Sayonara!

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our third exchange student. Nana was visiting us from Shimizu, Japan, over our spring break, along with two other students and a chaperone. Her visit was in conjunction with a program in our community called the Chelsea-Shimizu Sister Cities exchange program. Last June, my daughter traveled to Shimizu and visited Hiroshima and Sapporo to experience world history, and Japanese culture and community.



Our week was filled with local adventure, including the tradition of painting our town rock, disc golf at Hudson Mills metro park in Dexter and touring the Big House at the University of Michigan. Hosting an exchange student for a week was easy-breezy and so much fun! We hosted a student from the Netherlands for a full school year and a student from Peru for five months.

What I’ve learned from these cultural connections is how brave the teenagers are to travel to a foreign country and immerse in a culture that is completely unknown to them. Nana was eager to try everything — food and experiences. Though we had very little knowledge of her language and she had only slightly more of our language, we communicated. Google Translate was our friend this week, no doubt. Even so, being open, flexible and, most importantly, joyful during the week sharing experiences resulted in a lifetime connection.

Reflecting on our other experiences, I am grateful our family is still connected to our Dutch “daughter.” We are not connected to our Peruvian student, which I regret. I think of her and hope she is living a full, happy life. Each experience was truly unique. I am grateful to the students for being so brave and giving my family the opportunity to grow and learn from them.

Fabulous 40s

Taking a page from my lovely friend Angela Berent, I thought I would reflect on three favorite moments of my 40s.  Angie wrote List Your Life: A Modern-Day Memoir, a journal-like book that provides thoughtful prompts for you to write down three related life experiences. With just a few more days before I turn 50, this pause to appreciate happy moments of the last decade fills me with gratitude.

Travel. Thanks to my husband’s work travels, the frequent flier miles pile up. It is because of those miles — which means he is away often during the year — that my family and I have enjoyed several amazing adventures in the last decade. I am grateful for travel, a necessity to me for my mental well being. Even though I am quite the homebody, I love frequent immersions in varied settings and cultures. Travel — lumped under one favorite moment — over the last decade included two trips to Jackson Hole, IMG_1803Wyoming, one to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary five years ago and, more recently, to celebrate my 15th anniversary with Kris. The Wild West calls to our family thanks to my dad’s western foray in the 1950s that prompted his baby sister, Rosemary, to move to Wyoming at 18 where she fell in love with a cowboy.

Travel also included two adventures to Europe, one in 2012 and the other this past summer. Our travels in 2012 took us to Paris; Champéry, Switzerland, and Villanova, Spain. This summer, as an early celebration for my 50th, we ventured to the Dalmatian Coast and Plitvice National Park of Croatia; Ljubljana, and the mountains and Soca River of Slovenia; Venice and the Amalfi Coast of Italy. More on all these adventures later.  Travel was big in my 40s. I am sure hoping to experience more in my 50s.

Parenting. Another huge moment, I witnessed my eldest daughter graduate high school (2014) and college (2018). I am astounded at her passion for learning and for her life goals after she wraps up a second major this December. I am in awe of her ability to juggle multiple, impressive work experiences, volunteer work and school work. I cannot wait to see her launch her career in the new year. My youngest just entered high school and I can see her blossoming. The next few years will be exciting to see her passions evolve.

Writing. Lastly, one of my most rewarding writing experiences was earning a Michigan Notable Book award in 2008 with my writing partner, Lorri. Our book (now out of print), From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries, was an experience I cherish. It was a blast to write and photograph for the book and the award put us on the road meeting people during numerous presentations in small and large communities throughout Michigan.

My top three memories of my 40s encompass a lot of subtopics, which I promise to delve into more deeply in future posts. For now, though, I’ll just feel grateful.