Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where I was

Guess I'll jump on the bandwagon about the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

I was employed at the Toledo Museum of Art and had just arrived for work. I lived a 30 minute drive away, so I usually listened to NPR in the car on the way to work. As soon as I got to my office, news hit. There was only one tiny TV in the media relations office. So many of my colleagues were crammed into the office - we didn't have streaming news video then...

Before the collective media got their heads wrapped around what was going on, I called Steve at his office. Pragmatic as ever, he just got to the day's work, knowing we could do nothing about it. Several folks left the museum; fearful of other attacks, or just wanted to be with their families. Many parents pulled their kids out of school. Fear - even in northwest Ohio - was pervasive.

I stayed the whole day at the museum, kind of stunned, but trying to focus on pulling together details for the upcoming Halloween Community event, or preparing for the next docent training session. By the time I drove back to Bowling Green, the lines at the gas stations were incredible. Prices for gas were over $4.75 per gallon. A few months later, the Ohio Attorney General nailed those bastards for jacking up the price so high. Gas prices had only been $1.25 per gallon.

That night, St. Aloysius Catholic Church offered a spontaneous prayer service. I went alone. What I saw must have been what folks did after Pearl Harbor, or after VE Day, or VJ Day. I'd never seen our country or my community respond with so much grief.

Near the end of the prayer service, we were invited to circle the altar in a sign of equality. We could offer prayers, or remain silent. Near the end, we said "The Lord's Prayer" and I lost it at:
"...and forgive us our trespasses - as we forgive those who trespass against us."

I thought of friends who lived in New York City. I wondered if they were OK. I thought of all the families who lost their daddy, mommy, brother, sister, son, daughter.... and who wouldn't find their bodies to say "good-bye."

I thought of friends who lived in Northern Ireland during the worst of The Troubles. I had made friends with a few musicians who lived in Belfast and Derry. I emailed them, asking them how they managed to live in a community when you never know if there's a bomb under the car in front of the butcher. Or if you might be mistaken for someone else and arrested, or executed....

We were safe. We considered ourselves untouchable.

I started thinking about so many things outside my little world. More importantly, I started listening to radical extremists. I thought that in these challenging times, we needed to face our fears; and these folks made money off fueling fear.

The other day, I heard a story on NPR that the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security are still not sharing information. I think I'm more afraid of how ego can destroy.

I'll attend some of the local commemoration events. I might even make it to church to pray. I won't pray for forgiveness. I will pray for compassion. Maybe if I can find a way to understand things, I'll be able to accept.

#86 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

Friday, September 9, 2011

Making the Switch

We're finally going to give the kids separate bedrooms. It's been eight and a half years. It's long overdue. For those who don't know our kids, Steve and I have boy/girl twins. They've spent most of their lives together; obviously starting at conception.

The first time they were separated was in the delivery room, two minutes apart. Bridget was the first one out. She probably was the one that started the early labor because she had grown tired of having her brother laying on top of her. Despite the enormous size of my belly, I'm sure I also had a few organs and vital parts of my own body in her way. Stephen would probably have enjoyed a few more weeks of utero - but as in many things, he got pulled into (or out of) the situation.

We kept them close to each other as they lay in one of the cribs, thinking that they would comfort each other. We used wedge pillows between them to keep them propped on their side, because the burrito wrapping of the receiving blankets made them roll like crazy. We also had to keep their apnea monitors untangled - or try to, at least. During the day, they hung out in separate basinets (that I made, BTW), bouncy seats or in the car seats - yet they were always side by side. When they got old enough to sit in the swings, they were side by side again. Same as hanging on separate activity blankets, or boppy pillows. One thing we did for early self-identification was place baby (plexiglass) mirrors near them. I think early on they may have thought there was more than each other...

They've been at the same day care, the same Pre-K, the same Kindergarten, and the same classrooms. They've shared the same schedule, and for the most part, the same after school activities.

