35 Reasons I’d Do It All Over Again

At Prospect Hill in 1982

The newlyweds – poor graduate students – on our honeymoon at Prospect Hill

Thirty-five years ago tomorrow – March 20th – Candice and I started our adventure together.  I remember the first time I saw Candice.  She was coming around the corner of an office cubicle at the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office – where we’d both just been hired – and I thought, “Wow!”  (That’s a technical term meaning, “This could be interesting!”) As I got to know her over the months and years, my initial assessment was more than confirmed.

In her book Two-Part Invention:  The Story of a Marriage, Madeleine L’Engle describes the evening that her husband Hugh proposed to her.

“We went to one of our favorite restaurants in the Village, and after dinner he came home with me.  We talked.  About this, about that. He suggested that we play records, and chose Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

He picked up a book of poetry off the shelf and began leafing through it, and then read me Conrad Aiken’s beautiful words:

Music I heard with you was more than music, and bread I broke with you was more than bread.

And then he said, ‘Madeleine, will you marry me?'”

I love that sentiment of how two make something more than what we feel alone.  That is so true with Candice.  In honor of our anniversary, here are thirty-five reasons I’d do it all over again.

1. Thinks deeply about what type of wife, mother, sister, in-law, and friend she wants to be.  Then she acts out of that conviction.

2. Will go to a restaurant, taste something we both love, and come home and duplicate it for us.  How does she do that?

3.  Treats children as people. They respond to her respect with love and respect of their own.

4.  Is both romantic and pragmatic, and knows when each is the proper approach.

5.  When we were first married, I brought a habit of buying things on credit to the marriage.  Candice grew up waiting until she had cash before making a purchase.  We talked through our attitudes toward money, and then we adopted her overall approach whenever possible.  (House mortgages excepted.)  When I look at our family’s financial situation thirty-five years later, I am so glad she had the patience to work with me on financial management.  She’s also taught Andrew and Claire about the thoughtful use of money.

6.  Even in light of the previous reason, when I took a shine to several very nice guitars, and had the wherewithal to buy them, she fully supported the scratching of my Guitar Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) itch.

Playing my Running Dog

Playing one of my Running Dog guitars

7.  Has consistently seen more in me than I see in myself.  Over thirty-five years, that’s a great confidence builder.

8.  Remembers everyone’s birthday, and sends cards, calls, and otherwise makes you feel very special…even if you don’t want to remember that you’re now 62!

9.  There have been times of misunderstandings.  All marriages have them.  Yet when one of us outruns the other, Candice will wait for me to catch up (if she’s ahead) or ask me to wait for her to get comfortable with wherever I am.

10.  We renovated two old homes early in our married life.  On the first house, we found ourselves arguing over how well I did the detail work and how slow she was in moving through items that didn’t require a lot of thought.  She had the good sense to point out that her focus made her the best person to take the paint off the baseboards, while my zeal for the big-picture meant that I should strip wallpaper to my heart’s content.  We never again strayed into each other’s territory, and it probably saved our marriage.

11. Wears “jewelry” created by Andrew and Claire in kindergarten and pulls it off as if she’s wearing the latest designer creation.  She always gets compliments when she brings them out.

12.  Is incredibly patient.  Will wait (and wait, and wait) for what she wants.  I guess that was a good trait, in that she waited for me!

20th Anniversary Dinner

20th Anniversary Dinner at Prospect Hill

13.  Is non-judgemental.  She has said that when she sees a situation where she might get frustrated by someone’s action, she stops and thinks, “What don’t I understand about this situation?”

14.  Loved both my parents and always treated them with respect and affection.  Candice and my father had a special bond, driven, in part, by their shared love for theology.  When my father died, Candice asked me to get as many of his theological books as I could from his library.  Two or three boxes of books later, we had significantly added to our collection.

15.  Knows how to snuggle.

16.  Takes good care of me when I am sick – especially those times when I’m a terrible patient.  I certainly would not put up with what I put her through when I don’t feel well.  (Note:  The times I am really sick, I’m actually a pretty good patient.  But that’s not often.)

17.  Is a wonderful mother to our children. I give her (and the twins) all the credit for how well they turned out as people.  Plus, I think the twins have been helped by having a mother who is a teacher.  She knows things from her training where I am clueless.

San Gmignano

Claire and Candice in San Gimignano

 

Andrew and Claire in Stockholm March 2014

Andrew and Candice in Stockholm

18.  Loves to travel, and is a great traveling companion for all of us.

19.  Does everything in her power to get me to eat a healthy diet.  If you see me with an order of french fries, you can be assured that I made the choice (instead of being served them as part of one of her dinners.)

