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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

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

Unconventional Holiday Letters

Miel 2015As the year comes to an end, I found myself considering holiday cards. I’ve been more consistent than not with sending holiday cards over the years. This came from my love of mail, as well as wanting to stay in touch with folks around the world at this time of year. Finland and Christmas are very tied in my experience.

Holiday cards are akin to facebook posts though. Nobody wants to share the real shit that happens in life. It all comes together in a cozy summary of what all of the family members are doing, and how cute the kids are.

My life doesn’t feel like it fits in a cute little holiday card. I’m not sure when my life will. When I think of what my letter might say for the year, I chuckle to myself. Last year I opted to share Clark’s birth announcement in the fall rather than write a holiday letter. How could I sum up giving birth at home in Washington, DC, deciding that it was time to come back to Oregon, finding an adorable PDX craftsman bungalow, and then facing a divorce by the end of the year? Guess what? We more than likely won’t make it another year? I opted not to bother sending out a letter. I couldn’t figure out how to share about my life at that point.

Fast forward to the present, and I find myself in comparable reflection of how much my life has changed in the last year. I went through the difficult growing and learning phases of getting a divorce after nearly a decade of marriage. Though much of the painfulness of the process came in getting to that point, rather than the actual execution. I enjoyed time with Clark and threw myself into work. I went from having what I thought was my dream job, to being micromanaged by a non-profit board. That wasn’t for me either.

I then manifested my partner Adam. The romantic in me tends to fall fast and hard. I wasn’t into messing around. When I want something, I most often get it. At nearly the six month mark, we continue to sync well together and looking forward to what comes in the year ahead.

After 14 years of dreaming to return to Ghana, I managed to pull it off. Seeing my village after so many years was an experience that can’t be compared.

I came out on the other side of divorce and have spent considerable time getting all of my affairs in order. I hit the Million dollar mark for my personal net worth and created my own living trust to make sure that Clark is well cared for and that my estate goes where I would like it.

I also opted to change my name. Though I’ll still go by Miel, my full name is now Alanna Miel. A fresh start for the new year. As I look forward I suspect that next year will be just as monumental, if not more. It feels that I’m in the process of reinvention on a daily basis. I’m working out what I want my life to look like, how to make my money work for me, and how to manifest my dreams. Perhaps next year it will fit into the cute package of a holiday letter.

Cheers,

Miel

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