Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflecting on 40

In three days I will be 41. And though this birthday is not considered the milestone last year's was, it is significant nonetheless. It has been a good year and a tough year and, frankly,  some of this past year has been nearly unbearable. But as I approach this weekend of my birth I have come through 40 years unscathed and better for it all.

My 40th year started with a blizzard and a botched birthday celebration where almost no one was able to make it through the snow-covered streets to my party. I lost my beloved dog of 16 years, I moved, with my husband, across the United States, and I made a career change that proved to be challenging in ways that I never imagined. I also moved into a beachside home, welcomed a new and perfect, fluffy pup into my life, witnessed my marriage strengthen despite the upheaval of our comfort zone,  and grew as a professional and a person more than I have in many years. I also had three of my best friends and some wonderful family members visit me in my new home.  I have had struggles, I have missed my family, I have led groups of trusting colleagues around the world on tours to 8 foreign countries, and I have semi-fearlessly navigated four countries to which I had never been. I have become an expert with FaceTime and have watched my niece grow up from afar.

Bella and the hubs
40th birthday in a blizzard
FaceTime with the niece on her 2nd Birthday
Adrienne Visits the HB
Family in the HB

KDibs in the HB

Shae visits us

In front of St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow
Me and my team in Vietnam

All of these things are not small and I marvel at the resiliency we possess as human beings to come through challenges with relative ease and how we usually become better people (definitely more interesting people) because of them. I will not say that 40 has been my best year, this would not be true. But I will say that 40 has been a year that I have learned more about myself, my strength, and my worth than any year before. Maybe this is how it always is once you reach a certain age. I am hopeful that my learning continues, that my heart remains open to new adventures, and that my life blossoms in different and exciting ways here on out.

Here's to 41 and all of the surprises in store!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Homesick two ways.

I haven't blogged in a while and to those of you aware of my recent life upheaval, you may not be surprised why I haven't. But, having just returned from over two weeks away from my country of birth, embarking on the first two giant tours of my new career, it is hard to explain what this "home"coming felt like and whenever I start to feel the "feels" my trusty blog seems to help me articulate. Thank goodness for writing. It has always been a soft spot to which I can return when I have the time or the inspiration. Or seemingly indescribable feelings to work through. 

I have been away. Away from my family for four months. Away from my husband and dog for over two weeks. Away from my comfort zone for longer. And upon coming home this past Friday I felt jolted into a reality that I have not completely wrapped my head around yet. Midway through my work tour I felt incredibly homesick, but I could not name for which home. And when I arrived to my beautiful, glorious, beachside home this past Friday, I did not, in fact, feel at home. Although my husband was there, and my sweet little nugget of a pup, I still felt homesick for what I left behind. I wanted to see my mom and dad, I wanted my brother and Brittany and the baby to come over. I wanted Autumn. 

I left my first home before. In 1999 I drove with my boyfriend to the Arizona desert in search of adventure and all that comes with being heady in love with the person you eventually don't end up with. And it was an adventure. I remember crying for most of the drive, poor Mark, the poet without the words to console me. But once the levity of it all set in, I figured it out and made a life for myself (ultimately without the poet) in the dusty, lovely town I will always consider one of my homes. And there, I met my true love and began a life that I would not trade for anything. I had the most phenomenal girlfriends, and mentors, and a life that felt like home. I always missed my family, but I had my footing. What is hard to remember, is when I got that footing into place. But I know it took some time. 

I am now 40 years old and although I still have an adventurous spirit burning inside of me, I feel more insecure than ever about figuring this all out. I have the most incredible home, the perfect mate for me, and enough money to have nice dinners and vacations and a savings account. I had none of these things the last time I left my "home", but for some reason now it seems so much harder.  

And let's get one thing straight. As beautiful as autumn is in New England, I really don't miss it. I am on my patio in my bathing suit with a boogie board nearby just in case I need to head down to the Pacific Ocean for a quick swim before dinner, on the grill, in October. Yes, the photos of pumpkins and foliage touch a place in me that is nostalgic, but I must admit, I have it pretty good. I am quite okay with endless summer and anyone who really knows me, knows this to be the truth! 

I guess what it comes down to is as small as the world is now because of technology and ease of travel, it is just never the same when all the people you love the most are there when you come "home". I know that the "footing" will come for me in this new place I am calling my home. I know that I can get there, but I just wish I had a timeline to know when it will happen. 

