Feeding the Gaudí passion

    I have always been in awe of the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Photographs and history have sufficed for me since high school, until last month. Even after spending six months in Madrid during college, I never got to Barcelona. Every time I looked at a photo of the facade of La Sagrada Familia, it was a new WOW! I simply could not imagine the skill, time and vision that the architect and the stone masons had. Until my good fortune of being given a sabbatical this year, I had not been able to visit Barcelona to see any of this with my own eyes. I have to say that every Gaudí site was more incredible than I ever imagined.

    His view and use of nature as the main design for architecture is awe-inspiring. Once I could appreciate his perspectives, his works made perfect sense. It is difficult for me to say which aspect of which work of art is my favorite; I don’t think it’s possible to say. However, I appreciate his use of recycled glass and ceramics to create his mosaics; Gaudí was an architect with a vision far before his time in so many ways. He was a modernist who set the bar for others. He pitted two wealthy Barcelona families against one another in a race to have the most impressive Gaudí designed home. His understanding of the value in creating ergonomic door handles and furniture….  To walk through his works is to physically step into a work of art; it is breathtaking.

    The first site we visited inside and out was Parque Güell. It was a wonderful site to begin at because one could see the modernism – the use of nature in the columns that looked like trees on angles to support arch ways, colors of nature in the mosaics along with the recycled materials, and water basins to preserve natural resources. The Güell family hired Gaudí to create their home and surrounding park. An Indiano family, (the most wealthy families in Spain in the late 1800’s whose parents had returned from the New World with riches beyond imagination), who desired to have their wealth on show for all to envy.

        Continue reading Feeding the Gaudí passion


Renewing the travel bug…

Traveling, I love to travel. Exploring is invigorating for me. I think it always has been, even since I was young. At the age of eleven my parents took me to Greece for a week in the summer of 1976 before I went to spend a week with my godmother who lived in Paris at that time. Lucky, I was lucky. Having just studied Greek history and myths, I was enthralled with everything I saw. I have such clear memories of this trip. I was lucky to spend the time with both of my parents and lucky to have this experience. The things I recall from the trip are seeing the Parthenon, going to Delphi, and visiting the island of Mykonos. The visit to Mykonos was memorable – either because I had never seen (or considered) that topless bathing was a thing… or because my dad lost his wallet and passport – temporarily. As an eleven year old, I was sure this would mean that he would be left behind in Greece; naivete of a young traveller on both counts.

Throughout my life I have been fortunate to explore a number of states and countries. I love the mountains, the ocean, the lakes, the cities, and small towns. I love the languages that are used in the many places I have visited. While I only speak two well, I appreciate the encouragement to learn and use other languages when visiting foreign places.

This past month we travelled to Italy and Spain. While this was my second time visiting Italy, my husband had never been there before and this made the trip a special one. Additionally, our youngest daughter is studying in Florence and we had the opportunity to spend some time with her as well. Our trip – Venice, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Capri, and Barcelona – fed my love of adventure in a way I had not expected. To have the chance to witness my husband’s reaction to new places, incredible beauty of the impressive paintings, architecture, and experiencing new cultures moved me. I had the chance to walk the streets of Venice with both my husband and my daughter – a place neither of them had been. While I love to experience my own “firsts” in travel, I realized how much I appreciate seeing the reactions of those I love to their “firsts” in travel. Seeing a place through the senses of your loved ones is an amazing travel experience of a completely different kind. In this moment I reflected back on my trip with my parents to Greece and France. This was something that my own mom had talked about but I didn’t appreciate fully at the time.

Of course, as a family, we have traveled to different places, mostly within the US and Canada; our travel abroad experiences have been limited – children cost $$! I saw glimpses of this in 2012 when we took our youngest to England to see our son’s crew team compete at the Henley Royal Regatta. Our children have traveled with their grandparents and on various school trips. But I have found myself writing in my journal on this recent trip more about witnessing my husband and daughter’s experience in Venice. It is such a unique city, but their awe of the place, the beauty, and the culture found me appreciating a place I had already been to in different ways than when I was there in 1986 with college friends. Our focus at that time was to see the sites but also, we were college students…!

This time we had discussions about the environment and its obvious effects on a city like Venice, businesses and how they are affected by this as well. Talking about what we saw in terms of culture differences – personal space – what’s that…? you are from another place – tell me about it – you are different than I am – how cool! – you want to learn our language – great, what can I teach you/help you with?! These are things that we know are missing – all too often – in our own country today.

This is just a start of my own reflections on our past trip. I will have a number of other posts coming soon. My advice for now is – if you have the itch to travel, go do it; even if it is not far from home. When you go, go with an open mind and pay attention to the experiences of your loved ones – it will enrich your own experience.

