Random Musings

Monday Musings

September 26, 2016

Orioles vs. Red Sox at Camden Yards

Who says Fridays are the only day for publishing random musings? Let’s start the week out with a few things floating around my brain…

First, the exciting news: I have a new niece! Alexandra Claire was born last week in Portland, Maine, the first for my younger sister, Erica. “Alexandra” is my middle name so that’s pretty neat. She’s a total doll and my daughters are thrilled about another girl cousin in the family!

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The girls went to their first baseball game — Orioles vs. Red Sox — last Thursday evening at Camden Yards. We live close to the stadium, but B and I aren’t big baseball fans so we never go, but when neighbors offered us tickets we thought it would be a fun experience for the kids. The seats were up high so at first S and H were a little anxious but they settled in, enjoyed hotdogs and peanuts, and otherwise had a fun time. (The Red Sox won, of course — my New England family would have been happy.)

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My household has a virus making its way around at the moment. S came down with a cold Friday morning and still has it. B came down with a sore throat yesterday and feels lousy. (A man cold, in other words, which are never fun for anyone.) H is okay apart from a few sniffles. And I feel like I’ve been keeping something at bay for the past four or five days and I’m hoping to keep it that way, but this afternoon I’m feeling a bit worse. Getting called in the night because a little girl can’t breathe well or has lost her tissues or is coughing loudly and waking up her sister means I’m not getting the rest I need to kick it to the curb.

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We’re finally getting some fall weather. It’s my favorite time of year around here so I hope it keeps up for a while.

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If you’re in the U.S. are you watching the debate tonight? Part of me doesn’t want to, but most of me does because, well, have we ever had an election quite like this? Ugh. (I don’t get political on this site, but for the record, I’m not a fan of either candidate in the least.)

Alright, your turn. What’s going on as your week begins?

 

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

 

 

 

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Nobel Peace Prize History

Sorry it’s been so quiet here this week!

As we go into this Labor Day weekend, I can’t help but think of Mother Teresa who’s being canonized in Rome this Sunday, on the anniversary of her death, and will then be formally known as “Saint Teresa of Calcutta.” A photographer friend and colleague of mine is at her Home of the Dying in Calcutta right now. It was a special honor as the Missionaries of Charity aren’t keen on having press around and he received special permission to be there for the weekend of the canonization, documenting what would have been a lot more important to the community’s founder if she were still alive — the everyday work of caring for the poor and dying.

Mother Teresa had her critics — I don’t think someone like her can not have critics — but those who knew her well, spent time with her, counseled her, corresponded with her, volunteered with her — and I know a number of people who fall in that list — overwhelmingly say that this was a woman totally given over to God and her mission to serve the poorest of the poor.

For some inspiration, as we go into a long weekend here in North America, here’s a handful of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes:

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I believe that prayer changes us and we change things. 
And this is so good:
  Mother Teresa quote

Happy weekend and hope you get a rest from your labors!

Image: public domain

 

 

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The Things You Never Did

April 18, 2016

Sean Stratton

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor and catch the trade winds in your sails…”

I’m old enough to know this to be true — at least for me. When I look back, the things that most disappoint me are those I didn’t do, or was afraid to do, and not so much what I did do.

When we were in the weeds of the adoption process, there were times I was tempted to give up and when I felt scared of the whole thing and wanted to run away. Most days this wasn’t the case but there were moments…. and at those times I would sit myself down and project myself 10, 15, 20 years from that point and ask myself what I would wish I’d done. And the answer would always be the same. Going to the other side of the world to meet two 4 year-olds who would become my daughters was way out of my comfort zone, but it remains the single best thing I’ve ever done. Although, come to think of it, that designation should perhaps go to my decision to marry B. As a child of divorce, I had a lot of anxiety about marriage — but here I am almost 13 years later, wondering where the time has gone. And if it weren’t for B, I don’t think I could have made it through our adoption process. I mean who would have handed me that Xanax and held my sweaty hand when I was having a panic attack on the plane? It was definitely a team effort and his support and encouragement (along with that from friends, family and help from above) made me a mom.

