Daring, dreaming, doing — words to guide & inspire

TessI do have a dog story to tell here, but that will have to wait until I can do justice to Tess, the newest member of our family, a sweet border collie rescue girl who’s as happy to have a home as we are to give her one. At the moment, there isn’t much time for writing. We’re all pretty consumed with getting to know each other, mastering the basics on both sides. There are hikes to take, new lessons to learn, trust to earn, routines to work out. More on Tess soon.

Meanwhile, both our sons have been home this month, all of us here together for the first time since Christmas. Over the next week, Jack will return to Atlanta and Henry will leave for his summer job directing musicals at a theatre in the Catskills. For now, though, I’m grateful for every family dinner, walks and talks, the fullness of our days, the peace of nights when everyone I love is safely gathered under one roof. Soon, the house will be quieter, the refrigerator easier to keep filled, my days at home my own again. Plenty of time then for reflections and blog posts.

Still, I can’t resist sharing a few of the things we’ve been watching and reading and discussing around here, while hanging out in the kitchen and in between basketball playoff games and Red Sox losses.

Being in one’s early twenties isn’t easy – not quite launched into full-scale independent adulthood but no longer an adolescent; so much to figure out and no road map to point the way forward; so many choices while already a few doors are closing for good, the “right” path rarely if ever easy to discern.

Pursue a dream at all costs or take the first job that offers a modicum of security? What’s the real definition of success? What constitutes a good life? Is “good” synonymous with meaningful? How does anyone summon the vision to dream, the courage to dare, the will to do, especially when the doing isn’t part of the plan or involves some precipitous twists in the road? When, as a parent, should I speak up and when should I quietly reserve judgment and opinion? There are no ready answers to any of our questions. But as the graduation photos appear on Facebook, as our young adults celebrate and question and struggle and figure out their own next steps, these voices offer some varied perspectives on the big picture.

UnknownWhether you’re 18 or 28 or 68, Elizabeth Gilbert’s brilliantly succinct new TED talk will point your way toward home, home being “whatever you love in this world more than you love yourself.” As Liz’s own experiences have taught her, both abject failure and extraordinary success can blow even an experienced traveler pretty far off course. Here, seven thoughtful minutes about how we can protect ourselves from the random hurricanes of outcome by never forgetting where we “rightfully live.”

18STONE-blogSmallInline“Do what you love, the money will follow” — we’ve all heard that one and longed for it to be true. In the New York Times last Sunday, a philosophy professor from St. Olaf boldly asks: “Is do what you love wisdom or malarkey?” Read his provocative answer to that question here.

Leo Babuta’s wildly popular Zen Habits blog isn’t exactly about Zen, but it is very much about cultivating awareness in our everyday lives. With little fanfare, and writing from his own personal experience, Leo explores the beauty of simplicity and the joy of living with less in order to experience more. Recently, he received a letter from a 15-year-old reader asking for career advice. She wrote, “I’m young, and I don’t want to make a mistake and ruin my future.” In response, Leo composed a brief guide for young people entitled “What to Do With Your Life.” His advice, lightly offered but deeply wise, is as good a response as I’ve seen to the age-old question “How should I live?” Read it here.

Unknown-1Late one night a few weeks ago, Jack showed me a link on Facebook. “It’s Nico,” he said, “my old friend from camp.” I have a vivid memory of Jack and Nico, age twelve or so, racing down a grassy hill after lunch on Parents’ Day at Camp Encore Coda, the two of them running off to play ping-pong. Rather, Jack was running. And Nico was hopping along beside him on one leg. According to Jack, Nico also happened to be the best ping-pong player at camp, more athletic on his one leg than most kids are on two. I don’t think I’ll say another word about this video, which is actually an ad for a sports drink, other than to say it’s not really about a drink. It’s about grace and courage and not ever giving up.  It’s about that “home”  Liz Gilbert describes so well — the place where we let go of outcomes and simply do what we do because of who we are born to be and what we are born to love.  Click here to have your heart enlarged.

Our children grow up. They leave us. They create lives of their own, elsewhere. Except when they don’t, because they can’t. Karen Maezen Miller will never forget the boy in the blue bandana. Neither will I. Neither will you. Click here to have your heart tugged.  Hard.

