Coming Home

The parenting rules blur when your son or daughter is in college. You may want to guide them, offer advice from your years of learning and experience and prevent them from making mistakes you may have made. Well, forget it. For the most part, your college-aged children want you to let them go.

We have one child – everything is one and done; we go through experiences once and move on to the next experience. Since September, I’ve learned that our son rarely wants to hear our advice. He’ll listen to our friends or just about anyone else when it comes to college-aged advice – but not us. After I got over my slightly hurt feelings along with the desire to impart my wisdom on our son, I’ve realized, he just wants us to LISTEN.

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Son & grandparents – Dec. 2012

He called us last week. We talked – or mostly HE talked for much of the 30-minutes. We asked questions showing our interest – he answered. In an earlier call, he went on about how the spring semester is so very different from his fall semester. In my had I was thinking, “Gees, didn’t I tell him that?” Of course I did; taking a look at his spring course selection, I knew he’d have a ton of reading and I told him so. This got more intense when he made the honors program. He did NOT want to hear that from me. He had to experience the challenges himself. No warning from mom was going to penetrate his defenses.

Which leads me to my final revelation. Weeks ago, our son chided us for making plans so far in advance: vacations, dinner reservations, parties, etc. He called last night – Tuesday – to say he was thinking about coming home this coming weekend and did we have any plans. That is HUGE for him. Normally, he’d call us 15 minutes before – or after he wanted to do something. I can clearly see that he is starting to manage his schedule and look forward.

So, when he calls, I listen – and take notes. That way I am forced to listen; I have a record of what he talked about and I can ask good, relevant questions that engage him in the conversation. I guess I’m growing up, too. And I can’t wait to see our son this weekend.

 

The Crack of the Bat

As the wind chill makes it feel like the 20s and below, it’s the glow of sunshine that reminds me of a sign of spring: pitchers Clearwater3and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida. The 2013 season rises anew with hopes of good health and lots of ‘Ws’ to cheer about.

Baseball is a fickle game; success comes down to the health of your best pitcher or slugger. Every team balances that hope against the odds. During the Phillies best year in decades, 2008, I went to spring training on vacation; my son got to be bat boy for a day; I got to announce the pre-game show and line up on Mother’s Day and then the amazing season that followed happened mainly because – nearly every key player was healthy. It was a dream come true. Boys and girls, including my Clearwater_20080325_47son,  grew up knowing the Phillies only as winners. It seems the struggles began after the last of the confetti was cleaned up from the World Series parade in 2008.

This year, the roster includes the key – but aging- players we’ve come to depend on: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz. Already, we know Chooch is out for 25 games for the Adderall suspension. That leaves the team depending on Eric Kratz.

We know there are questions surrounding the health of Howard, Utley and Roy Halladay’s shoulder – not to mention Michael Stutes and his shoulder. While the warmth of Clearwater can be therapeutic, all that can be a waste when it comes to playing baseball in  Philadelphia in April.

Almost like a marriage, I am a Phillies fan in good times and bad. Just like a marriage, you enjoy the game more when things are going your way – but it’s a joy to see the boys of summer back in action. Spring is coming here in the cold north – but summer begins today in Clearwater. Go Phils!

Thoughts for a Friend

Helping someone can be awkward. You don’t know what to say or do. You question your motives or whether you should get involved at all. Being a friend is about being there. Almost like a marriage: in sickness and in health; in good times and bad. That is how one should be with a true friend. It’s a difficult task.

My friend is in a dark place. Her life is shattered in many ways. The reasons are many and it happened over a very long time. I learned tonight that she is in need of professional help. She’s barely getting through a day. I can feel her pain. There is not much I can do – except just be there. I;ve been doing a lot of listening, but I realize her problems are so complex that I can;t begin to really be of any productive help. She feels alone and lost.

I know deep inside, she’ll find that place where she was long ago when she was a strong, vibrant person with love and laughter in her heart. She has lost that person. Perhaps with the right help, she’ll rediscover who she is and start anew.

I wish I could have helped her more a long time ago; but I did not know the trauma she was experiencing. I wonder if I was truly her friend because I did not know her pain. Some things are so deep, we do not share them even with the closest of friends. In sickness and health; in good times and bad. I will be there for her on the other side of her pain.