20.  As the years of our marriage have passed, Candice has become much more comfortable with each of us separately focusing on things we enjoy.  I might go to a ballgame with a friend, and she’s fine with that (and in fact, is supportive.)  We can now spend the day together at home, and go for hours between checking in.  Yet she’s also aware of when we might need to connect.

21.  Loves good food and encouraged us to sit down and eat a civilized dinner with well-cooked food, thoughtful conversation, and no television.  We’ve been doing that for thirty-five years, and I think all of us have benefited.  As the children became older, we added candles (and later wine) to the mix.  Andrew and Claire have always been able to carry on meaningful conversations with adults, and I credit their experience at the dining room table.  We’ve also had some amazing conversations with them in recent years around topics that I never thought I’d consider – much less discuss.  All because of the good food and drink, and the space and time to share.

22.  Laughs at (most of) my jokes, even when she’s heard them dozens of times before.

23.  Has never been afraid to try new things.  In the course of our marriage, Candice’s jobs out of the house have included preservationist, teacher, tutor, shop keeper, caterer, teacher (again), innkeeper, and teacher (yet again).  I may have missed one or two.  Her curiosity, openness to new experiences, and desire to make a difference in the lives of others has taken her down many rewarding paths – for her and for our family.

Candice and Margaret

Candice and Margaret – two thirds of the catering team at Table Grace – seen here preparing one of our Thanksgiving dinners with the Pearsons

24.  Makes getting up early on Saturday to get to the Farmers’ Market fun, by tying it in with coffee and pastries at Tout de Sweet.  Saturday mornings are our time to connect with each other, catch up, and look ahead.  We both see it as our sacred time.

25.  Her idea of a perfect evening is to have an intimate dinner and conversation for several hours with a small group of friends.  As someone who doesn’t like large parties, I am forever grateful that this is her preference.

26.  Can get me out on the dance floor.

 

Candice and David celebrate their 32nd anniversary in Copenhagen, March 20, 2014

Our 32nd anniversary – celebrated in Copenhagen in March 2014

27.  Makes an effort to stay connected to family and friends.  She calls her family faithfully, and visits often.  When she hasn’t heard from someone in a while, she’ll often reach out with an email, Facebook post, text, or call to see how they are doing.  Once she “retired” she took to scheduling regular tea time or lunches with friends new and old.  My social life would be pretty limited without Candice’s instincts to connect with others.

28.  Loves traditions, and makes great ones for our family.  The twins – at age twenty-four – still look forward to getting their shoes filled with goodies on St. Nicholas Day.

29.  When cancer, a concussion, and hip replacement entered her life (at different times), Candice tackled each recovery with a dedication that I’ve seldom seen. She is a great example of how patient, doctor, spiritual director, family, and friends work together to bring healing to one’s body.

30.  Jazz is the only intersection between our musical tastes, but she has been to many more folk, bluegrass, and acoustic music concerts than I’ve been to concerts with acapella singing groups. She will put up with my music for a long time until she asks for a change (and Del McCoury is often involved in pushing her over the edge.)

31.  Candice grew up Catholic.  I was raised Southern Baptist, but by the time we met I had joined the Episcopal Church.  We agreed that we both wanted to worship in the same church, so we each took classes in the other church as we were preparing to get married.  (Note:  You can tell the difference in the two when you hear the names.  In the Episcopal Church, one attends the “Inquirers Class.”  For the Catholics, one goes to the “Converts Class.”)  I will always appreciate Candice’s willingness to move from her family’s church and towards the Episcopal church, where we’ve now been members for 35 years.

34th anniversary

Celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary at Ditirambo in Rome

32.  Neither one of us is perfect (surprise) and we often disagree.  But as Alain de Botton said in Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person, “The person we are best suited to is not the person who shares our every tastes (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in tastes intelligently – the person who is good at disagreement.”  Candice is good at disagreement, in that she never makes that disagreement personal, hurtful, or permanent.  To use de Botton’s phrase, “She can tolerate differences with generosity.”

33.  Loves to cook and is very good at it!  The first meal she made for the two of us had me hooked, and she hasn’t let up yet.  Yes, I know how lucky I am.

34.  For our 35th anniversary, was “all in” when I suggested a long weekend away at Mohonk Mountain House, for time to eat, read, meditate (yes, I went to a guided meditation class!), eat, get a massage, do yoga, eat, drink, and celebrate.  We had a delightful time re-connecting with each other and with this wonderful place.

