24 January 2017

I am a Woman

It's hard to distinguish between what is morally right and what is cultural tradition sometimes.  I find this particularly true just now as I contemplate what it is to be a woman - both personally and collectively.  Mostly I look around me in this world of marching and pussy hats and Facebook posts about the sanctity of motherhood and see so many sides that feel in conflict with one another about what a woman is, or what a woman should be.  What I find so bizarre about all this is that I don't see the need for this conflict.  It feels like both sides are pulling on false opposites.

All the same, it has me thinking - what does being a woman actually look like and feel like for me?  This is in no way an attempt to universalize the female experience, but for me - being a woman looks and feels a bit like this:

1. It feels like pencil skirts and hot red lipstick.  I have a mad obsession with fashion from the 30s-60s.  I hate wearing heels most of the time (I teach.) but when I get the excuse, man I love the way I look.  I'm a short, not terribly curvy girl, so the chance to show off my calves (that I am oddly proud of) is awesome.  What the rest of my body lacks in curves my lips make up for in spades.  I love the way I look in red lipstick.  A lot.  (I have a Lady Mary streak, ok?!)

2. It feels like a battleground.  Against people who dismiss contrary emotion as PMS.  Against those who seek to define how I define myself.  Who, for example, assume I will quit my job to raise my family (that I don't currently and may never have.)  Who assume that when I get married, I will move wherever my husband's job takes him and take his last name (because the possibility choosing not to marry/choosing to marry but not take a new last name is unfathomable.)  Against those who take to the internet in vicious "mommy wars" and seek to define the "right" kind of mothering.  Against media attention on the right kind of woman and wrong kind of woman.  Against religious culture on the right kind of woman and wrong kind of woman.  Against governments made up primarily of men who want to make laws dictating how women can or can't control their choices, especially when it comes to their own body.  Against myself and my own doubts on where the line between feeling inspired about something and being an all out rebellious sinner begins and ends.

3. It feels like an adventure. I grew up surrounded by a myriad of amazing female role models.  I had wonderful real women (my mom, my grandmothers, my aunts, a host of amazing teachers).  I had fictional women and girls (Anne Shirley, the March sisters, Hermione Granger, Winnie Foster, Fern Arable, Heidi, Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox, Wendy Darling, Harriet Welsch) who were strong and creative and determined in a huge variety of ways.  For my creative mind growing up, everything felt possible if I had enough nerve.  I still feel that way.  I've never felt limited in possibility by virtue of my gender.

4. It feels a little lost.  Looking at government representation, church representation, Biblical representation and seeing so few examples of women in leadership.  "But!" I hear.  "The woman is most powerful in the home!  That is where she belongs!"  "But!" The other side screams.  "What if that home is like mine?  What if it has no children?  No spouse?  What if it has those things and the woman has great talents and gifts to share?"  It feels tugged in frustrating directions and obligations.  It feels confused about what is culture and what is doctrine.  (Is a woman's place in the home because Puritan tradition has always said that to be so, or because that is what God wants?  Because if that's what God wants, I'm definitely not interested in spending eternity in a maternity ward, any more than I'm interested in sitting around playing the harp forever.  And if I'm not happy with that vision of eternity, is that because I'm sinful and can't see the truth and beauty of that existence, or because the vision and culture that suggest it are flawed?)  It is full of questions about what I want and what God wants for me and how to somehow combine those forces for good.  Somewhere in of all this mess of confusion is an example of womanhood I can strive to reach for.  Somewhere there is a vision of the divine that is pure and can encompass the wide variety of desires, interests, and abilities that are inherent in our individual worth.  God help me find it.

5. It feels like compassion.  It feels like sleeping with my kitty purring while she sprawls over my legs and being so grateful that she's warm and fed and cared for, not trying to find food and shelter outside.  It feels like smelling the top of a baby's head.  It feels like seeing women, men, children who have felt limited by their gender or race or social status or sexual orientation and reaching to help them as best I can.  Tradition has not always been kind to women, and to those who have fought and are fighting to extend basic human rights to women - my heart is full of gratitude and admiration.  Tradition has not always been kind to minorities of so many varieties, but the internet makes it easier, so much easier, for people to have a voice.  Being a woman to me means a duty to listen, to feel, to ask that question "what would this be like" before I clam up with "I've never felt like that."

