Phew. Both of my brothers have now graduated from their respective schools. I've spent two weekends in a row eating and drinking way more than is necessary, staying up later than usual, and sleeping in hotels (not ideal for someone who loves sleep as much as I do!), but I feel super grateful to have been a part of celebrating their successes and to have been able to watch both them walk across the stage. SO proud.
A few highlights from this past weekend? A family game of beer pong (I played with water and sipped my wine as I played, while my grandmother cheered from the sidelines), eating some amazing meals in Ann Arbor, seeing the gorgeous campus (looks like a movie!) and adorable downtown area, visiting with my loved ones = lots of laughs, and watching my mom, the most uncoordinated person in the world, play cornhole. Also, although it was 38 degrees yesterday--in May!!!!--we were still able to spend some time outside this weekend, which was really nice.
I'm still en route back to VA today, so in the meantime, I thought I'd share some fun pics from the weekend...
As you can tell, it was a mix of high-brow, low-brow, and everything in-between :)
And can you believe that my 82-year-old grandmother was a part of all of this? She is SUCH a trooper.
Have a great day!
PS. I need some yoga, stat. Yikes.
"You can Google for an answer, you can Google for a mate or for a career, but you can't Google to find out what's in your own heart — the passion that lifts you upward. You have to listen to what is inside yourself and discover your own fire. Not only do you need your own fire, but so does the whole world."-Sister Peggy O'Neill's Commencement Address at Furman University
I spent this past weekend in South Carolina, celebrating my little brother's graduation from college. I experienced all of the usual emotions that this type of event brings out--great pride in my brother, lots of love, excitement, a sense of how quickly time passes, slight stress from trying to herd 10 family members around a rainy campus--but I also had a different sort of reaction than I've had at graduations in the past, and it's one that I think is worth noting.
This time around, I was struck by the commencement address, the student speaker, and the entire idea of commencement in a new way. It wasn't because these speakers were much better than those that I've heard at other graduations, but it had to do with where I am in my own life, the feedback that I receive from many of you, and what my husband, Ben, is going through right now.
As we've all probably heard in many a graduation speech, commencement means "a beginning; start." There's a hopeful, excited energy at graduations, as everyone urges the graduates to "go out and make a change," "live your dreams," "make a difference," "live a life worth living--one that you are proud of and one that makes you excited to get up in the morning," and there's a sense that this life is really possible; that it's out there for the taking.
And then, many of the graduates enter the working world, find their first job, and often, lose that sense of excitement. They get into a routine, begin to make money, spend their days sitting, stressed out, tired, and often, settle, because it's easier than actually doing something fulfilling or something that makes them excited to get up in the morning. This isn't always the case, but it's what happened to me after I first graduated, and I know many others who have had the same experience.If we're fortunate, we'll eventually snap out of it and make changes that allow us to follow our passions or dreams--many people do--but some don't, and that's what I find so heartbreaking. After commencement, we think anything is possible, and then quickly, our dreams are lost to our daily lives and our culture's emphasis on achieving, having, and should-ing.
It's never too late to celebrate a personal commencement. No matter how old you are, how long you've been doing what you're doing, or how many years it's been since you actually graduated, you can still create a new beginning in your own life. Yes, it's scary, but so is graduating from college and entering the "real world" for the first time, and so is doing your first headstand, or giving your first public speech, or teaching your first yoga class, or taking the plunge and moving across the country, and many of us did these things and survived. It's very possible.
My little brother is entering the Peace Corps this fall, and I couldn't be more excited to see what the future holds for him. I have a feeling that no matter where this journey takes him, he'll be given many chances to explore his passions and live "a life worth living," and I hope that he jumps at these opportunities and finds his purpose along the way.My wish for YOU is that you're able to do the same, no matter where you are along your life path, no matter how long it's been since your last commencement. It's never too late to start again!
I'll leave you with one more quote from Furman's commencement speech
:Get a life where you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure. It is hard work. Every time you look at your diploma, remember you are still a student learning to treasure your connections to others. So pick up the phone, kiss your Mom, hug your Dad, write a letter, learn the richness of pregnant silence when you are with a lover. Get a life in which you are generous. Give yourself away.
