Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015 Reflection

This morning I got up early to get the newsletter out out peck at the grading before heading to day two of the BFAC Art & Craft Show. It was a beautifully calm day yesterday. Hanging out in the Sun Inn Courtyard, the girl scouts and I served up art supplies to young kids who stopped by to have a little respite during the festival. I'm usually on the other side of the camera - but here's evidence of the ability to stand behind my beautiful daughter helping a little girl fold a paper hat.

Who doesn't need a place to sit down after strolling on Main street to look at wonderful art? It was great to see the bigger kids (AKA grown ups) take a few supplies to enjoy. Today we will offer more of the same; make a Mother's Day card, paint a scene on a story box. Our paper hats are getting an upgrade. Instead of newspaper, we'll be making them much bigger, with craft paper!! Expect to see some pretty fancy chapeaus walking around Main Street today. Yesterday, I had some hero girl scouts helping me with the area. Major props to Leilani, Cierra and Bridget. I could not have done it without them. Doug Roysdon and Dave Fry also made the day a hoot. There's something about kind hearted artists who just want to get together and laugh. Being with them makes me happy. Being with kids makes me happy. A beautiful spot shaded by trees and hearing birds in an urban landscape makes me happy. Being able to sit and take in a warm spring day, sip on an iced coffee from The Joint, and watch little ones draw and paint... makes me happy.

I also have to give a huge thanks to the guys on the Fine Arts Commission who helped with the set up: Clint, Nik and Bob. And also warm smushies to Donna for lending me the space to her conference room to hold supplies overnight. Sorry to Marco for locking you in the bathroom while we took the supplies out. You're an awesome cat.

This festival is the final big project of the semester. I'll be glad to be able to reclaim a life to include longer walks with the dog, reading non-work related books, and getting back into regular visits to the gym. I'm counting the days to the Municipal Pool with the kids. My knees have just about had it with me. I'll be elevating them on the nice hammock Steve bought at the festival yesterday for the back yard.

Grading and the last paper of the semester due in over the next couple of days. Looking forward to a summer filled with reading, reflective writing and getting used to slowing down.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Searching for the Presence of Mind

Mind dump.

It's been too long since my last post. A semester circus full of monkeys and two more linger before I can declare a clean break from it. One look at my March/April calendar on any week demonstrated my inability to grasp the reality that at 50 years old, I no longer have the same energy that sustained me through grad school, internships, five simultaneous orchestras a season, multiple adjunct gigs, serving on a festival board and redoing a kitchen all before twins. I was trained to sustain 60+ hour weeks. 40 hours of work was being lazy. If I was going to be noticed, it had to be through hard work, over extending myself and constant work. I never practiced enough, made enough reeds, read enough, wrote enough, cleaned enough, cooked enough, worked out enough.

Jack of many trades. And who really cared?

All of this work to just be noticed. This embarrassing busy-ness of my life actually becomes the thing that fuels my resentment. At 50 years old, I now see how I've allowed this kind of anger to fester. If identifying the cause of the problem is the first step towards a solution, I need a few months of badly needed reflection to find a new balance.

It takes the death of the high school classmate to slap some sense into me. He wasn't a close friend; but I've been reading his tributes on Facebook during his last days with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. His funeral is May 15th; I really wish I could be there. I ache for the same lake that drew him back home.

I didn't know him well during high school. That was the beginning of my "Busy-ness Therapy" to distract me from my own pain of losing my dad and never feeling like I was good enough.

According to people who knew him better, his life code was, "Help people. Love people. That's all that matters." Here's a story about him that ran in my hometown newspaper on May 5th.

I think it's time I also gave some thought to help me, and love me. Not in an ego-maniacal way. Not in the way that it always sounds like; when I think it - annoyingly self-centered and a pain in the butt little sister who's always in the way. Just accepting who and what I am. Because I think there's something in that where I can find peace. And I don't know why it's so damned hard.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Alverna B Coffey

My mom is an incredible genealogist. She's been pulling together family names and dates on both hers and my father's families for years now. She hasn't just done the - she's been digging in archives of multiple libraries and other resources and actually travels to various places where ancestors lived to learn more about them and their lives. It's fascinating work, reconstructing the stories.

