Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gladstone, Michigan: How I Got Here!

It takes great faith for me to step into the unknown and trust that my foot will land on something solid, that I will be cared for, and safe in that new, as yet unrevealed space. Each time I do so I am rewarded beyond my expectations. The process of finding a place to live in Michigan required such a leap of faith.

As of Thursday morning, April 7th, my husband and I were all set to rent a house in Rapid River, Michigan. The moving truck was scheduled for pickup on Friday morning and we planned to leave Boston on Saturday and arrive in Michigan on Tuesday, April 12th. On Thursday afternoon, that all changed.
Our to-be landlady called and said that she had a buyer for the house we had rented and, although she intended to honor our lease agreement, the buyer had 30 days to move from her home and had offered to buy us out of our six month lease at $1,000 a month if we agreed to find another place to live.

At this point, we had a choice to make. We could ask our landlady to honor the lease agreement; or, motivated by the promise of $$, and knowing that the house sale would help our landlady, we could spend time trying to find a suitable alternative. We chose the latter. In less than 36 hours we had secured a new place to live, made arrangements for utilities, and substantially packed the truck. On Sunday, April 10th, mid-move, we learned that the house buyer had backed out of the deal.

Now, one could read this story and say, "Aren't those two naive. They had a sure thing and they gambled it for what was obviously a false promise of money because who has $6,000 to just give away these days?"

OR, one could read this story and say, "Wow! Isn't that amazing! They could have told the landlady it was too late, they had an agreement, they needed to concentrate on packing, not finding another place to live on such short notice, and they liked the house they had rented. Done. But they didn't. Instead, one day before the moving truck arrived, knowing that the promised money was not guaranteed, and wanting to help their landlady sell the house, they took the risk that they would find a new place, overnight, that would meet their needs, and trusted it to work out. They just trusted it would work out. And it did. Wow!"

We trusted, and it worked out beyond our expectations. The first house was bright, clean, spacious, had garden space, a back deck, and lovely neighbors. It was also located on U.S. 2, a 55 mile per hour highway that sees significant truck traffic, would require my husband to commute 25 minutes to work, and was miles from the nearest store.

The new place is located in a quiet neighborhood, 2 miles from busy U.S. 2, five miles from my husband's new job, walking distance to many stores, and the space is beautiful, as well.

So, what about the money?? It never mattered whether the money was actual or virtual. The idea of the money was enough. It diverted our attention from the effort required to change our plans under a tight deadline, and gave me, and my husband, the motivation to expend such effort with a positive attitude. Once we made our choice, the money was no longer necessary. It had served its purpose.

Had we chosen the guaranteed option and decided to rent the house on U.S. 2, we would have been just fine. In choosing the unknown, however, we ended up so much better than fine. We were rewarded, beyond our expectations, for our leap of faith, which once again verified our belief that anything is possible.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

MI Here I Come!

Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Destination: Rapic River (near the Route 2 sign above Gladstone)!
I'm moving. MOVING! I'm REALLY moving!! I decided to leave New England in December 2000. I started dating my husband in February 2001, and I'm still here, but not for long. The moving truck permit is posted, my living room is filled eight feet high with boxes, the piano has been sold, and I am moving. It feels fabulous!

My New England journey started in 1992 with an insatiable desire to move to Boston. I was living in Notasulga, Alabama, population ~900, working for an environmental consulting firm when the feeling came upon me. I HAD to move to Boston. It was inexplicable, really. I had driven through Boston once my senior year in high school as I boarded a cruise ship to Bermuda. I returned with a close friend during college and was in awe of the old stone churches, cobblestone streets, and rich history that pervades the city. I given it much thought after than until 1992 when the thought struck and stuck. I had to move to Boston. I bought a copy of The Boston Globe every Sunday and searched the Classifieds for jobs. Soon thereafter, law school fever assailed me in a similar fashion and I applied to three schools in Boston, alone.

When I arrived here in August 1994 for my first year at Suffolk Law, I remember looking at the lit up Boston skyline and wanting to pinch myself to make sure it was all real. I had arrived and my future was bright and beautiful. I graduated from law school and was working as a prosecutor in the Middlesex District Attorney's Office when I decided, in December 2000, that I wanted to be closer to my family in my home state of Pennsylvania. And then Cupid's arrow struck my tender heart and I stayed in New England.

Now, eleven years later, with a wonderful husband, a new vocation, and one cat, it is time to go. This city has served me well. After seventeen years in New England (four spent in Concord, New Hampshire), I am ready to say goodbye to this city that has given me so much. I am leaving with a loving husband, a wonderful education, and many fond memories, as well as friends. In essence, I grew up here. It is this place that helped me to find my voice in the world, first as an attorney, and now as a creative force that continues to sprout, bloom, and become.

On Saturday, the moving truck will pull out with my family and my life inside. I am looking forward to the new friendships and experiences I will find up North and the continuation of the many cherished friendships I have created here in New England. As I move on, I welcome the rich soil of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the trees, the water, and the love that I am sure to find there as I continue this journey called life.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Power of Personal Story

In my adult life, I have given very little thought to the lives and experiences of teenagers. Until recently, I perceived all teenagers I did not know personally, and some I did, as self-absorbed, superficial beings who used truly irritating behavior to navigate their struggle between youth and adulthood. I realize that this viewpoint lacked compassion, tolerance, insight, and love, yet I held it all the same. In the past month, I had the true pleasure of spending four days at Everett High School teaching 4 lessons of storytelling-based curriculum to high school juniors. This experience has altered my perception of teenagers forever.

These kids have stories. In small groups, one-on-one, and as told to the entire class I was introduced to lives rich in experience. A young man told of looking in the mirror at the folds of extra flesh hanging off his frame and wanting to look differently. With his brother's guidance, he learned to exercise regularly and choose healthy foods. Fit, healthy, and eighty pounds lighter, he proudly shared his experience.

Another young man woke up one day to find his brother leaving for a rehab facility. Until that day, he had viewed drug users as "losers". After that day, he saw individuals with addictions as people who had made mistakes and needed assistance to turn their lives around. Now, he abstains from using drugs because he has seen the consequences of such behavior.

A young woman with perfect grammar and barely an accent told me how she relocated to Everett three years ago not speaking a word of English. Having no friends and unable to understand her teachers who did not speak French, she desperately wanted to return home. She persevered, built friendships, and dreams of attending college in this, her adopted country.

With great courage, these young students welcomed me, their peers, and teachers into their lives filled with heartbreaking loss and joyous accomplishment. Each of them withdrew the veil of their outward persona, for just a moment, and used words and gesture to pour their deeply personal experiences into the hearts of their audience. I saw them stand tall, with loud, clear voices, and proudly share what mattered to them most.

Through telling their story, they changed; and I changed with them. Transfixed by their vulnerability, authenticity, and bravery, I gained insight into their lives. Listening to them share, my heart opened with compassion and my mind softened with tolerance as I realized that the persona they share with the world is no substitute for the persona they hide inside their hearts. And I will never discount them again.

To learn more about the innovative StoriesLive® program developed by the visionary women of massmouth, a storytelling non-profit organization in Boston, visit