I've only been on vacation for a little more than one day thus far, and I've already experienced more simple, sensory joys than I could possibly count. So, this week's SJOTW is gong to be a little bit different--I'll share more fun stories + thoughts about the trip when I get back on Monday--but for now, you can catch a glimpse of some of my many simple pleasures from our trip out West through the following images.
They are, in no particular order: seeing my family, morning yoga at the lodge, playing in the snow, the most gorgeous views I've ever experienced, skiing downhill with the wind in my hair, riding a ski lift and soaking up the quiet all around us, Ginger Creme Brûlée and vanilla ice cream (um, amazing!?), snuggly new ski gear, soaking in the hot tub after a long day in the cold, going down multiple "blue squares" after only one run on a "green circle," falling on my face and laughing about it, hot chocolate, spending QT with Ben and my family, and time in nature.
Here are some snapshots of these amazing moments...
Wish you were here!
I hope that no matter where you find yourself this weekend, you're able to bask in the present moment and truly soak up the simple things in life.
Off to hit the slopes again ;)
Since I was en route back to DC yesterday--and soaking up the last few moments with my family before leaving--I wasn't able to get to a computer to share my SJOTW. So, I figured I would do so this morning, because better late than never, right?
Here are some of the simple, sensory pleasures that I was able to enjoy over the past (difficult) 7 days. A great reminder that even when life is harder than usual, there are still lots of truly beautiful moments to be had...
Flowers from the service.
"Life is Eternal" by Carly Simon
One of the interesting parts of the process of dying slowly--and dying with the knowledge that you are dying--is that you get to plan your entire funeral or memorial service. My stepmom, Anita
, was able to do this over the past few years, and thus, the service that we held for her on Tuesday was a beautiful expression of who she was, what was important to her, and how she touched others. The following song, "Life is Eternal" by Carly Simon, is a song that she chose to be sung at her service. We had an amazing singer perform this song with my brother, Peter, accompanying her on the Djembe (an African Drum of which my family is a big fan), and it was an extremely special moment that was one of the most moving parts of the service. Every time that I hear this song from now on, I'll think of celebrating Anita's life, her spirit, and her love. You can hear Simon's original version of the song, below:
My brothers singing along to the music while cooking...
By now, you probably know how much family means to me. So, not surprisingly, it was wonderful to spend the past week with them. My brothers, their girlfriends, my aunt and uncle, cousins, great aunt, and grandmother were all around for the majority of my time at home, and it was extremely healing and special to spend so much time with them. We were all able to mourn our loss together, but also celebrate Anita's life and our love for one another together, which was very meaningful. Sure, we all drove each other a little crazy, too, but I believe that's very normal ;) My favorite family moment of the week? Playing in the "Starr Bowl" together--a 5-on-5 touch football game on Thanksgiving morning. And yes, my team won! Woot woot!
Taste: Thanksgiving Dinner
Obviously, eating Thanksgiving Dinner was a major sensory experience this week. My brother, Peter, and his girlfriend, Jocelyn (pictured with the oven mit, above), volunteered to cook almost the entire meal, which was fabulous for people like me, who got to do a whole lot of relaxing, instead (which was much-needed by Thursday!). We had WAY too much food and a "16-hour turkey," as we like to call it, but it was all simply delicious. My two favorite dishes this year? The homemade cranberry sauce--which was much more tart than usual (such a nice change from the super sweet variety)--and the homemade pecan pie. YUM. Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, we did make 12lbs of mashed potatoes, also pictured in the photo collage above. No, we did not eat all of it ;)
Smell: Pumpkin Pie baking in the oven...
When we got back to DC at 7pm last night, Ben and I went on a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things. While on this trip, we realized that neither of us ever enjoyed a piece of pumpkin pie while home for Thanksgiving. Unacceptable! So, at 9pm last night, I whipped up 2 pumpkin pies. Let me caveat this by saying that this is probably the only time you'll ever hear me use this phrase "whipped up" about a food item, as I'm not much of a cook or a baker, but pumpkin pie is one of the very few things that I've gotten used to making and feel comfortable "whipping up" (not surprisingly, pumpkin pie is also one of the easiest pies to make!). Anyways, when we enjoyed a piece at 11pm, it was totally worth the late-night work--even if it was still really hot (and not ready to be eaten). Hooray for pumpkin!
