What I’m Seeing – June 15

When you have a friend kind enough to tell you there’s something stuck in your teeth, you are grateful.

When you have a friend who on a spontaneous lunch date listens to your whining about not going on your planned trip to Wisconsin, and wondering what to do with the time now available…. and before you can even take a breath for yet another droning….

“Get a hair cut.”

I’ve been growing out a pixie cut. First, as a lesson to my daughter that hair always grows back. She’s not buying it – loves her hair long enough to sit on. Then as a dare – how long can I let it grow before I’m completely disgusted. Mostly because pixie maintenance had to move off the budget.

Well, my friend saved me an impending episode of morning revulsion. I was happy to make an appointment with the stylist I like so much, I’ll follow her to any salon. She practices reflective listening, and has always managed to style my hair in to a flattering adaptation of what I say to what actually fits my face. And she doesn’t try to get me to color my hair. She actually styles the gray highlights as a face framing feature.

The stylist took this picture. I can see how the back of my head has more grays than I’ve seen before. I like how evenly they are coming in. But with hair color turning as I age, I shouldn’t let myself go without some grooming for so long. Today I went from scraggly mess, to a bob.

Guess this means tomorrow I drink water at the office out of a fancier glass.

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Note: Let me know if you’d like the name of my stylist. She’s amazing.


Booty Call – June 7

Booty Call – June 7

Three separate, but related tips:

  1. Many blogger professionals advise, “Make a catchy title.” So I hope this got your attention.
  2. I’ve also read de-clutter techniques on dealing with the things your kids bring home from school. Take a picture of it and then throw it away when they aren’t looking.
  3. It’s become a cultural norm to use social media to inform friends and family of things that happen in our lives so far away from those we love in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Nevada (and New York, and New Jersey… we have a big family).

The last two posts were about the kids’ 8th grade graduation and how grateful we are of their teachers and administrators. This post is to cover all of the tips above. And to toot their horn a wee bit. Why? Because these kids study hard and are fairly dedicated to their music, theatre, and dance programs.

Of course I yell at them to get off their phones and do their homework. And I nag about practicing. And pitching in on the chores. And being considerate of others. We have high expectations of them, because we know they are capable. And there is always room to grow and improve. We are trying to help them find a healthy balance between accountability and neurosis (jk). I don’t always engage in these battles. Sometimes, I just shut their bedroom doors. Of course we tell them we are proud of them. But we still want to encourage them to keep reaching.

True story: my daughter’s first quarter report card had all ‘A+’s and one ‘A’. I said, “What’s with the ‘A’?” Of course she new I was joking, but pointing out room for growth. Last quarter, her lowest score was a 97. I said, “Why not 100?”
“Because that teacher doesn’t give 100s”
“So why not a 99 then?”
(It’s become an inside joke between us.)

One of the challenges I have as a mother of two kids the same age is how to celebrate individual success without comparisons. Since the beginning, we avoided describing them in words that compared one to the other; words that end in -er. Shorter, Louder, Quieter, Faster… We stuck with, boy and girl, son and daughter. She does this, he does that. Everything came in twos. But we were mindful that they each had their own identity and their own story. Out of habit, I’ll sign papers in birth order. But that’s as far as it goes. When we introduce them, it’s “Our kids.” TWINS is something parents deal with; not something to push onto them. Although, they do refer to each other as “womb mates.”

When they were babies, and I had to carry them around, some smart person would typically comment, “You sure got your hands full.” These last two weeks of concerts and graduation ceremonies, they’ve brought home the booty – and yes, we sure have our hands full. And we couldn’t possibly be prouder of them.

Below are details of each award if anyone (Grandma) wants to take a closer look.

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Thanks for sharing our happiness.

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What I Saw – May 6

Ever have a day where two first time experiences happened that were totally opposite of each other? I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the day I just had.

All of it was spectacular.

This afternoon was my first concert with the Bel Canto Children’s Chorus. I got to hear all of the singers, meet the parents and delight in the sounds of a superb children’s choir. Musical choices were varied; but threaded together with a simple theme, “the joy of song.”

