An Apology – and A Promise – After the Election

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It’s taken me a few days to process my thoughts and actually get to a point where I can put words down in regards to the election last week.  I feel like it would be a lie of omission not to discuss it here, even if I risk offending people.  At this point, though, I’m sure I’ve offended enough people in real life, so I suppose it doesn’t matter if I go for a few more.

The thing is, actually, I want to apologize.  Throughout a lot of the campaign, I came out swinging with the opinion and the attitude that supporting Trump was a moral offense.  While I do find him morally corrupt and generally bereft of any goodness, that doesn’t mean that everyone who voted for him should be lumped in that same category.  Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, even if he is.  Not everyone who voted for Trump is sexist, even though he is.  Not everyone who voted for Trump is ignorant, even though he is.  So I feel like I should say sorry for not being able to see that when I assigned his characteristics to all his supporters, I was wrong.  And I am hopeful that even if you did vote for him, if you see people acting in a racist, sexist, or ignorant way in his name (or even not in his name), you speak up to stop them.

I won’t however, back down from my opinions on Trump himself.  I believe him to be willfully uninformed, capable of giving only headline-level opinions on subjects which he has not researched and doesn’t truly understand.  I believe him to be inflammatory and attention-seeking in the worst possible ways, and I don’t believe he has the ability to engage in self-reflection or soul-searching.  I see in him the embodiment of every self-important asshole blowhard I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with.  And I worked on Capitol Hill and I was in the military; I’ve dealt with a lot of blowhards in my time — both men and women.  I find Trump disgusting in his celebration of ignorance and I will never be able to accept or understand how anyone doesn’t find him repulsive.  I believe him to be unworthy of the position to which he has been elected.

But.  BUT.  I am capable of self-reflection and soul-searching, and I’ve done a lot of it in the last few days.  I want to think I wouldn’t have gloated had Hillary won the electoral college, but I know that’s probably not true.  I want to believe that I would have been able to stay above the fray, but I know that I would have written and said that the country had averted disaster and thanked the gods that ignorance and hate hadn’t won the day.  And then I would again have been assigning Trump’s lack of virtue to all the people who voted for him, and that’s not fair.

I have spent the last few days arguing, mostly via social media, with people who still defend the things Trump has said and done that have marginalized minorities, women, the LGBT community, the disabled.  I cannot reconcile my views with theirs.  I do think that anyone who isn’t at least a little offended by his remarks about those groups either needs to do a little soul-searching of their own or is actually ignorant, racist, or homophobic.  I realize now, though, after wasting my time trying to argue at or reason with people whose views have offended me, that I cannot force people to be tolerant, but that I can refuse to lower myself to their level and that I must be tolerant myself regardless of their behavior.

So here I want to say, if you voted for Trump, I don’t agree with you.  But I don’t automatically assume you are a bad person, either.  I will work hard to try to better understand the motivations of people who make different choices than me, and I will only assign words like racist, homophobe, and ignorant to people who act in such a way as to deserve them.  And I will remember that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

I went into Election night with such high hopes for several reasons.  The first, and maybe the biggest, was that I wanted to see a woman elected President.  As a feminist who vocally believes that women’s rights are human rights and that feminism is the case for EQUAL rights, as a woman who has worked in male dominated fields and knows the challenges it can bring, as a human who wants to see myself represented in my government, and as a mother who wants her daughter- and her sons – to know that no role or career is off-limits solely because of gender, I desperately wanted to witness that final glass ceiling shatter into a million pieces and rain down on all the misogyny and sexism and unfairness I’ve ever experienced.  I wanted to cry with joy at the knowledge that my country was finally ready to admit that women and men are equal.  And I really, really wanted to watch a woman govern as President. 

