jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

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My Favorite Refugee

What, you don’t have a favorite refugee?

The year I was born, a group of siblings-refugees-was brought to the U.S. and sponsored by the church I now attend.  In addition to basic human decency and compassion, the Bible is pretty clear about how we’re to treat refugees, those in need, and children without parents.  “Y” and his siblings were all those things at the time.  But I’m not here to tell his story, or lecture everyone about Christian behavior.

You see, in the recent discussion of refugees and our responsibilities and our fears, I think something important has been left out.  I’ll try to explain.

Y made friends, went to school, married, and had children.  Normal things that anyone might do anywhere.  His youngest two children, a son and a daughter, are my younger son’s closest friends.  My son and Y’s son went away to college together last fall.  They’ve worked out living arrangements with Y’s sister- and brother-in law, who live in the same town as the university the boys attend.  This was an unbelievable blessing, because there was simply no way my son could afford to live in a dorm or rent an apartment while he was there.  And not only does he get to live cheaply, but he and Y’s son have the emotional and practical support of family (and each other)–the kind of support that can make the difference between success and failure.

Did you catch that?  Taking in one refugee resulted in my kid going to University.  My fifth-generation American son of Irish and German descent.

Then there’s the dozens of meals Y’s family and mine have shared.  And the time he showed up on my doorstep with the makings of an entire Thanksgiving dinner.  And the months he spent teaching my son and other homeschooled kids a foreign language.  And how he spends many of his days off from his regular job substitute teaching in the local schools.  And the hours he spends helping recent immigrants learn to drive and navigate life in the U.S.  And the awesome things his kids have brought to the world around them.

And this is what is missing from the current discussion.  Oh yes, we have a responsibility, as people, and (when it applies) as Christians.  We should, without a doubt, do the right thing.  But doing the right thing quite often–nearly always, in fact–brings rewards.  So I ask you to keep in mind that these people our nation is bickering over, these traumatized and beleaguered and battered and bruised and tired and hungry people, these people who need us?  We need them, too.



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Inner Child On Wheels

I’m not sure what it is about wheels.  The speed, maybe?  The feeling of gliding that comes so close to how I imagine flying would feel?  Whatever it is, my inner child has always loved wheels.  It’s why I ride my bike (and why my bike has bright blue tires). There’s a section of my work commute with a super long hill, and I swear I don’t have to pedal for nearly a quarter of a mile.  Almost nothing compares to the I-am-probably-about-to-die joyful thrill of flying down that hill.


This is Bluebell.  She’s my bud.

So it’s no surprise that when my roommate suggested we spend New Year’s Eve at the local skating rink, I didn’t argue.  We went, and it was all kinds of fun reliving our childhoods (but really, how dare they get rid of the cotton candy machine?).  And even though I’d only skated a couple times since having kids, I thought I was still pretty good at it!  I mean, I could skate fast.

At some point I realized that skating fast is all well and good, but only if you know how to stop.  Stopping, it seems, is something I had forgotten how to do.  Thank goodness they put those handy walls around the rink.  And I could turn corners, but sometimes one skate would catch on the other, and I’d nearly fall.  (Is it any wonder none of the boys asked me to be their partner for the couples skate?  Oh, wait. They were all too young to drive.)

Nevertheless, I had so much fun that I thought it would be a great idea to have my birthday party at the rink this year.  I grabbed a pamphlet and began to peruse my options.  Cue sticker shock.  How do parents afford this kind of stuff?!  For $250, there had better be servants ready to wave palm fronds in my direction whenever I take a break, and gold-leafed party favors. I was ready to toss it aside when I saw they offered lessons on Saturday mornings.  $24 for a month seemed much more reasonable, and besides, all I needed to learn was stopping and turning, right?  One month should do it. I questioned the man at the counter, and he told me not to worry, they’d separate us all out by skill, and they could accommodate me at my level.

As the first lesson approached, my primary concern was clothing.  I’m having a bit of a wardrobe crisis at the moment. I’ve got my kinda-dressy work-and-church stuff, my paint-covered shop jeans, and my collection of race shirts and athletic wear.  Nothing in between. Cursing the frigid temperatures, I opted for runner’s leggings over my athletic skirt.  Even a decade spent firmly in the body positive/size acceptance camp has not dispelled my feeling that I shouldn’t wear leggings, and I’ll admit that I nearly backed out of  the lesson purely because of my clothes!  I stomped out those negative voices and headed to the rink.

At the counter, I was directed to the sign in sheet.  Now, putting my name down was no problem.  The next column was age.  I was the third student on the list.  Our ages? Three. Five. And 41.  The third column was parent’s name.  I left it blank and hoped no one would raise a fuss.

Once on the rink, I was assigned my own instructor. Bless Miss Pat.  Her only concession to her 78 years was wearing wrist guards, though I can’t picture her falling.  A woman that graceful must just float down to the ground, if gravity can even manage to overcome her.

Miss Pat had me skate around the loop once, and then taught me my first lesson: I don’t actually know how to skate.  Sorry, Mom, those hours you spent walking backwards and dragging me up and down the block?  Apparently we wasted your time.

Not once during the lesson did I have a moment to worry if the watching parents were judging my legging-clad butt.  And forty minutes later, Miss Pat declared me 100% better than when I’d come through the door.  Mind you, this only qualifies me to skate back and forth or around the rink.  She took the last five minutes to teach me how to stop. And then she gave me homework:  squats. It’s clear that one month of classes won’t be sufficient, but Miss Pat promises I’ll be able to “skate figures” eventually, and my inner child is very excited about this. Probably I should buy some skates of my own.  I wish I’d kept the fuzzy dice that hung on the toes of my skates when I was a child.

As we wrapped up, the man on the loudspeaker said something about students skating free on Wednesdays.  When I turned my skates in, I asked the girl at the counter how to go about the free skating thing.

Her: Parents always skate free on Wednesdays.

Me:  But I’m talking about the thing for students.

Her:  But you’d be free anyway, when you skate with your kids.

Me:  My kids are in college.  I won’t be bringing them.

Her:  *confused look*

Me:  I’m the student.

Her:  Oh. Um…he’ll be right back and then you can ask him.

These things happen when one nurtures their inner child.