To New Beginnings and 18 Years of Marriage

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You might be wondering where I’ve been in the last month. Long story short. We moved back to California, moving company was 2 weeks late in delivering our stuff and all 3 kiddos began a new school year while my husband transitioned to a new work setting. As for me? A million crazy, outlandish things happened and at a certain point all I could do was laugh. So many great stories to share and I will at a certain point. For now, I am relishing in being home where I belong and creating my new normal. Work has picked up and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do meaningful work with nonprofit organizations that are changing lives.

On this Labor Day, I’m thinking about my husband and one of the greatest journeys I ever embarked on- getting married 18 years ago. I literally had no idea what I was doing but in a way I think that’s the way it should be- that’s life- stepping off the ledge- hoping for the best and knowing you’ve got to prepare for a little turbulence. So- here’s to new beginnings- that we never grow so comfortable that we are afraid to step off that ledge. I’m off to push my family into joining me for a hike in our beloved canyons this morning. In the meantime, while I catch my breath- I leave you with this piece written during my last week in St. Louis. Many blessings to you all…

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The cicada’s song has returned and serenades us upon dusk. The out of nowhere monsoon thunder and lightning storms have resumed as well.We chase the fireflies around the yard and marvel at their lights. The ground smells strong after a good storm and the birds and bunnies remind us of how much life there is in the world.

I’m not scared anymore.

One year ago we landed in St. Louis, ready for an adventure and yet so sad to leave California. Also scared because I knew this move would bring so many changes and I was afraid of how those changes might affect us.

The past few years had caught up with us. My father-in-law’s stage IV cancer diagnosis and subsequent passing along with the aftermath. Ever watched a person die before your eyes? It’s a frightful thing and as you watch the horror unfold in front of you, control is slipping out of your hands and you realize this is how we all end. Life and marriage and kids and problems had turned us into shells of what we had been in our younger days, we found ourselves scrapping through, with no gusto for life- our feet heavy upon waking and hitting the hardwood floor most mornings. And then out of nowhere- poof- we were moving to St. Louis! Everything you thought about your life and what you knew about gone in that instant.

Although we didn’t know it at the time- we had just hit the re-start button for our lives. What an incredible gift. People entered our lives that we didn’t even know we needed. Experiences were had that we didn’t even know we needed to experience. But most importantly- our most valuable lesson is that we learned to laugh and find the joy in life and in each other again.

It is time for this family to go home back to California. We will pick up where we left off but from a different place. Continue our adventure we will- seeking out those people who are a bit different- the outsiders if you will- realizing how hard it is to be the person that no one talks or relates to, the person that doesn’t quite fit the narrative. Always looking for new places to discover, new journeys to travel, new experiences to have so we can continue to learn about ourselves.  We will challenge ourselves to be more empathetic, caring, loving and open. We will try our hardest to protect our sacred family time and space amidst the crazy of life and not overburden ourselves with outside commitments.

I’m not scared anymore.

 

 

People, Ron’s Big Mission and Amazing Grace

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I’ve been so busy trying to keep the kids busy this summer that I have not had a chance to post a weekly multicultural book or talk about WeStories– the organization I have had a chance to volunteer and get involved with these past couple of months. So today I will highlight 3 multicultural books.

In May we attended our kick-off for WeStories and received our bookbag with multicultural books. They were books I had never heard of, much less read. Loved it. Still reading the books with the kids. Some of them were sad and they were shocked/taken by it- trying to process all the feelings around segregation and racism. It’s hard for us adults to process so imagine kids doing that. But it’s important work and I will continue and talk to them, push past my own comfort zone knowing that my children will be better for it. Considering everything going on in the world right now- I think there is no better time to do this. We must do this. Educate our children in age-appropriate ways on topics of race and skin color and the history/legacy of our country around these two topics.

