HLG Brazil Edition: Transitions!

by Kerry Nappi

High: Weekend travels

IMG_0442We are leaving Brazil soon and counting down the potential weekends for travel, so we decided suddenly one week that we better go to Rio de Janeiro before it was too late. After all, who lives in Brazil without visiting the famous Cobacabana Beach and Christ the Redeemer statue? It wasn’t without difficulty – credit cards that wouldn’t work to book the trip and a day-of-travel missing ID card that was the only way onto the plane – but we did get there and have just a perfect weekend!

First of all, the weather was ideal for both walking around and taking pictures. Take a look at the statue: Brilliant blue sky and not a cloud to be seen. I am not a photographer, but each picture was like a postcard. We were only there for a weekend. On Friday night, we wondered along the avenue beside Cobacabana Beach and ate dinner overlooking the ocean; on Saturday we did an 8-hour Jeep Tour (jeeptour.com.br) that included every highlight in the city, then more dinner along the beach; and Sunday, because it is Brazil, we were warned off our plan to wander downtown to Santa Teresa neighborhood because it was going to be dangerous. As it turned out, there was a huge impeach-Dilma (President Dilma Rousseff) protest almost everywhere. So we walked for hours along Ipanema Beach, then joined the throngs to see what was going on. Without a word of political commentary, it’s hard to resist a demonstration in which Batman is a key speaker.

IMG_0546

Low: Lack of efficiency

We are still dealing with the lack of efficiency in this country. The most frustrating issue yet was spending the extra postage to “overnight” our tourist visa application to Rio’s Chinese consulate, and then having it take 7 days to get there. The visa coming back to Salvador was faster, but also not easy as the overnight service wouldn’t send to the company address and our own condominium is known to hold mail for weeks. We had to find a colleague to accept the package. Needless to say, we had to cancel the pretrip to Nanjing to find a house. No visa, no travel. And since the following week I was already scheduled to go back to the US to bring my son to university for the first time, the pretrip had to be delayed. Now we leave September 4th…three days after I return to Brazil from the States. This process is slow and frustrating under the best of circumstances, but this it is just ridiculous.

 

Glitter: “Can we meet in the city for dinner?”

Like so many of my peers, I had the first-child-to-college-drop-off this month. I had the pleasure of driving nine hours from Michigan to Washington D.C. to get my son to George Washington University, chatting and planning as we went. As luck would have it, one of my best friends lives 10 minutes from his dorm, so after a night’s stay at her house, we hopped over to the campus and began moving in and setting up his single dorm room.

Several hours later, we were done. Clothes were in drawers, toiletries stored below his sink, school supplies set up on the small wooden desk that will undoubtedly see many late nights. Then he had orientation activites to attend. So on the side of a busy street, we hugged briefly and I held back my tears so he could get away more easily. It’s scary enough to start in a new city with no one or nothing familiar, but it would be worse with a menopausal mom sobbing about how long it would be until we meet again at Christmas in our new home in China, where I could not yet even imagine myself. It was a pretty smooth getaway. I cried alone as I drove away.

But several hours later, he texted me. “I’m done and free this evening,” he said. “Can we meet in the city for dinner?” Yes, I had plans with two college friends, but yes, of course I wanted to meet again! After all, I’ll still take any moment I can to spend with my grown son, even if it means another goodbye on the streets of DC. Glittery and golden!


Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.

As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.

Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.

The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.

Why I HLG

HLG has allowed me to see certain aspects of myself in a new light.

Why do you High Low Glitter?

I started using HLG because I was looking for an easy platform to do some self-reflection and journaling. I have decided to make it a habit because I noticed I really responded to the format and how it was making me think, as well as the convenience of the platform.

Who do you High Low Glitter with?

I use High Low Glitter by myself as a personal journal and self reflection tool.

What about the High Low Glitter experience has surprised and delighted you (aka what’s the glitter)?

What really surprised me about High Low Glitter was something I eluded to earlier, which was how I personally responded to this unique method of reflection. I’m the kind of person who has a life that’s a lot of the times flying at 50 miles an hour, thing coming at me left and right, so it’s often hard to find time to think about what’s going on in my life and internalize it. HLG has allowed me to see certain aspects of myself in a new light. I’ve seen that I become more efficient and effective in everyday life when I’m able to look back on previous HLG’s.
james-farnsworth– James Farnsworth
High school senior at Highland Park Senior High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is very involved in Minnesota YMCA Youth in Government among many other activities. When not at school or work, he enjoys the culinary arts, watching reality TV, and catching up on current events via Twitter.

I Lost It

2nd-grade-1

Emily and Heather, First Day of School 2nd Grade

School supply shopping. Check. First day of school photo. Check. “How was your day?” Answer: “Fine.” Check.

Back to school time.

