Revolutionary in Residence, Come See Me February 11th in Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg is one of those places you need to visit at least once in your life for all of the reasons Michael so eloquently states here (I love his use of language in his writing. If you don’t follow his blog, you really ought to). The fact that this man will be there, demonstrating his craft, telling his story (and therefore our collective story) is a huge gift. Not to be missed! If you can figure out a way to get down to Virginia next month, do it! You won’t be disappointed!

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Beginning my Colonial Afro-Virginian Barbecue Experiment, Colonial Williamsburg Beginning my Colonial Afro-Virginian Barbecue Experiment, Colonial Williamsburg

I believe in America.  Even now when so many things feel out of place and regressive.  I am dedicated to reminding us about our story and the ways in which we have co-created a unique world without parallel in the history of humankind.  This loud proclamation of “exceptionalism” is not just a song of praise, but of criticism and critique.  I realize that this country is the only place in which I am possible, and by possible, I mean a set of circumstances so extraordinary and infuriating that its a miracle I’m here.

America is a place where living history still finds takers in the museum industry. We are young but we are aging, pushing each day further and farther away from the birth pangs of this sprawling corner of what was once merely an outpost in the Atlantic world.  We crave…

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[Short Post]Can’t Feel Accomplished for More than a Minute

Photo: Richard! You fool! Get down from there! (Seriously, I forgot to move the damn doll already! Had to throw him up there while the boys were still doing their get-up routine. Thank goodness I remembered!

 

The Christmas letter is written. The Christmas cards arrived yesterday afternoon (special shout out to the postal worker who left the Snapfish box out in the soaking rain!). You’d think that would signify a doneness… but you’d be wrong, Dear Reader! This is only the beginning. Now is the time for hunting down the addresses of people who have moved, creating the mail merge, getting the stamps, writing the little notes at the end of all the letters, and getting everything all stuffed and ready to go.

None of that is gonna happen tonight. I’m spent. I’ve climbed my mountain . It’s been a long day. One last thing to do today: this blog post.

Just as I was setting up to get down to business on today’s post, my husband came downstairs to remind me that Major’s birthday is in January.

So desu ne,” I replied with a sigh.

The Husband has made it fairly clear that I will not be getting away with the anti-birthday-bash coup that I pulled last year. Kids get parties. Even kids born in January. So I’ve been told. I’ve gotta look into booking a place. Just another task to add to the growing list. I’m thinkin’ bowling. That’s a good kindergarten birthday party, right? I mean, he’s never been, so… that might be awkward… or maybe awesome?

Maybe we could just take a beach vacation? Wouldn’t it be better to spend our money on that? He sorta likes the sand!

I’m going to bed.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts

 

 

‘Tis the Season (for Ridiculous Lists!)

Photo: Richard the First is back on the scene! Welcome back, Richard!

 

Richard the First showed up yesterday morning and got himself caught in the christmas cactus. He was supposed to arrive Friday… but his “magical flight” got delayed. Then he was supposed to show up on Saturday, but “there was a snow storm in Canada.” The boys were very sympathetic, hoping that the poor little guy would be ok. Sweet children, really. Truth be told, Richie was in the wrong box. He’s never where he’s supposed to be. Anyway, we found him, so… let the annoying moving of the doll season begin!

It’s a good thing Richie has shown up because, first, my boys be actin’ a fool. This morning, they got it into their heads that the Blackmobile was a jungle gym and they could climb all over it like crazy people. Minor even showed off some of his double-bar moves between the middle seats.  Lord, I thought I was going to lose it! Second, my boys created the most ridiculous Christmas lists in the entire universe.

Really, I take that back. Major made a fairly reasonable Christmas list. He wants a blue electric guitar. That’s all he really wants. He put some other stuff on the list like legos and some matchbox cars and maybe a jet plane or something… but it was all dispassionate. He wants an electric guitar. He wants it to be blue. That’s what he wants.

Now… how we get that stuff to Maryland so that it’s under a tree will be… interesting…

So there is Major. Fine.

Minor is the ridiculous one. Minor has asked for a drone for Christmas. A DRONE!! This child can’t even SPELL drone! What in the what, Minor!?

