Thursday, March 26, 2015

March of Faith


March a long time ago. Mom and me. Motherhood is eternal as is being someone's child.
Ahh, March, my birth month, the season of unpredictability and change. Is there no surprise that the Ides of March (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ides_of_March)  happened in March? The planet seems to turn fully towards rebirth and yet has such a difficult time releasing what has been. In the Northeastern part of the United States, the wind gathers, blusters, and roars. The skies alternate from the beautiful blue of deep winter to the laden grey of Spring. Snow, rain, cold, warm — there is no telling what the day or night will hold.

Caesar's downfall, the Ides of March. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brutus_Eid_Mar.jpg
This winter has been especially tough with no Spring thaw in February only deep, deep cold. My father who in his later years avidly contributed to the discussion on climate change, was at first against the idea. Not against the idea that it was occurring, as he saw it as a repeating pattern on this earth, but more that we might be the cause of this occurrence. However, always the scientist Dad studied it from all angles and he predicted that climate change would not mean warmth in the Northeast but could instead mean a sudden deep freeze. All worth watching as March seems to lend itself to soothsaying and naysaying…as it did for Caesar.

From the Museum of Science in Boston looking out this month. Boston experienced a record snow sea on this year,.
Likewise this March has been deeply troubling. There has been much unpredictability and change in my professional life—some wonderful, some worrying….what once was a clear directive, has new influences, and is now uncertain much like a weather vain in a storm, twisting and turning north south west east. In some ways I think perhaps I need to be as decisive as Mary Poppins who knew that certain winds were those to come in on and those to depart because her job was now complete.

And like her, I find in those I hold dearest the same change impacting their personal lives. As I write, too many of those who are precious to me are fighting for their lives, or for those they love. And too many of those who are elderly have taken the Ides of March as their departure and transcendence to whatever is next. This is a generation whose wisdom is greatly needed. All in all the extreme cold has taken its toll and March has been the definitive point.
One of my heroes: my mother's father and me.
Tonight where does that leave me? Perhaps what March truly is is a season of waiting, of waiting for what comes next, a time of reflection and preparation. A great time to read, to contemplate, to play games. For me I've been playing Animal Crossing and doing puzzles. Puzzles as in cardboard with richly detailed imagery that confounds and points the way. Simply, finding missing pieces and patterns is a great metaphor and a tonic to troubling realities. Putting that same thoughtfulness, practiced around a table at night into my daily life can be reassuring—there is a final picture that with patience will be revealed. And then today, in my email the following words of wisdom arrived.
Trust Is Essential 
What part does risk taking play on the road to mastery? Risk taking is essential on that road. The aliveness of aliveness is trust. The religious word is faith, but that means courageous trust, trust in life, cosmic courage. But that courage implies taking risks. To live is to take risks. It’s absolutely central.
—Br. David Steindl-Rast,  Mastery—Interviews With Thirty Remarkable People by Joan Evelyn Ames
March is the month of risk. It separates us from what we had grown comfortable with, it is unpredictable and unstable. It teaches us that risk is always present. And to face risk requires courage to travel the path and faith to know that warmth and joy lie ahead. In effect March assures we develop the strengths to survive and if we choose wisely our path, to thrive. And a key to that path may be to look to the stories of those who preceded us.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Forecasting Futures

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me."
—Thomas Merton 
For the daughter of a future forecaster and as a professor who has designed degrees with an eye on future technologies, communications, and employment trends, this is a difficult line to swallow. Yet here I am at the end of this year and many of the most important moments in my life, I did not see coming at me.

I did not know that I would return to El Salvador. Yes we hoped to and we worked towards that end, but I thought our funding goal would be difficult to achieve in such a short timeframe. It was, but we did. And it was once again life-changing.

I did not know that I would be invited to present at MenEngage Global Symposium in India. And when there, that I would be asked to present twice. I had no idea that I would be moved by the incredible work of so many, put full trust in strangers, ride in a tuktuk or bicycle taxi, see so many beautiful and horrifying sights, travel with new friends, and be inspired.

