Hi! I’m Ingrid. Nice to meet you.
I was born in Philadelphia, a city I passionately love. My parents were immigrants from Lithuania who escaped the soul-crushing Soviet regime brutally occupying their homeland in the 1940’s. We spoke only Lithuanian at home. My best friend lived across the street. Her name was Aleka Papaioannou and her family only spoke Greek. Aleka and I were inseparable and we understood each other perfectly. I started to learn English when I went to school. Lithuanian is a beautiful language that sometimes sounds like singing. I love every opportunity I have to speak it.
I grew up in a neighborhood where people’s parents were named Bill and Mary. Mine were Kazimieras and Kunigunda. My family calls me Ingryte.
My father spoke 4 languages. Because he had a classical education, he could also read and write in Latin and ancient Greek. He was an attorney and additionally he completed a Ph.D. in law at Göttingen University in Germany – imagine writing a Ph.D. dissertation about law in German. He taught me that working hard and accomplishing something creates inner joy.
My mother lived to 91. She had been a dancer and was graceful. When she was in her 70’s she took up roller skating. Right after she died, a package she’d ordered arrived in the mail – we opened it to find the “Buns of Steel” workout DVD (for those of you who don’t know what that is, let’s just say it’s an exercise video that not many 91-year olds work out with – you can Google it for more information). She was healthy and strong and taught me that your youth can last your lifetime.
I spent the most time with my aunt on my mother’s side. The word for aunt in Lithuanian is “Tetute” and she was my Tetute. Even today I can’t write about her without tears in my eyes. I loved every second I spent with her. She taught me how to ride a bike, bought me dictionaries and took me to every museum in Philadelphia over and over again. I had complete peace when I was with her.
My sister, Justine, is a beautiful, brilliant and gifted writer. She showed me that living is art and art puts meaning into life. I love being her little sister. In many ways we’re very different, yet underneath there’s an unbreakable bond of understanding and love. Her son, Gabriel, is a talented artist who’s discovering life and life’s adventures.
When I was 9 we moved to Medford Lakes, New Jersey. I grew up on a lake surrounded by woods. Every day in the summer we went swimming. Every day in the winter we went ice skating. I rode my bike to school. The miles of woods provided endless exploration. It was heavenly.
My first 2 years of college I went to Rosemont College, a small Catholic girls’ school run by Sisters of the Holy Child. It’s out on the Main Line of Philadelphia where the super wealthy live, an area where all-women’s colleges are flanked by all-men’s schools, like Villanova and Haverford. There were 400 women and the main building looks like a castle. Many adventures, many indelible memories.
My last 2 years I started supporting myself and switched to Temple University in Philadelphia which had 30,000 students, 1,700 faculty and was in the heart of the city. This massive urban experience couldn’t have been more different from Rosemont. I learned how to work for a living as I got my Master’s degree at Temple. I was ready to start my career.
I did consulting for a couple years and then decided to move. I didn’t know where I wanted to live. So, I stored all the big stuff I owned (hardly any) at my parents’, bought a blue MGB convertible, put the top down, and spent 3 months driving around the USA looking for where my heart wanted to put down new roots. During 3 months of driving wherever the impulse took me, I would alternately camp for 3-4 nights, then stay in a hotel for a night. Ridiculously fun. I loved exploring the USA, was overwhelmed by the grandeur and beauty of America and the big hearts of the people I met. It wasn’t unusual that I’d set up camp in the early evening and a grandmotherly woman would come over and say, “You’re not camping alone now, honey, are you? Why, you look just like my granddaughter! You can’t eat alone! You’ve got to come over and eat with us!” I spent a lot of time with other people’s grandparents and it couldn’t have been nicer.
Driving around and exploring everything was fantastic and I could have done it for the rest of my life (still could) … if I didn’t have to make money. I fell in love with the California coastline and then became seriously smitten with the San Francisco Bay Area where I settled. The views here are stunning. I used to go up to Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills to watch the sun set over the bay and ocean every single day for months when I first arrived. Even now I see the Golden Gate Bridge at least 3 times a day, starting with my morning run. I can’t believe how blue the sky gets. The artistry of the area is captivating. There’s more good stuff to do here than any person has time to do.
I still love Philadelphia keenly and am ecstatic every time I go back. It’s my favorite walking city – I’ve been known to walk for 6 hours at a stretch. Easy to do there. The museums still enchant. One of my favorite places is the Historic Society where they let you hold and read Thomas Jefferson’s and George Washington’s original letters for as long as you like – and they have boxes and boxes of them. These documents with their original paper and pen ink are magical. The custodians literally kick me out when they’re closing.
So, now you know my beginnings. I’m happy with the start I had in life, with an intense, intelligent immigrant family that showed me how to be resourceful, especially with those miraculous resources that I can only find inside myself. My mother used to ask me when I was very little, “We lost everything when we came to this country. What would you do if everything was taken away from you? The only thing they can’t take away is your education and intelligence. If you have that, you can create the rest.” And if to that you add a good heart and keen imagination, it creates rather easily and well.
I’m delighted to tell you more about my experiences, adventures, observations, insights, discoveries, philosophies …. I invite you to read my blog and share the journey with me. And please feel free to say hello.