Welcome, 2012

1 Jan

Life is good.

No, really, it’s tremendous.

It’s been many months since I wrote a post, which I think speaks volumes about my priorities (busy in the real world!) and time (again, busy in the real world!). A brief look at all that’s happened:

Remember how I was starting a little editing/writing business? I’m happy to report that in 2011 I worked with great clients and look forward to maintaining these relationships and growing stronger in 2012. You can do me a favor by checking out my website and referring me to everyone you’ve ever met (or just posting my URL on Facebook and LinkedIn. I love working from home- if I like, I can work for 14 hours without stopping or can just as easily drop work entirely to go on a trip with my kid’s school. Having the relative freedom to create my own schedule is a gift, and not one I take for granted.

This isn’t to say it’s been easy. Working from home means I am on a virtual island- and I’m not talking an island like Sir Richard Branson’s idyllic Necker Island, but something that looks more like this:

For those of you missing what I’m eluding to, all I’m trying to say is that it gets a little lonely and it’s easy to be plagued with self-doubt.

Thankfully, I’ve seemed to strike a balance between my consulting/freelance work and my fiction writing. RAINER TAUPE AND THE GREAT GLASS TURBINE is just about completed, and then I plan on becoming a famous, published author. Oh, really, you ask? Yep, oh, really. As Mrs. Beauregarde tells her daughter in Willy Wonka: Keep your eyes on the prize, Violet, eyes on the prize.

In all seriousness, I just have a good feeling about all of this. The book is the first in a series of six and I’ve received great initial feedback. Besides, I love writing middle grade fiction, so even if I were to continue to be an unpublished author, I don’t think I’d ever want to slit my wrists over it.

Hm. I say that now. Let’s talk NEXT New Year’s Day…

What else. Oh, yes. The kiddo is happy as a clam in her school, Still Waters in a Storm. I’m assuming you’ve all checked out the website? If not, please take a minute to check out the BBC video about the program on this fundraising page, and, if you’re able, make a donation! Even $10.00 will help keep the doors open to one of the happiest, most innovative schools on the planet. It’s changed our lives.

But what about travel, you ask? Well, I’ve saved the best for last.

We’ve made a few changes to our travel itinerary. Rather than travel for an indefinite period of time, we’ll be traveling just over the summer. Before you call me a wimp, hear me out. The kiddo has never been happier in school, and you know what? I’m pretty happy, too. I think what we’ll be doing is planning long summer trips and then will save our asses off to make them happen. Like this one:

Summer, 2012: Iceland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and then a week back in the states with family in Rhode Island.

Not bad, huh? Anevay is dying to go to Iceland, and, because of Icelandair, it’s do-able. We’ll then stay for just a week in Paris, but will be doing all sorts of wonderful and disgusting things, including seeing the sewage museum and exploring the catacombs. In Switzerland we’ll visit family in Geneva, then to Rimini, Italy, where we’ll stay with our very stylish and amazingly fun friend, Viola. We will, of course, move around a bit to other cities and will see fabulous things, but I like the idea of having our homebase be in the historical district of Rimini called Borgo San Giuliano. Rimini is a gorgeous resort town filled with all manner of historical Roman sites, so I anticipate we’ll be forced (!!!) to spend at least a day or two soaking in the sun on some of the beautiful beaches while eating great fish and tagliatelle. After a couple of weeks in Italy, we’ll spend a day or two along the French Mediterranean coast before making our way to Spain, where we’ll meet up with our friend, Alberto, to roam around a bit before spending a week in Madrid. Then, a couple of days in gorgeous Portugal, then down to Gibraltar and into Morocco. After what we think will be a magical week in Morocco, we’ll fly back to the states, take a train from Boston to Rhode Island, where we’ll finish off our summer eating seafood, swimming, eating way too much ice cream ($10 to the person who can guess my favorite flavor) and just generally living with beach sand in our drawers.

Pretty dreamy, huh? We think so, too. I’m hoping our trip will take the edge off my wanderlust and will show the kiddo that life is bigger and better than anything we’ve been able to think up.

