new kid

I walk down a hall of palm trees to get to the cafeteria from my office at my new school.

Sometimes I see lizards. Or kids playing floor hockey in the outdoor covered gym. Sometimes I see Jeff in his cowboy hat speaking enthusiastically to an adorable group of first graders. Or twelve ladies with scissors cutting the little patches of grass by the performing arts center.

I walk down a hall of palm trees.

Designed to let air flow through the open campus, my new school is a lush, green, pristine oasis in the middle of  noisy, dusty Chennai.  The structures are simple and the grounds are gorgeous.

It is a truly beautiful place for students to learn. The kids are settling in to the new school year and the crazy marathon of school mania is in full-swing: spirit week is underway, progress reports are due, meetings, meetings and more meetings, homecoming this Friday, big swim meet on Saturday. School is school no matter where you are in the world.

I am still finding my bearings.  After nine years of being Glam and knowing the intimate details of my students lives at Classical, being new is…hard. I had grown used to having answers, my phone ringing off the hook, to walking down the hall and noticing a scratch in the paint that wasn’t there the day before.  I am used to knowing the name of every single kid in the building and likely knowing their mom’s name, their address and what their loves and hopes and fears were.

And now, I am new.

I ask a million questions and can go an entire day without my phone ringing.  I have a mere 104 students on my caseload. I am slowly learning each of their names and even know a thing or two about a few of their dreams for the future. I am Ms. McGlamery or Ms. Susannah or Ms. I’m-sorry-I’m-not-sure-of-your-name-yet and I speak too quickly and use too many colloquialisms and idioms for non-native English speakers.  I am challenged and on my learning-edge and so grateful to be in a space where I feel supported while I am completely lost.

I remind myself that I was once new at Classical.

I remind myself that my relationships with DaJavon and Jelan and Ashleigh and Alex grew over years, that I was just plain Ms. for months, that my kids were once kids that looked at me with skepticism and that Farron only started calling me Glam-Glam because calling me Susannah was awkward at school and we were too close for the whole Ms. McGlamery thing.

On the days when I am drowning in questions, I just need to sit for a while with students to find my footing again… because the new is kind of amazing. And the new kids…are totally amazing.

My kids have lived in places I dream of visiting: Kuala Lumpur, Sao Paolo, Budapest, Delhi, Seoul.  A majority speak more than one language; many are learning English while swimming in the deep end of AP classes and the many demands of a rigorous academic program.  Some of them leave school at 4:00 only to go to another school where they study their native language and prepare for college entrance exams until 9:00 at night before going home to do homework.  My kids are from Korea, Malaysia, India, England, France, Italy, America, Japan, Indonesia. They wave or bow or thank me each time they leave my office. They are vibrant and quiet and stressed and reflective and wonderful and trusting.

My new kids are slowly and quietly working their way into my heart. In them I see the same excitement for life, the same passion for learning and the same desire to trust that I found in my Classical kids.

Sanjay reminds me of Marco.  Naranjana laughs like Asha.  Dongsu makes me think of Marcel when he’d linger after reading group to tell me something sweet about his sister.

My kids in Hartford. My kids in Chennai…Lucky me to have all of these amazing people in my life.

Tropical, global-nomad Glam-Glam is in full effect.

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LITB: from india to ireland

Dear Rayne,

Welcome to the land of magical creatures, delicious breakfasts, lush green landscapes, endless stonewalls and the nicest people on the planet. I am sure that Ireland will unfold itself to you without hesitation and you will soon let go of your new-to-town nerves and find your groove.

Breathe deeply in your new space.  Remember everything that you smell: the city smog, the ocean, the dusty roads. See with new eyes: the green, the crumbling castles, the thatched roof cottages. Sit for a while with people with sparkling eyes lined with crow’s feet and listen to their stories. Eat fish & chips out of a newspaper cone and drink warm Guinness and sing in a pub with new friends.

Savor every moment!

Explore!

Through it all, be yourself.  You are stronger than you know.  You are smart and funny and incredibly observant. You are insightful and kind and you show people your open heart.  You are brave, humble and quietly make your mark wherever you go.

There will be some moments where you will wonder why you did this. There will be some moments where you are surrounded by people and feel completely alone.  There will be some moments where nothing seems to makes any sense.  When that happens, hold that arrowhead in your palm and know that you have taken a step that feels so scary now but will surely change your life forever.