The next reason I was hopeful was because from an actual policy standpoint, I agree with Hillary Clinton’s proposed plans and platforms more than I have agreed with probably any candidate I’ve ever voted for before.  During the primaries, though, I supported Bernie Sanders, because I thought she was too loaded with baggage to really win, and that if Bernie was able to accomplish even a fraction of what he hoped to do, he would and could drastically change the shape of America for the better.  But he’s a bit too liberal, even for me.  Hillary and I, we see eye to eye.  The more I read her plans, the more I examined her opinions and her stances and her priorities, the more excited I was about her Presidency. 

And the final reason, but the one I was probably most vocal about prior to the election, is that I think Donald Trump is a huge asshole, big-league, and I wanted to watch his facade of male dominance and celebrated stupidity crumble like a house of cards.  My baser instincts wanted to see him unable to handle his loss and I wanted to watch him crawl away into the hole where I think he belongs.  I’m disappointed in myself that I talked more about this than the reasons why I supported Hillary Clinton.  He didn’t deserve the energy I wasted thinking and talking about him.

As I sat on my couch until 4AM here in the UK and watched the swing states slowly turn red, despair crept right in.  I sobbed when Hillary conceded and I spent most of the day in tears.  Not because I’m a delicate flower who is oversensitive and can’t stand to lose, but because I truly and honestly fear that the atmosphere that Donald Trump cultivated and encouraged during his candidacy has given a voice to hatred and I am afraid of what will happen to those groups he marginalized and mocked. 

While I respect the right of the people protesting in the streets to make their voices heard, I think there are better ways to affect change.  And while I am certain that, had the results of the election been different, similar protests from Trump’s supporters would have taken place, I still feel like the protesters are just providing fodder to be used against the cause of progressivism.  Protesting injustice is noble to be sure, but this election result wasn’t unjust.  Just unfortunate. 

I am also mad at myself because I really did nothing to involve myself in the political process, nothing to get out the vote, nothing to support the causes or the candidates I believe in except to talk.  And a lot of the talking I did was more to disparage the opposition than to explain why I supported my candidate.  I am guilty of expecting other people to do the work while I sat back, and that is unacceptable.  It won’t happen again.  If nothing else, this shocking election was a wake-up call that I must be more involved in actively supporting the people and causes I believe in.  I’ll take that as the silver lining.

Unfortunately, for the next few years at least, I have a feeling that I have my work cut out for me.  I have a feeling that I will spend a lot of my time horrified.  I have a feeling that things will get worse before they get better.  I think there’s a very good chance that a Trump administration will do grave damage, not just in terms of foreign or domestic policy, but environmentally and socially as well.  I am confident, though, that he can only delay progress, not stop it forever.

So although it took me a few days to recover, I’ve got my feet back under me.  Dwelling on what went wrong will not make a difference.  Now is the time to get to work. And I’m sorry it took me so long to realize that.

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What On Earth Happened?

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Last month we went to a presentation one evening at the kids’ school called “A History of the World in 20 Objects”.  The presentation was given by author Christopher Lloyd, who wrote the book “What on Earth Happened”, and it was nothing short of amazing.  The kids loved it, Matt and I loved it, and it’s actually resulted in multiple family discussions on historical events that have been both fun and interesting. 

As devout history nerds, Matt and I both wanted to see the presentation as soon as we read the email sent out by the school.  The kids were so annoyed when we announced that we’d reserved tickets: “Why do you make us do stuff like this?!?” was the general, moaning consensus among the children.  Undeterred, Matt and I both looked forward to it.

We didn’t realize, however, that Gabe would be seeing the presentation that morning during school.  It turned out to be great that he did, though!  A budding history geek himself, Gabe SO loved the school day presentation that he could. not. wait. to go see it a second time, and he convinced his siblings that it was going to be so fun and so cool

The idea behind the presentation is that many (most) of us know bits and pieces of the history of the world (going all the way back to the VERY beginning with the Big Bang), but that we don’t know it in a complete, chronological narrative.  The other point was that many (most) people also know bits and pieces of history, but we don’t make the connection between concurrent events to be able to see the relationships between them (i.e. it’s hard to reconcile the the “Wild West” portion of American history was happening at the same time as the Victorian Era in England).  I love this whole concept — viewing history from this perspective makes it so much easier to see the inter-connectedness of multiple different events. 

