Amerigrants in Gray

We love our global friends. How can their perspective not change us and influence us?

When Robbie first told me that he considered our family to be Amerigrants (American + immigrants), I objected.

“You’re the only one who’s ever been overseas,” I reminded him. “Maybe we’re The Amerigrant & Mrs. Grayson, like an 80s spy flick.”

“No, think about it,” Robbie said. “It’s not just about my experiences. As a family, we make friends with people from all over the world. We listen to them and learn from their perspectives. We read international books and watch international movies. I think that makes us global. We’re not just Americans from America who think only like Americans.”

That’s true. And it made me think of something else true about our family: we’re diverse. I still want to get one of those DNA tests that tell you about your genetic heritage. But from what I know through family history, I’ve got French, English, Scots-Irish, and German in me. Robbie’s got African, Cherokee, and German in him. So our family is a melting pot just by existing.

Add to that the fact that we open our doors and welcome Native Americans as well as people from China, Iraq, Colombia, Italy, Mongolia, England, Venezuela, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Mongolia, South Africa, Sweden, Jordan, and Israel, and we do have the benefit of eyes and hearts all over the world. We love our global friends. How can their perspective not change us and influence us?

One more thing: we reject fundamentalism of any kind. We were both raised in communities that saw the world only in black and white. We observed a lot of fear and dislike in those fundamentalist communities. We believe that the shades of gray in the world are beautiful and that people who are not like us are valuable and necessary to us.

So between our global heritage and our global community, yes – we are Amerigrants. And our family shows what the future will be. More Americans in the coming generations will marry interracially if trends hold, and the presence of fast transit and immediate Internet connection means that more Americans will form international bonds.

Showing you our family means showing you the future. It’s a good life, one we can embrace and celebrate, not fear.

So here we show you Amerigrants in Gray: An American Family Portrait in Black, White, and Gray.


First blog postFamily picture Christmas 2015 (2)

Moana and Her Dad

I love Moana. I love this movie so much, for so many different reasons. I am talking a lot lately to everybody about Moana. I am sure I will post a lot about it.

Robbie and I had a conversation about one part of this movie at dinner tonight. Here it is.

I have to start by saying that evangelical groundswell backlash against mainstream pop culture mostly makes me want to hurl. Like a lot. I hate the way the Christian horde makes a huge deal out of nothing.I can remember hearing people despise Ariel for wearing a bikini and defying her father’s order not to have anything to do with land-based life forms. I mean, can we not talk about maybe not bargaining your voice away for a man? Can we not talk about developing an appropriate level of distrust for people who we can see have taken advantage of other people?

I can remember as a teenager hearing people despise Ariel for wearing a bikini and defying her father’s order not to have anything to do with land-based life forms. I mean, can we not talk about maybe not bargaining your voice away for a man? Can we not talk about developing an appropriate level of distrust for people who we can see have taken advantage of other people? There are so many things to condemn other than fashion choices and the drive to explore.

Okay, so I am presuming that there is a backlash against Moana for disobeying her father by going over the reef. I don’t know this for sure because I’m not around the evangelical horde much these days. But I’m assuming that some die-hard patriarchy fans are going to start beating that drum if they haven’t already.

I have a problem with that opinion because having a Y chromosome does not make you infallible. Having a Y chromosome and fathering a child does not make you infallible. Christians have to get away from dropping the hammer on every kid coming of age who disagrees with his (or her) father and acts independently.

Moana’s dad had a problem with her crossing the reef because he ignored his own heritage. He knew about the boats in the cave and his voyaging ancestors, but he took a flimsy lagoon canoe past the reef and got his friend killed in the process. Then he enshrined his own failure as a law and curbed the natural enthusiasm his daughter had for the ocean, despite the fact that HE KNEW her desire was perfectly understandable and explainable.

Her grandmother knows the same history. She shows Moana physical proof of who her people are and what they have already done. Grandma encourages her granddaughter to pay attention to the past and believe that she can change the future.

Christians get focused on small things and ignore big things. They get focused on thought systems and don’t acknowledge the real world. This should not be.

I love Moana’s daring spirit and her willingness to put herself in danger if it will save her home. She’s awesome. And her story underscores a sore point for me.

Male people are not more important or more likely to be right or more intelligent on average than female people. Whether a person is male or female shouldn’t determine how daring or selfless or courageous that person can be. And Christians need to stop systematically teaching young female people so.

Lobster Shells and Liguria

So, like thousands of other people, we heard about the Facebook post from the mayor of tiny little Bormida in Liguria, Italy – the guy who offered people about two thousand bucks to move to his picturesque town to revive its dwindling population. Unfortunately, the two thousand bucks are no longer on the table, but the offer did spark a conversation.