35th anniversary dinner

Celebrating our 35th Anniversary at a snowy Mohonk Mountain House in March 2017

35.  Loves me unconditionally.  Who could ask for more?

Thank you, my love.  Let’s do thirty-five more!

Love, and with hopefully much more to come…

DJB

The Two Year Anniversary of My (In)Famous Encounter with an Ambulance

60th Birthday celebration

Celebrating my 60th birthday, along with my fractured shoulder and new sling

I was at work today when someone in a meeting reminded me that today was the second anniversary of my (in)famous encounter with a sliding ambulance.

What, you haven’t heard that story?  Well, go here to be reminded. You don’t want me to tell you about it now, because the story becomes “better” with every retelling.  I was reminded again that I was once “famous in cabs!”

After it came up today, I mentioned this anniversary to a guest in the meeting and he said, “You can’t say you were hit by an ambulance without telling the story,” so I’ve already had a chance to recount it once today.

When I ended he said, “That’s means you’ll be 62 tomorrow on your birthday?”  I replied, “If I make it!”  After my ambulance encounter at 59 years, 364 days, and 21 hours on March 3, 2015, I don’t take anything for granted.

Fingers crossed that this evening is uneventful. At least there is no ice in the forecast.

More to come…

DJB

Quest for the Best Picture (2016), Part 2

Film ReelAfter this weekend, Candice and I are one-third of the way towards our annual goal of viewing all the “Best Picture” Oscar nominees.  We’ve seen three very different films, but all terrific in their own way.

Last weekend we saw Hidden Figures, a wonderful movie with an inspiring story just right for our times.  On Friday we again walked up to AFI Silver Theater, this time to see Moonlight.

This coming of age film was both difficult and yet ultimately very satisfying. I was initially uncomfortable, because I was disoriented by the context.  The story of a young, gay, African American male learning about who he is through the bullying, teasing, and uncertainty was one I could understand. However, the setting – amidst the poverty, racism, and drug culture of Miami – was not familiar.  Once I sorted that out in my mind, I saw the strong qualities of this movie on multiple levels.

The acting is superb, beginning with Mahershala Ali as Juan, the drug dealer who befriends the main character, Chiron, and Naomie Harris as Chiron’s mother Paula. It was also nice to be introduced to Janelle Monáe in the first two films we saw the week, in Moonlight as Teresa and as Mary in Hidden Figures.

Moonlight is a well-crafted film on several levels, and is worth a view.

On Sunday, we decided to go in a different direction and took in La La Land at the nearby Bethesda Row Cinemas.  This film has much to recommend it.  The music is infectious.  The acting – especially Emma Stone – is superb.  The opening musical sequence is incredible – and worth the price of admission.  Do I think it is the year’s best movie?  No.  Do I think it is worth your time?  Absolutely.

So my first ranking looks like this:

  1.  Hidden Figures
  2. Moonlight
  3. La La Land

Two and three are actually interchangeable, and they might change as I see more.  But I think the time is just right, and perhaps even critical, for Hidden Figures.

We have some more to see, so check back!

More to come…

DJB

Annual Super Bowl Rant

NFL Brain Diagram via SportsPickle.com

NFL Brain Diagram via SportsPickle.com

I thought I would just be upfront about it, and title this post accurately.  No alternative facts here, folks – just truth in advertising!

Ever since Super Bowl 48, when I famously (at least in my mind) declared it to be my last, I’ve gone back and explained why it is time to give up on the NFL.  Surprisingly, they still play the thing, and here we are at Super Bowl 51.  (Reason #10 I gave up on the NFL was those stupid Roman numerals.)

So, here we are on Super Bowl Saturday, and I’ll just give you a few more reasons you may want to go to your local theatre and watch Hidden Figures – my early front-runner for Best Picture of the Year.

(And since I gave you ten perfectly good reasons back in 2014, I’ll begin with reason #11.)

11.  It’s the damn Patriots.  Again.  Is there anyone more insufferable in sports than Bill Belichick/Tom Brady? (Wait, I’ll answer that.  Maybe Coach K. But that’s another post. And I know that Belichick and Brady are actually two people, but I’ve grouped them as one because they synch their grating to perfection.)  They push rules up to the line and over, and then act like their sainthood has been challenged when they are caught.  I hate Roger Goodell – he of the $40 million+ salary as a nonprofit executive (seriously) – but even I don’t wish for a Patriots victory so he has to eat crow and give them the trophy the year after Deflategate.