6. It feels like hard work.  Because while I have not felt harmfully limited by my gender, so many around the world have.  Women who are told what to wear and when to wear and how to wear their clothing (or face not just social pressures but political retaliation.)  Women who face genital mutilation, rape, inadequate access to feminine hygiene products.  Women forced into marriages they don't want and sex they don't want and children they don't want.  It feels like a long way to go to help my sisters feel not just safe, but wanted.

7. It is an honor.  There are many elements of being a woman that are hard, are uncomfortable, are painful, are frustrating.  But there are many, so many, that I find beautiful and inspiring and full of opportunity.  I find this time in which I live so empowering.  Unlike so many of the women who have come before me, who have fought so hard for rights that I now enjoy, I live in a time where I can make a difference.  I am allowed to live on my own, to buy a house and car and vote without permission from a spouse.  I am allowed to attend universities and have received a great education at one of the best universities in the country.  I can travel the world unchaperoned.  If I marry, I will not have to quit my job by virtue of being married.  I can obtain safe and affordable medical care by good doctors.  I can use my voice and my influence to encourage change and better representation.  And because of these amazing luxuries, It is my honor, my great privilege, to speak up and act on behalf of those who do not yet enjoy these rights either in whole or in part.

14 October 2016

Coastal Tour

I have never lived close to water.  For most of my life I've been in a desert where closest bodies of water are small, often man-made reservoirs.  Growing up I lived near some lakes and rivers, but none worth swimming in and none close enough to enjoy on a regular basis.  Driving along the New England coastline today put another dent in my "thou shalt not covet" armor - how glorious to live by the sea!  I don't enjoy crowded beaches and surf culture, but I do enjoy the steady roll of the waves and quiet walks along the coast.  There is a kind of soul centering that happens with such a vast landscape.  I would love to live in Maine.  The exchange for bitter cold winters would be worth it.  I can handle cold.

I don't know what it is exactly about Maine that has always attracted me but I've wanted to visit for as long as I can remember and it did not disappoint.  It was every bit as charming and beautiful as you would want it to be.  Next time I come to New England, I'll need to plan much more time there.  Our original plan was to visit a city called Wiscasset, but we ended up going to Ogunquit at the recommendation of our Uber driver (Ali) from earlier in the week.  Ogunquit means "beautiful place by the sea" and it is that.  It has long been frequented by artists because of its stunning topography - I feel like we only scratched the surface of what the town had to offer.  The town was voted as the best small coastal town in America in USA Today this year - it's easy to see why.  The town has an active arts scene with an art museum and active repertory theater.  They also have the "Marginal Way", a twelve mile coastal walk along the length of the town.  We only went a fraction of the way the path offered since we still wanted to visit Salem, but walking the whole thing is on my bucket list now.  What we did see was beautiful.

One thing I love to find when I travel is local art to take home. I have a wall in my upstairs hallway where I feature art from everywhere I travel.  Today I found the addition for this trip (in the nick of time!).  It's a watercolor of the area in a repurposed barn wood frame by a local artist and I am thrilled.  I'm also glad I found no more books.  Six.  How did I find six books to take home?!  What is wrong with me?!!!  My poor suitcase.

Before going to Salem, we made a brief stop at the Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine.  There's another thing I'd love to do - a lighthouse hunt along the coast.  This lighthouse is, mercifully, wading distance to the mainland, so the keeper wouldn't have had to live too far from civilization, and in exchange, he'd have the best view in town.  Sounds like a pretty good deal, even if the exchange involved a lot of work.  Given the number of houses we drove by en route to said lighthouse that were, I'm sure, well over six figures to purchase, the work to keep the lighthouse up sounds like a fantastic trade off.

Salem hasn't ever been terribly high on my list of places to see but, given that we are here in October, it seemed like a foolish thing to miss.  For anyone who really loves Halloween, Salem would be an absolute must.  Halloween is a month long celebration here.  A massive carnival down town, costumes everywhere, even a black cat graced us with its presence while driving around.  It was an absolute circus of cars.  Salem looks like a nice enough city to live in but it would be miserable in October.  Those small New England streets just aren't meant to host that kind of insane traffic.

We managed to escape the heavy crowds by staying away from all things witch related and heading instead to the historic "House of Seven Gables" which, despite my lack of love for Nathaniel Hawthorne, turned out to be a rather interesting tour.  The Turner family who owned the house made their extreme wealth in shipping.  Although the wealth of the home didn't seem like much compared to the homes we saw yesterday in Newport, given a few hundred years of time, the Turners would have been able to compete financially with the Vanderbilts; they just didn't have the technological capability to do so.  All the same, the house was impressive and beautiful.  It was a unique tour since it told essentially three stories: the Turners, the Ingersolls, and the fictional one featured in Hawthorne's novel.  Actually, much of the house was re-purposed once a woman named Caroline Emmerton owned the house in the early 1900s so that  tourists visiting the home would see places referenced in the book (including a claustrophobia inducing secret passageway that was really up a chimney).  The tour didn't make me want to read Hawthorne, but it was still interesting and worth the time.