In the meantime, I will never squander all of the perks of this challenging and exciting time. I have a husband who loves me, a perfect, fluffy pup, and an ocean within walking distance of my front door. And in this way, I guess home is pretty alright. And when the photos of blizzardly New England eventually appear in my feed, my footing should be in place (and without boots on!). 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Stretching the Boundaries of a Comfort Zone

Today marks ten days since the upheaval of my little, comfortable life in Connecticut for a whole new, giant, stretched out life in Southern California. I am proud of myself for making the move. I am impressed with the strength of my marriage during a big transition. I know that I am strong and fearless. I am also a bit tired. Last week was a hazy version of what my life usually is. Prior to the "big move" I was alert, aware of my surroundings to a fault. I knew what had to be done when and where and how often. Since the "big move" I have been floating through a haze, albeit a beautiful sunny one. The job I have done at three different boarding schools for the last many years had become kind of easy, predictable. The new job is not either of these things. And though I know I am going to rock and roll in this job soon, I feel overwhelmed by the whole of it. I felt like an expert for the last 15 years in mostly everything I have had to do professionally and now I have some things to learn. I wanted this. I am excited for this. But that doesn't make it feel like a "slam dunk". At least not yet. I know I have everything in my metaphorical tool box to do all the things I will be charged with, but it's been a long time since I have been asked to use new tools. I'll get there I am sure, but I am human like anyone and the familiar feels softer, kinder. And it's not just my career. It's finding someone to cut my hair, figuring out what the hell kind of plants to put in my garden, where the post office is. It's about finding the right time to connect with the ones I love and encouraging them not to text me at the start of their day which is when I am still sleeping. It is a learning curve as big as I have ever experienced and I know that I will soon have it all under control. In general, I think I have done pretty well. I did find someone to cut my hair and even take care of my toes. I know where the bank is and even the post office. I only used my GPS once to get to work. It is all good and will just get better, this I know.

What I will say about this place is that I feel good here. It is sunny. I can ride my bike to the ocean. I am eating better. I am outside more. And this all will be true year round. I have made a move with my husband who was an incredible rock throughout the whole trip and since we have arrived. This move will be good for us, no matter how challenging the transition. I have had meltdowns about missing my parents, my brother and his family, our friends, even the Connecticut Music Awards that we would have surely been decked out for and surrounded by people we love. It is hard and good and hazy all at the same time.

With all this said, I think the haze will lift this week. After an incredible weekend of actually realizing that I live in one of the most beautiful places in our country, everything is bound to be okay. We have begun to fall back into routines that seem familiar, have transferred our east coast life to the west as much as we can, and have begun to look forward with great hope and possibility.

This move, without question is the best and hardest thing I have ever done, but I am grateful for every moment of this journey.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Soul of an Adventurer

So, for many of you who read my blog, you know that it is called "Where the Wind Takes Me". And when I started writing this years ago the thought of this phrase filled me with hope and inspiration. We can go anywhere, do anything, any time we want. This is true. But that doesn't mean it has to be without deep consideration. I have accepted a job in California that begins in June. As I embark on a new adventure and a new career path, I do so without hesitation because my heart has spoken to me very loudly and very clearly about it. This does not mean that I won't miss what I am leaving behind. I love my family more than I can even illustrate in a blog and I will miss seeing them easily by living in the same state. I love my porch and my house, and will miss these things as I move on. I love the familiarity of living very close to where I grew up, knowing where everything is, how to get around, what to expect. However, I also love the fact that by making this big move I will get to work in a job that feeds every one of my professional passions, that I will live by the ocean, that I will have to be uncomfortable for a little while before I am settled into a new home (this is good for us!). I don't fear change, but it is also not without its challenges. As for my family and friends, I know that I can love them from anywhere as much as I do from Southington, CT. With technology I have stayed in touch easily with people living all over the world and I know this will be the case now, too. It is not easy on them to see me go, and I want to be very clear that it is not easy on me either. But distance is distance and though our relationship will be different our love will not be lessened because of it. In considering this adventure, I had to sit with myself a while to determine what I actually know to be true. I have come up with this:
1. I am a good daughter/sister/aunt/friend. I have always loved my family and friends fiercely and have done a lot in my life to make sure that they know this. Decisions like this one do not make everyone happy, and I never expect them to, but I know deep down they support me and want me to follow my heart. This means everything to me.
1. I am passionate. Not just about my own life, but how my life makes an impact on others, my community, and the larger world. I am very aware and conscious of this almost all the time. By taking this job I will have the chance to affect change all over the world.
2. I am tuned into my heart and emotions. I am a very sensitive person who trusts her gut more often than not. This hasn't always worked out, but when it has, it has been something incredible.
3. I want to make a difference. From a young age I have been very aware that I have the ability to affect change in the lives of others by simply doing the right thing. For me, this sometimes means taking a chance, a leap into something new.
4. I like to work hard. When I feel like I am not being challenged I typically feel frustrated and immediately start to look for ways to become better in some way. I know I am going to work like crazy in my new job, and this excites me far more than it scares me.
5. I am an adventurer. Travel, moving, starting something new does not frighten me but excites me to the core. I have always been like this and I probably always will be.
6. I am committed to leaving a legacy. Although I have not had children or followed a "traditional" road in my life, I believe that the reason I am here is to leave some kind of legacy. I intend to be remembered for many things, but most importantly for making the world I live in better by working hard and treating people well.

