"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, June 21, 2015

a visit to Jamestown Settlement

We have Big Plans this summer: We are going to (finally!) check things off the To Do lists we've been adding to for the past few years. We are so lucky to live within driving distance of so many places that hold environmental, cultural, and historical significance...many of which we've never been to. This is the time to start exploring them: the kids are still young enough to go along with our summer plans instead of making their own, but they're old enough to have the stamina and the attention span to make these trips worth it...and relatively easy.

So we were off on our way to Get Out and Do The Things...what better place to start than right where our country began?

On Saturday, we visited Jamestown Settlement, America's first permanent colony, near Williamsburg, Virginia.

We entered the building, purchased our tickets, watched a quick introductory video, and were eager to get started. Before we could get to the heart of the tour, though, we passed this super cool temporary exhibit with British military uniforms from throughout history....from the time of the British colonists in America all the way up to present day warfare in Afghanistan. It was worth a stop.

He read every word on each sign.
Cutie with armor from James Fort 

The museum itself was amazing. We learned all about life in the early 1600's in America, Africa, and England and how the lives of these three groups of people converged in Virginia, in a way that would ultimately shape the foundations of our country. We learned about the men and boys who boarded the fleet of three ships (the Discovery, the Godspeed, and the Susan Constant) in England in late 1606. We learned of their harrowing 4+ month journey from England, to Africa, through the Caribbean, and finally to the coast of Virginia in April 1607.

And then, it was time to jump into history and explore life in the settlement for ourselves.

There were three areas to explore around the Settlement.  
We started at James Fort, home of the colonists:

Throughout the Settlement, people in period costume provided stories and information about life in Jamestown. The first man we met was a leather-worker. We watched as he prepared the leather and twine and he answered the (many) questions my kids had for him. (He also listened patiently as Evan and Max regaled him with facts and trivia that was, at best, tangentially related to what he was actually talking about. "You know, gunpowder was actually invented in Ancient China." "A baby fox is called a kit!")

We explored a church, shop, forge, and several residences... 

We played ring toss in the yard...

...and we played with cannons, too. As you do when in a Fort.

And if you're going to be playing with weapons, you'd better protect yourself.

We left the Fort and walked through the gardens, heading toward the pier where two of the ships were docked.

We climbed aboard (a replica of) the Susan Constant. Okay, disclaimer: I am NOT a boat person. But I am a Brave Mommy. I took a deep breath and walked the plank (fine, it was a ramp) up to the boat. It was tiny...especially considering that 71 people spent more than four months on board. 

The kids had fun exploring the cabins (and calling to the people below deck...)

...but I was feeling extremely claustrophobic. So I hurried on through the self-guided tour and made it back to the pier. Sam and the kids took a quick peek on board the Godspeed, but it was even smaller than the Susan Constant, so I took a pass. (Kinda Brave Mommy?)

From the dock we continued on our way through the third section of the Settlement: 
the Powhatan Village.

Evan studied Native Americans in school this year and Max is practically a Pocahontas expert, so I knew this area would be a hit. The best part of these recreations throughout the Settlement is how hands-on it all is.

The kids practiced scraping the deer hide...

...digging out a canoe...

...grinding corn meal...

...and getting up close and personal with the wall decor...

There were several yehakins to explore...

...each filled with pelts and shells and bones to feel...

...and nets, traps, pottery,  clothing, and jewelry to talk about...to inspire little minds to really imagine what life would have been like for Pocahontas or Chief Powhatan.

Like in the Fort, there were costumed employees giving demonstrations, asking and answering questions, and really bringing the scene to life. 

Resident Chef

Arrowhead Expert
It was a great day.
We had seen it all...had a picnic lunch...visited the Gift Shop...and all with three happy kids in tow.

But the day wasn't over yet.

Oh, no. We had timed our return trip home to coincide perfectly with Beach Traffic. We needed to find an alternate route to avoid the highway and...as luck would have it...there was one!

All we had to do was to get onto a ferry.

Yup. Another boat for Brave Mommy to "happily" climb aboard and "not-at-all-nervously" ride across the river.

It actually wasn't that bad. This was my view for most of the 20 minute ride...

...and this was it for about two of them...

We happened to pass the third boat from the Jamestown Settlement, the Discovery, as it was cruising the river.


