The Sweet is Never as Sweet Without…

“Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour.” – Vanilla Skies Film, 2001.

I look back on this quote and see an amazing correlation to a truer definition of what role a Librarian is in light of this past 2018-2019 year.  I am proud to say I have been able to see a truer definition of what this occupation has meant to me from the individuals around me.  Some examples are in order for this claim to stand, so, shall we?

At the MLA and the DLA Conference this year in Cambridge, MD, Delaware’s DASL President-Elect co presented on what Makerspaces mean to the educational curriculum and how they extend learning.  Additionally, DASL officers met up with public librarians to demonstrate how a partnership of public librarians and school librarians change the community around them.=during a poster session.  It worked.  That one single day we worked from a poster session, we met individuals from ALL WALKS OF LIFE and learned so much about our positions through the lenses of so many other’s experiences.  We realized the bitter tastes we had to taste were made better with the sweet stories of accomplishments we made recreating the communities around us through dynamic libraries, both educational and public.  With DASL also contributing several auction items, as a DASL Officer, I was excited to also countless other unique and state-oriented auctions items, the sweetness of knowing when all of us in this professions stand up, a difference is made.

Legislative day also brought Kim Read, DASL president, to Senator Baumbach and Sturgeon to find new ways to remind administrators, politicians, educators, and paras that there is a direct link to the number of licensed teachers, the number of printed resources and ultimately test scores.  The visibility and presence of licensed school librarians is needed, essential, and pertinent. The energy of maintaining a professional library presence also remains as valuable as ever.

Spring 2019 showed me from a school library perspective, how I could show others that the  Library Media Center was more than a warehouse.  How could I make others realize this?  When our school star quarterback was diagnosed with kidney cancer, one of the first places the students gathered to discuss how they felt, what they wanted to express, and what they would do next, yes, it all occurred in the Media Center.  When his brother came in every morning just to put his head down and try to grab onto all that was happening, I realized, the Media Center is in fact a hub of activity and promise, if we let it be.  Turning the Library Media Center into the ultimate student literacy union, things happened.  The school found ways to fundraise and share how to from our library, began to organize festival and meetings together, and before long, I was able to recruit 4-5 students per period, finding the time after their work and studies to be behind the desk like me and help answer questions, phones, emails, and strategize.

Wait.  Students?  Working behind the desk?  Isn’t that the ultimate sacrilege?  Scratch that thought. In two short weeks, students that never realized what was possible in a Library Media Center realized how all could operate when motivated and excited about what they could find that they could not before.  Opportunity, responsibility, creativity, risk-taking.  Don’t believe me?  Put a phone in a student’s hands and ask them to make a call as a representative of our Library Media Center to get approval for a community literacy festival, and see a student who never realized what they could take from the library to the world outside of the library latch onto the reality.  Word caught on.  For the next few weeks, students came down and manned phones, emails, and ideas and spread those ideas out across the community and viewed the library of where creativity is born out of literacy.  They witnessed the library being used for instructing students that were deaf, students that were struggling with math and witnessed other students helping them, all from behind the desk and they began to see the value of the Library Media Center in a different light, and how they could also play a part.

Fast forward to May 21, 2019, Delaware Association for School Libraries end of year meeting.  We came full circle and recognized Jennifer Delgado from H.B. du Pont in Red Clay District as School Librarian/Media Specialist of the year, Dr. Edmond Gurdo & Mrs. Amy Hones from Bunker Hill Elementary School District in Appoquinimink School District as DASL Administrator Team of the Year.  We welcomed new DASL President Katelynn Scott, ushered in new Vice President, Patricia Brown, and Patricia Crilley as new secretary.  Speakers Annie Norman and Elizabeth Simmons raised awareness about the new public library and school library resolution Number 40, and reminded Delaware residents of the awesome new events occurring in Delaware for summer reading in public libraries.  

If you look above, this is only a small, tiny view of what has been achieved in school libraries NOT involving the searching and cataloging of books many view as the position of a librarian.  Instead, by fighting for larger numbers of certified librarians in every school, proving more money into more books into higher test scores is relevant, and tasting the bitter and experience the sweet, I find the experience is not enough.  These are small glimpses into stories of a year, what are yours?

Our stories initiated into actions change perceptions of what a Library Media Specialist can do when it comes to sparking innovation into students with instilling responsibility.  Letting students take over and realize how a library can truly be a catalyst and center for discovery and hub center for communicating with a community inside and outside of school walls, changes everything.  In order to continue advocating for the change we want to see, out stories and experiences need to be shared.  Then, and only then, will we be able to truly able to experience the sour, alongside the sweet.   Please join the Delaware Association of School Librarians Facebook group @ https://www.facebook.com/DelawareAssocSchoolLibrarians/ to make your stories of this year heard. Help change the fallacy of a Librarian as merely a caretaker to that of a Library Media Specialist that inspires change in everyone within literary distance. One capable of tasting the sour with the sweet.

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Redefine Everything As You Move Through it.

Prom.  Let me just say it – nothing – in every single detail is as you plan it. Even if that means one little detail.  Which serves as a larger metaphor for life, doesn’t it?  Starting in August (okay maybe a little earlier) of 2018, I realized the support and reliability of the Junior Officers helped make such an event happen, and happen so that a positive and memorable event would remain in everyone’s mind.  Starting with some amazing ideas from that 2018 starting point, Mr. Chase and Ms. Thompson were supportive and helpful from the very beginning, the WHS board supporting the ideas and paths that led to a Night of Royalty 2019.

