2016 Year End Giving

It’s not too late to do a mad dash of year end giving! If you’re anything like me, I’ve put off some opportunities to give financially this year, so I wanted to put together a quick post of the three ways our family regularly gives with our checkbook.


 

Ministry 2 Kenya Deb Smith

Ministry 2 Kenya

My mother, Deb Smith, is a missionary in Kenya! She has been there for 15 years and steps alongside those who are often otherwise forgotten — mostly children in need of an education — both in the urban slums and the rural villages. Through long-lasting, meaningful, one-on-one relationships she brings hope and encouragement to the lonely and the discouraged. Kenya’s academic year starts the first week of January and mom has started her fundraising campaign to raise the money needed for SEVEN students to have their fees paid for the 2017 academic year. The total needed is $2,880 and as of this post, $955 has already come in!!

In addition to the tuition, other expenses include:

  • textbooks, notebooks, pens, pencils, and other supplies
  • personal items for those who attend boarding school
  • fare to go home for the breaks between terms.

Deb, a/k/a Mom, has a need to raise the remaining funds by Christmas so that she can make arrangements to pay all school fees before she comes back to the US for a home leave trip. If you’d like to participate in sending a child to school and would like to help pay school fees, please click the Donate button just below this sentence. 100% of all funds raised go straight to the tuition and expenses … together, you can help impact the life of a child and their entire family!

DONATE TO THE SCHOOL FUND


 

Ripple Effect Images

 

I am honored to have been asked to serve on the advisory board for Ripple Effect Images, an amazing organization, doing amazing things in this world. A note from the Founder, Annie Griffiths that I wanted to share with you:
 
As we head into the holiday season, I have some truly lovely news to share. Ripple’s aid partners have reported raising more than 7 million dollars this year using the images and films we created for them. That is a return on our investment of 1429%. (I just love this number!) This is huge!
 
Every dollar invested became 14+ dollars of additional aid in a single year… a breath-taking Ripple Effect. Most importantly, behind every dollar are real women and children with so much potential. Thanks to Ripple supporters:
 
-7000 families in Guatemala will now receive clean cookstoves
-Teenage girls in northern Uganda will have safe shelters to go to when they flee early marriage
-Thousands of villagers in Ethiopia will learn how to prevent and cure a devastating foot disease caused by farming in volcanic soil
-7000 children in Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda will receive funding for early childhood education
-The effort to eradicate pediatric AIDS in Africa will accelerate
 
So THANK YOU! Ripple’s year-end goal is to raise $100,000 that, at our current rate of impact, could turn into nearly 1.5 million dollars of additional support for women and children in the developing world! This year, more than ever, we need to work together to move the world forward. We simply can’t do it without you.
 
 
Kiva

When a Kiva loan enables someone to grow a business and create opportunity for themselves, it creates opportunities for others as well. That ripple effect can shape the future for a family or an entire community.

Regardless of where you choose to spend your charitable giving dollars this year, and for years future, one really SMART thing to do is always check out the health of the organizations you are giving to.  Charity Navigator, your “guide for intelligent giving”, is an amazing tool to check out the transparency and ratings of large charitable and philanthropic organizations. Worth noting, in order to be analyzed and receive a Charity Navigator rating, the organization must have filed specific IRS forms for at least 7 years, so you won’t find all of your favorite 501(c)(3)s there.
Let me know in the comments what YOUR favorite charitable organization is!
N.

Lessons from Gpa

gpa-1

Each time our family finds ourselves in a new location, we take notice of the driving habits of the residents of our new city or town. In Singapore, the kiasu syndrome was laughable, driving in India was a little nuts (I didn’t personally drive in Delhi) and Northern Virginia – well, everyone has somewhere to go and fast!

Here in Columbus, I am finding that folks stay at stop signs longer, and wave their free hand to indicate a willingness to let someone else go first. I am noticing that my natural tendency to drive just over the speed limit (with a bit of aggressiveness) is starting to dwindle and I’m more relaxed when I drive.

(Interstate driving in Ohio however, is a different situation. Watch your six, keep both hands on the wheel and mind your blind spot are all important things to remember!)

Each and every time I get behind the wheel of my vehicle, which currently happens to be a bright red Jeep, I think of my grandfather. We called him grandpa (Gpa) and he was, and still is, everything to me.

From an early age, I remember him allowing us to sit on his lap and get behind the wheel of his car. We would be in a big, open (and empty) parking lot early in the morning. He would show us where to put our hands on the steering wheel. He would explain what each pedal did, and how much pressure to put on the gas pedal in order to slowly ease forward (we were young enough that we couldn’t reach the pedals, so he would do that work, but he wanted us to learn).

He would always ask “are you focusing?” and we would excitedly nod our head up and down, repeatedly with a wild smile on our faces. Let’s go, I would always think to myself, I can do this! Let’s go!

Inevitably, he would slow us down and repeat earlier instructions: make sure your hands are in the right place, and your stocking cap is out of your eyes, and you’re sitting straight.