There is something really magical about New England.  So much of what has shaped our entire country has come from this little hive of history and philosophy and art.  You can see the weight of that feeling still permeating through the streets.  There are political signs everywhere, more than I ever saw even in Iowa during election season.  The small book store scene is alive and well, and nearly every bookstore I went in (and I went into basically every one I saw) was busy.  We saw more antique stores than Starbucks'.  Even with the tourist draw, there is a definite charm that has not been lost or sacrificed among those that live here.  Even the drivers are polite - everyone gives way to pedestrians (it's the law, but still), and cars diligently take turns and wait for others to go first.  There may be a reputation of stubbornness but there is a reality of kindness that I am so impressed by.

I think what I have loved most about this trip is that it's given me new places to love.  The more I explore the world, the more of the world I get to love.  I've been able to love the museums of Paris and the mountains of Scotland.  The bustling streets of Dublin and the West End of London.  The childhood reminiscing in Disneyland, the sheep chasing in the Lake District.  The awe inspiring beauty of the Alps, Salem Harbor, and Prince Edward Island.  I've walked the busy city streets of Victoria and figured out public transportation in Boston and Berlin.  My passport has taken me to Mexico twice, Canada once, and Europe four times in the last decade.  What a gift it is to travel.  There are some things about being single that kind of suck, but the chance to travel the world is NOT one of them.

New England - you have been perfect.  I can't wait to come explore more of you.

13 October 2016

Newport Mansions

The term "Gilded Age" was coined by Mark Twain, and it was not a compliment.  He used it to refer to what could essentially be called slapping lipstick on a pig - the tendency by the people in the era to want to be as elaborate as they possibly could.  And boy could they.

If you look at a list of the wealthiest people in history, most lists will include at least five men from the Gilded Age in the top ten.  The era lasted from roughly the end of the American Civil War and lasted through the turn of the century and refers to the incredible wealth of men like Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt who came into their money because of overwhelming business success.  Unlike men in Europe who were scrambling to hold onto wealth that was slipping through their fingertips as the Industrial Revolution took off, men in America were rolling in more money than they knew what to do with, and when you had more money than you knew what to do with, you built a home in Newport, Rhode Island.

Newport is full of mansions owned by the well-to-do of the day, and these little Versailles were especially interesting to visit after seeing the inherited wealth of England all summer.  Unlike the estate homes in England which were full of relics passed down through the centuries from family to family, these homes are full of extravagance that was the product of a few years of work.  These were homes designed to look old.  Sometimes they would have the old shipped in - one home we saw had a five hundred year old French fireplace shipped over from Europe - but for the most part, these homes are, like Versailles, designed to show off wealth.  They lived short familial home lives, though - few of them are lived in now - only two or three generations of these families have been able to really experience the grandeur of such living.  (Again, unlike the British counterparts, where many of these grand homes are still, at least in part, family homes.)

We started the day in Marble House, so named because it's got an insane amount of marble on all the walls and floors.  There was marble in colors I didn't know marble even came in.  Not all the marble was real - upstairs some of the walls are painted to look like marble, but that was really only because the family wanted the house open in time for "the season" (the summer) and the house wasn't done being constructed yet - it was just faster to get the painting done rather than wait for more stone.

As far as history goes, this house is best known as being home to Consuelo Vanderbilt, who would go on to marry the Duke of Marlborough (best known to Americans as the uncle of Winston Churchill and ancestor of Lady Diana).  It was not a happy marriage for either party - both Consuelo and the Duke had other people in mind that they would rather have been with, but both had familial obligations to fulfill: the Duke needed to marry someone who could afford to pay for the upkeep of Blenheim Palace (she could, and famously added indoor plumbing to the place), and she needed to marry someone with a title (the fashionable thing for a socialite to do). Consuelo was extremely beautiful (J.M. Barrie is said to have waited for hours just to see her get into her carriage) and talented, her artistic taste is all over Blenheim Palace and much of her story (and stories of other women like her) inspired the stories of Downton Abbey.