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It would be easy to walk away with the event over and be able to say, “Whew, done.” Yet the services and individuals that enabled this night to occur have to be mentioned and I am not sure can be done in one post.  Adding to that, I was able to see how such a commitment can be bust or a success based on similar ways individuals handle how they interact with others throughout everyday life.  Yes, the similarities were there and were a reason for this night’s success.

It is one thing to decide on a theme (not an easy task, but only a beginning).  Once this was decided, the specifics to reinforce that theme an be daunting.  Yet, without a beat, without murmur, the contact, communication, and the strength of Christina Haynes and her family, her friends, her company Simply Elegant Linens & Designs represented everything you hope to see and experience.  Despite countless trials, hurdles, personal and professional challenges, this was the rock that sent a message to all attending – “When times gets tough, you get tougher and show what family and friends can do when called on in times of need.” Including the night of the event, to days, weeks, aprom2nd months leading to the event, Ms. Haynes never held back when she needed to ask something, suggest something, or add something to make the event the best possible night. Despite so many aspects in her life with various events AND obstacles and hardships thrown her way, you were able to see through the window that shows the real Ms. Haynes from beginning to end of this event. It was a testimony to her commitment to those around her.

There is no service or group I would want to do any event except for this service.  Patience, communication, trust, and reliability were just a few expectations that are guaranteed when you plan with her company of planners, designers, and make it happen group.  Lights, centerpieces, the throne for King and Queen with amazing tapestry, and MUCH MORE – there are no words to be able to describe the depth of success Simply Elegant Linens & Designs provided.  The ability to survive life with all the tumultuous turns that are thrown in the path, cannot be better exhibited than as through how the Haynes family continued to show through the prom, as well as how they remain able to come through when needed, this prom was a perfect example of how individuals learn to carry on through the toughest of times.  

There are many many more testimonies and post excerpts that follow giving credit to this year’s Wooodbridge High School Prom, but it is fitting to stop right here tonight and allow the success of the prom to this first group – share its own post before moving on to more.  Thank you Simply Elegant Linens & Designs for telling your story of beauty, strength, expression, creativity, family, and communication through your beautiful work at May 4, 2019’s WHS Prom.  Prom could take on involving the community we live in to a higher degree rather than just simply being an event – something I hope that continues into the future with many more things we do.  Royal truly took on a new definition in the course of a year in seeing so many amazing people step up and work together as a community.

 

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EndGame.

Bittersweet. That is the word of the week that applies in so many ways to so many aspects of life.  As I sat taking in the Avengers Endgame, I realized how bittersweet the fight is for what you believe in.  I also realized and accepted there is so much complacency in the world, those individuals that hold themselves responsible for the steps that need to be taken to make the world, and not just themselves better, stand out- mainly because those individuals that are selfless and are willing to walk through their own fire for someone else – very few of those individuals exist anymore.

The struggle you witness in the last Avenger’s film seems so incredibly real and I felt this was because as of late we have seen the metaphor all around us – with so much fight evident in politics, neighboring countries and the simple fight against decline we continually see every day – fears of children safety in schools, hatred against each other based on race, beliefs, ethnicity, the disappearance towards extinction of so many species, evidence of materialism in a world that accumulates more and more waste rather than gratitude, just to name a few. 

The fight against cancer we have found in our own Woodbridge community with Troy Haynes has certainly come as a shock.  The bravery that Troy has shown and the fight he demonstrates what someone with integrity and character, and humbleness can do to positively influence those around us and ultimately a whole community – is nothing short of heroic. it is what we all need to inspire us to be better.

It was not too long ago this school year when a quiet, 9th grade student and Cross Country runner named Shania – started to make a habit of coming into the library everyday and announced one day the fight her Dad had taken up for his recovery against cancer that had turned up in his system. I watched over the next few months as she helplessly watched from the sidelines and  would have easily switched roles with her Dad any moment.  Yet her quiet resolve and family, made her stand her ground and she found a way to become stronger for it.  It is a game changer, just as in football, Cross Country, and life itself when one individual on a field, course, or community maintains the courage in the face of fear and brings up everyone around them – when they themselves would seem they have the largest fight on their hands. Selflessness I continually see is the biggest factor I have seen that empowers those around you, I have seen this in Shania and certainly Troy Haynes.

When I was lucky enough to see fellow teacher Tom Smith nominated as the Ralph H. Moore Community Provider Teacher of the Year tonight, along with Mr. Chad Jones as Emergency Provider of the Year and Corporal John Cullen as Police Officer of the Year, I again saw the light that individuals still hold among so many that do not.  Those few individuals are the game changers in a school, I fire house, and in the line of fire in the community for a reason.   I remember overhearing countless conversations of concern over students that Mr. Tom Smith would initiate on his own, after school hours, trying to assess how to reach students from other languages, countries, and broken homes to get them what they need.  Those snippets of conversations I witnessed brought home how lucky Woodbridge High was to have someone willing to take on these concerns when so much already exists to overwhelm educators already.  

In celebrating Teacher’s Recognition Week this week, and being served so many great dishes from our administration as appreciation, I found myself receiving some phenomenal messages from students left on my desk that kept blowing my mind in how much students appreciated basic actions I see as minimally expected.  I realized the struggle everyday is eased by those fighters I find in the form of students, colleagues, and community members that put aside their disappointments and frustrations everyday to make the day that much better for the whole, for those around them and not necessarily themselves.