Ok, ok, Gpa. Can we go?

He would withhold forward motion, by not depressing that gas pedal, and would teach us how to use the rearview mirror. Check it regularly and make it a habit to know what’s going on behind you, at the same time you’re staying eyes forward. Use your side view mirrors for what they were intended, to check on the situation alongside you and … keep those hands in the right place.

Ok, ok, Gpa. I got it. Time to go!

 

Now listen, he would say. This is important. Do you see how the seatbelt works? We would then get a short tutorial on how seatbelts function against the force of an anticipated impact. Let’s also talk about the dashboard. Do you see this button? It lets you reset the trip odometer. When you fill up your gas tank, it’s good to know how your vehicle is using the fuel you’re putting in it. While filling up, he would pull out his small notepad where he kept track of each and every trip to the gas station. Mileage noted, number of gallons noted. Then, quick calculations would be made to discover his current miles per gallon numbers. Each and every trip.

Ok, ok, Gpa. I wish we could just GO.

Then, quite suddenly, we would start to inch forward. Oh, the excitement surging. Go, go, go! Turn the wheel too fast, then self-correct in the opposite direction, but with too much force. His hands would envelop mine and stop the chaos. Naomi, he would say with a bit of sternness in his voice: keep your hands in the right place and slow down.

Ok, ok, Gpa. I’m listening. Now, can we go?

Dodge Park was my favorite place to practice driving. When Gpa took us driving, there was never anyone else around. It was just time for us. Time for us to be together, to have someone paying attention to JUST us. I don’t remember the frequency of how often we went individually vs. with all of us siblings together, but it never mattered with Gpa. His patience and willingness to always teach made us feel like we were the only thing on his agenda for the day.

~

After we mastered slow turns on the steering wheel, and how to shift from park to drive and into reverse, we graduated to learning about the other people on the road and heading in the same direction as us. Always remember that you are in charge of 3,000 lbs of metal. That’s a big deal, he would say. If you can’t make sure to focus, slow down and always keep your hands in the right place, you shouldn’t be driving.

When you take that 3,000 lbs onto the road, other people are making the same decision. They might not be focusing, or willing to slow down, or keeping their hands in the right place. Always be aware of what the other vehicles are doing, and if you pay close enough attention, he would drill into us, you can predict what those drivers plan to do.

Soon after our lesson, he would scootch us onto our side of the seat, refasten the seatbelt and we’d head back to Gma and Gpa’s house. While we drove, he would continue teaching by nodding his chin towards the road and say things like, “See that car? He’s probably going to turn left soon” or explain why it is important to always use your blinkers.

~

This week marks the ten year anniversary of the Gpa’s passing and I think about him every day. He was an amazing pillar of strength and a role model for what the life of a balanced man, father and husband looks like. He was a brilliant mind who turned every experience into a teaching lesson, and every moment spent with us into a forever lasting memory. He wasn’t perfect, but he was as close as anyone I’ve ever known (well, besides Gma, whose response to the quip “It’s not easy to be perfect” has always been “YES it is!”).

My oldest had a wonderful relationship with Gpa and was given some really great years with Gpa as his number one fan and his sidekick. Spending time with Gpa was always the highlight of Terran’s week, and I am so grateful for that. While Gpa’s literal heart failed his body before any of us were ready, the big-ness of the life he lived and the massive “heart” he instilled in all of us lives on. Even though the youngest of his great grand-children didn’t have the opportunity to sit in his lap, and learn from his wisdom directly from his mouth, the beauty of living a life worth remembering is that we have the opportunity every day to teach our children (and remind myself) of the lessons from Gpa.

Gpa, wishing you didn’t go.

Lessons from Gpa:

Slow down. Slow down. Slow down.

Look behind you, but only briefly. Keep your main focus on your life ahead.

Keep your hands in the right place. Mind your own business. Do what you know you need to do, on repeat.

Know how everything works and why. Always be learning. Share your knowledge with those you love.

Be aware of your blind spots. Know what foods, triggers, sleep patterns, personality types will trip you up, and keep your eyes open for those moments so you can more easily proactively react.

Reset your trip. Find something that refuels you. Enjoy your life.

Keep track of what you’re grateful for and write it down, keep a log.

You’re in charge of this big, heavy, beautiful life. When you take it out for a spin, treat it with respect.

lessons-from-gpa

I don’t want to settle

“Buzz me after you get settled.”

“I hope you get to stay at the next place longer.”

“I don’t know how you do this all of the time!”

All of these sentiments make reference to comments received during the Summer of 2014 when we moved from Florida (after only one year) to Northern Virginia. I found a draft blog post today … and the comments mirror what I recently heard as we prepared for yet another move in 2016. This time, just two years later, from Northern Virginia to Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s the thing.

When you shift and move often, you do one of two things. You either dive deep in a place … or you stay on the surface and bob until your next posting. Neither is right and neither is wrong.