12.  The game is on FOX.  OMG.  You will recall that the last time FOX carried the Super Bowl, fans were subjected to Bill O’Reilly’s Gift for the Ages – otherwise known as the highly disrespectful “interview” of President Obama by the FOX News blowhard and original spinner of alternative facts.  So this year, will we be treated to the coronation of King Donald by Sean Hannity?  Will we learn that the most recent jobs report (the reporting period of which ended prior to Trump’s inauguration) reflects what a tremendous job Donald is doing?  (The Best!) Will we also learn that jobs report reflects the 76th consecutive month of job growth – the longest on record?  (That’s a trick question.  Of course we won’t.)  And once the annual game begins, will Donald finally get his military parade?  (That’s also a trick question, since FOX has been militarizing sports for decades.)

13.  It is all about the concussions.  Troy Aikman, who is providing color commentary for the game on FOX, says he cannot remember a playoff game that he won, due to a concussion that he suffered during the game.  Concussions are serious.  ‘Nuff said.

That’s enough ranting for this year.  And by the way, pitchers and catchers report in 9 days.

Winter bad.  Baseball good.

More to come…

DJB

Top Posts of 2016 (Family and Friends Edition)

Family in Philadelphia

With Candice, Andrew, and Claire (clockwise from bottom left), June 2016 in Philadelphia

I’m lucky to have patient readers of More to Come… as the blog (like my mind) is often all over the place. In looking back over posts from the past year, I decided to highlight the top ten (in terms of views) in a “family and friends” edition, to be followed tomorrow by a “whatever else tickles my fancy” edition, where I’ll catch the posts that don’t directly relate to family members.

Unfortunately, many of the top family posts this year related to death and loss. There were so many losses this year (both family and others who felt like family) that I added a Rest In Peace category to the blog. I’m grateful for the notes and comments these musings brought, but like so many readers I still miss the people who are no longer with us.

I’ll highlight the top ten family and friends posts in the order in which they showed up on More to Come…

Andrew was asked to join Lady Gaga and 50 other survivors of sexual assault on the stage of the Academy Awards as she sang her Oscar-nominated song ‘Til it Happens to YouWe Believe You – my March 2nd post – flowed from that experience.

Andrew and Lady Gaga

Andrew with Lady Gaga at the Oscars

Three of the posts revolved around my father’s death in May of 2016, just shy of his 91st birthday.  The first post came the day I learned Daddy had died – May 14th – and was titled R.I.P. Daddy, Tom, Granddaddy.  After the funeral, I posted My Favorite Tom Brown Stories, which captured all the things people had to say about Daddy in the days we gathered to celebrate a life well lived.  A few days later, A Blessing For Our Children, taken from notes in my father’s Bible, spoke to the blessing of unconditional love.

With the children spread from coast to coast, we celebrate the few times we get to have all four of us together.  A Philly Family Weekend was built around the marriage of our dear friend Julia Pentz to Barry Katz.

Claire and Andrew ready for the wedding

Claire and Andrew ready for the wedding

In early August, we lost a dear friend in Staunton, Virginia, Ted Jordan, who died after an accident on a construction site.  And When From Death I’m Free, I’ll Sing On was my remembrance of Ted’s many gifts and the music we made together for over a decade.

Adventures in Moving was a late August post that captured a three-day road trip with Andrew, as we traveled to Tennessee to gather furniture from my father’s house and bring it back to our home in Maryland.  Andrew even got to stand in Tennessee and Virginia at the same time.

Andrew in Bristol

Andrew (and his Beyonce shirt) have a foot in Tennessee and a foot in Virginia on Bristol’s famous State Street

I began writing a short Monday morning email to my staff at the National Trust this year, and I captured these on this blog under the category of “Monday Musings.” One of my posts from my new category made it to the top ten list this year in the family and friends category.  In September, I wrote a blog entitled Hope is Grounded in Memory, which references my Grandmother’s clock as a way of choosing hope in life.

Grandmother's clock

A small symbol of hope

In November, our parish held its Commemoration of All Faithful Departed service, which led to the post Going Out in a Blaze of GloryMy father was a big fan of Mel Brooks and the movie Blazing Saddles.  If you missed this post the first time, you’ll have to read it now to see how the two fit together.