You have made a conscious decision to grow.

You have chosen courage over comfort.

Hold that arrowhead in your palm and know that you are snuggled in between continents by people that love you from the deepest parts of our hearts.

I am so proud, so inspired and so excited to hear your tales.

Love,

Aunt Saide

PS: Don’t forget, Love Is The Best.

raynecityhallfountain

 

 

 

 

settling in

Last night I spotted a woman in a doorway on a crowded street. I was on my way to dinner with a few new friends; it was dark outside and the hustle and bustle of the crowded street made for a challenging walk. Dodging motorbikes and stray dogs, abandoned shoes, last week’s garbage and a man selling bangles on a blanket, I finally looked up as the lit-up doorway caught my eye.  The woman stood with her hands on her hips, glowing in a perfectly wrapped, bright orange sari.

She took my breath away.

Her stance, her sari, her serene presence shook me, and for the first time since I landed on July 24th, it hit me.  I am not just visiting India for a few weeks.

I live here.

I am buying food containers and setting up a spice cabinet. I am investing in pots and pans and garbage cans. I am in the beginning stages of friendships of all sorts. I am getting up early and heading in to work. I am starting to know which way to turn to get to a particular shop and how to get back to my house in the dark.

This weekend I visited friends who are stuck in the hospital with Dengue Fever. I had cocktails at the home of the U.S. Consulate General. I danced into the wee hours of the morning to 80s music and stood in the rain laughing with friends. I went to a school picnic and had a hot oil hair massage and walked the tree-lined streets of Besant Nagar. I ate paneer tikka masala and dal mahkni and checked out a handmade cane swing for my porch.

I wake up to the sound of waves crashing outside of my window. Crows cawing to each other and the street guards chatting away. I know it takes 17 minutes for the water to heat for my shower; I adjust my snoozer accordingly.  I know the morning guard wants to speak in English so he quickly says, “good morning!” before I can greet him in Tamil. I jump in a banged-up, bright yellow auto-rickshaw and watch with wonder as my driver weaves his way through the onslaught of cars and bikes and motorbikes, tuk-tuks and trucks. I pass the young guy with the two pugs and the smiling maid. I pass the ironing-wallah and the old man with a rose filled basket on his bike. I arrive at my new school, pour myself a cup of tea and dig into my work. I am starting to learn the names of my co-workers children. Sunita’s birthday is September 20th, Priya’s mother-in-law is staying with her for a month. I know if I don’t leave school by 4:30, I will be stuck in a cluster of traffic that will turn my 5 minute commute into a 50 minute commute. When I get home the guys will be on the beach playing cricket. The couples will be sitting in the sand watching the waves come in.

My calendar is filled with new student meetings, yoga begins tomorrow and I have dinner plans on Tuesday.

I am living.

wheels

trust the process

I have been carrying some heavy stuff.

Literally, carrying it like a ton of horrendously heavy bricks, in my lower back.

I kept thinking that I was unusually calm about my move. Yeah, I was crying here and there when I’d say goodbye to friends or think too much about being far away from my family but, in general, I felt cool as a cucumber.  Until exactly one week before my flight when every single emotion I was feeling moved right into my lower back and made itself at home. Classic. The plane ride was somewhat brutal; if not for my adrenaline and some Tylenol PM, I’m sure I would have had to lie down in the aisle and cry.  I did come close to having a full cavity search at the Frankfurt airport because I forgot to take off my CVS one-use heating pad before I went through security. Needless to say, I arrived in India unable to get up from sitting down without limping and groaning.

I have been carrying Change. And all of the unknown that comes along with it.

My new friend Diane empathized and made me an appointment for an Ayurvedic massage.  It was time to begin making things right between my mind and my body and, as it turns out, there is an Ayurvedic center just a walk down the beach away from my house.

Never one to turn away from massage, I went for it.

And…I wore a loincloth.

No discreet removal of the clothes and tucking away under a blanket with a soft knock on the door to see if I’m ready.

Papadhi directed me to undress, tied a loincloth on me and escorted me to a wooden table. All without saying a word.

If I hadn’t been so scantily clad, I might have bolted from the room then and there but as I climbed up on that hard wooden table and Papadhi prayed over the oil she just heated and touched one drop to the center of my forehead, I knew I was right where I was meant to be.