Even the small things we miss can become disappointments. It still bothers me that I failed to keep up with a particular person I met years ago, and I know there are many little things I’ve passed up or ignored only later to say, Shoot I should have done that.

Of course, there have also been things I didn’t do that I’m not disappointed about. Curious, maybe — as to how it would have changed my life — but no regrets. For instance, I remember being offered a dream job right after graduate school and, with no money in my bank account and no other prospects on the horizon, I turned it down. There was no rational reason to turn down that job — it was a hard decision, actually — but I wasn’t at peace about it so I said no. The next job I took, a few weeks later, is where I met my husband.

It does seem though that, generally, it’s what we don’t do that we end up having more regrets about — the opportunities we pass up, the risks we don’t take, the decisions we fail to make, the plans or goals we forget about. There are always reasons, practical, as well as circumstantial, and let’s not forget sheer laziness, which can factor in. But I think fear is always the biggie. It’s an interesting exercise to ponder what your life might look like now, or what you may have in your memory bank right now, if you hadn’t been afraid.

All of us have fears of some kind. Besides drawing on any faith we may have, the only way to overcome fear is to cultivate that which helps us push through it. Love certainly conquers fear — it’s the opposite of fear, really — but a strong sense of adventure, a desire to explore and experience, a deep sense of purpose or mission can also help us have the courage to move through fear into action.

Is there anything you didn’t do that you still feel disappointed about? Does that quote resonate with you?

Image: Sean Stratton at Unsplash

 

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Do You Have Wanderlust?

February 24, 2016

Alexey Topolyanskiy for Unsplash

I’ve always had a bit of a gypsy soul. When I was young, although I deeply loved my family, I couldn’t wait to leave home. So many people I grew up with married their high school sweethearts and settled down nearby. I knew that would never be me.

I moved to the city when I was 17 to attend university and when I was 21 came very close to going to Kenya for six months — it was thwarted only by a theater job I couldn’t pass up (and truth be told, a boyfriend I didn’t want to leave). At 22 I headed to an even bigger city, and two years later, moved to another country (this one) for graduate school. In my 20s, I don’t think I lived anywhere for more than 18 months. Between the ages of 26 and 31 I lived in six different states until I took a job in Washington, D.C. and settled into a studio apartment for a couple of years. Apart from a jalopy I purchased for $1 during graduate school that rusted out after six months, I never had a car until my early 30s, nor did I own anything apart from a roll up futon mattress and some personal belongings. I liked it that way. I felt unencumbered, free to come and go when opportunity presented itself.

I remember buying my first real piece of furniture after I was married —  I was almost 35. It felt really strange. It symbolized settling down, being more rooted in a place. But I knew it was the right time, a new phase of life. If my 20s were about movement and change, my 30s were about settling and commiting — to marriage, building a family, being a more involved member of the community. The Slow Food movement helped me reflect on the importance of a sense of place. I had that as a child — a deep-rooted sense of place, a strong connection to where I was and who was around me.

As I age, I find myself jealous of some of my siblings who returned home after college and jobs to settle down, and the people I meet who still live in their hometowns or near family. The grass is always greener, I know. My choices have brought me to where I am today and I don’t regret them, but I’m aware of how much wanderlust has factored into it. I’m a homebody now, but the wanderlust remains. If it weren’t for kids and stuff and a few more pieces of furniture to my name, I could easily could pick up and move tomorrow to a place I’ve never been. I often think I would have made a good military wife or a diplomat.

Although B has lived overseas and traveled a great deal, he doesn’t have the same wanderlust. Mine, I believe, is partly inherited — both of my grandmothers loved traveling and did so until they were very old. One of my great-grandfathers was the same — his adventures read like a storybook. Though my parents didn’t catch that bug, some of my aunts and uncles did.

I no longer have the desire to move around a lot, although I think my life would have a lot more travel in it if I wasn’t such an aviophobe. I believe being rooted in a place is a blessing, and most of us can best change the world by tending to the gardens in our own backyards. It’s not lost on me, however, that some of my favorite magazines and Instagram accounts take me away to other places and other cultures — there’s a lot to be said for living vicariously through others.