When we moved into our current house, we let them pick their wall colors. Steve brought them to Home Depot on the first run and let them pick any color they wanted. They came home with 20 swatches. I took them back for another try with a limit to their choices: four walls, two colors each.

We gave them the biggest room to try to give them some individual space. We took the smaller room, with access to the greenhouse (one of my favorite spots in the house, even though it should be condemned). The smallest room became a guest room. Honestly, it is the room where we dump a lot of crap and then have to dig it out if guests stay. It's also the place where our cat finds sanctuary from the dog. There's one spot on the bed that has such a huge layer of her hair, I'm wondering if I'll be able to wash it out....

Bridget will take our current bedroom (although I still claim rights to access the greenhouse). Stephen will take the guest room. Steve and I will take the large bedroom. We may or may not include a work space there; that will depend on how much room we have after we arrange all the furniture.

Aside from sharing the room, the kids are still sleeping on toddler beds. Their feet are hanging off the end. Tomorrow night, they both sleep on grown up beds. I wonder if they will last through the night in their own rooms.

We can't afford to paint now. So Steve and I will enjoy our new bedroom with the color scheme of "Cinderella Blue", "Sleeping Beauty Pink", "Alien Green", and "Midnight Black." We have no matching bedroom sets - we're totally attic chic. But we do have a nice, eclectic collection of art. I sometimes drool at the well matched and tastefully decorated homes. In our reality, they are nice places to visit - but we are comfortable in our loving home.

I can already hear the conversation they are going to have with future roommates......
"You think you had it bad - my parents made me sleep in a baby bed until I was 8 years old."

Those who know our kids are probably wondering what took us so long. They seem so balanced.

(day after post, I remembered this photo taken when they were three years old. One night, for no reason, Stephen climbed into his sister's bed for a little snuggle. I wonder if that will happen their first night in separate rooms....

#85 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My friend, George and the MS150

This is my friend, George. Say "hi" to George. If you don't know who George is - you might think he's just another regular guy who's doing something good.

He's riding the MS 150 City to Shore fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis. That means, he's bicycling 150 miles from Cherry Hill to Ocean City, New Jersey.

There's an easy way to donate dollars to George. He's already met his personal goal - but I can tell you, there is no limit to the amount of money we can give the MS Society for all the work is does to support research & advocacy, and provide assistance to patients and their families. While George and his team may have met their goals, the MS Society is just over half way there. Want to know more about the ride?

If you linked over to that page, you might see that the ride itself is fabulously organized. I did this ride (before knees and then before I got heavily involved in the Celtic Classic). I can say that there is no greater feeling than cruising down the home stretch after crossing the bridge to Ocean City, NJ to a cheering crowd. (Lance Armstrong, eat your heart out!)

No wait, I lied. There is a greater feeling riding along with hundreds of other bicyclists who are all doing their part of support the National MS Society.

This is George's page. I know you want to give a little bit.
Give, even if you've given before.
Give because if you've never lived with MS, count your blessings.
Give because you know someone whose life was changed forever by this crappy disease.
Give because I asked nicely.

And if you give to George's page - write in the comments, "Because Silagh told me to" - and I'll give you a big, sloppy, public kiss at an occasion of your choice. I don't care if it embarrasses me or you. I'm ticked that I missed the LV Prom at Molly's last year. (oddly enough, organized by another man named George. Coincidence?) If there is another formal event to support MS, I promise to stuff myself back into the powder blue tuxedo.

Seriously - Professor George White is also known in the Lehigh University community a champion for education. He's the vision and muscle behind Lehigh's commitment to Broughal Middle School. He is one of the strongest, smartest, most compassionate men I know at Lehigh University. I often turn to him for career advise, which he generously gives; including the kick in the pants I need.

One last time....

Please give.

Thank you.