When You Plant Naomi Hattaway I Am A Triangle

  • What if it’s not a bad thing to never stay long … what if it’s ok to never be settled?
  • What if it’s an ok thing TO leave often and leave well.
  • What if it’s not abnormal to be in a place for the course of 24 odd months or the better part of a season in your life.

I’m convinced that the answer to whether one should stay or go, lies in the deeper meaning of whether your relationships — while you were in a place — were meaningful, impactful and truthful.

set·tle1
ˈsedl/
verb
past tense: settled; past participle: settled
  1. 1.
    resolve or reach an agreement about a thing.
    synonyms: resolve, sort out, solve, clear up, end, fix, work out, iron out, straighten out, set right, rectify, remedy, reconcile;
  2. 2.
    adopt a more steady or secure style of life, especially in a permanent job and home.

Per that definition, it would appear that “settle” is a positive state. That anything BUT settled would be deemed negative. Is it truly bad though, to say “I don’t want to settle”?

If you think through those synonyms, it’s downright depressing to think of the opposite, when you are not settled:

  • unresolved
  • not sorted
  • unclear
  • at the beginning
  • not fixed
  • needing to be worked out
  • disheveled
  • unreconciled

I’m choosing to be in the camp where I opt to NOT be settled. I’d like to think that our definition of the word is simply meant to be interpreted as a family who is willing to make the most of a stay, during the time they inhabit a zip or postal code.

And if that means we are a bit messy, “full on”, disheveled and passionate about the communities that we live in — while we have the opportunity to reside there — I can be ok with that.

What say you? Are deep roots better than long flung shallow roots? It’s said that some of the strongest trees in the forest have shallow roots that stretch on for miles …

 

2016 Presidential Election

I have been extremely quiet on social media and in person with my friends and family about how I feel about this Presidential election. I have watched much spewing, I have listened to the nasty campaign, and have “hidden” some very forceful opinions and thoughts shared on Facebook about who is most qualified to lead our country for the next four years.

I’ve been quiet partially because I am a business owner. I have been quiet partially because I didn’t feel strong enough to banter or debate with people who had differing opinions. I have been quiet partially because I have no earthly idea how to explain our candidate options to our children.

But here we are, the morning after, and I have some things to say.

This morning, we poured OJ, flipped pancakes and packed lunches just like every other day. Except as I puttered around the kitchen, I struggled with how to talk to my children about what happened during the Presidential Election of 2016. Not just the previous 24 hours, but the entire campaign process.

With our two youngest being 10 and 13 years old, they have been fully exposed to this campaign and to all that has gone along with it. Because they knew both sides of the media story that we were being fed, it was important to talk about it, this morning after. They knew what he said, and they knew what she did.

On one hand, I wrestled with how to explain that someone who has said things, exhibited behaviors and acted in a manner I would never tolerate from the men in my life, is now the President Elect. On the other hand, I was bothered with how I would have explained that someone who lied and should be in prison had won the election, should that have happened.

Our daughter looked at the television when she woke up and after she plodded down the stairs, with her hair in a high ponytail and her favorite leggings on. Her face showed absolute shock. She turned to look at me and sadly said “Well, someone had to win, and half of us would have been mad either way.” Later, the discussion turned to how people could vote for one candidate, when perhaps all they intended to do was NOT vote for the other candidate. We talked about how United States citizens could vote for one candidate when they couldn’t support him, yet wanted his party to be in control. We also talked about why people who admitted to have never voted before, chose this election to show up at the polls. I didn’t have answers for her, but what I do know is this:

I will continue to wake up every day and do something to remind this world why I am here. Each and every day. Some days it might be volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Another day it might be encouraging fellow female entrepreneurs along their journey, to act as a stair step to promote their future success. Perhaps I will jump out of bed and organize an event or otherwise be active in my community.

My husband and I will continue to raise our children to have an extremely strong moral compass. We are raising our children to speak their minds, but to also listen carefully. We are teaching them to respect, honor and support those that are running this country.

Our children will continue to be taught that diversity, true authenticity and kindness matters. They will be taught that it isn’t hard to give of ourselves to others. They will be taught that  we don’t call names and we speak to each other with respect. They have been and still will be told that living a life they aren’t ashamed of is important, and that keeping your nose clean isn’t difficult.

We are going to work harder at educating them about the bigger governmental picture in the United States. From the very bottom in our schools (running for student council) to our Mayors, school board representatives, all the way up to our Presidential nominations. Our republic is important, and I believe it starts from the ground up. I heard too many rumblings from people that they had no idea who to vote for on the local level, so they … guessed as they completed their ballots. Imagine a world where everyone votes (every election!), and knows their candidates when they go to the polling places. We can impact that change, by educating our children – from a young age – about the process.

It is incredibly important to me that we go back to basics in this country. It’s quite simple actually. We are humans. We are tasked with loving others, leading with kindness and doing our part to make this country (and the greater world) a better place. We cannot do that unless we begin with our children.