Me & Ben on a walk at the CWG, where we got married ;)
Long walks in the GA sun, fall leaves, and cool breeze
One of the fun parts of going back to GA for the holidays is that it's always a whole lot warmer in ATL than it is in DC. Ben and I soaked up the sun by spending lots of time outdoors with my family while at home. My Dad and I went on a long-ish walk every single day (and sometimes, we went on more than one per day!), while Ben and my brothers threw the football, the frisbee, went on a run, or on some occassions, joined us. As you can see from the picture to the left, there were leaves ALL OVER The ground, and we took our cameras with us on all of our walks in order to snap pictures of the beautiful colors, sights, and moments. I've become quite the avid walker these days, and look forward to continuing this tradition now that I'm back home...
So there you have it. What brought you joy over the past week? Take some time to reflect, if you haven't already, as it's a great way to continue the theme of gratitude
way past Thanksgiving.
I hope your weekend is FULL of the simple pleasures in life--deep breaths, cool, crisp air, lots of belly laughs, warm tea, cuddling by the fire, and bites of pumpkin pie ;)
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
This Thanksgiving, like every Thanksgiving, I have so much
to be thankful for. Although our family has suffered a major loss
in the last few weeks, which can often make it hard to be thankful, I am still extremely grateful for all that I have been blessed with. Because I think it's important to reflect on these things, no matter what else is going on in life, I've listed some of the many things that I'm grateful for this year
, below:-Family, family, family.
I cannot say how much family has meant to me this year. From the wedding
to the recent funeral
, family has played a huge
role in both the happy and the sad moments of my life over the past few months. You can see two pics from the past few days with my wonderful family members above (from our trip to The Varsity
here in Atlanta,"what'llyahave, what'llyahave, what'llyahave?"
). They're simply amazing and my love and gratitude for my family has been overwhelming this year.-Friends.
Ditto to all of the above. My friends = my soulmates. They're incredible.-My new husband
(and longtime flame), Ben. So in love...even after 8 years. I am extremely grateful for our fairytale wedding
last month and for all of the exciting times to come.-Tranquil Space.
TS = my hOMe away from hOMe. A truly amazing community that I am honored to be a part of (btw, the gorgeous flowers in the picture above are from everyone at the studio). -Yoga
, which has gotten me through both the highs and lows of the past couple of months--and of the past couple of years. It has and continues to change my life for the good. Thank you, yoga.-CrossFit.
Although it drives me crazy sometimes, mainly because it's so freaking hard and has stolen most of the time and attention of my man, it means SO much to Ben and has allowed us to meet a wonderful group of friends. So yes, I'm thankful for it ;) -Apples.
Are you surprised? So grateful for these delicious little morsels.-My iPhone.
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but this little item has added so much convenience, connection, and ease to my life that I just have to list it here. As my Dad said, "You're a creature of the 21st century, and you shouldn't be ashamed of your love of technology. As a yogi, don't you want to accept what is
?" So there you have it. Super thankful for my phone.
What are you most grateful for this year, this day, this minute? What amazing experiences or amazing people have you come in contact with lately? Take a moment to make a list, reflect, or share your gratitude with others today. I simply love it that we have a holiday that focuses on being thankful--what a great chance to refocus on what is important!
Oh, and before I forget, here's another thing that I'm thankful for this year: the following fabulous
picture of my Dad that I found while going through pictures this week. It's from Spring of 1974, when he was 22 years old. He had just returned from a road trip in Europe (in a VW van), and as you can see from his hat, France made quite the impression on him...
Ob. Sessed with this pic.
Now I'll close with one last beautiful Thanksgiving Day quote, courtesy of Sarah Ban Breathnach
:All we have is all we need. All we need is the awareness of how blessed we really are.
I hope you're able to focus your awareness on how blessed you truly are today...
Me with Anita and my Dad at our wedding--just a little over a month ago.
