I Am Karen Walrond, Speaker, Author and Survivor of Hurricane Harvey, and I Am a Parent.
Karen Walrond has been a lot in her life – a lawyer, speaker, photographer, writer, leadership consultant and mother. Born and raised in the Caribbean, she met her husband-to-be in London, and now they are raising their teenage daughter, whom they adopted at birth, in Texas. Walrond and her family also survived Hurricane Harvey. Although they lost their home during the 2017 hurricane, many of the lessons they have learned have helped them navigate life during today’s pandemic.
These are her parents.
Let’s start with a little about you; Can you give us a bird’s eye view of your family and career?
So, I was born in Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. My father was a petroleum engineer and my mother was a school teacher in Trinidad. I studied undergraduate studies at the University of Texas A&M – I have a civil engineering degree and a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.
After graduation, I worked as a lawyer in several locations, primarily dealing with software licensing legislation. At some point, I ended up in London, where I met my husband, who works as a data processing manager. We got married in London, returned to the States, and after about a year of living together, we decided to adopt a child. Therefore, we adopted our daughter Alex from birth – she is our “symbolic American”. We actually moved to Trinidad briefly when our daughter was very young, but now we are living in Houston again.
I no longer practice law. I have consulted a lot on leadership issues, and I recently started working as the director of global engagement with a very famous author, so I’m mostly doing that now.
You mentioned that you adopted a daughter at birth. Can you tell me about this journey?
Yeah, so when my husband and I got married, we had no intention of having children at all. We actually got engaged very quickly, about 18 days after our first date, which is crazy. But I remember that somewhere between our first date and 18 days, out of the blue, my [future] husband said to me, “You know, if you don’t want to have kids, that’s cool for me. I don’t need to have children either. We were in our early thirties at the time, and I said, “I’m so glad to hear that because I don’t really want to have children. But if we change our mind, I would like to adopt. ” I have adopted cousins and I have always been a supporter of them. And he said, “Yes, that sounds cool.”
About a year after we got married, I watched him play with his nieces and I thought, “Oh no, you have to be a father.” We ended up looking for an adoption agency and opted for open adoption. We were picked up with our daughter’s biological mother, probably three or four months after we joined the agency. Two months after that, our daughter was born, and six months later it was legal. She is the perfect cherry on top of our family; She is now 16 years old, in junior high, and we’re talking about college and it’s just amazing.
So your daughter is a teenager, which means you don’t do things like Zoom classes in kindergarten and the like. But I am wondering, what was parenting during the pandemic for you and your family?
The short answer is: we are doing well. The more detailed answer is that three years ago we lost our home to Hurricane Harvey. It was harder than the coronavirus because – knock on wood – we are healthy for now, although of course this could change at any time. But I feel like a lot of Harvey’s lessons are things that I try to keep in mind at this time.
First, since I turned 20, I have had a very strong practice of gratitude. I just remember one good thing that happened in the afternoon at the end of every evening. Sometimes it is big and sometimes it is small. And it sounds a little corny, but the truth is that when things got really hard – for example, we were making our way through the sewage in our home – this practice of gratitude really supported us.
Even when we had a house full of sewage and we lost everything in our house and we tried to choose and save everything we can and we had to demolish our house and find out if we can at least afford to rebuild and rebuild it … Do it all, there was never a day that we didn’t come up with something really wonderful that would happen. Like strangers who came to help us clean our house of nothing but the pizza we made them eat. Or how when we were evacuating, and there was still a storm in the street, and the river overflowed its banks, and we tried to get to our daughter, who we evacuated early, and it just raged, chest-deep in water – and out of nowhere, these perches came from his boat and helped us get across.
It’s just that there was always something really beautiful that happened every single day, even on the worst days. And so, when it comes to coronavirus, I really kept this practice with my family and my daughter. It’s harder for my daughter because she got her driver’s license the night before we went into isolation in March. She literally got the keys to freedom, and we thought, “Yes, but you’re not going anywhere.”
It was definitely a time for creativity, a time for figuring out ways to safely accomplish new tasks. She decided she wanted to learn to surf, and we live about an hour’s drive from the coast. So on weekends my husband picks her up very early in the morning before people go to the beach. They are doing this, and I do not know if this would have happened without the coronavirus or not.
I also really remember the fact that I have a 16 year old kid who is pretty self-sufficient, so as you said, I don’t have to deal with Zoom calls with toddlers. It is a blessing to spend a lot of time with our daughter at the end of her school career and before she leaves home. So there were some really good points.
However, I can’t wait to go to the restaurant again one day.
God bless him. Something else I would like to hear from you relates to your 2012 TEDx talk, in which you delivered a great message that you are looking for light in others and that each one has we have special qualities that make us unique and beautiful. way. Looking back at this post, during such incredible political turmoil in the United States, I wonder what you think?
I truly believe that deep down in our souls, at the very core of our spirit or soul, we are still very beautiful. If I didn’t believe it, I would simply give up on life. I also believe that people go through things that make them look ugly, but our essence – before trauma, suggestions and anything else that can spoil it – is beautiful.
I would say now that if I compare Karen, who I am in 2020, with Karen in 2012 – this sweet, young, naive girl with a fresh face of 45 years old – then I would say that I am more cocky in singing this beauty and I elevate this beauty and the struggle for this beauty than I was then.
In fact, I just recently wrote a post about the upcoming elections , and one of the things I said was that part of what it means to love each other and part of what it means to keep looking for the light is to hold accountable. people who try to take the light. This is part of what it means to care for each other. In terms of elections, part of this means voting for people who bring us closer to the light. And even if these people do not necessarily illuminate us, the whole process of democracy and the whole process of loving one another means holding these people accountable after they are elected to continue moving towards the light.
Democracy does not end when you step out of the voting booth. Being in a free country and being in a country that likes to call itself “the freest in the world” means that you constantly hold people accountable for maintaining this freedom, that you constantly look at each other and love each other, that you are constantly moving to the light and hold accountable people who may not do what they need to do to get to that light. This is before the elections, and this is after the elections.
So, all in a speech at the TED Talk, where I talked about the search for light and being able to see it in each other – I still really believe in it. But I think that what I was talking about then was much more passive than it is now. In fact, it is about the creation of light, and also about the creation of light, and also about the amplification of light, as well as about moving towards the light. This is a daily practice to which we are all called.
And yes, there will be people doing some really awful, ugly things that will try to get in our way – and you just keep moving. You cannot be disappointed. You get discouraged, they win. You give up, they win. You don’t vote, they win. We are called to keep doing this, keep moving towards this. And, frankly, even when it comes to coronavirus, hurricane and everything like that, for me that’s the meaning of life: to continue to move individually and collectively towards the light.
(Correspondingly, Walrond ‘s new book on the intersection of joy and activity comes out next fall and is titled “ The Light Maker Manifesto: How To Work For Change Without Losing Joy . ” You can also follow her on her lighting blog .)
Editor’s note: The complete conversation with Walrond has been condensed and edited for flow and space.
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