Be Thankful Every Day

Why do we often wait until an individual or team completes a major project to offer thanks?  Last week’s PastForward 2018 national preservation conference in San Francisco certainly falls in the successful major project category in my work, and I do want to thank our core team of Susan, Farin, Rhonda, Colleen, Alison, Nicky, Lizzy, Diana, Michelle, Reagan, Sandi and Priya.  They helped lead us through an inspiring week.

I’ve often thought we shouldn’t wait for a holiday such as the one we are celebrating this week in the U.S. or only at the end of a project like PastForward to recognize others.  A few years ago I became intentional about saying “thank you” to someone every day.  It is one of the smartest things I ever did as I get so much more out of life since I began that practice.  If for no other reason, it reminds me how much I depend on the kindness of others.

I believe there is a distinction between gratefulness and thankfulness.  If we are fully aware, fully mindful, we will often be grateful when we see something that connects us to things beyond ourselves, to a sense of belonging. When we turn our minds to how to respond to those connections, then that thoughtfulness becomes thankfulness.

My brain was nudged from gratefulness to thankfulness after seeing so many colleagues and friends in San Francisco last week. I hope I say this more than once a year, but now seems like a good time to pause and reflect upon how much I depend on the work and kindness of my colleagues—specifically those on the Preservation Division staff at the National Trust. First, I am thankful for our management team.  These individuals support me and all our staff in ways big and small, and when we are successful I know it is because of the work they do every day.  Thanks to those who manage our 27 historic sites all around the country.  Being at Filoli this past week reminded me once again (if I needed it) what remarkable places these are and how lucky we are to steward these buildings, landscapes, and collections for a few short years. Our team in Field Services is amazing, doing the hard, long work of saving incredible places—and then they often deflect the praise to others when we take an amazing step forward as we did last week at the Natatorium on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. The really smart people in our Research and Policy Lab and Government Affairs offices are working at the forefront of the 21st century preservation movement.  I was so proud to see that work highlighted again and again last week. The staff in Preservation Resources takes our work across the country and shares it with others outside the National Trust every day…not just the week of the conference.  The Business Operations Team literally keeps us running on-time and on-budget.  Of course, we couldn’t do this without the collaboration of our colleagues in every other division—Development, Finance, Law, Marketing, and the Executive Office, as well as our NTCIC and National Main Street Center subsidiaries.  It truly takes a village.

Holidays at Filoli

Pool and Garden House during Holidays at Filoli (credit: Claire Brown)

Take time this week, dear friends, to be fully mindful of the things beyond yourself.  I suspect you’ll also see that thoughtfulness become thankfulness.

Happy Thanksgiving.

More to come…


Our Year in Photos – 2017

Browns at the Christmas Day Dinner

The Browns at the St. Alban’s Parish Christmas Day Dinner 2016

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 2017.

This has been another difficult year in our country, as we break into tribes and as the growing income inequality pushes us farther apart. We forget that the American experiment is built around ideas, not tribal groups, and that a sharing of common opportunities and challenges is important to being a citizen.  That experiment survives only if we celebrate all our fellow citizens and embrace the full American story.  We have not always succeeded, but we must keep trying in the year ahead.

Candice and I were thankful that Andrew and Claire were home for the Christmas break late in 2016. Some of the errands and visits were more mundane than others—such as shopping for new glasses—but this one made for a good opportunity to take a picture of our two favorite children!

New glasses

Clarity is a pair of new glasses: Andrew and Claire, December 2016

In January, Candice and I were fortunate to spend the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend in New York City, where we saw the amazing musical Hamilton. It truly lived up to the hype.  (Our selfie-taking abilities…on the other hand…leave much to be desired.)  Andrew was also “on stage” in January as one of the three kings at St. John’s Lafayette Square’s traditional Epiphany celebration.

Hamilton Selfie

In line to see Hamilton in New York City


The Three Kings

Andrew (left) as one of the Magi during St. John’s Epiphany celebration

We were back in New York State not too many weeks later.  Thirty-five years ago in March, Candice and I began our life journey together.  To celebrate, we had a relaxing and restorative long weekend at Mohonk Mountain House, one of our favorite places.

