Living in Uncertain Times

I find myself in a really interesting space in time. I’m one of those planner types. I like to plan things. It may look from afar that I’m spontaneous, but most often I’m pretty predictable (even if that includes far more adventures than your average person). Most years I don’t necessarily plan out all my trips (most of the time I have had nearly no idea about where I might end up in any given here). This year feels rather ambitious when it comes to potential life changes.

I’m in the moment of creating my life here in Portland. I’m living in a beautiful home that has incredible potential. I contemplate between dormers in the upper loft space, finishing the basement, or converting a backyard structure into a tiny home. All three would be ideal. Most likely I’ll be starting with the tiny house in 2016.

We are also cooking up numerous travel adventures in 2016. It looks like it is going to be a fun one. I can tell already. I am poised for it. Rather, we are poised for it.

For the first time in my life I have a partner who loves to travel nearly as much as I do. Adam is always up for an adventure. We’ve been together now for five months and already put on quiet a few travel miles together. I can see lots of travels in our future together. We already have a long list of places we will travel to.

We are discussing our plans for 2016 and figuring out how we can manage to go to both the Roskilde Festival in Denmark and Burning Man representing InStove. We are also very much looking forward to the next Oregon Country Fair. This is where our relationship began to develop as friends (and then beyond, shortly after). I can’t wait to share the real fair with Adam. He was such a cutie last year. I suddenly found myself lusting after him as we talked about development and mildly flirted over fair food and fun, with a little magic mixed in there.

What we aren’t discussing is anything about getting married. We established early on that we were interested in getting married at some point. Now as we plan for the future, it feels like the elephant in the room. He’ll be editing this shortly and see this bomb that I just dropped. What can I say? I’m a planner. We’ve already established that.

But more than that it is because I’m already in love. I feel that I’m bursting at the seams at wanting to share my life fully and completely with Adam. I’m already so far in love that there is no turning back. I have manifested my mate. Just like that. I look forward to seeing what develops in these uncertain times.

Alanna Miel (Creighton)

Alanna Miel

Alanna MielIntroducing Alanna Miel. I have chosen to change back to my maiden first names after my recent divorce. My maiden name was Alanna Miel Davis, and I have been Miel Hendrickson for nearly a decade. It feels like a good time to shift my identity with such a life change.

The complexity of my name extends even further than that. I was originally born as Alanna Miel Simonson. At the time of our birth, Simonson was our mother’s married name, from her recently divorced husband. Her maiden name had been Williams, but I guess she didn’t consider to use this instead. Our father Wally’s last name was Jones, but we never used this name either. We started using Davis when we were infants and have all of our basic records in Miel Davis and sometimes, with my legal full name. Without records as they are today, it wasn’t really important as a kid. We didn’t legally change our names until high school. Somehow we were issued social security numbers in the 80s that didn’t match our birth certificates (it was an earlier era). I was always called Miel, even though this was initially my middle name. My mom liked the ring of Alanna Miel better than Miel Alanna, as I do. I wouldn’t change a thing–though if you’ve ever gone by a middle name, then you know very well about mistaken identity. I lived next to an Alanna Davis in Peace Corps and it caused some confusion and mixed mail (sadly a delay in receiving a new bathing suit).

When I switched to Miel Hendrickson, legally dropping Alanna as my first name, I did so for simplicity. I still adored Alanna Miel and continued to keep it in all my online presence. I took a new married name in part because I didn’t feel overly attached to what could have been one of several last names. The interesting thing is that I have remained consistently since going into college with using Alanna Miel (or some variation thereof) as all of my login and identity tags. My LinkedIn and Facebook were already alannamiel. I like to think of it as serendipitous.

Legally it took a bit more effort, but changing both first and last names has been a bit of an administrative nightmare. When I moved back last year my utilities kept pulling a different name in Oregon systems, and thus I had to reprove my identity after so many years. To this day, I have one place where I can’t get the system to get my name correct, and it still displays incorrectly. I imagine a number of such hiccups along the way, but it feels worth it.

Obviously changing your name is a big decision. If you could manage to follow along the above synopsis, then you can see that I’ve already spent considerable time managing name changes. That would be about the only hesitation in making this choice, but it feels like the right thing to do.

