As the high school gym filled with people, the room got noisier and noisier: people chatting, the squeak of metal as folks shifted in folding chairs, iPhone alerts, a kid laughing as she climbed the bleachers. Then another sound rose above the rest: People singing. From all over the gym, others joined in. Within moments, the nearly 2,000 people who had gathered for this town hall meeting were singing “This Land is Your Land.”
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me
I have no idea who started singing—it wasn’t a staffer from Senator Ron Wyden‘s office, I’m pretty sure. Rather, the inspiration seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. I hadn’t thought of this song since I was a kid, and I’m actually surprised I remembered the words.
But maybe I remember them because deep down, this song represents something fundamental about America. The country is made up of diversity—both in its land and geography as well as its people. And as this Woody Guthrie classic makes clear, America includes us all.
Just like I realized one day that I no longer have a baby—holy shit, she is a toddler—I recently realized my linea nigra is gone.
That dark line that snaked from my belly button on down disappeared in an equal but opposite proportion to the growth of my baby. In almost imperceptible ways, Kiwi got bigger day by day. She rolled over. She sat up. She crawled. And now, somehow, she grins and peeks around the kitchen island at me, itching for me to chase her down the hall.
Likewise, my linea nigra faded bit by bit, and I didn’t notice until it was gone. I was busy with other things, I guess—things like, you know, doing my damnedest to keep my new family of four alive. More recently, being a mother of two has felt easier, or at least less heartbreakingly hard. So it makes sense that I only now registered its absence.
This week, my kids and I pulled on rain gear and headed into Portland at my kids’ witching hour. I ignored my better judgment that it was a terrible idea to go into public during the time when they’re usually screaming at the table because they want each other’s forks. The cause for throwing my caution to the wind: a candlelight vigil demonstrating our support for refugees.
I’m horrified that our federal government is upending this country’s foundational principle of welcoming people from overseas. Yet while an inclusive message is literally chiseled into our country’s most iconic symbol, America also has a long history of excluding people those in power deem to be too “other.”
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
My heart breaks for those who have been affected by President Trump’s immigration and refugee ban. I also fear for those who have already made it to the U.S., because despite living through harrowing circumstances to get here, they face an uncertain future—again.
So with these “tempest-tossed” individuals and families in mind, I pushed aside my comparatively minor anxieties around rain and low blood sugar-induced tantrums. My girls and I showed up at the vigil to demonstrate to everyone that we, too, say, “Refugees welcome here.”
When Kiwi was born, she started talking—not crying—from the moment the midwife placed her on my chest. I thought her beginning moments would be a sign of another loquacious child, like her older sister Peeper, who says things like “lactobacillus acidophilus” without batting an eye.
Yet as another example proving that siblings are anything but identical, Kiwi grew into a toddler who barely spoke. She relied on grunting and pointing more than anything else. But now, as she turns 19 months old, she is communicating more—through expressive grunts, pointing, sign language and a few words—a mixture that makes up her own language.
A while back, I’d had a hard day: Kiwi had hardly slept, and I was tired. So tired. It was nice outside but I’d been at my computer all day, so I strapped her in the carrier, leashed up Finn and went for a walk. I decided to call my grandma.
She answered with a wary, “Hello?”
“Hi Grandma, it’s Sweet Dolly,” I said, using the nickname she gave me when I was little. She must not have my number programmed into her cell.
My grandmother immediately recounted her day—how she was watching boring TV, that she had walked along the beach in the Gulf like always and didn’t even need a heavy jacket, that the big log in the fire helped heat her house, that tomorrow was bread ministry, that she was dubbed the Potato Lady because she always served the spuds at the church soup kitchen. The details from her quiet life spilled out as if they’d been just waiting for someone to call and listen.
Then—almost out of nowhere—she said, “Thank you for remembering me!” She was nearly in tears.
Her outsized gratitude nearly broke my heart. And her gratitude was an important reminder to cherish your loved ones.
The other day, as my kids were scream-fighting over a bouncy ball and I was hiding behind the kitchen island/taking a lie-down on the floor, I realized I had not been beyond a one-block radius of my house in seven days. Here I was, getting a very close-up view of all the crumbs along the baseboards, because I hadn’t done anything outside the home in a week. I know I’m not the only rainy day stir-crazy mom out there, so for all y’all desperate parents, I thought I’d put together a resource list of indoor kids activities in Portland, Oregon and the Portland metro area.
Many of these places we have tried; others I can’t wait to visit. And there are indoor kids activities in this overflowing-with-fun list for just about every flavor: activities for toddlers, preschoolers, big kids—and even parents who may or may not want a mimosa on a weekday. (Hey-o!)
Arts studios that will clean up mashed clay for you? Check.
Restaurants that include play places (and aren’t McDonald’s)? Check.
Gyms that encourage your kids to literally climb the walls? Check.
These indoor kids activities in Portland equal your sanity-saving plan for all the rainy, snowy, sleety weather we still have to endure. Winter, eat your heart out, ’cause this family is now prepared with plenty of indoor family activities that don’t include lying facedown on the floor.
On Tuesday, as Senator Elizabeth Warren was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King in opposition to the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell invoked an obscure rule to silence her. “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” McConnell later said. Democrats were outraged; Senator Warren continued reading the letter on Facebook live, which has been watched by more than 11.6 million people (and counting).
The phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted” became a feminist rallying cry overnight.
Observers can’t help but notice that Senator Warren was silenced, but majority leaders allowed democratic senator from Oregon Jeff Merkley—a man—finish it uninterrupted. And although Warren was silenced on the Senate floor, she persisted.
Her persistence—her grit—should be admirable to anyone on either side of the aisle. I sure hope my girls will look to examples like hers as a role model of persevering in the face of opposition, whether it be sexism, oppression or just the everyday difficulties that make us stumble. Read more