The View from My Kitchen Table

When you come to our house for dinner, depending on where you sit at the long farmhouse-style table, you’ll get a certain glimpse into our life and values. Perhaps you’ll sit facing the living room. You’ll see a large photograph taken at Antelope Canyon in Arizona. Our friend took the photo looking up at the sky. Not everyone sees the red rock canyon in the picture. Some see fabric fluttering in the breeze. Others see an abstract swirl of orange, yellow, and red. In front of the photo are black and white photos of our family.

Perhaps you’ll sit facing the library with a view of full and semi-organized bookshelves. You’ll see a collection of favorite cookbooks, a chess table made from reclaimed wine barrels and scattered with craft projects as well as chess pieces. You’ll see two paintings of elephants, bought on a safari in South Africa and a photograph of Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons.

Maybe you’ll sit facing the bank of windows that give you a view of our backyard. You’ll see two swings hanging from trees, places for our girls to play and connect with each other. You might have a view of our large pink poster with a Francis Bacon reproduction of a gorilla. I bought it at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice, lugged it across France and Italy, and kept it for over a decade, waiting for the perfect spot to frame and hang it. Behind it hangs a wall of mugs from our favorite museums.

Our home is filled with treasures from our past adventures, our love of art and the stories it tells, and pieces from places we weave into our family story. Our girls know that the world is a small place; that Frank and I love learning from nature and from other cultures, and deep sense of curiosity is infused on our walls.

I just returned from my grandma’s memorial service in California. She was the last of my grandparents and close great-aunts and -uncles to pass away. For me, she closes out a generation that has shaped my values and worldview.

One of my fondest memories of my grandma comes from her own kitchen table. Set in the corner of her green and yellow kitchen, I would sit at a chair and see a knickknack cupboard filled with trinkets from around the world. Some were collected from my grandparent’s travels. Some were gifted from friends. I loved looking at those little objects, imagining the places they represented.

I never really thought about my grandma’s legacy in my own decorating style but I see it everywhere. Our home is a gateway into storytelling and a reminder that our world is smaller than we think. That other cultures shape all of us, both in big and small ways.

I just got home last night from a weekend of remembering an exceptional woman. But this weekend also rounded out an whole month of family––from a triennial reunion with cousins and second cousins and third cousins–– to a week in Philadelphia staying up too late making all the sweet memories with cousins to hosting various family throughout the month. I’ll be sitting with all I’ve learned in July for a while, I think. Mostly, I’m thankful for such a tangible opportunity to appreciate and honor all the ways my family has shaped the woman and mother I’m becoming.

In another week of shocking national news, I’m returning to my kitchen table. I’m remembering to start small, with my own daughters. We’ll look at pictures that represent different cultures; we’ll have conversations about our friends and neighbors who are immigrants and gun owners alike; we’ll bicker over whose turn it is to pray for the food and we’ll do all the small routines that make up our evenings.

Life can feel overwhelming and I’m remembering that, in the midst of it all, the view from our kitchen table will shape and define my girls’ worldview far more than I realize. If you’re feeling a bit lost these days––for whatever reason––take a look at what you see from where you eat. Use that space as a reminder of your values and hopes for this world.

Describe the view from your kitchen table. How does it define you?


Building a Rich Legacy

I’ve been thinking about legacy lately. Bea is at an age where it feels like what we do and how we parent matters a lot more. She’s starting to remember things and will most likely start keeping memories of this time in her life. What do I want her to remember? What is our family’s legacy – not just our small family but one that has been passed down through generations.

Here are some things that come to mind that my grandparents did with my parents, that my parents did with me, and that I am doing with the girls. (I also included one from Frank, since he’s a key player in this whole legacy building adventure.)

Love of Reading & Learning

Me and my dad’s dad

When my grandparents moved out of their home of 45 years, we packed boxes and boxes and boxes of books. My grandfather loved reading hardcover books. Some were classics, some were the latest John Grisham. Many were Christian, many were novels. Every single room in their home had shelves of books. I loved curling up next to him and listening to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Amelia Bedilia, Miss Know-it-All, and so many more. I have pictures of all of my grandparents reading to me, which I treasure. When we took a photo of Bea reading with my dad, I remember noting the significance of this family treasure being passed along.

Now, in our home, we fill it with books. Most rooms have bookshelves and if they done, books are stacked on surfaces. Even with crammed shelves in their bedrooms and playroom, the library is a favorite spot for the girls. Even Elle insists on picking her own book when we visit. I am grateful for this love of reading – that it is our family norm and an ingrained part of our family’s culture.

