The first thing you notice about Duvi Albano is her contagious laughter. Standing in another room you can hear her endearing giggle, and it makes one smile spontaneously.
She grew up in Spain in the Pyrenees in a small town near Barcelona with a sufficient amount of wanderlust. Her romantic view of life probably originated with her Catalan origin. Her favorite national holiday, Sant Jordan, or Day of the Book and the Rose, finds men, women and children in Barcelona on La Rambla Street strolling happily as each man lovingly hands a woman a rose. As the women graciously accept this warm act of affection, they individually bestow a book they treasure into the hands of the man. In that way a heart to heart exchange occurs. Its not surprising then that upon meeting Duvi, you can feel her joyful heart.
When Duvi was born, like many Spanish fathers, her dad was secretly hoping for a boy. Well, OOPS….instead he had a bubbling baby girl. What on earth was he to do with a baby girl? Probably to please her father’s earnest desire for a son, Duvi became the best tomboy imaginable in order to please him. In addition to being a tom boy, Duvi was a natural adventurist. Her little Spanish town quickly became too small for her imagination, curiosity and sense of discovery. Learning English became an open door. At fourteen years old she travelled to England for a month to become more proficient in English as a second language and her spirit soared. A year later she went to Germany for three months as an au paire. This time it was not the experience she had hoped for so for awhile her traveling spirit settled into studying for a business degree at the University of Barcelona.
And yet Duvi continued seeking outside herself for an exceptional life. She got lost in trying this and that and although she landed a job in business, the life of business felt far too restrictive. She saw her friends having the “good life” through the teaching profession. The good life to Duvi was “work as little as possible and make money to fund an insatiable desire to travel”. She equated money with travel and freedom. Her friends took long vacations, they made what Duvi thought was great money, and they worked far less hours than she did. Since Duvi had a natural liking for children she could see that teaching English as a second language in a grade school might really work for her. At this time Duvi was 25 years old. She didn’t waste any time getting her teaching credentials from Barcelona University. With that program she was guaranteed placement in a teaching position overseas. She first thought of the Canary Islands where she would only work until 2 pm. Or her second choice could be Andorra where the pay was nice and the time off was generous. This was the type of life she was looking for. Based on her philosophy of “work less, play more”, she felt a little guilty about being perceived as lazy. Then one day she saw someone wearing a T shirt that said “I am not lazy I am just energy efficient.” From then on that line became her guiltless motto!
She had to go to Madrid to pass all the tests to finalize her placement in an overseas position. The tests flowed and she passed them easily which came as a surprise to her. Typically, she didn’t do well at standardized tests that she found boring, uninteresting and unmotivating. Somehow she felt like the “stars” were contributing their part to her new life of adventure. When she was approached by university staff giving her the United States as her only option, she let them know the state of California would be her desired destination in America. She figured at least she would have the sun, the heat and the ocean. Now what she wasn’t aware of was that Spanish teachers from abroad were sent to all the places American citizens didn’t want to teach. The choices offered to her were LA Compton or Ontario Montclair. A friend said, “Oh you do NOT want to be in LA Compton. So Duvi chose Ontario Montclair not knowing at the time that the two were quite similar. Both of them comprised low income areas of 70-80% Latino populations many of whom were immigrants from Mexico. Duvi was to find out later these parents were infinitely grateful for the opportunity for their children to learn.
When Duvi arrived in California the “adventure” was both challenging and fun. She lived in a boarding house with several other teachers. It was a roller coaster adapting to the American way of life. Culturally there were stark differences from her Spanish nature. The Americans had a different concept of “personal space”. To Duvi, it was as if Americans walk around with an invisible boundary around their bodies. No one treads over that imaginary line unless invited. She found it strange there were laws needed for protecting the personal space of children. Whereas she was coming from a culture where everyone kisses one cheek and then the other in a burst of warmth in everyday greeting. It was funny because Duvi had a principal, a big tall guy, and whenever she would return from a visit to Spain she would see him and rush toward him brushing each cheek with a kiss and an expressive greeting. He got to the point he would see her coming and gracefully strong arm her to keep her at bay. The kisses would land on his neck instead of his cheek. Finally the awareness of this major difference caused her to change those customary habits. Now after living in the states so many years she too naturally has a more guarded approach about personal space.