When I look back and remember Mr. Custead who pushed me responsibility-wise in the Butler Intermediate School when I worked as a library aide (little did I realize I would find myself in the Library arena so much later in life), Mr. Neutrelle, one of the strictest English teachers I had in Intermediate who never accepted less than the best, Ms. Semes who I had never forgotten how patient she was despite my constant into-everything-around-me approach in elementary school, the countless professors such as Dr. McCarren, Boggs, Permenter, to name a few who helped shape my future when I found myself wandering among my future prospects in college at Slippery Rock University, Dr. DiMarco who introduced me to a whole new world of International multicultural literature, and the countless individuals I could go on that took the time to remind me why the fight is so important.  The fight within us allows for change, for optimism, and for a better world.  It is often so easy to get used to those around us who have a loudspeaker of criticism without any energy to move in a direction to truly impact change – a mouthpiece and nothing else.  However,

just as I took in the beauty of the fight and struggle I witnessed on screen in the Avengers Endgame, I realized, how many real heroes we have around us that take the fight to communities around us to encourage action to make that change a reality.  That is all the difference in the world that is evident in less and less quantities, the willingness to sacrifice one’s own hurt for the sake of bringing others up around us – and for that reason the heroes I have seen these past months in Troy, Shania, educators and those that sacrificed their time for me as a former student – no screen, no film series, no trilogy could ever capture those priceless gifts that these very people in our community show every single day.  Truly the EndGame is how we each take those gifts given to us  and pass them on to others to do the same and change everything as we know it. That 5k, that shirt, that wrist band, that walk, that run, that fund, that festival, that event, that IDEA to change something or create something to improve that around us?  Priceless.

 

 

 

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New but Familiar Firsts In New York

New York, quite by accident, became the home of Repentino. when it came to the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, a place where Repentino. received guidance, direction, and a start.  A start does not come without realization that starts are because of those are willing to sacrifice their time, their energy, and their creativity to make dreams to become a reality for those that from that first day, an idea that today has become a reality. A reality thanks to the encouragement, mind, and creativity of the above beliefs.

In 2019, I found myself for the first time on a trek to New York, for the first time, without physically staffs as we represented a transition and a new beginning in a new location with some amazing ideas and support , building anew.  Yet, the connections still remained in New York. Bessy, the 2017-2018 Editor in Chief from Mexico City would meet me in New York to celebrate the tradition of presenting, accepting, and representing what Repentino. and now becoming The Riff to lead a tradition of creativity, art, and expression.

I have to admit the trek to New Jersey, driving this time and not flying, and finding my way to New York via metro – so totally different than has happened the last seven years and yet, while doing so alone I realized this is a start of what we did over 9 years ago, an idea that sparked a staff that started with single numbers and involved worlds apart.

As I walked from New Jersey to the metro that would connect me to New York, I came out into a metro that I honestly had to check if I was – – where was I?  Coming out of New Jersey via the PATH train, into New York via The World Trade Center Metro,  and it is unlike anything I have ever seen in the 11+ years I have been traveling to New York.  The White ribs, the amazing brilliance of white that hits you coming out of the Path Station from New Jersey.  I felt I had to double, triple check where I was when I first came out.  After realizing I was in the middle of one of the most amazing metros I had ever seen , I recovered, and made my way outside past the World Trade Center Memorial.  Another first.

newyorkmemorialPassing by the World Trade Center Memorial at night is something one cannot possibly describe, but has to experience.  All the names inscribed glow – as well as the sound of water that constantly stirs memory.  To see this Memorial at night, is worth every moment and must be done to appreciate the memory of so much in a whole new way.  Walking past the Firefighter Memorial, Newyork3the interviews we made on the first trip in New York day back in 2011, we had no idea where it would/could lead.  As I found my way to Penn Station, and ultimately to Jazz on the Park, every moment, of the past 10+ years in New York, every sound, every experience, every step forward remained with me. 

NewYorkimage1Hitting the Duke Ellington Gourmet Deli – one of the best corner experiences EVER brought back all that New York can be and is. There is so much under the radar that can bring new meaning.  The fries and hamburger Newyork2 that can be found is so diverse at this deli, and amazing, and open 24 hours, it is just a beginning of what can be obtained in New York.  I felt New York and this 2019 visit would do the same.  Night 1 of New York, 2019, begins the adventure where so much history has occurred up to this point

 

 

 

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The Facebook of Librarianship…

The Social Aspects of Information Science.”  These six words snapped several times in front of me.  I never realized how STUCK individuals (myself included) and become on defining what we see as a THING – for example, defining what we see as a library, what we see is involved with being a librarian, easy to define in our own minds, harder to represent and truly define in real life.

This weekend I drove to Philadelphia as I was afraid the new movie, The Public, would not come near to my area, so I, without hesitation, booked a 1:00 PM appointment to drive to The Ritz Landmark Theatre at the Bourse to catch the 1:00.  Maybe considered excessive and ritzextreme, but in the trailer I saw – although be it a public library, the same reality that the chain of events that happen in the community if its own within a public library, closely resembled the routines and life that occurs every day in a school library –

Bryant coming in and grabbing the closest new item on the counter an asking what new graphic novels are in and checking out the same ones for the 20th time, Shania ALWAYS checking to see what extra Craisins there are and being always able to be counted on every morning and soaking up my bad and good mood I find myself in, laughing on the latest inside jokes, Giovanny coming in every other morning to voice his latest frustration with the latest game he stayed up until who knows when playing-

It is so easy to dismiss a library as that quiet place, that solitary place when those inside know most of the time it is ANYTHING but. Mostly everyone, unless having experienced the social routines of what a library connects to outside of those walls, the world, will never fully realize the niche libraries fill for the world. Sounds dramatic but it is just the plain truth.  As I participated in this last course on line with Dr. Burnett and the students in my Florida State online class, it was amazing to review the intersections that the library has made through print, taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, folksonomies, and despite threats and closings of so many school and public libraries, how extremely valiant a fight it is to preserve this arena of information that is constantly changing and to represent and provided access to so many unique individuals on a daily basis, a challenge few truly will be aware of.

