29 December 2014

Wellington After Dark

           Happy Holidays, Joe Wellington followers!

           There has been a lot of discussion about Joe Wellington the past few weeks as 2014 comes to a close. With the holidays here, I’ve been traveling and enjoying time with friends and family. My wee family of three feels very blessed that my parents have travelled from America to visit and tour part of this gorgeous country we call home. And really, it also means we have live-in babysitters!

            A few weeks ago, my husband and I were able to have a date night (rarely do we get to go out in the dark!) and venture out for a night in downtown Wellington. It’s been a long time since I’ve really allowed myself to enjoy the nightlife- I got most of that out of my system when I was in my early twenties- but in the past eight years I’ve spent much of my time focused on education, career, and then starting a family. So when the opportunity to go out without a little toddler hopping along was presented to me, we didn’t hesitate. We didn’t really know what to do or where to go and while my husband was eager to socialize, I saw this as an opportunity to search for Joe Wellington.

            First stop to help ease us back into date-mode: Husband's office Christmas party. I was excited to attend the festivities because his company switched offices and I’d heard nothing but good things about the move. I also just plain like the people I’ve met there. Not only does my husband work his dream job, but he’s met some kick-ass people. One co-worker who he's always spoken highly of was willing to show us a couple of the nightspots we’d wanted to try. Unfortunately, Joe Wellington was not at the party so we had to continue on.

            Second stop: My husband’s co-worker and his partner met us at the Library Lounge and Bar. It was packed with wall-to-wall people and BOOKS. If given the choice, we could have picked a spot on a couch or table and still be encircled floor to ceiling by any book genre to match your mood- nonfiction, romance, and mystery, literary or even travel guides. As an aspiring author, this is my idea of the ultimate relaxation spot. 

Just one of the many books surrounding me that caught my eye at The Library Lounge
We were placed on a waitlist for a booth but there was no wait in getting a drink at the bar. We chatted and listened to the piano lounge singer while sipping our super sweet-tasting Christmas cocktails. Still, even with all the literature surrounding me I managed to scan the room for Joe Wellington. Hopeful he was hiding between a pile of books, I am sad to say I didn't find him among the pages. 

            Third and final stop: Hawthorn Lounge. We accompanied our friends through a plain doorway and up a narrow flight of stairs that offered no sign to inform us of our whereabouts. Stepping into a crowded and bustling room with a bar, I felt like I was transported back to a 1920s speakeasy.  The bartenders wore shiny silver vests with bowties and rapidly but meticulously mixed their signature drinks.

            It was here that I told our friends about Joe Wellington and led them to this blog and my Twitter page (@EWallerCarlino). A creative artist herself, my friend was instantly enthusiastic about the search and vowed perseverance in finding him. She tweeted some photos I had on Twitter that got a bit of recognition but no leads. It’s those extra pair of eyes (and tweets) that will help find my long-lost friend. 

            Most people offer encouragement, stating that New Zealand is a small country so finding him shouldn’t be too difficult. Yet, here I am a year later still searching. One Twitter follower commented on a tweet, suggesting that perhaps Joe Wellington doesn’t want to be found. While that very well could be true, all though definitely not the outcome I want to accept, I feel like I must keep trying.

            Some say his last name must not be Wellington. Truth is, since I have no documentation (weird for someone who has heaps of journals) of him, I admit that is definitely and most likely accurate. So now what?

            With bright Christmas lights lining the dark streets, laughter and chatter of the holiday season stimulating me as my beloved and I sauntered down Courtney Place, I am reminded amidst the commotion of why I continue this journey.

           Joe wasn't any place I went to on our date night, but every store I've entered this holiday season, every stroll around town, every crowded farmer’s market or restaurant I frequent, my eyes remain open to whatever is to be found.

            The gems I find along the way, the positive outlook in all of this, is that I’ve new friends who are eager about this search too, and willing to spread the word about it… and maybe (I hope!) even add a blog post of their own findings while searching for Joe to this site (contact me if you're interested!).

            While it’s easy to feel defeated once again, I continue to keep my eyes peeled for Joe Wellington because I never know what I might uncover, who I might meet, and what experiences might enrich my life while looking for my long-lost Kiwi friend.

            So... what can Joe Wellington do for you?

            Happy New Year, Friends. I wish for you a lifetime of searching, never taming the curiosity and wonderment of the day. I wish for you a year of discovery, of meeting new people who believe in your vision, and to honouring your passions. 