I did not foresee that three months of this year I would be in excruciating pain and unable to walk. I did not foresee how an MRI could be a looking glass to my past and my potential future and that an epidural would take most of the the pain away in a matter of days. I would return to normalcy almost as quickly as I had been disabled.

And I did not foresee that my father would die so soon after my mother or that he would die in the painful matter that he did—and I wouldn't be by his side. I had no idea that I would be "beside" my father on his last night due to the technologies of the internet, the iPad, and Skype. I did not foresee how glad I would be that I was. And I did not know how deep and long lasting grief is.

Yet I have gone with good intentions, trust, and hope. And perhaps this is what I need. It's my hope that the upcoming year is a bit kinder, a bit easier, and failing that, that I move gracefully through. I pray for the strength and good humor to welcome whatever path I am given.
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” 
—Thomas Merton 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pregnant with Hope

"Sandra, 18, is among those who escaped. Offering only her first name and speaking in Los Angeles, where she was awaiting an immigration hearing, she described violence as a part of life in El Salvador. First, a classmate became pregnant by a gang member. Then, the cousin of another classmate disappeared".
Approximately nine years ago, Bill Ryerson came to me with the idea of a game to address over population that he wished to present to his client, the UNFPA. I had begun four degree programs at Champlain College: Multi-media and Graphic Design, and the three Game Degrees based on a cohort model. It was time for a change and working with our former college president Dave Finney, I created the Emergent Media Center with the mission of giving students an opportunity to create media for clients in an internship-like model. Bill's idea was a perfect fit. What I did not know was how it would become a key mission in my own life.

We approached Aminata Toure then Gender Specialist at the UNFPA. She loved the idea of a game but not one on overpopulation. Instead she was insistent that there was a need for a game for boys on violence against women and girls. Let me say this again—a game for boys to change their attitudes and behavior towards girls. Though I was, and still am, an advocate for the power of games to educate, I had a difficult time seeing how this media which often negatively portrays women as either victims to be saved, objects to be violated, or as over sexualized creatures violent in their own right, could be designed and accepted by teen boys for the opposite. Even designers in the industry told me that game play mechanics couldn't support such a message.

The first image we saw when arriving in South Africa to conduct research towards development of the game.
But here I am nine years later, returning from my second trip to El Salvador with a team of Champlain College students who have successfully conducted the third series of BREAKAWAY game camps. This year we trained over 45 facilitators and worked with over 95 children aged 8-16. The youth love the game and the camp! The town of Sonsonate embraced and celebrated the camp, my student team, and the mission (you can see evidence in our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/breakawaygame). I am grateful to the original design and narrative teams—Brian, Rob, Jovan, Lauren, Heather, Max, Connor, Joel, Sara, Alex, Kaitlyn, and Maureen who designed such a powerful tool for good—and to the teams of students, staff, faculty, and partners who created it. Little did they know—as college students—the impact it would have years later. I am also grateful to Mahmoud and Mariana who understood how much a solution to violence against women and girls was needed in their own countries, Palestine and El Salvador, and drove the project forward.
Our BREAKAWAY team in 2009 testing the game in St. Lucia
Why has this one project captured my heart and attention? I could begin by explaining that it aligns with my life's dual mission of education and the creation of transformative media. BREAKAWAY does both on multiple levels: 1) the education of my Champlain students in the creation and implementation, and 2) the education and enjoyment of my "students" in El Salvador. My Champlain students have gone on to careers in a time when college student employment directly out of school is depressing low. Our El Salvador students have been deeply loved and joyfully return that love.

But on another level, that of the heart, I need to explain that I have unexpectedly fallen in love with this tiny, troubled nation: a nation embattled by gang violence and poverty. A culture ruled by a deep Catholic faith and yet children give birth to children.  A warm people with nothing to give yet who have given my students and the BREAKAWAY team so much! A nation where parents know there is little hope for the future and their children make the dangerous trek to the U.S. border with hopes of escaping the the violence.

