People are my “juice” in life. Whenever I meet someone new, I have a strong curiosity about why our paths have crossed…There’s an openness to learning what this person might be here to teach me or what I’m in their path to teach them. It’s one of the many reasons why I value authenticity so much. When I try to filter, I might miss the opportunity of saying exactly what another person needs to hear in the moment. When I get defensive, I might miss the opportunity to learn something from them. I fully believe we are each here for a reason and that reason involves other people. When I can remain in an open, curious, and authentic space, I allow that to happen.

We don’t get to pick our family, but I’ve been fortunate to be born into a great one! And a great BIG one! My lineage is 100% Norwegian immigrants who settled in the Dakotas but as the generations have progressed we’ve had black, white, Asian, gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Spiritual, atheist from many different lands join our ranks into one big wonderfully diverse family. They’ve taught me and I’ve taught them.

I’ve met so many amazing neurodiverse people in my life. The first time I met a child with Autism in 1982, I had a kismet feeling that I know what I was on the earth to do and I’ve met thousands of both children and adults since then. I’ve taken every training I could to learn how to help them to the best of my ability and stayed open to letting them teach me the uniqueness of their being. They’ve taught me and I’ve taught them.

I’ve met so many people from different races and religions as I’ve travelled around the world. I’ve learned about their traditions and shared my own. They’ve taught me and I’ve taught them.

I’ve met so many different colleagues throughout my professional career from all different fields serving children with autism. Psychologists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, educators, behavior analysts. They’ve taught me and I’ve taught them.

We’ve met other sailors through my dad, our friendships and most recently, among the many sailors in our home port of Oriental, NC. Robert and I got married on a sailboat with my besties serving as officiants and wedding party. We’ve gone on wonderful trips with local sailing clubs and some have become fast friends with a few we’ve met. As we head South on our adventures, we’ll be traveling with friends, in spirit and as buddy boats, new and old, who have taken this trip before. They will teach me, and I’ll teach them.

This week is historically one of my least favorite weeks of the year, as memories that are hard keep flooding back. I used to love Fall, with the crispness in the air, the leaves changing color, the bonfires, and snuggly clothes. Ten years ago, that changed. On October 18, 2010, I raced to the hospital to find my middle child unresponsive. He had been awake and alert that Monday morning but when his friend came downstairs 10 minutes later, he was not breathing. They started CPR and called for an ambulance. He was rushed to the hospital and was in a coma for 5 more days until he finally died on October 23rd at the age of 25. It was the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to face and there were times when I wondered if I'd survive it. While I never forget, the missing and the memories are strongest during this week. Two of the many gifts that Jeff’s life taught me were to love people and that the way to have fun was to create fun for other people…To live fully and love freely. As we start our adventure, we get to create new memories. I know the memories of Jeff will never go away…and I wouldn’t want them to…But we get to create new memories to co-exist with them. I know it is totally possible to laugh and cry at the same time. And that’s OK.

We’ve had lots of goodbyes this week as we make the final preparations to begin our adventure…some virtually, some in e-mail, some by phone, some in person. We will be gone for at least 6 months and perhaps longer depending on what happens in the world. Goodbyes are never easy, and some are harder than others. I KNOW we will see each other again at some point in time on this or another plane of existence. Till then, lets stay connected in whatever ways we can…

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