We are their light and their torch. They follow our lead. We are responsible for our children. I can’t say with any certainty that we are currently doing the best job we can in this arena.

I wonder what we will call the generation of children that I am raising (I’ve got one Millennial and two “to be determined” littles, as they haven’t yet named their generation). In doing some research, apparently MTV ran a poll and the chosen name was Founders, but in a Forbes article, it was suggested they be called The Builders. The article is slanted heavily towards our technology future, but I think it also is appropriate here:

Millennials are … pushing harder for continuing change and disruption across every aspect of their lives. MTV President Sean Atkins said to TIME that “…while millennials have disrupted society, it’s this new generation’s job to rebuild it. They have this self-awareness that systems have been broken, but they can’t be the generation that says we’ll break it even more.”

But this new generation to follow the Millennials cannot be Founders. Founders by definition are the ones who will establish something. But we have plenty of that already. What we need the next generation to be are The Builders; ones who will build on the foundation that the Millennial generation have sought to put in place through disruption.

The best way to predict the future is to build it.

This is a maker generation, a far more pragmatic and practical generation who must architect and build the future we are all trying to imagine living in. The world doesn’t need more foundational layers, it needs a generation to create.

I really like thinking of my two littles as Builders. I’ll call them that from this point forward, this morning after.

Perhaps you do not have children of your own, so, find some littles to inject your energy into. Find some Builders to teach. Locate members of this next generation and help them grow up to be strong citizens of our country who can stand with everyone, even among different belief systems.

There is a lot of diatribe going on this morning about the vote. About who showed up, about who stayed home, about who wrote in their own names for President. Voting is SO important. We have been given the right to do it … but the real “show up” opportunity is this morning after. We all get another chance this morning — as United States citizens — to love our neighbors regardless of what color their skin is or what gender of person they go to sleep with at night. We all get another change this morning to figure out what our talents and offerings will be to this world, and then we get to tie our shoelaces and go DO those things. We all get another chance this morning to look at the children in our lives and make a conscious decision and effort to be more present in their lives.

Last night, I said to myself that regardless of whether the country decides to “Make America Great Again” or “Stand With Her”, we are all — I think — blessed to be able to do both. If you think about it, we are given the opportunity to keep doing our part as human beings – to continue making America great (not again) and stand with all of those who are in this together (not just with her).

President Elect Donald J. Trump will be soon in the Oval Office, and he will be my President, regardless of the fact that I didn’t vote for him. That’s how I roll as an American. That’s how I’ll continue to raise my children.

And in the meantime, our family will continue to live by this motto: Do something every day to remind this world why you are here.

(For a really great book that offers a carefully curated reading treasury of the best children’s literature to help introduce your children to each area of the globe, as well as books that offer practical parenting suggestions and inspiration, take a look at Give Your Child the World. We have a copy and it really aims to help parents raise insightful, compassionate kids who fall in love with the world and are prepared to change it for good.)

why-youre-here

 

Ohio Welcome

Our family recently completed our seventh move in 13 years. We moved from Northern Virginia to Columbus, Ohio, after having lived in several places in the United States as well as in New Delhi and Singapore. With so many postal codes and zip codes we’ve called home, you might think that we have mastered the art of fitting in, making new friends and settling into our new digs.

I find though, it’s not necessarily true. Yes, I’m a pro at unpacking the boxes, but the connection with neighbors and finding like-minded people is a challenge. I always worry – with each new move – whether the new neighbors will accept our version of crazy chaos, understand that our background includes a diverse collage of experiences, and welcome us into the fold anyway.

We’ve been in the new house for two weeks now. We have been blessed with great neighbors, a true Ohio welcome: everyone bombarded us with treats, including breakfast one morning, dinner another evening. But as we approached Halloween, I was faced with dread and dismay.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite celebrations. Yes, I dress up. But this year, since we are new, I was freaking out a bit. We don’t really know anyone yet and I’m once again left to keep the cheerleading going for the family as we settle in. For instance, my kids have no one to trick or treat with, we have no idea what time the neighborhood starts trick or treating, and we don’t even know if older kids trick or treat here.

eat-drink-and-be-scary

Last week, as I met some of the neighbors, many of them excitedly said, “We gather in the cul-de-sac for Halloween. Bring wine and some food and your candy bowl.” I was thrilled.

We have five neighbors on this cul-de-sac, the circular street that marks the end of the neighborhood. Two Italian-American households are related to each other, one couple has grandchildren, another house is occupied by a single, older man, and another is occupied by an older Polish woman and her Japanese husband, who both immigrated to the U.S. 30 years ago.

So when we were invited for Halloween, I of course accepted, and then a few days later, when I was talking “over the fence” to the Polish lady with the Japanese husband, I asked if they would also be there. They shrugged. In broken English, they said that maybe they could come.

