Why Emily Gilmore & I Need Body Shipping Cash

Oh how I've loved the Gilmore Girls. Well, actually, I used to not like them at all. The first few times I saw that show I was like absolutely not. But then something clicked, and I fell in love.

So I was all up in that bandwagon for the reboot on Netflix this Thanksgiving. In fact, my mom and sister and I had the fun chance to binge watch and snack together while our our menfolk gifted us a day of childcare. And my girlfriend gave me this perfect shirt for the occasion.

Overall, I'm still not sure how I felt about revival of the double G. I hate to say I was disappointed, but maybe I was a little. I still loved Lorelai, and I am getting a kick out of reading Lauren Graham's memoir right now. But grown up Rory was not my fave, and Sookie was noticeably absent for me in certain places. Emily stole the show, I think, and her journey into widowhood was probably my favorite storyline.

One of my favorite exchanges between Emily and Lorelai involves Emily telling Lorelai she wants to go to Washington State to die because "they let you do that there." But, she tells Lorelai, she'll need to ship her body back to be buried. However, she's discovered that this practice is incredibly expensive. So, she announces, there is an envelope labeled "Body Shipping Cash" in the drawer for this purpose.

Is it weird to say that this conversation felt familiar? First, let me explain. I had a brief moment in time where I was kind of a "will-pusher." Basically, I was obsessed with getting everyone I knew to create their Last Will and Testament. 

People love being pressed on this issue, by the way. If you ever find yourself in a conversational lull, just ask if they've drawn up a will!

I also began pressuring Billy to share with me his final wishes. To say he hated me peppering him with these questions would be an understatement. But I felt like I should know. Then he announced he expected be buried in Guatemala... near his family. Oh.

Hmmm... so are we going to be buried together? And if so... in what country? The thought that I might spend the afterlife in Central America had never occurred to me. At the same time, it seems only fair if we live our lives here in the States.

Conversations of this somber nature can quickly turn silly. And soon Billy was instructing me to cremate him and sprinkle his ashes over Israel. Oh for the love. I actually do not have an envelope of body shipping cash laying around. 

For those of us with our hearts in many places, the question of home may follow us until even our final moments. It's something I had never really considered before.  

Living across cultures, making different choices than where we came from. These small decisions throughout our days add up to a life that constantly looks a little different and doesn't easily fit into any box. (Even a coffin.) 

Of course, conversations about our final days make all of us a little squirmy. I am in that same camp. I don't relish talking about wills and burials and all that jazz. That's why I like to hash it all out in one outlandish exchange that involves a lot of exaggerated humor. Thank you, Gilmore Girls, for always showing us how that's done! 

I Married an Undocumented Immigrant

Talk about immigration continues to swirl in the news. The need for sensible, comprehensive reform remains. And broken policies and tone deaf rhetoric impact immigrants across the country.

We are family that has walked through the immigration system, and we continue to share what we experienced and what we learned along the way. Our hope is that others might come alongside immigrant neighbors and participate in community that values and welcomes the stranger.

Today, I'm sharing a few things I learned about the immigration system while Billy and I were dating. I was also transformed by the experience of compassion as defined by Henri Nouwen. It's a privilege to write about these lessons that have stayed with me ever since. I hope you'll click over and read!

Here's a short preview:

I knew very little about immigration when I met my husband. I’d grown up in the Bible Belt South, and it always seemed like a faraway issue that didn’t really affect me. I had general ideas that sneaking across the border wasn’t a good idea. But mostly I liked exploring cultures and thought legal immigration was beneficial. When asked about the topic in a job interview, I summed up my stance this way: “I don’t really know much about it. But if I had to choose between a closed border or an open border, I’d lean toward more open.” That was the extent of my immigration knowledge.

When I started dating Billy, who is from Guatemala, he made two confessions early on. One, he had come to the States to participate in an international singing contest and had been the lead singer in a hardcore Spanish, Christian rock band. And two, though he had entered the country legally and via airplane, he had overstayed his visa and was now an undocumented immigrant. He also informed me that his only pathway to legal status was to marry a U.S. citizen. If you think that’s an awkward conversation to have in the first months of dating, well, you’d be exactly right.

How This Election Is Taking Me Back To Basics

My daughter came home from kindergarten talking about the mock election held at school that day. I noted her "I voted" sticker displayed proudly on her uniform.

We haven't discussed the election with her really at all, so I was curious her take on it. "Who did you vote for?" I asked.

"I can't remember her name," she mused. And I smiled. She has no idea the use of a feminine pronounce gives away her ballot choice.

Even amidst all the chaos (and regardless of any opinions), it is not lost on me that my daughter is growing up at a time when a woman is running for President. It is still a fact that stirs my emotions and blows my mind a little. I wasn't sure I'd see it in my lifetime.

My daughter also doesn't know there was a time when women weren't even allowed to vote. Seeing my gender represented in the presidential race has made me think about this progression several times this past year.

First Time Voting Is A Valuable Reminder

In another area of election firsts, 2016 is Billy's first time voting in a national election. He became a citizen in 2013, so this race - again, amidst chaos and regardless of opinions - has been special for us. (We tried out Facebook Live for the first time to chat about this the other night. You can click here to watch it. And yes, we're sideways for the first couple minutes because technology.)

I've been thinking about all those who have opportunity to vote in this election thanks to hard fought battles in our country's history. I'm also thinking about those who are impacted by our government, but cannot participate: children, undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents (green card holders), citizens with felony convictions, refugees that have not gained citizenship, and probably more folks I'm not aware of.

It is such a privilege and responsibility to participate in democracy. A perspective that feels a bit lost amidst all the chaos and opinions. But for me, this election has pushed me back to recognizing and appreciating these basics. I have not been inspired by our country in the past months (years???) of this campaign. But I am deeply connected to the privilege and responsibility of voting.

The Unsung Power of Day-To-Day Civic Engagement 

And I'm also reminded how active engagement in democracy is more than one day every four years, and often hits much closer to home than Washington D.C. I saw this in action recently in our own community.

The Atlanta Beltline is a massive city project and "among the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States." It's a really cool development creating a network of parks, walking and biking trails, and light rail circling downtown.

My neighborhood is right along its path. However, in the initial plans for development, there was not a planned access point for our community. We live in a neighborhood that is traditionally overlooked, so it's not all that surprising, though I wish that weren't the case.

But here's the thing. My community is super engaged. We coordinated email campaigns and let them know we are here. Our local coffee shop offered to host the next planning meeting, which organizers described as their highest attendance of all time. We showed up and we spoke up.

Current designs now include an access point from the Beltline to our neighborhood. Planners said they "heard the most noise" from our community. Yeah, they did. And while we know we will need to continue to show up to stay included, I am encouraged to see how committed neighbors can make a difference.

Here We Go!

So my encouragement to you this election week is to go back to basics and keep perspective. It is a privilege to vote, if you are able. So vote. And it is a responsibility. Consider those whose voices are absent from our voting process.

And don't let November 8th be the end all be all of your civic engagement. Stay involved on local and national levels, advocating for your community, your family, and the marginalized.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
- Margaret Mead

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.