Saturday, November 5, 2016

Stop This Ride, I Want to Get Off

In three days, we will choose our next president. There has been a lot of purple prose about how this is the most important election of our lifetime. It is, of course, but the reader in me doesn't go in for hyperbolic phrases.

I am left leaning. I get into passionate arguments about our obligation as a country to ensure that the same opportunities exist for people of all backgrounds. Nonetheless, I understand that the United States are not mine alone. We have been disagreeing since our inception about the roles and obligations of government. That's humanity, and while democracy is not perfect, I really believe that it's the best form of government. I believe in the "myth of American exceptionalism." Not only that, but I believe that we are largely getting better at this whole governing thing. The America of today is closer to its founding ideals than the America of thirty years ago.

Which is why it's very hard to stomach what's happening now. A man who has little respect for women, people of color, people of other religions, or, if we're being honest, anyone but himself is inexplicably gaining ground. People I like are supporting a bigot. A bigot who thinks I'm an object. His campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," is a pean to the days when only white males had opportunities. While I get that my values will always be different from those of the religious right, I find it incredibly hard to stomach that this man's ideals are shared by nearly 50 percent of our voting population. I had no idea that I was surrounded by such vitriol. That hurts.

I am SO tired of the argument that Hillary is the "lesser of two evils." She's not even in the same league as Donald Trump. I was an enthusiastic Obama supporter in 2008. I loved that he spoke to me like I was not a chump. In 2008, politicians tended to believe that they had to win the support of the lowest common denominator, and Obama was the only person who didn't. Looking back from six years as a female leader in government service, I can honestly understand why Hillary followed the herd back then. In a way, I think she faces a bigger uphill battle than even Obama did. Every day I cringe at the charges that would not be leveled against her male counterparts. I witness even well meaning supporters marginalize women. I watch, aghast, as an admitted molester climbs closer to the presidency. And I pray.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


We found Kauai to be much like we had heard: a sleepy, rural island with a lot of hippies and chickens. We drove (almost) the entire circuit of the island in two hours. We passed through Lihue, the main "city", which resembled a North Carolina town like Lewisville or Gastonia. We saw super-touristy Kapaa, higher end touristy Poipu, the fiercely independent enclave of Hanalei--far from everything, with a lot of "no trespassing signs", though tourists were still welcome in town. We stayed outside of Waimea, which was a small hippie town on the desert side of the island.

By outside, I mean thirteen miles outside, in the remote base of Pacific Missile Range Facility. It was beautiful. We were on the biggest beach I've seen in Hawaii, in a small outpost of eight cabins. There was a little area of the base where we were allowed to go and a good deal of "off limits," presumably where the missiles are. We could see Niihau, the "forbidden island," from the beach.

We spent the mornings on the beach and in the cabin, traveled around through lunch and early afternoon, and came back in the evening to play on the beach and cook dinner on the grill. The waves were normally too big for real swimming, but X enjoyed playing in the surf. While sitting on the beach, I saw several sea turtles, all sorts of crabs, and spinner dolphins, so named because they do Sea World-style tricks in the ocean.

It was a wonderful break, and I was sorry to leave.

Us in front of Waimea Canyon

Giant leaves at Koke'e State Park

Eating a Puka Dog

This is the plane we flew over on.

Shop in Waimea

Our cabin

Playing in the waves. You can see Niihau in the background.

Seascape from the mountains.

Waimea Canyon

Big honeymoon spot, apparently

Jumping tires at Koke'e State Park

View from our porch


Na Pali coast

Hidden beach on the Na Pali coast. We forgot to bring swimsuits!!

This was in front of a cave.

X playing some game which involves having a stick on his head.

X in front of another cave

Na Pali Coast State Park

Running through the tree cave

Na Pali Coast State Park

Beach time

Wailua Falls

A spectacular playground we happened across

Fern Grotto

X and Bobby on the ferry to the grotto

Glass beach

Beach at sunset

Beach at sunset


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Wild Avocados

X and I were at Ben Parker Elementary, where we go every Saturday for the farmer's market. He likes to play on these climbing structures behind the school. Last Saturday, we noticed some guys climbing in the trees and shaking the limbs. X asked me what they were doing, and I told him the truth: I had no idea. We didn't figure it out until the guys brought me an avocado. X had been playing on that avocado tree for years, and I didn't know what it grew! The avocado, by the way, was delicious.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Travelers and denizens

This article came out in the New York Times on Wednesday. It’s about Wilkes County, which is close to where Bobby is from. I think it’s very apt—at least, it reflects my own observations, made over many years. When I talked to Bobby about the article, he was very insistent that Wilkes County is DIFFERENT from Yadkin County, though they look the same to me.