            As for me? I will continue to look for Joe and honour the joy discovered along the way.

            Stay tuned into the New Year as my search for Joe Wellington continues with a tour to the South Island of New Zealand!

29 November 2014

Finding Faith In Humanity


My anger and sorrow around what's happening in the USA, particularly in Ferguson, MO, has not been easy to process. There are too many layers for me to even begin to try to dissect and I find myself asking a lot of questions.

But first I’ll start with a confession.

I embarrassingly admit that I did not pay attention to Michael Brown’s death when it occurred because I was… busy. I was distracted; content in my own tiny and sometimes-secure, privileged world. I had heard about it on the news and was shocked that yet another unarmed teenager was killed. A black, unarmed, teenager was dead. And I remember talking with someone about it and drawing a connection to Trayvon Martin’s injustice. 

I promise I'm paying attention now.

At the time, I didn’t care more than I could or should have, which is really messed up. Unfortunately, I pushed it aside as “just news” but did allow time to reflect on those generations before us who have tragically died for a similar reason, several most likely not even reported.

Perhaps the insensitivity on my part was an outcome of the desensitization from my career or maybe I’m so used to hearing about it in the news now that it seems like a common occurrence. I hate writing that. Maybe now I’ve reached that mindset that much of our nation, and in my opinion, the police force, has been trained to function on denial as the way to cope in our daily interactions. Seems we are combative in all we do these days. I’ve been programmed to not care.

I promise I care now.

In the past few days, with the news that the grand jury will not indict the white officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, I made time to care and I’m outraged that this boy is dead and that there are people out there who are blaming him, and due to the violence that has broken out, people are more focused on that than on the issue at hand. I’m sickened to hear that the officer got an interview on television, which I have not watched and don’t intend to. But I do care about him, too, in a weird way, and have genuine interest in how our greatest protectors are trained to keep us safe.

Confrontational or not (which I think is a common response from an 18-year-old who has been conditioned to be that way in our society) the details of the altercation actually don’t matter to me right now. Because it’s something so much bigger than a police report.

It matters that a life is gone.

What matters is that this violence has gone on long enough. What matters is that people are angry- raging- about the inequality in the USA and sadly, a lot of us are how I was when I heard the news on August 9th… busy.

Why don’t we care?

The past few days, I needed to care. Something inside ached at knowing that yet another shooting took place where a young person died.

I’ve been sick to my stomach, sad to tears, and furious that so many people have turned such a blind eye to this violence. And I’m not talking about the violence from the riots; I’m talking about the violence in which another young black man was killed. I’m OUTRAGED that no one seems to care about that. It seems much easier to push that aside, standing firm in the belief that racism went out in the sixties.

It didn't.

Isn’t it sad that a death is easily dismissed because it's said he was disobeying the law?

Can you read that question again and honestly feel okay with the fact that death was the outcome?

My god, what has happened to us? Excuses for death. 

I suppose it's much easier to believe that it’s not about racism. It’s easy to suggest that had the altercation taken place between two white men, the outcome would be the same. But would it?

Perhaps we need to talk about society in general.

Let’s talk about the rich versus the poor. Let’s talk about the insured and the uninsured and the gap in between. Let’s talk about those who can barely afford to put gas in their car to get to work and those who own five cars. Let’s talk about education. Let’s talk about why violence happens. Let’s talk about the media's role. Let’s talk about more than just who is right and who is wrong. Let’s talk about trust. Let’s talk about faith in humanity.

Where has it gone?

People are pissed and they have every right to be. I'm pissed, too.

So let’s talk. Let’s not be afraid to say what we need to say. Let’s not be so quick to judge others, but to accept that people should be allowed to disagree. Let’s listen openly and let’s stop with words that produce shaming. Let’s remember to forgive and honor the people who are resilient, admitting their mistakes. Enough with this narcissistic bullshit.

Let’s talk about Newtown, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago. Let’s continue to talk about Columbine. Let's talk about guns. Let’s get to it; let’s debate whether or not it’s about guns or about regulating guns, or is it about mental health? And try not to get distracted by the noise. Let’s talk about distrust among the people, let’s talk about being busy, and let’s certainly talk about fear.

What have we become so afraid of?