There's one of my relatives I may have written about before, my aunt Vern. She's been on my mind so much these past months as I dig deep into the Girl Scout program to make plans for a major shift in the troop I started four years ago. 

Aunt Vern was a H.U.G.E. girl scout. I'm trying to put together enough information to see how much she did for the girl scouts during her lifetime. Mind, the Girl Scouts USA just turned 100 years old in 2012. Her career as the director of the Girl Scouts of Racine County (that's in Wisconsin) was in the 1950s, I think. At this early part of my research, I'm only gathering bits and pieces from search engines. And trying to compute her years in leadership. She died in 1979. Still trying to find out what year she retired.

Lifted these two clips from online obituaries of others
Obit #1 "The ABC Award, named after Alverna B. Coffey who was executive director of GSRC for 22 years and known for her love of Girl Scouting," (I am limited to 10 free articles, darned pay wall. So just because of that, I'm not citing the resource. so there!)

Obit #2 "....Two decades later she was presented the Alverna B. Coffey, the highest local award..."

Found this from the Racine Journal Times May 3, 1959: "Camping Groups Observe Week Racine County youth organizations this week are scheduled to join with other groups throughout the nation in observing American Camp Week, May 1-8. Miss Alverna B. Coffey, executive director of the Racine County Girl Scout Council, is in charge of the activities. Miss Coffey is president of the Wisconsin section of the American Camping Assn., which sponsors Camp Week. According to Miss Coffey, about 4,000 Racine County children will participate in organized camping this summer. This number does not include the weekend camping program for public school sixth graders nor family camping, she said. "Education for physical fitness and for learning to live with others is needed to prepare young people for the future," Miss Coffey said, The American Camping Assn. membership includes camps sponsored by such youth-serving organizations as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA. churches, voluntary agencies and schools. The association has a program of camping standards which must be met if camps are to qualify for its accreditation. " 

May 30, 1992 another article citing an awards ceremony in which another individual received the ABC, Alverna B. Coffey Award, Racine Council's highest recognition.

Sometime around 2009, the Girl Scout program merged individual counties into regions. Now, the Girl Scouts of South East Wisconsin serves over 33,000 girls in Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha, as well as the southern part of Ozaukee and eastern parts of Dodge and Jefferson Counties. This is a HUGE area. I can only assume the same kind of merger happened here in eastern Pennsylvania. 

Clearly, my aunt made an impact on the girl scout program in her community. I know she and my mother (as a teen and maybe a few college years) spent summers at Camp Singing Hills. Based on very light surface scratching, I wonder if she was part of building that camp site, which opened in 1953. It would have been great to visit that camp site. The camp site was sold by the Girl Scouts of Racine County in 2008 for $7.25 million, maybe around the same time as the council merger. From what I gathered, this sale was emotional. There was a lawsuit filed to save the camp. I'm not sure if I want to dig further into what happened to the camp. How much more drama would that rabbit hole lead to?

The whole reason I started the research is because of a Girl Scout Journey badge. All of the girls in the troop are to learn about a strong woman in their family. It can be someone alive, or dead. Of course, I'd pick my mom. I'm still hearing stories from her that fascinate me. But I encouraged Lady B to learn about the woman for whom she is named. The "B" in Alverna B. Coffey is for Bridget. There's a story behind the initial, but for now, we'll stick to learning about her as a girl scout.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Statement to city council February 18, 2014

I'd like to make a statement about communication. I hope it demonstrates to the council, to the administration, and to all citizens that we are a better community when we have an open and inclusive process.
The city has limited resources when it comes to equipment and personnel for the massive (and once in 20 years) snow accumulation. We expect the city to use its resources wisely. Most citizens should understand that and will comply with an effective and efficient snow removal plan - if they know about it.

