Change in the air…

September has always been my personal New Year’s Eve — a month-long farewell to summer and the year that came before it, and a celebration of the year to come. I attribute this to being raised by two teachers and to my love of all things ‘back-to-school.’ The changing of the calendar at the end of December never had quite the same appeal. This year in particular, September has been a month of massive changes in life around here, and as I look ahead to the ‘new year,’ I have been thinking a lot about the past several months and what the next months will bring.

For starters, my daughter transferred colleges, leaving behind the small liberal arts college that turned out not to be a fit for her. She’s closer to home now, not that Connecticut was terribly far, and living in her first apartment in Boston with two other transfer students she met online. Over the past month, they have moved in, figured out where to put the dishes and who each other are. They have registered for classes at a new university and in my daughter’s case, in a brand new major. My daughter, typically one who needs time to acclimate to her surroundings before taking the participation plunge, has tried out for and made a club team, has signed up for and begun three other extracurriculars, and has found herself with more social plans than she has had in two years. By requirement and not by choice, she has found herself in a public speaking course, and for her first extemporaneous speech, chose the topic of how she ended up as a junior transfer, owning her experience before her fellow communications majors. She is settled, happy, and thriving. Even her occasional eye rolls and small gripes have a different quality to them. I am thrilled, relieved, and more than a little in awe of her. Go get ’em, sweet girl…

My changes are a bit different and as yet less easily defined. The short version is that after nine years in a job I fell deeply in love with, I left. The decision was mine and mine alone, though supported and to a large degree encouraged by my family and friends (including colleagues who also gave their notice over the spring and summer). For a little quick context, I was the head of school counseling at a small middle school for boys, where I had the tremendous pleasure to spend my days with the energy and good humor (mostly good, anyway) that is particular to the species known as adolescent boy. I’ll say more about my work with them at a later date or two, because they are a part of my heart and will be forever. I have lots to say about them and the state of mental health support in schools and in the world…but that’s a story for another time. I’ll say less about what fueled my painful and complicated decision to part ways, but my differences of opinion with the administration of the institution forced me to the proverbial fork in the road. It was time to take the path I had once assumed I’d take when I retired. With the company of about a dozen colleagues, I gave my notice over the summer and find myself for the first time in a long time with no actual ‘back to school’ of my own.

Except that isn’t exactly true… I am, not unlike my daughter, ‘transferring’ at an unusual time. While jokes have been tossed around about my ‘retirement’, I am far too young for that (at 49). I also find the word to have a finality to it that doesn’t quite fit where I am. I may or may not ever return to the kind of work I was doing, so considering myself retired seems premature. I am, however, learning. A lot. The giant independent study project that is this year is still in the preparation phase — research, outlining, spit-balling ideas if mostly in my own mind. I promised myself ages ago, while I was still working full-time, that I would write more. I started this blog as a way to do just that. I started with all of the positive energy and best intentions and natural nerves…and then found too many reasons to push the pause button and step away. Then, when I had time to return, the apprehensions kicked in. I think it’s safe for me to assume that my daughter inherited her need to observe before acting from me. Well, I can learn from her. Sometimes, you just need to jump in feet first. Start swimming around. See what there is to see and who there is to meet. Find out what you are capable of creating.

Change is hard. Change can also be the mini miracle of our own making.


Where My Heart Goes…

When I was in the Fourth Grade, my father, a teacher, announced that he would be traveling to Russia after Christmas on an educational exchange. He would be gone for a week or so, departing before the decorations would have been taken down. I remember how elated he was, his eyes glimmering with the prospect of adventure. I was distraught. The end of the Cold War was years away, and I couldn’t understand why my father would take such a seemingly reckless trip, without his family, during the holidays. He assured me he would be safe, and while he tried to soften his talk of preparations and itineraries to spare me, there was no masking his delight. Of course, he had a marvelous time, and highlighted for my brother and me the warmth of the people he met and the importance of travel to appreciate our common humanity.

Fast forward to my junior year in high school, when I had my own opportunity to travel to Russia. Every other year, our two Russian language teachers took a group of students to Russian for the first week of our March vacation to explore Moscow and St. Petersburg. My mother worried, of course, as mothers do; my father, not surprisingly, could not have been more enthusiastic. It was all he could talk about for the weeks leading up to my trip, reliving his own, sharing tips about navigating the cities I would be visiting, pulling out old maps and photos and memorabilia to give me a taste of what I would see. The trip itself was pure magic. The colors of the buildings, the majesty of St. Basil’s, the crisp March air and the warmth of the people. Everything my father had promised unfolded before me, and my friends and I delighted in our adventure, carving out large parts of our hearts for Russia.