35th anniversary dinner

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

While we were in the snowy northeast, Claire was enjoying California, her home for the past six years. She has always been our lover of the great outdoors, and during the first half of the year she went hiking and camping in the beautiful Joshua Tree National Park, visited the Grand Canyon with Southern California friends, hosted Andrew during her last couple of months in Los Angeles, and gathered together for a reunion with her Episcopal Urban Intern Program housemates.

Joshua Tree at sunset

Joshua Tree at sunset (photo by Claire)


Claire at the Grand Canyon

Hiking the Grand Canyon


EUIP Housemates Reunion

Claire’s reunion with EUIP Housemates

Baseball season began in April, and that can only mean one thing:  Let’s Go Nats!  David made it to Opening Day for the first time in his life, and Andrew went along to help kick off the new season.  (Andrew ended up going to five games on both coasts, perhaps joining Dad and Claire as true-blue baseball fans.)

Old Glory at Opening Day

Old Glory at Opening Day

Celebration was in the air in May and June for all types of special family events:  Mother’s Day, weddings, Andrew and Claire’s exploration of LA, and Father’s Day.

Mother's Day

Celebrating Mother’s Day


The family gathers to celebrate life and love

The family gathers to celebrate life and love with Erin and Jonathan


Claire and Andrew in LA

Claire and Andrew explore LA


Father's Day at Jack Rose

Drinking whiskey at Jack Rose on Father’s Day


Andrew and Claire in Sarasota

Andrew and Claire look very stylish in celebrating a dear friend’s wedding in Sarasota

Claire was home for a month between July and August, as she transitioned from living in Southern California to attending graduate school at Berkeley. She took time to hang with Andrew, Mom, and Dad and attend a beach weekend with close friends from Pomona College.

DJB with ABB and CHB at Nats Park

Dad does his best to make baseball fans of the next generation


Pomona Friends reunion

Pomona College friends reunion at the beach in Maryland

The entire family was able to come together in August for a week in Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.  It was a nice time of relaxation, exploration, and—of course—eating well.

Puzzle masters

Finishing up a puzzle – a Brown vacation tradition


ABB with Alison Bechdel

Andrew meeting author Alison Bechdel during a book tour event in Wellfleet

Fall has been a busy season, with another family wedding, Claire beginning her new adventure in graduate school, Andrew’s singing career stepping up to a new level, celebration of holidays, and traveling across the country.

Ghattas wedding cousins

David and Emily Ghattas celebrate with their cousins from around the world


The Browns and Crockers

Candice and DJB enjoy Chicago with David’s sister Debbie and her husband Mark


First days for Claire

Claire – on the first day of kindergarten and the first day of graduate school. Time goes by much too fast.


DJB at Pink Martini

David at Pink Martini Headquarters in Portland, OR


Claire's new haircut

Claire – new glasses, new haircut, ready for a new home in the Bay Area


Andrew summer 2017

Andrew ready for the next move in his singing career (© 2017 | Kristina Sherk Photography |


Pumpkin carving time

Pumpkin carving time with Andrew and Candice


Andrew for the Mozart Requiem

Andrew sings the Mozart Requiem at the Mexican Cultural Institute for El Día de los Muertos


Dinner at Chez Panisse

Dinner with Claire at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse


Hammock view

Claire’s view from her back porch hammock in Oakland…life is good


Wine tasting in Sonoma

Wine tasting in Sonoma

As you can see, it has been a busy and fulfilling year. During this Thanksgiving season, we give thanks for you, our wonderful friends.

Meal at Wellfleet

Enjoying one of many wonderful meals on Cape Cod

Have a terrific Thanksgiving holiday with friends and families.

More to come…


Gratefulness and Thankfulness

Thanksgiving Pilgrims

Our little Thanksgiving Pilgrims

This is the time of year when we turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving.  I was taught from a very young age that it was very important to be thankful, as I often heard my grandmother admonish us to “always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’”  I won’t get into the “you’re welcome” vs. “no problem” debate, but you can probably guess, given my age, where I land on that topic!