The Husband’s jaw dropped. “Really? You’re asking Santa for a drone?”

Minor nodded his head enthusiastically.

“But what are you going to do with it?”

That child made this face that made my husband laugh. I didn’t see it, but my husband started laughing.

“What?” Minor and I both ask simultaneously.

The Husband just howled. “He just made your face! He gave me that look!”

“What look, honey?”

“That ‘that’s a damn stupid question’ look!”

Lordy. I don’t know what he’s talking about. Surely I have no such look.

Anyway, Minor is convinced that he can fly a drone if only someone were to give him the remote to one. I don’t even know where to begin. I started with the whole, “remember, this is just a list… Santa probably can’t bring you everything you ask for…”

But my Husband was giving me a look of his own. I could see his lips curl while thinking about flying a damn drone in the front yard. The hunt is on.

Now, Wife Question for The Husband and, really, all husbands who think they are getting a drone for Christmas: How you gonna fly that thing in January, February and March? Did you forget that the world is gonna be covered in snow immediately after Christmas? You think you gonna buy that baby a drone, play with it for the day or two left when the world isn’t covered in snow and then put it away? How is that going to go down? That child is going to howl to play with that thing every single day!

“We’ll fly it in the playroom…” my husband mumbled.

He gonna fly the drone in the freezing cold 3-season porch that we abandon because it’s too cold?

Stay tuned on this saga. It ain’t over.

Just in case you’re worried that Minor isn’t going to get his heart’s desire for Christmas, try not to feel too badly for him. Item number 2 on his Christmas list?  A $140 motorized Lego train. Those are just two items on the list! I’m not even mentioning the Star Wars legos, the Batman legos, the matchbox cars… Major said something about the Matchbox Garage (why is this $100???)…?

Uh huh. My children. Four and Five. Spoiled. Spoiled beyond comprehension. Might as well ask me for a Tesla Model X while we’re at it. Ridiculous!

I’m about to make that child a bunch of sock dolls for Christmas and call it a day!

Recruitment of the grandmothers is in order, then the hunt will be on. If any of you lovely readers has seen a “kid friendly” drone that you can point me to, I’d be grateful. Or, if you happen to know somebody who has a motorized Lego set that they don’t want/need and are willing to sell, maybe point them my way, too?

You’d think with such  ridiculous lists would elicit perfect behavior for the entire month, yeah? Wishful thinking? *sigh*

I think my Christmas list is going to be lottery tickets and booze. 🙂 Or maybe just a girl child. A girl child would ask for reasonable things for Christmas. Obviously.

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Got a quick chance to take my camera to the Old North Bridge today. We haven’t had our first good snow yet, but the stage is certainly set. The leaves are gone and the trees are ready. It’s cold enough for stuff to happen. I’m certainly not wishing for it, but my mind has turned over to it. It was nice to get over to the bridge before it’s too slippery to go over.

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It was also a fantastic opportunity to experiment with the telephoto lens that came with the camera. I also have a wide angle but didn’t have time to break it out. Still, wow, right? So much better than what the cell phone was taking!

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I have a lot to learn! Good thing I’m surrounded by such a naturally beautiful place. I have to get as much in as possible before the damn snow. Stay away, snow! Stay away!

Hope you are having a good Monday, Dear Reader. It’s hard to get back into things after such a long break. There is a lot to do, Dear Reader. Let’s get it done!

Until Wednesday, take care.

[Quiet Thoughts] Room at the Table

Photo: Yeaaaah…. there is nothing better than waking up at 8:30, rolling out of bed, having awesome coffee and popping some cinnamon rolls in the oven. Not just cinnamon rolls… cinnamon rolls made with Kerrygold or, as we call it, “the good butter.” Unbelievably awesome, totally best way to start Thanksgiving!

 

My neighbor came over at 10:30 yesterday morning all dressed proper and ready to go. We were… in our pajamas… shameless, really. Thanksgiving is about the four of us, the Macy’s Parade, awesome duck and no cares. Certainly no formal clothes. Thanksgiving is absolutely for pajamas.