#84 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Leadership Lehigh Valley

I started a new program today: Leadership Lehigh Valley. It's a privilege to be in this program, as many others from my institution have been in previous classes. So here's the description from their website (which is about to be completely revamped)

Leadership Lehigh Valley is a private, non-sectarian, not-for-profit organization established in 1985 to provide for the community's increasing need for capable volunteer leaders. Through these community leadership programs, selected men and women acquire knowledge on the structure of the community, and explore its strengths, challenges, and resources. In addition, participants gain understanding of the role and operations of non-profit boards, and develop their personal leadership skills.
Leadership Lehigh Valley is one of the over 60 identified community leadership programs in Pennsylvania, and works in cooperation with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and Northampton Community College.
Leadership Lehigh Valley is a member of the Community Leadership Association, a worldwide network of over 1,000 programs in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.

We meet once a month in various locations around the Lehigh Valley. At each session, topics will most likely cover:

  • Community Trusteeship
  • Cultural Diversity in the Lehigh Valley
  • The Government Environment
  • Human Needs and Social Services
  • The Health Care Delivery System
  • Economic Development in the Lehigh Valley
  • The Educational System
  • Lehigh Valley Infrastructure
  • The Judicial System in the Lehigh Valley
  • Transition to Community Leadership
  • Media and Media Relations
  • Arts and Culture in the Lehigh Valley
Each seminar features presentations from community figures who are knowledgeable leaders and experts on the particular topic. The seminar format allows for open dialogue between participants and presenters. Most days include tours or observations relevant to the topic of discussion.

Learning Objectives:
Each seminar is designed to enhance or underscore specific leadership concepts and skills, such as:
Visioning, team building, collaboration, consensus building, ethical decision making, board functions, servant leadership, community trusteeship.

I'll be meeting a bunch of people from different sectors, with varying expertise. I know this will help me build a greater network which will benefit me and my institution in multiple, unpredictable ways.

This morning, I had a great conversation with a faculty member who helped advise me on some matters regarding big picture ideas that have been cooking for a couple of years. It was just the kick in the butt I was looking for. Tomorrow morning, I will review a few important issues with my previous boss, hoping to find a little clarity to where I may be going in the next year or two.

This year will be an amazing year for professional growth. I feel like a diamond in the rough.

*****#83 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Win some, lose some

Another long, crazy day of my wonderful life.

Started early because I crashed early the night before. I blamed the rain for not getting off my butt to run to the grocery store for milk. Instead of a morning run, I raced the shopping cart through the isles at Wegman's - picking up what we needed to get through the week.

No make-up, a quick ponytail, and grabbed some clothes that could pass for work - knowing I didn't have any high level meetings - and my bright orange Wellies.

Got through the store in record time. Home. Unload groceries. Make kids' lunches. Make them breakfast. Encourage husband to get in shower - he was a little groggy from rough night. Kids got into their gym clothes OK - excited to put on the new set which included longer, looser shorts and new (not yet shrunken from a year of washing them) T-shirts. Heck, don't we all get a little excited to wear casual clothes to work?

Got to the bus stop in plenty of time, knowing that it would probably be running late because of the rain. Why? because when it rains, parents drive their kids the half block to the bus stop and wait in their cars for the bus to arrive. When it does, it takes three times longer to shove the kids out of the car, freak out at getting a few rain drops on them, and push them up the bus stairs. Not us. We're sensible. We wait with umbrellas. And we wait. And wait. at 8:05, (20 minutes after the bus is supposed to be there) I give up and decide to drive them to school. We beat the bus there by 20 minutes.

I still get to work early. I see that the house guest is in the kitchen. I greet him in his towel - embarrassed by seeing him in his vulnerable state, I try to run past him as I avert my eyes. Turns out, he locked himself out of his room. Luckily, my key opens all doors of the building. All is well.

I sit at my desk to beging a crap load of projects after trying to determine which I start, which I can actually finish, and which ones are delusional aspirations of greatness. For the most part, the day goes very well.