Some suggest we too often say “thank you” by rote. I find that to be true in my experience and began to wonder if we mistake other thoughts and emotions as thankfulness.  Fortunately, I came across a blog post that helped me sort through at least some of these thoughts.  The author, a Benedictine monk who holds retreats for groups from a variety of religious and non-religious traditions., makes the case that at least some of what we think of as thankfulness is actually gratefulness. He suggests it is important to understand the difference and then describes the two in this fashion:

Remember a night when you stood outdoors looking up at the stars, countless in the high, silent dome of the sky, and saw them as if for the first time. What happened? Eugene O’Neill puts it this way: ‘For a moment I lost myself – actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the…high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life…to Life itself!’…

Our thoughts may quickly turn to thankfulness for the opportunity to witness this beauty, but in the first few seconds the author notes we are in some other state.

Why do I call that wild joy of belonging “gratefulness”? Because it is our full appreciation of something altogether unearned, utterly gratuitous — life, existence, ultimate belonging – and this is the literal meaning of grate-full-ness. In a moment of gratefulness, you do not discriminate. You fully accept the whole of this given universe, as you are fully one with the whole.

In the very next moment, when the fullness of gratitude overflows into thanksgiving, the oneness you were experiencing is breaking up. Now you are beginning to think in terms of giver, gift, and receiver. Gratefulness turns into thankfulness. This is a different fullness. A moment ago you were fully aware; now you are thoughtful. Gratefulness is full awareness; thankfulness is thoughtfulness.

I like that distinction.  If we are fully aware, fully mindful, we will often be grateful when we see something that connects us to things beyond ourselves.  To a sense of belonging. When we turn our minds to how to respond to those connections, then that thoughtfulness becomes thankfulness.

Joshua Tree at sunset

Joshua Tree at sunset in a moment of gratefulness (photo by Claire Brown)

Most of us express our thanks to colleagues, family, and friends on a regular basis. But I’m going to work on the gratefulness part of the equation. For I know that the more I’m fully aware, I’ll have even more reason to be thankful.

I receive so much in my life from family, friends, colleagues, and readers of this blog. Thank you…and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Our Year in Photos – 2014

Candice and David celebrate their 32nd anniversary in Copenhagen, March 20, 2014As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I continue my tradition of posting family photographs from the past year on More to Come… This was certainly a year in which we had much for which to be thankful.

Both Claire and Andrew studied abroad in 2014, so all four of us had the chance to travel to new places for new experiences. Candice and I celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary (photo at the top of the post) while the family gathered in Copenhagen to visit Andrew during his studies abroad.  We continued to enjoy good health and marvel that the two of us could remain so young and yet see the twins reach their 21st birthday!  I’m not sure how that happened, but we loved celebrating with them last December as they came home for the Christmas break.

Andrew and Claire's 21st Birthday

Andrew and Claire completed their junior years in college in 2014 and are now almost halfway through their senior year. We have visited both campuses this fall and hope to make it back one more time before their graduations in May.  There is a lot to capture this year – from time with friends, to work and school activities, to family trips, and  more.  Because more and more folks are viewing this blog on smartphones, you can still see the captions by placing  the cursor over the photos, but I’m adding some commentary along the way.

As regular readers know, I love to listen to live music. One of the many musicians I saw this year was a January show with the incredibly talented Claire Lynch at one of the Institute of Musical Traditions Monday night concerts. Candice captured the two of us during the break.

Claire Lynch with DJB

Andrew left in late January for his study abroad semester in Copenhagen. Over the course of the next few months, he visited a variety of European cities, including Milan, Bratislava, and Krakow, where he sent back lots of pictures of architecture, food, and good times with friends.

Andrew in Milan

Andrew and his friend Gracie in Bratislava

Andrew visits Krakow

Andrew in Devin

In March, Claire, Candice and I made our way to Copenhagen for a two-week Scandinavian adventure, taking advantage of Andrew’s time abroad to visit this fascinating place.