“We were wondering if you would join us for dinner. We’d really love to have you,” my neighbor offered.

Uh…

Welp, there went that.

We love our neighbors. These first years of homeownership would have been impossible without them. We had to say yes…

It was our first time having Thanksgiving with other people since Major was born. We made our duck, I made Parker House rolls for the occasion (I was going to do that anyway), we made the Chinese-style pancakes and cut up scallions and traversed the lawn between our place and theirs.

The mansion we sat in was built sometime soon after the Revolutionary war and has been standing ever since (despite fires, blizzards, at least 2 hurricanes, and all sorts of other calamities). I couldn’t help but think about all the Thanksgivings it has witnessed. I wonder how many times a child had thrown-up at the table in the middle of the festivities (thanks, Major!) or simply decided to hold out until dessert after barely nibbling at the stuff on his plate (thanks, Minor!). Of course, I wondered how many times had that exquisite dining room had played host to intense political discussion. Even among friends, all on the same team, there was much disagreement about the details, the direction we should take as individuals and as a group.

I won’t get into it here. I feel like I’ve written enough about this. My Quiet Thoughts, however, are honed in on how warming it was to sit at that table and be welcome. Thanksgiving has always been that annoying holiday to get out of the way before the pleasure of going home and enjoying Christmas in Maryland with family. Especially since moving here to Massachusetts, being here for Thanksgiving meant retreating to the only family The Husband and I have up here: each other, and now the boys. We’re a little island of sanity in an ocean of crazy New Englanders, we’ve told ourselves. Ten years of the two of us against the world. Er.. region…

This was our tenth Massachusetts Thanksgiving and we spent it with family. We spent it at another table, with people who we love and care about, we enjoyed ourselves and our children were happy. It was a special day, a delightful surprise. A much-needed break from the troubles that have followed us for months and months.

There were other tables we could have pulled up to yesterday, as well. Church friends, old colleagues, new friends made from school… we have grown a network of people, some becoming very close and dear, who have made this place just as home as Maryland. No longer do we feel perilously far away from the people who love us. Suddenly we have people to call upon, doors that are always open to us, people we look forward to seeing and who we trust implicitly. I can’t tell you the when or how of this happening. I’m deeply grateful, nonetheless.

Walking back across the lawns in the dark, I thanked my neighbor again and again. “What a special treat,” I said, sincerely. “That was certainly a wonderful way to spend the day.”

“Well, hopefully we can make a tradition of this,” she offered.

I chuckled, half hoping she was kidding. Introversion immediately kicked in, the dread of giving up what used to be an easy day of good food bubbling up within. But then my heart warmed. What a lovely thought, spending the holiday with our Northern family again next year. My oh my, how we grow and change, Dear Reader!

So, I can only guess what you’re thinking: “You got that good camera, so… where are the photos of the feast!?”

Well, my neighbor derailed all of my awesome plans. I was going to take pictures of the step-by-step and write out a recipe for a new page on the blog. It was going to be glorious! Oh well, there will be plenty of opportunities to do that in the future. My apologies. Won’t you please accept this other awesome photo of baked goodness?

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This Friday after Thanksgiving, I give thanks for you and your continued readership. Thank you for choosing my blog, thank you for your comments and your care, thank you to the many of you who answered my 5 quick survey questions. Because of you, I feel confident enough to share and am always looking forward to telling my next story. As always, I have wishes for you. First, I wish you rest. Lots of it. At least one morning of being able to sleep until you don’t want to anymore. I wish you the glorious luxury of being able to be lazy,  taking the time you need to recuperate as you need to. Feed that rest with leftovers sumptuously reimagined.  While you’re at it, I wish you a most excellent book to fall into for a few days. It’s ok to take the time to escape, to recharge. When you’re ready, resurface and take up the fight again. Be sure to get in touch with familiar voices, taking the time to say hello and tell someone you love them. As many of us begin the mad dash to fill up boxes and bags with trinkets and do-dads, I ask you: what’s one irreplicable gift you can give this holiday season? Is there something you can create, with your presence, your hands, your expertise, that would brighten someone’s holiday this year? I wish you the time to think about that, warm and cozy, staring up at the milky November sky.

