All posts filed under: Family

This is where DJB brags about his family, so be warned!

In praise of teachers

As we debate schools reopening in the midst of a pandemic, this seems like a perfect time to say a few words of praise for teachers who work in our public and private school systems across the country and around the world. Teachers have been very important in my life. I am married to a retired teacher. One sister is a librarian (another form of teaching) as was my mother, and the other sister trained in education and used those skills in various ways with preschoolers. My sister-in-law is a retired teacher, and I have nieces who are currently public school teachers. In almost 20 years of formal education and 65 years of informal learning in the world, I’ve had many teachers — a number of which I remember very fondly and a few of which changed my life. Every now and then I find a link that sends me to Twitter and today was one of those days. Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author, and professor who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.* She …

You can’t choose your family

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee famously wrote: “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.” In this time of global pandemic, many of us find long distances and time zones separate us from our families. We don’t have the opportunity to see our kin face-to-face. Instead we rely on technology to connect and share the stories, meals, game nights, music, and long conversations that support those familial ties and weave together the family tapestry over years. I’ve been thinking about my family in recent weeks. Ninety-five years ago today Tom Brown entered this world. Born July 5, 1925, Daddy lived a full and rich life, staying on this earth long enough to have his five children — a small part of his expansive and loving family — join together to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2015. He passed away the following spring, just weeks short …

Where the journey begins

Everyone has an origin story. Some carry a soul-stirring strength that extends across time and space. They may be so powerful that they aid in protecting the setting, preserving the very places where the story originates. While watching a repeat of the Ken Burns film The National Parks: America’s Best Idea on my local PBS station, I am reminded of how many of our parks include mountains, lakes, and meadows that are part of the origin story for Native Americans. Places that have deep meaning for the soul. Sacred places. Other origin stories evolve, as the nation, group, or individual comes to a fuller understanding of who and what they are. As is appropriate for a nation built on the shared work of the imagination, the complex American origin story continues to unfold, especially during this era of turmoil and change. “All of us tell stories about ourselves,” write Herminia Ibarra and Kent Lineback in the Harvard Business Review. “Stories define us. To know someone well is to know her story — the experiences that …

Widening the Circle of We

A friend recently raised concerns about the increase in messages when discussing the COVID-19 pandemic using an “us-vs-them” frame. His point was that in this day and age, public health emergencies should not be cast as fights between tribes. Yet, that type of framing began almost immediately after the outbreak, when some labeled COVID-19 as the Chinese virus. The attempt to separate us into groups as we consider and respond to the coronavirus has since increased in countless ways, against multiple targets. Us-vs-them framing is dangerous. It is tribal in nature and uses fear to inflame prejudices, driving hostility and hate. Such reactionary framing, legal- and social-policy writer Stephen L. Carter noted in another context, is “designed to bypass the rational faculties of its targets.” Framing conversations and thinking as us-vs-them reduces the number of people we feel responsible for or connected to. It contracts the circle of “we,” usually by highlighting how others are different from our “tribe” and therefore not worthy of our support or concern. I sometimes write about topics that I need to …

Belonging

During this pandemic, many of us are feeling vulnerable. Some may be wondering if or where we belong in a world that has dramatically changed. Brené Brown says that our belonging to each other can’t be lost, but it can be forgotten. She came to understand the simple yet profound answer to the question of the difference between fitting in and belonging out of a conversation with a group of middle school students. “Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something” they explained. “Belonging is when others want you.” With my background, Brené Brown’s thoughts on vulnerability and belonging led me to think about history, storytelling, and our use of selective memory to keep others out of our narrative, to ensure they don’t belong. If we confront our feelings during this pandemic, we may come to realize the ways that we have made others feel vulnerable in the past, perhaps by omitting or erasing their stories as if they don’t belong. History isn’t what happened. It is a story about what happened. …

