“Brake”ing into the past…over Spring Break…or Brake?

Taking a break (no pun intended) from my weekly blog, I did have his urge off and on to try and recall all the specific and required events I experienced from the end of March to the present day – yet the break has been well deserved and chocked full of details that even for me, an avid bigger, seem to be so overwhelming, you have to ask – “Where do I start?!”

Monday, March 26th marked the day before I would head off to The National Writing Project to represent ASF on capitol hill, in showing connections to education across two country borders, as well as advocating for the technology we use in DE to connect classrooms across the world.  I was able to learn way was the legislation going on in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and how I would speak to legislators in lobbying that would help create future ties to what kinds of decisions are being made on education currently.  I had never lobbied before, and felt the the three legislators (Representative Carney, Senator Coons, and Senator Carper) from Delaware, would be interested in the projects that Mrs. Dixie were involve din that tied education  to Delaware, and community service itself.    I also hoped as I began to learn more and more about organizing and creating projects that created widespread influence as a Media Specialist and Librarian, the advocacy skills to lobby would be beneficial to stay in contact with people that will invest in the future of eduction.

I had started to research the background of these three legislators a few days before, and had this on my mind, when the morning of Monday, March 26th presented a weird twist.  I came in as usual, we began to organize the collections of fines and patrons, and poem, before you knew it, we had a request to head to the lower school to “help out.”  Moct and I headed to the lower school, and began to clear the top shelves of all books that would need sifted through and organized through, yet the job itself seemed a little light for Moct and I to both handle…and I wondered…but shrugged that off as, “Well, they wanted a good and fast job done is all!” – soooo…

…we continued to work through the shelf clearing job, and then found ourselves done within a few minutes and headed back to the Upper School.  In my mind I pretty much thought  – I did not think I did that much to help?  We arrived back at the Upper School Library, and within a few minutes were asked to join a meeting upstairs, and at this point I was really confused….REALLY…I had tried my best to stay on top of all announced meetings, and how did I let this one slip by?  When I walked upstairs into the upper Library, I saw rows and rows of people, TONS, waiting, SURPRISE.  No freaking way.  Way.  Everyone had gathered to surprise Moct and myself for our birthday, completely.  I was stunned.  Literally.  I mean this truly and honestly, I never have had a surprise birthday celebration, EVER, (or that I can remember at the age of 40) and when I saw the NUMBER of people, as well as the AMOUNT of food that was on the table, ohmygosh.  Elaine Fong had repeatedly organized, collected, and distributed information on a continual basis, as well as made a spread of food, along with others as well, that was worthy of a KING.  Chocolate covered strawberries, cake that was HUGE – on and on and on….DELICIOUS.  The best part was the great company I was in for my 40th birthday.  I carried the cards with me on the flight and kept staring at them – but the cards were signed by so many people, and overall, it might have been, I really think it WAS, the best birthday of all.  I was speechless the rest of the day and still worked through my mind the amount of time it took to reorganize, plan, and put together such a celebration, and I was just, in shock way after this occurred.  I thought I had escaped this type of event, and was quite content with myself, but realized, how cunning and creative everyone around me was.  Have I ever had a Monday quite like this?  NO WAY and I probably never will.  I am embarrassed to say thank you as that pales to the way I felt inside thanks to everyone that participated in making this such an incredible event for Moct and myself.  WOW.

This evening before I would leave was a special one, as it was filled with the special events of the dress rehearsal of The American School Foundation‘s  650 seat Espinosa Yglesias Fine Arts Building.  WOW!  There were so many highlights, I do not know where to begin  – from the anthem, to the bell ringing, to the singing (WOW!) to the orchestra pieces, to the Shakespeare reading, to the chair collapsing incident, oh YES – ask Helen or Alex how graceful I was when the chair collapsed from under me, of all PLACES, I am still laughing on that one!  The night was magical well into the evening.  The magical feel of the place was easy to feel from walking into the lobby, and everyone, EVERYONE, did a magnificent job of representing  

Finishing the next day was difficult as I headed out into the dark at the hour of 5:30 AM, arrived at the airport via metro, and kept thinking how lucky I was to be among a staff of educators as ASF that thought so much of me, I still could not get that celebration of smiles out of my head.  Amazing.  Somewhere in this euphoria of memory I realized i had my Mexican phone with me, but not my U.S. phone!  🙂   I thought, this will be an interesting turn of events!

