Echoes of Reflection…

I truly remember the disbelief as a student informed me of the crazy scene unfolding before us, I was an educator at Penn Hills High School, a student told me something unbelievable and there we all were, a class new to each other and silent together processing the disbelief of 911 on the screen.  The rest of the day, and to be honest, that year, was almost a state of delirium even to this day.

A year later, working as a transcriber at U.S. Investigations, I remember observing September 11th and also realizing inside how real and instant the feelings felt even several years after this event.

Even later, having the privilege to travel to New York every year and implementing a self-made project on the streets with students, we interviewed fire fighters, average citizens, even photographers that captured that moment and managed to preserve those interviews digitally.  I still have those interviews and to listen to them still haunts me today with awe of the pain, the courage, and the sheer emotion that so many reciprocating events could have.  I remember the smell of the concrete dust a mere two years after this event and as strong as this just happening the day before.  We had the privilege of meeting and talking with Michael Arad, Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 8.38.26 PMthe explanation of this memorial instilled in our very hearts. (page 32-33 of this issue of Focus).

Here I am today, in a surreal and inspiring location I did not think I wold be in, and yet, the stories that occurred over 16 years ago touching our very hearts to the core. Students that were barely born, affected by the very story presented today and stories that are passed down from this so distant event, in relation to their young lives.  America has many amazing stories that affect so many individuals, not just individuals that were born and raised in the United States, but from every corner of the earth that come together in both tragedy and achievement.  There are so many lessons to be learned from tragedy and overcoming tragedy, washed in so many ethnic and cultural influences, that these lessons were never meant to be forgotten for countless reasons.  

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It Comes Out To Shaking Things Up…

As my usual weird routine, return from school – exhausted, and hit the bed and I am OUT. O U T.  Wake up at weird times at night, usually right around 11:20 PM, and stay up for the time I wished I would have spent after school, but needing the mental break (yeah me, needing the mental break).

Perspective is everything.  In talking with my Former Repentino. Editor in Chief Sam Kim this evening in making arrangements to get a letter of recommendation to her in South Korea, an earthquake of maximum magnitude hit and rumbled even stronger than the 7.8 to Mexico City, stronger even than the 1985 earthquake.  

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 1.04.37 AMand my heart plummeted.  In light of when the worst occurs and realized how STRONG and how much conviction so many close friends I have all over the world, and living in Mexico I was able to value so much of what I thought I did, but now to an even higher degree.  I touch based tonight with dear students and friends now in Chicago, Canada, North and South Carolina, South Korea, Japan, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland, and ten other locations, and within ten minutes, the friends I made in Mexico, and from other countries before me, is a testament to what a group of amazing individuals can do to change things for the better.  The aftermath of Harvey, the devastating results of Irma, are eye openers and chances to show how a country made up of individuals from outside the U.S as well as within, make a country a true country.  This lesson needs to be taught to so many individuals that represent the United States, and I think living abroad for even one year, let alone six years changes the perspective for anyone in that respect.

Many people ask me how the new job is.  It is uniquely strange in this fact, within the first day, I was getting questions I received after a year in Mexico, and the students and I have become close in conversation in record breaking time.  The odd thing is, this is not because of me, but the way I have been influenced from so many personable students, colleagues and friends I was lucky enough to be surrounded by for so long.  In fact, during a Focus, (like Advocacy) group session today, while walking about the long shelf-life of videos that are posted and to be wary of what is posted today in video form, I used this little gem as an example to show how long videos last:


Not one of my most stylish methods of videomaking (we made this in less than an hour including planning to make a video contest on healthy food) – but guess what?  I realized the students, colleagues, and friends around make continue to make me resistent to so much negativity and able to do anything I need to do, and oddly enough when bad things occur, we are SO so SO equipped to handle it based on the fortitude and quality of people we let surround us.

There is so much ugliness presented amid so much tragedy, and yet, each of us, as we spread out to so many diverse areas, have a chance to counter the far corners of the world and battle for the common good, and still be united.  That is an amazing thing to see how things can actually come together, ‘and I think it is yet to be realized how powerful that can be and change things until we actually out our voices, actions, and abilities to counter  so much that is bad, to change it for the better.  As we learn this, we grow slowly stronger and united thanks to the experiences we have grown together through.

Woodbridge High School is an amazing place for so much opportunity, and there is so much talent not being capitalized on yet I see in the young people around me.  Plans to host authors in collaboration with ASF, lans to hold an Open Mic on collaboration with Open Mics in Mexico, Battle of the Bands

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 2.37.47 AMpossibly resurrected for the common community good, is there any doubt what good people, libraries, educators, students, and whole countries can do when they work TOGETHER instead of acting individually?  Get ready to be shown.  Exciting things in the works thanks to exciting individuals that are waiting for the chance to shine, all right in the middle of times deemed to be depressing, difficult, and challenging.  


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No Lonely Roads Really Exist…

“This will always be your home.” A very very dear friend, who I definitely did NOT spend enough time with while in Mexico, Violeta Elena, was one of the first, and not the last to say this as I prepared to leave for the states after six years.  I specifically remember one stretch of road as I JUST cleared the border of Mexico, into the states, and for the ride, it WAS just me, and the 3 dogs, 3 cats, relying on me me relying on…

so many many memories and relationships that became the glue that held me together when there were so many times I felt alone, and realized, I never, ever have been alone thanks to the amazing moments I have been lucky enough to build with so many.  When I hear Tracy Chapman’s song, Fast Car, I think so much of those alone nights on the road, driving to and from Mexico, and without a doubt, all these memories of so many unforgettable moments with unforgettable individuals of both sides of the border make me realize, no border exists between any of us, only if we allow it. 