OK…So…

Speech and voice quality have always been important to me. There is an epidemic of sorts right now that is driving me bonkers: people begin their spoken sentences with “So…” or “OK, so…” Much like when the Gen-X or Gen-Y people used ‘like’ all the time (and still do), this affectation with ‘so’ is mind-boggling. The problem is, I find myself doing it;  I am aware and am actively trying to stop myself from saying ‘so’ when I start a sentence. What’s even more interesting is that when you Google “Starting a sentence with so” there are tens of millions of hits. MANY people have written about this. SO, I am not alone.

Here is part of the Macmillan Dictionary definition of ‘so:’

So can be used in the following ways:
as an adverb (followed by an adjective or another adverb): Why are you so angry this morning? ♦ It all happened so quickly. (with a verb): We were so looking forward to meeting your family. (followed by an auxiliary or modal verb and then its subject): ‘I’m hungry.’ ‘So am I.’ (followed by an adjective and ‘a’ or ‘an’ and a singular countable noun): The garden seemed small for so large a house.
as a conjunction (connecting two clauses): There weren’t enough beds, so I had to sleep on the floor.
as a way of starting a new sentence: So, when do you start your new job?
in the conjunction phrase so that: He was standing in the shadow so that I could not see his face clearly
And the 7th usage in the definition:

Spoken used for introducing a known fact before you make a comment to show that it does not matter:

Okay, so the guy made a few mistakes. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player.

Well, perhaps ‘OK, so…’ isn’t so bad after all. It’s not, ya know, like, ya know, as annoying as like, people saying ‘like’ all the time. Right?

Ya Got To Have Friends

Nearly 24 years ago, Doug and I met. We met through a group that formed out of the kindness and creativity of a man named Carl. That group of singles – then called Voorhees Single Professionals – was created long before the internet, Match.com or any other online dating service. Carl created the group out of a desire to connect single people in their 20’s and 30’s to a social life that was tough to find beyond the bar scene at the time. An earlier article in the Philadelphia Inquirer mentioned the beginning of the group in the fall of 1989.

Day10_20100817_27Tonight, more than  23 years later, Carl, his wife Ramona, Rick, Mary, Doug and I – who all met because of this group – had dinner together. I am exhausted. It was as though we had just left a group meeting and had planned weeks of events. We now are planning to get together for a boat ride – the six of us – on the Chesapeake – this coming summer. Ramona volunteered to start a Facebook page so we can begin to plan a September 28th ‘reunion’ of sorts. We want to revisit what Carl started so many years ago – a group of people who want to get together for social activities – a MEET market he proclaimed at the time – NOT a MEAT market – which was the big problem for singles.

The six of us met at our house for drinks and appetizers for about an hour. Our kitchen was filled with non-stop talk. Catching up; talking about our children – successes – failures; things on the horizon. When it came time to leave for our dinner reservation, we continued to talk. The car ride went by in a flash.

At the restaurant, we ordered and continued to catch up on each others’ lives. We talked about people who have passed away; who’ve divorced – but best of all, we reminisced about how each of us met. To remember those days as if they happened yesterday makes you feel as if everything that you’ve gone through – suffered through – survived – is even more meaningful.

What it all comes down to is – as the character Billy Crystal played in “City Slickers” said is ONE thing: if it were not for Carl and his one idea to put an ad in the local shopper’s guide and reserve the community hall in Voorhees on that September night in 1989 – none of us would have met. Our lives would be completely different.

Thank you Carl – forever; we love you. And we’ll plan that reunion for September 28, 2013.

Nemo Snowmageddon – Really?

Now that the national weather service has started to name storms outside of the hurricane season, storm-naming is really out of control. It’s not enough that this weekend storm is called Nemo – which conjures up images of the sweet orange clown fish in the Disney-Pixar film from 2003 – but the media/weather folks have gone ahead and added Snowmageddon to the mix.