In the States and in Ontario-Montclair specifically, it was also a whole different education system. She had all these Hispanic children and the parents who were so grateful and kind to her. But the school program was lousy. It was unorganized, unstable, and boring. Duvi was so bored she thought, “Wow if I am bored these little kiddos must be dying on the vine.” She saw that she needed to get help for them so she appealed to the IEP Program (Individualized Education Plans). These plans were supposedly tailored to the child ’s needs. Through this sub-program at least she could get resources. At that point in time Duvi had a little girl that was really struggling. She could not grasp basic concepts easily. Possibly her brain had too much info coming in at once and she couldn’t focus on the concepts that were being presented. What unfolded happened so fast and all of the recommendations suggested were so unfamiliar and foreign to Duvi. They evaluated her student and then put her on drugs. Duvi didn’t know what had occurred and how her input led to the outcome of drugs. So she vowed never to go through IEP for assistance again. It was tough however because principals would come into the classroom everyday and “observe”. She felt like she had to keep the kids and everything else under control. This environment became stifling. She began calculating a budget to see what income she needed to live on, and if job sharing would work for her. At this same time she began getting sick with sinus infections, weird viruses, and was on lots of antibiotics. It got to the point where she felt she must go back to Spain. However, she was so sick she couldn’t physically travel. One day she went to the ER with another weird infection and they gave her medicine—-and she asked herself “What if I don’t take this?” In her mind she thought “There has to be another way.” Someone said to her, “Maybe you have candida.” So she started looking at food sensitivities etc. She had been eating all the American fast food, and now she became interested in Chinese herbs, holistic approaches, and she started reading a spiritual book called Course in Miracles from cover to cover. She started seeing her life was really about something bigger. It was at this time she met her soon-to-be husband. She was worn out from the required Visa routine of needing to constantly renew it and she was ready to go back to Spain. But her future husband pursued her. She was now 36 years old, and it came down to leaving the U.S. or getting a green card. This contributed to a decision to get married and then to have a child. As a young married couple they both had a strong feeling they wanted a child. In hindsight, Duvi felt once conception took place she had a knowing she was finished with her husband as a mate, and yet she tried to make things work. The father of her son was from the Philippines, with a very religious background. His career included positions as a military deputy sheriff which encouraged a regimental lifestyle. As soon as Nicolas was born Duvi knew she wanted to stay home with him. Thankfully her husband supported her choice to quit her job.
After Nicolas’s birth, Duvi had a lot of anxiety. She had been a very good sleeper and now was severely sleep deprived. Her husband demanded that Nicolas sleep in his own crib and she wanted the baby beside her.
By the time Nick was 4 everything in her marriage had really gone downhill. Luckily, a friend said to Duvi, “Don’t let your teaching credentials expire”. And yet Duvi couldn’t see herself going back into the system. A friend happened to suggest that Duvi try going into the homeschool program where she could work with families that choose to homeschool. California has provisions where teachers are staffed to interact and guide families in order to match government funding and resources to those parents who choose to teach at home. Duvi could meet with families and find out what they wanted to do and then arrange the resources to meet their needs. The concept was refreshing from Duvi’s point of view because almost anything could be pursued and the resources could be juggled. In California this concept continued to grow by the thousands. Some parents started coops and worked at schooling together. Duvi felt like a magician coordinating the resources to match the desired plan.
