Monthly Archives: April 2014

Ten Things Tuesday

No matter how many times I go to DC, I always find that I’m never there long enough.  Here are ten things we did on our trip this time:

1.  Starting with the last bit first, we ended our trip at the National Portrait Gallery.


I had never been – I KNOW; I can’t believe it, either! – and I’m SO glad we went.  There was a lot to take in, but my favorite bit was rounding the corner to see this guy;


Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you my favorite Revolutionary War badass, Henry Knox.

Mr. Knox was a Chief Artillery Officer in George Washington’s Continental Army.  After the Continentals took Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, Knox suggested to his friend Washington that the fort’s cannon might be useful in breaking the Siege of Boston, so Washington sent Knox to retrieve the arms.  Knox and his crew reached the fort on December 5th, 1775 and commenced to haul some  60 tons of cannon and other armaments by boat, horse and ox-drawn sledges over a 300 mile trek through some pretty rugged terrain (let’s recall we’re talking 1775 here, People; no interstates – or even real roads – to speak of, AND in the middle of the opening of shitty weather season in this part of the world).  Knox arrived in Cambridge on January 27th, 1776, and the armaments he provided helped to free Boston from British occupation.  The Noble Train of Artillery, as Knox’s amazing logistical feat came to be known, is still considered one of the Continental Army’s great successes, and it is one of my FAVORITE Revolutionary War stories.

Dork that I am, I didn’t even need to read the accompanying information card to know who this is and what he did, and I caught other museum visitors listening in as I gleefully recounted Knox’s adventures to my daughters (again).


2.  The MLK Memorial.


We drove in the first day we were there, though in hindsight, that may have been a poor decision on our part (we took the Metro for the rest of the week).  The parking spot we found was on the far side of the MLK memorial, so we walked through on our way to our destination, which was…


3.  Ford’s Theatre.  Mr. Chili and I had gone to Ford’s Theatre many, many years ago, but the girls had never been, so that was our first official stop.


The museum part of the building wasn’t opening until later than we wanted to stay, so we got tickets for the play that they put on a few times a day and called it a win.  The play was very well done; it was a meditation/imagining of what the actors in the playhouse were thinking and feeling in the days immediately after Lincoln’s assassination, and was by turns moving and rueful; there was a lot of “what if” in the play, and I felt the actors did a good job of conveying the frustration, anger, and grief that the people they were portraying must have felt.


4.  The Udvar-Hazy Center


We spent the whole afternoon of our first day here.  It’s an annex of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and even for someone like me (who’s not especially enamored of machinery), it’s a really cool place.  They have the Enola Gay, a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery in the exhibits, and even though visitors can’t go in the aircraft, we can get close enough to see the rivets in the skins.  Mr. Chili adores the place, and since it really is kind of cool, we girls don’t mind spending time there.


5.  The American History Museum.

6a00e553a80e108834017ee66e98f5970d-500wiEdith Wilson’s 1915 evening dress  image credit

It seems that I always end up here.  I’ve seen the First Ladies’ dresses exhibit a number of times, but I never get tired of it.  There are a lot of great things in this museum that I never get around to (I’ve only seen the Ruby Slippers once), but I always feel like I’ve missed something if I don’t go through the dress exhibit.


6.  National Gallery of Art.

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I learned something on this trip.  I had always assumed that the National Gallery of Art was a Smithsonian outfit, but it’s not.  I learned this because I bought a membership to the Smithsonian while I was at the Udvar-Hazy Center on Tuesday, and I tried to use my sparkly new membership card to get a discount at the National Gallery gift shop, where they politely informed me that the were NOT a Smithsonian museum.  Huh.  Who knew?  Not I.

Anyway, we had lunch here after the American History Museum (we often have lunch here; I’m not sure why) and then we made our way to my favorite exhibit; the Massachusetts 54th Memorial:


The bronze of this is across the street from the State House at the top of the Commons in Boston, and whenever I’m in the neighborhood, I go and have another look at it.  I love the complexity of the piece, and I have a particular place in my heart for the story and the people it commemorates.



7.  The National Air and Space Museum

After getting our fill of fine art, we trekked across the Mall and into the Air and Space Museum.  Mr. Chili went off to look at all the space flight stuff (because, you know, that’s what he does) and the girls and I ducked into a movie in the planetarium (narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson!).


