susie’s got her groove back

Oh, okay. I never really lost it…

But it’s officially Fall and I just like the sound of that: I’ve got my groove back. I’m getting my groove on. I’m in the groove. Grooving.

These first days of Fall are delicious. When the air starts to feel crisp and sleeping with the windows open means pulling the covers tight and snuggling in, when sandals get traded for boots and the leaves begin to change… A perfect time to reflect on what’s gone by and what is to come.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Summer vacation, a major hiatus from my computer, lots of little trips to here and there… it was the Summer of Yes!

Saying yes is easy when you don’t have a shower or a toilet for two months. Yup, that’s right. I had no shower or toilet for two months. This summer included the DIY transformation of my hideous bathroom into a sparkly, beautiful new bathroom! For this, I have my amazing Dad to thank. I said yes to his offer to help me with the renovation; he said yes to helping me and took on the project with such enthusiasm and energy, I can’t say that I did much other than cheer him on. I can say that this was truly a labor of love… it was not an easy project.

The moral of the story is that one has to be resourceful when without a shower and toilet! So YES! I was open to whatever came my way. I said yes to opportunities. I ate out. I went to the beach. I road-tripped with my mom. I picnicked. I visited the beach my family camped at when I was little. I drove to Rhode Island to spend a few hours on the beach. I chilled with my family and my oldest friend. I danced my butt off with old friends. I flew to Florida and laughed myself silly with the girls. I went wine tasting with new friends. I visited my camp GALS. I carried a bag full of necessities with me wherever I went and I said yes to any invitation that came my way… it was a wonderful summer!

And so it’s Fall. And things are changing…

It’s time to let go of the pieces of myself that no longer serve me. It’s time to prepare for the hunkering down, to take a good look at  life and see what I really need to move forward.

I learned a lot in this Summer of Yes that I will take with me into this transformative time:

  • It is the people in my life that make my life beautiful. Wherever I am. No matter what.
  • Laughing rocks. Even when crying seems more logical.
  • Being there matters. It matters to someone. It matters in ways that are immeasurable.
  • Sometimes there is nothing to say. So don’t say anything. Just hug.
  • This is your one life. So live it. Live it big.
  • Maybe the things we think we really need aren’t really the things we need.
  • Love is the best.

It’s amazing what you figure out when you don’t have a toilet.

Groove is in the heart.

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sawubona: i see you

I waited 23 minutes at the dentist today.

The hygienist offered me a magazine but the pickings were slim so I opted to look out the window instead. The reclining chair left me just right with a perfect view of the slanted slate roof and a big old tree outside. In that 23 minutes I saw four different kinds of birds.

Framed by the antique window, I saw them through a different lens. A little bird with a bright yellow breast hopped along the peak in the roof. A robin with something stuck in it’s feathers fluttered and fluffed and fretted before flying away. A crow popped in with a crooked smile and was gone in an instant, surely up to something. A cardinal landed gently on a limb and stayed just long enough for me to marvel at his red feathers. Just before the dentist came in I remembered that these little magical creatures can fly!

Birds. Holy smokes. They are kind of amazing. And they’re all around us and we see them all of the time but, it’s been years since I remembered how freaking cool they are, how resilient, how resourceful, how high they can fly.

How many other amazing things in my life have just become so much a part of the day-to-day, part of the normal, part of the giant blur of all that is around me that I forget to really see them?

Just as the crow disappeared, I thought of my students at school.

I thought of my seniors, kids that I have seen every day for seven years. Kids that I have lost sleep over, kids that have struggled through things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, kids that have risen above grief and trauma and loss and poverty and gossip and failures, kids that have it all, kids that have a little and share like they have a lot, kids that stopped being kids long before they should have had to. I thought of all they have gone through to get to this very moment.

And while these seven years with them have all blurred together, on Saturday as they received their diplomas, as they looked me in the eye on their way off the stage, as they tossed their caps in the air, I saw each of them.

I remembered how freaking cool they are, how resilient, how resourceful, how high they can fly.

roots and wings

Staying put was never my thing.

There was a time when I moved every two years, at least. I itched for change. For the rush of starting something new, carving out space in an unknown corner. I traveled, I moved. I made friends, started to get settled, and than picked up and moved again. Sometimes I’d move back to my hometown for a bit and then take off again. I was in full on flying mode, wings ever at the ready; I knew I wasn’t ready to put down roots just yet.

And that made my life pretty interesting.

In 2004, I wound up on a road trip in the Kalahari Desert with a great friend, her mom, and her stepsister. Four women piled in a jeep, cruising through desolate southern Africa; it was really something. At the time, I was living in New York City, just finished grad school and had turned down counseling jobs in the Bronx and Shanghai. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got back to the U.S., so my desert adventure was a perfect detour. We spent our days spotting rare birds and springboks, goemsboks, and zebra, chatting with San Bushmen. At night, we’d crouch in shelters overlooking watering holes, hoping to spot a lion, drinking tea out of thermoses, whispering and giggling in the cold.

