With 2014 winding down, I decided it was a perfect time to reflect on the things that inspired me this year. One of the best things I did in 2014 was participate in a Happy Days challenge, during which I took pictures of things that made me happy or inspired me for 100 days in a row. That made it much easier to go back and remember so many of the sights, sounds, tastes and smells that inspired me during those three months.
In the spirit of inspiration, try to take a few minutes before the end of the year to think about the things that deeply touched your soul in 2014. Collect those moments and write them down if you can. Time speeds by and those little moments can help you through tough times in the future or just make you appreciate the year that just went by.
Here are some people and things that inspired me in 2014 in no particular order:
While I’m proud as any mom could ever be of my four teenage sons, I am continually inspired by their tremendous ambition and fearlessness. Each is following his dream in some way and none is afraid to reach out and grab the brass ring. They work extremely hard on almost everything they do, and where there’s no existing path, they cut their own. Seeing the young men they have become inspired me to spread my wings this year and venture out of the comfortable mommy zone. I am grateful for their support and encouragement!
Being together with my husband and boys or with my birth family always fills my heart with happiness. We traveled together, enjoyed some fantastic meals, and celebrated milestones and holidays during 2014. I always take a few minutes when we’re assembled to sit quietly and look around the table or the room, savoring the faces, the smiles and the laughter. It sustains me, energizes me and reinforces my gratitude.
There’s nothing like the bounty of the earth and the sea during the summer. Ripe berries, sweet corn, fresh seafood…mmmmm! Nearly every Saturday morning in the summer, we ventured to the Farmer’s Market to pick up some of the wonderful offerings that changed by the week. Our delectable harvest inspired meals and desserts for days to come. We also spent many warm summer evenings slurping magnificently succulent local oysters at what became our favorite hangout with friends and family.
OUTPOURING OF SUPPORT FROM FRIENDS
One of the most shocking days this year was the dramatic fire that burned down our beach house. An arsonist set the blaze that completely destroyed the home, pool, garage and landscaping. When we went out to the smoldering ashes the morning after, we were astonished and bereft. I posted a photo on my personal Facebook, and in the hours and days that followed, I was overwhelmed by the incredibly beautiful outpouring of love and sorrow from friends near and far. That people would be so kind as to care and then actually take the time to write such amazing messages touched me extraordinarily deeply and is something I will never forget. It took a while, but I tried to reply to every message I received because I was so profoundly inspired.
THE FRIENDSHIP OF MR. CARSON AND MRS. HUGHES
I was absolutely obsessed with the final scene of Downton Abbey series four. There were Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes at the beach with the rest of the staff, and in the loveliest gesture of friendship, Mrs. Hughes offered her hand to the unsteady Mr. Carson. I can’t help but smile and be inspired by the charm and kindness of such dear friends. Even though it was TV, it touched my soul.
I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the dazzling and glorious sunsets I got to see! There were so many evenings when we’d be in exactly the right place just before the sun dipped below the horizon, spreading its resplendent hues across the sky. There’s something breathtaking about the majesty yet simplicity of this daily joy for the eyes and the soul.
Not to be outdone by the drama of daylight’s end, sunrises over the ocean were in some ways more inspiring than sunsets. The quiet hopefulness of morning is meditative, illuminating a brand-new day ahead. On the last morning of the summer, I happened to wake up just before the sunrise. I grabbed my camera, stepped out onto the back patio which faced the Atlantic and shot over 100 photos of the sun from the instant it peeked over the horizon until it was a big ball in the sky, sparkling upon the ocean. It was awe-inspiring.
RI PHILHARMONIC ON THE BEACH
One evening each summer, the RI Philharmonic Orchestra plays a fantastic concert at the beach I’ve gone to since birth. We bring cocktails and yummy bites, join up with friends and get to hear the talented musicians play great music from our country’s history as well as stage and screen. As the sun goes down, the warm sand gets cool on your feet, you cuddle into a sweatshirt and if the timing’s right and you’re super-lucky, you get to see the full moon rise over the ocean. The 2014 performance could not have been a more perfect evening!
This year I have had the pleasure and privilege of seeing some of the finest Broadway theatre productions. Out of the 15 or so shows I saw, four were particularly inspiring memories:
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This energetic, peripatetic, heartwrenching show featured the incomparable Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig. He was quite simply a force of nature. I left the show exhausted and amazed, unable to even express how powerful a performance I had just witnessed.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Clever, charming, funny and fresh is how I would describe this show, which I went back to see a second time because I adored it so much. Jefferson Mays and Bryce Pinkham are delightful and incredibly talented. I would go back and see it a third time…and a fourth…and a fifth…
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
From the instant she entered the makeshift nightclub set, Audra McDonald literally inhabited Billie Holiday, taking the audience through her cataclysmic final comeback performance. It was an unforgettable jawdropping performance by a brilliant actress and singer.
On The Town
This revival simply filled me with more joy than I could imagine: marvelous music, lush orchestrations, phenomenal dancing, charming casting, a timeless story, heartfelt romance, comic relief, vibrant colors, gorgeous lighting, and an energetic ensemble against the spectacular backdrop of 1940s New York City. We stepped into the Lyric Theatre out of the December cold, entering a warm, welcoming lobby replete with festive wreaths and Christmas music. I felt as if I had been transported to NYC of yore, a giddy young child seeing my first Broadway show in the big city. The curtain was an enormous American flag, and instead of playing an overture of Bernstein’s score, the orchestra played the Star Spangled Banner, during which 1,900 audience members stood and proudly sang, tears in our eyes. I was dazzled right through the final curtain call. Perfection.
Watching this structure rise from the ashes of tragedy has been such an emotional experience. I’m at once filled with reverence, pride, resolve, respectfulness, gratitude, resilience. A true symbol of freedom and patriotism.
Whenever I get to visit my favorite monument, I am rendered speechless and filled with awe. From the marble columns and rotunda to the immense bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson to the excerpts of the Declaration of Independence inscribed on the walls, I stand silently and introspectively in tribute to this remarkable founding father, savoring the liberty and freedom I am privileged to enjoy as an American.
I would be hard-pressed to choose between going to a great theatre production and a live performance by one of my favorite musical artists or groups. Laugh about my taste in music if you want, but this year I got to see The Eagles, Billy Joel and Steely Dan perform live. As I sit in the audience, I am forever inspired by the talent of the songwriter, the arrangements, the voices, the musicians. There are no fancy production effects or outrageous costumes, there’s no skanky choreography or vocal enhancement. It’s just brilliant musicians and their real instruments. I’m especially inspired by my annual evening with Steely Dan. The complexity of the music never fails to blow my mind.
THE BISHOP’S GARDEN AT THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL
A visit to the garden at the National Cathedral at the peak of cherry blossom season was a most tranquil and sublime experience. To see nature’s breathtaking beauty set against a soaring symbol of spiritualism was truly exalting.
I never tire of the endless inspiration of the ocean. The rhythmic lap of gentle waves, the tumultuous rage of a stormy sea, sunlight and moonlight shimmering upon its surface, the foamy splash rushing around craggy rocks, the majestic sprawl to the horizon. Every day it has a different appearance and mood. It flows from peaceful to powerful, from gilttery silver to deepest blue. Here are just a few from my vast collection of ocean photos.