America, the Beautiful

The first thing I can remember learning about America was that people came here to escape religious persecution. My family was very religious so this narrative made sense to me at age 8 and I felt personally grateful that I was free to go to church. The second thing I learned was that America was a melting pot. This was an appealing idea as well, although as a child I had very limited experience actually living alongside people with different languages, cultures, religions or skin tones. Obviously, these lessons were a bit on the overly simplistic side. As I grew up I discovered all the ways that make it hard to live next to people who are different than you are and all the ways people can fight about it and offend each other, and how this is a human problem and not limited to my country.

The next thing I learned about America was how beautiful she is. I fell in love with her as M and I traveled thousands of miles by car and on foot. A lot of that is captured on this blog. I can still remember the first time I saw the land start to drop away into canyons as we drove into Texas. Hugging redwoods in California. Catching my first glimpses of the Smoky Mountains from the AT. Katahdin rising up over the lakes of Maine. All along the way, we experienced incredible hospitality and a lot of our preconceived notions about people from a particular area were changed.

Now with three children of my own, I view every issue through the lens of Mother. I can't help it. I sympathize with parents around the world who want to keep their children safe and fed and healthy but are out of options in their home countries. What if I had to watch out for suicide bombers when I got on a bus or went to the market? What if Laurel couldn't go to school or vote or have a job when she grew up? What would it be like to get on a raft with them and cross a sea? How would I handle it if I had to be separated from M? It makes me absolutely sick to think of every political conversation, policy, law and speech that does not explicitly acknowledge the fact that we are talking about PEOPLE, who are all pretty much just trying to do the best they can with what they've got.

Of course for lots of immigrants, the situation is not that dire. Perhaps they just want to be a part of America...go to school, run a business, practice their religion, or live in a place that has such natural marvels as the Grand Canyon, or just live around a great big mix of different sorts of people and be generally free to be yourself. I think people coming here - and bringing their religious beliefs, languages, food and culture - makes my life better and improves our country as a whole. (The food/restaurant situation in America without our immigrants would be terrible. No falafel?? No green curry??)

Am I worried about somebody harming my family? I'm a mom, so yes, I worry about everything. But foreign terrorists are waaaay back in the line....behind car wrecks, lead poisoning, cancer, and accidental shootings by toddlers because these are all higher on the list of things that are actually likely to happen to us...or have already happened to us.

One thing I wonder is if it makes sense to teach kids an idealized version of America when they are little and let their understanding of the complexities evolve over time. Or, do they need the full story from the beginning....


Back to Life, Back to Reality

Remember that time I went away for 7 days by myself? Yes, it was amazing. Yes, the kids were fine with M (Well not "fine" since a stomach virus went through the house, causing massive loads of laundry and lack of sleep, but fine in the general sense that he just handled it. As parents do.) And yes, I missed my family. Max especially, because we are usually together. He formed a stronger bond with M, though, and that was kind of neat to see. I also remember that happening sort of naturally with each kid as they got out of the baby phase. I remember the first time Laurel got hurt and ran to M instead of me. It was Mother's Day 2011.

However.... it was amazing to sleep for 7 days, uninterrupted, and wake up on my own. I marveled at how easy it was to get dressed and leave the house. Traveling alone is a totally different experience. I basically had to stop myself from asking the other passengers if they needed to go to the potty. I read three books and two magazines, and subscribed to three new podcasts. I also just sat in silence and stared out the window quite a bit. My sister and I went to the aquarium in La Jolla and spent hours staring at the fish tanks and not moving on until we found every single fish or anemone that was on the sign. I get to do lots of educational trips with the kids at home, but there is usually a steady 1-2-3 count going on in my head (or 1-2-3-4-5 if I'm babysitting) as I track the kids.

I knew that Max was probably not going to move immediately into sleeping through the night, but he's gotten a lot better. Most night, I only wake up with him once after I've gone to sleep. I don't feel like a zombie anymore. I'd like to wean myself off the serious coffee habit I've developed over the past year, but other than that, I'm feeling pretty good.


Greetings from Not So Sunny San Diego

Never mind, the sun did just peek out! Even a rainy day has some moments of sunshine here, apparently. I'm writing from the Treehouse, a brightly painted backyard-shed-loft sort of place I found on AirBnB. I spent the last four days visiting my friend Leah and her family in Oakland and am now in San Diego to visit my sister.

It surprised me, how easy it was to arrange, once I had it in my head that it was possible. Partly I was craving the visits with two people I am very close with but rarely see in person. The other part was certainly the ease of being alone, a rare experience for me over the past year. Seven days of this seems outlandish! How will they survive without me?! But of course they are fine at home with M. This trip came about mostly because I needed sleep. The first four nights I slept 8 or 10 hours but still woke up feeling the same way I have been all year. I actually started to think that maybe it wasn't sleep deprivation after all. But this morning, I woke up feeling truly rested, clear headed and the world suddenly made sense again.

Besides sleeping, I've had a chance to publish a dozen posts that were written over the past year and a half but forgotten in the drafts folder. Forgive the grammar and spelling, as I did very little editing. I posted them with the dates that they were written, so if you want to see what we were up to, you can scroll back through the archives of 2016 and 2015. While in Oakland, I had a chance to meet some of Leah's friends who have read the blog over the years and they were very complimentary about my ideas (thank you!) but they also reminded me about how much I love writing here, and how much I treasure the ability to look back. It's the yearbook for my family. There are 1,050 published posts on this blog and it is over 10 years old.

On Tuesday I went for a long walk around Oakland, following a loose checklist and directions that Leah made for me. I ended up spending most of my time just walking around people watching and window shopping. At one point I got a little lost and consulted my phone, which then directed me right through a rose garden. It was mostly dormant but there was one bright red rose. The other fun thing about that garden was that the road ended at a staircase and then resumed at the top of the hill, reminding me of Pittsburgh. I found many bookstores and many book sales. By the time I get home on Saturday, I'll have read 3 books and 2 magazines and that is more than I read in the past year, other than children's books.

The skies have now cleared and I think it's a perfect time for another little wander, plus I need to get away from the airplanes. #flightpath #cheaptravel