I knew I was not only infatuated with Emilio Estevez’s production and directed movie The Public, Alec Baldwin’s role and how they used real individuals that faced homelessness, addiction, and so much more on a daily basis, and also found a refuge in the library; the wealthiest and well to do individual as well, he decided to focus on this topic.  HE saw, realized, and portrayed the sociology of the library to society as a whole.  There was SO SO much that came out of The Public, but none of it can be put into words as much as seeing it and finding at least one person you can identify with from the film, because you will be able to. 

I realized the library is not just this location for grabbing a book when needed, I realized this when I was a tyke in elementary school the way I was invited into a space that made me  feel, more me.  For a hundred different reasons and ways.  Estevez confronts the countless attempts and actions of deeming libraries and librarians, both school and public, as not needed in every single moment of this film. I read a review that said it felt as if he was “stuffing this message down the throats of the viewers.” I laughed.  How many times have individuals tagged the library as one specific definition, tagged a librarian as one specific type of individual, over and over and over…touche.

I finally realizes as well how incredibly connected we are as humans due to some specific areas in our community, the library being one of them.  Kudos to individuals like Dr. Burnett, Emilo Estevez, our WHS Administrator of the year 2018-2019 Kelley Thompson, Principal Kent Chase, Woodbridge Board and administrators, and fellow DASL officers past and present that role model how relevant, how 21st Century, how social, how HUMAN libraries are to our world today. Was it worth the trip to Philadelphia and back to see The Public?  ABSOLUTELY. Way to go Emilio Estevez for picking topics that influence every person and the social community we find ourselves in, and in this case, the library!

 

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Dear Spokane Washington,

As I read the decision to remove school librarians at the end of this year in your great town, thanks to a colleague of DASL (Delaware Association of School Libraries) – I had a mini scenario carry out in my head – 

“What a grand school!  High ceilings, high windows, this will be great for renovation? “This is a fairly new school, no renovations needed.”

“Well that idea of grand design and elaborate spacing is going by the wayside.  Functional!  That is the wave of new thought. It is great we have schools, but is that really functional? Are we getting the most out of our building by it not being used in the evening?  All this space just here and not being used.  If we moved people into these areas, made this now school into town houses, this hall divided up into a residence wing, these columns an entry wing to a grand staircase, much more use- who has time for sitting down, taking up space and time when money is the issue, and money not being earned is money wasted.  Remove any unnecessary needs, and revenue ! Revenue for technology, revenue from automation, revenue from busy transactions, faster, better, modern that is what we need to promote the best area ever – attractions and modernity!””

Now this sounds awfully eccentric, yes.  However, in graduating high school in 1990 (YES, 1990) and graduating with my FIRST college degree in 1998, then in 2003, then in 2014, and soon to be again around 2023, I could get 20 degrees and it would not mean anything different when it comes to what school libraries and librarians, when allowed and hired for a school hub positions, ACTUALLY do.  To rid any school of the potential of the following – it is similar to simply saying – Education?  Yeah, it is a necessary evil, nice to have but not essential.  Yes, there is plenty of that argument still there, but EDUCATION and being educated comes in a variety of forms, being vocational in nature, being a contractor, finishing a technical degree and applying that expertise to the community you are from, driving all over the country after obtaining a DSL license, some do go onto college, some individuals raise a farm that provides food for the communities we make up – you get the idea.  

In the same line of discussion, a Library Media Specialist, a librarian today – configures labs, networks of people and technology, archives histories of communities, arranges and organizes local and international events, creates a haven for students of ALL interests and talents an d encourages that diversity, does not shy away from the use of technology but also does not ignore the vocational aspects of what makes a country a country as well.  If a school believes in the students of their school, then positions that allow every student to be the center of their school – which librarians are trained for, bring up the success of the school, AS A WHOLE.  

Since 1998 and my involvement with the education field, I have seen school gut entire libraries because books were in the way of additional space, only to find the cost of databases and online was MUCH more expensive than the cost of technology alone.  It boggles my mind individuals think one direction is more powerful than a blended combination, I mean, didn’t those individual go to college to learn that?  As a certified librarian I did.

I have seen individuals take out a whole library and provide a stage and small hall, sometimes even an old closet and state this is the library.  Really?  That is the statement you want to send to the staff and students, and families of your school, while trying to raise state test scores but pushing literacy of all kinds (agricultural, technological, vocational into a closet?)

I have seen colleagues inspired of how to combine resources for every teacher in the school and provide those resources to help reduce the amount of standard matching, unit planning, and objective and form submitting to HALF, only to find they are the only librarian in their DISTRICT.  What incentive is there to be an Information Specialist when the Science of Information is deemed not as valuable as a space anymore but more valuable as a study hall with no direction?

How many times a day would be influential if students had someone/somewhere that they could go to and simply talk to about how their day is going, alongside the comments needed on a paper due later in the day, alongside being able to find a reads that will help focus or unwind and simply feel better about all the things needed done in a single day (not to mention the hardships most students have just to GET to school for the day?)