One night, I looked up at the amazing, huge, sky and marveled at the sight of it. Clear. Limitless. Not so unlike the sky I’d seen lying on my back in the front yard at home. I knew in that moment, that whatever I ended up choosing to do, wherever I ended up choosing to go next, it would be right; I could feel it in my gut.

And so weeks later when walking down Farmington Avenue, rocking my favorite pink “Glam is Back” t-shirt, I listened to that feeling in my stomach when the opportunity to move back home presented itself. Worlds away from the Kalahari, I conjured up that clarity and though it seemed crazy to be 29 and moving from the greatest city in the world back to Hartford, I heard what my heart was telling me.

Seven and a half years later, I am so grateful that I listened.

I wound up back in little old Hartford, whose sidewalks I know as well as my own palms. Whose homes cradle the people that I love. Whose streets inspire me, challenge me, remind me. I wound up wonderfully enmeshed in the lives of family and old friends, in the families of my friends; challenged by carving out a new space for myself in the place that I knew so well but that had changed as much as I had.

I wound up working in a school where I am happy to go each day. Where I have found so much joy and reward; where I have been part of building something exceptional. I wound up being one of the lucky people on this earth who get to make a bit of a difference each day; working in a place with people who have empowered me to grow in ways that I never could have imagined that day on Farmington Avenue when my phone rang.

At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I felt like everything in my life was up in the air. I was mourning the end of a phase of my life and reveling in the beginning of another. I was scared. I was completely in flux.

Today? The flux continues.

And as it does, I go back to that quiet night under the stars; I conjure up the Kalahari clarity and remind myself that change is good; it’s not comfortable, but it is good. I give myself permission to reflect on all that for which I am grateful. I remind myself to trust the process, to trust my gut.

No matter what kind of noise is crowding my mind, my gut is always worth listening to. It has led me to some amazing people, some unlikely places and some experiences that made no sense to me until they were long over, but, my gut, it knows a thing or two.

This time, I don’t need to go to the desert to listen to myself. While my life may not be quite as exciting and interesting and story-worthy as it was back when I was rootless, footloose and fancy free, the flux feels powerful and exciting instead of scary.

And while I haven’t put away my wings entirely, my roots are here, at home; deep and strong and full of hope.

the 40 year-old PICOUP

My brother turns 40 today.

They say 40 is the new 30. They must know my brother.

He is vibrant and funny and full of incredible ideas and always making something neat happen. He is full of energy and passion and magic and music and stories. His spirit is limitless. He is magnetic. Babies love him. Nuns adore him. Even middle school kids who hate everyone can’t help but love my brother; he’s got a pocketful of stupid-human tricks that throw them instantly into idol-worship mode. (I just felt like Rob Bass: I mean even the ones who never saw him like…)

Since we were little kids and he could stand on his head and wiggle his ears first, I’ve been in complete and total awe of him. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when my awe was coupled with, “oh my god! get away from me!” There have been plenty of those over the years. The time he tried to vacuum me comes to mind. I mean, literally, he vacuumed me. That’s all fun and games until the nozzle comes towards your hair.

All brother/sister torture aside, being the younger sister is kind of a cool perch.

I’ve been witness to my brother’s journey from a seat of looking up to and learning. He did almost everything first. He tested the waters. In many cases, he didn’t just stick a toe in, he cannonballed right into the deep end. In some cases, he dove headfirst into the shallow end.

No matter what he was doing or where he was, through the darkness and back into the light, my brother has always been an incredibly influential force in my life. I can count on him. Deluxe. And even though we’re older and I’m taller than him, I still love when he calls me his little sister.

My brother’s road has been windy. And bumpy. But as he turns the corner into 40, his road is smooth, new pavement with all sorts of great scenery. He’s kicking some serious world-butt. He has a beautiful family. He’s written a book! He has carved out an incredible career and he has a diverse group of interesting friends who, just like me, are in awe of how funny and cool and smart and ridiculously creative he is.

Today I see him more clearly than I ever could when we were younger.

Today I see a guy who loves so deeply and with so much of himself. I see a guy whose mind is racing, whose ideas are powerful, whose potential is limitless. Today I see a guy who can find something magical in everyone; a guy who seeks that connection, to draw that out in each person he meets.

My brother’s mentor and friend, Mike Gessford passed away unexpectedly last year, just before his 50th birthday. Mike had a sign above his desk that read, “PICOUP: Person In Charge of Unlocking Potential.” Mike was that. And, my brother Justin, he is that: a person who makes it his mission to help others find the magic inside of themselves.

Happy Birthday, Bo. Thank you for being the ultimate PICOUP to me…

UBUNTU and I love you.

 

sweet judy

Today my friend Judy died.

She was a giver. A first-order, drop-everything, be there with a smile on her face, lend a hand, giver.