On January 22, the Mayor called a snow emergency. Those who needed details about the program had to search for maps or significant signage of the snow emergency routes. We all learned together what we needed to do to cooperate with the plan and to share information with neighbors. 

Lessons from this first round were - add links to websites where information can be found. The city website - which we know is being reviewed by the administration - can still be used if linked with other communication measures like press releases, twitter and Facebook.

As the snow emergencies continued the city improved information sharing, utilizing Bethlehem PD Facebook and twitter accounts - which have established and growing networks. Bethlehem PD even included links to the website for full information. Many people responded positively by sharing information.

Aside from embracing linked information, and posting to established networks, I hope lessons learned from the first half of February were the benefits of empowering people to share information. Many citizens of Bethlehem will support any administration that sees their population as a resource.

Today, Mayor Donchez started a Twitter account. Good for the Mayor. I hope council will support his efforts and be continue to be models of effective communication. For instance, Councilman Recchiuti tweeted a link to tonight's agenda. Many members of the council have built effective networks, not just friends. I thank you for being open to having conversations in multiple platforms.
I hope that those advising council and administration on communication strategies will understand that communication is not only posting information, but effective listening and response. Open communication is a treasured asset for positive community building. It is a practice not achieved overnight.  I wish you well in your efforts. There are many citizens in this community ready and willing to support any open and transparent communication efforts.

Thank you.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Bucket list #3- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

This is the post my mom has been waiting for. The details on the Big Bucket list item, seeing the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

On a complete whim in early January, I headed over to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart website to see if any tickets were available for an upcoming show. When I usually think of doing this, there aren't tickets available (like now, if you're trying that link today). However, on January 10th there were tickets. Lots of tickets. I had to jump on it. I picked a day that seemed less evil to take off work than other available dates.

I had a supervisor at the Toledo Museum of Art who once said, "The need to take a vacation is in direct proportion to the ability to take one." Sure enough, there is never a good day to take a vacation. But there is a good day to play Hooky with my Hubby. And like the awesome guy he is - he was willing to do this with me, even if his work was piling up. There's also been a crazy amount of weather in the east coast. Wasn't sure if this was even doable as we entered a month with as many snow days as there were days of safe travel to campus.

So this is what actually happened that day.

We got the kids to school and arranged for a sitter to meet them at Zoellner after their music lessons. It's great to have kids who are capable of walking themselves to Zoellner from their school. It's also great to have a reliable sitter and friends nearby just in case I had a small panic attack. Of course they were thrilled with a chance to hang out with Loly. She's awesome!

We decided to drive into Manhattan instead of the bus. There is a lot that will validate your parking for $14. But it was filled by 1:30. So we found another parking lot on 45th and 11th for $35. Still cheaper than two bus tickets, even if you add the cost of tolls.
We got in line for tickets around 1:50pm. If you look the picture here, I'm standing in the wrapped around line under the awning. It seemed a little long, as Steve kept saying how small the studio was. But we had a back up adventure we started to explore just in case this one didn't pan out.

While we were hanging out, we met a father and son from Manchester, England. We had a lovely chat about the show and if we thought our chances were good about getting in. We compared weather conditions as we were sprayed by flying salt from a NYC truck.

There was a building on the other side of the street that caught my eye. On the top of the architecture was "St Mary's 1843" (I think) and it being Hell's Kitchen, I thought to look it up on my iPad to see if it was an orphanage, or a convent for penitentiary nuns, or maybe a hospital. Hell's Kitchen has a huge Irish Immigrant history, similar to Five Points. I found enough on Wikipedia to interest me until the line started to move.

We got our tickets. They were simply printed on yellow paper and rubber stamped with a date. I think they might have borrowed the stamp from a library. We saw other people got blue tickets. Not sure what that meant, but all the Trip Advisor posts I read were a couple of years old, so if blue meant "VIP" or yellow meant "stand by," we weren't going to have anything validated until we came back in line at 4:00.