I remember so many times when I first met shy, unsure of themselves individuals, and within a few years they became these amazing young men and women able to lead HUGE projects and lead HUGE amounts of others, and being able to be a witness to that, seeing that happen in individuals is one of the most amazing things you could EVER wish for, EVER.  I remember Alice, and one say she had to navigate the metro for a stretch by herself and I – me, myself, and I was petrified, and we were in New York.  I will NEVER, EVER forget the look on hr face as she figured out one of the most complicated routes to get to me, and she did and beyond, and little did I realize then, this would be one slight indicator of what an accomplished young women she would become.  I can say this of every single young woman and man that has passed through the challenges what we thought was a simple magazine, was actually a training ground for what we all wanted from life itself, a metaphor even if you will. I thought of this amazing young man and how many of us feel like this until someone sides along beside us to let us know what power we each hold to bring small to large groups together amid so much conflict.  When people tell you you can’t or go through motions that express that, the BEST thing in the world is to see dear friends defy the odds and grow into something even greater than you can know they can be.  

Then I realized, when I started my career in education, I never was and still, am not prepared to full be able to take in the sense of wonder how every single student I ever met, from then Kate Baltz, to Alison Schwinn, to every single person that devoted themselves to Cross Country, to attempting something new like PAVE and Christina Stevenson, willing participants in my English classes to take an idea and transpose it to something outside of the classroom, the colleagues that believed the same was possible, so so many people that worked alongside me at Glade Run Stables and St. Steven’s Academy with Julie and Jen, to Slippery Rock University colleagues like Kim and Natalie to amazing and inspiring/talented individuals I met at the Baltimore aquarium like Andrea and Carrie, to SO MANY, and never realizing how dear to my heart a country like Mexico and the American School Foundation would become to everything I felt from my toes to my head in what I wanted to be as a person – It caught up with me as I sat in this amazing new library at Woodbridge High School.  Names like Camila, Alice, Alia and anyone willing and daring enough to turn a library into a social venture like Gaby, Mocte, and Javier and run with it, along with countless more that would defy so much of what may thought was the minimum possible – it defined and redefined the idea of being alone was – which was a myth.  With individuals like these, there was no way, no matter where you would be, you would ever be alone, ever.

The first two days of students I had never met before, this feeling of how students would just come up to me and we had this spark of – “Some great things will happen this year” just begin to pour out and you KNOW, you know this is going to be an exciting year due to the potential some individuals held inside of them.  The talents, creativity, and abilities of all these years of working through the amazing aspects of education, as well as the disappointments, flaws, and missing links that education desperately needs, you realize how much the world needs individuals as these to keep so many others moving towards amazing feats they are not even aware of currently. 

Those nights of on the road for miles of dark road ahead and not much else would disappear thanks to all the shining moments that these dear dear individuals were willing to share with me?  There was nothing but lighted road from Mexico to the states if you just are willing to let in appear to you.   Some people want to win the lottery, some want to win as much money as they can have for their life, but I have always had this one dream. I would want everyone I have ever met in Mexico, and in the states, to be in one huge gathering together, and I think we would be in AWE of how much energy and creativity we all have always had and getting to share and swap stories with each other.  Strange maybe, but I think it would be the most beautiful moment I had ever experienced and we would continue to learn so much about who we have become.  Who knows, stranger things have happened.



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Not a Mirage…

I will remember that day – locked into my memory forever.  Yet it was only a start.

Walking alongside the back athletic fields of Seaford High, you could see the heat waves in the air and no kidding, there he and she was, in the middle of this heat, in the middle of this day where not many, if anyone should be outside, there he was.  Vince Morris and Jackie were in the middle of maybe the hottest part of this day, putting back together a bat cage structure for the field.  Vince was legendary BEFORE his amazing fight with cancer and all of you who were honored to grow up with him and know him during his fight, knew how legendary he always was moreso during his fight against anything and anyone that said great things can’t be done in the face of trials and obstacles.

I was reminded of this today.  As I was watching the trailer for “I’ll Push You” and privileged to be given the book to this inspiring story – it hit me like . wave, those that have inspired me and at this moment, Vince came into my psyche immediately.  And here I was.  Delaware, when only a few weeks ago I was in MEXICO and to be honest, my head was still trying to catch up to speed from events that occurred in the last month and a half.  I turned my head as my eyes filled slightly with the feeling Vince has always filled my mind, and took in what I saw.  I saw this huge expanse of clouds, the bluest sky you could ever imagine, fields and fields of corn, slowly swaying in the wind, and the beauty of the journey.  Not having escaped the whispers of Vince, among many, I realized the beauty of obstacles and mind stoppers seeming so overwhelming, but meeting people to let you realize, anything is possible . Vince was always there for me.

Called the Moctezuma stairs, alot of mornings I would climb the steep stairs at least 200 stairs, (more I think) at the Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 10.15.24 PMObservatorio metro exit, and the funny thing, at the same spot almost every day – there was a whisper almost every day – it was Vince.  He would say, “Seriously?  You are tired?  I was tired and yet, you saw me and the things I did?”  Not being asked, Vince was pushing me even in Mexico.  All the way.