Fast forward to tonight. In my head, I knew that we’d been invited, I KNEW that we were welcome, but I was anxious and nervous. Did they really want us to join them? What if we were supposed to cook something? Should I make a quick cheese plate?

Suddenly, I saw the kids were starting. Should I take our chairs over to their driveway, or sit in ours? I poured a glass of wine at 5:30 p.m. and hid behind the blinds, as I peered out and tried to discern the rules. I tried to hide my discomfort from the kids as I encouraged them: “Right! Go get your costumes on! Let’s go, let’s go. This will be fun!”

A bit later, it was obvious that the neighbors had indeed gathered in one central driveway. Soon enough, everyone was there around a bonfire. We placed our collective candy contributions on the centralized table for the visiting children and we had chili, and pizza from the Italian families’ restaurant, and s’mores.

We talked and laughed and then I watched as the Polish lady and her Japanese husband met —- for the first time in three years —– the other neighbors in the cul-de-sac.

Flabbergasted, I asked one of the neighbors sitting next to me if they had never met this couple before. She said, “Apparently it takes the newest of neighbors to truly bring us all together.”

When I dug a bit further, I learned that this couple moved in to the neighborhood when everyone else had a lot going on — kids graduating from high school, babies being born, a death in the family. Their move-in was also complicated by a 10-month renovation project, so it was a bit less obvious of a move-in than when WE pulled up with our 40-foot truck, three obnoxious dogs, two cats and a red Jeep.

Tonight I watched them share their stories of life abroad, being expats in the U.S., with our neighbors and new friends. The Italian families then talked about their own parents who immigrated, the couple with grandchildren announced they were soon going to retire and go traveling, with the wife doing “on the road” hospice and other nursing care. Another neighbor’s daughter discussed her plans to combine her psychology degree with a master’s in education so she can have an impact on the lives of students living abroad.

We all found we had more in common than simply the same cul-de-sac address. These new neighbors of ours had never talked about their worlds before.

Lesson learned? Just because you’re the newbie doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer the neighbors.

Moving is hard. Fitting in sucks. Figuring out where and how you belong is exhausting. But sometimes just showing up — especially when it feels the most awkward and difficult — is where the magic lies. When I said goodnight to everyone, the Polish lady gave me a tight hug and in her beautiful broken English said, “Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this.”

For all those struggling with finding their people, and meeting new friends, I say: Change your perspective ever so slightly. Lead with an intention to serve, volunteer your time somewhere, or invite someone to the table. Asking “how can I help?” can be the best introduction to authentic and meaningful relationships.

I am often asked by my friends from around the world whether I am proud to call America home. With so many nasty things happening in America these days, I am reminded that this truly is the spirit of our country. Our basic nature is to welcome new friends. I am living proof that’s who we are.

God will never give you more than you can handle.

You’ve heard it before. God will never give you more than you can handle. I’m here to challenge that a bit!

This post goes out to all the women who are holding it together.

god knows I'm a badass

The ones who are cleaning up dog shit from carpets that you just paid a fortune to have cleaned.

To you who are making sure that your children have all that they need, even when it means you go without.

For those of you who can’t remember the last time someone told you “I like that sweater!” yet you consistently dole out accolades and compliments.

I see you, Mama Bear who wants nothing more than to see her son fit in, and have friends … but you don’t know how to encourage him, so you simply cook his favorite dinner and hope that suffices in some small way.

My friend, who struggles to know what’s “cool” when it comes to planning a birthday party for a tween, yet chooses to plan away anyway, with no regard for the eye-roll and the hair flip.

To you folks who have partner who is away more than he or she is HOME. I can see their absence and raise you a “they are providing and doing the best they can.”

Maybe you are the leave-ee. Maybe YOU are the one that is footing the bills and trying to make up for homeruns missed and bedtimes passed by. To you, I say, I can see your absence too … and I don’t judge it. Don’t let anyone judge it … do what works for you and your family.

On that note, to the ladies who are traveling for work, packing suitcases and saying goodbye. Make a habit of leaving love notes for your family. And if you’re the one staying behind? Start training the leavee to scribble a quick note for everyone before they fasten the seatbelt on the way to the airport.

For those who are hurting because your current load is triple that which you signed up for, I’ll bring you a frozen lasagna if you’re close enough!

You may feel that god is giving you more than you can handle right now … but if you’ll be a bit transparent, ask for the help that you need, you’ll find that people will show up.

(and if they forget to show up or neglect to commit, remind them again)

 

 

Tuesday Triangle Tunes: Let it Matter, JohnnySwim

tuesday-triangle-tunes

Yesterday, I had a delightful lunch with some new friends from my I Am A Triangle Columbus TriCONNECT group. Louise and Terri and I sat, talked, laughed and carried on for nearly two hours and it was as if we’d always known each other!

columbus-triconnect

Afterwards, felt completely torn with conflicting emotions as I sat in the Jeep before heading back to our new home. On one hand, I was overjoyed by the fact that because of the Triangle community, less than two weeks in our new home city, I had FRIENDS! I now instantly have women who I can ring up or pop over to have lunch with and talk about all of our experiences and where we’ve been and what we’ve seen and … it was lovely. On the other hand, it made me remember again we seem to continue choosing to make decision where we have to say goodbye to our amazing tight-knit community of friends in the places we have left behind. I wanted to instead be back THERE and having lunch with THEM … not here.