To hear this music in a beautiful church is to embrace the fleeting innocence of something so pure, it almost hurts.

I had just enough time to run home, check on the kids, and change my shoes before heading out to Steelstacks for the virginal show of “Air Sex.”

Yes, you read that right. Air. Sex. It was….. an experience I’ll never forget. If you want to know more about it, read the description on the Steelstacks website. If you want to know more about it, there’s NSFW video on the touring show’s site.

I was asked to be one of the judges. Always happy to support the ideas of the programmers at Steelstacks. They are risk takers; something that keeps pushing our little community into new experiences. We’re always better for it.

I met two new people tonight, Elektra and Amy. I shared an experience with a room full of strangers. We all laughed, we cheered, we forgot ourselves and our troubles. I hope I get to share more experiences like this.

Taking both experiences of today – I hope I get to have more days like this. I love this little town.

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What I’m Seeing/Teaching – May 3

When I was a kid, I was raised to address adults by a title. We didn’t have academics, doctors, or lawyers in the family. Most of the adults I knew were teachers or parents. Father –, Sister –, [Catholic school] Aunt –, Uncle –, Mr., Mrs. or Ms.

When I went to college, every teacher and faculty member was referred to by title and last name; except for those who wanted to be called by their first name. Freshmen quickly learned names of all the faculty just by living in the same building for 20 hours every day. Dean, Professor, Dr., Mrs., Ms. – first name familiarity was only by invitation. And it took me a while to get comfortable with it. Grad school, same thing. Even into my doctoral studies.

When I went home for a visit, I would seek out my first band teacher, Mr. Hoffman. He kindly never asked me to call him Gerry. Typing his first name now is awkward, even though he died a while ago. My mom’s best friend is Mrs. K. Their names will forever be what I called them as a child. Because I respect them.

When I married, I traditionally took my husband’s name. I ask my kids’ friends to call me “Mrs. White.” The only time I prefer my “Dr/Professor” title is when I’m working in an academic setting; especially on campus and for undergraduate students.

I would often see eyebrows raised when students referred to me in conversation outside of class, in front of other faculty as “professor” or “Dr. White.” I’ve actually had faculty members tell me that I shouldn’t refer to my doctorate title unless I was a tenure track professor. Like I was a “failure” for choosing the administrative career path. When faculty insist on not respecting my title, I have a few of my own pet titles for them. “Most Holy High Horse,” “Professor Poopyhead,” and “Doctor Duckface,” in my head, of course.

It would be great if I could get students to come to class dressed in business casual and not active wear. But most college campus cultures are so much more relaxed in dress code than decades ago. When the environment looks more relaxed, it’s easy to be confused about how we address each other. When a student addresses me by the familiar first name when I haven’t invited him/her to do so, I let them know verbally. In email, I’m asking them to practice formal writing style with me. I do it with respect to my expectations of decorum between professor and student.

When class is over, and I see them socially, I’ll invite them to call me “Silagh.” But not if I’m with my kids.

I feel it’s a duty as a scholar and a citizen to be clear with students about my preferences and why. When having conversations with other adults in front of students, I’ll call them by their professional or formal title. When children or students aren’t present, and we are familiar, first names are fine. Protocol matters in the world. It’s a sign of respect. See?

The honor of the title is due for the degrees earned. I’m not a bitch about it. But I do take responsibility to tell people my expectations.

When I have this conversation with my kids, they call me: DoctorProfessorMrs.Mom. Because there’s no one more humbling than your own children.


What I’m Seeing – April 22

Spent the day in Bethlehem’s south side. Today was the day for the Cops n Kids celebration and the Spring festival by many names… Spring on the Southside, Spring on 4th, What’s on 3rd, Chilifest, Opening day of festival season…. It was a cloudy and rainy day. The last time it rained on the festival was nine years ago. Crowds were a bit smaller, but the spirit was still full.