The first time I walked through The Vince Morris Trail at Chapel Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 10.16.41 PMBranch last week – the first time in more than six years – so much came rushing back to me.  The smells of pine led me to the numerous events that echoed calls back and forth across Chapel Branch, the warmups, the laughter, the tears, the heartbreaks, the picnics, the sandwiches, the pushing of each other, the pushing Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 10.26.42 PMof yourself, hearing your breath from out of control to paced breathing after much practice, the moments alone, the moments together, I could still the legends of “Do” of Coaches Vince, Rob, Smith, Doakes, Arnetta and a HUGE list of those that learned so much from mistakes, successes and just each other.  The Vince Morris Trail at Chapel Branch truly IS a Chapel, a place of hallowed introspection that if you let it, much is learned and recaptured.

My supreme luck to for a needed hiatus, leave a Delaware behind that I never truly expected to, and little unknown to me then, leaving a Mexico I never expected to, returning to a state that had affected me more than I realized, leaving a country that changed me forever — when you say life becomes full circle, you need to realize there are so many aspects that you do not know are on the horizon.  Yet the people that have inspired you, and can inspire you, and will inspire you, will always be there, even when you cannot see them in the present.  I am so so lucky to have carried an ARMY of inspiration from so many – countless individuals that were students, teachers, mentors, colleagues, that led me to Mexico. A country I never expected to be and as you know from past blogs, leaving Mexico was a heart stopper because I never knew how much beauty, love, and open mindedness was in a country that the news never got right, let alone everyone that is affected by the news they hear and I thought constantly leaving an army of priceless students, colleagues, and dear dear friends in Mexico this month, how amazingly lucky I was to carry the love, the changes to my whole mind, with me back to Delaware where I started from, with the power I left with from so so many, and did not realize fully – you realize much about yourself through the journey, and many not planned.

The power of motivation is powerful, you truly see that in the stories from “I’ll Push You” and the trauma that exists in the world so many face every day, as we learned today in the film “Resilience”, and yet, knowing the amazing people that take you in, support you, champion your causes, and will have your back unconditionally as they have known you for YEARS, knowing that and being able to put into perspective that those moments can carry you through anything life tosses your way?  Realizing you can give that gift to others, so they may find their way?  This is absolutely priceless.  PRICELESS.  There is so much that can seem like a mirage, and yet, with the right people the mirage is for a moment, and the reality of what is behind what you are seeing – even thinking at the moment – can disappear and reappear for the better, you just have to allow it.  

The reality of individuals to support each other, to remain with each other over countries, miles, and between colonias and neighborhoods can defy any negativity happening in attitudes, politics, locations, beliefs, ethnicities, and opinions. It sometimes take a mirage, and walking through it, to realize the power of one, that actually comes from so many.  This is dedicated to the students, the powerful colleagues and friends, and family that believe making a difference is sometimes more important than self, and thanks to those individuals, your self also comes through the difficulties you are realizing at the time.  Vince, among so many, you continue to inspire thanks to the determination that you always managed to find, and the place you have settled inside all of us.  No mirage. Thank you.

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Looking at Yourself, With The World Looking In…

In the last few days, I have had moments of tranquility following many many non moments of tranquility – from moving across continents to seemingly split decisions, fast-paced moments that honestly do not seem to give you time to recognize the world around us.  Yet, the world around us keeps moving, and will not, does not stop amid much controversy.

I love, LOVE the honesty of this article – simply asking how to talk race and the expectations of when astoundingly sharp and repulsive actions that occur regarding race, in lieu of the massive uprisings and conflicts involving race.  However, I see many individuals simply drop to the decisions of popular thought and opinion when many do not know how to deal with when inside they disagree.  Simply put, the months and even years leading up to my departure from the United States let me witness many slanders and awful comments made regarding the issue of those not born in the United States, or even born in the United States, and parentage from another country and despite being an American, comments made as flippant to be considered normal; yet the issue of immigration being used as a rug of disgust instead of common sense and mature discussion.  It affected me and bother me on many levels, especially as an English educator.

From living six years in Mexico and seeing and realizing how unimaginative the news and press can be in not representing the real story, while also realizing the true nature of a beautiful people, culture, and country as Mexico, I return to the United States, amid so much that has occurred in six years and realize this.  The United States is and has always been my country.  I am thankful for the opportunity and freedoms that had enabled me to attend college and get multiple degrees, yet, I will not, and cannot ever endorse racial and ethnic stereotypes that many Americans continue to push as truth, vocally, in action, and in thought.  That has never been my definition of American, and being thankful  for experiences as an American to reinforce that being an American means standing up for diversity, standing up for ethnicity, that variety of fibers in the American flag makes American the great country it is, not simply the years of taking advantage of minorities such as Native Americans, Japanese-Americans, Muslim-Americans and more.  Yes, there are many negative aspects of being an American, and so many positive ones.  I am empowered with the blessings I received in Mexico to realize the dream of being an American is one that can still shown by actions, supporting local and international communities. There is power in going against common stereotypes, and that power is in disproving the fallacies and showing by action the truth.  

Many ask me how I am doing with the move back to the United States, amid living abroad for so long.  There is no doubt, living abroad changes the open-mindedness of people, the scope of thought when it comes to how the United States looks like from afar, a completely different perspective only benefits anyone that has ever been born in the United States, and simply living abroad for a year or more, anyone will realize this, VERY difficult to do unless that occurs.  An article given to me by my Mom, when I came home, titled “Stop the Week!”, by Wayne Muller, was VERY inspiring.  Muller relates to how individuals and the need to observe Sabbath is vital for renewal.  This article exemplifies how it is so so easy to simply, in this country or another, keep a constant running list of things to do and to achieve, without ever having a moment in between to reflect on that list.  This excerpt from his article is ideal in helping put what many find themselves lost in the mix in today’s society:

 In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between action and rest. As the founder of a public charity, I visit the offices of wealthy donors, crowded social-service agencies and the small homes of the poorest families. Remarkably, within this mosaic there is a universal refrain: “I am so busy.” I speak with people in business and education, doctors and day-care workers, shopkeepers and social workers, parents and teachers, nurses and lawyers, students and therapists, community activists and cooks. The more our life speeds up, the more we feel weary, overwhelmed and lost. Despite our good hearts and equally good intentions, our life and work rarely feel light, pleasant or healing. Instead, as it all piles endlessly upon itself, the whole experience of being alive begins to melt into one enormous obligation. It becomes the standard greeting everywhere: “I am so busy.” We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single mindful breath — this has become the model of a successful life.”