So, as this next chapter in my life begins, I am very sure of myself and the step I am taking. I am also very nervous about how it will all play out. It will be an adventure and a challenge. It will be exciting and scary. But it will be mine and I will embrace each step of the journey. In the meantime, please start planning to visit us on the west coast. There will always be room for friends and family in our house!

Friday, February 20, 2015

14,600 Days

It is the eve of my 40th birthday and I couldn't be more excited. I have always loved my birthday no matter the year, but I am told this one is a "milestone" so I figure I should think about what that means. To me, every birthday I have had has been a milestone of some sort and certainly a blessing. However, as I head into a new decade there are a few more things I know about myself and life that make this birthday, to me, much sweeter. A colleague asked me this week how I am feeling about turning 40 and then sort of frowned like it is the worst thing in the world. This is not how I feel about 40. Not at all. In fact, this might be my favorite birthday so far because of who I am today. Here are 10 things that are true going into the next decade that I didn't totally have my head around in my 20's or even most of my 30's.

1. I know who I am.
For most of my life I have been pretty comfortable with my individuality, but finally at this stage in my life I feel just about 100% clear about who I am and what I represent. I am not apologetic about my beliefs, decisions, or lifestyle. I wear clothes that make me feel good. I listen to music that moves me. I decorate my home in a way completely unique to me. I wear lipstick everyday because it makes me feel pretty.

2. I like who I am.
I have come to terms with the fact that not everyone in the world has to love me for me to love myself. I am less hard on myself and see my flaws in a more loving way. I am open to improvement all the time, but recognize that who I am right this minute is enough for today.

3. I know what I believe in and can back it up with reasons why.
I have strong political beliefs. I am an advocate for social justice. I am a feminist. If you say something that I disagree with I will tell you and I am prepared to tell you why.

4. I trust my life decisions and rarely question them.
Whether these choices are about my mate, my career, children, religion, where to live, how to spend my money. I am confident in my decisions and very rarely are they swayed.

5. I follow my heart.
At age 40 I will be married to my best friend and the other half of my heart. I will be in a career that I love and have created for myself in many ways. I will go on vacations with my girlfriends every year. I will spend time alone to reflect and sit in the sun. In some ways I have always followed my heart, but I definitely question it much less today than I once did.

6. I choose and not choose who I associate with easily and without apology.
My time is more valuable than ever these days and when I have some free hours I want to spend it with people who make my life better, plain and simple. If you don't, then I don't need ya.

7. I understand the world better.
Completely because of my very international job I understand the world I live in much better. I appreciate different cultures. I am fiercely interested in other people's experiences. I am much more sensitive to the plight of others at age 40 than I ever have been. I am also very resilient and able to handle very foreign situations with a sense of calm I never knew I possessed.

8. I take criticism well.
This is a newer one, but I will say that I am heading into my 40's much more self aware and able to handle critique. I am less sensitive about what others think of me and do not become derailed if someone does not like me. Of course, I still want everyone to like me, but I am much more aware that this is unlikely. And that's okay.

9. I know what is important.
I have better relationships with my close friends. I value making meaningful memories with my family. I have a niece that has changed my heart in so many positive ways. My husband and his heart are precious and I treat this relationship with the utmost respect. I value good sleep, healthy food, moving more than sitting around, having money in my savings account, and taking time for solitude and reflection.

10. I wake up happy.
No matter what is going on in my life I make an effort to wake up with a smile on my face. I am a positive person by nature, but this doesn't mean I am always happy. However, I do what I can to recognize the good in every day rather than focus on the negative. Some people say this attitude will help me live longer, which would be great, but I just want to live happier as long as I can.

So, as I move into my next decade on this planet I do so with excitement. I can't even imagine how this list will look at age 50, but I am pretty sure it is going to be even better!

By the way...
Patti Smith's Gloria and I are the same age!

In case you are wondering, these albums are also turning 40 this year!

Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti"
Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger"
Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run"
Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here"

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday Reflection

Although the temperatures outside would suggest otherwise, Christmas has come and gone, and boy has it been a wonderful year so far! And as we head into the new year filled with hope and possibility it feels like a good time to give thanks for the many blessings that found their way to me in 2014. I continue to have a husband, family, circle of friends,  and a career that constantly inspire me. For all of these gifts I could not be more grateful. So here goes:

The hubs:

I have known my husband for 10 (!) years this Christmas and we have spent these years building a life together for which I am grateful every day. He is the other half of my heart, my enthusiastic supporter, and my best friend. I have been so proud of him this year as he followed his passion and his dream to play music again professionally.  He is talented and smart and never lets a day go by without showing me his heart. We have had some great adventures so far and I look forward to many more. Thank you, Chris, for being just who you are, always authentically you, and perfect for me.