People by Peter Spier

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People is the simplest of all these books and it places a strong value and emphasis on the beauty of diversity in this world. Highlights different cultures, skin colors, nose shapes, religions, languages and customs. A book you can go back to again and again.

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corrine J. Naden

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Ron’s Big Mission was super sad because it features a little boy who lives in segregated 1950’s South Carolina. My kids couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to get his own library card. As proud card holders themselves for years now, this really disturbed them. Lots of conversations around emotions and anger after reading the book.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

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Amazing Grace was a big hit with Baby Girl. Not only does Hoffman tackle cultural stereotypes but gender ones as well. This book empowers and paints a picture of girls being more than just quiet, polite, rule-abiding children. Long live Grace and all the rules she breaks in this book!

Happy reading and warm snuggles.

World Chess Hall of Fame

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June30-July 20 063Last week we visited the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. As you may recall from past posts- we love the Central West End– it was one of the first places we visited when we arrived a year ago.

June30-July 20 060We made an afternoon out of it- visiting the historic building it’s in- all 3 floors of it. The first floor houses the gift shop and the current exhibition of Tom Hackney: Corresponding Squares: Painting the Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp. Excellent photography and art exhibit with a few nude photos so parents beware of the kids- my boys looked, snickered and ran away. A nice conversation around nudity as an art form followed to which they struggled to comprehend.

We spent the majority of our time on the second floor with the Kings, Queens & Castles interactive family exhibit. There is a giant medieval castle, life-size chessboard, large scale chess pieces and art-making stations. June30-July 20 048June30-July 20 047June30-July 20 046June30-July 20 043June30-July 20 042

The third floor houses the permanent exhibits. There are historic and artistic chess sets housed behind glass. This floor was too delicate for my rambunctious bunch of kids and so we spent very little time here.

We ate lunch across the street at KingSide Diner. Terrible, slow service- make sure you have 2 hours to kill at minimum but while you wait the kids can play in the adjoining room with chess sets at every table. June30-July 20 064

We wrapped up our day with a visit to Left Bank bookstore to peruse the used book section in the basement downstairs. A perfect way to end the day.

 

Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Missouri

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We road-tripped to Hannibal, Missouri which is 100 miles northwest of St. Louis over Memorial Day weekend. Our goal was to visit the Mark Twain boyhood home and museum and spend the day exploring the town and maybe squeeze in a cave tour. We were lucky and able to experience all three things!

We took a scenic route up there that took us along Highway 79 and through historic Clarksville, Missouri. This town is also one of the largest migrating areas for the Bald Eagle. This charming town is filled with lots of antique shops and provides an up-close view of the Mississippi River.

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The river town of Hannibal, Missouri was the inspiration for Mark Twain’s novels- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Adventures of Tom Sawyer. We were able to secure a nice discount to Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home and Interpretive Center on Groupon so be sure to check that out before heading over. The tour gives you access to all the main places- Mark Twain’s boyhood home, Becky Thatcher’s house, Huckleberry Finn’s house, and the Museum Gallery which features 15 original Norman Rockwell paintings. We spent considerable time viewing all the buildings and experiencing all the interactive features.

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The UnderDog

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A few weeks ago, 2nd Most Honorable Son played in his final lacrosse tournament of the seaon. We weren’t expecting much because the team had not won one game at the last tournament in Indiana. And it’s not about winning- right? Also- it was hotter than a mother out there and I was secretly hoping to get home in time to just relax. But of course we cheered and told him to go out there and play his best. And he did, they all did. This last seeded underdog lacrosse team played their heart out, beat out a previously undefeated team and went from last place to a final competitor in the championship game. They played the game of their life and lost but came in 2nd place overall.

A great lesson for us all- NEVER EVER underestimate the underdog! 

World Bird Sanctuary

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The World Bird Sanctuary sits on 305 acres of Missouri hardwood forest out in Valley Park, Missouri. Their mission is to “preserve the earth’s biological diversity and secure the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.” The organization does this through education, field studies around the world and rehabilitation of injured animals.

