My First Presidential Election as a U.S. Citizen & How I’m Moving Forward

It’s coming up on my four-year anniversary as a U.S. citizen. Becoming an American citizen was not an easy choice, but the rewards have been worthwhile, in particular the right to vote and opportunity to serve on a jury. I made a pact to vote in every election, and it wasn’t until this last election that I was finally able to vote for a United States president.

For me, the presidential choice was an easy one. I was with her, especially considering whom she was running against. On Election Day, I was proud to cast my vote for Hillary and optimistic about the future. However, I was stunned and unprepared to see how quickly my optimism dwindled and left me feeling gutted. It wasn’t long after we began watching the election returns that dread and disbelief entered my consciousness, and I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t realize I was so personally invested in the results.

The next day, when I woke up to what our new world would be, I felt like I was in an alternate reality. I couldn’t even look at our newspaper. I was embarrassed and shocked that we had such a man as Trump as our new head of state. In social media and in real life, I saw so many other people’s disbelief and anger at the results as well. It didn’t help me feel any better.

Staying angry, depressed, and full of despair and saying that Trump is not my president doesn’t help me going forward. Hillary won the popular vote. Most of our country supported her. However, he is our country’s new president and we need to do what we can to make sure America doesn’t fail miserably and is better prepared for the next presidential election.

I have never really been extremely interested in politics nor actively involved in it. Maybe it’s because I’ve had no say in the outcomes. This election made me realize that just voting isn’t always enough; it’s equally important to actively participate in the democratic process as it is to vote.

Going forward, I vow to do the following:

  • I will not tune out politics, but instead I will stay informed and follow political issues. I will seek out sources of respected, high-quality media. I will also look for new sources that help me exit the echo chamber. I want to hear other people’s points of view. If you’re looking for a new source, consider a new favorite podcast of mine, Pantsuit Politics, where two women, one from the left and one from the right, discuss politics in a fresh and nuanced way. Similarly, I will not let inaccurate, incomplete, fake news, or my new favorite phrase, “alternative facts” pass me by without commenting.
  • I will make a conscious effort to read books outside my normal tendency and comfort zone – more books by diverse authors and about issues or experiences new or unfamiliar to me. To start with, I’m adding these books to my to-be-read list (and I welcome suggestions):
  • Similarly, I will make sure to continue to provide opportunities to strengthen my kids’ understanding, empathy, and compassion for people unlike themselves both at home and abroad, and books is a great place to do so. I’m lucky and grateful both my boys are avid and voracious readers and generally accept the book recommendations I pass along. I’ve sought out books to help them understand and appreciate their Norwegian heritage. Now I’ll make a conscious effort to suggest and offer books that will help them understand the experiences of marginalized groups and causes affected by our political discussions. I’ve got a list in progress and welcome suggestions.
  • I will take action and let my elected officials hear my voice. This has always been a big unknown for me. Who exactly do I call and what do I say? But now I’ve been motivated to find out the details. There’s been lots of help floating around the internet these past couple of months. To begin with, I’ve confirmed who all my elected officials are in Congress (representatives here and senators here). Next I’ve found sources that address issues of concern. The 65 (referring to the more than 65 million Americans who rejected Trump on Election Day) is a website dedicated to Weekly Calls to Action. They provide scripts for a long list of issues along with contact info for party leadership and tips and strategies. Another site is Women’s March: 10 Actions/100 Days. It’s a campaign aimed at mobilizing the energy from the Women’s Marches of January 21, 2017, across the country and the world and encouraging everyone to take action on issues we all care about.

These action items might not seem like much to some, but for me they are a good place to start. What are you doing in the aftermath of this election?

Helping Solve Family Homelessness with a Field Trip and a Run

I have chaperoned MANY field trips during my years as a parent of two elementary school kids and a teacher for several years before then. They have all been interesting and educational in their own ways. However, I don’t think any of them have been as meaningful as the one when I accompanied Doobie’s third grade class to Upward Bound House’s Family Place earlier this school year.

Upward Bound House Family Place

Upward Bound House’s mission is to eliminate homelessness among families with children, and Family Place is one of their projects. Not only does Family Place offer transitional housing for homeless families, but it also provides parenting and life skills classes for parents and enrichment activities for children, among many other services, as the families work to move on to permanent, self-sufficient housing.

Throughout our years at our elementary school, Upward Bound House has always played a great role in our community service opportunities. We have collected loose change to put in a “Pennies from Heaven” jar to help furnish an apartment. We have donated cans of food to Family Place’s The Pantry through our school’s annual Marathon Canned Food Drive (where we sponsor members of our school community who are running in the LA Marathon by pledging cans of food for one of their 26.2 miles). And every year the school encourages all families to participate in the UBH “Home Run for Kids” walk/run, which our family was able to do a couple of years ago.

On our field trip to Family Place, a representative first spoke to the students about what Family Place is and does, and then she took us on a tour of the facilities. Our first stop was the underground garage.

Upward Bound House Garage

Upward Bound House Bicycles

This was the part of the tour that I found most interesting. It wasn’t just a garage. Besides being brightly painted and offering bicycles for use, it housed The Pantry and Hidden Treasures. Both of these “stores” offered items to the families at no cost. The money they would otherwise have spent on food and clothing can now be added to their savings for use down the line when they move into their own housing.

