Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Act 3: American Civil Liberties Union

This post is a little late because I found it a little difficult to write - and life is just busy!

We're down to our last week of summer, and our days are going fast, so we're trying to squeeze in whatever fun we can before school starts in nine days (not that I'm counting (I am totally counting)). We've played in the river up in the mountains, had a picnic in the garden, planted roses, made some art, watched a lot of Avatar, gone to the movies, had lots and lots of friends over and just about eaten our way through a Costco-sized box of ice cream. It has been pretty great!

This past week was busy enough that I probably could have given myself one of the 12 passes I've allowed myself for this year-long project, but I've been distressed enough about the ICE raids and detention centers at the southern border of the United States that I felt like I had to do something. As an immigrant and a non-citizen myself (I'm a permanent resident of the United States), I tend to keep my head down where politics are concerned, especially immigration politics. I'm uncomfortably aware of the privileges I enjoy as a white European immigrant whose foreignness is more charming than it is threatening. The Americans around me have met me with nothing but friendship, love and inclusion, and I am reluctant to come across as an ungrateful or critical guest - which, at the end of the day, is essentially what I am.

But it hurts to see families being separated and people suffering in inhumane conditions. And I feel such a need to do something. So I donated to the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Listen, I originally wrote quite a long post about my thoughts and feelings in regards to the current immigration situation. But it didn't feel quite right somehow, so I let it sit for a few days while I tried to work out why, and this is what I came up with: I don't want to be divisive. I see a lot of problems in our society stemming from our propensity to divide ourselves into "us and them," and it causes nothing but more hard feelings and bitterness. I know the loveliest people on both sides of The Great American Political Divide, who say the unloveliest things about people on the other side. But we're not going to improve anything by pointing fingers, dishing out blame and "othering" our neighbors to the point that we can't talk to each other. We need to build bridges across the divide, find common ground and a common purpose to work towards. To go a bit John Lennon: "it's easy if you try."

Anyway, back to the American Civil Liberties Union. I chose to donate to them this week because I believe they are an organization that is genuinely seeking to bridge that divide. In essence, the ACLU is an organization that works within the court system and legislature to "defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country". They are both non-profit and non-partisan. You can read more about the ACLU and what they do here. Sometimes I completely agree with the cases they take on (voters rights! Privacy protections! Religious freedom!), and sometimes they're defending the rights of individuals or organizations that are completely reprehensible beyond comprehension to me (like the Ku Klux Klan...). But I admire that they are willing to work  to ensure that no one's constitutional rights are being violated and that everyone is treated fairly. 

As someone who believes laws and fairness, they are an organization that really resonates with me. So, you can imagine, that when I learned that they are working to protect the rights of immigrants, I felt really good about donating some money to ensure that everyone gets a fair hearing. I like that the ACLU are working towards both helping individuals have proper representation now, as well as seeking longterm solutions through advocating for necessary changes in legislature. I'm happy to add my small drop to that bucket. You can read more about immigrants' rights from the ACLU here - and I recommend that you do. Being informed is key. 

Bonus! One of my friends from college is now a teacher and an education advocate extraordinaire. Her hard work and passion for helping her students is nothing short of inspiring. So when she posted on her facebook page about preparing for a new school year with 36 kids in her class, many of which come from pretty tough backgrounds, I sent her a little donation for "pencils, Kleenex and Diet Coke". Teachers are incredible people. Go love on one today. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Act 2: House of Hope

Four babies' worth of maternity clothes.

This week I donated my maternity clothes to the House of Hope. Let's  briefly put a pin in the implications of any woman giving away her pregnancy wardrobe (I promise I'll get back to that!), and focus on the ladies at the House of Hope for a moment.

The House of Hope is a non-profit, residential treatment facility for women dealing with substance abuse. What I find particularly valuable about the House of Hope is that it is a facility where the women are able to bring their children to stay with them while they receive treatment. Keeping families together whenever possible is so vitally important, and must take away so much stress and anxiety for the women, allowing them the necessary headspace to focus on their treatment. I especially love that the kids receive therapeutic care too. So many of them have been through so much, and both need and deserve to address the challenges that living with an addicted parent has brought to their little lives.

I don't have a lot of personal experience with substance abuse addiction, but I have felt its effects close enough to know how devastating it can be for a family, especially for children. And I do know what an ongoing struggle it can be, both for the addict and for everyone who loves them. So when moms and their little ones decide that they're ready to fight this dragon, I feel like the least we can do is help and support them in whatever small ways we can.

I first discovered House of Hope several months ago, when a neighbor was collecting donations for them. I didn't participate then, but looked at the wish list on their website, and noted that maternity clothes were on it, and decided that that's what I wanted to do with my own pregnancy wardrobe when the time came to pass it along.

First baby!
 Although we have felt for a long time that Elijah is our grand finale, it has taken me a while to fully make peace with the fact that I'll never those maternity clothes again, because I'll never be pregnant again. I'll never meet a brand-new human and hold them in my arms, knowing that they are ours again. No more quiet moments with a sleepy newborn. No more watching my older kids fall utterly head-over-heels in love with a new little sibling. It's a lot to say goodbye to.

We were so excited and so ready! to be parents. 
 And yet: it's time. Both for all of the logical reasons I know in my head:

  • That's a lot of 9 lb babies and  c-sections for one body! 
  • We're getting old and that window of fertility is just getting smaller and smaller. 
  • I can't keep having babies just because I love newborns. 
  • One high-risk pregnancy was plenty.
and the reasons I feel in my heart:

  • It feels great to own my own body again. 
  • I'm excited to see what life holds for me after the tiny kid stage. 
  • It just feels like we're complete now.

After baby number one we went from professional maternity photos to selfies in the bathroom.
No less excited and delighted about adding each new little person to our family, though.
So while it is a little bittersweet to say goodbye to those special clothes and everything they symbolize to me, it feels like a gift and a privilege to be able to pass them along to a group of mamas that are fighting such a tough and valiant battle. I'm so impressed and inspired by the efforts and sacrifices they are making to give their babies a better life.