My stepmom, Anita, passed away at 6:15pm yesterday evening. My Dad was with her as she took her last few breaths, and she had a very peaceful day and last few moments on earth, so we are grateful. We are grateful to have spent the time with her that we were able to spend, we are grateful to have learned from her
, to have loved her, to have been touched by her in our lives, and for the fact that we were able to say goodbye a number of times over the past few weeks. She hung on for 10 days longer than any of us expected, and it was a very important time filled with lots of love, tears, and grieving.
Although there's no easy way to accept death, I think that it was really helpful for all of us to have time to process her leaving us--to be there with her in Hospice as her health quickly declined and to understand what was happening. I know that the loss will continue to hit us in waves, and that the holidays will be hard this year, but I also know that in time, we will all be able to accept what has happened and come to peace with it--and I think that is a gift that she gave us by sticking around a little longer and giving us time to come to terms with what was happening
I'll be heading home this weekend to prepare for her Memorial Service, which will be on Tuesday, and to spend Thanksgiving at home. Thank you ALL for your sweet thoughts, notes, and condolences--it truly does mean a lot.
I may take a couple of days off from blogging while I process all of this and spend time with my family (and am skipping SJOTW
today, obviously), so please know that I haven't abandoned ship, just need some space to grieve.
This is life, eh? The good, the bad, the devastating, the wonderful, and the crazy, all wrapped up into one.
Flowers in Anita's room.
Little angel figurine given to her by a friend.
Once again, I spent this past weekend in Atlanta with my family
. My stepmom
is fading quickly, and we've been savoring every moment with her as if it is her last, because at this point, it really might be. The weekend was a very powerful, very spiritual, very life-changing one. Everything changes once you've watched someone die, and although she is still with us, it feels as though she has already turned into an angel, and has just stuck around to share her limitless love with us. I feel like I grew up a lot this past weekend, and my understanding of the world completely shifted--I'm so thankful that I was able to be there.
Although I'm still processing everything that is happening/has happened--and trying to figure out how to fit back into normal, everyday life while we wait for Anita to take her last breath--when I reflect on the past few days, I'm already struck by two fairly tangible, universal themes:
1) That when there is nothing left in life--when our bodies have stopped functioning, when we can no longer speak or even move--we still have love. Love truly does endure all, and it's importance was exponentially clear to me this past weekend. Anita can't form clear words and can hardly move anymore, but she can still give us little hugs, kisses, and small smiles. I know she could feel our love, and we could feel hers. Love is more powerful than I ever understood it to be.
2) That the human body is truly amazing. It can and will hold on, even when the organs stop working, when it is starving, when it is full of painkillers, when it is dehydrated, when it is being ravaged by cancer, when it has nothing to go on anymore--it will continue to try it's best to function for us and keep us alive. This is yet another reason to take care of our bodies and show love and gratitude for our bodies--because they, too, are with us as long as we are alive on this earth, and they do so much for us, even when we don't always treat them as they should be treated.
Scenes from my weekend at Hospice. My dad
brought his guitar and sang to Anita, and we
took breaks outside; both days were beautiful.
I know that there are many more lessons to be learned from this experience, because there are so many lessons to be learned in every life experience--even pain and death--but it's not always easy to see them when you're in the thick of it, so that's all I'm up for sharing with you today.
I hope that these simple reminders above will touch you in the way that they have touched me. I'm so grateful for all of the love in my life--and am so grateful that I was able to witness such a beautiful weekend at Hospice.
I hope your Monday is full of limitless love and much gratitude for your body...
Last night I returned from Atlanta, where I was home spending time with my ailing stepmom
and family. This was one of the most difficult trips I've ever taken, as it was extremely emotional, saddening, and exhausting--but it was also one of the most important trips I've ever taken, as I was able to begin saying goodbye to Anita. As you can see in the image above (one where we wheeled her bed out into the courtyard at Hospice Atlanta, the truly wonderful place where she's staying), my brothers also came home so that we could all be together.
Although the time home was very hard, it reminded me of the importance of family. I felt this overwhelming love and gratitude for my family the entire time I was there, and it's still bubbling up inside of me. During our small speeches about our bridal party at our Rehearsal Dinner
, I spoke briefly about looking back at family photographs from when I was younger, and seeing my brothers in so many of the pictures. I was struck by the simple fact that your family is there for everything--only your siblings can truly relate to exactly where you come from, what you've been through, and why you are the way that you are--and your family is the one who bands together when times are both good and bad, and when someone truly needs help or love. Seeing as though it's November now, the month of gratitude, I felt it was important to bring this up today.
