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.