George and I worked together at Lehigh Valley News Group in 2006, when he served as editor of the E… oh dear me I am old and senile… I know it was East Penn/Emmaus area, but I can’t remember what the newspaper’s name was… East Penn News sounds right because each paper was named after the school district and it’s the East Penn School District and Emmaus High School.
Sorry to babble like that but it was almost 15 years ago. My teenager was younger than his daughter is now.
I served as managing editor when those papers launched and George always had a certainty creativity and a penchant for thinking outside the box. We had a weekly entertainment column shared by all six of our papers and if I remember correctly George pitched most of our concepts.
So I was not surprised when George developed his own media company and that he’s scooped the main media outlets in town and created some phenomena— google “Lehigh Valley Snow Camel” and know that George broke that story.
Now, like George, Darnell has a big creative energy, vivacious speech, and will not shy away from what needs to be said.
So I wanted to get these two together. And George put a call out for potential guests on his podcast.
Today George shared with me the link for that final podcast. And I’ve very excited to share it. The content may get heavy at times but these guys kept the conversation going in a natural organic manner.
They reference some of the Valley’s food— I won’t spoil it here. But when it comes to cheesesteaks I vote for Joe’s Steak Shop in Phillipsburg and hot dogs would have to be from outside the Lehigh Valley and go with Hot Dog Johnny’s in Belvidere, N.J. A few years ago it would have had to be Charlie’s Pool Room in Alpha, N.J.
This afternoon, I came to visit my friend Gayle in South Bethlehem to do a Volkssport walk. Volkssporting is a type of organized walking that allows family and friends to walk together on a organized route written by people from that area that want to show others the highlights. You can earn miles & collect events for, for lack of a better work, status in the club.
The South Bethlehem walk is a scenic spin through Lehigh University’s Campus (where I noticed a family of deer!) followed by a tour of the Greenway and then the ArtsQuest/former Bethlehem Steel properties.
And as if this fun wasn’t enough— Gayle made me a great light summer meal.
And then Gayle and I attended the Act 197 training sponsored by Aspire to Autonomy.
I ended last night with a delightful (super super delightful) tapas of succulent olives, hummus, blue cheese and pita chips with my neighbor.
Tonight I’m ending the night with blisters from going for my evening walk while wearing flip flops and feeling a little guilty for taking advantage of my DQ reward points to get a free chicken strip basket at Dairy Queen.
I have gained 10 pounds since the pandemic started. I am happy to say that my daily steps have tripled, but I haven’t used my dumbbells for anything other than doorstops, and I suppose I should go ahead and cancel my gym membership. Because I’m unemployed and I don’t want to go pay someone for something I can do at home without a mask.
If only I could stop the junk food habit.
But that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to touch on two topics. I’m going to briefly touch on what I love about the business and non-profit environment here in the Lehigh Valley.
Then I’m going to sing the praises of Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab and report that our adorable pseudo-Russian Blue kittens, now about nine months old got neutered today and are still stoned out of their fuzzy little minds.
Life in the Lehigh Valley
So, I grew up in the Slate Belt and then moved to Bethlehem for my college years at Moravian College. I’ve always loved the diversity of the Lehigh Valley region, the diversity of urban vs. rural, the infrastructure, the businesses, the farms, the corporations.
Today, I attended a meeting with the person in charge of corporate giving for a major corporation that has offices all over the world, and a huge influence historically and currently in the Valley.
I attended that meeting as a representative of Aspire to Autonomy, Inc., and supported one of the founders of the organization in this important private conversation we were having.
And suddenly I was awestruck again.
Periodically, I am annoyed with the Valley for the same reasons that I love the Lehigh Valley. But today I felt enamored.
The Lehigh Valley, in part because of its proximity to the ports of New Jersey and the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and the local highway infrastructure connecting it everywhere, attracts a wide variety of businesses while hosting some economic mainstays—like Air Products, Just Born Candy, Martin Guitar and Crayola.
We have two major hospital networks competing madly locally— St. Luke’s and Lehigh Valley Hospital.
But the region, despite having three cities just about touching (and Allentown, with its population of more than 122,000, is the third largest city in the state), is amazingly small. It’s not that hard to travel from one end to the other and people seem to know everyone, especially in the business world.
Or maybe it just feels that way to me because I spent 15 years as a local journalist.
So, here I am in the meeting, immediately recognized as the former Development Manager for ProJeCt of Easton, helping sell this two-year-old non-profit to a potential major funder.