Right after my workout astorm nemot the gym, I headed to the supermarket; NOT because I HAD to get bread and milk, but because I needed a few ingredients for a new recipe. I ended up stopping at three different stores to find the ingredients; that gave me a great overview of the people who were out at 9 this morning. There was the mom with her three year-old strapped in a stroller while she pushed the stroller and two weeks worth of groceries to her car; the elderly woman who was leisurely shopping for a bag of rice and a few apples; an elderly couple without a cart – walking back and forth across the front of the store trying to remember why they were there and what they were there to buy.

The interesting site was the deli counter. At BJ’s in Maple Shade it seemed there were just a few people wastormsnowndering around the store shopping and back at the deli counter THERE were the people who absolutely positively needed a pound of honey ham, two pounds of American and a quarter pound of salami. You know you can’t get through Nemo without your over-salted, fatty lunch meat. OK, I am a sucker for my favorite comfort food lunch: grilled cheese and tomato soup. I go the healthier route: 2% American cheese on Arnold’s Thin Rounds with either Progresso Reduced Sodium Tomato Soup or any other low salt tomato. I suppose the families who needed that lunch meat will be happy they can enjoy their favorite sandwich in the next couple of days.

I will go out on a limb here (this just in) and say that the Philadelphia and South Jersey region will be spared the brunt of this storm. That won’t stop the media from crawling all over the little bit of snow that we’ll get in these parts. I just hope none of the local TV stations make the ridiculous move of sending a local reporter into the mess that will hit Boston and the rest of New England. (Please – I hope that does not happen.)

I saw a TV news report on CBS that included frantic people trying to travel via train or plane today. There was a mom who was trying to travel home with her three small children. She looked so unbelievably stressed because she was having no luck finding transportation home. I hope she finds a hotel room, orders a pizza, rents a Disney movie and has a ball with her kids. Sometimes it’s just not worth getting excited or stressed. You can’t change the weather and you sure can’t control it; ride out the storm; enjoy your family and friends as you stay close to home and we’ll see you on the other side.

 

 

Save The Camden Children’s Garden

Camden’s reputation for being among the most violent city’s in the nation overshadows the many good organizations and people who work tirelessly to improve the poor and often overlooked city.

ChildGarden LogoIn the gray of winter, leaders of the Camden Children’s Garden have been notified that they will have to vacate the site adjacent to the Adventure Aquarium by March 31st. The Garden’s web site indicates ChildGarden4the site was to reopen full-time March 30th. The fight is underway to save The Children’s Garden and the program that has helped provide more than 2-million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for a city that has just one supermarket located a long bus-ride away for many residents.

Please read a message from a friend of mine – Mark Doorley – president of Camden’s Center for Environmental Transformation and give thought to the plight of The Camden Children’s Garden.

ChildGarden5This is an emergency call for action to support a sister non-profit in the city of Camden that is dedicated to environmental justice and food justice. Two weeks ago the Camden Children’s Garden (CCG) received a letter from the State of New Jersey asking that most of their six acre site be vacated by March 31st. Without even talking to the CCG’s staff, the State wants the organization to continue its work of supporting the many community gardens throughout the City. This will not be possible with what the State has in mind for the CCG. It will be reduced to a rather small greenhouse and some office space, losing its much larger greenhouse facility as well as the meeting spaces where workshops are conducted for Camden gardeners year round. Why does the State want to shut down this gem on the waterfront? To make way for a more “glitzy” destination spot, to join the Susquehanna Center and the Aquarium, making this a “destination” spot. This is an outgrowth of a tired economic development plan which claims that if you make “glitzy” destination places, you will attract more people to Camden and those people will spend money in Camden. The glaring flaw with this analysis is that the people come into Camden, closing their eyes til they get to their “glitzy” destination, and they spend their money at these destinations, and that money ends up, in the case of the Aquarium and the new development under discussion, in the pockets of an Alabama-based entertainment company.

The Camden Children’s Garden serves almost every school in Camden, through summer programs and support for school garden programs. Children from throughout the area visit the Camden Children’s Garden for their many activities. The 50,000 seedlings grown by the CCG have brought to harvest 2.1 million pounds of produce for the people of Camden. It is a place where the children of Camden, particularly, can learn about science and nutrition, in a safe and inviting place. In my opinion, this is the kind of “glitz” we want on our waterfront.