I closed my eyes and let the treatment that millions before me have received, over thousands of years, unfold.

After the hot oil rub and pounding of my scalp that left me looking like Sai Baba, Papadhi vigorously massaged the oil into each of my limbs, into my belly, my back and neck and then led me to the corner of the room…

I sat down on a little stool inside a steaming box, Papadhi closed the hatch, leaving only my head sticking out and I promptly began to freak out. My calm, Ayurveda bliss disappeared.  My mind was whirling: how can I hold myself up like this? how long will I be in here? what if sweat drips into my eye? how long will I be in here? how long will I be…and then Papadhi left the room.

I was stuck. Alone. Naked. In a hot box.

what if I have to get out and I can’t get out? what if 10 guys come through that door? what if she never comes back?

I closed my eyes (solution to sweat not dripping in), I relaxed my shoulders (solution to holding my head up) and I took a deep breath (solution to everything else). And then another breath.

I breathed some more and reminded myself to trust the process.  (Millions of people, over thousands of years, wouldn’t think this was transformative if they were having anxiety attacks every time they had a treatment…)

When Papadhi let me out I almost fainted. I was buck naked except for my loincloth, with a giant afro, sweating like a beast and unable to see, but I felt just right.  Papadhi rubbed all of my stress to the surface and then gave me space to sweat out my fear of the unknown.

I walked home on the beach smiling, feeling lighter; waves crashing, wind blowing, kids playing cricket in the sand.

be here now

Before I moved to India I spent a lot of time thinking about shoes.  Ask my friend Denise, she’ll tell you.

I obsessed over open-toe vs. closed-toe, the benefits of a rinsable, recyclable sandal, whether I’d need sneakers or sport sandals (yuck!) and everything else shoe related one could possibly obsess over.

When I was done with shoes, I moved on to over-thinking about pants, about toiletries, about exactly how much contact solution a girl might need before she can hit up Target again in a year.

And now I’m here.

I am here where it’s dusty and sandy and wet and dirty and hot and all at once smells wonderful and then, in an instant, terrible. I am here where the roads end without warning and the traffic is insane and there are no rules but there are so many rules and there are cows in the streets and the same dog is everywhere and the people… the people!

Women draped in bright saris, loops of jasmine in their hair. Men in lungis with wild hair and mustaches galore. Knobby-kneed children in finely pressed school uniforms walk in groups giggling and swinging invisible cricket bats.

Tuk-tuks barrel down the road, tooting horns, blaring horns, birds, birds and more birds, the lovely, loopy lilt of people speaking Tamil in the streets, waves crashing outside of my bedroom window.

Everything is new. My senses are on serious overdrive and shoes and pants and all that other stuff I was trying to control?

None of it matters.

I’m here. Now.

street scene

listen.trust.grow.fly.

I ask my kids at school a big question when they are at a crossroads.  It’s not anything major. It’s not even original.  Some of them roll their eyes. Some of them spout out some ideas about what that might look like. Some of them go inside themselves and really think on it.

Last Spring I asked an 8th grader the question.

“This is your one life, what do you want it to be?” and while he sat there wrinkling his nose and rubbing his buzzcut, I thought to myself, “My one life.  my one LIFE. My ONE life. MY one life. MY ONE LIFE!!!!!!!”

My life? It’s kind of amazing. It doesn’t fit into a box, but it’s kind of amazing and I want it to continue to be amazing and I want to continue to grow and change and be excited and feel grounded and laugh my head off and love deeply and be moved by encounters with strangers and have adventures in places that rock me right to my core.

And, then, I remembered that the kid sitting across from me in my office was still there.  He wasn’t sure what he wanted his life to be yet but he knew that there were things he wants to do and that someday he’d like to have his own car and go to a real NFL game. And that made me remember that there are things that I’ve always wanted to do that I haven’t done yet and I’d better get to it.

Last Summer I felt my heart beating faster when I started thinking about a new adventure.  In Autumn I felt myself light up inside when I’d look at the world map that hangs above my desk at work.  This Winter I took the plunge and accepted a job offer at an international school in Chennai, India.

And today it’s snowing and I have never seen anything quite so beautiful.

That’s what happens when I do what is real and right for me. Everything becomes more beautiful.

