grandmother, so stay tuned. And in the next few weeks we want to get away on a quick overnight to the Catoctin mountains, right here in Maryland. They’re so pretty at this time of year and it doesn’t feel like a proper fall without a trip out of the city to see the colors, and drink some hot cider.

What are you up to this month?

Image: Renata Grzan 

 

 

 

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4 Years!

October 12, 2016

H and S 4 yrs old

Today is a celebration for us – it’s the day we mark landing at Washington-Dulles airport and coming home to Baltimore to begin our life together as a family. It was quite a journey to get to that point and it was just the beginning of the adventure of becoming a family, which, of course, is not just a piece of paper, but the deepest of bonds and a shared life of love, commitment, and faithfulness.

H and S 3rd grade

And it’s been four years now! My girls have changed so much, as all kids do, but wow, I really notice it when I look at photos and videos from then until now. And I’ve changed a little bit, too. Here are a few things I’ve been reflecting on today…

  • Adopting H and S will always remain the single best thing B and I ever did.
  • In some ways, I’m a different kind of mom than I thought I’d be. I should probably write a blog post about this. Or maybe I already did? Hmmm.
  • My brain seems to have gone to mush since becoming a parent.
  • Mushy brain isn’t always bad… you forget a lot of the hard stuff, too.
  • There are many layers to consider when raising a child and the layer of adoption will always be present.
  • It continues to amaze me just how similar our daughters are to B and me – in temperament, quirks, interests, etc.
  • Being an adoptive parent means you’re always holding joy and sorrow side by side. I’ll always be deeply sad that my daughters and their Ethiopian family couldn’t remain together. And I’ll always be profoundly grateful and happy that I am their mother and we are a family.
  • Children really do grow and change so quickly! I’m trying to savor the moments and the days, which is hard when the demands of life crowd in and you let yourself get distracted by so many things that won’t matter so much in 10 or 20 years.
  • I begin to feel panicked when I think about ever getting on a plane for that long again. But I know some day it will probably have to happen. (Got to stay in the present moment!)

Since it was a regular home school and work day here today and the girls have their martial arts class this evening, we’ll celebrate our “family day” this Sunday. But wow, I’m marveling at four years home today. If you’ve been reading SlowMama since then, thanks for sticking around and sharing this journey!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ethiopia on My Mind

October 7, 2016

Addis, 2012

Four years ago today, B and I were in Ethiopia getting ready to take S and H home with us. It was an unforgettable trip, and many moments are seared into my heart and mind forever.

There’s been a lot of troubling news coming out of Ethiopia in recent weeks. Mainstream U.S. news isn’t carrying it much (no surprise), but some foreign media and independent journalists are talking about it, as well as people on the ground. The unrest began to  erupt when the government began trying to seize land from the Oromo people to expand the nation’s capital, as part of their economic progress plan. This has enflamed deeper ethnic tensions between groups in Ethiopia and citizens are dying as government troops face off with protestors. (That’s my over-simplified explanation of the situation.)

Just this past week, hundreds of people were killed at a religious festival in the town my daughters were born in. The official reports say it was due to a stampede, but many witnesses on the ground, as well as journalists, say this was not the primary reason for the death toll. On Tuesday, an American UC Davis post-doctorate student was killed by a rock thrown by a protestor while traveling by van in Ethiopia. I know of many adoptive families and frequent visitors canceling their travel plans to the country right now because things have become so destabilized.

I saw a tagline on a news story the other day that said, when it comes to what’s happening in Ethiopia: This is Africa, and nobody cares how many protesters the dictatorial government kills. Not the UN, not the State Department, not Black Lives Matter, and not CNN.

Sadly, this is true. Ethiopia is not exactly on anybody’s radar of concern. (Even the U.S. Embassy over there doesn’t seem to get high marks for being very communicative or forthcoming — at least according to people to try to reach them.) Granted, Ethiopia is certainly not the only place worthy of attention right now. But I try to stay updated on what’s going on in my daughters’ native country, and I believe that the entire continent of Africa generally deserves a lot more consideration than it gets.

I don’t know about you, but the end of this week finds me tired. If you’re at all near Hurricane Matthew’s path, please stay safe. In the meantime, I invite you to grab a glass of your favorite beverage – whatever it may be – and catch whatever break you can this weekend. See you back here soon!

Image: Road in Addis Ababa, Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

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