As my own sons head off to embark on their next chapters, the urge to offer some motherly advice is strong as ever. And yet I know there’s really nothing I can say that will make a difference. Part of the journey is finding your own way. Still, if I could slip just one message into their backpacks as they head out the door, it would be these simple words written by a now-obscure woman known as Peace Pilgrim, who spent 28 years, from 1953 till 1981, traversing our country on foot on a personal pilgrimage for peace – walking, as she said, not to get someplace but for an idea.

Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold.

And finally, this. A friend who is not a parent sent me Mary Karr’s poem.  Somehow he knew anyway what it must be like now for me, a mother of grown sons. I read it through tears of recognition, reminded once again that I’m not alone in these feelings after all, that we mothers share a bond deeper than language but sometimes, if only rarely, exquisitely captured by another’s words on the page.


Entering the Kingdom

As the boy’s bones lengthened,

and his head and heart enlarged,

his mother one day failed


to see herself in him.

He was a man then, radiating

the innate loneliness of men.


His expression was ever after

beyond her. When near sleep

his features eased towards childhood,


it was brief.

She could only squeeze

his broad shoulder. What could


she teach him

of loss, who now inflicted it

by entering the kingdom


of his own will?

— Mary Karr

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. Oh, Katrina. I’m in tears before even clicking over to any of the five links I just opened. I’m 37 and a mother of three and I still feel like I need to hear as much maternal advice as I can. So keep it coming, both out loud and in a silent shoulder squeeze, for your boys and for all of us. xo

  2. *Read the poem first before clicking the links – not sure if that was a good idea or not lol!
    *Video on Nico – nothing helps get thru our own “issues & problems” like watching a child achieve & succeed under what most of consider “obstacles”.
    *Babuta advice – my husband just brought this up with our 14 year old the other day and I could have used this in the conversation. i’ll be printing it out:)
    *Discerning between “what you love and what you need to do” sounds like my million dollar dilemma as a mother. The article helped me realize the dilemma isn’t a bad thing,
    but ruminating on every decision I make is.
    * I’ll watch the video this evening, but something tells me I’m going to embrace and/or accept a few things:)

  3. Your sons are so lucky to have your warmth and wisdom 🙂 Know that you’ve done right by them as they go off on their wanderings into grown up life.

    Thank you for this treasure trove of links to follow. I’m setting them aside for the weekend when there will be time and space to savor them.

  4. Thank You! Exactly what the doctor ordered!

  5. As my oldest daughter graduates from college, and my other 2 children change into young adults (19 and 16), I always feel you are speaking directly to me.

    Thank you so much!

  6. As always, much to ponder in this wonderful post and I’m eager to spend some time with them when the holiday weekend gives me a few more minutes to savor. It makes me smile, knowing your sons have such a wise mom. Happy weekend.

  7. Cathy (the cellist) says:

    I have been waiting to share this poem with you and I think that this is a great time. It was printed in the Albany Times Union newspaper and has been hanging on my refrigerator for months. The paper used it with the author’s permission,

    The Kingdom of Ordinary Time
    by Elizabeth Floyd Mair

    We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store
    and the gas station nd the green market and
    Hurry up honey, I say, hurry, hurry,
    as she runs along two or three steps behind me,
    her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

    Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
    To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?

    Today when the errands are finally done, I say to her,
    Honey, I’m sorry I keep saying Hurry–
    you walk ahead of me. You be the mother.

    And, Hurry up, she says, over her shoulder, looking
    back at me, laughing. Hurry up now darling, she says,
    hurry,hurry, taking the house keys from my hand

  8. Linda Rosenfeld says:

    You and I are on our own journeys, yet it feels as if our paths were entwined. My son just graduated from college last week. Tomorrow he leaves on his own journey to
    visit a friend in California. As a mother, I want to watch over him and make sure he
    is safe and protected. I know he is an adult and must make his own way in the world.
    I long for the days when my children were little, and the walk up the steps to the bus
    to go to kindergarten seemed to last forever. I miss those small hands who would slip
    their fingers into my grasp and hold on tight. Now I must let go and let them grow.
    Thank you for making me be in the present.

  9. I’m with Kristen: today is my 36th birthday, and I’m still in need of as much motherly advice as I can bear to hold! I can’t wait to explore some of these links in the very near future. Love Leo’s blog especially, right alongside yours.

