Month October 2014

Month October 2014

Lacing Up My Running Shoes For My Morning Blog

Kathryn Pincus October 17, 2014
featured image

Almost every morning, as the sun is beginning its ascent into the sky, I lace up my running shoes, stretch, and bound out the door. A feeling of contentment sets in immediately—not the fabled “runner’s high” or anything as dramatic as that—just a sense of calm and happiness, a transcendence over my daily milieu. Maybe it is the simple act of movement that makes me feel more alive, as I pump my arms and move my feet, breathing and transporting myself step-by-step through wooded trails, grassy hills, cityscapes or sleepy towns. Or perhaps it is a primordial reaction of sorts, my body moving as it was intended to move, Homo sapiens distinguishing herself from her primate ancestors by walking erect and then running, after her prey or away from her predators. It could also be the simple fact of increased circulation, a temporary surge of oxygen-rich cells reaching the recesses of my grey matter.

Whatever the reason, as I enter this physical state, my mental state begins to wake up and roam freely. The caffeine I consumed an hour earlier may be the catalyst, but the real reason for my mind’s exploration is the fact that it is blissfully unoccupied. There are no televisions blaring in my ears, no social media pages flashing before my eyes, and no teenagers asking me where their football jersey could be. My thoughts begin to wander to varying and random subjects. Often they get stuck on a particular subject and begin to analyze, dissect, and elaborate on that subject, as if I were attempting to persuade some illusive audience.

Most people would assume that this happens to me because I was trained as an attorney. Law school teaches you to approach problems with the “IRAC” method; i.e., identify an issue, determine the correct rule(s) to apply; analyze how the rule(s) apply to the issue, and then reach a sound legal conclusion. But I know that my legal education is not the reason, because I experienced the same mind-meanderings-evolving-into-subject-specific-analysis when I ran as a teenager. As a teenager thirty years ago, or today as a forty-eight year old, one morning I might analyze something as lofty as peace in the Middle East or improving public education, or my thought process might dwell on something more pedestrian, such as the pros and cons of brining my Thanksgiving turkey or manual versus automatic transmission in the purchase of a new car.

Recently, I realized what my brain had been doing all along while my body was jogging. I did not recognize it or have a name for it, because I had not yet been exposed to or become familiar with that term that is a combination of the words “web” and “log,” and which describes the brief but often detailed discussion of one subject as a periodic entry on a web site. Yes! Now I know what my brain was doing all along during my morning runs. It was blogging.

(PART 1) Finding My Home in the Brandywine River Valley

Kathryn Pincus October 16, 2014
featured image

Part I: How I Found My Way to the Brandywine River Valley

I grew up in an idyllic bedroom community of Manhattan. My house was on a tranquil cul-de-sac with other similar homes, all set apart with green lawns and wooded lots. There were quiet streets to ride and walk on, a small shopping and dining district in the center of town, and strong public schools. Best of all, we were a short trip by car or train to New York City. My childhood memories are filled with family outings to Broadway matinees, the Ringling Brothers’ Circus at Madison Square Garden, and tree-lightings at Rockefeller Center. On every outing I was mesmerized by the seemingly infinite stream of people, the enormous buildings that blocked out the sky, and the cacophony of taxi drivers’ horns and foreign tongues. As a teenager, I had the freedom to venture into the city with my friends. I recall the feeling of unbridled possibility as we gained entry into venues that revealed an exciting side of New York. With fake i.d.,’s and lenient bouncers, we danced with people from all over the world at Studio 54, shouted for encores as rock concerts wound down at Madison Square Garden, and ran through Times Square at the break of dawn. I was certain that I lived in the best place in the world to be young, single and adventurous.

In my early twenties, I lived in what I considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Washington, D.C. For three blissful years, I ran daily in the area of the National Mall, with its massive and dazzling white Greco-Roman architecture, its perfectly parallel walkways, its expansive green lawns and its reflecting ponds, tidal basin and fountains. I felt the presence of powerful and important forces as I ran by the Capitol, the United States Supreme Court building, and the White House. My mood turned somber as I passed memorials to fallen soldiers of the Vietnam, Korean and World Wars, and then lifted with inspiration as I ran by the monuments to two of my biggest heroes: Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. Beyond the National Mall, when I wasn’t running, studying or in class, I met friends in Georgetown, with its neat rows of townhouses, bars and specialty shops, tried foods from all over the world in Adam’s Morgan, and browsed flea markets in Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market neighborhood. Because of its beauty, its international influences and its monuments to the forces of law and government to inspire my legal studies, I was confident that I chose the best city in the world to be a law student.

