Archive | family

Marriages and Safaris: Beauty. Dung. Sometimes Rainbows.

It’s Valentine’s Day and a friend just asked for advice about planning a safari, so it seems appropriate to re-post this meditation on love, marriage, shit, and rainbows. You know, just your basic extended metaphor but with hippos.

One of the gifts, for me, of being on safari, is all the time spent in the jeep staring out at the landscape as we drive around looking for animals, birds, whatever.  Of course, that’s also sort of the downside, too: you spend a lot of time looking for things and sometimes you’re lucky…and sometimes you’re not. It is the proverbial crap shoot, with a literal emphasis on crap (more about that in a minute).

As it happened, this safari of ours happened a week before Husband and I celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. Fifteen years starts to be a rather long time, don’t you think?  Which is fantastic and also means that we are getting freaking old.

The two things started to come together in my mind as we drove around (or actually, as we were driven by our guides–the marvelously named Jelly, in Samburu, and Daniel, in the Mara), and I started to think that maybe safaris and marriages aren’t really that different, when you get right down to it.

Consider: when you first get married, you’re all we’re married! There’s that whole happily ever after thing, which lasts for …maybe a week/month/year and then it starts to be weird toenail clippings, and undone laundry, and why do you have to straighten up when I’m napping on the couch, and whose turn is it to do the laundry, and why am I taking care of the kids, and for the love of god get off the computer, and no we’re too tired/poor/busy to go to a party/dinner/theater/movie, and who messed with my Netflix queue?  (At least, that’s what I hear from other married people. Husband and I have had fifteen years of uninterrupted bliss.)

Life starts to look a lot like this, except without the little birds:

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Consider: on your first day of safari, you’re all safari! And you take pictures of everything, thanking the lord that someone invented digital photography: you’ve got thousands of pictures of the jeep, your camp, the guide, each other, the hotel manager’s pet dog. It’s all vastly, amazingly exciting. You see A LION. You see AN ELEPHANT.  And it’s exhilarating and amazing, until it starts to be a little bit of  LOOK!  A BIG BIRD THAT MIGHT BE AN EAGLE OVER THERE. NO, OVER THERE. And you jounce and jolt along the trails, hour after hour, and it’s mostly amazing…and a lot of grass.  You bounce along, bumpety bumpety, and you get closer and closer to Maybe It’s Something and…it’s a rock. Or a tree. Or a bunch of rocks. Or a warthog. Which is like a rock but with tusks and a little tail.

See the analogy? Bouncing along, never quite knowing what you’re going to find? One day you’re incredibly lucky and fulfill every fantasy you ever had about being a photographer for National Geographic, and then it’s hours of driving along looking at the same trees you saw yesterday and the day before. And they’re very nice trees, you know, and you’re very happy to be on safari but…is this it? Driving around looking for stuff?

Here’s another thing: when you embark on marriage, or on a safari, no one tells you how much you’re going to learn about poo. Whether you’re married with children or without, other people’s poo will become your business. It should be written into all marriage contracts—anyone settling into a long-term partnership, gay or straight, married or just shacking up—that separate bathrooms are a prerequisite. Because really. Do any of us need to know our beloveds that intimately?

On our last safari, we learned a lot about poop, which surprised me and meant that I was a little bit more prepared for stuff that looks like this:

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Those of you with cats might have a sense of what we’re looking at: crap with fur in it. Which is to say, furry shit.  You might think, oh my cat who grooms herself and had a fur-ball left something like that in the litterbox (although actually fur-balls make cats puke, so front end and not back end).  Nope.

That there is lion poop. A lion what ate an antelope fairly recently.  Fur, it seems, isn’t digestible.

Aren’t you glad you know that? You’re welcome.

So yes, you get out of the jeep sometimes, look at poop, or at ants, because hey, that’s what the safari threw you that day. And so it is with marriage: roses one day, yelling about the laundry the next.

But sometimes, just as you’re getting completely fed up, there are rainbows in a cloudy sky.

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Continue Reading · on February 14, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, family, Kids, marriage, Travel

At Home (or not) In the World

In July 2004, when I was about five thousand weeks pregnant, I told my midwife that I was about to fly to Northern Michigan for summer vacation. She looked at me and shook her head at my delusional self. Slowly, as if to a not-too-bright-child, she explained that after one preemie and one miscarriage, there was no way in hell that my high-risk belly was going on an airplane ride (followed by a six-hour car ride).  “Stay close to home,” she said. “Really close.”

Super-pregnant and just a tad emotional, I waddled through the steamy stinky streets of New York wondering how I was going to survive until I birthed this small elephant inside me. A friend suggested a nearby escape hatch: Long Beach Island, in New Jersey. “Down the shore,” to be exact.

My response was something along the lines of “euuuuwww, New Jersey?”  But the twin engines of time (less than a two hour drive) and money (nowhere near as much as it would cost to spend even an hour in the Hamptons) made LBI seem like a reasonable thing to do, a friend had a brother-in-law with a house for rent, and before you could say Snooki, there we were, on the shores of LBI.