  10. as a mother of a young 20-something son (who’s finding his first working feet far from home), a younger 20-something daughter – student, mother, young wife (who had to come back home), new mother to an equally young son-in-law (who had no home and no dream), and grandmother to a two-year old bold boisterous boy…..
    …i can vouch for the words, “dare, dream and do” and all the tears in between…but more than anything, i vouch for the immeasurable grace holding all together.

    we only have now.

    Katrina, thank you for sharing.

  11. I clicked on every link, went through several tissues, shared two links to Twitter and feel grateful to have started my day this way. Enjoy the long weekend time with your boys and your new dog too!

  12. I look forward to clicking over to each of these essays and videos. There is so much beauty and grace in the world and I often get so caught up in the doing that I miss it. Looking forward to hearing more about Tess. And I am so so happy to hear about your sons’ new adventures in the world.

  13. Katrina
    Loved your blog today! I had passed on the essay from the St Olaf professor to my kids earlier this week since it echoed my husband’s words almost exactly. Guiding our young adults can be quite challenging. I’ve decided that I am in the “zip it” stage of parenting right now. Trying to keep my mouth shut as much as possible, but being present for as much discussion as my young adults desire. The Nico video was awesome. How great for Jack to know a kid who saw no limitations. I so admire parents who raise children like Nico. I woke up early to work on lesson plans for my summer Parent Ed class with moms of babies to 5 year olds. Even though this was focused on young adults, you gave me inspiration. Thank you! Happy Memorial Day – looking forward to having my girls home this weekend.

  14. Gloria Howard says:

    Love this post so much! Perfect timing with my daughter’s high school graduation around the corner. Thank you!

  15. That Mary Karr poem made me gasp aloud and cry. Hard. Thank you for all of these wonderful links and words you share. As always, I’m hugely touched. xox

  16. Thank you, Katrina. What a wonderful way to wake up this morning.

  17. Katrina, this lovely post is like a fresh and fragrant bouquet. Thank you for all you’ve shared here. Blessings~ xoxo

  18. This is such a beautifully written reflective piece that touched my heart in many different ways. One, as a mother who sent one child off to college and lost the other unexpectedly just three months later. Secondly, as a writer, blogger (NESTpirations.com) who is struggling with trying to write a memoir and a blog while riding life’s ever changing waves. Sometimes feeling scorched by the brightness of it all. One thing I know for sure I love writing more than I love myself (I think) that was actually harder to type than I thought – try it! Enjoy the time with your family. Best regards, ~Karen~

  19. Love the links, Katrina. Thank you! Can’t wait to listen to the Liz Gilbert Ted talk as I loved her first one on creativity. Thanks for continually helping me enjoy these moments while my children are still young. Have a wonderful time with your family and nEw doggie!

  20. Despite being well along life’s road, I am still inspired by Leo Babuta’s advice. While my experience offers me a different perspective of its value, the advice is perhaps more pointed. Regardless of age, we are in all seasons simultaneously – ending, building, waning, beginning – and there is always room for being good with uncertainty and discomfort, overcoming procrastination and opening to opportunities…what a great reminder today.

  21. Marilyn Brunner says:

    I find it so encouraging and validating to read your blog as it reflects exactly where I am in my life as well, having two grown daughters away at college (too far to come home or visit easily). You have a gift of being able to write about what we are all thinking and feeling as we transition through motherhood, thank you so much.

  22. Amazing post with some very poignant advice. I still find myself struggling with finding my path. I’m 24 and I’ve started on the path of teaching, but I have my doubts all the time. Why am I doing this? Is this really what I believe in? Will it get easier? And then I hear advice like this. I listen to people like Elizabeth Gilbert talk about finding a home, something you love more than you love yourself. And I realize I’m creating that space for myself right now. I’m doing it sloppily but the work is getting done.

    And as I’m not a mother, I can’t necessarily feel what you describe, but as a teacher, I find myself always getting choked up at graduation. The struggle of my early twenties is still so fresh for me. I’m still living it. And when I see those kids toss their caps I have so much hope for them. But I also know that the road ahead isn’t just a party or an amazing accomplishment. They have a lot of struggle. They have to make mistakes. They have to make choices. And none of that is easy. And yet it is the foundation for that bright future that I know they are all capable of. The mix of emotions is so difficult to deal with and I still feel myself reeling from it all.

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