The family:

I could not be more grateful for my wonderful family. And this year I have watched my niece grow from a tiny infant to a little girl with the most incredible smile and personality you have ever seen. My brother and Brittany are wonderful and natural parents and my parents are exactly what I imagined they would be as grandparents. It has been a special time for us all this year and I just love being an Auntie. This year I also got to have Bonnie Mariotti as a house guest for a few days and though the miles between us don't allow for more frequent visits, the time I do have with her is treasured.

The old lady:

Ella has been in my life for nearly 15 years. I hate to even think of what life would be like without her. She has always been my companion and has traveled from place to place with me over the years never complaining, just adapting. I'd like to think that I have given her a good life and that she has been a happy dog. Of course, those of you who know Ella, her aloofness might not let on anything about her happiness, but I know whenever we come home from work she still jumps up (albeit a little slower these days) and greets us, tail wagging, at the door. She is a good girl, my summer porch companion, my best friend. And my life became infinitely better the day I met her many years ago.

The friends:

I am so grateful for these folks and many more that I call my friends. I have known some for 15 years and others for only a few, but they all are kind and smart and unique and wonderful. I am a lucky girl!

The gig: 

Whoa! What can I say about a job that inspires me everyday, allows me to help kids, lets me have friends from every corner of the globe, and sends me all over the world. Thankful. That is all. 

The privilege: 
I would be remiss not to mention the gratitude I have for the many freedoms I have just because of the country I live in, but even more than this, the privileges I have because of the color of my skin. I have spent time in communist countries and countries fighting to retain their democracy. I have seen people of color no richer or poorer than me experience great inequalities in my own country. I have seen same-sex couples together for longer than I have been alive fight for the right to marry. I have seen incredible inequities in education in the poorest parts of this country. I have seen children desperate to leave their countries for the chance of a better life in mine. And everyday I think about how lucky I am to have been born with the privileges I have and continue to support any movement that promotes equality with my whole heart. 

So, as we head into the New Year I hope we can all take a minute to reflect on what is good. The world is not perfect and our lives are not either, but the little sparkles of joy are what make it worth the journey. 

Happy New Year to you all! Thank you for being a part of my life. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson Revisited

As an educational administrator, a diversity practitioner, and someone who has done a thesis'-worth (and more) research on equity and social justice in this country, I feel the need to express my feelings on the recent Ferguson verdict. I posted something controversial online shortly after I learned that Darren Wilson would not be charged in any way in the shooting death of Michael Brown. I reacted viscerally because I am very aware of the inequities in the justice system in this country. If you do not agree that there are inequities, I will not argue, but ask that you research the many years of documents that offer pretty clear proof. After my post which was, admittedly, emotional, I decided to take it down. The first reason being that I am convinced that an intelligent conversation cannot be had on the subject over social media. My mistake. Secondarily, because I had the opportunity to watch an interview with Darren Wilson. I truly feel that this young man who had never used his gun before this incident was terrified and panicked. I do not in any way, however, condone the fact that he shot at an unarmed person 12 times (6 hitting the victim, 2 in the head). Michael Brown by all accounts was aggressive and threatening to this police officer. He was not a "good kid" that got shot because he was black. But, in the defensive of the victim, I feel that excessive force was used to take him down. I don't think Brown needed to be killed. I think it is a shame.

This country has a history of racism that exists today in a very real way. People of color are profiled in ways that a white person could never even imagine. You can view online hundreds of police interactions with "aggressive and dangerous" white guys that are not shot to their death when they fight with police officers. There is a huge disparity in the treatment that white criminals and black criminals experience and there are pages and pages of legitimate research to prove it. 

With all of this said, I do not believe that Micheal Brown was some nice kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was doing illegal things and exhibiting behaviors which should have gotten him arrested. And if my husband, brother, or friend was in the same situation as Darren Wilson I would want him to do everything possible to protect himself. I just do not feel that the excessive amount of force used to finish off a kid that was unarmed and had no previous record at all was necessary. Again, I was not there, but it seems a bit suspect to me. 

Finally, the riots and chaos that have ensued since the verdict are depressing and unconscionable, but are simply another symptom of a culture that feels completely at a loss in their own country. There are too many black men (and women) in prison, too many stories like this one to feel like it is coincidental anymore. The perpetuation of poverty, inequities in justice, and embedded racism in our society are to blame and if you don't believe me, read about it, please. 

My heart goes out to Micheal Brown's family and also Darren Wilson's. Both families have a great deal of tragedy to deal with and I hope that they can find peace in this difficult time.