In regards to her own child, Nick didn’t homeschool for long because Nick needed structure. Duvi tried to homeschool Nick when he was five, but by nature Duvi found she was more free-flowing. At age 5 Nick was also becoming very anxious. He cried a lot and had trouble sleeping. His dad told him he was too emotional. In first grade she decided to put Nick in a public school since he seemed to be doing well socially with the kids in the neighborhood. Yet school was a different story. He didn’t do well and would come home crying and his dad would get mad at him. He thought Nick had problems and Duvi’s anxiety went through the roof with all the increased tension. About a year later, a book about Asbergers literally fell into Duvi’s lap. Duvi spoke to a psychologist who agreed that possibly Nick had Asperger tendencies. After reading up on children with these tendencies she told her husband there was nothing “wrong” with Nick, and that he had unique gifts.
About this time Duvi started hearing about Suzy Miller and her Awesomism program and started listening to her radio shows. When she read Suzy’s book titled, “Awesomism” she started having all these reflections from her life with Nick. He had always wanted her to sleep with him, because sometimes he had difficulty breathing. As she crawled into his tiny bed with him she would ask him, “Where does it hurt?” and he would point to his solar plexus which was the same place Duvi felt anxiety. Mirroring continued to be transformational in understanding herself and Nick. When Nick started to physically kick Duvi a couple of times she found herself asking within, “Where am I kicking myself?” Duvi was a people pleaser and would beat herself up mentally. Once she became aware of this pattern in herself, the kicking stopped. One day when she and Nick planned on going to beach, inland it was a beautiful day. She figured with the beach 30 minutes away it would be the same wonderful conditions so she looked forward to decompressing. When they arrived at Bel Mar it was gloomy and overcast. She started having negative thoughts of frustration and disappointment. In the backseat Nick started kicking the car seat and yelling on the freeway. Although it was cloudy and bad outside, Nick was reading her thoughts and picking up on Duvi’s energy. When she pulled off at the nearest exit and talked honestly with Nick about her feelings, his behavior subsided and they ended up having a spectacular day.
When Nick was eight, although she was filled with fear at the prospect of leaving her husband, she knew it was time. She worked a lot with a tool Suzy gave her that required visualizing a triad of “ease, joy and grace”, and her departure occurred with a relative amount of ease. She told herself not to let it be about the money and her husband’s fear of getting ripped off. The divorce financially and legally was transparent and clear. Although the first week was rough, after that it became peaceful. She and Nick would go to their old house in the old neighborhood where Nick’s dad stayed. They would walk the big dog Rocky whom Nick loved. Her ex-husband needed someone to let the dog out during the day while he worked and the dog had become like a brother to Nick. After walking the dog they would return to their new home. Nick and Duvi had needed a space that they could share together and now they had it.
With Suzy’s radio show “All About the Kids” and energy sessions everything got better. Duvi had started to do lots of spiritual work on her own. Instead of looking for the change in Nick she always saw the change in herself. Nick mirrored her greatest insecurities. The biggest change in herself was taking back her power in her relationship with NIck’s dad. She had always been afraid of him and his temper. She and Nick were always walking on eggshells fearing he might explode any minute. Finally she had enough. She put her foot down and said “Enough”. She told Nick’s dad how afraid Nick was of him. And once Duvi faced her fear head on, NIck’s dad lost the plastic gun he was holding over their heads.
Now that Nick is 12 years old he is among the brightest in school. Nick reads at the senior high level and remembers everything. He goes so fast, he doesn’t know what else to read. He likes history, mythology, literature and novels. In his earlier years he devoured science and remembered every fact from top to bottom. In biology he knew all the species and habitats of all the animals on the planet. Yet he was never interested in math, and truly despised math for several years. He had a fear of “failing” in math. He is now in a public high school and doing great in math. His math scores have surpassed his reading. Socially, the first 2-3 months in the high school were tough. He didn’t know how to deal with bullying. But he didn’t want Duvi to intervene by talking to the teachers or staff. He wanted to take care of things himself. He managed to meet one boy and they became good friends. Now he has a group, and he is a member of the “nerdy” ones. He somehow manages on his own. He goes on sleepovers but when he wants time alone he is not afraid to let his friends know.
Duvi admits Nicolas has been her master teacher. She is in awe of him and she continues to be amazed at the world he is creating.
Read more stories from other Awesomism Practitioners here: http://suzymiller.com/awesomism-stories/