Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor…


The news coming out of the U.S. right now is alarming. Terrifying, even.

My grandfather, my father’s father, was an immigrant to the United States of America. His family came from Hamburg, Germany, to Ellis Island in 1923 and made their way across the country to Oregon, where his uncle had found work in a lumber mill.

My grandfather with his mother and uncle in front of their store in Germany
My grandfather as a child, with his mother and uncle in front of their store in Germany

When he started school in Oregon, at age 12, he had to start in the first grade, because he didn’t speak English. And you know what that immigrant went on to do? He worked hard for many years, and put himself through college at the University of Oregon, and then got his Ph.D. from Cornell University, and eventually became a tenured professor and department chair at Oregon State University, and a Fulbright Scholar. In short, he became a fine, upstanding American citizen who made many contributions to society, and was the embodiment of the American Dream.

What made America so great for so many years? Hard-working immigrants like him, who came to America for the chance to have a better life. If you ask me, America needs more people like that, and fewer people like this:

Just a reminder that ALL you white Americans are descendants of immigrants.

Oh, but it’s not like he was a Muslim. He’s white, he’s fine. Uh, let’s not forget that in the first half of the 20th century the Germans WERE the terrorists.

And what would the future have held for my erudite grandfather if his family hadn’t been given the chance for a new life in America? Well, Germany in those years wouldn’t exactly have offered him opportunities to do good things with his life. Staying in Germany would have meant what for him? Recruited to Hitler’s Youth? Turned into a soldier, discouraged to think for himself? Forced to fight in a terrible war, on the losing side, making him a bad guy in the history books? Made to see and do horrible things—if he lived that long.

We should be opening wide the gates to the innocent people who want no part of a war they are caught up in just because they happen to live there. I’d much rather put my tax dollars toward helping them get a fresh start than toward a wall.

An excerpt from my grandfather's memoirs
An excerpt from my grandfather’s memoirs

I don’t know what the feeling on the ground in America is right now, but the whole world seems to be watching the White House and holding its collective breath to see what comes next.

Today’s front-page news in London

The one thing that gives me hope is that the world is also seeing the many Americans who are speaking out and demonstrating that they disagree with these policies and plans set forth by the new president. I hope the world realizes that not all Americans are on board with this insane agenda. On the contrary, millions appear to be loudly against it.

Marches on Trump’s first day as president

Keep it up, dissenters. Exercise your right to free speech and tell the world how you feel. They’re watching and listening very closely.

We are all just humans and we need to treat each other better, and help those in need. And that’s the lesson I want to teach my children, too. There’s a retail chain here called Jojo Maman Bébé that sells clothing and other things for babies, children, and pregnant and nursing mothers. In February and March, Jojo is running a clothing drive called From a Mother to Another, collecting hand-me-down children’s clothing at all its shops and sending it to displaced Syrian children in Lebanon. I’m going to get E involved in picking out some of her outgrown clothing to donate to children who could use them. I think she’s old enough to have a (simple) discussion about kids who don’t have all the things she takes for granted. It’s a very small thing, donating some used clothing, but I hope it will plant a seed in her to want to help other people, even ones she will never meet. Because it’s the younger generations that are going to inherit this messed-up world, and I truly hope they can do better.

Happy birthday, Dad. Thank you (and Mom, too) for teaching me to care about other people, even strangers, and to want to help those who are less fortunate. Your lifetime of humble, tireless volunteer work is an inspiration to me. And to think, you learned your ethics from an immigrant.

Christmas in London Recap: Part 4

London Christmas Markets

Londoners love their Christmas markets—maybe not as much as the Germans, but there were quite a few. Grab a cup of hot mulled wine and a mince pie, and have a browse.

BBC Good Food Festive Fayre at Hampton Court Palace
Mince pies at Herne Hill Market
Oh no, poor Rudolph!
Borough Market


Christmas in London Recap: Part 3

Christmas in London for Kids

We took E and her cousin to see the Father Christmas play at the Lyric. It’s an hour long, in a small theatre, and geared toward 3-6-year-olds. Perfect. Father Christmas is what they call Santa Claus here, and he was a bit… well, more grumpy old man than jolly old soul. The play didn’t have much talking, mostly visual and physical slapstick-type acting for the kids. Including some toilet humour. They incorporate some puppetry, too. Overall, it was cute, and only cost £10 a ticket.


I also took E to a Christmas magic show at Bertie and Boo, our local play cafe. It was half an hour long and the tricks were perfect for wowing her age group.

This is what results when you buy a gingerbread house kit for £3 without reading the package instructions and then discover it requires you to make the dough, shape it into the wall and roof pieces yourself, and your helper is 3 and a half years old. Live and learn.

Hamley’s is an incredible 6-story toy store on Regent Street. It’s really worth a visit if you are in London with kids; we have gone several times and just let E play there, without even buying anything. There are tons of toys set out and demonstrators doing things, so it’s great fun for kids. But it’s also chaos. Going at Christmastime was absolute mayhem and I won’t make that mistake again.

Window display at Hamley’s

When we went with my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids, it was a nightmare. (Well, I think my brother and nephew were actually in heaven, just wandering around the lower floor which is entirely Star Wars.) The whole place only has two lifts (there are escalators and stairs through the centre), and the toilets are up on the fifth floor. That day, one of the two lifts was out of order. I had the buggy with me so couldn’t use the escalators. And I had a 3-year-old who needed the toilet. After waiting an absurd amount of time for a lift, we finally made it up to the top and there were paramedics attending to a man lying on the floor with electrodes hooked up to his chest. I couldn’t help but think, Yes, that might be the only way out of this place.

Lifesize royals made of Legos at Hamley’s

I spent more time just waiting in front of elevator doors that day than I ever have before or since. After a man scared my child by chasing her with a remote-control Darth Vader and didn’t stop when he saw she was crying and trying to climb my leg, I’d had it. I told him off, waited one last time for the lift, and then when it FINALLY arrived and no one moved to make room for us to get on, when the posted sign clearly read “Priority for Buggies,” I pulled out my loudest, ugliest American voice and informed them that if it is physically possible for them to take the stairs, then they should go do so, held the doors open for myself and jimmied us into the lift. When we got off, someone actually pushed me. So, Hamley’s toy store. Don’t go at Christmastime, just don’t.

The Hamley’s Christmas Toy Parade we went to the weekend after Thanksgiving was pretty fun, though.