It is difficult to understand that the old regime and idea of what a librarian did and what a modern-day librarian does is the Tucker of the car industry compared to the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid or Tesla of today. Not even recognizable, but to bring out the best in your school – you need to be able to RECOGNIZE the assets you could have versus deciding literacy in all its forms is not valuable in another form.  Letting the students and educators decide what lets them get along further in the day is where the path and voices of success are.  Keeping and encouraging empowering librarians to make that change and pushing individuals that like to retain the stereotype of sitting quietly behind a desk, occasionally coming out from behind the desk when necessary, expecting every individual that comes through the door of the library to be a ghost of volume, almost transparent as to their presence, PLLLLLease.  Get real.  Seriously. GET REAL.

The REAL DEAL is that Library Media Specialists, also known as librarians are SPECIALISTS that actually go to college to take the world, combine it with MEDIA, and roll up your and their sleeves, and make things happen with jumping right in.  Period.  Anyone that is not willing to do that in the AM, in the PM, on the weekends, and to jump into the middle and help make things happen, (warning, it is noisy) well, I would have a hard time saying they are a Specialist at all. Maybe a Specialist in padding their retirement path, but that is not the place or occupation to do so, because yes, being a Library Media Specialist should make you EXHAUSTED if you are doing it correctly and maybe occasionally, you do get to distribute a vast knowledge of genres, authors, and plots.  That is a slow day.  So Spokane, I would advise you to rethink your decision about what type of education you want to represent in your schools and if you truly want an educational program that enhances the future for all your students, this is not the step you want to take.  Ask any of the Library Media Specialists in any of the 50 states, any  supervisor that understands what the Science of Information field provides for hungry populations of students, every single day.  If you want to make education the center of your educational model, then you will understand removing School Librarians is taking ten steps backwards in one move.  

I also finally realize not many individuals “get” the day in a school library that knows the heartbeat of their school.  Heck, I am not even sure I do after years of working in this field, because it changes every day.  But I do know, the colleagues, instructors, students, professors, parents, and communities CONTINUE to teach me that in order for me to be appreciated by them, I need to show them how I appreciate what they do everyday.  Period.  I hope you decide the same for your community when it comes to the role your school librarians will play for your great city and state.

 

 

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Pittsburgh? Are you a Steeler’s Fan?

Blogging ends up taking on its own life.  Now that is a funny statement. When I started this blog as a means to document, like a diary, a permanent record of myself changing countries and swapping experiences as an individual, I really thought that was all that was going to happen.

What I have come to terms with was, if I was willing to put the time in long enough with blogging, (it has been at least eight years, EIGHT YEARS?!  WHAT?!…) the posting blogs I have found out over the last few is NOT about simply making time to post the post. As strange as this sounds, despite wanting to jump on the blog as soon as possible about an event, that only occurs sometimes.  More often than not, I am realizing the full expression to capture, as closely as possible the meaning of an event is not relying on jumping on the blog as soon after an event occurs, you would think that was the case.

Nope.

Sometimes literally, I have to walk away, just as the analogy of Archimedes and the Eurkea moment ,

but literally, I often have to go to that blog post when something clicks and has let the events that occurred “marinate” (my new term as of late), and unconsciously something comes out of the blue and says, “Now, write it!”  I would like to think this happens with authors when they start a book and finish it, but it certainly happens when it comes to blogging, when the time is right, it is ready to set it down.  I WANT to write about say, when I travelled to New York for the first time without a class this year and met my former Repentino. (now The Riff) Editor in Chief there BUT, the REASON I haven’t yet is something has not worked itself out yet in my mind or I have not come across an additional connection I want to add to that post yet, all this unconsciously.  Pretty amazing how that works – but I bear witness it does.  Do Bessy!  – the whole experience is still marinating, I promise – but I hope the next post is the start of that amazing journey to New York and the countless gifts I encountered while there (and YES, of course part of that was the Shamrock Shake I did so long without in MEXICO!)

Yet today- a very unexpected event- call it – I am not sure WHAT to call it but –

Last Saturday, as I have done in the past, I comb the powerful site Freecycle for items, that yes, unbelievingly are FREE – a society and network of items that takes care of not wasting what someone else can’t use a totally FREECYCLE it to help others – I LOVE THIS idea.  As I was doing so, I found some items that can enhance the needs of having people stay at my house as guests, so on the road I went.  I spent most of the morning back and forth between Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Milford, and midafternoon, I received a message from someone on Freecycle that really had a great looking couch.  I thought, yes, this will be a great addition for someone and it looks too nice to pass up.

I found myself headed to Millsboro, and meeting someone names Sidney. It was fast, it had to be picked up the same day, and I thought sure, it looks to be worth it.

Little did I know.

I noticed the golf course development I was weaving into was just lined with trees, it truly looked like the scene from The Rainman, in LA and seeing tree after tree, it was beautiful and serene.  I arrive and there is Sidney and his wife warm, welcoming, and just generally great people.   I told him about being out all day finding items for those families that need and can use them, and he asked while I made room in the passenger seat, Are you a Steelers fan?  

When someone asks me that, I forget that I have the large sticker in my window and flash back to the memories I had of being escorted as a tyke to Mr. Rooney’s wife’s funeral, the countless moments at my grandparents in Etna watching the games on black and white television, and just my memories of Pittsburgh growing up. It is hard to put this into words for someone, including the amazing opportunity Slippery Rock University as a student gave me to intern with The Pittsburgh Pirates in 1997 despite so many rocky, tumultuous events that were occurring in the backdrop.