I walked in the snow just now thinking about how this might be the last blizzard I see for awhile. About how my life in Hartford is so rich. I thought about my dad’s kitchen table that he made out of the tiles from the kitchen in our old house on Annawan St. and how much I love to sit at that table with him.  I have love and comfort and stability and the waitstaff at the coffee shop hug me when I come in. Hartford is my home; my people are here.

And because of that love and comfort and richness and that little 8th grader with the buzzcut, my wings emerge. I choose to do what moves me. What makes me feel alive. What challenges me and takes me out of my comfort zone and enables me to grow into a different space.

Being grounded is about how you stand on the earth no matter where on earth you stand.  I am moving to India. I am following my heart and my dreams and my gut. I am moving on from an amazing job that has allowed me to grow in ways that I never could have imagined. I am letting go of things that I thought that I needed that no longer serve me.  I am moving away from people that make my life amazing. I am trusting that love will transcend time and space and challenges and that the people who love me will love me through this.

My one life…I am flying with the feeling of following through on something that I have always dreamed of. The discomfort feels comfortable. Strangely, I feel grounded as I take flight.

And these wings? They look pretty good on me.

tree

hope for aching hearts

Today the unthinkable happened.

Sandy Hook: Tragedy. Chaos. Pure Craziness on a beautiful, crisp Friday morning.

Somewhere along the way, somehow, something very wrong happened and someone’s life became such a mess that he took it upon himself to destroy the lives of others. Innocent people.

This isn’t new. It happened earlier this week in a mall in Oregon. It happened in a movie theater in Colorado this summer. It happened in a Sikh temple earlier this year. It happened…

Today it happened in my backyard; in Connecticut. It happened to little kids. Kids the same age as my nephew. It happened to educators; people who have given their lives over to helping others. THAT is my backyard; in fact, kids and educators? THAT is   my front yard.

And when something awful happens so close to home…

Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Helplessness. All of this swirling around and around…I’m not quite sure what to do with how I feel about this and I am an adult. An adult with some pretty seriously intact emotional wherewithal.

So, where does a tragedy like this leave our kids? Likely, angry, sad, confused and feeling helpless. (We really are just bigger versions of them in so many ways.)

I’m not an expert on kids. I don’t have my own. But I do spend a lot of time with other people’s kids and I can’t stop thinking about them and kids all over the country tonight. And here is what I hope for them in the coming days…

I hope they get hugged by their parents. Long and true hugs; the kind that feel like ending the hug is unthinkable. I want my kids to know that they are loved, deeply and unconditionally and not just because something bad happened today.

I hope they can talk with their families and loved ones about all that has happened; that they can get the information they feel they need without getting too much information that might make them hurt more. I hope they can have conversations about this tragedy, honest conversations, so they can move through the muck, put it into context and process what has happened in a healthy way.

I hope they have someone who will listen to them. Someone who will listen to their hurt, their confusion about how something so terrible could happen; someone who will listen to their fear and just be there for them without telling them not to be afraid. If they are afraid, than that is theirs to feel. I hope someone will just hold that fear with them so it doesn’t feel so heavy.

I hope they have at least one adult who can put aside their own anxiety and anger and sadness to just really be there for them.

I hope they turn off their TVs and choose to spend their time with people they love doing things that they love, rather than being saturated with all of the craziness on TV. We need the media, but sometimes, it’s just too much for our hearts. Kids’ hearts need less media, enough said.

I hope they will know that if they are ever so troubled that they feel like they might break, that they reach out. That they come to a parent or an aunt or uncle or neighbor or teacher or school counselor or friend and say, “I need help,” before things get out of hand.

I hope they will look at all of this ugliness and see a little bit of something good. Because in all of this tragedy there is a whole lot of humanity; there are a whole lot of people flooding a grieving community with love. I hope they will see how people hold other people up, how strength isn’t about muscle, it’s about heart.

I hope they will know that their innocence, their wonder, their youthful energy is still in them, even though it feels like it’s been lost today. That their strength is what reminds us that while all seems crazy in this moment and while sometimes life goes off the rails, the world is full of goodness and compassion.

My heart aches for the families of Newtown and for children all across our country whose lives will be forever changed by what happened today.

I know that my heart is just one in a collective of hearts, billions, that ache tonight.

We are a collective; a community of hearts, so, let’s be there for each other. Not just because something bad has happened, but every day.

Let’s really be there for each other every single day.

xoxo

 

 

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