We have become a society based on fear. We have allowed fear to have power over our words and actions. Fear of acceptance, fear of cowardice, fear of insanity, fear of glorification, fear of having to go on living in a world of fear. All those things and more. We have become a nation that is afraid to speak up.

After processing (I’m still processing) my emotions about all of this, I realized something crucial: maybe it’s that I care too much. Maybe I made myself busy because it’s all so overwhelming. Where do I even begin to help in such a mess as this? Maybe all we want is to be heard.

I promise I won't give up on caring. 

So where do we go from here?

We need to figure out how to talk to one another and to accept that we will disagree. The person sharing their opinion is valid and the person listening is valid. If we want to preserve the sanity of our future generations, to eliminate the fear, we must educate ourselves. History is important to know.

Our culture wants to be distracted and sometimes that is okay for self-preservation. But it’s not okay if we never acknowledge the suffering. Suffering is essential; it is there to tell us we need to change as that’s when growth occurs. But it’s hard and painful so we tend to play it safe. It’s easier to be busy. No one talks about it, no one comments, no one knows what the right thing is to say. Gulp. Fear.

So I’m waiting.

I am waiting for YOU to be shocked. I'm waiting for you to stop being so busy. I'm waiting to hear that you CARE and I can’t wait to hear your call for CHANGE.

Face those fears and try to listen. Find your voice. And maybe that means getting mad (mad does not mean violent). Learn about what it means to be passionate about something, how to release the mad, and maybe if enough people let it go, change can occur.

Thank you, Michael Brown, for helping me find my mad. Thank you for showing me I need to listen better. Because of you, I am determined to reclaim my faith in humanity.

Joe Wellington can wait. This is more important. 

Helpful links:

A favorite study of mine: The Code of the Streets

Donate books: Ferguson Library

Another great read: What White People Can Do

7 November 2014

Chirp, Chirp, Peep & A Possible Sighting

I joined Twitter.  Should I add an exclamation point to the end of that? Okay, I’ll try again.
I joined Twitter!
That’s better.
I’ve only been active for just over a month and I’m amazed at the networking. Yes, it’s fun to read what celebrities have to say but more than anything, I’ve developed this sense of community among writers and I actually like it. For the longest time, I was opposed to joining because I didn’t think there was any reason to. And there’s not. Unless you’re promoting your work.
My main purpose for twittering was to help fuel this search for Joe Wellington. Sometimes I forget, and I think readers do too, that he is a REAL person. This is a TRUE STORY. The blog has been great, but I still have not found Joe. And let me just say, I am still actively looking. Whenever I am in the city or at a public event, my eyes are peeled for a JW sighting.
In fact, just the other day, while stuck in traffic, I saw a guy who had some resemblance to Joe. I asked my helpful husband, “Should I ask this guy if he’s Joe Wellington?” My husband laughed, said yes and then, “Oh wow! That’s my friend Oliver!” (At least I think that is the name he said. It certainly wasn’t ‘Joe’).
So that was definitely a failed Joe Wellington sighting.
On Twitter, I added photos from 1998 of Joe and I at the San Francisco hostel, and I’ve asked my 100 followers to RT (retweet). No one- except helpful husband (who is on there to promote his own work) retweets.
I persevere, adding links to the WJW site, photos, and blurb something quirky, something clever, and then of course say something gracious (this seems to be the theme on Twitter)… no retweets.
I add hashtags here and there to see if that helps get my voice heard (don’t get me started with how annoying these #hashtag things are). No one retweets. No one replies.
The next day, sulking in self-doubt, I see there’s an email in my inbox from Twitter with my stats. Apparently I’ve had several views of that particular post with the JW picture and some are even clicking on the link to the blog. So some people are exposed to it, just need that extra push…
And then a favorite! Someone has ‘favorited’ (equivalent to a 'like') two of my Joe Wellington photos! Someone in New Zealand who might actually be able to help me find him!
Now help me find Joe Wellington!

9 October 2014

Going Ancestral, Part Two: Dear Tūpuna

Honoring Tangaroa- god of the sea

*E kōrero Māori ana koe? (Do you speak Māori?)

I don’t either. But I’m learning. So here’s my attempt at honoring this culture by using Māori words in my post. I only hope someday to fully understand the meaning of their words. Forgive me, friends, for possibly butchering your language. I mean no disrespect. Feel free to correct me!