There is reason to believe that the State’s move will not stand up under judicial review. There are now over 6,000 people who have joined the Save the Camden Children’s Garden Facebook page, and legislators are working behind the scenes to resolve this problem.

How can we help?

1. Donate to a legal defense fund; information to make tax-deductible donations can be found at the following link: http://camdenchildrensgarden.wordpress.com/legal-fund/

2. Sign the petition to save the Children’s Garden, which can be found at the following link: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/558/352/791/save-the-camden-childrens-garden/

3. Come out on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 to support CCG. Attend a press conference at the Garden on Tuesday at 4 PM. It is very important that children who have visited and benefited from the CCG be present at this event. Following the press conference, we will be marching to City Hall to make a presentation and plea to save the Garden to City Council. At the press conference, there will be hot chocolate for children to enjoy! More information on this effort can be found at the following link: http://camdenchildrensgarden.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/press-release-state-eviction-statement-for-email-rev2-6-131.pdf.

4. Join the Facebook page of Save the Camden Children’s Garden and invite your friends to do the same.

Thank you.

Mark Doorley

President, Board of Trustees

The Center for Environmental Transformation

1729 Ferry Avenue, Camden, NJ 08104

(p) 609.605.3530

(e) president@cfet.org

 

 

Are You Engaged?

How much time do you spend on your computer? How much of that time is spent looking at web sites, looking for interesting news stories, gossip, other content? For ALL those stories, items, web sites, blogs, that you look at, are you responding in any way? Do you Tweet what you find? Are you posting this content on Facebook? Are you emailing the author?

contentMy unscientific answer is NO – to the last two questions. While you’ll see 22 people ‘liked’ your Facebook status but who cares – really? When it comes to companies, they are trying every way marketers can think of to create content and engage clients, customers and others to find them. Statistics available through Google Analytics, Facebook, a company website can (but not always) show specifics on the audience you are reaching.

The toughest question of all is, how can you turn those people who are stopping by your web site, Facebook business page and Twitter into paying customers? That is the million dollar question. Create good web design, Facebook page, engaging photos and solid writing – and you’ll see more customers. It will take time – months, maybe years – but a stick-to-it work ethic will bring results.

That Had To Hurt

That Had To Hurt

Everyone has different pain tolerance. Everyone has a different ‘ick’ factor-level. Yesterday, someone plucked off a strange-looking, long-legged bug from my pant leg. My ick-factor level was at maybe 2. My mother-in-law goes to the dentist for extensive work and doesn’t get numb. God bless her. I am white-knuckled at the site of a dental drill. 020513-Skiing-Lindsay-Vonn-DG-PI_20130205102303439_660_320

Today, world champion downhill skier Lindsey Vonn crashed during her first Super-G run at an event in Austria. These world-class athletes spend their lives training, re-training, suffering and healing. They are wired to perform. What’s amazing about this spectacular fall is that the woman is barely in the hospital and the writers are already saying she’ll return for the 2013-14 skiing season.

I fell down two steps while on vacation a couple of years ago and I thought my head was going to explode. I can’t even imagine the pain suffered in a spill like that. These world-class athletes are wired with adrenalin. They get high on the competition; the rush of the event and succeeding. However, there are sports psychologists who make (I’m sure) an excellent living listening and talking these athletes back to their competitive levels after a horrible injury. While many mount a successful comeback, so many do not. That must be crushing. But oh, the thrill and the joy they had during their successes. No pain – no gain. Heck, I could do without the pain.

 

 

Jinx

2012 came and went and I never had the need to go to the doctor. Other than regular checkups, I got through an entire year without so much as a sniffle. Last night, I mentioned – as I knocked on wood – that I have been so very lucky that I have not been sick.

Today, I was taking photos for a client on a property in Ocean County. As I was walking back to their office, I felt as though something got caught in my throat and I started coughing…and coughing…and coughing. Cups of water later, I still felt as though I had a cotton ball stuck in my throat. Now, my eyes feel funny and my throat is tight. Gees, why did I EVER say anything about being so darn healthy? I hope doses of hot tea, honey, chicken soup and lots of water will wash this thing away. Jinx!