Gabe insisted we get to the auditorium early so we could get seats right up front.  And then he spent the entire time practically leaping out of his seat, hand raised, bursting with the desire to answer every question because he was SO EXCITED about all of it.  At one point I actually had to hold my arm across his chest to keep him from jumping up.  Later, I had to make him promise not to raise his hand for at least 3 or 4 questions to give someone else in the audience a chance to participate.  It was comical.  I almost felt badly that he was SO into it that he was barely giving anyone else a chance to speak up, but it’s hard to get mad at a kid for being that excited about learning important historical events.  Although Gabe was by far the most enthusiastic of my kids, all four of them paid rapt attention, answered questions, and were kept completely engaged for the entire presentation.

Christopher Lloyd, the author and presenter, was absolutely great with the kids (and the adults) in the audience, and he really, really made the topic just incredibly interesting and unique.  We ended up leaving the presentation having bought not just the full book, but several of his “wallbooks“, which are ingenious fold-out timelines depicting different perspectives on history.  I don’t doubt that we will eventually end up with the full collection.  To make it all even cooler, we were able to get our books signed by the author, who wrote a note to the kids to “Never stop asking questions!”.  Gabe was absolutely OVER THE MOON about it, and it all took place on Gabe’s 10th birthday, actually, so he was simply beyond thrilled.

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Matt and I have both read at least part of the main book now, and on several occasions, I read excerpts out loud that I found surprising or enlightening and we ended up having family discussions on the size of the universe, the evolution of man, and Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection.  Anything that gets my kids thinking about that kind of stuff is good with me.  My kids will randomly flip through the books (which I leave out on the coffee table in the living room intentionally) and ask about stuff they see.  It’s been such a great conversation-starter.

If you’re into history at all, or if you’re not but you want to be, or if you want to show your children an amazing way to look at the interdependence and connectivity that exists between seemingly separate events going back pretty much as far as history goes, this is simply one of the best ways to do it that I’ve seen.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  This isn’t a paid post, I’m not being compensated, I just really, really love this whole line of books and activities and think they’re an amazing tool for teaching kids and adults alike.  Check out the website, watch the presentation online, get the books, and see history in a whole new way.

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A School Update: Sports, Sports, Sports

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We went into this school year with far less anxiety than last year and even more anticipation, if that’s even possible.  The school here has quite simply become the thing we love most about living in England, much to my surprise. And while I certainly thought the school looked amazing before we moved, the kids love it even more than I do (which is a lot).  About two weeks into this past summer break, Gabe remarked that he wished summer weren’t so long because school is so fun.  When a 10-yr old boy says that, you know you’ve got a good thing going.

The thing is, the kids love school because school here IS fun, in large part because they get to play sports during the school day almost every day of the week.  And what’s not to love about that?

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As I’ve said before, there is far more activity built into the school day and week here than the kids had in the States.  Twice a week for 90-minutes each, Gabe and Owen have a Games lesson, which is essentially sports practice for whatever the sport is that season (and that is in addition to the hour of P.E. they have every week, too).  Right now we’re in football (soccer) season.  In addition to the three hours per week they spend in games lessons, they also each have football club after school once a week for another hour.  Plus they play games against teams from other schools every few weeks. 

Quinn, in Year 2, also has Games once a week this year, which is basically the most exciting thing EVER if you ask his opinion.  He shares every little detail of his lessons with me when I pick him up on a Monday afternoon.  What a difference it makes in all my boys’ attitudes about school to have a bit more sport thrown into their days.

In addition to football (soccer), all the kids in the school have a one hour swim lesson every week.  Both Gabe and Owen are on the school swim team, so they also have after school swim practice once a week and a swim meet against another school just about every other week.