I only ask because, as I remind you every week: you are loved and admired, and what you do in this world matters. You bring joy to someone in this world in a way that no one else can. Don’t forget that. Especially right now.

Until Monday, Dear Reader, stay warm and take care.

A Nation of Neither Angels nor Demons

Photo: My very good friend is a local glass artisan. Tracy makes a lot of beautiful work, but I think I love her acorns most of all. After Grandy passed away, she presented me with this one. Teal was always Grandy’s color and whenever I see it, I think of her. I have this one placed in an Eastern-facing window so as to catch the first rays of light in the mornings. When the sunlight hits it just right, I just feel her presence. If you love this acorn, you might be interested in some of the other glasswork of The Happy Owl Glassworks. Check it out!

 

Ursa Minor is enjoying another 10 weeks of gymnastics thanks to the fairly accessible price and the fact that there is nothing else going on during the day on Wednesdays (he doesn’t have school). Bonus, of course, is that he absolutely loves it and he is really, really good at it. He’s athletic and flexible, he’s strong and he’s delighted by all the jumping, flying, and flipping.

The best part about gymnastics is that it is a straight hour-long class, which is amazing and rare for this age group. All I have to do is sit in the drafty waiting area with folding chairs… and the other moms.

Now, it’s been a small group. There are only 4 kids in the class. Three other moms. How bad could it be? You’d think we’d all be on the same page–this is our one hour of the day when we can be cool and maybe not say anything to other humans.

You know better, right? 2 out of the 3 other women are chatty as hell. That’s fine, but disappointing. Wednesdays are busy and just a little bit of time to sit and be quiet would be very nice. I get it, though: adult conversation is a rarity in the middle of the day. So, context: there is me, one mom who is an immigrant from Germany (not present for the events described below), another woman of color who I haven’t asked about her background and a white mom who considers herself a local (“we’ve lived in town since the 1800s”).

Ok? Ok.

Not knowing each other terribly well, we have been keeping the conversation to small talk. “How old is your kid?” or “where are you having your next birthday party?” and that sort of nonsense. Trivial shit that nobody cares about (augh… why can’t this just be quiet time?). This being our second week together, the awkwardness is starting to fall away and a comfort is starting to settle in. As the children warmed up with the teacher, the white mom asked about our town’s school choice process. She wanted to know how it goes.

I told her a bit about our crazy journey, how we had a first choice that we really loved, but that school had very few seats because of a few reasons.

She interrupted me: “Well, I heard that the thing about that school is that the Asians and the Indian kids have really infiltrated that place, so now nobody can get in.”

I wanted to tell you I was shocked, but I wasn’t. I was patient. I exchanged a look with the other mom and then sorta steadied myself and kept going. “Actually, there were a lot of siblings coming in and they get preference, and…”

The white mom didn’t challenge or reassert her idea until later as we continued talking about schools. As we went down the list of programs and specialties, the woman stated, “you know, I hear that it’s more important to get your regular kid in sports, you know? Because the Asians and the Indians, they are so smart and they take all those tutoring programs after school, so there is no way for our kids to compete, you know? So we have to stick with the sports because that’s the only place our kids can do well.” She went on to say how she has signed up her two young daughters (4 and 2) for all the sports she can come up with to try to get them competitive early “to boost their confidence, you know?”

I wanted to break it all down. I wanted to examine it all bit by bit . Who is a “regular” kid? Have you decided that your kid isn’t as capable as their potential classmates already? Have you given up already, before she has even entered kindergarten? Why would you believe those stereotypes so much as to then actively apply them to your daughters? Why use the word “infiltrate” as if they are foreign invaders?

And when you speak of “regular” kids, are you including our children, who are obviously of color, in with that group? Or are you speaking to Others about Others? Do you feel safe to say what you’ve said because we’re Other but not Asian or Indian? (Again, I am not quite sure the racial background of the other mother, but she is clearly of color.)