I submitted my paperwork to the court yesterday and I will having a hearing January 22nd to confirm my new identity. Then will begin the process of changing my name over. I can imagine the conversations with a number of representatives. Yes, Miel Hendrickson is now Alanna Miel. Yes, who was previously Alanna Davis. It all makes sense somehow.

I’m excited for this new phase of my life and am happy to start the new year fresh as well.

Cheers,

Alanna Miel

Storytelling & The Moth

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Storytelling is one of the most basic essentials of humanity. It is both for the storyteller and the listener. We both learn. We both grow.

Last night I attended a sold out show for The Moth Radio Hour at The Schnitzer. This is such a great venue and reminds me of my father Wally Jones.

The show as incredible. It was such a basic format for a performance, simply storytelling, but so powerful. The themes were both predictably diverse in their breadth of human experience and highly representative of the times we live in. Five stories had the theme of a twist of fate in common, but included stories about our own role in justice, the fragility of life, the experience of transgendered transformations, living an authentic life, and realizing the power of our own voice. Though within each story, they are more complex and rich than any summary would suffice.

Tonight there is a great event that I wish we could attend tonight. StorySLAM is an opportunity to share your story locally. You have the opportunity to share your story, in up to five minutes, about a particular topic. Tonight the theme is Joy, and an upcoming theme is Commitment. If you are looking for something to do tonight in Portland, I would recommend it.

I also love that The Moth has a hotline where you can call to share your story at any time. It is making me think more of the need and desire to share my story further.

Thanks to Literary Arts for bringing us this great show. Thanks to Sequoia for organizing!

Cheers,

Miel

Traveling Mama

I will be sharing a number of posts about our most recent adventures in Ghana, but it feels suiting to start by reflecting on traveling as a mom.

Road warriors like myself, willing to travel internationally with little ones, are a bit rare. Through our travels we encounter all sorts of moms and babes out there. Most seem to be traveling home for the first time, taking their babe back to their parents, whether it be Kenya, Ghana, New York or Portland. It seems as if most are doing it as a one time pilgrimage, though perhaps I just don’t notice older families in the same way.

I’ll say this about traveling as a mama, it is totally doable, but it does certainly come with a degree of self sacrifice. This could be said about motherhood as well. It also comes with significantly more luggage (car seat, baby jogger, diapers, and snacks all add up!).

I sit here somewhere above North Dakota, with my butt aching and wishing I had managed to go to the bathroom in JFK when I changed Clark’s diaper and put him into fresh jammies. I am glad that my arm is no longer asleep, having readjusted our positions numerous times. It is only a matter of time though, as I hold the weight of a sleeping babe in my arms. The ergonomics on my iPhone mean that even my pinky is cramped from typing. This too shall pass.

I hear the small infant in the seat in front of us and am reminded to be grateful that Clark never cried like that, whether on a plane or not. I am a blessed Mama, for sure.

Travel on!

Miel

Back to My Village

Today is a big day! We are headed back to my village, Dorfor Adidome. I lived there for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer, from 1999-2001. Sometimes people chuckle at my reference to “my village.” This is the common terminology used by Ghanaians to refer to where they come from, and adopted by most volunteers. For me it has always felt like it is truly my village, though I say so more to convey my collective responsibility in being a part of the village rather than meaning it in a paternalistic way, or to imply any ownership.

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Dorfor Adidome is a very small village in the Volta region of Ghana. It is settled on the beautiful Volta River, just downriver from the Akosombo Dam (which creates the Lake Volta, one of the largest man lakes in the world). Prior to the dam coming in during the 60’s, the village was a thriving market town and trading hub, with an economy based on fresh water oysters. Unfortunately the dam’s environmental damage destroyed the oysters and eventually the market moved to areas along the main road. My village is still lined with oyster shell pathways in areas closer to the river, where you can see shells ten feet down when you dig for a latrine.

Adidome comes from the massive baobab trees that are still sprinkled around the village. There are a handle of gorgeous trees remaining, when there used to be forests of them. I was told that they would protect the trees that remain, and I hope that is the case. I also hope that some of the the 600 acacia, 1000 flamboyant, and 100 mango trees that we planted still remain as well.

I’ve looked forward to this day for many years. It has been 14 years since I left my village. Even though I have tried to remain in contact, I have received very little in terms of actual updates from the village. I don’t know how or what has changed during that period. Looking at Accra, and seeing that even it has changed less than I thought it might have, makes me think that even with electricity coming to the village shortly after I left, that things are very likely to have changed little.