Many years later, when I found myself working in my current job in a small boarding school for boys, I had the great pleasure of witnessing a friendship develop between two international students — a Ninth Grader from Russia and a Seventh Grader from Ukraine. The politics between their two nations were tense back then, but you never would have guessed it by watching those two boys. They were like older and younger versions of the same person — incredibly smart, hard-working without taking themselves too seriously, talented athletes with a passion for hockey, and kind. So deeply kind, compassionate, and warm… They were nearly always smiling — wide open smiles as big as their hearts. I always held that friendship as one of the things I loved most about working in education with a, international population. The hope often ascribed to the young lived in that friendship.

As fortune would have it, I have remained in touch with both of these boys as they have moved on in their lives and into their young adulthoods. The student from Russia returned to the US for college after a stint in a junior hockey league, and we occasionally connect via the gift of Instagram messages. My Ukrainian friend ended up attending the same high school as my daughter, where they developed a friendship of their own and were I was able to visit him for the years they were on campus together. He, too, is living out his college dream in America. They are older, taller, deeper-voiced men now, but they remain two of the kindest people I have the pleasure to know. I have been in touch with both over the past few days, just to let them know my heart is with them…but while it felt good in the moment to connect if only briefly, my heart is sick for them both. For what they must carry as they move through their classes and their casual American college lives, for their families, for their homes. The knowledge that their smiles are dimmed and their hearts are broken shakes me to my core. I can do nothing but hold them in my heart, and it is inadequate.

I do my best to follow the news. I listen, I read. My head goes to learning, but my heart goes to those boys. I will continue to read and learn and donate. Mostly, though, I will hold these boys in my heart with every breath I take. May there be peace.


Thank you, Wordle

Are you playing Wordle? I came late to the Wordle party, but once I started, there was absolutely no stopping. It is now a part of my morning ritual that begins when I rise at 5:00, followed immediately by that glorious first sip of coffee (taken slowly, often with eyes closed to savor the moment), then by my first guess at the Wordle of the day. Word puzzles have long been a favorite, dating back to childhood games of Hangman, word searches, increasingly challenging crossword puzzles, and Scrabble.

The origin of this love was surely my parents, consummate readers and word lovers both. While my mother was an English teacher and not surprisingly a lover vocabulary, it was my father who was the family wordsmith. My father is one of the most passionate learners I have ever met. A teacher for most of my childhood, he taught himself about computers and programming before his school owned a single computer, and became so proficient that he was tapped to oversee the initiation and development of computer usage for the school. He taught himself how to make jewelry, how to oil paint. His list of projects a research topics was long and the stack of books beside his recliner constant. Playing Scrabble with him was always fun…until he casually placed two or three tiles in just the right place to create a words no one had ever heard of for a score that crushed the hope of anyone who thought they might win.

As an adult living a few hours’ drive from my parents, we connect mostly through phone conversations. My mother is the talker, (a trait I inherited in spades), and the two of us could (and often do) ramble for an hour or so at a time about everything and nothing all at once. My father will also be on the line, listening with some degree of amusement (and possibly some exasperation). We ‘chat’ mostly via quick and sporadic text messages, but with age and a pandemic limiting the scope of his activities, I often find myself wishing we had more to talk about. Enter Wordle. After only one round, I knew that Dad would be just as invested in this little daily pursuit as I. I sent a quick text with a link, and within two days, he was playfully chiding me for starting him on a new obsession. We now send each other our results, cheering each other on or showing off a particularly impressive solution. We talk about it over the phone — strategies, the NYT acquisition, the origin story of the game, the social contract of not spoiling the game for anyone… A whole new conversation has begun,

January Reflections

One month is in the books for 2022! I was tempted to say ‘already,’ but I don’t feel like that quite fits. This month was a LOT — Omicron, storms, potential invasion in Europe… Despite all of this, my reflections on January ’22 leave me feeling mostly calm, grateful, and even a little hopeful. In no particular order, here are a few things that have helped frame my mindset over the past weeks:

Oprah Daily — Leave it to Oprah to get a girl thinking and reflecting and doing. The queen of living one’s best life is back in force as a part of my day. I am an original Oprah fan, having watched her show as a teenager and read her book club picks and subscribed to her magazine as an adult. I signed up for Oprah Daily in its early days and enjoyed it, but her new planner has become indispensable. I use it each morning as a time to reflect and set an intention for the day, and the ‘Done List’ is a fun twist on the classic to-do list. (I love a good to-do list and always start mine with at least two things I have already done — oh, the mind games we play to cheer ourselves on!) The sections at the end of each week and month offer space and encourage time spent exploring in more detail what is working and what we need to work on more. It’s also just lovely to hold, as one would expect from one of the world’s greatest lover of books.

• Gratitude journal — I have always tried to focus on gratitude; it was something that was taught to me very early in life (long before Oprah appeared on my television), and something I have always taken seriously. Actually writing down a gratitude list has only happened in fits and starts over the years, but I have made a conscious effort to change that. I have now made this practice a part of my bedtime routine, and have consistently put my grateful thoughts and lists on paper each night for the past four weeks. It isn’t hyperbole to say that it has made a dramatic shift in how I feel day to day. With all that January has thrown my way professionally and personally, I have felt better equipped to navigate with gratitude at the forefront of my thoughts.