As I sat, shivering a bit because winter is coming, and wishing I would quit getting so emotional about all of the things, I turned on the radio and hit scan. I haven’t set my new radio station presets yet, and I figured then was as good of a time as any to make one more “settle in” step. Quite ironically, Let It Matter by Johnnyswim, came on the radio.

In a recent interview about the background story to the song, one half of the JohnnySwim duo said:

“In a season of loss and tragedy a few years back, it often felt like there was an unspoken pressure to be OK and get back to normal. But grief doesn’t work that way. It’s not meant to. We had one friend who calmed the rush in us to feel better quickly. She said the best thing she learned when she had lost her father was to actually feel it. He was worth the sorrow and the longing, and it was her honor to grieve him. That was a healing thought to us and one that we haven’t let go of. We refer to ‘Let it Matter’ as ‘hope in a minor key’ because that’s what it has been to us, permission to hurt in order to heal.”

Sometimes moving from one experience to another, whether it be repatriating, moving abroad for the first time, or simply relocating in the same country from one location to another, can feel like a big, heavy moment with a lot of grief. Mind you, it isn’t the pain or tragedy of a death, and I don’t want to minimize that experience or process. However, when you put your all, your heart and soul into relationships and then choose to move away from the convenience of them (even though close relationships can still exist thanks to the internet, snail-mail and a good ole phone call), losing the in-person support, the awareness that your best friend is just ’round the corner or the likelihood you’ll see them around town is something that for me, has been something to come to terms with.

Just this morning, I spoke with a dear friend about the people we meet who are hardened and don’t get all emotional about their losses and experiences. We wondered a bit why we can’t be “more like them” so that it doesn’t feel so raw or hurtful. For me personally, I choose to “have all the feels” and live out my experiences, grief, celebration, sorrow and loneliness out in the open. I would rather choose emotions and vulnerability than strength, if that means holding it all in.

Let It Matter hit me at a spot where I needed to hear it. Leaving a community where we had been firmly entrenched, to start over yet again has felt like a huge loss for me personally, and I know for our children as well.  Let it matter. Feel the feels, recognize the loss … and then perhaps, that is the part of the process that allows one to move from grief to celebration.

Let It Matter, lyrics (video at the end of the blog post)

I don’t want to feel better
I don’t want to feel good
I want to feel it hurt like losing someone should

I’m gonna let my heart break
I’m gonna let it burn
I’m gonna stake my claim with the flame I know it hurled

Chorus:
Run baby run
Don’t you know I’ve tried
But escape is a waste ain’t no use in hiding
you know the best way over’s through

So if it matters let it matter
If your heart’s breaking let it ache
Catch those pieces as they scatter
Know your hurt is not in vain

Don’t hide yourself from the horror
Hurt today here tomorrow
If it’s fragile and it shatters
Let it matter, let it matter

They say you know it ain’t easy
I wouldn’t want it to be
Cause ease is for the shallow
But we were from the deep

I don’t want no distractions
Don’t try to please me for one day
You are worth the joy my love,
you are worth the pain

 

Detached

When I first met her, I remember thinking how she was amazingly put together.  Well spoken, well traveled and well dressed.

 

She had raised three amazing children, and had corralled the sum total of 6 staff members, all without much blood or tears, between the eleven of them, when you add her and her husband to the mix.

 

She had done it all.  Yoga to meet the physical needs, an amazing amount of volunteering and charitable work.  Her husband put in his hours, yet balanced it all with time at home, and a bit of traveling.

 

We met for a chat, a talk.  Officially, I guess it was a handover of the keys, so to speak.  One employer to the next. The moment she would detach from them, and I would take over.

 

We inherited her staff.  The people that made her everyday life manageable and enjoyable.

 

* *

 

We met only just shortly after I landed, but so far into HER time here.  She had grown, stretched, suffered, learned, grieved and become someone she never knew existed.

 

She called me one day, just 12 hours before she was to turn in the keys to her flat.  She asked if she could come by to say goodbye to her staff.

 

“Of course”, I said.

 

* *

 

We made tea.  We fluffed the pillows and straightened up the guest bathroom.

 

This Madam was still the boss, even though my husband’s company was already paying their salary.   She still held their respect, and it was beyond evident.

 

We talked in hushed tones, in the living room.  One of her long legs hanging over the side of our Laz-y-Boy chair from Ohio.  Her opposite arm dangled across the back of the same chair.

 

She mentioned casually that she had some gifts for them.  Wondered if I minded that she stayed a bit longer so that she could get a ride back to the hotel with a friend who would be passing by the area.