I am able to find the memories that truly make me miss so much about leaving Mexico, that is an absolute truth, intertwined with individuals that still do not know, to this day, how much their very existence in my life helped paint a picture of life I never knew existed in Mexico.  There is the return to a state like Delaware, where you lift your nose, (my dogs do this every day) and smell in the wind the smell of freshness, the Bay, the water, sea life, the freshness of mornings and crispness of evening, warm days, warm friendships, BBQ’s that define the summer and winters that exemplify the coastal influence – and I am the better for having been able to be part of the two worlds.

New students, new schools, new lives, and yet, if we allow it, we never have to change, but can be allowed to be a better person based on the geographic, social, ethnic, and personal schedules we create, we follow, and we designate.  Much to think about, and so important to allow the time to let these thoughts roll over us day after day instead of pushing them through a conveyer belt of busyness.

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What Does Starting a School Year Mean?

DISCLAIMER – the info and connections below?  100% inspired by the Woodbridge Student Services Team – and they ROCKED IT, let me tell you.  You will see.

Yes, it does not matter WHERE you are, because a 2017-2018 school year starts for THOUSANDS of people across the WORLD – but what does matter is the mind set that will lead you into that year, and what will be motivating for you to start based on what has happened to you in the past – to enhance this year.

Educator versus teacher, if you have read my past blogs, you would see I make a HUGE difference between the two, always have.  Today, thanks to an amazing presentation from a top-notch Special Education staff at Woodbridge School District, perhaps the leading Special Education group in the state, I realized, returning to the United States was a privilege with a crew as qualified, passionate, and intent in putting the student in the forefront, as they did today.  I wanted to share with you the aspects that brought to the table to show, that they were educators and not simply teachers, as we all can be.

ACES study – have you heard of this?  In my 18 years in the education field as an Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 11.41.35 PMeducator, when something moves you – and when you think you have seen it all, and you see something, feel something that moves you – it is something that is worth the time.  In this case, ACES, Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey, I wish I heard about this like 10 years ago- it affects even educators. Simply FOUR of these ACES is shown to take 20- TWENTY years off your life based on the research – think about that.  

If you go to this site, sponsored by the site veto violence, and scroll down, manipulate the ACES slide bar and see what happens with ACES exist and how they affect your life – it will cause you to stop and seriously just what this means –

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YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND that the things in our lives can change the shape of our brains due to literally soaking our brains in fight or flight if it happens all the time, and events exist that do this – this is a HUGE HUGE factor in realizations of reaching students, and this happens – from what I found out, at a high economic level as well as a low one.  This was so powerful and helped show the effect of being an educator longevity-wise, not just for a year or so.  When you realize that adults and each of us have several of these ACES and how they can affect our lives, you want to be more empowered to insure your students are able to be protected and move past these ACES that might affect them. This video, by Nadine Burke Harris, – it is moving and defines what we should strive for as educators, and not just teachers. Amazing after 18 years of education I am hearing about this today – this is trauma in itself.

I loved one of the quotes made today – Education – “it is a burnout career.”  Living that through these years, I also realized, being aware of that – helped me counter the need on behalf of the students and try to find ways to ride the burnout aspects and make it above the burnout, that is a challenge as we all know the challenges that face all educators, let alone teachers. The reference of the film “Paper Tigers” (trailer HERE) intrigued me and have added this on my MUST SEE list.  

I LOVE the introduction of being a KEYMAKER – nothing really needs said here, you read it and let is roll over you.  LOVE THIS:

(and could be GREAT to do in a school):


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and adding to that, not forgetting what we need to do for OURSELVES during this school year as well as give to students, so we BOTH can be whole:

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and yet this video, when I thought I was capped out for the day – and had been filled t the brim, this turned the tables and let me see exactly how amazing a different perspective can be.  I was able, as an EDUCATOR, to see inside what Special Education could feel like as an adult, and it made me realize I had previously misjudged so much abut what I thought Special Education was – it changed me in 20 minutes, even after 18 years of being in education – that is powerful:  (and being in the 80’s was at first like waitttt…but when you see what the educators feel – the rest is history – 

How Difficult Can That Be- F.A.T. City Workshop

The introduction of Developmental Assets – it was a lifter to the aspects we can bring to counter the ACES aspects that face us, our students, families, and beyond. It helps define what we have the power to do, and how we can enable a success to the challenges that find themselves on our lists to do as educators.  

This was a GOOD day, a day I was given the gift of looking at what power we have when we are simply in the presence of individuals we can help have better lives, and that relies on us being educators and not just teachers.   Thank you Woodbridge Student Services Team, you changed many people’s lives in one day that can go on and change others for the remainder of the year.