Judy was full of laughter. She was kind. She was funny. She was feisty. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She spent her days at work helping people out and her time out of work helping people out. And it was never a strain; this was just who she was, a giver.

This completely unfair life left Judy with a brain tumor just weeks after she retired; she spent the remainder of her retirement fighting for her life until today when she passed on while surrounded by her beloved husband, children and others in their family.

When I think of Judy, she’s making a cheeky comment and cracking up. She’s finding the good in the most ordinary of moments.

So life isn’t fair. But it sure is full of amazing people.

I want to make sure that I make the most of every ordinary moment I have with the amazing people in my life.

Sometimes that’s doing something incredible together. Sometimes it’s a quick phone call or a check-in email. Sometimes it’s a full-on snugglefest complete with Thai food or movies or TV reruns of cop shows. Sometimes it’s a yoga date or a group at dinner or just sitting together in silence. Sometimes it’s boisterous laughter or planning a trip or taking a long walk at the reservoir. Sometimes it’s hijacking someone from their regular routine for a glass of wine on the couch while ignoring the kids or driving to Ikea or sitting together knitting. Sometimes it’s doing a whole lot of nothing but being happy with the people that I love.

Our time here is precious and it is not promised to us.

Life is better when you give. It’s better when you laugh. It’s better when you live it up and when you surround yourself with amazing people.

And most of all, life is better when you love with your whole heart.

Rock on, Judy. xoxo

jackdaddy

It’s Monday and everyone’s dreaming about Friday.

I hadn’t even made it through ten minutes of the workday and people were already moaning about the weekend being over, how much they can’t wait for vacation, how tired they are, how much they hate Mondays.

Don’t get me wrong, I was right there with them. This morning my alarm clock and I were far from friends. I managed to get through the day. I whined occasionally about how I didn’t feel good, raced through to get as much work done as I possibly could and then got out of there as soon as I possibly could.

Monday. Done.

And then I saw a note that an old friend wrote about her day. She wrote about the kindness of others, the kindness she experienced while running errands with her father who has Parkinson’s. She wrote about the gentle greeting of the woman at the dry cleaner who hugged her dad upon his arrival and departure and about the man who sang a Christmas carol while helping her dad walk and about the many people who waited with patience as she and her dad slowly made their way through doors.

Her note made me reflect on my own day, the day I had wished away.

The little girl bogged down with a huge backpack and giant saxophone case who rushed to hold the door open for me this morning. The excitement in the eyes of one of my kids who got her first college acceptance in the mail. The cup of hot tea my mom joined me for after a long day at work. The old man who waved me in to merge with traffic even though everyone behind him was honking. The texts with Kate about the amazing bowl full of heads that she crocheted for me. The memory of my friend’s dad playing the drums with wild abandon in his pajamas in their front hallway.

Thank you to my old friend and her jackdaddy for reminding me that today is more important than tomorrow.

My Monday wasn’t much, but it sure had it’s beautiful moments.

taking stock

Yesterday I went to the mall. I very rarely take the plunge, anymore, into consumer crazytown but I had a coupon and a friend needed a new pair of shoes, so off I went.

It was full on Christmas. Music piped in, decorations were hanging from every nook and cranny, even Santa was there, holding court with a few bored elves in center court.  The stores were chock-a-block stocked to the gills with schlock. The windows were filled with extravagant displays of possible presents for everyone and anyone.  And while I’m a huge fan of Santa, love hearing, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” no matter what time of year it is, and generally am in love with ornaments of all shapes and sizes; I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

This week, I just want to celebrate Thanksgiving.

In all of the rush of our crazy culture, the day designated for us to slow down and give thanks for all that we have gets rushed out of the door for all that we think we need.

In fact, all that we really need is what this week is all about.

This week, many of us will descend on a home full of loved ones for a feast lit by candles and dessert enough to feed an army. Some of us will spend the day with just one other and order take-out and watch a movie. A bunch of us will whine about our families and how someone did something to someone that someone thought was something awful.  And a few of us won’t have anywhere special to go or anything special to eat.

No matter what our Thanksgiving day plans, each of us has something in our lives to be grateful for, someone in our lives that makes our days better or some moment that has been meaningful to us.

No matter where I am or who I am with or what my situation is on Thanksgiving; this week is an opportunity to take stock. Not of all the things I have to do to get ready for Christmas; but of all that I have to be grateful for right now in this very moment.

I’ll be making my grandma’s noodles and knitting with my niece.  I’ll be in the warm company of most of my family with a full belly and a full heart.  I’ll be thinking about those whose situations may be different from my own. I’ll be worrying about a few of my students who won’t have enough to eat and I’ll be sending out good vibes to a great friend whose space is being invaded by folks she’s not comfortable with.

I’ll be taking stock of all that is good in my life: Family. Love. Food. Warmth. Friends. Shelter. Meaningful Work. Freedom.

Christmas shopping can wait. This week, I just want to be grateful.

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