Peace in Staring

Our breakfast nook has a huge French door that I completely hate. It’s drafty because the door is old and I want to change it. We’re not redoing the kitchen any time soon, so it’s something we’ve decided to live with for now.

As is the case with most things I hate or that drive me crazy, there is peace to be found, if I’m willing to stop and wait and watch.

This morning, the sun came out. It’s still pretty cold in our neck of the woods (below 30 degrees in the morning) but the birds were chirping and the sky looked super blue. And all of my kids sat at the breakfast table staring out that huge French door.

I couldn’t help but picture my paternal grandfather (since passed) who used to spend hours sitting in front of his living room windows, in a tan club chair, wearing a man’s white undershirt and slacks. He lived in the Catskills with my grandmother, on a 5 acre parcel of land where he liked to grow vegetables and invite friends to stay.

Much of my childhood, I can only picture the man either outside with a hat or inside, staring at the vast nature in front of him. There were no other houses, buildings, or people visible from his window. He could only see birds, deer, the occasional fox, and lots of butterflies.

This morning, my little family chewed its breakfast in silence. Every little person stared out the window and took in– who knows what. The road below us? The cars traveling to work and school? The birds skipping between branches? The brilliant sky? The swaying trees? The budding leaves on our maple trees?

The what is not so important as the why.

We stare because it is so peaceful. It’s so comforting. It’s so lovely. I hope you can start your day with the same kind of peace. This morning, I was thankful for the peace, the quiet, and the memory of other times when such peace was present: in the Catskills with an old man and his soft but enduring presence.

What brought you peace this week? Share the peace.

Peace in Budding Azaleas

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This morning, LM3 and I practiced our yoga in the living room. We don’t usually practice here, but Hubs had a call and needed a room with a door, so our yoga got moved. LM3 loves to use “Mommy’s yoga mat” and I use the spare. She tunes in to Cosmic Kids Yoga with Jamie, and I follow my own practice, listening to my body and moving through sun salutations at a pace that feels comfortable.

This morning, thanks to our change of locale, I noticed that my azalea bushes out front are beginning to bud. And I couldn’t help but meditate on the magic of gardens and plants, and what they teach me– which is something new every day.

Today I thought about the bushes and how the same growth process begins every single spring, around the same time. Like muscle memory, the plant knows how and when and what to do every year. How human it is, right? The plantie has a checklist and knows what needs to happen to open up and thrive.

Only, the plant does all this without thinking, while human beings sometimes have a harder time with just “being.” If you’re anything like me, you think through your processes. All of your processes. You think through your changes and your growth. Everything can come with a long, arduous, and quite cumbersome thought pattern.

Plants grow each year: annuals grow the same time of year, in the same place, but in some ways, nothing is the same. The soil has changed. The neighboring plants have grown or been moved. This year, we ripped the railing off the front porch, so this year the azaleas will have more space to grow. Everything is the same and everything is different, too.

How human.

How remarkable.

How peaceful.

Today, I meditated on the slow but steady growth of those plants while I moved through my sun salutations. I tried to let my body loosen and find peace in the connection we have to nature and to other living things. We are so much more similar than I thought. And maybe, just maybe, I am going to bloom this spring, too. And there is peace in that.

What brought you peace today? Share the peace!

Prayer of Peace for Ukraine

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This morning started like the past few have– I pour my tea and turn on the news to hear how things are going in Ukraine. For those who don’t know, my father and his family are Ukrainian, though my grandfather, Vincent Magnowski, came to the United States in 1949. When war riddled Europe, he fled from his village when opportunity struck. An employer of my grandfather’s, a seemingly kind and generous man, offered Vincent passage on train that could take him from Ukraine and then get him to Poland, where he could secure a journey to the United States, along with sponsorship for a job.

Vincent said, “yes,” leaving his family, his possessions, and everything he knew behind, praying for a better life in another place. He landed in New York City, and with the most affable, charismatic charm, he worked his way to owning apartment buildings in Queens, a shrewd fiscal plan that allowed him to escape the city and live a peaceful country life, much like the landscape he missed most from Ukraine.

Our family never knew Vincent’s parents. We barely knew his siblings. We hardly knew the hardship he endured so the rest of us would prosper.

This morning, I looked at my kids. They ate hot eggs, toast with jam, cereal and yummy yogurt for breakfast. They don’t walk to school. They sit in a warm car until a warm bus comes to pick them up at the end of our block. They have every single convenience I can imagine for them, and when I think about it, it’s really due to the courage, the downright gumption, of a Ukrainian man who dared to dream.

There are so many poor, suffering Ukrainians living through hell right now. Because the war from 60+ years ago has returned. While people are dying and being ripped apart, Americans are worried about gas and oil prices. It’s pretty pathetic, and pretty devastating.

While I don’t have family there anymore, I am thinking of the roots that formed the man who changed my life. I’m crying in our kitchen for the families that don’t share his bravery, who can’t afford to escape right now, who aren’t sure what the next few months or years will look like AT ALL.

All I can do is pray for peace. And share some perspective.

All I can do is pray that the same kind of courage carries through other men and women in the most difficult time of their lives. And I can tell Vincent’s story, my family’s story, in the hopes that inspiration persists and somehow teaches us to fight for the right things, in the right way. Everyone deserves peace and happiness, but it seems much harder to come by for some.

Today, I’ll pray and seek peace in the knowledge that there is bravery in my blood and in my bones. And I’ll pray on the gratitude I have that Vincent took a leap of faith to claim a better life that affected our entire lineage.

What brought you peace today? Share the peace.

Peace in Tea Time

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Our little lady received a tea set from her Grammy a few months ago. It is a completely random set that isn’t a set at all— it’s more a hodgepodge of tiny ceramic pieces, all taken from different sets. My mom told me that long ago, my grandmother (her mother) used to sneak away to the local thrift shop and grab another piece to add to the set whenever she had the time. Now we have this crazy mixture of cups and tea pots and sugar canisters: peach pieces, white ones, flowery patterns, and some with tiny people hand drawn on the sides with the tiniest little paintbrush.

When I try to describe how much LM3 loves her mix-match tea set, I will fail because there are no words! This tea set is the most interesting, exciting, fun, and joy-filled thing our little girl has been playing with the last few weeks.

She places animals and dolls around a small box, which she flips upside down so it behaves as a table. She fills the tea cups with tiny Scrabble pieces, pretending they are ice cubes (because her pretend/invisible tea is too hot to drink).

She invites us all into the living room throughout the day to join her party. Sometimes, Barbie even gets an invite, but not too often. This party is more for animals and baby dolls: Llama Dama, Ta-ti, Pretzel, Dolly Parton, and Koalie the Koala.

This activity brings such peace on my heart. Whenever I take the time to sit and stare, or participate in the tea party, I feel a calm wave wash over me. I look at the tiny ceramic pieces (some of which we’ve broken, others of which we’ve lost) and I think of my grandmother, who prayed and prayed that someone would love this mismatched tea set in exactly this way. And I feel her presence, even if only slightly, and I breathe into the peace of that.

What brought you peace this week? Share the peace!