We headed away from the studio to find a decent, but not too fancy place to eat. There is no shortage of interesting places in Hell's Kitchen. Sure enough, two long blocks away we found a nice Irish Pub called The Hibernia. Our bartender was from Australia. We had the place to ourselves so the craic was friendly and the Guinness was perfectly poured.
We decided to grab some pub food - I had an excellent Fry up,
and Steve got an Irish Bacon sandwich. Their sausages, bacon and pudding suppliers were pretty good. I'm sure what I ate will be a craving in a couple of months. The fried eggs were served over Tater Tots - perfectly deep fried. Believe it or not, this plate also came with an option of additional beans. This was enough to fill me up for the rest of the day, and most of tomorrow. I was also feeling a little bit "rosey" on the pint. I've become such a light weight.

I was worried I over did it until we walked back to the studio in 12 degrees. All the calories were well spent waiting back in line with our friends from Manchester in newly posted stanchions to cattle shoot the line into area for ticket number ranges. As we waited, some lovely staffers came out to give us instructions on what to do before we got in. We had to use the bathroom before we sat down. No one would be allowed to go to the bathroom during taping. We also had to turn off (as in power down) our mobile devices. We might get a chance to take pictures, but only if an announced. The staffers were firm, but friendly about it.

When we realized we were going in, we took seats on the end of two rows, me in front of Steve. It was better than getting stuck in the middle of the row three farther up. It is a small studio - I think about 300. The blue tickets are given by lottery - these are seats closer to the set. About four rows ahead of us. The color really didn't matter to us.

The warm up comic was so New York. I didn't catch his name, but he was pretty good warming up the crowd. We had a lot of yelling practice, and he explained the mic/ceiling situation. There is no shell over us, so the crowd sound (no laughing track on the taping, it's really live) goes straight up. He was edgy, funny and got us pumped to meet Jon, who came out to take a couple of questions from the crowd before the show started.

Our prepper did say one very funny thing, "If that little voice inside your head says that question is a little creepy, better keep that one to yourself."

Jon was so approachable. The questions were pretty standard, "Who is the smartest politician you ever interviewed?" "Which was the hardest interview you ever did." If you watch the show, you probably know the answers. But I'll keep them off this post in case anyone wants to ask the same question to Jon on their own trip. I did have a question, but I was too shy to raise my hand (I know.....)

There was a moment when we were allowed to take pictures. Steve was kind enough to take this one. I already posted it to my Facebook page and on Twitter. Lots of likes and a few comments. I have major hat head. But that is a genuine smile of a Bucket List item achieved.

One the ride home, we were so caught up in gabbing about the experience, sad we didn't get the chance for our alternate plan - which would have been so cool if we could have done both, sharing ideas for our next adventure, that we missed the exit for I-78. We got trapped for an hour, looping around the Newark Airport, arguing with the GPS and each other. Our eyes are old, we couldn't see the right signs, and we started imagining getting caught in an episode of the Sopranos. I realized that getting lost on a road trip with Steve, even after being together 26 years, is still hilarious.

Bucket List continued - Lehigh Basketball with family

When I achieve all of the items on my "Things to do before 50" bucket list, I know I will have actually accomplished the goals of a New Year's Resolution. It's just a bit easier for me to manage expectations by creating a list of fun things to do instead of hoping to achieve an elusive "have more fun in 2014" goal.

The next item on the bucket list was achieved a few weeks ago: going to Lehigh Basketball games with the family and separately with the Girl Scout troop. We've been to Lehigh Mens Basketball games before. One of the perks of being a Lehigh employee is to be able to watch the games for free. Except for Lehigh-Lafayette. But, as I had recently plucked down some cash for tickets to the 150th anniversary rivalry in Yankee Stadium later this year, I thought we could get a leg up on what actually happens in the crowd at any Lehigh-Lafayette match. Heck, I even started adding Lehigh swag to the family wardrobe, even though the salesperson at the Lehigh Bookstore was super awful.