 The Salvadoran children of BREAKAWAY 2014
Just yesterday, only one day home from El Salvador, this article came across my newsfeed "El Salvador's Gangs Target Women and Girls", above and below are excerpts from the article:
"7 June 2013 in Santa Tecla, the girlfriend of a gang member recruited two friends to go to a party. The gangsters suspected that one of the girls betrayed them, talking to a rival gang. Eight men raped the girls. First two were killed with multiple knife wounds. The third was held for 24 hours while they asked for ransom, but when they couldn't get the money they killed her, too. The three were dismembered. They were 12, 13 and 14 years old."
The dedicated El Salvadoran BREAKAWAY Facilitators thanking the Champlain College team.
Is it too much to hope we can impact even more residents in El Salvador? Our preliminary study with Dr. Hua (Helen) Wang of the University of Buffalo indicates that the attitudes and behavior of the El Salvador BREAKAWAY youth camp participants are changing in regards to VAWG. During our trip this year, I met with representatives from the UNDP country office and ISDEMU (the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women). We discussed broadening the impact through integration into the school system beginning with the most troubled schools. Our trained El Salvadoran Facilitators can be a key part of the equation. Our Emergent Media Center team will look for grant opportunities to support and grow the initiative. And of course, my BREAKAWAY team led by Mariana and Hannah will be looking at raising funds to return next year.
Gabi
This holiday season, I am struck by the story of a young girl in poverty who gave birth to a little boy in a time of deep conflict for her nation. I think of my young Salvadoran facilitators, Gabi pregnant with her first child and Karly with a beautiful new borne. My hope for them and their babies is that peace will rise up in their land and the children will lead. BREAKAWAY is one tiny attempt in a world of  possible solutions. A solution that is working one small hand at a time. Consider helping us in this mission of creating a more peace-filled world http://breakawaygame.champlain.edu 





Sunday, August 24, 2014

Something Happened This Week...

...and I really am not sure how exactly.
----
I returned unwillingly from a wonderful vacation
...and having said goodbye to beloved colleagues.
My back gave out (literally a "pain in the ass")
nerves knives thrusting through—movement a penance.
...and my doctor's advice "so goes age".
It rained. Damp. Gray. Unseasonably chilly.
...and my pear tree transplanted from my father's house turned black, dropping its once luxurious green glossy leaves.
As the damn Japanese beetles killed yet another plum tree.
And the wild rabbits mowed my beet crop to the root.
----
Old traditions transfused with new. Students arriving
....each bringing bright dreams, untested talents, and enthusiasm of discovery.
I lay on the floor, stretching in the quiet of morning,
....rewarded with a cup of fresh, dark coffee, holding pain at bay.
Later walking anguished steps through beloved woods,
...encountering golden chanterelle awakens a jubilant soul.
Later still the rapture of youth. Energy unbounded,
...with wedding dates, house plans, and joy of the journey and...
----
Something happened this week.
The steady state of renewal.
The promise to re-fill a grieving heart...
...laying aside that which has passed.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Stop. Look. Do.

And there is this. Stop, look, do.

Labyrinths and Other Journeys

Occasionally, despite the bright glow and blue skies of summer, life ruptures and one loses the path. So I found myself this summer. Looking back upon this year, I will recall it as a triad: the most rewarding, the most difficult, and the saddest of my life.
The pressures of 2014 were beyond forecasting: planning, marketing, launching, negotiating, and defending a new Master's program in China - a world 180 degrees around the planet; renovating and re-envisoning a new EMC complete with Maker's space; a very short time line to fund, gather partners, plan, deliver, and assess BREAKAWAY in El Salvador; changing of leadership at Champlain—and then my staff; and most monumental of all caring for and then losing my parents.