Because Robbie grew up in Germany, he has always wanted to go back. When we were first dating and talking about getting married, we always assumed we’d live part of our lives in Europe, just like he did. But for one reason and another, we never have.

First, we stayed because of our growing family, with a new baby just about every two years. Then we stayed because of the school we ran and the obligations and restrictions that came with running it. And even after our business changed, our kids were bonding with friends and getting jobs and winding themselves tighter and tighter into this community here. And at least for me, even traveling with 6 kids overseas seemed like it would cost a fortune, let alone moving somewhere. I didn’t want to think about it.

But I’m thinking about it now, and not just to chase two thousand bucks.

It feels like our ties to Franklin are loosening. We’re not going to church here. Our two oldest kids, the ones with the deepest roots here, are in the process of leaving home. We’re running a business that’s done almost entirely online. We sold our house and started renting a few years ago. We’re taking a break from some not-so-great family influences. If there was ever a time for us to leave, it seems to be now.

And I feel like I want to slow down in a way I can’t do here. I keep watching movies over and over again with characters that start over, movies like Chef and Interstellar and A Good Year.  I resonate with articles like the one with the lady who moved her kids to Ecuador.

And I keep thinking of a video I first saw on Facebook about lobster shells. A rabbi explains that lobsters can’t grow inside their shells. When it’s time for them to grow, they get out of their shells. They hide while a new shell grows, one that has some extra room.

I don’t know if moving overseas is the right move for us right now. We’ll be here at least another year while our oldest kids get settled. But leaving the US is a conversation that Robbie and I are having for the first time in a long time. That feels significant, and therefore more of a possibility.

Maybe if we get out of our lobster shells and into Liguria, we’ll be able to learn something that makes us larger and more able to slow down and live like we want. Maybe when we come back, we’ll see life here in a different way.


Franklin Farmers Market


Ellen & Edith Grayson

I love Saturday mornings during the summer behind The Factory between 8:00 and 13:00. Because the Franklin Farmers Market is open. It’s crowded with organically grown food under the main awning.

They have most anything you want (We prefer the local honey, peaches, squash, tomatoes, multi-colored carrots, kale, basil, peppers, new potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli. And the Amish butter, goat cheese and yogurt is the most delicious I’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic). Among the food you can find flowers, starter plants, natural oils, and soap (We buy from Alchemy of Sol). They’ve got the obligatory eggs, chicken, and beef also (No fish that I’ve seen). Bison even.

Going to market in this little Southern town is nostalgic for me, because as a child living in England (1983-1987), I used to go to market on Thursdays.

Thursday was market in England, an event in which concrete wastelands and empty fields were magically transformed into an aggressively bustling outdoor mall with hundreds of vendors peddling an unthematic combination of cheap plastic, cheap artwork, shiny metals, cheap electronics and, otherwise, authentically ethnic wares. 

There were also the butchers who fell within the food vending category, walking around in their blood-soaked aprons, arranging fish frozen in various states of agony, chickens, pheasants and rabbits strung up by the feet in neat little rows by order of size, the sweet smell of game and blood I then associated with Sunday dinner. 

There were also the fast food vendors who mostly sold food, much for which I never developed a taste during the four years I lived in the Commonwealth. I enjoyed the fish & chips generously sprinkled with salt, sopped with vinegar and wrapped in yesterday’s news. I also enjoyed the batter-fried rock (eel). I was too queasy to enjoy the blood pudding, and I was a baby when it came to unsugared custard which crowned many an English pudding.

Pomozone: How an English Market Day Turned Political

So taking my kids to the market is important, and giving them money to go interact with vendors is the value I’d like them to get out of it. That’s one way I learned to interact with a large number of unpredictable personalities as a child.

Tarik was a giant Arab with each fist the size of my head. He accosted me at the Carterton Market in 1985. He was peddling batteries, thousands of them. I had never seen so many batteries at one time in my life, so I stopped. I had been walking up and down the makeshift aisles with five or so British pounds in my pocket, looking for something gaudy to buy.

“You American?”

We American kids, living in foreign countries, did not always follow military protocol when asked by strangers to reveal our national identity. We thought that identifying ourselves as American was a sure sign of immunity: you would be given attention, you could get free food, you were a credible source of all things American whether or not you knew anything about it. 

People who once gave you blank stars of indifference would all of a sudden perk up with curiosity when they found out you were American. Better yet, tell them what state you were from, and they were all the more curious. My state, Florida, made people sick with jealousy, I suppose, because they envisioned sprawling beaches of white sand and sexy people throwing back their heads in laughter with nary a care in the world like they do in American commercials, dramatically downing Cokes in their short-shorts and scant bikinis.

“Yes, sir. I’m American.”

Tarik looked me up and down. Like a mean girl.

The Franklin Farmers Market isn’t the same. But it’s similar.

Thirty-two years later.