Do you have wanderlust? Have your travels taken you far from home, or do you still live where you grew up?

Image: Alexey Topolyanskiy for Unsplash

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The Best Laid Plans

December 18, 2015

Flower

So you know when you have plans to get a lot accomplished because Christmas is next week and you still have so much to do like shopping and baking and wrapping and getting packages in the mail, and finishing your cards, and making the house half-way presentable for your mother-in-law, and decorating the tree… and then you get slammed with a cold virus that zaps you of every ounce of energy and creative impulse?

Welcome to my world this week. It’s like God had a laugh when I said to my husband on Monday, “There’s so much to do before Christmas; I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed!” And then the next day, I was pretty much a walking zombie.

I really do try to keep things simple, but have somehow managed to leave certain tasks later than I’d wanted, so here I am.

In happier news, I have a new niece — a beautiful baby girl named Felicity Rose, born on Wednesday night. What a great Christmas present!

In honor of her, I should offer a drink, but it needs to be something that will also kill a few germs, so how about a straight shot of whiskey? I don’t like whiskey, but since I can’t taste or smell much at the moment, why not?

And how has your week been? What’s on your calendar this weekend? If I’m better, I’ll have a lot of catch up to do, and hopefully dinner with a friend who will be in town. Hope it’s a good one and I’ll see you back here next week!

Image: Death to the Stock Photo

 

 

 

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Friday Inspiration

December 12, 2014

Unknown Quote
It’s my birthday today, and ever since I hit my 40s (wasn’t that just yesterday?), every time my birthday rolls around all I can think about is what a privilege it is to get older.

Yes, I’m starting to hate my neck, and the gray is getting harder to hide, and when I see college students they look like babies (because they really could be my babies). But more than anything, I’m grateful on my birthdays now…grateful for another year, for my family and friends, for the gift of motherhood, for my health and my faith, for the opportunities I’ve had (and have), and for so much more.

There’s a lot I’d love to write about aging, and maybe I will eventually. Right now, however, I need to get on with a very full day, which includes taking my daughters out for a girls’ lunch together — a tradition I started on my birthday after they arrived. Later, the whole family will head to a ramen noodle bar at the food market I love, where I can also indulge in my favorite chocolates.

Somewhere in there I’ll have to throw some candles on a cake and blow them out — for my daughters’ enjoyment, mainly — and on Sunday, I’ll be getting together with a group of friends for a fun birthday and pre-Christmas brunch. (I’ll try to Instagram some of it.) Oh, and I think we may get our tree tomorrow!

Any plans this weekend? And how do you feel when your birthday rolls around — does this quote speak to you?

Image via Pinterest

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Friday Inspiration

October 10, 2014

If Only Our Eyes Saw Souls
When I spotted this quote recently on Facebook it gave me pause. I thought about beauty — what it is exactly, and who I find most beautiful. Like anyone else, I’m drawn to and distracted by physical beauty, and more preoccupied with my own looks than I’d like to be. But the most beautiful people I’ve met have always possessed something much deeper than physical attractiveness. Pretty is skin-deep, but beauty is much more.

I remember hosting a conference many years ago where a particular guest speaker captured my attention. She wore a simple blue dress and didn’t have on a stitch of makeup. What struck me most about her was that she seemed ageless: She could have been 19 or 59, it was hard to tell — perhaps because I couldn’t see her hair. When she spoke, her voice was gentle, but there was a confidence and boldness in how she spoke and moved. She had a particular intelligence, an air of grace, and the ability to be completely present to whomever she was speaking. She was loveliness personified — like she came from another place. And it turns out, she kind of did: She was a cloistered nun. To this day, when I think of beauty, I think of her.

It would be life-changing if we could see souls — though we can catch glimpses through another’s eyes and gestures and presence — but it would be equally great if we could focus as much on our own inner beauty as we do on our physical attractiveness. Now that the signs of aging are upon me, I think about this often; I know that I’ll be much happier at 50, 60, 70 years old the more I do.