Until I realized I forgot my cell phone. And my bike - which I needed at 4pm. Minor inconvenience. I'll just pick up the kids from school, drive home to let out the dog, grab a quick snack, they can grab some toys, and get back to campus before my next meeting. It'll cost me a chance to say thanks to the former Dean - but that's OK. My kids weren't too cooperative at the last reception. I'll avoid dragging them to those for a while.

I get to the 4:00pm meeting with a bunch of students to test out an investment. I have great hopes for this equipment - but this session revealed a whole lot more work needs to be done in order to see the vision realized. In trying not to show my anger to the students, I convert the situation into multiple learning opportunities for them and myself. I could be furious with the company that I feel duped me on a major purchase. I start to compose terse emails in my head. Turns out, we now have a big project. Which once successful, will have HUGE win for all involved.

Kids were safely tucked in my office, doing what they do. It took a little longer to transition them to go home. Steve as always, sweetly started dinner. I didn't have time to eat. Needed to drop them off and head straight to a 6:30pm meeting.

I was supposed to go to a lighting ceremony at SteelStacks. The 6:30 meeting kept going. I was supposed to go to a second event at WDIY (the public radio station) The 6:30 meeting kept going. It was important stuff. I'm glad I stuck it out. After two and a half hours, I had a hunger headache, and was starting to shiver because... oh right - I had to ride my bike in the rain to the 4:00 meeting on campus.

Finally got home at 9:30. Husband gave me a lingering hug. Kissed my kids. Went to the bathroom to wash my face.... SHIT - I never put make up on. And I can't believe I was going to meetings with my hair like that.

Tomorrow is another long day. I start the first class of Leadership Lehigh Valley in the afternoon and then run a three hour orchestra sectional at night. Babysitter is lined up to watch the kids.

I haven't run all week. I need to run tomorrow. The dog needs to run tomorrow. I've review tomorrow's schedule; got notes lined up for all meetings. Ready to write weekly message for newsletter. Dinner plan ready with instructions for babysitter (I like the ones who cook). Kids uniforms are clean and ironed. They have school lunch tomorrow.

and check.

And check again.

I think I can go to sleep without waking up in a panic. At least I was smart enough to lay out my clothes before I climbed into bed with my laptop.

... There is nothing that happened to me today that caused anyone pain or suffering. I'm doing good work. I am grateful for all I have. I am privileged. I am blessed.

#82of 90in90 for LUBlogTribe

Monday, September 5, 2011

Property of Cas

I had a T-shirt that said that in high school. It was one of the many gifts from my high school boyfriend. He was a year ahead of me. He was captain of the track team (sprinter), a musician (he played for his church and was in a band), an artist, and all around good student. His letter jacket had a ton of medals. He had gentle blue eyes; and spoke Polish. He liked to send me notes in school that would quote lyrics from Styx. He was a romantic. Get real, he was a trophy boyfriend.

When I met him my freshman year, I never thought he'd go for me. But somehow, we ended up together. Many girls in his class didn't like it. I knew that - yet I told myself I didn't care. Having him escort me to my locker was a total validation trip. I must have been somebody to have a boyfriend of that status.

I always had someone to dance the slow songs with me. I got to go to the formal dances a year early. I got to go on car dates. I had someone take care of me until my senior year. He was never mean to me. He was never disrespectful. And he put up with a lot of my teenage B.S.

Pretty sure my boyfriend was near sainthood by sticking with me during the drama of my dad's death; and my other "shadow" issues. I'm sure our relationship could be identified with any of the high school dramas on TV. Looking back, I still can't believe he stuck with me as long as he did. No one deserved that kind of ..... punishment.

We were still identified as a couple during his first year of college and my senior year. It caused a few confusing times because I knew I didn't want to be tied down - but I didn't know how to end a relationship that he seemed to be counting on. I still have the pre-engagement ring he gave me. He wouldn't take it back. I think he had some ideas of needing to be responsible for me. He parents were immigrants from Poland. Maybe there was some of the old world in his values.

So what ended it? College.