I lazed my way into the MEX airport, later than I normally would, and found I just had about a 15 minute way before boarding.  Upon boarding, I found the trip to be rather quick, just over 2 hours, and headed into Miami.  I was amazed at the wetlands I saw below me coming into the Miami International Airport.

I can’t recall having a stop where I had to check my baggage out and back in at a different area when switching flights, so I had a little anxiety, yet, figured, it will all work out.  As I waited in the customs lines – I realized, 30 minutes, went to 20 minutes, down to 10 minutes before I boarded, and realized as I changed lanes to a line that was for just U.S. Passport holders, I was not going to make this flight.  I of course panicked quietly, and as I passed through the customs, I was asked by the officer, “Where are you headed to?”  Washington D.C.  “Where are you from?” – Mexico living and working, but formerly from Delaware.  “Itty bitty Delaware?”  Yes, as I laughed, he was amazed that I came all the way from Delaware, 🙂  I smiled and appreciated the chance to show what Delaware can do  🙂

I learned that I would be catching the next available flight – and literally, within  an hour, American Airlines had found me another flight and I would arrive at 8:00 PM instead of the scheduled time of 4:59 PM.  I was excited and appreciated how quickly I had been rerouted.  Thinks could have been MUCH much worse!

As I arrived in Reagan National Airport, I realized this was one of the only airports I had ever seen that provided wireless internet!  No other airports had done this, I LOVED this.  I was able to find out I had not updated my Firefox, and without that, I could not connect.  Note to self, UPDATE FIREFOX as a back up!

As I appreciated, the metro ran right through DC Reagan, and I was able to take it straight to Takoma Park.  I double checked with a passenger there that the double circles always met the ability to transfer to another line, (I tried this is Mexico and this did not work so well!)  – and I marveled at the contrast between the metro of D.C and Mexico, (number of people quiet, smoothness sometimes, etc) – I was excited to actually be near my cousins!  Had a year pass by so quickly?  Really?

Arriving at Takoma Park Station, I walked the mile to my cousins, loving every minute of the walk.  Along the way I noticed two things, one – the smell of the flowers as I passed, and two- the smell of the air – I did not think I noticed but the air was so clean! It was intoxicating yes, and I was amazed at how warm it was!  🙂

Surprising my cousins at the door, (as I did not have my U.S. phone!) – I was just amazed I was in D.C with them!  🙂  We chatted alot, and then  literally died into their waterbed that first night, excited about the ability that I had to ready for my visits with the legislators, as well as being in DE, seeing my students from PAVE, and my friends from PA, Rachelle, Rachelle’s mom, Morgan, Mackenzie, and Madison, and just that I was going to have the best March ever seeing everyone as I slipped into sleepdom…

Wednesday morning was refreshing to know I did not have to be anywhere until 5:00 PM, or was it 4:00?  The time difference between Mexico and D.C has not escaped me, and I found it 4:15 before I knew it and realized I had to get on ball with getting there, the Hyatt on Capitol Hill.  I thought I had an hour!  I ran around, gathering my ties, shoes, all together, and we are off.  I made it to the Hyatt on Capitol Hill around 5:15 – D.C. time! – and this informational meeting allowed us to meet with individuals who let us in on the going on’s with Capitol Hill, the Senate, the House of representatives, to give us the backdrop off activities and interests occurring that will affect our lobbying.  I was excited as this was precursor to the actual visits we would be making tomorrow.

After an informational evening of preparing more, meeting up with representatives from the NWP in Delaware, I headed back home to get ready for the early start used on our schedule.

Thursday came and went so fast – I was up and ready to roll!  I arrived about 30 minutes early just due to nervous energy, and redid myself for the intros before we went out and hit the legislative offices.  Running into him the night before too, Paul Oh, who is extremely involved in the National Writing Project, he put my mind at ease of what was to come.  We were privileged enough to meet in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where we listed to the Senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran, who in 1999, initially had supported The National Writing Project.  His devotion to a National Project, as well as a program that reaches local branches, and now extends to international areas! – was inspiring and just the thing we needed before heading off!