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Three Sheets to the Wind…

Normally, that phrase indicates you being pretty out of shape due to a rough night before, or in my case, when I woke, I felt, as usual, a hundred times better with a few hours sleep but the urge to get going amid being tired, to get a early start and “escape” unscathed from the host of animals I was carrying, lol.  This morning, starting at a wakeup around 6:45 AM, but also came with Murphy’s Law, I did take time first to go to the Mountaineer, empty out the crates and clean them, reorganize a little bit so things were not falling over each other, then proceeded to extract the animals.  Cats – fine despite passing one of the cleaning staffs with a cat buried under a blanket, and then repeating two more times.   Dogs – at one point Wriggley managed to open the hotel door and walk down the breezeway of the second landing care -free, and I freaked a bit, and got him promptly into the room before anyone could see the entourage.  I took then one by one to the car and hoped the cameras on the area were not going to allow prime time viewage of six animals.  P.S. This Days Inn was great, clean, the staff had started super early, were efficient, and overall, quality quality quality.

The most drastic change in getting up in the United States so far was the humidity that hit me, as soon as I woke up, stepped outside, and I realized how much I had lived without humidity, and how nice it had been.  HAD been.  The dogs were definitely feeling the pressure of the heat – and thank goodness, the air conditioning was perfect with the Mountaineer the whole way up, and not having been used ever, it worked like a champ.  It saved us all along the way.  We headed out and before we knew it, were in Tennessee. After two days of sneaking animals successfully into overnight stays, I was confident my luck would not able to keep pushing my way through successful stays, and I wanted to be there somehow, someway, this third day.  In my mind, Virginia and Tennessee would be the largest time consumers of travel, and once I made it through there, home free.Again, in contemplating whether I could reach 2 hours south of Nashville to see my cousin, I thought I would love to but having to unleash the animals, as well as recover the route away from heading back to DE would out be back anymore, and I felt my physical and mental state with traveling could probably only handle this third day without starting to come undone.
Speaking of that, at one point, I feel I did come undone with one of the cats, Suzy, who for some odd reason, just did not want to stop meowing, odd at this stage in the trip, but each day I changed the cats out of the setup – one day Suzy and Hangover in the large crate, Dewey in the individual crate, and each time we would keep rotating.  Suzy obviously was not buying the crate by herself at all.  Not having it.  At one point, the meowing got to me so much I pulled over, tried to reason in threatening tones with Suzy, and had dropped my cellphone somewhere, thinking it fell out of the passenger door when I opened it up.  I kept thrashing the grass on the passenger side of the car, and looked up and there was the phone, caught in the handle on the side of the door – do or die, I needed to make it to Delaware this third day, my nerves were waning.As the hours led into the dark and I kept seeing signs for Raleigh and points north in Virginia, the speed of the Mountaineer kept increasing, and eventually, I could not believe it, I crossed into Maryland, then Delaware, and around 1:30 AM, I found myself in an area in MD I slightly recognized.
It gave me confidence to realize that I COULD DO THIS.  I COULD MAKE THIS!  I was determined at this point.  The cats and dogs were strangely tired, but I did not want to subject them to another evening of transition that was not permanent.  Onto the road, we drive drove drove, and no kidding, the wee hours took me across the Bay Bridge, and the dogs could sense a change in the smells and wind, they stuck their heads out, and despite the darkness, the dogs knew something was changing, they simply knew.
Bordering on 3:00 AM, I knew this was within reach now obviously.  All the way to the roads I had traveled so many years before, it was exciting no matter what hour.I made my way to Felton, (how odd is it that my storage all these years was in the same town?) – I stopped the Royal Farms to really find out, where the heck is the street this house was on?  I did not know the exact location of the street, but knew the address, and had already communicated with the landlord about the key being available to let myself in the back – now to just find it.  Sure enough, someone was in Royal Farms this hour of 5:00 AM that informed me his residence was pretty much back to mine, excellent.  I get the FYI, headed out and sure enough, there was the house in the pictures, NO KIDDING.  I made my way around the back, looked for the key, and due to me being BRAINDEAD from one heck of a day, could not FIND A KEY ANYWHERE.
I checked the window leading into the kitchen from the back deck, YES – OPEN.  I was tired but desperate to just be in one place, lol.  I opened, crawled, and only unloaded cats into the master bedroom bathroom, dogs into the mudroom that was two adjacent rooms, and I grabbed one pillow.  Nothing else.  Daylight was beginning to come through the windows. I dropped the pillow.  I dropped onto the pillow.  I remember nothing more except letting complete exhaustion swim over me.
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Second Day of “Life is a Highway Feeling”…

Although the second day, awaking after a first long drive night and groggy awakening to an early, damp, wet day- honestly the first day my nerves began to settle down a BIT, after being on the road.  “Operation animal exit” was in place as it was early, and most people were still asleep, so I rounded the cats and god up one by one into the truck, their crates, etc, and overall, no one was hysterical, no one was overly ridiculous in emotions, and they were major agreeable.  

Amazing how fast already they seemed to be used to their crate, let alone the idea of traveling in a vehicle and yet, I thought how cool it would be to have them now used to ride in Delaware as we saw the countryside, so maybe this was all a means to the end.  I remember back in Mexico, on the first day, oil additive was accidentally added to the fuel of the Mountaineer, so now, the vehicle was suffering the effects of this additive in the wrong area, and knew when I got home to Delaware, I would have to see about straightening out that issue to get the idle back to anything normal.  Not great to drive when the vehicle was suffering under those conditions.