Marble House is an homage to the last Kings of France.  All through the house are tributes to Louis XIV and his grandson, Louis XVI (he of "married to Marie Antoinette" fame).  As in Versailles, Louis XIV is everywhere in the house - his bust greets you when you come up the main staircase, his figure features above the main mirror in the gold room off the main hall (and on the ceiling, where he vomits up light fixtures).

Marble House may have been one level of ornate, but The Breakers were insane.  There's a reason houses like that one are often used to represent Jay Gatsby.  The Breakers (so named for its proximity to the ocean) is really the second house built on the property - the first mysteriously burned down.  As a result, the new home is built with no wooden structural pieces at all and the broiler is kept far away from the main structure of the house.  It was owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt - the center of the Newport social scene.  The mansion contains seventy rooms and many technological innovations that Europeans could only have dreamed of under similar living conditions - electricity for one, running water for another.  There were buttons on the walls that could be used to call specific places around the house (similar to an intercom system) and enough bathrooms for everyone to enjoy a hot bath whenever they wanted.

That kind of wealth is just unfathomable to me.  One Vanderbilt described such inherited wealth as being as dangerous as cocaine.  Another talked about how horrified she was when she found out about her status as an heiress; she was worried no one would love her for anything other than her money.  I think, when it comes down to it, I feel like Anne Shirley when she visits the city for the first time - that she'd like the chance to live in wealth for a while, but that ultimately she'd like the sound of the brook behind her house more than the sound of tinkling china. Having enough money to not have to worry about money - that's all I want.

We spent so much time wandering the houses that we completely forgot about lunch - plus we got off to a bit of a late start, partly because we slept in, partly because mom dropped her phone in the toilet, partly because mom also lost her ticket to the mansions somewhere on the walk from the car (her back pocket was cursed today), so we went straight to dinner after we were done with The Breakers.  We went to a restaurant on the waterfront as recommended by a travel website I found called "The Mooring" and it was utterly divine.  Rick Steves says that coming home with the most money is not the goal of travel - coming home with the most experience is, and sometimes the best way to get that experience is through freakishly awesome food.  I got fresh sole (fish) topped with a crab cake and arugula, along with some golden Yukon potatoes.  If I'm ever asked what I want my last meal to be. . . I think that's what I want.  It was divine.

In general, exploring Newport was utterly delightful.  Every time I travel I discover a city that I wish I could stay in for much longer - this time I've discovered two - Newport and Concord.  I haven't had nearly enough time in either place.  I think tomorrow will probably not make things better as we are off to Maine for our last full day before heading home.  It's been dreamy.

12 October 2016

Transcendence

I love the Transcendentalists.  They may not have achieved everything they wanted to while they were living, but their ideals really were ahead of their time and I am grateful for them.  Even in high school I knew that they understood things that I needed to understand.  Their writing is often wordy and intense, but the payoff is nearly always worth it.

The center of Transcendentalist fervor is Concord, Massachusetts.  (Embarrassing personal disclosure: I only TODAY put together that the Concord of Louisa May Alcott and the Concord of Lexington and Concord fame are the same place.  For all my brainpower and love of trivia and history, sometimes stupid things still fly way above my head and come crashing down with a thud that sounds a lot like a "duh".)  In Concord, the Transcendentalists attempted to form communities where people lived simply and with unity.  Nearly one hundred years before suffrage they pushed for the vote.  More than one hundred and fifty years before schools would integrate in the south, Bronson Alcott was founding schools where not only boys and girls learned alongside each other, but children of all races were taught.  They were educated in art and music - they had recess.  Their ideas were so radical that they never came into fashion, but their writing lives on, and thank heaven for that.

It is fitting that on a day when we paid homage to these great thinkers that we began with no water.  The apartment below ours is being completely remodeled and they turned the water off this morning.  We realized this before we got the chance to eat breakfast, but it definitely helped us get out of the house faster than we have done in the last few days.  The construction workers downstairs are really friendly, though - asking us what we've been up to on our visit and recommending good restaurants.

Our first stop for the day (after picking up our rental car) was Orchard House.  Orchard House is the best known home of the Alcott family, though they moved at least twenty times prior to settling here.  Bronson Alcott, the patriarch, was quite the idealist.  He was constantly seen as a radical for his ideas about education (he promoted children asking questions in class!), women, slavery, and other things that are now way less radical and way more normal (like the vegan diet).  His wife, Abby May, was born to a relatively well-to-do family that looked down on her marriage to Bronson, but she said that her soul was lonely until she met him, so apparently she didn't see it as a step down in her life.  The two had four children - all daughters: Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth, and May.  Best known of these is, of course, Louisa - author of Little Women (as well as thirty other novels).

