Traveling with & without kids + “Miller’s Valley” by Anna Quindlen

The best writing spot EVER! No laundry, no dishes, no kids. NO distractions!!!



Traveling alone. WOW!!!

I hardly ever get to do it. I mean, twice in the last 13 years. And both those moments have come in the last three months.

Seriously, my husband and I don’t even go anywhere alone. It’s too hard to get a sitter for an extended period of time.

Oh wait–last year we went to Indianapolis for a football game. Over night. It was amazing, but it was Indianapolis. Not the Caribbean or anything.

But today, right now, I’m on an airplane. Alone. No kids, no husband. No dogs. Just me.

I’m on my way to Arizona for a little Mother’s Day with my mom. That I’m spending Mother’s Day away from my kids is a little strange, but I get to be with My Mom!!!

I used to travel all the time with the girls by myself. Back when my husband was a chef, when her rarely got time off to travel with us. I would fly from Colorado to Arizona, from Colorado to New Jersey. We got pretty good at flying alone, but it was still tough with two under the age of two, then under the age of three, and under the age of five. Ted left the culinary world when Libby was about 7, and we now travel together on a regular basis.

He missed the tough years, though. Getting through security with one that liked to run, one that couldn’t walk. AND, at that time, they made the littles take their shoes off.

The fact that Katy has Down syndrome got us through a few lines, and people were very generous with us (a stroller, always a stroller), but it was still difficult. It seemed at that time that security was told to give struggling moms a little more hassle, just to make it more interesting. For them.

Libby got patted down at the age of 4. Seriously. She just gave them her thousand yard stare and then cried. Because she was 4 and strangers were touching her.

Any way, I was grateful when they were old enough to follow rules and get out of the stroller. And more grateful when then decided kids under 12 didn’t have to take their shoes off.

Now they’re seasoned travelers. The most they do is fight with each other on the plane (which is annoying enough). They have their tablets and phones, and they’re good.

But today, this flight, I don’t have to worry about them. Well, at least not on the plane. I worry about them getting everywhere they need to be on time and dressed appropriately. But my older does a great job of looking after her little sister, and Dad does a pretty good job of looking after them both.

Plus we have some great friends that help when needed.

I guess I’m lucky that I have kids that travel well, and that I enjoy spending time with (usually). I’m also lucky that I get to travel a bit alone, which makes me appreciate them all the more when I get home.

At least for a day or two.

Okay, onto a great book about family and home, Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen.

I figured out that it wasn’t so much trees and birds I’d always liked in the valley as much as it was the feeling of being alone. I guess most people thing that since the city is so crowded you don’t feel that way, but I did from the very beginning, maybe even more than I had at home. Crossing the street with as many people as had been in my high school class made me feel even more alone because I didn’t know any of them and none of them knew me. I hadn’t crossed a street in Miller’s Valley in my whole life next to someone who didn’t know me, who didn’t know something about my parents, something about my brothers.

Mary Margaret “Mimi” Miller in “Miller’s Valley” by Anna Quindlen

The Premise

Generations of Millers have lived in Miller’s Valley, farming and making a life with their neighbors and friends. This is the story of the last generation to live in the Valley, told by the girl who will unearth family secrets and government plans all while knowing that their time in their Valley is marked for damming and flooding.

Mimi Miller knows from a young age that the government wants to buy land from the residents of Miller’s Valley. The way water will flood their homes and interrupt their lives is a fact of life for her, but it wasn’t always that way. Years before the government took a neighboring town and flooded it when it damned up the river. But something wasn’t done right, either a mistake or on purpose, and the government needs Miller’s Valley to make it right.

As the government plays the long game, buying houses slowly over the next 20 years, Mimi tells readers the story of her family and the town, and of her life. The story of a Valley living in the shadow of a dam, and of a family living in the shadow of expectations and secrets.

My Thoughts

In Miller’s Valley, Anna Quindlen has created a cast of memorable characters lead by the indomitable Mary Margaret Miller, known to those close to her as Mimi. Mimi is a bit Scout, a bit Heidi, and a bit Nancy Drew all rolled into one great storyteller.

But readers never really get to know the inner life of Mimi, except to know that she’s a bit of a loner and an overachiever. That’s okay for the story, and really I think that is a bit of Mimi’s personality. She tells us the story of her family and the valley, the story of her, without getting overemotional. With this, Quindlen has created a pretty reliable narrator, trustworthy in her story. She’s in the story, but she’s mostly telling us what happened with others and what she overheard rather than what she felt about the whole thing.

I also think that Mimi learned her unemotional style early from her stoic mother, and it was further ingrained in her through trauma and loss.

Any way, this book was beautiful. Knowing that her town is literally going underwater and won’t be around forces Mimi to really take a look at what’s going on, and what it means for her family, its history, and her future. She’s pragmatic in the best way, and Quindlen writes a beautiful story through her of location and family, relating the ways in which they intertwine and shape a life.

I give Miller’s Valley five stars. Beautiful, emotional, and slightly haunting. I loved it.


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