Today, thirty years after I moved from the “best place in the world to be young, single and adventurous,” and twenty-three years after I moved from the “best city in the world to be a law student,” I find myself truly at home in Wilmington, Delaware and the Brandywine River Valley. I moved here because it offered me a “big city” law practice in a “small city” setting. I remained here because the Brandywine River Valley is a place of abundant natural beauty, meticulously preserved and historically significant sites and boundless recreational opportunities. It is also the place where I found love, family and community.

(PART 2) Finding My Home in the Brandywine River Valley

Kathryn Pincus October 15, 2014
featured image

Part 2: Why I Settled Down in the Brandywine River Valley

Read Part 1 Here

The “Brandywine River Valley” sounds like a magical place that exists only in a fairy tale, like “Candy Cane Forest” or “Gumdrop Falls.” But it is a real place, and it is my adopted home, because it is filled with qualities of places described in fairy tales: natural beauty, old world charm, and colonial history preserved.  The Brandywine River flows from the hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, to its confluence with the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware. Along its riverbanks, native wildflowers bloom in the spring and fiery hues of autumn foliage steal the show in the fall. It is a place of open and unspoiled natural scenery; with rolling hills, thick wooded river banks, winding country roads, vineyards, farms, waterfalls, Revolutionary War battlefields, and of course, the Brandywine River.  The river and its valley provide endless opportunities for kayaking, tubing, canoeing, fishing, hiking, jogging, mountain biking and even rock-climbing.

The Brandywine River Valley is filled with meticulously preserved and restored buildings and artifacts of 17th and 18th Century life. There are historic towns, Revolutionary War battlefields, old stone taverns, stone fortresses, working mills, and expansive and lavish DuPont estates. The Swedes who settled here in the 1640’s left behind Fort Christina and Old Swedes Church. A full-scale working replica of the Kalmar Nyckel, the wooden ship that brought the first Swedes, floats in the Christina River today. William Penn’s arrival from England brought Quaker settlement and countless simple stone and wood Friends’ meeting houses and Friends’ schools which still dot the Brandywine River Valley. The European settlers quickly recognized that the current of the Brandywine River, and its path to the Christina River and beyond to ocean-bound ships, was an ideal spot for milling. Numerous stone mills, with their large water wheels churning, still stand along the Brandywine River. These mills produced “super-fine” flour that became world renowned, plus paper and gunpowder. All of these historic buildings and places are preserved and open to the public.

In the early 1800’s, the DuPont Family of France started manufacturing gun powder at a mill along the Brandywine River in Delaware. It became the largest supplier of gunpowder in the nation. Today the gunpowder mills and it’s working damn, millrace and other stone and brick buildings situated in a particularly scenic part of they Brandywine River are open to the public as Hagley Museum. The DuPont Family’s wealth and their French ancestry are quite evident in the massive lavish estates they built in the Brandywine River Valley and generously left to be preserved and open to the public. Winterthur Museum and Gardens was the estate of Henry Francis DuPont. It’s one hundred and seventy-five room house contains over eighty thousand pieces of valuable antiques and American decorative arts, and is set in approximately one-thousand acres of gardens of flowering trees and plants, marble pools, ponds, woodlands and meadows. Nemours Mansion and Gardens is the former estate of Alfred I. du Pont. Its mansion contains one-hundred and two rooms, and its gardens, statues and fountains leave visitors feeling as if the have been magically transported to Versailles. Pierre DuPont purchased and developed what became known as Longwood Gardens, home to over 100,000 acres of spectacular outdoor and indoor gardens, conservatories and fountains. Visitors come to Hagley, Winterthur, Nemours and Longwood from all over the world, while I can visit all of them within a five to twenty minute drive from my home.

The historic buildings, battlefields and towns, as well as the naturally scenic parks and spaces of the Brandywine River Valley are host to numerous festivals and events. By way of example only, spring brings the Flower Market to Rockford Park and the Point-to-Point steeplechase event to Winterthur.  In the summer, our parks come alive with outdoor concerts, battlefield reenactments, and even an ice cream festival. Fall brings the Brandywine Arts Festival in Wilmington, music festivals at the Chadds Ford Winery, and a magical display of giant jack-o-lanterns carved by artists in historic Chadds Ford.