I checked in on some of my students in the early part of the festival. I renewed my annual membership at the Puerto Rican Society.

For the first time in ten years, I didn’t work the festival. I spent most of the time with my kids’ performances at the Cops n Kids. Festivals are where lots of people come together. It’s usually where I get reminded of how interconnected our community is. It’s great to reconnect with people I haven’t seen for years, or just saw a month ago.

While I was there, one of my students made it to the Cops n Kids area. After we talked a bit, Mayor Donchez walked by. He was generous with his time and very open to sharing some perspectives with the student. It’s wonderful to see him engaging with the community.

There were new chili judges this year. With a few returning to show the new guys the ropes, it was great to see the Chief of Police, Mark DiLuzio join the ranks, along with the editor of the Brown and White. Two other new judges were also media guys; but I will protect their names until they wish to be known. Not that it’s a serious break of confidentiality, but more of respect for the people who give up their time and stomachs to the cause.

These festivals don’t run without hundreds of volunteers committing to service. These festivals are successful when local businesses sponsor them, professionals contribute their expertise, and folks support and participate in them.

What I’m seeing are so many people who love the community. And give their time more out of joy than obligation.

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What I’m Seeing – April 18

There are moments when it takes an effort to remember what life felt like before I became a mom. I think I felt less busy. I’m not sure. I was in a near constant state of busyness. It was where I chose to feel normal.

Having kids requires a parent to define a new normal. Since I was too selfish to give up any of my busyness, adding the kids’ interests meant I had to accept more activities, errands, driving around, and lots of waiting for them to be done so I could get to MY stuff.

Sure they could walk home from school. But not with a harp. Or a cello. Or a drum set. I’m lucky to work close enough and with a flexible (and very understanding) organization that offers me a chance to give the kids opportunities.

When I get time with one of them while the other is in an activity, I learn some important news. Today I learned my son got a date to the 8th grade formal dance. He’s afraid he’s going to screw up slow dancing. He politely declined my offers to practice with him. I saw a sensitive, nervous, and very relieved young man. (Girls had better treat this guy well. He’ll be a gem to whomever takes his heart.)

I saw my daughter on stage, performing a piece of music in the school talent show. I helped her start her transcription of chords onto the harp. I showed her how chords can change with one note instead of moving triads. Like fish to water, she did the rest of her piece in her room. She practiced until she got blisters.

I thought she’d place higher in the competition with a more “harpy” sounding piece with no vocals. She ignored my opinion. This is what she wanted to do. She did it her way.

I saw an artist.

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What I’m Seeing – April 14

Today is Good Friday. Catholics are supposed to attend a long service which includes the Stations of the Cross. There was a passing moment today when I missed the tradition of attending the service and felt a homesickness. There was somewhere I needed to be. The feeling reminded me of a song I heard at Godfrey Daniels a long time ago.

Susan Werner’s Sunday Morning:


sunday morning
there is someplace that ‘m supposed to be
keeps returning
the feeling keeps coming over me
just like music
or like sunlight on a distant memory
sunday morning
sunday morning

my mother choosing what to wear
my father combs his jet black hair
we are their little prizes
in our mary janes and clip on ties
we hurry down the aisle
the neighbors smile because we’re
late again

on sunday morning
there is someplace …

daddy prays because the money’s tight
mama prays she’ll raise her children right
and my brother prays he’ll change
so he won’t feel so very strangely out of tune

and i went back the other day
closed my eyes and tried to pray
but a voice spoke loud and clear
“you ask too many questions, dear”
and i said, “you ask too few”
that’s why i still don’t know quite what to do

on sunday mornings …

I was at work. My husband texted me that he threw out his back making coffee. We ended up canceling our planned trip to Philadelphia Art Museum. I was looking forward to returning to the work of masters to honor creativity. It was where I’ve been wanting be for a while now. Instead….

I stayed a little longer at the office, then picked up the groceries for the holiday weekend. While I was making dinner, the kids were creating their own gallery in the front yard.

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It’s as if they craved looking at art, too.

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