Claire and Andrew do the Danish look

Candice and Claire with the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen

Andrew, Candice and David at St. Albans - in Copenhagen!

Our apartment was on the canal in Copenhagen

Claire stayed with us for the first week, but then took her first trip to England, where she saw the sites of London and more with college friends who were in the country.

Claire and Ella at London Bridge, March 2014


Claire and Susan off to Hogwarts

Claire and Susan in London

While Claire and friends were exploring the English countryside, Andrew, Candice, and I made our way on to Stockholm, where we visited museums and cafes when not simply walking the streets of the old section of the city.

Andrew and Candice in Stockholm March 2014

Cathedral Bell Tower in Stockholm, March 2014

2014 wasn’t all travel and play! I am still working, but it just so happens that a great deal of what I do takes place on the road. I had a stretch in May when I found myself in Detroit, Texas, and Hawaii in the span of less than a week. In fact, from the middle of May to the middle of June I traveled to Detroit, Texas, Honolulu, Chicago and Plano (twice), Seattle, Louisville, New York City (twice), and Hot Springs, South Dakota. I am privileged to get to work on, and visit, incredible places. The opportunity to take a private tour of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor on Memorial Day Weekend was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. Of course, I occasionally do sillier things as well, such as take my first selfie at Mount Rushmore…which a colleague caught on camera.

DJB during an interview on Hawaii Public Radio

U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor on Memorial Day Weekend

Taking my first selfie at Mount Rushmore

In June, Claire left for six weeks study in Vienna.  She had a wonderful time studying Psychology and German and exploring central Europe.

Vienna, June 2014

Claire living large in a Vienna cafe

Andrew was home for an internship all summer and we loved having him with us. In June, he joined Candice and me at one of our favorite events, the Farm Dinner at Woodlawn to support Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture. It was a time of great food and fun for a very worthwhile cause.

Arcadia Farm Field Dinner June 2014

Arcadia Farm Dinner June 2014

Claire returned home on July 4th, so we celebrated with an appropriate patriotic meal. Candice and I then headed to West Virginia to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of our dear friends, Katherine and Madison Brown, which also coincided with Madison’s 80th birthday. Katherine is Claire’s godmother, and it was great to be in Parkersburg to celebrate with them.

Claire's American Homecoming July 4th, 2014

Brown's 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration - July 5, 2014

Claire’s summer on the road continued in July and August, as she first flew with Candice to Florida to see Grandmother Colando and the rest of Candice’s family. While there, they all enjoyed a Caribbean cruise.

Caribbean Cruise

Claire learns how to navigate a casino...from her grandmother

Claire enjoying the cruise

Claire and Candice returned home just in time for Claire to pack for the cross-country car trip with me that we dubbed the Not All Who Wander Are Lost Tour.

California or Bust

Bean Selfie Chicago

Claire with Aunt Susan and Zoe

Kyra and Claire in the Big Chair

Taliesin with Claire

With Liz and Dave at the Twins game 08 05 14

Twine Ball City Limits Sign

Twine Ball and Claire

North Dakota Sunflowers

Claire and DJB at Glacier

Claire by the St. Mary Waterfall

Wallace, Idaho and the Smokehouse Saloon

Bruce and Shari Shull with Claire and DJB

Designated photographer

With Willie at ATT Park

Lunch in Claremont with Claire

While Claire and I were traveling cross-country, Candice and Andrew were exploring Washington on their bicycles, including a fun ride one day down to the Navy Yard to check out a new restaurant.

Candice and Andrew at the Navy Yard

September, October, and November were months of baseball pennant races, more work travel for me (including a quick but enjoyable trip to Galicia, Spain), dinners with friends (and their dogs!) and trips to visit Andrew and Claire at college.

Galicia Meal with INTO Ex Comm

The dome over the pool at Mondariza

Section 313 Cheer

Office Bobble heads and Banner

Candice enjoys some puppy love

Brown University Chorus

Candice and Andrew at WaterFire

Claire won’t be with us this Thanksgiving, but you can see that she and her good friend Jason are in the…ahem…spirit.