Having the advantage of being close to Dallas, moreso than the border of Mexico, as I took off and made my way to Dallas, the bridges and open highway opened up – and I began to enter Arkansas.  I didn’t really know much about Arkansas, but I did know it reminded me of Georgia, beautiful lined trees along the highway, and overall a definite pleasant view of going through Arkansas leading to Tennessee.  My long term goal was to make it to Tennessee, and really, I hoped to see my cousin in Tennessee, but she was very very long away from Memphis, and hence, I realized later, much further from my route and Delaware, that it wouldn’t happen.   Turns out, being in the same state does not mean close proximity – although many feel that is the case.

I found myself in a sticky situation, the check for the payment of the house, had been turned in and I realized the money had not been placed in the bank to cover the check, VERY BAD.  I high tailed it to the nearest McDonald’s, no kidding McDonald’s saved the day – I was able to get WIFI on my phone, contact Intercam, expressed the importance of this transfer happening asap, and between Intercam and my Tidemark Federal Credit Union, we would have the funds there within in day.  Hands down, I have tested Intercam (by accident) from a distance and they have always saved the day and come though for me, this by far, for me, has been the best service for getting funds back and forth when I have needed it. Francis and Alejandro at Intercam have been life savers – on the road, in other countries, and then some, so this added to the stress of things you do not want to stress about, at least for me, on this second day- was a relief.

I wish I could say something REALLY stood out this second day of traveling, yet, uneventful was GREAT, and it was.  Listening to the music, reflecting on how much has happened so suddenly, reflecting on the last night of getting many together at Porco Rosso and seeing a connection between familiar and new individuals coming in, that in itself was satisfying to see occur.  I think that is more effective than simply a way to say goodbye, but a way to introduce hellos and goodbyes to individuals to continue a process of enjoying an area, as well as an experience.  As the roads of Arkansas unfolded, I really enjoyed this almost what seemed at times, “forced” initiative to move in a different setting, but I can’t deny had had good feelings about it all around, despite not wanting to leave.

Tips I found so far for transporting so many animals – be methodic.  It made sense to put the cats in their crates first, to avoid the dogs clamoring at them when I was doing so, in front of the dogs, in the truck.  That doesn’t make sense – let the cats have as much peace of mind, and transfer – quietness before the dogs are brought into the scene.  Let the cats have water, litter, etc before the dogs enter to vehicle so they can eat, drink, etc if they want to.  I was happy to report like only 1-2 accidents in the crates, and that was at the beginning because it was new for the cats.  After that, as long as I provided time for quiet for the cats involving eating, water, (water does not stay while while driving) and litter, they would use it if they felt they were given their space and time to do so and not being like hurry hurry hurry.  No messes ever with any of the dogs, and I am sure that was due to the dogs being sometimes used to long days, but still building short stops among that. The dogs became good at the door opening, saying “Come on!” and they knew to jump in.  I have a back seat that folds down to make a large back space as well as of course folding up.  Folding up the seats, and tucking bags of cat and dog food in the floor space, wedged between the seat then covering up with blankets so the dogs can actually be lying on the full back seat was great – it allowed easy access to food for both cast and dogs but it also to “disappear” and allow more space for the dogs to lie down and rest. I found making the best out of space and trying to find dual ways to use all spaces for items and for things you will need to stop for was the winning combination to this travel success.

Ironic, in looking back at receipts used during this day’s voyage, the main one was a purchase for Aveeno hand creme.  Laughing, I realized the days of scrubbing and disinfecting the areas, walls, and painting at my apartment in Mexico, took a toll on my hands.  Blisters, rash, etc swollen, I think the amount of cleaning I did, took its toll of taking all nutrients out of my hands, and overall, Aveeno was the only one that seemed to bring relief, bit somewhere I think I knew I was going to have to seek some meds eventually.  

I pushed as far as I could driving-wise, and contemplating hitting the road again, I declined and chose the Days Inn in Forrest City, Arkansas.  Okay so Tennessee, not Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 12.58.27 PMexactly achieved, but SO CLOSE- I contemplated making the push into a new state today but was beat, dirty, sweaty, tired.  I was super nervous about Days Inn, as I knew they were pet friendly, but 6 pet friendly?- I went in, paid for a $101.00 USD room (expensive compared to the D & D, but as I saw there were video cameras of the parking lot (made me feel safe) – but wondered would six pets be also wonderfully seen?  This time I was assigned a 2nd floor breezeway, and thought HOW WILL I GET SIX upstairs without being evicted?  I can’t say anything else except, one by one, cats in the bathroom, dogs in the room loving the feel of the bed and rubbing across it, lol Dane taking the seat after I placed a sheet over it, they were glad to be out of the vehicle.  I few barks and I freaked a bit, because one bark okay, one meow and a bark, and another bark? – you get the idea.  At one point, I was so exhausted, I just thought, what will be will be, and as I fell asleep, no raps on the door asking about an excessive number of pet, and still feeling the stickiness of humidity trailing us from Texas, I cranked the air conditioning and was thankful for a second day of rest and distance.  Tomorrow, ultimate goal was to clear Tennessee, Virginia, and forge home into Delaware, albeit a long long drive.





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Into the Night…

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Many of us that remember that amazing graduation speech with Ms Ramon, associate Dylan Thomas even moreso with this line, and as I made my way past the Angel for the last time, I found myself aware of this ballad line trying to get a headstart on traffic as I headed out.  it is so funny, even with the easiest directions, it is difficult to find the easiest path when you are stressed, tired concerned, etc..  While I was running literally on two and a half hours of sleep and more adrenaline than could be put into a 50 gallon drum, I was excited as well .  Once I hit the open highway, I felt the nervousness of the animals begin to fade from my grasp.  