LBI Beach

LBI Beach

Reader? I loved it. Loved its flipflop-and-shorts sensibility, loved its not-Hamptons aesthetic, loved the twisted beach pines and loved the old lighthouse at the norther tip.

We’ve been coming back ever since, so much so that the baby who was born shortly after our vacation ended, now considers LBI to be “our family place.” And even though we don’t own a place down here, we’ve been lucky enough to rent the same house now for a bunch of years in a row; it’s an anchor point in our summer and as much as I would like to do more exploring of the US itself, every summer, when I crest the dune for the first time I think, “nah, why go anywhere else?”

Every four years, however, we have to turn a blind eye to the politics of the place. Last year I saw a “Coulter/Palin 2016” bumper sticker, and it was clearly aspirational, not ironic. This year… Trump.

We’ve been keeping count and our utterly unscientific poll shows Trump leading Hilary by a slight margin. That’s what I wrote about in last week’s National: the two visions of the world that are at stake in this year’s election. I love LBI … but I want HRC’s cosmopolitan vision to carry the day.

Continue Reading · on August 6, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, family, Politics

Techambivalent

Let me say first that I have a bit of an internet obsession. I stay way too connected to faraway friends on Facebook and I am a too frequent visitor to Tom and Lorenzo. My books float through the ether from Amazon and land in my kindle, like Mike Teevee in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but without remaining pocket-sized.

I tell you these things so that you’ll see my tech ambivalence: I love the internet and I am also sure that we’re going to end up (or we already are) utterly co-opted by it, so much so that any complaints about “loss of privacy” are utterly besides the point.

That ambivalence is the subject of this week’s column in The National, which you can read here.

Through a series of coincidences, the great god google recently unearthed some vintage family photos, which is making me feel quite fond of the machine that is eroding my private life (apparently with my permission).

It found me riding a bicycle; I remember both bicycle and dress (red velvety corduroy), but I have no memory of being so dangerously close to flashing people as I pedaled. red_bike_Wilmette

And google also showed me this picture of my younger brother, now a Hollywood bigshot but at the time apparently planning on a career as a landscaper: backyard

If google can find that level of adorableness for you, how can you not love it?

Continue Reading · on June 17, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, tech life, The National

Trying to talk to a Teenager…

I write for a great blog called WorldMomsBlog, which brings together writers from around the globe to talk about life in their part of the world. Sometimes, as you might imagine, events and issues are culturally specific but more often than not, there are shared connections, sometimes in unexpected places.

My post for WMB last week is one of those universal things, I think, at least for parents in relatively developed societies: the moment when your adorable baby becomes an adolescent with a gadget of some sort apparently surgically attached to his or her ear. Weirdly, that device–used for communication–seems to be making it harder and harder to communicate with each other: Forget Esperanto, Does Anyone Speak Teenager?

Continue Reading · on February 15, 2016 in Children, family, growing up, Kids, Parenting, tech life, World Moms Blog

Elizabeth Warren, Planned Parenthood, and Me…Redux

Six years ago, I wrote a post about Dr George Tiller, who was murdered by someone who called himself “pro-life.”

I’ll leave you a minute to savor the horrific ironies in that statement.

And now, six years later, it’s not only the body of a doctor that is on the line but all of Planned Parenthood, as the wackadoodles in the US Senate attempt to defund the entire organization.

Elizabeth Warren, bless her, gave a fiery speech on the Senate floor in which she asked the Republican Senators “Did you fall down, hit your head and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

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By this point, I have to say that those don’t seem like rhetorical questions. It seems as if yes, in fact, a large segment of this country is living–or would like to live– in some putative golden age when the only people in the United States with rights are white people who can’t get pregnant, ever.

Welcome to the age of Not Mattering. Non-white bodies don’t seem to matter that much; bodies of people who can get pregnant don’t seem to matter that much; bodies of anyone outside a very narrow demographic swath don’t seem to matter that much.

When my friends and I joined marches for reproductive rights decades ago–decades–we never imagined that now, well into middle age (dear god, how did we get to middle age?),  we would be fighting the same fight, helping our (much wanted) sons and daughters fight the same fight, wondering why on earth people are still so afraid of women controlling their own reproductive choices.

The marvelous Katha Pollitt writes “the whole society benefits when motherhood is voluntary,” and she’s right.

Six years ago, watching the vigil for Dr Tiller, I thought “surely things can’t get any worse.” And while for the Tiller family, that’s probably the truth, I’m wondering how much worse things are going to get for the rest of us.

 

 

 

My column about Dr. Tiller was collected in a volume edited by the marvelous Joanne Bamberger, called Mothers of Intention

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Continue Reading · on August 6, 2015 in Children, family, Feminism, Gender, Kids, Parenting, Politics, ranting

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