Here is my thing about angels and demons: this woman is a nice lady. She’s been very kind, going out of her way to compliment both my son and the other woman’s son, getting to know us, figuring out the norms (she is new to the group). She has asked questions, shared a little about herself, she has been warm and gracious. She’s loving and wonderful with her daughter. This woman isn’t a demon. I don’t know who this woman is. I know she doesn’t mean me or my children any harm. I know that her world view is “us versus them” to the point of actionable decision-making that may have serious consequences down the road.

Neither of we woman of color challenged her. We were politely silent, choosing to ignore and deflect rather than engage. I’m not proud of it. I saw the look on the other woman’s face and I knew my own thoughts and we both had made our own internal decisions to let it ride. I can’t decide if we were both chicken in that moment or if the long, steady drumbeat of a lifetime of aggressions like this one have come to lay a foundation of a permanent silence. Surely we both know that the fight against bias and ignorance (even arrogance)–that the resistance against newly reinvigorated white supremacy–must be done in the small, almost intimate, moments such as this. Maybe if one of us had been brave enough to say something, the other would have said something as well. Maybe we could have made a difference, shutting it down there and then. I should have been me. I have been begging others not to recoil and retreat in the face of the darkness, yet there I was with my polite silence. I should have been the one to tell her she was wrong. I should have been the one to tell her that in suburban schools like ours, studies show that diversity only serves to boost the academic performance of every child in the classroom. Her worldview and strong bias have negative consequences.

But what about next week? And then next 9 weeks to come? Why invite that discomfort into this weekly gathering? Why make this yet another space without safety and comfort, solace, even simple friendly fellowship?

… won’t it be uncomfortable anyway now? For the two of us? Knowing what we know?

…didn’t she, indeed, destroy the safety of the space? Did she not strain the possibility of friendly fellowship?

Like I said, I’m not proud of it. The polite silence in these moments between strangers, deciding we are bystanders when we are actually active players, is part of the reason we are where we are. Teachers must teach. Speakers must speak. There is no wisdom in the silence. Only cowardice.

And, I write all this because I admit to my cowardice. I am not perfect. I have the capacity to be brave and I did not exercise it today.

Then again, this is the gap that I think many of us are trying to bridge: we are neither angels nor are we demons and, now that it’s all out in there, we all still have to occupy the same spaces, sit across the same tables, breathe the same air. How to do so in a way that makes sense, that recognizes the fullness and gifts that we all bring, to teach lessons without preaching?

It’s a conundrum that is older than all of us. Older than this divided country, even. Fraught with lessons, victories and failures along the way. I’m sure most of that will be lost as we Americans gather at our tables. Maybe not. Maybe the delicate peace that comes with family gatherings of “mixed company” will turn into deeper accords, even some sort of understanding. Polite silence turns into civil conversation, civil conversation turns into open dialogue, open dialogue turns into changed minds.

But then again, I’m an optimist. And dammit, I still love this Republic.

Happy Thanksgiving to you American readers. May your table be bountiful, your heart full of joy. For my Dear Readers of the Commonwealth nations (of which there are quite a few), I simply wish you a Happy Thursday. 🙂 Thank you to the many of you who took the time to answer my quick 5-question survey. I am delighted and inspired, and I hope that you will be delighted by the changes that I’ll make over the winter. If you haven’t done it already, would you please consider answering a few quick questions to help me improve this blog? No typing unless you want to!

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

Season of Change

Photo: Oh yes, look at all the beautiful details, the glorious color on the petals… isn’t this just a glorious photo!? 

 

Snow on the car, snow on the barn, snow on the grass this morning… no snow on the pavement, but you know it’s coming! Oh, Dear Reader… somebody stop the winter from coming! I’m not ready!

When I woke the boys up this morning and pulled back the curtain, the reaction was brilliantly mixed. Major, able to fully see out the window from his top bunk perch, gasped with glee as he took in the first glimpse of white. When he breathlessly announced to his brother what had happened, a groan came from the bottom bunk.

“Oh no,” Minor said. “Not the snow!

That child is my child, for sure.

Major started ticking off all of the things he would need for the day:

“I have to find my boots! I have to find my hat! And my gloves, and those snowpants. Mama, do my snowpants fit?”