I try to hold my expectations in check. The village itself may not have changed much, but the children that I once knew are now adults. I don’t expect that the work I did as a Peace Corps Volunteer to have changed my village as much as it has changed me, but I feel honored to have been a part of it.

-Ama Woetsa (the name I went by in the village, meaning Saturday born, second female twin), Mama Dorfor Nenyo I (my title as Queenmother)

Clean Cooking Ambassador

rockyLet me introduce you to Rocky Duwani. He is Ghana’s Bob Marley. He is also the official UN Foundation Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Unlike many other celebrity “Ambassadors” that I have encountered, his passion and commitment  for clean cooking is evident and makes him a true ambassador.

We were surprised last night with an incredible performance by Rocky at the Clean Cooking Forum 2015. He has been attending the Forum and has been very accessible and down to earth. I’ve certainly never been to a conference that had the entire crowd dancing to reggae. It was a treat. Clark was a trouper and fell asleep as we danced.

One of Rocky’s songs is Extraordinary Woman. When the song came on, my partner Adam responded, “What does Extraordinary Woman have to do with cookstoves?” Of course, my passionate response was “EVERYTHING!” Though much to my surprise, Adam has taken over most of the cooking in our house, women are predominately the cooks around the world, and in Africa almost exclusively so.

Women suffer disproportionately from the health consequences of indoor air pollution that is caused by traditional methods of three-stone/open-fire cooking, which is used by one out of three people on earth. With 4.3 million people dying each year from the health related impacts of indoor air pollution, not to mention the time spent by women and girls collecting fire wood, we need to do more to protect our extraordinary women.

I am proud to be representing InStove at the Forum and am incredibly inspired by the potential for creating real positive change in this world.

Thanks Rocky! Keep up the great work and I hope to meet you again soon. You are welcome in Portland, Oregon!

Miel
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Clean Cooking Form 2015

Ghana-Social-Media_Kofi_AnnanGoing back to Ghana feels like the stars have aligned to have me meet so many incredible Africans at once. Not only will I be going back to Ghana, but I will also be doing so in both professional and personal capacities. I will be attending the Clean Cooking Forum 2015 next week. I will be meeting many individuals who I have encountered remotely but have never met. I will share with you as I meet them, hopefully. I’ve never been as excited for an actual conference and who the attendees would be.

When the Black Stars played in the South Africa World Cup in 2010, I remember thinking that Ghana was a small enough place, that I was likely to meet Stephen Appiah. Low and behold, he will be attending the Forum.

We will also be meeting with Wanjira Mathai, Wangari Maathai’s daughter, and head of the Wangari Maathai Foundation. Wangari won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for the founding of the Greenbelt Movement and I heard her speak that year in DC. Wangari also wrote The Challenge for Africa, which I found to be one of my very favorites in a long line of African literature. Clark loves the children’s book written about her work as well. I’m glad to have the opportunity to have Clark meet such people.

The gathering will feature more than 400 leaders from 28 countries who are working to build a global market for clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is hosting the global Clean Cooking Forum 2015 in Accra, Ghana – the first time it has been held in West Africa. We will come together to share strategies for accelerating growth of the clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels markets around the world.

I look forward to representing InStove, as the cleanest, safest, most efficient stove on earth. I am enjoying thinking of the potential opportunities there might be for an InStove in my village. It would also be cool to get an InStove to be a part of a Peace Corps project in Ghana. We’ll keep you posted on progress. If you know of any opportunities for us to collaborate with anyone while we are in Ghana, please let us know.

Regards,

Miel (& Adam)
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Going Back to Ghana

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Finally. After 14 years, I will be returning to Ghana for a visit. It feels pretty incredible. I definitely have visions of Ghana going through my mind. Negotiating in Twi and Ewe in my head while I shower, wondering how much I will remember. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana and in the Volta region, from 1999-2001, and spoke Ewe very well and Twi well enough to negotiate and get around by public transportation with ease.

I will be going with Adam, Clark, and my mother-in-law Carol. It is exciting to see Clark return to Africa, nearly a year after his first trip to the continent. Now he will be running instead of nursing. I have dreamt of this trip for years. Carol and I have talked of going to Ghana for many years. Adam and I will be attending the biennial Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Summit in Accra. We will also be celebrating our four month anniversary together. We spent our two month anniversary in Washington, DC.