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We journeyed out to spend a day at the World Bird Sanctuary in early June. Upon arriving, we visited the Monsanto Fund Environmental Education Center where we met several animals who had been rehabilitated. “Frazzle”- an Eastern Screech Owl really touched our hearts. These owls can be found in orchards or woodlots and are usually a gray or rust color. Frazzle came to the Sanctuary as a young bird with a severe eye infection. Despite treatment, the staff was not able to save her eye and it had to be removed. My kids were so touched by Frazzle- we lingered around her cage for some time and discussed ways we might be able to help other birds like Frazzle. You can see her closed left eye in the picture below.

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After leaving the Education Center, we ventured outside where there were several different types of owls, eagles and hawks for viewing. Below you see a European Barn Owl. These owls are found across Europe with the exception of Scandinavia and tend to be smaller and lighter-colored than their American relatives. Did you know that one Barn Owl can eat up to 2,000 mice a year? 

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We followed a paved footpath where we passed a hospital that helps rehabilitate many patients like Frazzle. We ended up walking through to their outdoor exhibits where they had many animals- All types of owls, Red-Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, Sand Hill Cranes and Turkey Vultures, just to name a few. There were also several off the beaten path trails that took you through their backwoods. It was really breathtaking.

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We ended our journey with a visit to the Nature Center. There we saw birds, parrots, bats, an armadillo and our favorite- “Anna” the Green Tree Python! Wouldn’t want to meet her in the forest but behind the glass- she looked pretty cute. If you live in the St. Louis area- this is a great place to visit and take your kids- They have a BatFest in Early Spring, National Trails Day in June, and an Owl Prowl in November. Many of the programs are free or low-cost. And the work they are doing is incredible. Truly.

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Silent No Longer

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I just can’t anymore. It’s been a long, emotionally trying week here in America. I find myself at a loss for something. Not quite sure. Loss of innocence? Loss of trust? Loss of life and love and compassion for other human beings? 

All over social media – you are either on one side or the other, it’s us vs. them.  The comments that people write are horrible. And I’m exhausted. I’m sorry but it is not my job to educate you on what white privilege is. It’s not on me to have to explain why every life is precious- regardless of prior criminal record and socio-economic level. 

You feel empathy for me because you can’t imagine how hard it must be right now to be a mother of black sons in America? Well- don’t. Don’t feel sorry for me. Do me a favor. Educate yourself. Take a course on “witnessing whiteness” through your local YWCA. Read books – lots of them- I have a long list if you are interested. Learn the history of this country- not the one they taught you a long time ago back in high school from an outdated textbook but learn the history from black, Latino, Asian and Native American perspectives. You will be shocked of what you learn and it will give you a much richer perspective of the diversity of America.

Please- don’t post that it’s not a black man issue. That you are going to educate your children to respect authority (as if that was the issue), that it came down to personal choice (as if they had a choice). Don’t send me videos through messenger that explain why police killing these black men was justified (your side of things as you put it- I’m not against you or what you stand for but this is how I see things you said). We are better than all of this and it’s insulting. 

It’s on all of us. This issue will not go away. We need serious changes in this country when it comes to criminal justice and law enforcement systems. But it all starts with each individual acknowledging that there are serious problems here.

Really take a deep look at yourself and ask these questions-

What internal racisms and biases do I personally have? (We ALL have them- to admit otherwise is naive) 

How are those biases being passed on to my children? 

Finally- what can I personally do to confront those biases? This will involve doing lots of things outside of your comfort zone. Go meet people who are completely different than yourself- go to places that you normally don’t go to. Challenge yourself to learn something new about a different culture every day. 

This is our defining moment people. Years from now the history books will paint this time of 2016 in a certain light- similar perhaps to the year -1968? 

Where we go from here matters. The world, this country, our legacy, our children’s futures depend on it.