Saturday Music: Holy Week

I was fortunate in my earlier life to sing Baroque and Renaissance music as part of the Shenandoah Valley group Canticum Novum. Custer LaRue, one of the eight-to-twelve singers depending on the gig, was definitely our ringer. I’ve seldom heard such a pure soprano voice. Along with a number of recordings and other highlights in her career, Custer was the “singing voice” of Reese Witherspoon in the movie Vanity Fair. (Custer also sang a solo at our twins’ baptismal service, accompanied by yours truly on guitar. While I doubt it made her musical resume, it was definitely a highlight of my musical career.) The other ringer was Carol Taylor. An award-winning choral director at McGill University, Carol fell in love with the sound of tracker organs and then fell in love with George Taylor, who happens to build world-class tracker organs (with his partner John Boody) in little Staunton, Virginia. I count myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sing with Custer, and with Debbie Hunter, Lucy Ivey, Shari Shull, Kay Buchannan, Constance …

Remembrance, Not Regret

Birthdays that end in 0 are much easier for me to handle than the ones that end in 5. I came to that rather trivial realization sometime over the past year. Approaching 30, 40, 50, or 60? No big deal. In fact, for that last one I used the occasion to gather 60 lessons I’ve learned over six decades. It was great fun. The ones that end in 5, however? Umm…they seem to be more problematic. Perhaps it is because I’m suddenly closer to the next 0 and the next decade than to the one in my rear view mirror. At 35 most of us finally realize, if we haven’t already, that we are no longer a kid. At 45 you can claim with some degree of persuasiveness to fall in the middle age bracket, but that has its own set of challenges. (Mortgages, anyone?) By the time you hit 55 you are conscious of the fact that few people live to be 110, and you are face-to-face with all that implies. And at 65? …

The Top 1 Percent

You, dear reader, have just clicked onto my 1,000th post on More to Come. As it says in the tagline, you’ve found my observations and recollections on places that matter, books worth reading, roots music, the times we live in, and “whatever else tickles my fancy.” That last one gives me license to touch on just about anything. But don’t worry. Contrary to the headline, this isn’t a rant about income inequality. I’ll explain in a moment. More to Come was created in 2008 to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over, I simply continued writing. Originally I would send random thoughts on a few things I cared about to friends, family, and other travelers on the internet who might share the same passions. Over the years the blog changed to have a more definite focus and look. In 2016, I began writing an email each Monday morning to my staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation about things that were on my mind. This discipline led to a regular …

Farewell 2019, Hello 2020

It is time, once again, when I first look back over the past twelve months and then think ahead to where I want to go in the year to come. This annual review is one small part of a larger practice to have an honest conversation with myself in the hopes that I’ll then be able to have real conversations with the larger world. During 2019, I’ve thought a great deal about place, privilege, and—given the tenor of the times—paths forward individually as well as collectively. Why place? My career has been focused on older and historic places, what those places can tell us, and how they can nurture us (or not) into the future. Although I took a gap year from full-time work in 2019, I didn’t stop thinking about my life’s work. Knowing that emotions flow through place, in my writing over this year I’ve focused more on the buildings and landscapes in our cities and towns that, while coming from my professional life, also have deep personal meaning for me. Why privilege? …

Top Ten Posts of 2019

December is the month of the “Best of…” lists. I’ve already seen the year’s best editorial cartoons; the year’s best rappers (yes, that exists); and the ten best new restaurants in DC in 2019; along with a dozen reasons why the Republicans’ impeachment defense makes no sense. (That last one really isn’t a “Best of 2019” story, but I just wanted to include it.) As I noted the other day, there is already a “Best Books of the 21st Century” list. One slightly longer list I strongly recommend is Lit Hub’s “20 Best Works of Nonfiction of the Decade.” I’ll jump on this bandwagon by highlighting the Top Ten Posts on More to Come as selected by you—the readers—in 2019.  Here they are, in chronological order: My 2018 Year-End Reading List actually dates from December 29th of 2018, but the majority of the views came in this year. I have provided a short synopsis, with links to the longer posts, from the 21 books I read last year. Given that this one topped my list of views …