Each Thanksgiving, I post a special blog of photographs from the year.  It is usually a favorite (perhaps because I link to it in our Thanksgiving letter to friends and family).  Our Year in Photos – 2016 was no different, and this year it included a picture of the visit Claire and I made to see the LA Angels (and check another major league baseball park off my bucket list).

With Claire at the Big A

With Claire at the Big A

So there are the top ten “family and friends” posts from 2016.  Thanks, as always, for reading.  And as you know, in 2017 there will be…

More to come…

DJB

Merry Christmas 2016

Singing at Christmas Day Dinner

Singing Carols at the Christmas Day Dinner at St. Alban’s Parish

Several years ago we first volunteered to help serve Christmas dinner at our parish.  This is a wonderful tradition that we had just discovered.  Several hundred people – some homeless, some single, some elderly without family nearby, some simply wanting someone else to cook for them – come together for several hours of turkey, stuffing, pies, caroling, and conversation.

That first year, as we were leaving, one of the children said, “Can we make this a regular part of our Christmas Day tradition?”  We’ve been there ever since.

Because Andrew and Claire were born five days before Christmas, we have always waited to jump into the season until after we celebrate their birthdays.  Plus, Candice and I have always wanted to focus on Advent, and then celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas through until Epiphany on January 6th. But this year we’ve actually scaled back some of the past over-the-top holiday celebrations.  Our decorations are simpler. We are content to be together as a family around a dinner table.  (No cell phones, please.)

And just as the twins helped bring the Christmas dinner into our family celebration, they now help us choose one event for each of the 12 Days of Christmas.  This year’s list includes a night of making pasta together.  Two evenings at the theatre. Brunches and dinners with dear friends. Dim sum.  A family hike.  And a belated 24th birthday celebration, since Claire didn’t arrive home until Christmas Eve.

If you celebrate the season, dear readers, I hope you have a wonderful time filled with family and friends you love along with outreach to those who need our love.

Browns at the Christmas Day Dinner

The Browns at the St. Alban’s Parish Christmas Day Dinner 2016 (photo credit: Suzy Mink)

Merry Christmas!

More to come…

DJB

Be Civil, Be Urban

Civility

Civility by Stephen L. Carter

Each morning on my walk to our offices at the Watergate, I stop off at Filter coffeehouse for a coffee to begin the work day.  What first drew me to this particular coffee shop on I Street, NW between 19th and 20th (as opposed to the 15 others I pass in my 25 minute walk) is the sign on the door.  It reads, simply, “Be Civil, Be Urban.”

I was intrigued.  My interest was really piqued when I stepped inside and found urban planning books and architectural models on the bookshelf, a prominent “Nope, No WiFi” sign, and a quote on the wall from architectural historian Spiro Kostof that reads, “Civilization, in this strict sense, is the art of living in towns.”

Living and working in groups – in towns, cities, and organizations – led us to move toward a civilized society.  But civilization is not guaranteed. How we live and work together is a key to productivity, learning, growth, and happiness.  Civility is – unfortunately – in short supply in much of our national and international discourse today.  The author and social critic Stephen Carter, in his book Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, blames this on an over-reliance on markets, a forgetfulness of the obligations we owe each other, and a lack of a moral compass in decision-making.  He says,

“…the language of the marketplace, the language of wanting, of winning, of simply taking – the language of self – is supplanting the language of community, of sharing, of fairness, of riding politely alongside our fellow citizens…”

That quote from Carter has stuck with me through the years, and it fits in with the “Be Urban, Be Civil” mantra at the coffee shop. That “Nope, No Wifi” sign states that Filter “is a place for talking, reading, and drinking coffee.”  Patrons are asked to “Please leave your laptops in your bag and take a break.  Say hi to your neighbor.  Emails can wait.”

No WiFi

No WiFi at Filter

I find that my daily 3-5 minutes in the shop helps me stop and think about ways I can be civil as I ride alongside my fellow citizens.  I think about it as I walk through the George Washington University campus, and look and speak to the staff and students who are out and about at that hour. On good days, it remains on my mind in the office, in meetings, and as I return home to family. When I’m reminded each morning that to live together well requires civility, I try and carry that mindset as far into the day as I can.

I don’t always succeed, so I’m happy to have a place to get my daily reminder of civility along with my cup of coffee. None of us got to where we are today on our own, and our lives are intertwined and enriched by all those who surround us.  If I forget to recognize that when I see you, please remind me that it may be time for a refill of my cup of civility coffee.  I’ll know exactly what you mean.

Have a great week and a wonderful holiday season.

More to come…

DJB