As I was bringing this up- I kid you not, Sidney brought out this framed picture, – and yes these are original aerial pictures before the Stadium was torn down.  I backed up a bit because he was GIVING this to me.  Without even previously knowing what Pittsburgh meant to me.  WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?  Seriously, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

IMG_9678  We laughed at a joke of how he and his wife came to acquire this huge matted collection of Three Rivers Stadium ( I am keeping this between us) and though as I drove away with the Mountaineer packed up again for the day –

What are the chances?

 

 

 

 

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Food for Thought

Anyone that is anyone that knows me, especially in high school, knew that ordering two extra value meals, with dessert was simply a normality.  I always had an appetite that was voracious.  I would be at conferences and trips abroad and I would always be the individual that would ask for everyone’s plates, and coupled with my metabolism, there was always a fire in the furnace.  

Honestly, I do not know where I started to notice food as a medium for learning, education, communication, and an open door to so many other rooms of learning – but I always seem to find that as part of my education and residence in Mexico. 

When I started writing a blog to record the changes, the moments that would be one of, if not the single most meaningful change for my in moving to Mexico, I did not want to miss the opportunity to record and notate these changes as they occurred. I found in Mexico I could be simply walking home and literally discovering by passing at least 10 new food establishments EVERY DAY.  All these various establishments were truly works of art – from the layout of the buildings, the care taken into the display of food, to the simple meaning you could see in the preparation, food was and is on a totally different level and revered in Mexico – it was truly life-changing couple with the emphasis on a slower pace to life, meeting and greeting each other, every day spent with a large expectation of enjoying each other’s company as large part of any daily routine.

Every Friday I resolved to visit a new establishment, and find out as much as I possibly could about the food served there. A habit began to form for the next seven years. My Blog section titled “Restaurants as a Second Home” took off – I wandered into restaurants recommended, discovered, and found all over Mexico, sometimes in the states when I visited on conference trips and commented on the food, the staff, sometimes the idea behind the restaurant and I found – something deeper. The restaurants in various locations represented so much about my home in Mexico in so many ways – they represented the neighborhoods, the culture, the beliefs, so much- and a connection to who individuals are emerged.  It was a totally different take on what food can represent in the middle of – well anywhere. The beauty I tried to capture in the images I took representing the food establishments and the meals I tried to pair with the beauty of the culture they represented.

Fast forward to Delaware, where I now have begun to inch towards the same project, only at the link titled “D is for Delaware.”  I realized when individuals do not know an area, I wanted them to become more familiar.  This was the original purpose of my blog when I started it when I left for Mexico originally.  Through my experiences, I fell in love with a Mexico that was entrenched in so much culture and open-mindedness that I had not been exposed to in the states, I was enthralled and sucked in, and knew it had to be portrayed – the reality of Mexico versus the depiction from afar.  The realization that there is so much that is similar to us versus the disparity, it intrigued me.  It connected me to so many individuals that helped bring me to a place where I was more me, and that is powerful.  The success of our Repentino. magazine as a representative of the arts in so many areas relied on connections that many do not realize are there.

There is a major culture shock when you leave a place where you find yourself in so many ways (food, culture, and more) and yet, I was lucky to retain so many connections to the process of rediscovering my talents and the need for time to do activities such as THIS – blogging and being able to reflect and realize the importance of events around me, and retain a portion of my day for that – thanks to what I discovered through food in Mexico. 

On the way home from The Addams Family production – opening night – (yes go if you have not been this is the LAST WEEKEND and it is HYSTERICAL)  – I am vocally conversing with a very close friend and confidante who helped supervise Repentino. through some challenging years, she in South Korea now – starting with  – “I want to tell you something.” and event though the internet does not have a voice, isn’t it funny how the internet can have a tone when certain lines are typed, despite there, just being type?a In this case it did, and then through the next hour our conversation affirmed what I had been thinking when I returned to the states, how each of us here are connected to so many others in other countries in some form or fashion.

This sounds relatively simple as a statement, but takes on a totally different reality when you start over from scratch in a new country, with the whole starting over such as earning a wage, learning a neighborhood, learning each other as a neighborhood, and a willingness to leave all behind to be taken care of by others that start out as strangers to you.  That is a whole different situation.  To not regress, an hour later, a young lady I had worked alongside with and relied on for so much, for years in a school I worked out, I was still rediscovering her battle with her fear of food.  That is right, her fear of food.  And I NEVER realized the image of herself was so fraught with fallacy. I thought I knew her in and out just because we knew so much about each other – but yet, there are fears and anxieties that affect us no matter where we are from, where we are headed, no matter where we are going that affect us mentally, socially, physically, and geographically.  I feel at times myself for sure, but we do not do enough do enough to use those tools of personal connections to help each other heal – and when we do, new doors open.  

What we were doing as a literary are magazine staff to try to amplify events and culture around us using social media, she was using to amplify the obstacles that were in front of her using social media to overcome her food disorder while also helping others across the world to realize the same.  This was powerful to me.  Moreso than going on to become an individual who works in their own field of graphic design, she was mapping her own success and providing a structure for others to do the same, no matter where in the world they might be.

Transition to the podcast The Splendid Table, not even a day or so after this conversation with Sam, (and having received the awesome contribution of writing that was yet another form of expression of her hurdling this disorder she was working through) – and food was the feature but the things said about food here, powerful.  I loved the stereotype in this session that is placed on when you hear the words “Israel” versus “Palestine” and how easy it is to allow media, biased media at that, to define area and distort the reality of an area.  Hence, how food can take that distortion away and provide  a path of reality and realizations.  Yasmin Khan is a powerful voice in her book Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen to break barriers of what is usually political and controversial and sharing the power that food has to heal, and help encourage thought, and not hatred.