This New Year, I haven’t made a million resolutions, but last night, during our stay here in the Hamptons with a friend (yep, life really is that great), we wrote down the things we would like to get rid of and threw them into the fire. Talk about a cathartic moment! Add a few martinis, oysters and clams and pate and other tasty treats, great conversation and spending time with loves ones and you’ve got yourself a recipe for the perfect New Year’s.

And now, my friends, we’re off for a walk on the beach. While I despise rapid climate change, the 50+ degree weather and sunny, blue skies are certainly contributing to my great mood.

If I were forced to make a resolution, I think it would be only to continue to live boldly and believe that anything is possible. For you all, I hope and wish strong, beautiful years filled with passion, love and much, much happiness.

Workshop – Parental Controls and Internet safety: Part 1

11 Jul

The budding blogger/adventure enthusiast (Pic by Alan Newton)

This past winter I taught a successful workshop on Internet safety to a group of inner city moms (thanks to D.S. for helping to prepare for the workshop!).  In the workshop, we went over Internet safety tips, how to sign up for web protection, how to speak the ‘language’ of text messaging, and how to start a discussion with kids about online predators and cyber bullies.  We ended the workshop by discussing an Internet Safety Pledge, an important set of rules developed and signed by both parents/caregivers AND kids.

I’ve decided to modify my workshop and share it with readers of this blog in a three-part series.  After all, being travelers, parents and global citizens makes it tough to deny our kids free range of the web.  This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t keep them safe.

Enjoy Part 1 of Parental Controls and Internet Safety and please, if you get anything out of what you read, subscribe to my blog so that you won’t miss the next installment of the ‘workshop’.  C’mon, it’s free!  You’ll have nothing to lose!

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Peace Camp, family and fortune

10 Jul

Photo by Alan Newton: 'The Kid' flanked by two friends

Today my daughter, Anevay, returned from a week at Peace Camp, a program led by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.  She learned more than I might have imagined about free trade and the current status of our drinking water around the world (a precursor, as we all know, to later conversations about present and future land and water wars).  In a kid’s art workshop, Anevay learning about the practice of making a mandala out of sand only to blow it away, and was guided by camp counselors to make her own (a great lesson in impermanence, I might add, as she accidentally left it behind at the camp and let its loss roll right off).  Anevay also listened to an ex-soldier who, after serving in the Iraqi war, was jailed for seven years over his objections to war and his ultimate refusal to ever fight again.

Although I am agnostic, I consider it an honor for my daughter to have been able to attend this event for the second year in a row with my stepfather, ‘A’, an amazing man who has committed himself to God and social justice.  Within his denomination he is known as a “welcoming and affirming” pastor, which means that he is an advocate for gay and lesbian marriage.  The man is a pillar of strength and decency, and is one of the few people I know who I have no qualms letting take to camp for a solid week (perhaps the only people, as I’ve never let anyone else take her).

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Experiment in hospitality

7 Jul

Picture by Gilad Rom in Ulan Bator, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

In the few days I’ve had this blog up and running, I’ve already been invited to stay with friends in Spain and France and also was invited by a kind stranger to try out her camping gear and stay for a bit with her family in their tent(s) this summer in Massachusetts.

I’d like to try a little experiment:

How many amongst you would invite a stranger into your home or living situation?

How many would invite ME (and my kid)?

Also, I need information:

What are your thoughts on visitor etiquette in other countries?

In the United States it is customary to bring hosts a bottle of wine, chocolates or flowers (my cowboy-like friends also bring whiskey and raucous behavior, but that’s another story).  But what does a person give his or her host in Mongolia?  What about Colombia?

In my eyes, traveling should include a certain amount of sensitivity of other cultures. But what does this mean?

Who can forget the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in which Indy lectures Willie for not wanting to accept the unappetizing food given to them by starving Indian villagers?   A friend of mine has a similar story- a vegetarian, he exemplified politeness when he graciously accepted a meat-laden meal from locals while traveling in Peru.