My daughters were heading into kindergarten when I created our family dinnertime game: High Low Glitter. It was a great way to get my kids talking – in detail – about their days.  You can’t answer “fine” when you are asked “what was the best part of the day?” Because everyone at the table shares their High Low Glitter, the activity had the added bonus of teaching my kids to listen, empathize and converse as we all asked questions and discussed further the stories being told.

I admit through middle school there were nights that the girls grumbled when I asked: “High Low Glitter?” But at least a few nights a week I got answers. When we hit high school, accustomed to sharing openly and honestly, my kids spared no details. I knew who was having the parties, who was getting in to trouble and more.

After my girls left for college, I decided to create a place for us to share High Low Glitter from a distance. In the development phase of the website, my business partner looked at me one day and said, “Wow imagine all those High Low Glitters you lost!” I stared at him. Suddenly I realized I could not remember a single High Low Glitter exchange.

I burst into tears. I had lost it. “It” being almost 15 years of precious High Low Glitter moments shared around the table from kindergarten through high school. GONE.

This school year, don’t lose it! Record it! After dinner, grab your device, head to your computer, log in to your High Low Glitter account and capture those precious, meaningful moments that get shared during your families recounting of the days highs and lows.

It will be well worth it. You will have a record of the little moments that make up the stories of our lives and seem to matter most.

Meanwhile both Emily and Heather just looked at the above photo and asked me what happened to Emily’s chin. Of course, I have no clue, but had I had highlowglitter.com back then, I bet I could tell you today.

Don’t have an account? It’s free. Sign-up now!

Stephanie-RossStephanie Ross is the creator of High Low Glitter and co-founder of highlowglitter.com. Stephanie wears many hats including executive coach/consultant and entrepreneur, but none more important than mom to twin daughters Emily and Heather. She can be reached at [email protected]

Stop Despairing and Strike a Deal

Wendy Lutter and collegebound son Tate

By Wendy Lutter, guest blogger

The countdown clock is ticking away. It is getting closer and closer to the time we will take our first born to college.  We are all going through an array of emotions from excited to sad, to savoring the “this is the last fill in the blank,” to being annoyed with each other and ready to have D-Day be here.

Amidst all our preparations, there has been a constant – at least daily – barrage of emails, texts, Facebook posts and tweets about articles describing the anticipatory grief of sending your kid to college. Based on some of these stories, one would think they are saying goodbye to their child forever, that all communication will be lost, as well as the end of any sort of relationship with their child.

I have been struck by the desperate tone of some of the articles. In one in particular, the mom tried everything to get her son to talk on the phone for more than one minute. She brought up an injury that the dog had, just to get a few more seconds of airtime. Parents want more information, details, stories.  But their kids don’t want to spend the time or energy to share.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve learned from doing market research for the High Low Glitter team that you can strike a deal with college-aged kids: “You do High Low Glitter twice a week and I won’t call or text you.”  The High Low Glitter questions are specific, so the end results are a much deeper, more intimate snapshot instead of the hollow response to “How is it going?” Good.

When my son went away for three weeks to a college summer program, we tested it out. I was thrilled with the little snippets that he shared, like the glitter about the banana story:

HLG

I think this story might have been lost all together had we not HLG’ed.

So when the countdown says zero and we say our goodbyes, I am going to not feel despair. I will eagerly await the inbox message telling me that my son has posted a new High Low Glitter. I look forward to HLG being a helpful tool in the new, exciting, (and I’m sure sometimes painful) uncharted territory of the next steps of our relationship.

Don’t have an account? It’s free. Sign-up now!

wendy-lutter-marketingWendy Lutter is a qualitative market researcher and the principal of Lutter Marketing. She has conducted research with High Low Glitter users on numerous occasions. Wendy lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband and two teen-aged children (although it will be only one two-weeks from now when her son heads off to college.)

Study U Abroad

studyuabroad

Heading abroad this fall? Over J-term? Next summer? Check out Alex Smith’s Study U Abroad: The 5 Keys to Unlock Your Awesomeness and Transform Your World. The book empowers students to stretch beyond their comfort zones and seize the opportunity for self-growth while abroad.

While the entire book is filled with suggestions and strategies designed to make your time abroad richer and more rewarding, one particular sentence caught our attention:

If you’re caught up thinking about what you’re missing back home while touring the Louvre or more concerned about posting pics of the Eiffel Tower to your Facebook page while you’re still standing at its base, are you really in Paris?

Alex’s question points to the importance of being present, fully appreciating the experience you are having and savoring it in real time.

At the Louvre last year I saw a woman walking the galleries with a selfie stick. Her phone was pointed toward the art, but she was looking straight ahead. She barely glanced at the paintings on the wall. She missed the whole thing. I wondered what the High Low Glitter of her trip to the Louvre would have been?

