Right now, about 9 pm, I have just put my little Julian to sleep pretty late. He usually goes down for the night around 7:30 or 8, but tonight, all the commotion was keeping him awake and a little frightened. Someone is blasting off what Xavier called a "potato gun", and other slightly louder "legal" explosives in the middle of the street. I don't like the idea of potatoes being wasted (come on people! lets make a soup out of those potatoes with some kale and parmesan cheese!...maybe there are actually no potatoes in this whole affair...but none the less..) and I certainly do not enjoy the idea of any sort of gun going off out side of my window. My first response is to march my little self out there and tell those hoodlums to knock it off, but on second thought, it is, after all, America's birthday, and birthdays allow for certain special bending of the rules.
I am usually pretty cynical about the current "American Culture". there are just a few things that are common that are hard for me to justify, or understand, or even try free myself from. All the talk about health care, the war (s), retirement, education, marriage rights, the list could go on, it worries me and confuses me. I am not a political person at all, but sometimes I just wonder if the current state of our country is really what all of the founding fathers had in mind. I am not excusing myself to be ignorant of current affairs, I am just being honest. So, naturally, a day like today causes me to look inward and reflect on things that I am very thankful for, and cause me to be proud to be a native of our country. With that said, here are a few little stories with the freedom we have as Americans, to chose, as the heroine.
Celebratory red shoes
When we found out we were pregnant with Julian, we were both essentially and unexpectedly job-less. We applied for state help, and prenatal care, and got it with in days. My entire pregnancy with Julian was covered, and although the care was not the best, it was better than what we could afford, which was nothing. Julian was born in one of the top teaching hospitals in the country, safe and healthy and beautiful, again, we paid nothing. When I asked someone else who delivered there, I was astounded at the price of just the co pay. When we were finally able to get health insurance for ourselves, I realized what an incredible blessing it was to have had the help. A few months after he was born there was a special on CBS about how so many mothers and babies in developing countries that die during childbirth, they don't have a choice to go to a hospital, or to do a home birth or a water birth, or have an epidural, or nothing. They have no choice. Their only option is to give birth alone, or with a poorly educated helper. I can not even imagine how terrible of an experience that could be, giving birth alone with no help. I had the choice, and the help and my country had the means to give me that freedom to choose. Although, recently there has been much debate over the freedom of choosing to have health insurance...
A friend of my husband is an immigrant from Eastern Europe. He fled his country in a time of war and came to the States with almost nothing. In just a few short, albeit, difficult years he has been able to learn English, gain citizenship, work to support himself and then, open a successful business. How incredible is that?! I am thankful that we are a country that opens it's heart and homes, and allows for people to try to better themselves. We can take for granted the fact that we have certain opportunities here. In the same breath I often find it hard to justify though, that so many people in certain parts of my own city are limited in those opportunities, by lack of education and other social aspects. It's a difficult thing to try to understand, but I am thankful for the choices that, at least some, can make.
In Uganda, (and in a lot of other countries) education is extremely expensive. I'm talking about primary education, you know, reading, writing, the basics, so all of you collage students with 250,000 dollar school loans with 79% interest rates can calm down. I have heard so many tired women tell me in broken English that they work three or four jobs to "pay school fees". If they can not afford the fees, the children are turned away, left to struggle in a cycle of poverty. Although there is much controversy over public schools, and private schools, and charter schools and home schooling, for the most part, I can choose. We can choose to cut costs here, and there, try to make it into to an area in the city with a nice school district and send Julian to a great public school. The neighborhood just a few blocks over from us has one of the best public school districts in the city! Or, we can choose to try and save up all we have to send him to an amazing private school. I can even choose to home school him, and bring him to a co op of other home schooled children, and take him to the zoo or aquarium as a school lesson. I have the choice. Some choices may be a little more difficult, and seem unattainable, but the option is still there. That is the point.
I do not know anyone personally who has been put in jail, or killed, for following a certain belief system, or religion, at least I can not think of anyone off the top of my head. I have read plenty of these accounts from other people in countries that I have never visited, and I can not imagine being forced to deny my own beliefs. I am so thankful that I have the freedom to choose to be a Christian, and can attend church, and meet with people in my home to pray and sing together. I am also thankful that no can legally force this same faith on anyone else, I believe that doing so would disgrace the blood that was shed for freedom in the purest sense. This is a freedom that can be easily under appreciated, and I am taking time today to be thankful.
In celebration of all those choices, I chose to stay in and cook all day for some of my dearest friends and my little family. The menu included pulled bbq pork (this is my husband's love language...), I picked it up from the sweet couple that own Jake's Country Meats, at the farmers market. They are always so nice and warm, and willing to explain and talk about how they treat their animals, what they feed them and important things like that. If I buy pork, I buy it from them. I used a spice rub from a local spice shop called "Milwalkee Ave" named after a street that I have used on a daily basis since I have moved to Chicago. I slow braised it in my new red, ceramic glazed dutch oven, a gift from my boss S, for my birthday.
I used her recipe for butternut squash mac and cheese, I will be sharing it with you soon, so don't you worry. There was some home made coslaw, and sauteed kale from the back yard. The finish was supposed to be a blue berry pie, but ended up as a crumble, deliciously full of saigon cinnamon and a bit of maple, a dark rye crust, and honey whipped cream to top it off. I think I might end this post there, and go dig in the refrigerator for a second helping of that crumble. Happy 4th of July, my fellow Americans, enjoy the night, but please don't fire off anymore potato guns, and don't drink too much either.