Financial Awareness
Before Dave Ramsey wrote about his envelope system, my parents taught me to separate my allowance into categories of spend, save, and give. I remember the thrill of opening my first savings account and putting money aside. These lessons stayed with me into my teenage years, when I was able to pay for part of my first overseas experience with money I had saved to the way in which we budget and spend our money intentionally.

We opened Bea’s first savings account last year and she was so excited to sign her own name! About six months or so after we opened it, she asked if we could withdraw some money. When I asked why, she had a specific book in mind that she wanted to buy. I love that she already has an understanding of saving money for something you want. She also saves up her piggy bank to give to the Museum of Nature and Science’s saber tooth tiger.

I know we’ll have to go deeper one day, but for now, I’m glad that what my parents learned and taught me is being passed onto our kids.

I could put this one for mine as well, but when I asked Frank about a legacy from his grandparents, he told me about his PopPop’s garden. He remembers the boxes filled with tomatoes and peppers and other veggies. Boxes that remain at the house to this day. When Frank’s aunt sent us a stack of old family photos, many were pictures of his dad’s garden – packed tight with the same veggies his grandfather had planted.

We have always had a backyard garden but doing it with kids adds a new level to the experience. Bea loves going out to collect zucchini and tomatoes and both girls learned at a young age that tomatoes off the vine are the best. This year we were able to harvest some apples off our small tree, and it was so fun to make connections between small seeds and the snacks we were eating.

Awareness Through Travel
My brother and I were the same age as Bea and Elle are right now when my parents moved us to Germany. I always knew that move took a lot of courage but now I have a whole new appreciation for it. I link my own love of travel and exploration to those early years of navigating kindergarten in a foreign country.

Though we haven’t taken any international trips with the girls, we want to one day soon. And in the meantime, we are intentional with our family vacations. Where do we want to go that reflect our family’s priorities? How do we use our time off to help build our own values? From National Parks to historic sites in Philadelphia, we take time to recognize the rich natural and cultural history of America.

Both sets of my grandparents were known for their generosity. From time and skill to money and objects, my grandparents lived life with open hands and care for their neighbors. My parents live the same way. I remember watching my mom or dad sit at the dining room table, writing checks to various organizations each month. No matter our own financial situation, giving was a priority. So, from a young age, I learned to set aside a portion of my own money to give.

Now, Bea always asks for a dollar to put in the red offering bag at church. Though we do most of our giving online, we talk with Bea about where we give and why. I want this conversation to be one our girls remember having – one that helps shape their view of the world. We often can’t change policies so easily as we can support the organizations we most believe in. So, we use our dollars to vote and to support life-changing work.

What are your top priorities when you think about your family’s culture? What are some things that your grandparents did that affect the way you view the world today?

Celebrating Legacies

We just got back from a weekend in California, celebrating my grandma’s 90th birthday. (Does this sound familiar? I’m so lucky to have both amazing women still in my life!) On the way out, a woman on the airport shuttle asked if my grandma was doing well. In reality, some days are better than others. My grandma has developed dementia, so days and moments can look vastly different.

Bea & Grammy
Bea & Grammy

Celebrating her life, surrounded by friends who have known her for decades longer than I’ve been alive, was such an amazing reminder of the legacies we build early in life. Have the last few years been tough, both for my grandma and for those of us watching her age? Yes. They have.

And yet, I think about her sense of adventure and love of travel – qualities instilled in me at a young age that formed my own worldview. I hear about her love of art and encouragement of drawing, which led my dad, my cousin, and my brother to pursue careers in art. I hear about her hospitality and value of community. I think about her value of family and the importance of creating safe spaces for us.

I am so thankful for the woman my grandmother chose to become. Because, she grew up in a family environment where she did have to make a conscious decision to be different from her family. I am thankful for her spirit, for her grit, and for her determination in creating her own family and writing her own story.

GG, Bea, & Grammy
GG, Bea, & Grammy

Mostly, I’m awed and grateful that Bea has been able to meet and develop relationships with both of my grandmothers – women who have shaped and formed who I am and have taught me so much. Hopefully she’ll know them for a long time as she grows up, but for now I’m glad she has a legacy of strong, thoughtful women as role models.

Who has shaped your journey? Is there a woman who has created a strong legacy for your family?