• Good news on the daughter front — If you have kids, you have probably heard the adage “you’re only as happy as your least happy child.” Well, when you have only one child, that is still true! (No pressure on that one kid, right?) My college sophomore daughter has been navigating quite a lot of big life questions, and the emotional roller coaster that she has been riding has taken its inevitable toll on me. Some recent bits of good news have boosted her mood and outlook, though, and while the joy is all hers and the accolades hard-earned by her alone, nothing in life will ever bring me more joy than seeing her happy. I’m working on bottling some of this good energy for the next time the roller coaster takes a sharp turn…

• Good skincare — Yikes. Upgrading the masks I wear at work from cloth to the KN95 variety, fewer mask breaks due to a never-ending flow of visitors to my office, dry winter air, and age have conspired to suck even the suggestion of moisture out of my skin. I leave the house in the morning with a healthy glow, but by day’s end…I’m a little tarnished! I have been very happy with my blend of Biossance products, but have added a nightly layer of Summer Fridays Jet Lag to my routine. I have a few morning masks I’ve been playing around with as well, and I am happy to spend the extra time if it helps keep me looking less haggard than I may feel after 10 straight hours of pandemic era school counseling of middle schoolers.

Let’s see what February has in store!

XO, Susan

Snow Day

I always loved a good snow day. My parents were both teachers, and while between the four of us — my parents, brother, and me — we populated three different school systems, most snow days were shared days at home. We filled those days with all of the traditional fun and fare — playing outside until we were well-chilled and soaked through, hot chocolate, lazy afternoons reading and watching television. Perhaps waffles and sausage for dinner. Maybe a board game. Certain disappointment if the snow was fluffy and not ‘packable’ — for what was the point of fluffy snow? What is a kid to do with that? (Contrasted, of course, with my father’s relief in fluffy snow as it made shoveling infinitely easier and we did not own a snowblower). The snow day itself began early, with the anticipation the day before. These were, of course, the days before the internet, minute-by-minute doppler radar available to the masses, and the ‘snow day calculator.’ I remember vividly, though, the chatter the day before — snow day? Early dismissal? Delayed opening? Then the long wait in front of the tv, watching the tape scroll along the bottom of the screen, listing in alphabetical order the closings and delays that had been reported. In the order of alphabetical superiority among my family’s schools, mine was dead last. I don’t know about my brother (or my parents), but I always held my breath a little in the hope that school was on for me, it would be on for everyone else, too. Don’t get me wrong, I loved school. But a snow day was a little drop of magic in the middle of winter, and the idea of missing out when others reveled stung even to consider.

Now, and for the past decade, I have worked in a school, and I have to say that the snow day excitement has not diminished by a single drop. In fact, it may even be heightened, particularly in this phase of protracted pandemic exhaustion. I certainly don’t have any more control over the weather now than I did as a student, but I do have the ear of people with the power to make that call to close, and trust me when I say my colleagues and I use the full extent of our persuasive power to effect that sort of change. Sure, the kids need to learn. Yes, I do love what I do. But after all we have been through, don’t we all deserve a little bit of snow day magic?

Yes, I am writing this in the middle of a ‘bombogenesis’ storm that is taking place inconveniently (or conveniently, depending on how you look at it) on a Saturday. The unanimous opinion in my group chat with work friends this morning was that while this is lovely, yesterday or Monday would have been ideal timing. Ah, well. Here I sit, with my blanket, my book, my needlepoint, and a bevy of streaming options to enjoy by the fire. Unlike snow days of old, I have social plans later — ‘parallel play’ hangout time with my daughter in college this afternoon and a post-dinner cocktail chat with a dear friend, both courtesy of FaceTime. The rest of the day, though, is filled with the same blissful quiet, comfort, and wonder I delighted in as a child. I wonder if the snow is fluffy today…

Wherever you are, I hope you are safe and warm, and that your day brings you a little magic.


A Start


If I have learned anything from the past two years, it is that putting off something you really want to do is a waste of precious time.  None of us know what the day will bring, let alone a month, a year, a lifetime, but we do know we have the moment we are in now.  I have been a blog reader for years, and have been a writer in my head for most of my lifetime.  A litany of common excuses has held me back from writing anything of my own beyond the pages of a journal in my nightstand drawer – I don’t know what I’d say, everything sounds better in my head than in print, who would read it anyway, blogs are for younger people, blogs are ‘out’… But you know what? I enjoy writing. I write in my head all the time, so why not send those words out in the world and see where they travel? I am a complete rookie when it comes to the technical aspect of all of this, so as I play around with site building, I will just get going with the rest. I am looking forward to seeing where this keyboard takes me. See you along the way!