I’ve just returned home from a thirty-five day trip to the USA. Traveling to New England and then on to the Midwest was A LOT. My e tama (son) did surprisingly well even if we were short on sleep. Still, I can’t say I want to do it again anytime soon. But, the depleted energy was worth it because we got to see many whakahoahoa (friends) and whānau (family) we miss on a daily basis.

In the Midwest, I was able to see some cousins I hadn’t seen in awhile. I have always considered myself close to my cousins, largely because my grandparents owned a kōphua (small house) on a popular lake chain. When my immediate family moved there, it was the ideal spot to visit family members during their summer vacations. When the matriarch of our family passed away almost 10 years ago now, the kōphua was sold and with extended family spread all over the country, we lost touch. Until, of course, social media reconnected most of us.

Every year that I’ve been back to visit my parents, I make it a point to visit my grandparents’ rua tūpākapu (grave). My grandfather passed away when I was very young- only five or six years old. My tipuna tāne (grandfather) owned a newspaper in Iowa. He was a businessman of the time: a WW2 vet, married to a young wife, worked hard during the day, smoked, drank too much, and in his later years became a quiet (or just hard of hearing?) and loving grandfather. I like to think of him as progressive- a man who stood for social reform. He gave my great-aunt her own column to write back in a time when wāhine (women) were  ‘settled’ into their routines at home. He also helped turn the city dump into a park and he made sure his tamariki (children) were set up with what they needed to be able to provide for their own families. He was mārohirohi.

My tipuna wahine (grandmother) and I had a playful bond. I would stay with her almost every weekend while I was a little girl. She would pick me up from school and whisk me away up north where there was just a bit of sunlight available to take a swim before dinner. She taught me whakangā. I often credit her with helping raise me.

This is what I honor when I visit their graves.

While visiting the US, I also got to visit my 88-year-old maternal grandfather. My e tama (son) got to talk with him and show him his dinosaurs. My grandfather, although physically weak, didn’t miss a beat and was pulling out his best whakanene (teasing) for my son. He inquired about my son’s schedule, eating habits, and friendships. It was probably one of the best visits I have ever had with him. I left feeling so grateful for all he has taught me as well; lessons he didn’t know he was teaching, and lessons I preferred to ignore or didn’t understand about my family for many years. He taught me kaha.

While in America, I felt the presence of my ancestors. Since I’ve been back in Aotearoa I continue to have whakawhetai (gratitude) for my grandparents’ guidance in my life- for helping me to get to where I am today, which in turn will guide my son.

Standing before the sunlit lake in Minnesota, which has now become an ocean in New Zealand, I say a prayer of thanks to let the tūpuna (ancestors) know their lessons will never be forgotten.

*Ka maharatia tēnei i ahau e ora ana (I shall remember it as long as I live).

*Line from “The Bone People” by Keri Hulme, p. 57 & 347. Joe Wellington gave me a copy of this book in 1998.