Lesson Learned:

It was hot and sweaty and almost three hours of walking, but the kids had a blast. That's some pretty high praise for a day trip. Plus, I love the idea that we're taking advantage of this historically rich place we live...staying, playing, and learning local. What could be better?

Jamestown Settlement? CHECK! Next stop...I'll let you know!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why I Talked To My 8-year old About Charleston

Horror, sadness, and hopelessness gripped my heart, as it did to so many others, as I read the news this morning. Horror at the gruesome nature of this act of terror. Sadness for the victims and their families. Hopelessness for the state of our country...that this violence and bloodshed and hatred is becoming commonplace.

I was filled with these emotions...but not fear. In the wake of today's massacre, I am not afraid for my own safety, nor for the safety of my children. I am not so naive to think that nothing bad could ever happen to us; surely terrible things happen everyday. But I am white. I live in a comfortable, upper-middle class neighborhood. I am not afraid. But so many mothers' hearts were filled with fear this morning. Because they are Black.

I thought of the conversations that were happening in the homes of these mothers this morning. Heartbroken mothers telling their children, again, that they have reason to fear...just because of the color of their skin. In 2015. In the United States of America. They have a reason to be afraid. They had a reason to talk to their young children about the nine lives that were taken, so tragically, so horrifically, last night.

And because they did, so did I.

Racial hatred and violence is not a "Black America" issue. This is a "human being" issue. One that we have to acknowledge and address. My children, because they are white, do not know the fear that some of their classmates and neighbors know and, while I'm thankful for that, I'm not okay with that. I'm not okay with my children not knowing that racial violence in this country still exists. I'm not okay with my children thinking that We Have Overcome. We haven't. But someday, we can.

This morning, after I wiped my tears and busied my 3- and 5-year olds with a water table on the patio, I sat down next to my 8-year old.

"I want to tell you about something that happened in Charleston, South Carolina last night," I began. "It's a scary and sad story, so if you want me to stop, just tell me. If you have any questions, you can ask them whenever you need to."

I went on to tell him what happened...just the facts as I could piece them together from the various news accounts I'd read. He listened, making eye-contact the entire time, which is rare for him. He was really listening.

I continued, "I don't know why this young man did this horrible thing. I don't know what thoughts were going through his head, but I can tell you this: For some reason, his sick brain believed that he was better than the people in that church last night. He believed that their lives did not matter as much as his own life....he thought that the lives of Black people do not matter. I want you to know that they do. All lives matter. It doesn't matter where you live or how much money you have. It doesn't matter if you believe in God or what language you speak. It doesn't matter what color your skin is. Baby, listen: Black lives matter, every life is important. And this sick, sad, hate-filled man took away nine Important Lives."

Because he continued to just look at me, wide-eyed, I went on...

"Listen: I'm sad today. But I'm not scared. I think, if I were African American, I might be scared this morning. And that's why I'm telling you this. It's not fair that some families have to be scared today just because they are Black. I hope that, someday, that fear will go away."

He nodded. And looked down...deep in thought.

"Do you have any questions?"

He shook his head. I'm sure, in good time, as is his way, the questions will come. Regardless, the conversation will continue.


I talked to my 8-year old about the Charleston terror attack because:

--he recites lessons learned from school with words like "a long, long time ago...back in the olden days...Black people and white people were treated differently. But Martin Luther King Jr. fixed all that when he gave his speeches." It wasn't that long ago, and little has been "fixed."

--I wanted him to see me cry for the nine people who were killed: men, women, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons.

--he's not too young to know that all lives matter. Black Lives Matter.

Lesson Learned:
Gun control. Mental health support. Love. Peace. Kindness. Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My First Time: A BlogU Recap

Over the past month or so I'd given myself the same morale-boosting pep talk dozens of times: "I know it's scary, but you can Do This! You can learn from experts! You can talk to people who are passionate about the same things you are! You can FIND YOUR TRIBE!"

I was preparing myself mentally and emotionally for my first Blog Conference. I was about to step out as a Blogger, to begin this new chapter in my life as something more than just Mommy. It was my debutante ball of sorts, but with less High Society and more Middle School Awkward.

I was scared to death.