If you pay close enough attention, Sam works through an episode of her vlog doing two things, using not only social media but food as a method of communicating a common place to meet halfway and the power of storytelling and how it can effect social change.  As I looked back on my life and the fortune I have had due to the relationships I have been blessed, the way to affect change is to “…connect people to their hearts…” as this podcast states and it was true.  We tried to do and I felt succeeded with the mission and where we took individuals in Mexico through Repentino..  Sam is doing this now with using vlogs to reportray herself – for herself but also for others and a willingness to initiate healing for those having a food disorder which results to how they perceive Pamela Morenothemselves.  I have seen Pamela Moreno do the same exact thing – seeing a young lady petrified of speaking in front of others but then a resurgence of self using vlogs, her continuance in movies on the screen, I continue to be incredibly proud of how individuals I began to know as students have found positive ways to use technology to challenge stereotypes and fears, creating paths for healing.  This blog (hysterical, instead of Hamas, talking about Humus) help redirect the political and negative aspects always heard about geographical areas and anxieties and redirect those very conversations into something much more healthy.

“We are not clowns in a circus for you to come, and watch and make research notes about and make your name for writing down our suffering.”

I love this quote from a woman in Yasmin Khan‘s book connecting to how stories that go nowhere opposed to messages and actions that can change results after stories are passed on to others and stroke to the heart and pass the media frenzy of just simply causing controversy.  Otherwise it is as just as noted above, to just travel around, and not truly “…be aware of what is around you (Yasmin Khan).

RESILIENCE.

I am so excited and motivated and PROUD of the resilience that Sam, Cora, and Pamela have gone onto use technology to heal and to help others heal.  In the process they are also using media to send positive messages breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions of pepperdine graphicculture as depicted through mainstream media.  Take for example Monica Avila, who has turned Pepperdine University by storm who does infographics (see her name under the infographic here? – ) and her articles here  and am I proud that she launched herself from Repentino. to Pepperdine?  I love seeing her ability impact so many, and show what is possible.  Priceless.

Cora Laudato, having obstacle after obstacle placed in her way after relocating to the states, and being the spectacular artist I knewcoraful art.PNG she was in Mexico and the states, has always MACOused vlogs and her video process to connect with art and show what art can be in an artistic sense and technical/functional sense – has taken art and turned it into a conversation on individual’s lives. She had her share of personal questioning and fears and yep, here she is paving a path of success based on artistic foundations.

Sam is now in her own whirlwind of involvement with her own activity on her Yonseipublication of Yonsei, Annals, and overall, we are seeing young women that had major fears and doubts of whether a role on a literary magazine would have any impact on them later and life, and redefining the country the come from, who they are as individuals, women, and leaders, and what they can be in the future.  I am pretty sure many individuals such as Monica, Pamela,  Cora and Sam got through the motions and life without thinking what is possible for positive change.  However, these young ladies have gone on to be the women that are making a positive change in their own lives as well as the world around them.  I think there is no greater contribution. The connections of vlogs, blogs, podcasts, food, countries, politics, food anxieties, and so much more we come into contact with every day are connections that can overlap and teach us about ourselves, as well as others, more than we know, if we allow ourselves, and others to make those connections for us to be healthier individuals. Definite food for thought that will go much longer than one single sit down meal.

When I attended the CSPA Conference at Columbia University, the realization of success in yet another student named Bessy would come fore front. Stay tuned – that post episode is right on the horizon!

 

 

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Forums for Futures

It would be pretty easy to just let some pretty outstanding moments slip by, and yet, the whole purpose of this blog was to be able to capture some of the most amazing moments that often defy explanation.  I am about eight posts behind so hang on – these are necessary.

Last Saturday, Soroptimist International hosted the 2019 Youth Forum: 2019 Title: Behaviors and Choices: Thinking Beyond the Moment. I honestly was not even aware this was a THING, I had heard about it in March and thought, that might be kind of cool considering some students in our school that had risen to the top of their individual forum 4groups like FFA, BPA, and threw this idea out to several.  By random chance, I was able to get two young ladies, Alyssa and Nina, 9th and 11th grade to turn in their permission slips and there we were, 8:00AM ish at Trinity Logisitics in Seaford and I honestly had NO IDEA what was going to happen.  I did know this was a non-debate format but beyond that I knew little except for the possibility I thought these two young ladies from Woodbridge had based on the talents they possessed.

As we were in the upper office meeting room at Trinity, we began to see some pretty influential members of the community and I was getting a little nervous not knowing how to best prepare the two representatives I brought from Woodbridge. From directors of the Public Librarforum 1y in Seaford, to the Chief of Police, to Supervisors at the Morning Star Publications, a lot of community leaders were here to help moderate and judge a great topic of discussion for today’s youth and currently a hot topic in the media every day. One thing I have to summarize after seeing this occur – with the students not being aware of the topics or questions asked ahead of time, I was more proud of them for giving up an early morning Saturday to yes, compete for a potential cash prize for their participation but also, they way they conducted themselves gave me hope for the future.  Nina pounced on every single question to the first and would come back to the questions with a follow-up if she felt it was necessary.  Alyssa was willing to be there surrounded by people obviously well practiced in public speaking, and yet still jumped in the middle of the foray and held her own constantly presenting how to discuss a view opposite of what everyone else had voiced.  This takes extreme guts to jump into a group of 14 other students and just part the water so to speak to get your point across and be heard.  AND ALL THESE STUDENTS TOGETHER, ON A SATURDAY, WILLING TO PUT THEIR BEST EFFORT FORTH – on issues pertinent today – more people need to see events like this happening in our community – I was like YEAH!