I felt with the three dogs and three cats, I SHOULD be falling apart, roof loaded and packed t the hilt, and yet, all was calm and leading the way for me out.  In trying to keep track of the tolls this first day, and my goal of insuring I was going to make Texas and then some the first day, leaving at 6:00 AM this morning in actuality, I am sure I forgot some along the way however, this is what I ad as a receipt list of tolls while traveling the quotas in Mexico to the border:

All incurring on August 2nd, 2017: ( I had taken 4000 pesos in cash with me to begin this trip, knowing between gas and tolls, that should get me there easily in one day). 

6:55 AM – 77:00 pesos

8:51 AM – 44.00 pesos

11:15 AM – 62.00 pesos

1:33 PM – 114.00 pesos

8:51 PM – 28. 00 pesos

(somewhere between those above, one for 58.00 pesos)

–total equalling 383 pesos, but it seems to me there were more – so as I discover them, I will update above.  It is so funny the time you get to think while on the road.  I thought of everything from how HC guided me softly through the exit process to be here right now, to the constant followup if colleagues like Stephanie Brownie where we ate a cool breakfast the day before and just reflected, Jennifer Long, Gina Bermejo, Matt Messick, Mr Pell, JUST TO NAME A FEW who always told me I had a place here when I wanted – to my students and colleagues who did not know I was exiting, to my friends, colleagues, and former students who would be shocked to see me one day in Delaware, trying to imagine what life would be like and not on a Mexican street.

I paced myself to stop around every 6 hours and found myself letting the dogs out on leash at parking lots, to let them take in water, food, and giving the time to the cats for food, the litter box, water all within their crates.  The heat was a constant reminder to me, always hovering around 96 and above Fahrenheit, reminding me the various elements that could stall this trip.

I also remember reflecting most of the day, how lucky I was to have a vehicle like the Mercury Mountaineer, that after 4 years, I never had needed to adda DROP of oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, ANYTHING from the time I came to Mexico two times and was driving back the third time, how amazingly good the vehicle on this third trip and how amazingly good my friend, Mark Fields was, a solid mechanic, and the proof of this on my third trip from Mexico to the states.

The day overall was a great day for traveling, leaving the rain behind me, it was nice, despite the intense humidity that hit you when you stepped out of the vehicle, to have sun layering the road in front of you.  In my mind, this all lead me to Nuevo Laredo, crossing the bridge into the states.  For some reason, I always get hung up on finding the entrance to go across and it takes me awhile just to FIND the way to approach the bridge.  The same existed this time, I wandered around following signs that did not get me directly where I needed finally stopping to refuel and get excellent directions to the bridge, given in Spanish, and it got me right there- 🙂 loved.  This was largely uneventful, it took little to not time, it was effortless, and as soon as I made it across the border I cashed in 4000 pesos from 8000 for cash, and this started the moment I was using dollars instead of pesos to get me the rest of the way home.  The timing was around 9:30ish crossing, and this gave the dogs a brief respite, walk, stretch, and the cats were like, WHEN ARE WE GETTING OUT?  I wanted to get to a place where that would happen.

I pushed myself as far as I could the first night, I wanted to make Dallas, and no way, I made it to San Antonio, and around 1:00 AM, I was seeing starts so I needed to stop.  Stop I did at the smallest and most out of the corner way motel, the D & D.  I was thinking this might be the only chance I have to house all three animals and not leaving them in the truck all night.  That late at night, the receptionist wandered out, obviously in sleep mode, and despite the blatant sign, NO PETS, I was lucky to get a room on the very end of this line, ushered the cats one by one in the bathroom loose, the dogs in the main room, and ta da.  

Yes the cats meowed for the first 30 minutes but I also was relived to see NO ONE around me room-wise and the cats with the fan left on in the bathroom had circulating air, the dogs were STILL rubbing their necks across the bed, but once we turned off the lights, eEVERYONE was OUT cold. Despite the simple and plain look, and for 55.00 USD, this was not the scuzzy, disgusting, awful motel you’d expect.  No bugs, no fleas, no bed bugs nothing, plain plain plain and getting up at 6:00, before the 11:00 checkout was easy, dogs and cats ushered back in, dogs walked for posterity and potty break, although awaking to rain, we we off towards clearing Texas today, our second day.

Feeling as if I had just won the lottery, I can’t begin to express how amazingly good it felt to close my eyes, in a BED, and no implications of distress from the animals’ part, at all.  I could not have asked for anything more the very first day out except for realizing my “packing job” was looking like to throw items in every SPACE available of the Mountaineer, (I should have taken the picture, darn!) and the animals in between all of that. For my sanity, sometime I would have to, stop along the way on this second day to reorganize the mountain of items I was hauling with me,

Although I should have been in Dallas the first day, physically, I knew I want as far as I physically go.  It was 100% refreshing to realize, even without the desired effect of caffeine, how I was able to push on due to the encouragement I had been given before this first day of a very long trek.  As I woke up the second day with vigor, I realized even 2 more hours of sleep would have ben great but getting the 5 I did re placed me on a high positive direction.





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Jumping Out of the Plan, into the Open, and Sometimes Empty Expectations and Ultimately, the Road.

I still wake up lately, in a sudden jump and flash, startled, in the middle of the night, with this urgency I have to run and dash out of bed, to get to somewhere before a certain time.  That feeling haunted me for over three weeks in July as I realized no matter how much I planned, there was the moment where when I stepped out that door of my apartment, my street, my block, it was for the last time, and there was no turning back. It caused me the shaking when I woke up I experienced.