High: Videoed entire Louvre in a few hours.

Low: Phone battery died, could not upload to FB.

Glitter: Didn’t trip while filming.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart. Be there. Soak it in. And from time to time, take a moment to pause and reflect. Study YOU abroad. Record the meaningful moments. Share them with the few who matter most.

Safe, fun, glitter-filled travels.

Alex Smith’s semester in Seville, Spain became the motivation for his leaving the comforts of a corporate job in his native United States to rekindle his love affair with Spain. He currently resides in Malmö, Sweden but has lived and worked in Boston, New York City, Atlanta, Barcelona, and Madrid. He draws on his personal and professional life experiences to help students and expats thrive abroad and back home. Connect with Alex at studyuabroad.com.

Mentoring, Training, Leading, HLG-ing

Carly told us:

The other day at dance, I used High Low Glitter with a group of freshman girls that I mentor as part of our week of leadership training.

As a high school senior at Lakeville North High School, Carly Fredericks used High Low Glitter to deepen her connection with students.

Expat High: Precious Home Leave

Kerryandfamilyby Kerry Nappi

High: Time spent with family and friends

Without doubt, the high this month was the time spent with family and friends. In my nine plus years of living as an expat, this month in the States stands out as the most precious home leave I’ve taken.

Perhaps it was the difficulty of our first year in Brazil or the sight of my mom after her year of hospitalizations and pain that made me feel too far away; maybe it was seeing the joy in my 15-year-old’s eyes after hanging out with friends who have been there for her while she pined away for them from South America; without doubt it was enhanced by spending treasured time with my 19-year-old son.

He saw me between restaurant shifts and after long days; he surprised us by driving 14 hours from Michigan to New Hampshire to spend time with family for the 4th of July weekend. In one short month, I will return to drive him to Washington DC where he will start his freshman year at George Washington University, and then I won’t see him until Christmas, somewhere in the world, so seeing him those summer days was amazing!

Family and friends-who-become-family hosted us uncomplainingly for 4 weeks. That is, four states, seven house changes, and dozens of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and late night snacks as we caught up on lives lived in different places but with the same hearts as when we lived across the street or down the freeway.

Low: Strep throat!

Of all the family visits I anticipated this summer, the one I most looked forward to  was a 4th of July barbecue planned at my sister’s. My mom and all but two siblings would be there, including my brother Tommy from Tennessee and his two children. I have seen Tommy periodically since moving away, but it is harder to catch the kids – my schedule, their distance, a custody situation, and their chronic health issues usually prevent easy visiting. Unfortunately, they both have cystic fibrosis, and hospitalizations lasting an average of two weeks are a normal part of their childhood.

This summer, though, they came north for five days, and I was lucky enough to be able to be there for a couple of those days. They stopped en route to another cousin’s house from the airport and I got a picture and five minutes with them, with hugs and promises of more time on the 4th. Three days later, the barbecue heated and the fireworks ready, I ended up in Urgent Care with strep throat! Sadly, I was banned from the gathering to prevent the kids from
potentially threatening bacteria… and I lost my last chance to see them until who-knows-when. I have her spunky voice in my head declaring, “I don’t remember you at all!” and his sweet one thanking me for the Brazilian instruments we had brought him. Sigh.KerryandElena

Glitter: Elena Ricardo

Our New York portion of the great northeast trek was mostly reserved for family and friends. Of course, there was Sarah’s highlight: a Taylor Swift concert with her dad and six female cousins. I passed on that, but I was keen to see another Broadway show. We saw Mamma Mia because the movie makes me smile and sing every time I see it. And it was incredible! The acting and singing was strong and true; they even did a sing-along with the audience at the end.

When we left, we had to find an aunt who was taking us out to dinner, so our focus shifted to that. What I didn’t realize was that the crowd beside us was standing there because it was the stage entrance for the cast. I turned around and there was the actress who played Sophie, Elena Ricardo. She was tiny beside me, but friendly and signing playbill after playbill. My daughter rushed over to show me her signed playbill, but suddenly Elena was beside me. I felt like a child discovering Cinderella at Disneyworld, and you can see in the picture just how glittery that moment was.


Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.

As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.

Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.

The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.

I Hate Glitter

So why on earth did I name our much-beloved family dinner time game – now micro-social networking site – High Low Glitter?

glitter2I hate glitter.

When my girls were little they begged me to let them use glitter any time they did an art project. More often than I care to admit, I acquiesced. They loved it so much.

I hated it so much. Glitter gets everywhere! Days after the art project is over you are still finding specks of glitter – on the floor, in the bed, on your cheek, in your hair.

If you have ever let a child play with glitter in your presence, you know what I am talking about.

So why on earth did I name our much-beloved family dinner time game – now micro-social networking site – High Low Glitter? What was I thinking? The truth is I don’t remember. But upon reflection, I am so glad we chose glitter.