We first headed to the office of Senator Carney, and I took my picture outside his office!  🙂  We met as a trio, and complemented each other in supporting how The National Writing Project supports National, local, and international endeavors of education and writing.  Competing for funds is difficult since the government had taken away funding and now organizations literally have to compete for funds.  I was able to leave with the senator information that showed the work students in Mexico had been creating and sharing with students in Delaware, to gather the skills needed for grant writing.  Below, you can see the items we shared with each of the legislators:

Letter,   grant proposals,    ASF representation,    the credentials I have acquired since becoming a National Writing Project Fellow

We did this two more consecutive times for legislators Coons and Carper  , and I thought, can you imagine the states that have 6 legislators?  🙂  I used to think lobbying would be the ideal job, then realized, wow, to do this and convince others that a certain program or bill is important and go from office to office, after one day I was EXHAUSTED!  🙂   Instead of heading to the reception, I was so exhausted I instead headed to my cousins.  Lois informed me we had a concert to go to, and wow, I needed to get some rest after this day of legislation talks, actually lobbying, and seeing the insides of so many cool Senate and House of Representative scenes.  

HAPA.  Know what it means?  Try Half in Hawaiian!  Knowing nothing about this group, I had no expectations, but when we arrived and saw the shingled barn where the concert would be, I knew this was gong to be memorable  🙂  I instantly had thoughts of Cool Dog Studios!  Only Wolf Trap Barn is UNREAL!  I was amazed at the Hawaiian outfits and the crowd that started to gather.  When I looked at the upcoming artists like Dan Navarro, Jim Brickman, and more, I knew this was going to be a great show!

Seeing Hawaiian, Polynesian, European, and folk music all combined was just, well, it was beyond description.  You will have to listen to believe.  Remembering a former member of their group, Charles, this concert was a brilliant memorial to what seemed to be an unforgettable former member of their group, and are this concert even more special!  I think their albums are worth the getting!

After that evening, it started to settle in that I was actually among family, and actually not on Mexico!  LOL.  I missed Mexico, but was missing so many other things I never had had the chance to do as being so busy with grading papers and so many other things when I had been here, it was as if I was trudging with two identities!

Friday was a great day in returning to the last day of the National Writing Project to express the highlights and hear other success stories, and not all success stories of lobbying and meeting the legislators we met the day before.  We were also able to attend workshops, and I attended this one:

Working with Young People in Partnership with Museums and Libraries

This workshop will provide an opportunity to think together about ways to create relationships with museums and libraries around youth programming as a strategy for sustaining the work of your local site. Conversation will include a look at the 21st Century Learning Labs project, time to hear from sites where library and museum work is already happening, and time to brainstorm specific strategies for your site.

The best thing I did was work with someone from New York (and we shared our experiences from New York!) and we began to network relationships that can connect students in New York to students in Mexico.  This was exciting as we helped plan events for each other’s National Writing Project!  Using a process called Responsive Design, we found the creation process exhilarating, creative, and FRESH to standard approaches of researching ideas that created connections to the community.

Sounds technical, but in working with the instructor Kate Blinn from the National Writing Project and Ralph Cordova from the Piasa Bluffs Writing Project, the ideas we came up with were AWESOME!  I took materials back to show and share, and definitely post on my upcoming Library blog for my Mansfield University Masters.

Returning at the end of the day, I did see the place to pick up my 10 mile Cherry Blossom run packet!  This was at the National Building Museum, and I promptly went in and was amazed at the HUNDREDS of people participating!  (I mean hundreds!) Picked up my packet, as it started to rain, and headed back.  I snagged my bag with a commemorative Cherry Blossom Festival poster, shirt, and entry running info.  ohmygosh!  Tomorrow would be the Cherry Blossom Festival!  🙂  This is a great time to transition into a new post, and let readers FINALLY see a new post in my blog before starting a new one, so stay tuned for the details of my 10 mile run, The Cherry Blossom Festival, and many twists and turns to my visit!  🙂


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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