No, they don’t fit. That’s why, when I got up this morning and saw the damnable snow on the ground, I got right on the internets and ordered another pair. I’m sitting here praying many prayers that his boots do actually fit. That boy needs a new coat (Nana is getting him one for Christmas) and avoiding new boots would be helpful. I know it’s too much to ask for. The child is growing entirely too fast.

With every item listed, Minor let out a grunt or a groan. “I hate boots. I hate hats. I hate gloves. I hate snowpants.”

Yes, baby. I know.

“But why? Don’t you like the snow?” Major asked as he climbed down his ladder.

“No!” Minor barked.

“Awwwwwww,” Major said in the way that children do. It was this sort of mimic of the way I would have said it, yet it still came out as almost a giggle. As if to say, “oh brother, you’re so ridiculous.”

Major practically pranced through the entire “get up, get dressed” routine. It wasn’t until we got downstairs and he got a good look at the snow that he realized we barely got a dusting. The early morning sun was enough to melt it away. I thought he would lose it, but he shrugged instead.

“It’ll be back! We’ll be sledding in no time!”

His brother and I both groaned at the thought.

I was a total baby about it this morning. Put on leggings under my jeans, a thick tunic sweater to put under my peacoat, and wrapped my hair in satin before putting on my thick knitted hat. I was dressed for January, not late November. It really wasn’t that bad out today. But the visual reminder of yes, cold days are coming, yes the warm days are at an end and, yes, snow will be here and will remain for months is… causing preemptive shivering. I can’t wait to snuggle up under my two thick blankets (Husband: “Really? Aren’t you hot under all that?”) and dream about tropical beaches. Yeah… some wonderful life owning a bookstore on a tropical island… wouldn’t that be magical?

Some things just can’t be helped. Change is in the air. I’m just gonna have to get used to it.

Speaking of which, you may have noticed that the featured image is a little more high quality than my other photos. That’s because this mama invested in a big-girl camera! Yaaaaaaaay!!! I purchased a very nice camera and stuff to go with it in the hopes that I will never put another blurry picture on this blog ever again! Furthermore, I hope that I will begin to get more active on Instagram thanks to my new toy. I’m so excited to better share the beauty of the world I know with you in this space.

The camera is just the beginning. As I told you in October, I decided to spend this winter not writing fiction in the hopes of giving my brain a bit of a rest, and also to spend some time learning and growing in other areas. I purchased a few helpful resources to help me with my fiction and I also purchased a very cool bundle of blogging courses/resources, complete with a cool mastermind group filled with weekly seminars and fellowship. I’m learning a lot and I’m excited to apply some of the knowledge that I’m gaining. I hope that you will come along on the journey with me. One of the first things I want to do with this camera is to take pictures of our Thanksgiving Day feast, and maybe even start posting some of my recipes!

That being said, I was wondering if you would do me a favor, Dear Reader. As I explore the potential of what this blog could be, I am trying to keep my focus on what I’ve already created and why you have chosen to read my blog week after week. I’ve noticed that, though my comments and “likes” don’t always reflect it, I have a pretty consistent bunch of readers who come back post after post. I would love to know who you are and what it is about my blog that you love the most. Would you be willing to take a quick 5-question survey to tell me a little bit about yourself? I don’t collect usernames or email addresses, and you don’t have to type anything (there is the opportunity write a comment at the end if you want to, but it is optional). I just want to know more about why you choose to read my words, and what I can do to make your experience better. I want to grow, but only in ways that honor the relationship I have already established with you.

Rather not do the survey? Send me an email! I actually correspond with a few of my readers and I absolutely love it! My email address is wise(dot)kay(dot)c(at)gmail.com

I’ll keep the survey up for a week just to give ample opportunity for ya’ll to find it and respond. No pressure! But it would mean so much to me, and it would really help me better reach my potential. Thank you for your help, Dear Reader. I look forward to your thoughts!

It’s a short week, but that doesn’t mean there is less to get done! Let’s make it happen, Dear Reader.

Until Wednesday, take care.