Holidays and memories

As I mentioned before, I am not one for journaling and it is taking me a while to regroup following the holidays which brought on some nasty colds for three of the five of us. It was not pleasant but hopefully now out of our systems. I thoroughly enjoyed having our three kids home for a full two weeks. We so rarely have the chance to spend extended time –  all five of us together – these days and it is likely that it won’t happen again until August. Lively debates during good meals, laughs, fun games (Sequence, Blank Slate and Codenames – if you haven’t played them find them and have a blast!), shared time together are how we spent most of our time.

I find the holidays can be hard at the same time. I desperately miss my mother when the holidays – both Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around. With her birthday falling on November 28th, she is often on my mind. But I found this year sharing our thoughts and memories of her helped me. To hear my own children talk about what they appreciated about their relationships with her; her kindness, her funny sense of humor, her passions for the outdoors, fishing, games, letter writing, etc… warms my heart and reminds me that we are all so fortunate to have shared our time with her.

My mom – Weezie to her friends and family, Sweetie to her grandchildren – was an avid environmentalist even in the 1970’s. I have clear memories of loading up the back of her Ford station wagon with our bundled newspapers, boxes of clear glass, green and brown glass, and cans to drive over to the Princeton Shopping Center where the town recycling center was. As a lover and protector of nature, the environment, water supply, etc… Mom was a champion of recycling and what it would mean if everyone did it. We were admonished if we threw something out into the trash that belonged in the recycling or the compost. She would be appalled today if she saw what was happening to our environment and she would call her representatives and senators, or write them a letter in her beautiful hand writing. She would do her homework, have facts to back up her points and drive home her message succinctly. She believed in her father’s mantra of, “Stand up, speak up and shut up.” Never one to hesitate to speak her mind, Mom would champion what she held dear and our planet and its resources were at the top of that list – other than her family, of course.

My youngest daughter carries many of these traits and it is a blessing. While she was twelve when Mom died, she shares Mom’s spark when it comes to championing the things that will make our world a better place. She was home for the past month, waiting to head to Italy for her spring semester abroad. During this time, she encouraged and then assisted TJ and me in our efforts to clean up and out many rooms in our house. While there were many trips to the dump, we went as often to the clothing donation boxes and recycling station at the dump. She also spent time picking out the clothes that could be consigned. For Christmas she gave me a new composting bucket, beeswax paper to cover leftovers instead of foil or plastic wrap, and mesh bags to use at the grocery store for produce. She is adamant about never using plastic cups or straws, always bringing her own cup or mug when purchasing coffee or tea. These are all things that Mom would have appreciated. I find these moments, when I cherish the memories of Mom and her lessons learned by her grandchildren, to be the greatest gifts I could have ever hoped to receive.

And so the sabbatical begins…

This was a very strange day for me. Why, you might wonder? For thirty-two years I have known when school vacations end and it’s time to go back to work; today for faculty meetings and tomorrow classes resume. It is on every calendar I own, it is part of my internal clock, it is what I do. When my alarm didn’t go off at 6:00am and I slept until 7:50, I panicked. A feeling of dread about being late – I hate being late. My mantra is – if you are on time, you are late. All of my former field hockey and tennis players can tell you this. “Yes, she will leave you behind if you are late for the bus.” With the exceptions of three maternity leaves, (25, 23, and 20 years ago), the school year has been a part of my internal clock.

And so, my sabbatical begins. What am I looking forward to – the one thing all prep school teachers talk about – time. Time to do the things that the school year doesn’t often provide us with – spending time with family that lives far away, time to travel at leisure, time to take care of projects at home that have gone undone for too long, time to breathe, read, relax and dive into exciting adventures.

For me this began the weekend before Thanksgiving with a quick trip to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday. Time with family that we don’t see often enough, time to celebrate an amazing woman who has supported our family in ways that are simply selfless, and time to remind ourselves of the beauty of my husband’s hometown, Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was wonderful. I found myself contemplating just what a gift this time is that I have and am so grateful for it.

This past weekend I had the chance to spend with three of my very best college girlfriends. We keep in touch but had not spent time together since three summers ago when we celebrated our 50th birthdays in Boston; seeing an incredible Billy Joel concert at Fenway. Our lives have taken paths that allow us to share, support and engage in conversation, laughter and sometimes tears. But it always circles back to laughter and fun. The sharing of memories of life on the Hill at Hamilton is always a favorite and there was a great deal of that to be sure. I find myself thinking about just how impactful these three women were in my college experience and how lucky I am that they are still in my life.

As I plan for the next few months, I consider how fortunate I am to have the support of my administration and colleagues at Tabor to afford me this time. One thing is for sure, I will make the most of it and return to school re-energized and ready to dive in.