 

I noticed that our new housekeeper and cook were in the kitchen, far past their normal departure time.  With her hands clasped around her tea cup, she spoke in hushed tones to them both.  Tears were in their eyes and shoulders were slumped.

 

* * *

 

She decided it was time to go.  After we said our goodbyes, thank yous and exchanged courtesies, one by one she called her former staff into the entryway of our home.

 

She presented them with her small tokens of appreciation, thanked them for their years of service and gave a quick pat on the shoulder.

 

* *

They cried.

 

She did not.

 

* *

 

I remember thinking to myself how bizarre a practice, how odd a behavior to have entrusted the care of your children, the health and wellness of your family, the safety of your lives on the road … to these human beings, for so many years.   Then to simply pat on the back, mutter a few thank you’s … and turn to walk away?

 

* *

 

How bizarre.

 

Three years later, I found myself placing “leaving bonuses” in envelope after envelope (you see, it was customary to give one month’s salary to each employee for each year of service when a family leaves).

 

I find myself stressing out over whether I should be a stickler on the contract that remains unpaid, because our housekeeper needed to borrow money ($94.00 USD) to put her two oldest children through school for the next year.

I find myself wishing that I had spent a bit more time and made the effort to buy each one a parting gift, as she had.  Something that meant something … in appreciation of the time and energy they gave to our family.

 

But in the end, I simply handed them their envelope with their leaving bonus, patted them on the shoulder and thanked them for their years of service.

* *

They cried.

We did not.

* *

I had every intention of writing eloquently about what it was like to say goodbye to our staff in India, but it’s too hard to verbalize anything deeper than that. They became (and still are) a part of our family. They showed up, day after day, to serve our family’s needs.

In the end, when it was time to go, as they shed their tears, I found myself trying my hardest to keep my emotions inside. I wanted to mirror the wisdom and knowledge that she brought to the table. She had grown, stretched, suffered, learned, grieved and become someone she never knew existed. Now I had done the same, as well.

Detached, but forever grateful.

Leaving Well : Pretoria, South Africa

This guest post is brought to you today from Clara Wiggins. We are exploring the concept of “leaving well” [the act of intentionally saying goodbye to a place, as one makes their way to the next destination] and today’s post discusses Pretoria, South Africa.

Leaving Well: Pretoria

Naomi has asked me to write about “leaving well” and come up with some of the things I knew I would have to say goodbye to. Yes we aren’t going for a while yet but when you know a break will be as hard as this one will be, there is no such thing as too soon. This is an excellent chance to begin this process … the process of “leaving well.”

The views

Every week when I take my children to their weekly horseriding lessons we climb up to a point on one of the hills high above Pretoria. From here the city lies below – spreading in every direction out to the surrounding country. It’s not a classically beautiful or majestic city but the combination of the height, the breeze and the space makes for something very restful. Add to that the stunning display of purple in every direction you look when it is jacaranda season and I know this is one place I will certainly miss. And talking of jacarandas….

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

The flowers

As I say, Pretoria is not one of those cities that people think about when they list beautiful cities of the world. But it is a pretty place and one of the main reasons is because of the foliage. Everywhere you go, especially as we reach spring, blossom is appearing. The bright red, pink and orange bougainvillea is stunning – particularly set against the brilliant blue skies that this country is famous for. But jacaranda season is when Pretoria really comes into its own – even though many cities around the world boast streets of this famous flower, I am told it is good enough here to attract Japanese tourists for this reason alone.

dsc_0046

Cape Town

There is much discussion amongst expats in South Africa about the best place to live. Everyone assumes it must be Cape Town – one of those cities that frequently makes it into the top ten cities of the world for its dramatic Table Mountain backdrop, it’s cool restaurant scene and its proximity to the winelands. Personally though, as an expat, I think Pretoria is a better place to live simply because it is a city where many other transients like us reside. This means finding and making friends is very easy. What I LOVE though is that I can drive down the motorway, hop on a plane, and be in Cape Town for a weekend within a couple of hours. I am sure that if I lived there the beauty of the city would wear off, I wonder whether you would even notice the Mountain after a while? But knowing it is there, practically on your doorstep, for whenever you need it, is a great feeling. We have been twice as a family already and I also went with a friend for a girls’ weekend, but I am sure we will be back at least once before we leave.

Johannesburg

This is a late entry but as I wrote about Cape Town I felt I needed to mention the other great city of South Africa, Jo’burg, too. Just down the road from us, this vibrant city has a reputation for crime and violence that is fast being replaced with fashion and food. It really is one of the most hip cities on the planet right now with so much going on it’s hard to know where to start. If you ever get the chance to come to SA I would recommend trying to stay at least a couple of nights in Johannesburg, maybe booking a graffiti walking tour or a cycling tour of neighboring Soweto or a foodie tour or…..you get the idea!