My freshmen year was the first time I was in an environment where NO ONE knew any of my relationships. I had no sibling shadows, no lingering pity, no boyfriend within two hours drive. This was in the days before text messages, facebook, email. We talked on the phone frequently - but I was ready to create a new identity.

I couldn't keep my trophy - and he couldn't keep me. I ended it badly. I know I hurt him. But we both know that was for the best.

He's now married to a beautiful woman and he has children who are now in college and high school. My mom likes to save newspaper clippings of their success. She's not being mean. I'm sure I'd be reading these stories if I had a subscription to my hometown newspaper.

I think about him from time to time. But never more than when I'm leading a group of new college students through the four-week seminars of Evolution; an orientation program that introduces students to core competencies of intellectual development, self identity and environmental awareness (local, social, global, etc.) I wonder if any of the students are trying to figure out who they are now; without lingering relationships.

I also think about him when I'm heading back to my hometown to visit my mom. I wonder if I'll bump into him at the grocery store, or pumping gas. I always hope it's on a day I have good hair.

I've thought of tracking him down. But I should him leave him alone; in peace. If ever there was a way to apologize and to thank him for looking out for me, I would. He taught me how to be gentle with my husband; to not take advantage of his generosity, sweetness or dedication.

Then there was the boy who broke my heart in college. I could tell him about the shoe being on the other foot. But that's a whole other blog post.

How I was able to snag TWO trophies in one life time is beyond me. I do realize how lucky I am.

(high school boyfriend's picture withheld out of respect - but I still have a few stashed away in my memory box)

#81 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe
(I warned my husband I was going to write this post.)

Working Holiday

At our institution, there are two kinds of classifications for staff: non-exempt and exempt. "Non-exempt is akin to "hourly wage."

In my opinion, non-exempt means being able to leave work at a pre-determined hour, and go away from work until a pre-determined hour. It means not having the expectation of reading one's email in between those predetermined hours. It means others accept the limitations of only so much can be done in a 40 hour work week. They are not encouraged to work overtime hours, unless their work duties require it - mostly, this pertains to the special category of "essential" staff. These are the heroes that come to campus no matter the weather conditions to make sure all paths and stairways are cleared of snow, and the students get fed. (I can't tell you how many times I've made coffee for the guys who arrive on campus at 4:00am...)

There are so many extremely dedicated colleagues who work in these hourly parameters. They support the institution in various ways; and while they are on campus - their professionalism and expertise is bar none.

The exempt staff position means:

Salaried employees who perform work that is defined as "exempt" from the overtime and minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.A full time exempt staff schedule requires a minimum of 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year or 2,080 hours per year.
The colleagues who are in this category are administrators of programs (both academic and student life) or even more demanding on their time: live in the dorms with the students.

It's up to every one of us in the "exempt" category to find parameters of our jobs in order to achieve a healthy work-life balance. The challenge we all face: how do we achieve that balance when we are passionate about our work? The ideas, the possibilities, the excitement of change, the energy from the students, the monumental responsibility of the privilege we have to be working in higher education... how do we make that all fit into minimum hours of the day/week/year.... life?

I realize that I make my own life. We all do. It only seems that once again, I'm struggling with accepting the fact that I am indeed NOT superhuman. But that I also expect my family to understand that my work is important to me.

I'm going to my office for a half day on a holiday. I won't get holiday pay for it. I don't really NEED to be there - but I must find quiet space in order for me to get some things planned. I should also check in our our building guest - he's been there for 6 days - I may have to do some cleaning......

....... dear self. I hope that some day soon, you will figure it out. Your kids and husband (and your dog) would like to see you in a happy state.

#80 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe.

OMG - 10 more to go!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why do I read work email on the weekend?

I let my blogging fall behind the last two days because of ONE work email. Just one. This email didn't piss me off the point of wanting to resign; but it was enough to send my head spinning into a thousands different feelings: marginalization, needing to prove my worth (AGAIN), and downright frustration that comes from being a somewhat autonomous person who needs to constantly insert herself into reporting structures outside my line of reports only so that WE can get something accomplished. (exhausted reading that sentence? - welcome to my world) And then I have to explain myself again.