The chairs are reclined (to get a better view of the domed screen, of course) which made it difficult not to fall asleep.  I discovered that afternoon that Mr. Tyson’s voice is very soothing…


8.  The National Zoo.

I have a love/hate relationship with zoos.

I love them because they offer me a chance to see critters that I would never, ever see in the course of my life.  Let’s be honest, the most exotic thing I’m likely to spy is a moose, really, so being able to see real live zebras and elephants and lions (and pandas!) is kind of a big deal.

10246306_10152378167014885_7116807540601207167_n(Yeah; it’s a stone lion from the entry gates.  Sue me; this was the best picture I got on my phone and Mr. Chili hasn’t uploaded his camera pictures yet)

That being said, the “hate” comes from the knowledge that these beautiful, wild creatures live in pens that are far too small (no matter how big they are) and in climates for which they are ill suited.

I have yet to come to terms with my warring feelings about zoos, but this one was lovely.  It was clean, the animals seemed well cared for, and there’s some significant research and outreach happening in association with the National Zoo.  I suppose, if we’re going to keep wild things in zoos, we should keep them as the Smithsonian does.


9.  The World War II Memorial

I love this memorial precisely because there are outfits whose sole purpose is to bus veterans in to visit the site every day.  As we walked by on our way to Ford’s Theatre on our first full day in the city, we saw literally dozens of veterans being helped into the memorial and, knowing that we’re fast losing this generation to old age, it was gratifying to see them.


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We also passed a British school trip (all the kids looked so cute in their matching uniforms!).  As we were walking by, one of the teachers asked the kids about what e pluribus unum meant.  One little boy practically dislocated his shoulder raising his hand, and as he blurted out the English translation of the motto, Bean observed under her breath that we’re kind of doing a shitty job with the whole “out of many, one” thing lately.  God, I love that kid.


10.  Everything from home to DC and back again.

The Chili family has figured out that we’re pretty good at car trips.  My husband is a great trip planner; before we get in the car, he’s printed out maps, (note with circles and directions to where we’re going to stop for lunch and gas along the way) so we’ve got a good idea of what to expect.  Observe:


I load up the car with snacks, the girls bring books and games, we set Pandora to a station we can all agree on, and away we go.  It is my custom on this trip (which we’ve taken several times now) to snap a picture of the Tappan Zee Bridge on our way through.  This is the homeward-bound side.  We’re still a long way from home here – I feel like we’re finally close to home when the road signs start mentioning Boston –  but the bridge feels like a ceremonial halfway point.1558523_10152382337599885_7925827047650325341_n


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Anchors Away!

The Chili family is hoisting figurative sail for Washington DC this morning.  The maps are printed, the car is packed, and everyone has gone to pee.  Away we go!


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PostSecret Sunday

Nearly every Sunday, there’s a PostSecret that resonates with me.  This week, it was this one:


It was followed by this message, which is exactly what I would have said:

With the injustices and corruption in this world, perhaps law school is exactly where we need heroes.

We need more heroes.  We need them in schools and in law offices and in city halls.  I’m convinced that a lot of us have heroes’ hearts, we’re just afraid to use them.  I want to stop being afraid.

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Bye Bye, Toeses

I loved Toeses all the way out this morning.  It was a good passing.


Godspeed, Buddy; you take all our love with you.

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Thought for Thursday

Today is a good news / bad news kind of day.

Today is, by my reckoning (since we didn’t write it down), Toeses’ 22nd birthday.


Today is also the day that we decided that we’re going to have to give him back to the Universe sometime very soon, as in maybe tonight or tomorrow.

When I got up this morning, Poor Baby was lying on the bathroom floor next to the water dish (which is, as most cat parents can attest, a universally bad sign).  As I was getting ready for my shower, he struggled to his feet (which was painful to watch), managed to hobble into the corner between the tub and the wall and proceeded to pee.  I didn’t stop him; the box is all the way downstairs, and I’d rather he peed on the linoleum than the carpet (or hurt himself trying to get back down the stairs).  As I was cleaning it up, he struggled back to the water dish and took an excruciatingly long time to lie back down.

I carried him downstairs to his favorite spot under the windows in the family room, and that’s where he was when I returned home from work this afternoon.  He can barely stand on his own and just gives the impression of being done.