Besides the worry over the talking and the listening and the learning and the networking keeping me up at night, I was also nervous to leave my babies. I'd never spent two nights away from my kids. I knew they'd be fine without me. I'd miss them more than they'd miss me, but still: It was going to be hard.

Then, after weeks of worry and nervous anticipation, it was the first weekend in June and I was there on a small, beautiful campus in Baltimore, ready to Get Schooled, ready to Take My Blog Beyond, ready to find my Tribe. Ready...or not.

I started the first afternoon by attending an informative and helpful workshop on Writing and Editing. Taught by experienced bloggers, writers, and editors, it was a crash course on when you may need to hire the services of a professional editor and what you can expect the process to be like.

I headed from there over to a class called Mastering Pinterest. It was exactly what it promised to be: A How-To course on the secrets and tricks to conquering the Pinterest algorithm to drive traffic to your site. Taught by the Queen of Pinterest herself (she must be, she's a Pinterest genius), the course provided real-life tips on making your posts pinnable and your pins searchable. It was great ready-to-apply information that could make a difference in your blog traffic immediately...if you're ready to Master Pinterest, that is. I have an account. I think I've pinned five things and they're all my own articles. I know that's not how you Do Pinterest, but I don't get Pinterest. I don't want to get it, yet I furiously scribbled notes during the class, believing that to be the Blogger I want to be, I'd better figure out the Pinterest Beast, and fast.

I left the session feeling completely overwhelmed. Add to that the fact that I still wasn't sure how, exactly, one goes about "finding her tribe," and the fact that I stayed up way too late listening to brilliant writers read the best of their best, and the fact that I woke up way too early for not having a 3-year old in my bed and two bigger boys whispering in my ear that "It's morning! Let's go downstairs, please, Mommy! Now, Mommy!" and I just lost my shit.

It was 5am on Saturday morning, with most of the weekend still stretched out before me, and I sat on my bed and cried. I called my husband: "I don't belong here! I don't want to Master Pinterest! I don't wanna find my tribe! I already have one and I miss you guys...I want to come home!" Sam reassured me that he and the kids were, somehow, managing to survive in my absence and that I should NOT come home. "You'll be glad you stayed once it's over," he said. "Just stick it out and don't try to be something you're not. If you don't want to Master Pinterest, you don't have to. Just try to have fun."

So I put my brave face back on and went to breakfast.

On Saturday, I learned a few things:

I don't have to Master Pinterest. I don't have to build a Facebook community or have a Fans of my Blog Page. I don't have to become a brand....but if and when I choose to, I'll know what to do and how to do it. All I have to be is authentic. That's it. That's enough. The women who organized the conference and who taught us what they've learned about Blogging as a Business, Making Money as a Writer, using Instagram, and Building Your Book from an idea to a hard copy you can hold in your hands, know exactly what they're talking about. These women are smart, driven, hard-working, and highly accomplished. They're inspirational and supportive. They're also funny as hell.

I learned that I don't need a huge tribe to feel supported. I need a small circle of real friends. (I found some!) I don't need a million page views a month or for an article to "go viral" to accomplish my goal. My goal is simply to write. I learned that, if I want to write for an audience, I need to write and write and write and to submit and submit and submit. I can do that. I want to do that. I don't have to do more than that...I don't have to BE more than that.

But I'm keeping my notes on Pinterest...just in case I change my mind. That shit was gold.

Lesson Learned:
I did it. I saw the boundaries of my comfort zone and I stepped over the line into uncharted territory. I defined my goals: I want to write. It's as simple as that.

One of my favorite lines of the weekend came not from a session but from the lunch table: My friend Jen said (and I'm paraphrasing here because I had put my notebook away), "If you're going to be a writer, you're going to have to hustle. Might as well hustle for something you're passionate about." I'm not passionate about becoming a brand. But I'm ready to hustle for my writing.

I'm glad I went. I'm glad I stayed. I'm glad Nickelodeon hosted the Saturday night party because, damn: I haven't danced to Sir Mix a Lot or The Bangles in way too long.

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This post has been syndicated by WIRL Project.

"WIRL Project is an edgy blogging and microblogging platform where real people confess and share life and what it’s really like (WIRL)." 

You can find this post here, but spend a few minutes checking out the site. You're going to like what you see.