Goodness gracious, I'm not trying to DO anyone's job but my own. And my job is pretty much a networker who makes connections all over campus and in the community. Why on earth do I need to keep begging people to let me do what I do really well? Because I'm different. I know that. I'm an academic mind in a non-traditional teaching position. I'm not faculty. I'm also not stupid. I know how to support my colleagues in other departments even though it's not my JOB to do that. I know how to read the strategic plan and craft articulation points around activities and people (faculty, staf, students, citizens) I know who are doing things that support the strategic plan.

I don't need rewards. My career is very maternal. In the spirit of the thankless job of motherhood, I have come to accept that what I do is the same. I used to want to be recognized for the risks I take ; only because in the beginning it took a lot of courage to change my direction; and I needed validation for leaving the performance field.

I don't need that anymore. It would just be so nice not to have to beg people to let me do what I do. Especially the people with whom I thought I'd already proven myself.

We all have boundary issues - I'm sure I'm challenging someone else's boundary. I'm seasoned enough to know the difference between asking forgiveness and permission. Why do I constantly need to ask permission with some folks? Enough already.

No, I haven't sent a email reply yet. I'll need a few more days to simmer down - or to rehearse what I want to say so that I don't loose my temper.

#79 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

First Fridays in Bethlehem

First Fridays of the month in South Bethlehem are a real joy for me. If I can wander through the central business district of South Bethlehem, I'm always going to see something great. Most assuredly, I'll have an interesting conversation. After work, many of the friends I've met either through work or social media are there. I love being ale to bump into people I know for a friendly chat - or an exchange of "business."

Usually, one person (or more) will see me and give me a great idea to pursue, or an issue that needs addressing. Sometimes the issue is related to something I do for work, most times it's something I do in my civic engagement. There's a fine line between both. I know that being involved in the community reflects well on what I do at the University - but only in that it's something that I need to do for me. Being involved in the community is more about relationships with people. Not a checklist of places I want to be seen by my boss.

This past Friday, I got us a mule. I'll probably write more about that as the project heats up, but on Friday - I struck a deal with the current possessor. I also hatted with a dear friend who shared his concerns about appropriate attribution of and event - in this small community, it's important to recognize the many volunteers who give thousands of hours of their time and expertise to making nice things available. If they're not getting paid - then need to be thanked. So we shared the concern; I'm hoping I can help support the recognition in some way.

I ended the evening with my friends Donald, his partner Earl at Molly's. After a nice start to the evening by hosting a tweetup on campus, I wanted to enjoy one nice whiskey. We were joined by a couple friend of theirs and we decided to grab a bite. We were the lingering older folk of the night.

There's a couple of shifts of First Fridays: 5-7 are the students who want to get to the stores to do some random shopping. 6-9 are the "older" citizens who come to support the stores, see the artists in the galleries (each First Friday has a bunch of new openings) or to listen to the live music scattered about the scene. After 9pm, the shops and galleries start to close, and folks head toward the restaurants.

We know that the rest of the night belongs to the younger generation; you know, LEGAL students and young professionals. We don't want to get in the way of the dating scene; mostly because we (I) remember with horror the kind of crap and drama that usually brings. We lived it already, and we don't need to live through it again, thanks. Some of us also need to get home to stop the babysitter time clock from getting unaffordable. Or perhaps to try to have a conversation with a spouse before he nods off to late night television.... (I was too late for this again)

After living in Bethlehem for six years, I can say that I have a great circle of friends and it keeps getting wider.

Could I do my "job" if I wasn't serving on various cultural arts group boards, volunteering for festivals or supporting the independent business as much as I can afford? Yes. Could I be as effective as my job if I didn't engage as much as I do in the community? Probably not. Can I tell the difference between what I do for work and what I do to feel like I'm a part of the community? Do I need to? Hell, no!

#78 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe