We came to Montana with one main goal - to see the Glacier National Park. A glacier is a body of ice that never melts, at least it has not in the recent past. The area also receives additional heavy snowfalls in wintertime. As a result, the park is open only for a couple of months per year during summertime when the roads can be cleared from snow and fallen rocks.

Unfortunately, this year we arrived a couple of weeks too early and the roads still required work to open. At the same time, much of the park is expected to be closed for 2020 because of the quarantine. We were only able to take a small glimpse of the park, sharing it with a high number of other visitors, who were equally disappointed. What makes the situation even more depressing is that most of the glaciers are expected to be gone by 2030 as the global temperature rises. We have few other opportunities for visiting the park until then.

The effect of global warming here is obvious, but also noticeable in other areas of the country as well. While the southern states have become inhospitable in summertime without staying indoors, the heat in the north has also been fairly extreme. Staying indoors or in the car during the daytime and only sightseeing very early in the morning or late in the evening has become the norm for us. On the other hand, we are visiting many of these places for the first time so we do not know how much more tolerable the heat was in the past. While the heat is still a minor inconvenience for us personally because of our comfortable position in the world, I am even less enthusiastic about all the displaced people in the hot countries and the impact on our global food supplies.

On a more positive note, the 4th of July has passed. It felt so right to go out for a picnic, enjoy the company of our family and just be grateful for the opportunities we have in this country. And, while celebrating the US Independence Day, I thought about the Lithuanian Independence Day traditions.

I felt sad about my homeland traditions. First thing I remembered was the same boring history lesson year after year with the same slides. The second memory was the chaotic school ceremony of raising the flag or painting the flag on something so it can be hung in the hallway of the school. Nothing joyful, just a necessary process. And the saddest thing was that the family was not involved, at least not mine.

I immediately started dreaming about Lithuanian family traditions for the Independence day. The first argument from Lukas against my ideas was that our Independence Day is in the middle of the winter. How can you compare that to midsummer and fireworks? My counterargument was that we still celebrate Mardi Gras/"Užgavėnės" in the same weather conditions, but we manage to bake pancakes, dance, dress up and jump through the fire.

My ideas for Lithuanian Independence Day family traditions are: starting a fire in the woods and telling stories about partisans and book smugglers, or going to the countryside and cooking some good food over the fire, and spending quality time with the family while remembering the families that were torn apart.

My parents left this "patriotic" duty to school. And I can't stop imagining how many good memories would have been created within the family instead. With the future generation I would like to start celebrating our freedom not as a chore, but with a heart full of gratitude and surrounded by close ones.