Saturday, July 26, 2014

Honoring My Ancestors

A few brief generations ago, some of my ancestors watched their relatives starve to death in Ireland. They ate grass until their lips turned green and watched nourishment travel along country roads, guarded by soldiers, in route to England. There was no hope for them on that island, none at all.

So, the most ambitious and ingenious of my ancestors envisioned a better life and refused to accept the idea that their children had no future. The crowded onto hellish ships and came to the United States. For all I know, my ancestors may have been some of the Irish who smuggled themselves into the country illegally. It would hardly surprise me if that was the case.

Life wasn’t easy here. Prejudice against Irish immigrants abounded. According to a number of sources, the Chicago Post wrote: "The Irish fill our prisons, our poor houses...Scratch a convict or a pauper, and the chances are that you tickle the skin of an Irish Catholic. Putting them on a boat and sending them home would end crime in this country." My relatives ended up living as sharecroppers in Texas to achieve some sense of independence and freedom. It was hardly a life I, in my suburban comfort, would consider independent and free. And yet it paved the way for me to enjoy all I have today.

Long before my Irish ancestors came to the United States, some of my other ancestors were quite comfortably ensconced on this continent and had been here since (it seemed) time began. As the Europeans arrived, my Cherokee ancestors stood out among Native Americans by doing their best to adapt to the New World thrust upon them. Many adopted European-style clothing and Sequoyah even created (or documented, depending upon your point of view) the Cherokee alphabet. I see these ancestors as flexible and intelligent as they tried their very best to survive in this foreign culture that was suddenly in their backyards.
My great-great grandmother

In the end, all their efforts to assimilate failed (their skin, after all, was dark and they couldn’t hide who they really were). Members of my family were part of the Trail of Tears and, as the story goes, my great-great grandmother was the sole survivor of her immediate family. She was a child or young teen at the time, she found a white husband (of the McCourt clan, whose family were refugees from Ireland) and began to build a life as a white woman.

I know very little about my ancestors other than the stories passed down to me, but I know they had courage and strength as they faced prejudice and tried to create a good life for their children in a world that was often harsh and disdainful towards them. I’m proud of my heritage and I refuse to bring dishonor to my ancestors by failing to empathize with people who are following in the footsteps of my family.

Immigrants continue to see our country as a land of hope and many know that their children will only have a future if they risk everything to start a new life. Wouldn't we all do the same for our own children?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 6 - June 12th, Last full day (*sniff*) - back to EPCOT

[Note to my readers: It was extraordinarily hard for me to write this final post for my trip report...sort of like leaving my happy place all over again! But...I powered through and did it…]’s the deal peeps...since we closed out MK the night before, I wasn’t going to make my family rope drop EPCOT again on our last day. To be fair, what I really cared about were the countries (I love the countries!!) although everyone else was sure excited about re-riding Spaceship Earth (did I mention it’s a big hit with my kids), Soarin’ and Test Track. I switched out our top tier FP to Soarin’ for our last day because we knew we’d be perfectly happy doing Test Track as single riders.

Oh - I Bounded as Village Belle and hoped to get my picture with her but no such luck - the line was too long. At least David snapped my picture as Belle in France!

On June 12th I learned that the second time was definitely NOT the charm for me when it came to Mission: Space (orange, not green). I was a little dizzy after riding it the June 8th, but I felt downright DRUNK on the 12th (and no...I hadn’t had anything to drink...YET). I felt so icky that I skipped the Spaceship Earth FP time because even that didn’t sound fun to me and I decided I would much rather wander around the countries. There were rain showers off and on all day and the weather felt great.

Although I didn’t get to wander the countries as much as I’d prefer, at least we got quite a few family pictures. Sorry but I'm posting four of them here. makes me happy to remember!

David insisted that the kids get a “hanging-flower-pot-on-the-head” picture and found a spot where he could get both of them at once. Score!

As usual...we took plenty of bunny pictures…

And enjoyed the birds who joined us for lunch when we munched on fish and chips.

Tidbits and appreciations from our second day in EPCOT:

- The caramel store in Germany, people...OMG!! The line was longer than some ride lines but who cares? You get to soak up the amazing smells the whole time.

- Take time to enjoy the gardens and flowers. I won’t post a million pictures of them but I will mention that our whole family remembered the miniature train garden in Germany and couldn’t wait to see it again. I felt a bit like Sheldon Cooper when I got annoyed that not only was the train not moving, but one of them was on it’s side. It’s still pretty cool - but they need to hire Sheldon to come in and spruce it up a bit.

- I insisted that my family join me for the a capella singers at the American Experience then watch the movie. I’m so glad I did that, even though that meant they had to practically run all the way to Spaceship Earth and all the way back to make it in time. (It’s good for them...we were eating a ton of food.)

- My son, who loves history just like I do, walked out of the American Experience saying “That was AWESOME!!!” So nice to have a kid who gets into history with me.

- My daughter went up to one of the singers after the show and complimented her. My daughter was just chosen for varsity choir herself and we had a great conversation with this amazing soprano. We learned that one of the singers there has been there from the very beginning!

- I used one of my last sets of little stickers for a very good purpose. In Morocco, I hunted for Jasmine and asked a CM who told me that Jasmine and Aladdin were just finishing up a visit but if I wanted to get in line behind “this sweet girl and her mom” we could wait for the next visit (to start in an hour). The little girl looked blue to have just missed out but she was determined to meet Jasmine! (Who can blame her, really??) I wasn’t going to wait, but I wanted to give her some pixie dust so I gave her a bag of stickers and a glow stick (a.k.a. magic wand). She looked a lot happier after that! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - those gifts for random kiddos were the best $10 I’ve ever spent on a vacation!

- I HIGHLY RECOMMEND counter service in Morocco. Not only was the food delicious, but the building itself is intricately carved - so beautiful. I truly wish we’d had hours to spend in Morocco. This is just a tiny section of the ceiling…

- In some ways, I was a little bit frustrated by this day because I wanted a LOT more time in the countries. There were shows I wanted to see (at least we caught the last 2 songs by Off Kilter!) and more atmosphere I wanted to soak in. If it had been a solo trip, I think I would’ve stayed until they shoved me out the door. As it was, we left on the earlier side (to be fair, we had to wake up at an ungodly hour for our flight back) but at least we got a photopass picture with Olaf as we left - woot!!!!

There’s not much to say about our last day except that we had to be down at the Magic Express place by 5 for our 8:00 a.m. flight. I was impressed. They were able to check our bags for us at the hotel (even that early) and those babies showed up in Austin like a charm.

If anyone is going back to the World in the next year and has room for me in your suitcase, I’m in! Thanks for reading along and I hope all of you get to your happy place with your family (wherever that may be!) very soon.