To this day I am very grateful for my idyllic childhood near New York City, and my inspired life as a law student in Washington D.C. But the Brandywine River Valley is the place I call home. It is the place I chose to build a career, fall in love and marry, raise a family and become rooted in numerous wonderful communities. And, if I ever feel a pang for a big city or a change of scenery, in under two hours I can be in New York City and Washington, D.C., or on the beautiful beaches of Delaware and New Jersey. So, I will add “proximity to other wonderful places to visit or live in” as one more asset of life in Wilmington and the Brandywine River Valley.

My Mother’s Inadvertent Lessons

Kathryn Pincus October 11, 2014
featured image

There is an old adage about parenting that goes like this, “Do as I say, not as I do.” This saying does not capture my mother’s manner of parenting. While she was always there to lend a sympathetic ear, or even a little advice if I asked, my mother did not preach, lecture or judge. But unbeknownst to her, she taught me and shaped me every day through her actions.

My mother brought home and nursed to health injured and abandoned animals. She helped a Laotian refugee family come to America, find housing, employment and start a new life. She brought two young boys from a rough inner city neighborhood and challenging circumstances into our home every summer and made them our family. When she delivered Meals on Wheels to senior citizens in their homes, she didn’t just deliver the food, she stopped and listened and provided a bit of company. Without saying a word to me, by these deeds she taught me compassion, consideration, and the obligation to look out for and act on behalf of those who need a little help. She also taught me humility, appreciation for the things that I had and might otherwise take for granted, and the importance of treating all people with respect.

My mother grew up with the hardship of the Depression era coupled with the horrible loss of her father when she was a small child. As a young bride and mother she struggled through my father’s military deployment and his long illness in a military hospital in Germany. Then, she and my father soldiered on through the daily struggles of providing for and caring for six young children. I remember my mother clipping coupons and buying generic brand products as she loaded up a shopping cart at the supermarket. I recall my mother physically performing (along with my father) home maintenance and home improvement tasks because paying someone else to do them was out of the question. I remember her re-cycling clothing from child to child as one outgrew articles of clothing and the next smallest received them as hand-me-downs. I recall my mother sewing my graduation dress and prom dresses and even making her own dresses to wear to formal events in New York City that my father was expected to attend as an executive at a bank. These memories and circumstances had common themes however that will stick with me for life. I saw my mother doing these things with a smile, a laugh, love for the feeling of a job well done or the pure enjoyment of a moment as simple as a family dinner. As she solved problems, fixed things, or stretched a paycheck, she taught me resourcefulness, efficiency, problem solving, and tenacity. As she did these things with a smile, she taught me that you find happiness in the pure and simple things in life and in the appreciation for the things you have, such as genuine love, family, and good health. As she returned from grand fetes in New York looking radiant in her homemade dress, she taught me that it is not a designer name on the dress that matters but the light coming from the person wearing the dress that makes you beautiful to the people that matter.

While raising six children born in an eight year span, my mother had to break up our fights and field complaints from school principals, neighbors and even occasionally, the police. She had to decide when to intervene, when to discipline, when to tell my father and when to look the other way. Mom was steadfastly in our corner, yet she let us figure things out for ourselves and sometimes suffer from and therefore learn by our mistakes. As a result she taught me resilience, confidence and independence as I became an adult.

And while my mother helped us all through childhood illnesses and adolescent angst, high school and college trials and tribulations, and all other challenges and triumphs of our lives, she inadvertently gave me a roadmap for being a parent that goes like this: (1) As much as you love your children and you want them to always be happy, you must let go, let them fail and succeed, hurt a little, heal a little, explore, retreat, take risks, find rewards, and ultimately forge their own path; and (2) always, without hesitation, and even when they anger or disappoint, be there and ready to love them unconditionally.

My mother was not big on lectures, or criticism or opinions–and when she did speak it may have seemed like I wasn’t listening to her most of the time. But I was watching. I saw her, every day, be a person who taught me to strive for compassion, consideration, humility, appreciation for all of the wonderful things in my life, to love genuinely, to treat all people with respect, to be resourceful, efficient, tenacious and resilient, and to parent with the ability to let my sons forge their own paths, but with my unconditional love as a backdrop to their respective journeys.