The people are what Ghana is really all about. Ghanaians are known as being incredibly friendly, and they are. It has been nice already to be in better contact with folks from my village and start to hear updates. For instance, I now know that my counterpart, an old many named Akpabli, is still alive, and that the Queenmother asks after me.

I avidly journaled during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer and will be pulling out my journal to see what adventures I can share about from my time as a Volunteer. Here are a few links to several stories I’ve written over the years as well. Like how I was stung by a scorpion, or the first female king in Ghana, how to avoid hazards in Africa, enjoy bucket baths and entertain yourself with Africian movie theatres, or about our ten year Peace Corps reunion.

I look forward to sharing about our travels.

Enjoy the journey,

Miel

Man from Paradise

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Adam & Miel at Olivia Beach for the first time together.

I manifested a man from Paradise. Paradise, CA, that is. Just as with all of the adventures of my life thus far, I have manifested my path forward. I have found the partner and love of my life, Adam. We both come from small towns, have traveled the world, devoted ourselves to service and international development work, and found ourselves crossing paths in Oregon. In fact, he has most recently been living in Cottage Grove, the town where Darcy and I were born. What a small and incredibly fabulous world we live in.

Adam first reached out to me on LinkedIn and we connected initially on a professional basis, but I knew instantly that I liked Adam and wanted to befriend him in some way. We shared a passion for doing good in the world and enjoyed volunteering over the course of the weekend at the Oregon Country Fair. By the end of the weekend I was twitter-pated and wondering if I was feeling giddy at the possibility of him just because of his passion and enthusiasm (or his curls and gorgeous blue eyes). After an extended date of a “pic-luck” picnic, a waterfall hike, an evening at Sam’s Bonds with Eugene family, and playing cards at Sweet Life, we confirmed that we were both truly interested in one an other.

We knew right away that we weren’t interested in just messing around. Adam’s divorce from a four-year marriage had been finalized in March, and mine was signed off last week (see below). With Clark in the picture and the complexity that my life already entails, I had no interest in messing around with relationships that didn’t last. I wanted nothing but the real deal.

About a month before connecting with Adam I was working ridiculous hours and focused entirely on work. I paused for a moment and told myself, and my twin sister Darcy, that I felt I was ready for a real partner to come into my life. As I was driving along the coast, I dictated a 22 point “Manifesting my Mate” list that Darcy wrote out on my behalf.

Adam hit that check list and beyond. I now find myself shifting from beaming with delight for the first weeks of our relationship, to settling into an incredible new pattern of life with love of a kind that I have never known. I now have a partner who adores me, appreciates me for who I am, and is a joy to be around. I’ve never wanted to spend so much time with anyone outside of my own twin (which also coincidentally, Adam has a twin sister, Emily). He writes love poems for me, makes delicious and nutritious breakfasts with heart-shaped food at every meal. We love exploring and learning more about each other. I could not be happier.

As with many things in life, as one window opens, another closes. My divorce with James was finalized last week. We were married for 9 years, lived together for a dozen, and first dated 23 years ago. It has been a long and interesting journey together, but it is for the best that we follow our own passions. We largely lived parallel lives and were apart for much of our relationship. We do have the loveliest of fruits of our marriage though, the fabulous Clark. Such a sweet and studious boy. A born flirt. We both love him dearly and will continue to co-parent him together.

I will be sharing more here about the adventures that I’ve been neglectful to share in the midst of such transitions in my life.

Miel

End of An Era

Today marks the end of an era. After nearly six year, I’ve completed my work with International Medical Corps. It’s been really a tremendous experience. I’ve been very fortunate to have enjoyed a career where I both truly enjoy what I do while helping to make a difference in people’s lives.

 

During my time with IMC I’ve grown a great deal and look back at many incredible times. I’ve worked with incredible people from more countries than I could possibly list out. Thanks go out to all of my outstanding colleagues.

I’ve also traveled to DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Turkey, and the Philippines. As people who know me well already know, some of my times in DRC were my fondest with IMC.

Below is a pic from two years ago while I was on a business trip to Turkey. I was sent it recently reminding me of a new era presenting itself. I’m looking forward to this next phase as much as I have enjoyed the last.

miel turkey 2012Be well,

Miel