It's hard to separate the real life Alcotts from the fictional March family.  Louisa was encouraged to write from her life, and much of the book is the very definition of art imitating life. Like Jo, Louisa felt out of place in the world.  She loved to run.  She loved to write.  She was a thinker and a voracious reader tutored at the feet of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who loaned her books and thought nothing of the fact that she was a girl who had no business reading Faust when she should be focusing her attention on needlepoint.  The Transcendentalists may not have been able to change the entire city, but the principles were alive and well in the Alcott house - quite literally.  May, the youngest Alcott, became Amy in the book - like her fictional counterpart, May was a great artist, who drew over any surface in the house she could find (with or without permission).  She was an amazing artist, lucky enough to study in Europe several times (twice with the help of Louisa's financial support after the success of her writing).  The house is full of her work - nearly every piece on the walls came from her.  Framed or unframed (she had a tendency to draw directly on the walls), she was encouraged by her parents.  May would go on to tutor Daniel Chester French, the sculptor best known for his design of the Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial in DC.  She even named her daughter Louisa in honor of her sister.

There is something so special about the Alcotts.  Their family unity and love is palpable in their home, in their writings, in their legacy.  There are signs everywhere of a family that cared for each other.  May painted flowers on the walls of Louisa's room when she came home ill after working in a Civil War hospital.  Bronson build Louisa a custom desk on which she wrote her books and through which he demonstrated his support of his unconventional daughter.  Anna was married in the parlor.  Elizabeth never lived in the house (she died as a result of scarlet fever before the family moved in), but there is a portrait of her above a piano in her honor.  One of the most special - dare I say sacred - experiences of my life was portraying Beth in the Little Women Musical several years ago.  There is an extremely special spirit about this family, and being allowed to step into their fictional shoes every night was an incredible experience.  I am so grateful for this story, and for this family, for the beauty they have given to the world.  I feel a great kinship to these amazing people.

After a stop at the Concord Museum, we went over to Walden Pond.  Walden was a beloved spot of all the Transcendentalists - Louisa features it in Little Women as the pond where Amy nearly drowns - but it is probably best known because of the writings of Henry David Thoreau.  Thoreau (pronounced less like "Thur-oh" and more like "Thor-oh" with emphasis on the first syllable - at least according to Thoreau himself and the local experts) once "went to the woods because (he) wanted to live deliberately".  He moved to Walden, built himself a modest home (that no longer stands, though the location is set off), and lived as simply as he could.  It's hard to imagine a more beautiful place to do so.  Walden itself is a peaceful, quiet location surrounded by trees.  Even with lots of visitors, it was peaceful and quiet.  I picked up a bunch of acorns to bring back home with me - one of the "houses" in my classes at school was named for Emerson - the symbols are an oak leaf and acorn in honor of the Transcendentalist belief that everyone has potential.

Our final stop was the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the burying ground of the local authors of significance, including Nathaniel Hawthorne (I hate The Scarlet Letter. . . ), the Alcott family, Emerson and his family, and Thoreau's family.  It's not uncommon to see tributes on the headstones of people of significance.  Earlier this week we saw coins left on the monument to Robert Newman (who helped warn that "the British (were) coming!") Rocks are often left as a tribute as well.  Fittingly, there are pens left by the headstones of Thoreau and Alcott.  (I'm sure there would be for Hawthorne and Emerson as well, if they weren't roped off.) My heart is full.

There are so many people in history that I can't wait to see and to thank for the work they've done in the world or for me personally.  Lucy Maud Montgomery.  C.S. Lewis.  John Adams, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln - every single transcendentalist.  They reach my soul.  They give me hope in myself and my potential to do good beyond what I can see.  They may not have found wild success as a community in their lifetime, but they've made their mark.  Today I'm glad to have wandered through their footsteps.

11 October 2016

Second Verse, Same as the First (aka: more pastry, more book, more chocolate.)

When I was in high school I had a shirt that I bought from Old Navy that said "Cambridge" on it.  I bought it because of England, but I had my history teacher come to me one day and say "want to go to Harvard, huh?"  I seem to remember laughing.  Yeah.  Right. I'm no moron, but I never would have gotten into Harvard.