Glitter is small, but stands out and dazzles. It makes whatever object it adorns – a card, a party hat, a marquee – pop with delight, pulling attention, grabbing our interest and making the ordinary extraordinary.

So does High Low Glitter’s kind of glitter. A “glitter” is the moment in your the day that stands out and grabs your attention. It is a small piece of the day, an exceptional moment that for whatever reason catches your attention and dazzles you. It makes the ordinary extraordinary, exceptional, special, meaningful. And because you take the time to notice it, it sticks with you for days.

Now I love glitter. And am grateful for every minute of it.

Stephanie-RossStephanie Ross is the creator of High Low Glitter and co-founder of highlowglitter.com. Stephanie wears many hats including executive coach/consultant and entrepreneur, but none more important than mom to twin daughters Emily and Heather. She can reached [email protected]

Why I HLG

Christine and Abby

Christine and Abby

Why do you High Low Glitter?

When I am home we High Low Glitter in person around the dinner table, and I missed it when we were apart.  We started an HLG paper book version when I travelled. Abby would fill it out while I was gone and when I got home I would read all of the entries with her. It worked great but if I am gone for a week, I want to be engaged everyday in what’s happening in her life.

It is difficult to ask kids questions over the phone or on FaceTime to get them talking about their day. I find that the simple, repetitive nature of HLG creates comfort and consistency. She thinks about it during the day, knows what I will ask and has an answer. If you say, “how was your day today,” it doesn’t yield the same results. Usually you get the standard “Fine!”

We now use the App to communicate with each other everyday. It is part of the routine. It is a simple way for me to connect with her while I’m away in addition to the FaceTime calls where most of the time she is distracted!

What about High Low Glitter has surprised and delighted you? (AKA what’s the glitter?)

The very best part of HLG for us has been me sharing my ups and downs with Abby. As parents we try to sugar coat our lives and tend to only focus on them and what they “want” to hear. My relationship with my daughter is deeper and richer because I post my real highs and lows, and she gets to understand what a good day (or a bad one) really looks like for Mommy. If the best part of my day was landing a big marketing program proposal, then that’s what I tell her. She is learning a lot about Mommy and I am learning a lot about her at the same time.

– Christine Blumer
Dedicated single mom and business traveler, travelling for technology marketing job 10-15 days per month

Glitter: Family & Friends, and Family with Friends

Iguaçu Falls

by Kerry Nappi

High: Travel!

This month’s high points in travel were highs for very different reasons: Our 3-day trip to Iguaçu Falls was on our must-do list, and it didn’t disappoint. Our first home leave since moving overseas (last July) started June 22nd, and we are still experiencing it!

Iguaçu Falls is partly in Brazil and partly in Argentina. We opted to see both sides, and we had a travel agent organize it all so we wouldn’t have to figure out the logistics; it was a good decision. The Argentinian side of the Falls provided better views overall, but the Brazilian side was better set up for fun hikes to the Falls. We were able to check off one bucket list item when we rode in a helicopter to view the Falls from above, but the ground level views were even more spectacular. The Falls are widespread, thunderously loud, and surrounded by plush greenery. We even had a chance to take a boat to the bottom of one of the smaller Falls ~ and now knowing how hard that water dumps on you, I can understand why we weren’t taken to the bigger Falls! Also, the Itaipu Dam is between Brazil and Paraguay, so while there, we were able to go to one extra country just by crossing a bridge. Who knew you can cross that Brazilian/Paraguaian border without a single checkpoint or document?

After 11 months and 2 weeks in Brazil, we arrived back in Michigan for the first of four weeks in the States. It was, and still is, such a pleasure to drive in calm orderly lanes, without fear of vehicles moving into us or carjackers surrounding us. It’s a simple but satisfying pleasure to flush toilet paper. And best of all, it is wonderful to see family and friends. I am sitting now in my mother’s house in Massachusetts, still anticipating 18 more days in the US, and happy to be here!

Iguaçu Falls

 

Low: Travel

The older I get, the harder the long trips become: flights that last for nine hours overnight, then long layovers and second, shorter flights, 12-hour drives from the midwest to the northeast, even the 2-4 hour drives to see more people than we can see in one single place.  Not only do I dread them beforehand, but I worry then about the longer ones to come when we move to China in the fall. This international living has its benefits, but it has its drawbacks, too.

Friends

Glitter: Friends & Family, and Family with Friends

Seeing my friends and family was definitely a high during this home leave, but the sweetest glitter was seeing my 15-year-old smile and laugh with her friends for the first time in a year. I would do anything to be able to transplant this group of girls and boys with us wherever we go, just so I could watch this joy more often. Thank goodness for social media; they have not missed a beat in their friendships.


Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.

As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.

Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.

The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.