What is beauty to you?

Image: Luna Belle 

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Intent vs. Impact

September 30, 2014

Photo by Ludovic Bertron. Savoy, Rhone-Alpes, France 2011
A friend posted an article on Facebook recently that caught my eye: “Intent vs. Impact: Why Your Intentions Don’t Really Matter.” The writer makes the argument that it’s the impact of what you say and do that matters, not the intent. There’s a lot of truth in that: Too often words are thrown around carelessly because we assume that our intentions are all we need to take responsibility for, but we also need to be willing to take responsibility for the impact our words and actions have on others.

Take, for example, something we say that unintentionally hurts a friend’s feelings. If kindness, respect, and our relationship with the other person are important, we need to apologize. We need to think more carefully in general about what the potential impact of our words may be before we open our mouths — or hit the publish button. (Heaven knows, in this age of angry comboxes, many people could stand to take this to heart.)

At the same time, our intent isn’t negligible, because we can’t always control the impact we make on someone else. Impact is not simply about what we say and do, but about the other person’s reaction to it. People these days seem easily offended by statements and positions they don’t agree with, and sometimes just sharing an opinion or speaking up isn’t well-received, no matter how gently you frame it. We can be sad that something we said or did hurt someone’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean we should always be sorry we said or did it in the first place.

So for me, it’s not an either/or: We need to be aware of our intent, which should come from the heart, as well as the impact we make — and be willing to apologize and change our ways to become better human beings.

What do you think? In disagreements with others, do you find yourself focused more on your intent or your impact? How do you balance them?

Image: Ludovic Bertron. Savoy, Rhone-Alpes, France 2011. Original in color.  Found via Pinterest.

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Friday Inspiration

September 5, 2014

Seth Godin Quote

In my recent post about changes at SlowMama this fall, I mentioned that I might tweak a few things. One of them is my Friday posts. Pull Up a Chair has been fun, but I think many of us are a little worn out on Fridays and could use some inspiration. With that in mind, I’m going to start posting great quotes I find, or images that inspire reflection, and see how it goes. Hopefully it will put us all in the right frame of mind at the end of the week!

I spotted the quote and image above on Verily magazine’s Pinterest feed (made by Belinda Love Lee for Verily). I’ve read Seth Godin on and off for years and his words here remind me that the things I’ve been most afraid of in my life have been some of the best things I’ve ever done: Moving to another country to a place I didn’t know anyone. Getting married. Adopting twin four year-olds and traveling to the other side of the world to do it. And right now I can use the reminder that the scariest stuff might be risky (or at least feel risky), but usually turns out to be the most meaningful.

What about you? When’s the last time you challenged yourself to do something scary (though desirable)? Is there something right now that you’re avoiding or putting off because it makes you shake in your boots, even just a little bit?

Have a wonderful and slow weekend, friends. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Image found at Verily on Pinterest

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Fresh Starts

September 2, 2014

Mount Vernon, Baltimore

I never seem to do anything special on Labor Day weekend, but there’s always a significant psychological transition that happens in my head; I go from summer to fall in the course of three days — even when the weather is still piping hot. Every time September rolls around, it feels like a fresh start — probably because for so much of my life this month marked the beginning of a new school year and all that it brought… new teachers and classes, new schools and cities, new friends and experiences and opportunities.

Even now, I feel that mix of excitement and nervousness when September arrives. What will the fall bring? Will my plans materialize as hoped? There are hopes and expectations, as well as apprehensions and fears.

I think we all benefit from fresh starts, no matter how they come. Seasons and dates are natural markers, but so are things like moving to a new house or town, starting another job, or adding a new member to the family. Even something like re-organizing or decluttering our home can give us the sense of a embarking on a new chapter.

I’d love to know: Does this time of year feel like a fresh start for you? Are there regular times of year that do that for you, or is a fresh start triggered by something entirely different than seasons or dates?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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