That reminded me of Korea. Koreans will insist that Daegu is different from Gyeongju, but to us outsiders, they look very similar. The people have similar traditions. The food is similar. The appearance of the towns is very similar, in the same way that Korea is very similar to Japan if you’re from the western world (though this is heresy when spoken to natives).
It got me thinking about community and about how I am a perpetual outsider, always observing other cultures but never truly entrenched in them. I see the similarities on a macro level, but I don’t get close enough to see the differences. Perhaps that’s how I was made: a born traveler. Bobby grew up with a very strong sense of community and a defined culture. He has now had his time observing from afar, but I don’t think he’s truly at home as an outsider.
I don’t think the distinction between “traveler” and “denizen” is one of location. Members of the military move around a lot, often around the world, but they’ve still managed to develop a tight community. Outsiders may think the Army and Marine Corps are similar, but to members, they are very, very different.
In my case, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a community, not really.  I lived in North Carolina for the first 27 years of my life, but I sloughed off a lot of my southern-ness years ago. I was raised by Yankees anyways. The only history I have in North Carolina is mine, and it wasn’t hard for me to say goodbye. My friends and family, fellow travelers or denizens in search of a home, were gone already.
I’m not sad about this. I’m not saying this humble-braggingly (really), but I don’t think I’m hard wired to belong. I think the world needs travelers and denizens, and I just happen to be a traveler.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My least favorite reference question

Anyone who has worked a service desk in a public library that has a children's section has heard this question at some point: "my child reads at an eleventy millionth grade level, but she is eight! (pause for enthusiasm that I can no longer muster). What should she read?"

I never, ever get to answer this question in the way that I want to. Thank heavens I have a blog! So here goes:

The benefits children get from reading are myriad. Generally, when someone says, "___th grade level," they are referring to a child's speed and ability to read big words. These are some benefits, yes, but a small piece of the pie. Reading opens your imagination. It helps you learn about human nature, and how to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. It allows you to learn about different cultures, different places, and different moments in time.

While I understand every parent's need to maximize their child's learning, let's all step back and relax for a moment. Just because little Jenny can read big words doesn't mean she's ready for All Quiet on the Western Front. Eight year olds generally don't care if Elizabeth Bennet gets Mr. Darcy. Why murder a child's love of good books because the ones in the juvenile section are, apparently, not advanced enough for them?

Authors and publishers are very aware that kids who love to read are precocious. There are books that may say they are on a fifth grade level, but contain content that will make a well-read adult think. There are children's books that push 1,000 pages and have multiple plot lines. There is plenty in the elementary-middle reading section that will entice and delight your little reader.

So...what should your budding book lover read? Whatever she wants to. Back up, please, and let me talk to her for a minute.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


I spent the last week in Denver. It was a trip that happened suddenly--my final approval for it came through less than a week before I left--and was very appreciated. It was great to get out and enjoy myself and do unusual things like eat dinner at a restaurant and watch whatever I wanted to on TV. It was wonderful to see my best friend, sisters, parents, and adorable nephew. It was great to come home.

Colorado's vast stretches of open space may be home to some, but they don't compare to the salt air and palm trees of mine. I haven't missed a place like I missed Hawaii while I was gone, not since I lived in Wales and longed for North Carolina. 

Denver went a little overboard with the pot innuendos

The view from my hotel room.

One of my favorite people.

Dude killing a buffalo, I guess.

The art museum

Sisters + baby Tommy


Can you see the bird? From a running path in the middle of Denver.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

X Stories

It's been awhile. I haven't had the burning desire to write anything as of late. While I was thinking about my blogging haitus the other day, I realized that there are a few X stories I would like to write down.

The day after President's Day, X's day care didn't open until 9:30am. Unfortunately, toddler story time started at 9. I was very nervous about bringing X to my story time. The last time, he had a very hard time with other kids paying attention to his mommy. He ended up sitting in the back with his dad, getting lectured about being nice. And this time, I didn't have dad.

So we rehearsed the entire program. I made sure X new every song and story, and we practiced having him in front next to me, leading the group. When the day arrived, however, X quickly abandoned me and sat with the other kids. Despite my unease, I let him stay. And lo and behold, he performed his duties as librarian's kid professionally. He made sure the other kids knew how to follow along. He got everyone toddler chairs to sit in. He made everyone hold hands for the closing song, which was a total improvisation on his part. After we were done, he got everyone puzzles to play with and showed them what to do. It was definitely a proud mom moment.

X is much more socially bold than I am. He will plow headfirst into a group of kids and play with them, despite the lack of an invitation. Normally, the kids end up letting him stay. Watching him do this makes me very uneasy, but he doesn't seem to have any shyness about this at all. In his mind, he selects his playmates, then joins them.

Last week was the Honolulu Festival. We decided to go to Ala Moana park to watch the fireworks. There were lots of kids there, mostly Japanese. X identified a group of non-English speakers, honed in on them, and followed them around until he got to play. I guess when you're doing little kid things like chasing each other and collecting sticks, language isn't a factor. No one seemed to mind. Bobby and I got a little nervous when he started hovering around this Japanese family's snack table, but he behaved himself.

Today we went to a city sponsored Easter egg hunt. X's current obsession is blue. We spoke to him about many things before the hunt: not pushing, not taking other kids eggs, and not hitting. We did not speak to him about picking eggs of different colors. X almost lost out on his 10 allowed eggs because he would only pick up the blue ones. Almost.

Picking pineapples at the Children's Discovery Center

Optimus Prime at the playground

Sporting his blue bunny ears

Lining up for an easter egg hunt

Collecting eggs