We’re going to be leaving for DC on Monday, and I can’t bear the thought of Sweet Pea, who’s agreed check on Toeses while we’re gone, having to deal with his passing.  He’s to the point now where he shouldn’t be alone for more than a couple of hours, and it’s not fair to ask Sweet Pea to give hospice care.  We’ll make him comfortable tonight (he’s got sleeping pills that I can give him) and make arrangements with the vet tomorrow.

I hate this part.


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Ruminations on Parenting

So, the other day, Bean and I decided to take advantage of the first really nice day since October to go for a walk.  She was on her way to a three-day field trip the next morning and needed some supplies to contribute to the community meals, so we grabbed the backpack and headed for the grocery store.

On our way there, we talked about a lot of things.  We talked about school (natch; hers and mine), we talked about how excited she was to take this trip (which, I’m thrilled to say, was just about everything she hoped it would be), and we talked about some of her concerns about the privacy she feels she needs but doesn’t get on account of the open-door policy at Chez Chili and the fact that she shares a room with her often overbearing sister.

That was all on the way to the store.

After our shopping was done, we made back for home.  Before we even got out of the parking lot, Bean told me that she thought I was a great mom, and that she had no idea what she would do without the relationship that we share.

Allow me to pause for a moment to say that the was, for all intents and purposes, out of the blue.  We weren’t being particularly mushy or sentimental; nothing had happened on the way to or in the store that would have prompted that from my younger child.

Once I caught my breath again, I thanked her for the reassurance.  Bean knows that I come from a very broken family and that being a good mom and making sure that none of the hell that has plagued my family for generations is passed through me into the future is my primary focus in life.  Truly; there is literally nothing more important to me than doing this mommy thing right.  Curious, though, I asked her what prompted that spontaneous bit of love, and she replied that, of all of her friends, she is only one of two or three girls who have strong, stable, and healthy relationships with their moms, “and even they don’t have a relationship like ours,” she said.

I told you that story to tell you this one.  My younger daughter is queer.  This is not a thing in our family; she is what she is and we love her just the same.  That sort of matter-of-fact acceptance (not ‘tolerance,’ mind you, but total and unquestioning acceptance) is something that her friends apparently do not enjoy.

One of her friends in particular is having a hard time with her parents.  This friend is questioning her gender identity, and her parents aren’t engaging with her process at all.  Bean has told me that this friend has said her parents have insisted that she abandon this “nonsense” immediately, that there is no such thing as “questioning” one’s gender, and has forbidden all talk on the subject in any context, both within and without their hearing.  Bean had put me on notice last summer that this girl may need to seek safe haven now and again in our home, and she mentioned on our walk the other day that we may need to up our proverbial alert level to orange.

I struggle mightily with the idea that a parent can deny their own child the support that they need for something that is so primary to that child’s very identity.  I mean, I get that gender and sexuality issues are often difficult for people to comprehend, but is it not the loving and right thing to do to figure out how to work through your own issues as a parent so that you can be there to give your child the foundation and support they need as they figure out who they really are?  I mean, isn’t that your job as a parent?

I fear that this kid is going to end up completely rejected by her family of origin – I’ve met and had exchanges with her parents, and I wouldn’t put that kind of behavior past either one of them –  and while I can – and will – provide a safe and welcoming place for her to land when and if that happens, I know that, no matter how much love and acceptance I can layer over her, I can never undo the damage that her parents’ rejection of her very personhood will cause.


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Quick Hit: DAMN

I decide to step away, and I kind of fall off a cliff, huh?

There really hasn’t been much to report lately , but here are the highlights:

•  I’m eyebrow deep in research for my independent study thesis (I’m planning an independent, democratic high school with a mission focused on meaningful academic rigor, citizenship, and social justice) and in grading (really, REALLY bad) analysis papers from my students.

• The weather broke (at least, for the moment).  It’s been above 60° for the last few days, and tomorrow’s supposed to hit 70°, but it’s going back into the 50’s for the later part of next week.

•  The Chilis are planning a trip to DC in two weeks.  I was really, really hoping to get to Florida so we could try to see Gerry again, but that fell through (the time when Mr. Chili should have been planning the trip coincided with the time we were planning and celebrating Father Chili’s memorial service).  I’m hoping to plan at least an hour or two to spend with Gerry this summer; I miss him too much.

That’s about it.  Research and grading, trying to emerge from the fog and funk of winter, and planning a trip.  What have YOU been up to?


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