After visiting Cambridge for real today, I don't necessarily regret that I didn't go to Harvard (the city is crazy expensive, the school is crazy expensive, everything is crowded, the school is constantly crowded with tourists. . . But man it's beautiful.  BYU has many virtues and I don't regret my education there at all, but man there are some ugly buildings on that campus.  Basically any building constructed while the school was expanding in the 70s is horrific.  More recent builds have a classic collegiate look that I like, but you really can't beat the atmosphere of Cambridge, even with all the tourists and the traffic.  I love being on college campuses just in general - I swear if college paid well then I'd never leave it.

We didn't take an official campus tour so I'm not sure that I have any great Harvard trivia to give that didn't come from what I'm sure is an inaccurate episode of Gilmore Girls, but I do know that there are 73 libraries on campus and that the Harvard collection of books is the third largest in the nation, behind the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library.  The centerpiece of the collection is the Widener Library, which holds 3.5 million books and is named for a Harvard grad who died on the Titanic in 1907 and was a book collector.  Only students are allowed to go into the school, which is understandable but ticks me off because there is little I love more in this world than beautiful libraries.

Fortunately, Harvard has plenty of bookstores and although my suitcase has no room in it for more books I will find a way because I now have two more books to add to my collection - some short novellas by Alan Bennett and a memoir where a woman wrote about what was going on in her life on the same day every year for forty years - 1960 to 2000.  She lived behind the Iron Curtain for at least half the book and I think it's going to be fascinating.  My poor "to-read" shelves are screaming at me to pace myself but a house isn't really a home if it doesn't have a fantastic library, right?

We spent most of the morning just wandering the city but eventually made our way over to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow house, which was. . .closed.  The exterior was really pretty, though?  We got to look at the gardens around the house and watch the squirrels for a bit.  Then we walked around for a bit and stopped for some more pastries (Mike's Pastry Shop has a branch near Harvard that has way less crowd issues than the one in Boston) and at a local chocolate shop.  Now that I think about it, today was basically a repeat of yesterday: book stores, chocolate, pastries, and wandering through historical sites for a while.  We're either predictable or easy to please, I guess.  Neither of us feel disappointed, so that's good.

Finding the Longfellow House closed we decided to leave Cambridge and go instead to the Gardner Museum in Boston, but that was closed as well (we found that out before we left, at least) so we went instead to visit the USS Constitution.  The USS Constitution was named by George Washington and is the oldest floating warship in the world.  She saw most of her action in the War of 1812 where it earned the nickname "Old Ironsides" against a ship that looks like it was named after cheese (seriously - the HMS Gueirrere).  Its performance in the war saved it from being scrapped dozens of times, and the Constitution went on to be a training ship during the Civil War and a museum exhibition that sailed to the Paris Exposition in 1878.  There's not all that much left of her to see at the moment (though I think that may be more because of the renovation work they were doing on her when we were there) but it was still worth the trip.  It's impressive that she's still afloat.

By this point we'd walked about seven miles, so we were hungry.  We went back to what our guidebook calls the "drenched in marinara" north end of Boston for some Italian.  The guidebook wasn't joking - the street we went to had nothing but Italian food options, all of which looked and smelled amazing.  We found one that looked good, and it was good, and all was well.

Some other random observations:

Traveling with my mom is awesome.  We're both relatively easy going travelers.  We have opinions on what we want to do, but are flexible enough to bend to what the other person wants.  It's been delightful.

Political campaigning is much more active here than it is in Utah.  I think some of this may be because we're not just seeing adds for Presidential campaigns or local propositions, but also adds for Congressmen from Massachusetts and surrounding states.  One of the local propositions is ticking me off because the locals are voting on charter school funding.  Public schools are losing money because of charter schools! The anti Prop 2 adds say.  NO THEY DON'T I yell at the TV.  Schools get money for the students they teach, so the funding they're "losing" is really only representative of students they aren't actually teaching.  Heaven FORBID we give people a choice in their education.  "But those schools might be horrible!" people argue.  "Yes," I respond.  "They could be. But a traditional public school doesn't automatically mean the school is good and. . .

I could go on about this forever, but now probably isn't the time or place given that I'm supposed to be writing about my trip, but it's my blog so what the hell: American education is still holding on with a vice grip to traditions established more than a hundred years ago that weren't founded on principles of what actually taught skills the best but what was the most efficient and logical.  The rest of the world is moving at lightning speed to adapt and change to the technologically obsessed and creative world we live in, but schools are still trying to fight against all of that like it will leave and pass like a fad.  For the love of all that is holy, LET PEOPLE INNOVATE.

I'm done.

Tomorrow I will center my chi by visiting the hallowed forests of transcendentalism.  I can't wait.