The dog walks

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

My life turned around when we got a dog. And although the dog himself is wonderful (a very good natured miniature schnauzer called Cooper) it is the accompanying life with him that has been the change. Every week at least once, often twice, a group of us meet with our pooches to walk them in the dog park about ten minutes from where I live. It is one of the only places dogs can be let off the lead safely – we also regularly meet at another place which is more of a hiking trail than a park! This group started small but has been growing in size and is now practically an institution. What I means is that every week not only do I get to catch up with my friends, meet some new ones, get some exercise and see my dog have fun with the other pups, it also means we can extend our social lives beyond those hour-long walks. So we meet, we chat, we get to know each other, we work out what ages our various children are (if we have any), we exchange numbers, we arrange to meet for coffee or playdates or doggie dates…..these walks are the highlight of my week (Cooper agrees!) and in all honesty are one of the reasons I have been so happy here.

The roof-top terrace at the Moroccan House

Never have I eaten out as often as I do in Pretoria. Why? Because it is so darned cheap! It isn’t quite as cheap as it was before the Rand had a little rally and the pound fell through the floor but even so, it is still almost as cheap to eat out as to eat in. I would probably do it a lot more if it wasn’t for the fact that portion sizes to tend to be big and the pounds are piling on….As well as eating out in the evening, with or without the children, I try to meet friends for coffee at least once a week. When you work from home life can get pretty lonely if you don’t get out so I see this as a necessity more than a luxury.

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Our favorite place to meet is actually not South African at all but Moroccan – a café tucked away in a place you wouldn’t know was there until someone took you. But I suspect it’s one of the worst kept secrets in Pretoria as the car park is often lined with diplomats cars and lunches can be dominated by large groups of a certain type of lady….however, it’s a perfect spot for a morning coffee (or perhaps one of their intriguingly named Magic Juices) – an airy roof top terrace, served by attentive staff, surrounded by beautiful pieces of Moroccan pottery, tables strewn with rose petals, gorgeous little spiced biscuits and cakes on offer…..

The wildlife

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

No post about South Africa would be complete without talking about the wildlife. From the zebras we pass on our way to horse-riding to the majestic Kruger park, animals have dominated our time here in South Africa. I can’t get over what it feels like to live somewhere where you can hop in a car and see rhinos in your local reserve within 20 minutes. We have all got used to telling the difference between a springbok, an impala and a kudu.

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Whales, penguins, leopards, elephants, snakes (yes, one in our garden!), dung beatles, wild dogs…you name it, we’ve seen it. Except cheetahs – the one thing that has evaded us yet. So on our list before we leave? See cheetahs…

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Braai’s and outdoor living

There aren’t many days when you can’t be outside in this country. In the winter it gets pretty chilly at night but the days are generally still bright and sunny. In the summer we get thunderstorms (see my next item) but it’s still hot. We have a total indoor/outdoor life with the patio doors always open and food eaten wherever the fancy takes us. We also have a built-in braai on our patio – the Afrikaaner word for barbecue – much to my husband’s delight. He loves mucking around with fire and if it were up to him we would eat freshly grilled steaks every day. It’s lovely and casual, very little standing on ceremony and the sort of lifestyle that I think is more familiar to us from Australia. Shoes? What they?!

Storms

When I say storms I mean storms. Real storms. I have never heard thunder like it or seen as much lightening in my life. Let alone hailstorms with hailstones the size of golf balls (which can cause a helluva lot of damage in a very short period of time – our cars are always put in the garage overnight). It can be a tad noisy but it is certainly dramatic.

It’s hard to think about leaving when we are only half way through our time in Pretoria but when you only have a year left thoughts do inevitably turn to what it is you will miss most about a place. I know I will miss everything. Everything. The weather, the people, the friends, the food, the restaurants, the weather, the wildlife, the travel, the expanse, the wine and did I mention the weather?  So leaving Pretoria is going to be very, very tough – I am already well aware of that and need to mentally prepare myself a long way in advance of our departure.

Clara Wiggins Leaving Well

Clara Wiggins was born in Cuba to British diplomat parents and hasn’t stopped traveling since. As a child, she moved between the UK, the Philippines, Nigeria, Venezuela and Gibraltar before flying the nest. Her work as first a journalist and later a diplomat in the British Foreign Office took her abroad again, including to Jamaica where she met her husband. With his job, they and their two daughters have lived in Pakistan and St Lucia and South Africa. Following her experiences as an accompanying spouse, Clara has written the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. You can find out about the book at her blog: Expat Partner’s Survival

Tuesday Triangle Tunes: Rivers and Roads

mix tape

 

A year from now we’ll all be gone
All our friends will move away
And they’re going to better places
But our friends will be gone away

Nothing is as it has been
And I miss your face like Hell
And I guess it’s just as well
But I miss your face like Hell

Been talking ’bout the way things change
And my family lives in a different state
And if you don’t know what to make of this
Then we will not relate
So if you don’t know what to make of this
Then we will not relate

Rivers and roads
Rivers and roads
Rivers ’til I reach you