September 11, 2016

Phone Calls and Extra Batteries

Today marks the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and I find myself consciously shutting off news stories, avoiding dreaded images, or actively re-directing conversations about it. Previous anniversaries of this date have never really had much of an impact on me, but for some reason today felt different. And this evening it hit me. It has to do with my dad.

My dad was no where near the twin towers, on a plane, or any where near the Pentagon. On that September day, my dad was in south Louisiana and I was in Washington state. And yet he will always be apart of my memories on that tragic day. It was early on the West Coast and my dad called to make sure we were awake and aware of what was happening. He wasn't the first person to alert us, but he was the one I spoke with the longest that morning. We were on the phone together as the second tower fell. My dad seemed to quickly grasp that our country was about to go into an intense tail spin. In between trying to calm me down, he began to switch into survivalist mode. Trying to figure out ways we could stay in touch if the phones shut down or who we could each contact if we were in trouble. He wanted me to make sure we had batteries and extra water. His response sent me into a bit of my own internal tailspin with dueling emotions...comfort that someone seemed to have some ideas for a plan and fear that things were about to get much worse. 

I think today's anniversary hit me because it was a harsh reminder that I can no longer pick up the phone to call my dad when bad things happen. I feel a bit of guilt to think that my reaction today is about grief that isn't even directly related to today's anniversary. And yet, isn't that at the core of today? Reminders of loss, reminders of life continuing to happen, reminders of fear and uncertainty, and a reminder that we were all a bit changed on that day fifteen years ago. And perhaps most importantly our universal human need to be connected, comforted, and protected. 

September 10, 2016

Yaocomaco and Piscataway Tribes of Maryland

 This year we are plunging into a study of Early American History and planning to take full advantage of the plethora of local historical sites. And that is why Camille and I got up early on a Saturday morning; packed the car with sunscreen, water bottles, a pile of audio books; made two quick pit stops to get freshly made doughnuts and traveling necessities (Twizzlers and Doritos); and hit the road for Historic St. Mary's City. We were hoping to make it in time to participate in their Native American Discovery Day. And as we were making the nearly two hour drive there I found myself hoping that it would be worth the drive. As soon as we arrived, it was clear to see that it was well worth the drive.  

We quickly jumped into doing a variety of hands-on activities: fire building, creating pinch pots with local clay, carving soapstone beads, and making a pokean (Native American hacky-sack made with corn husks, feathers, and beads). We learned about the native plants and food sources. Shot arrows. Helped to build mats from reeds that were collected that morning to add to the rooftops of the re-created Yaocomaco witchotts (longhouses). St. Mary's City, the first capital of Maryland, was established on the grounds of a Yaocomaco settlement. 

One of the highlights of the day was watching the Tayac Territory Singers and Dancers, members of the Piscataway Indian Nation, led by Mark Tayac son of the current hereditary chief, Chief Billy Tayac. It was hard not to be entranced by their beautiful outfits and their voices singing in Algonquin Piscataway while drumming and dancing. The Piscataway were one of the most populous and powerful tribes in the Chesapeake Bay region north of the Potomac. It was an honor to see them sharing their history and culture today. Want to learn more about the Piscataway? Meet Naiche is a good place to start. 

September 4, 2016


I took a ton of photos during our time in Montreal and yet, this is the one I keep going back to. Don't get me wrong. We loved all of the fabulous museums, the delicious pockets of interesting neighborhoods, the bagels, the urban ziplining, the local radio stations, and the friendly vibe. But for some reason, this pic is the one that I am choosing from our time in the city. Nothing fancy about it with weeds growing through the cracks, a hodgepodge of tin and concrete, and umbrellas akimbo; however, it is also filled with pops of colors, interesting textures, and real-life grit. After our time in quaint Quebec City, it was actually kind of refreshing to be in a "real" city focused more on living than performing or charming. So glad we decided to do both Montreal and Quebec City for a bit of yin/yang experience.

August 24, 2016

Canadian Postal Cheer

I went to Canada and fell in love with their mail boxes. Colorful and peppy, those cheerful depositories made me want to stuff them with encouraging letters and bills with pretty stamps. It's funny how traveling makes the mundane aspects of daily life so much more interesting in new places. Grocery stores in other countries are far more interesting to me than grocery stores at home. And now it turns out that mail boxes are, too.

And here's another thing those postal boxes made me think about. When I was a kid, sending postcards was a big part of our travel ritual. Selecting the perfect card for each recipient. Using scratchy motel pens to describe trip highlights to grandparents and cousins. Words and drawings spilling over the edges. A satisfying little stack of paper greetings ready to be mailed. I was actually pretty good about sending postcards all the way into my 20s and 30s. And I assumed that this travel ritual would continue with my own children. It seemed like a good way to push them to write while also maintaining contact with family many miles away. But as with most good intentions, it never really happens. Don't get me wrong. We keep trying. Or at least I keep trying. After careful deliberation, post cards always get purchased with specific recipients in mind and I always think that this will finally be the trip that kick starts a new desire to write personal notes and letters on a more regular basis. Sometimes they actually get written, but they rarely get sent and the reality is that I have a large box of postcards documenting most of our trips from the past sixteen years of marriage (any ideas on what to do with those?). And I can't even remember the last time we received one. To be honest, it is surprising that post cards are even still made and sold.  So here's to hoping that those cheerful Canadian boxes prompt a personal letter writing resurgence and may postcards continue to exist. 

August 23, 2016

Quebec City With Kids

Pack a soccer ball. Rent an apartment in the Old City. Eat poutine. Attend the Les Fetes de la Nouvelle France. Leave plenty of time for wandering and splashing in fountains. Eat crepes and chocolate croissants.Try to speak French. Get in line early for the spectacular (and free!) circus on Saturday nights. Stay for the fireworks over the St. Lawrence River. Stop to listen to street musicians. Fall asleep to the sound of horse drawn carriages tromping over cobblestone streets. Get up the next morning and repeat. 

August 8, 2016

Quebec City Charm

Quaint views, bursts of colorful flowers, and history oozing from her pores, Quebec City worked her magic on us and had me wishing we had several more days for wandering her cobblestone streets. We were lucky to be in town for the Les Fetes de la Nouvelle-France, but I also have to admit that some of our favorite moments were those that occurred away from the crowds.