Often, we can forget to express our love and appreciation for our families (and other loved ones) in the hustle and bustle of daily life. But when something difficult happens, it all comes back and you realize the importance of connecting and sharing your life with one another. Have you told those that you love just how much you love them lately? Have you called a sibling, or cousin, or grandparent that you're close to, just to talk? I think this is so very important
, and my recent life events have reminded me of this.
While at home, I spent most of my time in one of the following places: at Hospice visiting Anita, at home cleaning up/cooking/running errands for my dad, or on long walks outside, the antidote to so much time spent sitting in a chair inside. Below are a few more images that capture some of these parts of the trip...
Saw this sign in a neighbor's yard on a walk, and had to snap a pic. It's so sweet :)
My Dad and I went on a walk to a rope swing that we used to visit
when we were little. We pushed each other, which was really funny/fun.
The front porch, which is one of my favorite places at home. My dad and stepmom re-painted all of the furniture this summer when she was feeling better.
Pretty swing in the backyard...
Our dog, Ora, with a stick that she was carrying on one of our walks!!
My brother, in a crazy getup of random clothes he found at home.
As you can see, we were still able to enjoy each other's company while home. We reminisced, threw the frisbee in the "churchyard" (an old family activity), cried together, laughed together, and ate many meals (dropped off by family friends) together. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for them, and know that we can get through anything and everything together.
What are you grateful for this month? How can you express your gratitude?
Now is the perfect time to do it :)
Um, you know those really annoying people who are OBSESSED with birthdays?
I'm one of them.
I love birthdays. I'm not that into my own (don't hate it or anything, but am not insanely excited about it, either...), but I absolutely adore other people's birthdays--especially the birthdays of those I love dearly.
So, today's post is all about celebrating Ben, who was born 29 years ago today :)
Here are a few images from his day thus far, which I think may help to illustrate just how much I love birthdays...
Birthday banners = super festive and fun! I'm obsessed with banners.
A few of his gifts! They were all set out, but I only let him open 1 before leaving for work and made him save the others for our celebration tonight.
The card that I gave him. To put it in context, take a look at the cards that I gave him for his past two birthdays, below...
We keep these on the fridge because they make us really happy :)
And balloons! Which obviously, I also love...
Here he is! How cute is this little guy?
Ben's birthday = makes my heart smile :)
Can't wait to celebrate with CrossFit
(are you surprised?) and dinner tonight.A takeaway for all of my readers?
Make some time to celebrate, thank, or think about someone that you love today--birthday or not, it's a great way to be overcome with gratitude and warm fuzzy feelings ;)
My brother and I at his high school graduation :)
Since my "little" brother (he's 20) has been visiting this weekend--which is why I'm doing my usual Saturday post on Sunday--I thought it only fitting to share a poem about him. My dad
(and favorite poet!) wrote this poem about my little brother when he was 8 years old. I think it's an absolutely beautiful poem that perfectly captures what I imagine to be the feelings of awe, love, and pure amazement that parents feel when watching their children grow. Knock Me Out
Knock me out
sometimes you do.
Knock me off of my routine feet.
And I love it.
Your brother and sister do it too--
but now, this moment, it’s you.
I’ll just see you sometimes--
maybe I’m boiling the pasta for dinner
or telling you to pick up your backpack
or put your dirty underwear in the basket--
but your vigor,
the pure verve
in your face
stings me, pinches me awake,
a gun to stun me alert,
some needed volts
to vault me over the bar
of “do this, do that”
that blocks my truly seeing you.
I hear your raspy voice,
I see your one dimple,
or your new big front teeth
gapped like my father’s
and I come home.
I come home--
and although I feel
buckets of grief
for missing any of my minutes
on earth with you,
I let those buckets fall--
too heavy—and instead
hold you, behold you, son,
alive, 8 years old,
going on 8 years old
and a day. Read a few more of my wonderful dad's poems on his website, throwerstarr.com
. Now off to say goodbye to my brother and his girlfriend...SUCH a fun weekend :)Namaste!Mary Catherine