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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

Traveling with Toddlers

The first time I traveled from the US overseas with a four-year old, I packed cans of soup.

Yes, soup.

That’s what he ate. He was three, wildly underweight for his age, and he was my first kid. I happily paid the baggage surcharge in exchange for knowing that I’d be able to feed my child. (Second child had to more or less fend for himself, but that’s another story.)

Yes, my bag was ridiculously heavy (although it was lighter on the return), and yes, I realized after we arrived in London that Campbell’s chicken-noodle soup is available in most major grocery stores.

And yes, the toddler grew out of it.

But apparently, TrumpyTrump hasn’t. Check this story from The Guardian about Trump’s travel plans for his “big foreign trip,” which include making sure that steak-and-ketchup are served at each formal dinner.

When we went to London, the toddler (mine, not the one that belongs to the United States) also talked about his “big trip” and he carefully packed a little bag to bring on the plane: two Star Wars figures, his blankie, a small beanbag teddy bear, and a glow-stick necklace.

My inflight bag contained sticker books, lollipops, a lift-the-flap counting book, several small “surprises” to unwrap (mostly Hotwheels cars), and assorted crayons and paper.

In this picture of The Big Toddler and his nanny wife, it doesn’t look like Melania is carrying a bag–or even has a pocket (or could even sit down in that skirt, which is about two shades off from the toddlers “tan”).

 

photo from The Guardian

I’m hoping she’s got supplies stashed on the plane: jumbo bottles of ketchup, a few sticker books, perhaps a match-the-foreign-leader-name-to-the-face coloring book, maybe a connect-the-dots map of the world? Otherwise it’s gonna be a long flight–and it’s no fun trying to deal with a toddler’s temper tantrums when you’re 38,000 feet in the air and seven hours from landing.

Bon voyage, kids. Have fun. I’m pretty sure they sell ketchup in Riyadh.

Continue Reading · on May 20, 2017 in Children, expat, Kids, Politics, Travel

How do we raise “global citizens” ?

“Global citizen” is a phrase I’m hearing a lot lately. That’s what we’re all supposed to be aiming towards–at least, those of us who didn’t vote for “Brexit” or aren’t in favor of the Trumpian wall.  It’s what is supposed to happen when you move to another country and raise your kids outside their “own” culture (whatever that means); it’s supposed to be what happens to the so-called “third culture kids.”

I have my doubts, sometimes, about whether this global citizenship thing is really possible. That’s what I’m writing out this week in the World Moms Network and you can check it out here. Let me know what you think: is global citizenship possible? And if so, how do we create that mindset?

Continue Reading · on July 6, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Children, Education, growing up, Kids, World Moms Blog

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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