Traveling in some parts of the world does, I’m sure, require certain modifications to one’s attire, eating habits and behavior.  I’d like to learn what modifications some of YOU might have made, and how they have enriched your traveling experiences.  I’m most interested in hearing how your children might have been expected to act, and what changes, if any, they might have needed to make to their accepted ‘norms’.

Nomad in training

7 Jul

Picture by Clare Hambly

For years- as long as I can remember- I’ve complained of not being able to travel.  I’ve thought it terribly unfair that many people I knew were allowed the means to travel, either through jobs or by way of family contributions, while I slaved away in New York.

Yet we each make our own decisions, don’t we?  And mine, I’ve come to realize, were fully mired in fear, heartache and other stifling emotions that kept me working jobs I didn’t love here in the city.  I worked for three years at a hedge fund, trying to move up the ladder enough so that I could take trips around the world with my kid.  I was addicted to looking up plane ticket prices and made what I felt were reasonable, safe itineraries.  And yet I never followed through with any of my trips, as emergencies depleted my funds, or bills kept my travels at bay.

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The cost of living in Bushwick vs. traveling the world

6 Jul

Picture by Purple Slog

Cost of living in Bushwick for month:

$1000 rent+utilities

$179 storage

$60 phone

$208 Metro passes for both me and the kid

$500 food

$200 misc

__________

$2147 x 12 = $25,764 ($70.59 a day)

(considering that unemployment is only $1600 a month, this will be interesting)

Traveling the world:

Who knows, as I haven’t yet done my budget.  I have a feeling that it would be much less than what I spend to live in Brooklyn.   The Great Family Escape has planned a budget allowing them to spend $100 a day, but as they are a family of four, and as I have a feeling me and the kid would be camping a lot and foregoing more expensive youth hostels, vehicles, etc., I see my budget being a lot less.  I believe it was The Professional Hobo who wrote that she travels for $14,000 a year (although now I can’t find the post), and who was it that said she travels for $1000 a month with her kid?

I’ve never been good at building a budget.  At least, not one that works.  And now I’d like to try to make one that is roughly half of what it takes for me to live on in Bushwick.  Really, it’s the only way I can imagine that taking a long-term trip would work for my poor ass.  So yes, folks, I’m going to come up with a budget that is roughly $14-15,000 per annum plus all the start-up costs of purchasing tents, figuring out the legalities of traveling as a single mom with a kid, etc.  I should be able to make at least that amount selling a kidney on the black market, right?

But seriously- I’m going to need some realists around me as I build my budget.  And a Kickstarter page.  And sponsorship.  And many freelance writing gigs.  And a hell of a lot of gumption.

Problems with teaching on the road

6 Jul

Chaos (Lorenz attractor) taken by Ντάνκαν

I’m going to go out on a limb and do something I have a feeling many travelers with kids avoid, namely, to list as many problems with teaching on the road as possible.  To do this, I will also need to list the aspects of an education I want my daughter, Anevay, to receive.

Anevay has performed well on state exams, and has always been at the top of her class.  She was fortunate enough to have had amazing teachers at Ross Global Academy (a charter school in the city that just closed) for the last four years.  I also happened to work at the school, which was a really great experience, both for my personal growth and for how close I was able to be to my kid.  Before Ross, Anevay went to a few (yes, a few!) regular New York City Department of Education public schools.  Not thrilled with either the curriculum or the speed at which she was being taught (yawn!), I bought workbooks and worked with Anevay while we were eating dinner and over the summer.  In fact, I felt that working over the summers with my daughter was going to give her the biggest advantage over the rest of the kids.

Summer may be great for the soul, but often damages a child’s educational growth.  In the two and a half months of vacation (give or take), low-income students generally lose around three months of grade-level equivalency, while middle-income students lose about one month.  This contributes to the achievement gap so widely talked about in the world of education, and is one of the reasons why many charter schools have longer school years than normal public schools (for the record, Anevay is signed up at another charter school for the 2011-2012 school year).

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