And, on top of all that, the school also has a cross-country team that competes against other schools periodically throughout the year.  Gabe and Owen are both on the team, and Owen came in 2nd in his last meet out of a field of 72 kids!  And then, as if that weren’t enough activity, there is a school-wide cross-country race once a term in which every child participates. 

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It almost sounds like with all this sport, there’s barely enough time to be in class, but the truth is, it’s spread out so nicely over the course of the week and throughout the terms that it creates just the right balance of school work and physical activity.  It means that, instead of dreading going to school, my boys actively look forward to it.

In which case, I say: Long live school sports! 

(Also, I feel like I should add that all of these activities are at no additional cost — they are simply part of the school program!  You know what’s EVEN BETTER than sports for kids?  FREE SPORTS FOR KIDS!)


Also, here are the main differences between our American and British schools, and here’s why I love school uniforms!


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Traveling vs. Vacationing

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There’s a huge difference between traveling and going on vacation. 

We’ve been on vacations before, and although there is certainly a good argument to be made that traveling with kids is almost never a vacation, we have taken trips that were about relaxation and fun far more than they were about experiencing a new place.  I like those trips just fine and can always do with a little downtime. 

But I’ve come to learn that, given the choice, I far prefer traveling to vacationing.

Traveling is not about lying on a sunny beach and baking to a golden tan, a fruity drink in hand and a dip in the pool your only concerns.  That is a vacation.  Vacations are fun. 

But I want to travel.

Traveling is going to a new place and learning about what makes that place worth visiting.  It’s finding the landmarks, learning the history, trying the local food, and at least attempting to speak the language.  It’s hard work more often than not.  But that, I believe, is what makes it worthwhile.

When I successfully communicate with a cab driver in Rome who speaks no English but wants to tell us all about the amazing sites we’re driving by, and I’m then able to turn around and explain what he’s saying to my kids, that is traveling.  When we navigate the metro in Paris even though none of us read French anything like fluently and none of the maps or signs are in English, that is traveling.  When Matt drives a right-hand drive, stick shift, 7-passenger van through morning rush hour in London to get us to our new home in the English countryside, that is traveling.  When we try the haggis, that is traveling. 

There are so many places to see and paths to walk, so many languages to learn and foods to try.  When I travel, I make my world a little bigger.  I make my kids’ worlds a little bigger.  We know what it looks like to eat breakfast in the sun on a porch overlooking the Mediterranean.  And we know what it smells like to walk through the Black Forest in the autumn.  We know what it feels like on top of the Eiffel Tower in the wind and drizzling rain, and how long it takes to walk up the long hill to Edinburgh Castle. 

Because we know those things, it makes it easier to imagine other things, even less like what we’re used to in our normal lives. 

We’ve stretched our understanding, and with it, our imaginations.

There have been moments, more than just a few, when we’ve been lugging bags through train stations and airports and convincing tired children that if they can just hold on a little longer, we’ll find a place to eat and sit and relax, when I’ve wondered if all the hard work and exhaustion and confusion is worth it.  There have been many times when I stood, uncertain, before someone whose language I didn’t speak and who didn’t speak my language in return, and wondered how I would communicate. But we find a way to make it work.  We learn something new, we smash down the walls of our comfort zones, and every time we do it, we grow.  In the end, every hard moment is worth it.  

It’s worth it when your 10-yr old son makes a comparison between the architecture in Germany and the architecture in Italy.  When your 12-yr old daughter reads and translates the signs in French.  When your 8-yr old son declares that the curry wurst in Germany is one of his favorite foods.  When your 6-yr old son sees a picture of Il Duomo on a magazine and exclaims with excitement that he’s been there, it’s in Florence, and he had the best gelato ever sitting in the square beside that dome.  Every long walk, delayed flight, argument with an overtired child (or an overtired spouse), they’re all worth it when you see how much it’s changed your understanding of the world.

Travel — real travel — is hard.  But it is worth it.  And I will take it over a vacation every day of the year. 


Also, a trip doesn’t have to be far to be meaningful.


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