I was excited for the kids to hear the Pep Band, see the Lehigh Dancin' and the other stuff that happens with the game. You know those college kids can be so crazy, too. But not this game. It was kind of quiet.I even started my own "spontaneous dancing" bit to lighten up the game for the kids. They are now old enough to say, "Mom. Sit Down. You're embarrassing us."

Two weeks later, I took the older girl scouts to see the Lehigh Women's Basketball game. We all wore pink to celebrate breast cancer awareness (and to get in free). It was great to be able to sit so close to the team, and meet one of the players (a former student of ENTP 195) afterward. 

Lindsay Hoskins was happy to take a picture with the troop for a box of Thin Mints (hee, hee)

I was disappointed to see so many empty seats in Stabler Arena at both games. But happy to be able to spend time with the family, and with the girl scouts. 
These experiences are the things I keep in my heart way longer than that satisfied feeling I get when I realize I spent another Saturday catching up at the office. 

Scrapping the New Year's Resolutions

It's only 46 days into the new year and I already know I made the right choice to scrap all New Year Resolutions. It's not that I don't believe in self improvement. I've just been playing "doomed to fail" for many years, and I have finally outgrown the game.

In a little over a year, I turn 50. If I don't start doing something different, I'll earn my AARP card a bitter, dried up, resentful and angry old crank pot. I want to make the best of it. Why not? The only thing holding me back is stupid justifications.... and fear.

I am frequently encouraging college students to try something new if the've never seen a particular genre of performing or visual arts. I needed to do this, too.

On January 17th, I did both. I tried something new and crossed off the first item on the 2014 bucket list. I went to a Lehigh University Wrestling Match. I had plenty of opportunity to watch a wrestling match. My high school had a wrestling team. Back then, my sister mentioned a particular admiration for the boys on the team. I knew some of them. I thought their spitting in cups to make weight was gross. The wresting season was at the same as the High School Musical. Rehearsals were right after school and went long into the night. But honestly, even if I had the time, I didn't have the interest.

Lehigh University has a huge wrestling culture. Just last year, an alum gave a significant donation to upgrade the wrestling facility, displacing a number of administrative offices, and even the student campus mail boxes. The wrestling center is somewhat sacred. If other activities happen in the building, there are significant costs to protecting the floor.

The fans who support wrestling are more than dedicated. There is almost a religious quality to their regular attendance and rituals. People do not wander into the sacred circle of competition, but reverently take their seats in their assigned sections. They chant while watching the strength and battle between competitors. Each win makes the local crown stand with generous applause. Each loss is met with respectful and subdued encouragement.

Of the athletes, I was deeply concerned for them. Their legs, backs and necks would end up in such painful looking positions, I winced to watch them struggle to get out. I was in awe of their resolve to put themselves back into a submissive position, only to prove to their strength was more beastly than their opponents. I also witnessed some very.... "suggestive" positions and uniforms.

But the reason why "Watch a Lehigh Wrestling Match" is on my bucket list, is that is was an experience something so completely new. I had no idea how points are earned, what penalties look like, or how to be a proper participant in the crowd. A young person sitting a few seats in front of me turned around to look at me often. I bet he was thinking, "Geez, that lady sure is crazy." I suppose sucking in my breath like I was watching a car accident about to happen isn't appropriate crowd behavior. My friends who went with me were patient with my "oohs" and "aaahs." These are the same reactions I have to watching incredible dancing. I know that performers appreciate positive audience energy. I know when to clap. I know when to acknowledge feats of physical achievement. I just couldn't/shouldn't use the same reactions watching a wrestling match. That, apparently, is weird.

It made me wonder how an audience so passionate about wrestling would question the value of dance. Dancers put themselves in similar outfits, and even less suggestive positions. Of course, I'm assuming that wrestling supporters don't support dance. I could be (and truly hope I am) wrong.