Claire and Jason prepare the turkey

I can’t think of a nicer way to end our yearly review than with pictures of Candice and me with our two wonderful children from our recent campus visits – with Andrew at Providence’s WaterFire and with Claire during a night out with friends in the charming Claremont Village. We are so blessed.

Candice, Andrew and David at WaterFire in Providence October 25, 2014

Candice and DJB with Claire in Claremont, October 2014

As we enter this holiday season, Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours.

More to come…


I Believe Thanksgiving is my New Favorite Holiday

I’m not sure what has been my favorite holiday, but I think Thanksgiving has now taken over the top rung on the ladder.  I think it may be the fact that big business hasn’t yet figured out a way to commercialize it.  Or perhaps it is the fact that food plays a big role.  I like the focus on the act of being thankful for all we have in a country that’s been abundantly blessed. Then again, maybe it is just that we’ve figured out how to get together with people we really enjoy and have a very relaxing time.  Whatever the reason, it is my new favorite holiday.

Candice and I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving.  For many years we traveled over the mountain from Staunton to a wonderful inn, Prospect Hill, for a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner.  It was especially meaningful to us because we honeymooned at Prospect Hill while we were very poor graduate students.  Little did we realize that just a year after our wedding we’d move to Virginia and be an hour away. 

With the coming of twins it became more difficult to pack up and go to a great restaurant/inn that was 2+ hours away for Thanksgiving (even though we gave it a try one year).  That’s when our wonderful friends Margaret and Oakley invited us to join their extended “family” for Thanksgiving in Staunton…and we made the first steps to Thanksgiving becoming my new favorite.  Random thoughts on why I have come to enjoy Thanksgiving:

I love the slow pace of a Thanksgiving meal.  You talk, eat, drink, play a little music, eat some more, drink some more wine – and all of a sudden it is 11 p.m.  The pace gives you time to digest (and I’m talking about more than just food).

The friends we share with Margaret and Oakley Margaret and Oakley at Thanksgiving 2008are neat people.  And, of course, Margaret and Oakley are the neatest of all!  They moved from the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in DC to Staunton a number of years ago, and have this great urban/rural/Minnesota/Dylan/gourmet/ natural foods/spiritual vibe that’s great to share.   I’m sure you see all of that in the picture.

When we go back to Staunton, it is like we never left.  We can begin conversations that began 15 years ago and that are ongoing. 

One of the great things about community is that people accept each other EVEN though they know all the faults.  One of mine is that I hear better music in my head than what comes out when I play.  But guess what?  The good musicians in our group still let me play and have a good time, even when I can’t remember the lyrics or get the chords right.  That’s cool.

We love the small town of Staunton, where we lived for 15 years.  It is always great to spend 4 hours wandering through the downtown to visit new shops and run into old friends.  We did a lot of both this past weekend.  This year it was even better because there’s this terrific new bass shop in town, called Fretwell Bass.  When I walked into a store with 25 or so upright basses for sale, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  My dream of playing an upright bass just came into focus!

Staunton’s restaurant scene is also improving.  On Friday Margaret and Oakley joined us for dinner at the Staunton Grocery, a wonderful restaurant where we enjoyed the food and company.   Candice and Margaret – the former catering partners – sat opposite the picture window looking into the kitchen and kept up a running commentary on the dishes as they were prepared and served.   How can you beat two nights in a row of great food, wine, and conversation?

So Thanksgiving is now my new favorite holiday.  During our music making on Thursday evening, I was reminded of the great Stephen Foster song Slumber My Darling.  Our friend Constance has a beautiful voice which mesmerized us all as she sang this tune.  Since I was playing guitar at the time and not filming the performance, I’ve instead posted this wonderful video of Alison Krauss.  And while Constance didn’t quite have the backup band of Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor, and Yo Yo Ma that Alison enjoys, I’ll remember this highlight from Thanksgiving 2008. 

Sleep well darlings.

More to come…