All posts tagged: Family

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 …

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. …

More to Consider

I’ve long been a fan of the pithy proverb that contains truth in 20 words or less. Perhaps my love for the short and to-the-point adage came from my Grandmother Brown, who was known to say things such as, “The graveyard is full of people who thought the world couldn’t get along without them.” I admit I might have heard that particular one when she thought I was getting too big for my britches. To capture some of my favorite sayings without having to write an entire blog post about them, I created a feature on More to Come that I labeled More to Consider. (Clever, huh?) Every other week or so I update these quick bursts of truth. This section of the website is easiest to see on a laptop, where it resides near the top of the right hand column. But most people read my posts from their phones, where you have to scroll almost to the bottom before finding the saying for the week. With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the more …

Facing life’s worries

We all have our phobias and fears. For much of my life, that personal horror was stage fright. I’m surprised when people tell me they have never experienced the sensation of walking to a podium or settling in with their musical instrument and, suddenly, being gripped by a paralyzing fear. That dread just came naturally to me. Stage fright—or performance anxiety, as it is also known—is a condition that affects many people who have to talk for a living or want to perform for others. I’ve experienced it in both speaking publicly—say, for television interviews—and in playing music in any space other than my living room. If you don’t address your fears, the feeling saps your confidence and energy in ways that seem to make poor performance a self-fulfilling prophecy. With work and experience, I overcame at least a part of my anxiety through the years and came to enjoy public speaking and conversation. A little bit of online research will turn up 21.5 million results (I Googled it) around ways to combat stage fright. …

Brown family (credit: John Thorne)

Our year in photos – 2019

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I continue my annual tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come. Despite all the turmoil in our country and throughout the world, so many of us still have much for which to be thankful in 2019. Each December is a special time in our family, as we celebrate Andrew and Claire’s birthdays followed quickly by the holidays. Andrew did a bit of singing and celebrating with friends while in London, but both of the twins returned to Washington in late December 2018 during breaks in their school years. We were delighted to have everyone together again, if only for a few days, under one roof. The twins turned 26 last December, and less than two weeks later rolled off the family health care plan! I think that’s the new 21st century milestone for adulthood. As he pursues his Masters in Vocal Performance at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London, Andrew has maintained a busy singing schedule. Early in 2019 he …

Happy Birthday, Lilly

July 2nd was Lilly’s birthday. That means nothing to anyone outside the four people in our family, but to us it brings back great memories of our wonderful Sussex Spaniel, Lilly. It has now been ten years since she was last with us, but anytime we gather, her name inevitably comes up. I’ve told the story before of how Lilly joined our family, after her “show career” was over. When “Stump” — another Sussex Spaniel — won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show, I knew that inevitably I’d be stopped during my morning ritual of walking Lilly by someone who was fascinated to see this breed ambling* along the streets of Silver Spring. Lilly was also a fixture at the annual Blessing of the Animals at the Washington National Cathedral, where her dark coat and “Sussex Smile” would draw attention. When we said farewell to Lilly, I wrote a long post that included our best Lilly stories. Most show her faithful and gracious side, but she wasn’t always that way. Sussex Spaniels …

Family along Monterey Coast

Our year in photos – 2018

As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I continue my tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come…. We have much for which to be thankful in 2018. This was yet another year unlike any other in the recent history of our country. The level of vitriol coming from some of our so-called leaders has put many on edge and has driven others to do unspeakable horror. In spite of the turmoil in the world and some significant changes in our lives, we were blessed again this year with good health and good friends. Each of us is doing well. Shortly after Thanksgiving last year, Candice and David traveled to Providence to hear Andrew solo with the Brown University Chorus in Messiah.  While there, we took advantage of the trip to visit some of our favorite haunts in this food-friendly gem of a city. Of course, each December brings a special celebration of Andrew and Claire.  The twins’ birthday is always a major highlight, but given that they reached the …

Only Two Kinds of Music

Today is bittersweet, as our Andrew prepares to leave tonight for London and his graduate studies at conservatory. Over the past month, we’ve been savoring both his presence and his music. When we were in California in August, we had the chance to attend the final concert in San Francisco’s 2018 American Bach Soloists’ Summer Bach Festival, the stirring Mass in B Minor.  Andrew joined three other musicians for the Benedictus.  This tenor aria comes near the end of the mass, and Andrew’s beautiful singing was supported by just a flute, cello, and double bass. Then just this past weekend, Andrew had a call to sing the state funeral for U.S. Senator John McCain at the Washington National Cathedral. He had turned in his badge and music at the cathedral, where he most recently was one of the tenors in the men’s choir. But his replacement had not arrived from out-of-town so Andrew had the chance to sing his third state funeral (Reagan and Ford, while a boy chorister, were the others) to go along …

Lenten Litany

At yesterday’s service on the First Sunday in Lent at the Washington National Cathedral, Andrew — a tenor in the men’s choir — was the soloist for the Lenten Litany.  This particular version of the litany was arranged by Canon Michael McCarthy, the Director of Music at the National Cathedral. It is a moving seven minutes of music, to help bring the faithful into an observance of the holy season of Lent.  The solo begins around the 13 minute mark. With blessings for whatever practice you bring to the season. More to come… DJB