Upward Bound House The Pantry

Upward Bound House Hidden Treasures

We continued through the facilities, even seeing a furnished apartment. We wrapped up the tour with a visit to common areas and an outdoor courtyard which included a play structure and vegetable gardens.

Upward Bound House Outside

Upward Bound House Library

Sonny, my oldest son, also visited Family Place as a third grader. I didn’t go on that field trip. I have been familiar with the mission of Upward Bound House, but I haven’t known anything too specific about it. Now that I’ve visited Family Place myself and heard and seen what they do for families in need, I have a whole new appreciation and understanding about UBH and Family Place. Donating loose change and canned food and participating in a run will have much more meaning for us now that we know exactly what goes on there and how our donations are being put to use.

On Sunday, March 6, 2016, Upward Bound House will present its fourth annual ”Home Run for Kids” along San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood. There will be a 5K and a 10K Walk/Run and also a Kiddie K. All proceeds go directly to UBH. There will be an expo and pre- and post-race entertainment for the whole family. The event draws crowds of community members and over 1,200 registered runners and walkers, about which 200 come from our school.

It looks like our calendar is free of other sports events that morning, so we look forward to participating again and doing our small part to help solve family homelessness in Los Angeles. If you’re a local resident, consider joining us!

Home Run for Kids Walk/Run


Home Run for Kids Walk/Run

Home Run for Kids logoAfter our great experience last year at the Kids 4 Kids Walk/Run, we were easily persuaded to participate in another walk/run this past weekend. And this time, the whole family participated, not just Sonny and me! Doobie and Sonny’s school highly encouraged families to register. There was even a competition between grade levels to see which one had the greatest number of registrations.

And we felt we had a personal connection to this event’s cause which made it even easier to commit to participating. Home Run for Kids was organized by Upward Bound House, an organization whose mission is to “eliminate homelessness among families with children by providing housing, supportive services and advocacy”. Sonny’s third grade class went on a field trip to Family Place, one of UBH’s projects which is a transitional housing facility for homeless families. The third graders learned about homelessness and visited an apartment at the facility. Afterwards they encouraged the school community to bring in loose change to raise funds to furnish an apartment there. They even made Valentine cards to send to Family Place.

Over 200 members of our school community participated in Home Run for Kids. I think what made it especially attractive to some families was that there was a Kiddie K. Doobie was thrilled to be running in a race just for his age group. And apparently, many other kindergartners felt the same way since Kindergarten won the school competition for the most registrations!

Cheering on Daddy

The boys in blue t-shirts running alongside their daddy in black as he approaches the finish line for the 10K

I have to say, the Kiddie K was the highlight of the event for me. Doobie had cheered his daddy on as he finished his 10K and watched Sonny and me complete our 5Ks. Finally, it was his turn.  Continue reading

Kids 4 Kids Run/Walk

At the start line for the Kids 4 Kids Run/Walk

In the Los Angeles area, there are many opportunities for athletes to participate in races of all kinds, ranging from 5K’s to marathons all for a variety of causes. Until recently, it had never crossed my mind to take part in one.  This past weekend, though, Sonny and I participated in the Kids 4 Kids 5K Run/Walk.  The run/walk and its beneficiary, the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, were both founded by a past parent at Sonny’s school so current families are always strongly encouraged to participate. We seized the opportunity to try something new and at the same time do some good for the community and signed up with other school friends.

I assumed we’d be doing more walking than running during the 5K.  I have been running regularly and knew that I could run 5K without too much of a problem, but we’ve never thought of Sonny as a kid with much endurance.  He’s never run anywhere near 5K.  When Sonny and a friend sprinted off at the beginning, dodging people as they sped ahead, I figured for sure we’d be walking in a few hundred yards.  At one point, they slowed down.  His friend started walking, but Sonny kept running, and running, and running.  I totally lost him ahead of me, despite his bright orange shirt.  He was ahead of me the whole time.  I caught a glimpse of him and cheered him on as he passed me after turning at the half-way point.

That’s Sonny in the orange shirt running by himself!

When we neared the 3-mile mark, I caught up to him.  He thought I had cheated and cut the course.  He was still running but complained his legs hurt.  I said we could walk if he really needed to but that we were really close to the end now.  At this point, though, I didn’t want to walk since I had made it this far, but I had to remember this was supposed to be fun for him and it wasn’t supposed to be about me.  He didn’t start walking.  He said he couldn’t walk because his legs couldn’t stop running.  So we continued running, but he wanted to hold my hand.

As we neared the end, our school’s cheer squad cheered us on.  Then Sonny heard them cheering on a friend and his family right behind us, so Sonny picked up the pace and he and his friend had a race to the end.  Sonny was proud to beat him by 8 seconds.  He deserved that super large Laffy Taffy candy that was in his finish line goody bag.

Relieved and proud to have made it to the finish line

Daddy and Doobie met us at the finish line and joined us for the carnival fun afterwards.  There were games and rides and live music.  In every direction we turned, we saw families from our school, along with many more families from all over the area.  It truly was a kids for kids event.

Leading up to the race, we were able to raise $1015 from friends and family for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.  The money goes to pediatric cancer research and arts and crafts supplies for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camps for children with serious illnesses.  It felt really special to know that so many people were supporting us in this endeavor to help raise money for such a good cause.  It was a very fulfilling and exciting experience and might even have inspired us to participate in other such events.