I went to the map a hundred times, reviewing the stops, the possible stops I would need to make, pet friendly locations of hotels, over and over, recalling the stops I made when I had done this trip by myself twice before to and fro, over and over and over – and yet this was so much different. 

Settling on the movers of AtlasMex, a date had finally been set for coming to pack.  As that day was one day away, the days leading up to this were filled with countless buckets of Pine Sol, detergent, cleaner, and tackling the walls of the apartment room by room, then letting those dry and I moved to others, went back and plastered spots, then brought out the paint can and matching.  This occurred over and over, and I became a Zombie cleaner for a week or so, always waking to urge myself to do at least one more wall, at least one more room, saving the last walls for the ones occupied by the items I was piling up against 1-2 walls for the movers to come in and wrap.

This all helped me prepare mentally, organize the plethora of items being sold, given, etc.. Posting big furniture items on the various Facebook sites helped…

Mexico City Online Garage Sale Free!
Garage Sale / Free Items!
foreigners in the city (mexico city)
foreigners & expats in mexico city
As well as the ASF Classified Ads page, and the 2017-2018 teachers Site, the 2016-2017, the
2015-2016, and the ASF teachers Facebook site, (all helped keep me in  a rhythm of
checking prices, checking/marking sold, in moments of chaos of that free falling trip coming up)

…word of mouth to new hires coming in, all helped slowly, (though not fast enough in my mind) see items begin to disappear, literally up to the day/week of leaving. It seemed everything made me nervous this last week.

The day of the packers came, July 28th 2017, and all morning from 9:00 – 4:00 they packed everything, me pacing wondering if I had too much, lol not giving them enough that would fit into the car, etc.. and they almost finished that day, but not quite.  That was a Friday.  Saturday  July 29th and Sunday July 30th did not work out for them, due to complications with another mover.  

Luckily I had the amazing benefit of meeting friends, and having a night to chilax and have others new to ASF meet veterans one last time before many took off,

URL here for these pics! —

and we did so at Porco Rosso in Cuauhtemoc.  It was a great night and one I needed to happen to calm down.              Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 3.35.45 PM.png   Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 3.35.57 PM Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 5.43.21 AM.png

and  Now I was nervous more so than others, my painting and cleaning was catching up with the items still in my apartment.  

Sunday brought some of the bigger items moving out, a breath of fresh air and relief happening.    Then Monday, (July 31st) more items moving out, space in the apartment, the movers came, they removed and finished packing the items to go on the truck, and it look like I had hit 10 cubic meters thanks to the way they packed on the mark.  All the while I am knowing I need to have space for the new tenants coming in and inside, I am packing all around the world,  Two days left (August 2nd) before I actually visualized myself leaving in my car, 6 animals later, on an open road, with unexpected events at the border and beyond.  I was quite scared.

The night before I left, I will never forget.  I ran around like crazy, stopping at ASF to grab my last minute checks, and trying to sneak into the welcoming breakfast and finding myself announced by the gracious Paul Williams and the entire Welcoming Staff AND new hires.  This was NOT the plan by the way, and was causing me slight panic as inside I was ( I am not sure I am going to get all done !!!!) , but it was bittersweet to be sitting at the very breakfast where I had met so many amazing people and this was an ending this day for me, it is difficult, if not impossible, to put how I felt into words at this moment).

I was off in the late afternoon, getting last minute papers for the cats and dogs at the vet, (and having the vet come to the house on Monday, to give the at who I could jot extract from the apartment his shots) – getting a tarp because I thought the bags I would carry on the roof rack might go through rain and having a tarp to cover them NOT such 


a bad idea, getting help adding a shelf to the large dog crate to make a mini condo for the cats,

IMG_5710 .  getting a second cat crate for the third cat, buying last minute grocery items to fill a cooler for my trek all the while FREAKING OUT INSIDE.

The night before, wow, does this picture freak you out?  it did me, ALOT.  How was I going to consolidate this into one vehicle with 6 animals, and leave and get sleep before heading out.  I had no idea. All night I kept cleaning items I saw i did not get to (the fridge, the kitchen, etc).

while picking up items and cramming into spaces that I would try to save space in the Mountaineer, all the while trying to calm myself down, and the mantra, there will be space, there will be space.  At midnight, I packed and packed and packed, and loaded the top of the vehicle, it was RAINING and I was like, no…  Are you kidding?  So the tarp came out and I tied it with bungy cords tightly knowing the wind and driving would make havoc with the tarp despite rain coming down.  2:30 AM, on the morn of leaving and my plan was to leave at 4:00 AM, I died into a sleep I do not remember, but I do remember waking up ay 5:30 AM, and knowing I had enough adrenaline to bypass sleep and to get started.

I put some last minute items out for the neighbor, grabbed the cats in the sleep mode and actually pretty easily each got them into the crates without a problem, the last were the dogs on the back seat.  I simply pulled out, my Explore PACKED TO THE HILT, literally to the front windshield, animals in tow, and simply pulled out.  It seemed to less dramatic but in my head I could picture all the crazy miles ahead of me.  I followed my last time for awhile towards the Angel, towards Polanco.  I had a new route that seemed to take more of a diagonal route,  and as everything made me nervous so did that but I plunged forward, knowing I had animals accompanying me and they were depending on me, lol.Yes the cats meowed alot at first but were completely scared enough to quiet down quickly enough, the dogs in fact did get bored and at first Dane wanted to eat the cats, so glad we had crates.  However all settled down with the music lightly playing, and the quiet in the vehicle, and we were on the the road…











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