proof Joe Wellington is real

29 September 2014

Going Ancestral, Part One

I feel like that’s all I am able to write about my experience on ancestry.com after joining a fourteen-day trial to search specifically for Joe Wellington. And there is a lot of information on there. Since I know you’re all waiting to hear if this trial search has reconnected me with JW, it wouldn’t be considerate of me to leave you with just a “whoa”.
Signing up for this trial was actually a bit funny. I couldn’t sign up as myself because I have previously used their database, thus I wouldn’t qualify for a “free” trial. So I had to make one up. Oops. I know, I know, this is not good karma to be dishonest to the Internet gods but hey- sometimes it’s okay to tweak things a bit. Besides, I wasn’t looking for my ancestors.
Let’s get to it.
I typed in ‘Joseph Wellington’ and estimated that in 1998 (when I met him) he must have at least been twenty-one. So that means he would have had to be born in 1977 or earlier. Pretty confident he was born in New Zealand and male.
91,000 results in all categories.
Excited, I filter the search to only look up electoral rolls for New Zealand.
Several results for a Joseph Wellington with residence in Whangerai in 1978. He wasn’t old enough to vote in 1978 or 1981 so I’m going to toss those aside.  
New search of census, birth and death certificates.
Only 9 results from the 1900s census lists… The most current names are Joseph Henry Wellington or Joseph Andrew Wellington. Both results are from 1981 listed as an adult.
So, nothing.
“Are you kidding me?!” I say out loud as I shake my fists dramatically to the cyber gods.
Moving on, I read a newspaper result that seems to be an obituary of someone who passed away in May 2013 in Auckland. It wasn’t Joseph who died but a sibling named ‘Jo’ is highlighted as the search result. I figure it doesn’t hurt to take a look so I click on the link and the web site opens only to say “this obituary is no longer available online.” I could restore it for a fee but since I’m not feeling confident this is the right lead, I close the tab.
Unwilling to admit defeat, I once again type his name into a search only this time I change the filter to “sounds like or similar”. I’m not certain his last name is/was Wellington to begin with, so maybe this will lead me in the right direction?
‘Frederick J. Wellington’? ‘Heather J. Wellington’? Surname ‘Williams’… this does not seem to be the right path.
 Several surname Wellington’s come up for US public records. To get the world package I would have to pay extra. Not interested.
My head beginning to ache, I skim info on family trees containing the name Joe Wellington. Sooo much information I can’t keep up with all of it. Nope, he’s not from the 1600s. Nope, he didn’t die in 1996. Nope, pretty sure his first name isn’t really Lester. Also pretty sure he wasn’t born in Jamaica. Really?
Now the trial is over. And I’m not any closer to finding Joe Wellington. I think I have to concede that his last name isn’t Wellington. So now, I feel like I have to start all over. Actually, I don’t even know where to start.
I will keep writing this blog and I hope you’ll all continue to follow. Remember that if you hear of anyone named Joe Wellington, ask if he is from New Zealand and if he was in San Francisco in 1998. For now, that’s about all the searching I can do.
Unless… wait a minute… what’s this thing called Twitter?
…To Be Continued…

18 September 2014

Father White Pine

My family's favorite lake

My post from June 2014 (Mother Earth) about Jane Goodall was one of my favorites. There was much I wanted to add to that post but didn’t get a chance. One mention I didn’t get to include was who inspired me when I was younger to respect Mother Earth.
That person is my father.
My father has been one of my best friends in my life. I realize that might seem odd to some- but it’s very true. And I think that is why I find it difficult to write about him, even now. Too much emotion.
From as young as I can remember, my Pops (aka ClarkGriswold) would take us hiking in the woods where we could explore, whistle with the birds (he’ll have tough competition in NZ), determine proper scat identification, and hug trees. He was the one taking photos of the flowers: little bluebells, pink lady slippers, lilacs or the fresh dew on the tree leaves. Occasionally, if we were extra quiet, maybe a photo op with a deer (before “selfies” or “ussies” were that cool). And at night, my dad often reminded us to look up at the sky and imagine what might be out there. He put into perspective how teeny, tiny, small we are in comparison to the light of the stars and moon.
I just came back from a trip to the USA to see family and I learned that my father’s favorite tree is a White Pine, which pretty much sums up my dad’s character quite well. The Iroquois in North America refer to the White Pine as the “tree of peace” due to a Peacemaker telling all the warriors to bury their weapons under a planted White Pine. A very tall and tough tree, I’ve also heard it is the symbol of wisdom and longevity. 
A sturdy White Pine
My dad also loves grey wolves and has perfected their howl. The Native American symbolism that I’m aware of, and forgive me for not doing my research, is that the grey wolf represents a deep connection with your intuition. Again, I think this sums up my dad pretty well. He’s always been a quiet, humble, and private (he will probably be embarrassed by this post) man. Some might say he’s shy or an introvert, but he’s always been someone who honors his instincts, stands up for his rights if necessary (someone has to chase the chipmunks out of the garage!), and allows forgiveness where there sometimes should be none.
This is just a glimpse of the bravery and gratitude that my father has passed on to me…  and now to his grandson.
So while I was listening to Dr. Goodall lecture about finding unity with the heart and the mind, I couldn’t help but to think of my dad’s compassion for all living things. And don’t worry, Dad. I’m not putting you on a pedestal. I’ve never searched for perfection from anyone. Except when playing with Barbies.
I’m very fortunate to have the relationship I have with my padre. He is my political sounding board, my music-enthusiast, my movie-watching buddy (gotta love the Back to the Future Trilogy, right?!), my camp fire supervisor, my museum-hopping seeker, my editor and my teacher, and now… he is my quiet, wise guide and my reminder of finding peace within this jungle of life. 
Lake Itasca through the Pines
I just had to say it.
And of course, he’s always cool rockin’.