The rewards—lovely new students and friends and a new perspective from half world away; a new "family" in El Salvador and discovering that love does not hold language as a boundary; finally verification that BREAKAWAY changes behavior; a new starting point and new vision for emergent media at Champlain; strength in partnerships at Champlain; and knowing that my siblings and myself alongside our spouses, and our children honored our parents and surrounded them with love in their final years.
And yet life winds about in and back on itself. I feel lost without the true foundation of my parents' presence. I keep turning back to find them but they are no longer here. I twist and fall like a top out of balance.
Today Coby Brownell shared a beautiful design piece he was working on inspired in part by the collections of paraphernalia on our desks at the EMC and in particular a folded paper Pegasus given to my by Brendan after completing BREAKAWAY. I was reminded of an email my father once sent responding to a 2010 post in this blog. Perhaps in this way he was answering my search.

Icarus and Pegasus
Ann
 Home from the hospital and opening your blog brought tears to my eyes.
Your paintings are fantastic.  The way you describe how and why you paint is pure poetry. Your art and poetry dazzle me. 
 In the story of the winged horse Pegasus, wings represent imagination.  If we lose our imagination we fail and fall. If we persevere we shine like the sun. You and your blog shines like the sun. 

Love
Dad 

Pegasus took his rider on flights unimaginable, so mentored I have been pursuing pathways and vistas beyond my day-to-day. Through Peace Village I have experienced the meditation of the labyrinth and with a new set of eyes I discovered, alongside my sister Theresa and sister-in-law Joanne, the Priory Retreat House with its wise woman, and the labyrinth embracing an old pine. A labyrinth allows us to symbolically and metaphorically follow life's path to a central point and then follow the path out again as in the Hero's Journey with wisdom to share.  Birth leads us to death leading us to rebirth. 

In less traveled places our paths can wind. Traveling upon them we can once again marvel at the beauty surrounding us and shine.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Final Impact


Chihuly Garden and Glass museum in Seattle. Photogravure by Edward S. Curtis

Time runs through my fingers like tears beneath a veil
Counting forward
the way my father predicted our future
sliding rule in hand precisely measured:
pool, bubble plastics, candles, obesity, saccharine, space travel, melting ice caps.

Here am I caught in day to day
Year end reports, performance reviews, annual goals
Weeks spent reporting to the past - - - -
while ice melts, fires burn, air poisons.

The future hurries forward forever 
unrelentingly,
uncaringly
as bored meetings
determine unfathomable horse races.

Where next?
Time counts forward in logrythmic functions. 
Pinocchio on the stage
Holding on to strings
nose grows, donkey ears sprouts, braying forward,

When does the path tear open the veil?
When will the timid stamp finality?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jet Lag and Water on Mars

Shanghai 2014
Jet lag.

Finally, as you predicted, they found water on Mars. And yes the planet is getting warmer. Water resources are indeed our salvation. May I add reducing population?

Crossing the time zone twice in 5 days. Half way around the world and back again. 360 degrees and I have forgotten what day I'm at. All my digital devices disagree and my body makes no sense. Or is it nonsense?

I am too old for this. Past half a century. I remember hitting a quarter of a century and all the world lay wide open. Like a spring day between the snow and the first crocus.

But here I am up pushing against 60. Not quite yet but close enough. I can hear the sirens' call and the giggle of the 10 year old. Run. Run faster. No perhaps slower.

In the past 20 years, Shanghai has gone from muck and mud to the largest, most electrifying city in the world and the girl from the swamps of Rochester finds herself there. Rochester. Borne of muck and mud herself, once the capital of the industrial-high tech world - now dis-eased.

Here I find myself. But where are you? The future called your mind - and through yours mine. You opened wide the vista and taught me how to predict. A divining rod for the planet. But then?

What
of
after?
Into the stars I look for you, and into each spring bloom. Someday perhaps?

Rochester 1964


Thursday, March 27, 2014

There are days

and then there are days
some joyful
some full of stress
some just are
much like any other, caught up in the hum and the buzz and the busyness,

until that moment
I wish I could call
or simply
hold your hand.

And then I look at mine
empty
and I see only yours.



Friday, February 7, 2014

Joy

I knew
a family named "Joy"
and I envied
their fortune to have
their outlook
pre-determined.

But as things go
it did not last
life rearranged itself
as it always does

And now
I know
that
the
deepest
Joy

is
there for those
who climb through

and
then
embrace
the instance.
.