I learned much just from hearing from students from all the varying school districts, and seeing their approaches.  forum2.jpgThe top place finisher had handouts on the general topics that were brought up based on the introductory themes, and that was definitely, first place impressive being able to hand out percentages and tie to questions no one knew exactly yet.  Second and third did well too, but, call me bias, and it is okay, I was impressed with how our ladies threw themselves into a forum of topics that have everything with today’s generations and be able to provide analogies of how these topics have influenced them.  One specific question Nina responded to inquiring about how she consider who has influenced her much, and she pointed out alongside her parent Mr. Shelton, who is her BPA and instructor as Woodbridge High. I had to tell him this, but it made me feel so honored to see educators also do play a role in how individuals can make individual and personal gains in areas of their lives.  I thought, “How crazy proud would he be?” and I was crazy proud of her for point of fact stating this and giving Mr. Shelton credit for so many of the accomplishments she has achieved over this past school year.  I also admired Alyssa in a differing answer mentioning how much her family/parents have influenced her, and realized that she did not hesitate in the least in answering those questions, and as these forum 5young ladies went along, they did get bolder, more confident, and strategic in their responses. 

I was proud these ladies never wavered to approach something such as this forum that was unknown to them, and jumping right into the middle and holding their own.  The sacrifice they made on this first of “I can’t remember” Saturdays was noted and said volumes about what they were willing to sacrifice if they believed in themselves and an event itself.  Sure, money was a possibility but you saw after a while in their concern and care with the topics – that was an aside compared to the effort they put in. Not to mention after this event, Alyssa would go on to support a Junior/Sophomore mulch fundraiser AND a Lions Club Spaghetti Dinner and not getting home until 9:00PM at night, leaving that morning from her home around 7:30 AM.  That was certainly not in the plan book and yet she went crazy lengths to support so many other “not on the agenda items” in the absence of others.

Educators of all areas certainly do put in their share of hours and then some, and I thought about  the fact that sometimes, the moments that fall outside those hours seem to be reflected even more in letting you see the growth of students and how the react and perform outside the classroom.  This particular event certainly did that and reflected outforum 3 the potential that every student can have outside the classroom when ideas, strategies, and lessons are applied to the real world outside of a form school setting.  I felt that these two young ladies applied so much that was not in a planned lesson in one day, you couldn’t help see how bright their future would be – that is a true education at work thanks to the support of organizations like Trinity Logisitics, Soroptimist of Seaford, parents, peers, and yes, educators.  It certainly takes a community to show the extra possibilities that exist outside of what many consider an education. You will not want to see how food for therapy has been taken on to connect with fears about food for so many teens.  Another story of how young students that are inspired by conflicts that seem larger than they are, make amazing success stories out of those obstacles.  You will LOVE and maybe even cry when you see the inner strength that a story about a young lady that took food as her worst fear and turned in into her connection to others to become a healthier self.  Stay tuned!

 

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The Families of Families – The Addams Family…

There are Methods to the madness.  Take for example, YES! It is Poetry month and there is such a smattering pf poetry in this production, could it be by chance?  I do not think so…

First, I love unexpected – I LOVE the perverse and the unexpected.  I LOVED the Addams Family theme song, LOVED the Addams Family original series, loved every single quirky character that came across the screen with the Addams Family.

addams family

I have to also say having the privilege of seeing so many students in a progression of so many roles, actually helped emphasize the awesome opposite roles I witnessed on this first night of The Addams Family at Woodbridge High. Instead of jumping right into listing every character by name and the specific things that stood out to me, I am putting that on the backburner and urging you, if you know any students at WHS, then go see The Addams Family – because it will show you an opposite side personality of the person you see everyday in school – LOVE LOVE LOVE.  

I realized this opening night showed me that sometimes the opposites help you see the normality that actually exists in all of that.  Not sure that makes any sense at all, but it is so so true.  The truths about relationships, full disclosure, that life is about celebrating the dark as well as the light, being able to see something opposite of what you are used to seeing, to realize what you are familiar with.  It all sounds goofy, but not at all, and seeing The Addams Family brings it all home. I love the fact too that these students were not born to see the original and yet – their on stage performances helped portray the very opposites and similarities that The Addams Family represented. 

On the way home, literally, I was hearing a cherished student’s voice from Korea as we went back and forth talking thanks to the miracle of technology, and discussing her adventures into making Utube videos that have her recover from fears I never knew she had when we were alongside each other in Mexico, I did in fact see the last few years of my life, flash in front of me, but not due to any impending disaster (thank goodness). Her personal hurdles and confronting them and wanting others to relate, connect and  overcome. 

I marveled at living a life in small town Seaford, escaping to a country and city as large as Mexico City, and the life I never would have dreamed of living among some of the highest populations in the world, and returning to a small town design and seeing a performance among students I did not even know three years ago, so much that was so unknown to my just three years ago, and at the same time relishing the ability to see the contrasts on these students’ roles based on seeing their roles just a year ago, and knowing I am seeing them change in front of my eyes.  

You can realize so much if you are given the chance to see differences in the common which is what we are so used to seeing- The Addams Family cast helps bring that home with some awesome scores throughout the musical, some great interpretations of the various numbers – and the super fact and witty remarks that some don’t grab due to the pace of the musical, and it all works.  It all works great as being a quirky, totally different yet, deep  down, dead on target messages.  Every single character has that something that will make you remember long after the initial performance.  Isn’t that what we all need out of life as well?

There is much The Addam’s Family brings to light, through revealing the dark – and doing it so very well.

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