I even dressed up for the Zoom— and then the person we were meeting dialed in, so I got to put on makeup for my stoned cats.
But because of the “smallness” of the Lehigh Valley, this very busy executive took more time than she had to to meet with us. As a result, we all left with an increased understanding.
We have a better fundraising plan regarding this corporation and this person learned more about how all the anti-trafficking organizations here in the Valley work together.
But what impressed me was the willingness of this individual to work with the “little guy.” That is something that makes me proud to live in the Lehigh Valley.
Therescued kittens have been neutered
I rambled quite a bit on that earlier bit.
Today, the teenager and I left the house at 7:30 to transport the kittens to FURR for a low-cost neutering.
Stephanie, the woman from FURR we have been working with, was even kind enough to place Fog and Misty on the backseat of her car with their cat carriers facing each other instead of in the big cat pile of carriers in the back of the car.
That made me happy. That the brothers could see each other.
On the way home, I stopped at Grocery Outlet as the teenager had announced that cheap instant coffee was garbage and we were going to need more Nescafé.
And then the teenager filled out an adoption/foster application with FURR on her phone in the parking lot.
Because we need more menagerie.
Oz enjoyed being my main baby today while the kittens were gone.
And I also did my nails.
And it seemed like it took forever until it was time to retrieve the boys. They are both about 9 3/4 pounds. They are Feline Leukemia negative. They have their shots now, nails trimmed, flea meds and deworming.
And they are ridiculously mellow and stoned right now. I think Fog fell asleep with his head in the water bowl.
My weekend was filled with various forms of professional work. Some work for Aspire to Autonomy, some work for The March of Gentlemen, some brainstorming for Thrive PR. Darnell and I have some big projects brewing and I can’t wait to share them with everyone.
Last night we had our casual El Camino Virtual Pilgrimage zoom meeting. Despite the heat, I have consistently walked between 6,000 and 8,000 steps a day.
In the pilgrimage group we talked a lot about where we grew up and we set a challenge to find someplace new to walk this week.
This morning, my blind friend Nan and I got together to review her writing, submit some poetry, and look at the upcoming NASA schedule. The mission to Mars launches this week and the SpaceX Dragon returns from the International Space Station.
In the afternoon the regular insanity commenced here— Sobaka came to visit, Nala kept getting off her cage to harass the cats and the dog and the teen had a zoom meeting about the future of the marching band season. Marching Band is a go!
And today I heard the words I didn’t want to hear.
It started with a blueberry caramel signature latte from Dunkin’. That started her with the realization that with enough sugar and milk, you can barely taste the coffee. Then I figured out how to replicate the $5 iced latte in an iced coffee on sale. Then I scaled back the caramel…
And then she started on cold brew.
And today she tasted my at-home quick and easy iced coffee. Coffee snobs please skip the next few paragraphs.
When I can’t afford fancy afternoon iced coffee, I take a pint of milk, mix in a heaping teaspoon of dark roast Nescafé instant coffee, and drop in three ice cubes.
An afternoon pick-me-up and a snack as there is milk.
And the teenager liked it.
With no sugar and no flavor.
Problem is… my Nescafé jar looks like this:
So not only now do I have to fight the teenager for milk, I have to challenge her on coffee. I had to lay down the law.
I told her— look, child, until we get to the grocery store again, you can drink the Dollar Store instant coffee your dad bought. She said that would be fine.
The last two days I have been hectic busy. But, yesterday, despite my activities and the sporadic heavy rain, I still walked about 9,400 steps.
I started my day with a video chat with my fellow volunteers at Aspire to Autonomy, Inc. This anti-human trafficking organization helps connect underserved populations with services, while educating about human trafficking and looking for trafficking victims. It then helps victims rebuild their lives and get whatever help they need to reach autonomy.
They are also currently hosting monthly “Feed Northampton County” pandemic response food distributions at the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley and in the West Ward of Easton. Using a pop-up food pantry model, Aspire and their network of ambassadors distribute food, masks and hand sanitizer.
The organization works with interns from Kutztown University’s Master’s of Social Work program. Currently I am working closely with Sarah, who has embraced the idea of learning more about public relations and how it can benefit her in promoting her future activities in her career.
Sarah and I were scheduled to have a video chat to strategize pitching the press release she had written the day before on a training session she and two other interns—Kayla and Sam—are facilitating next week on Pennsylvania’s Act 197. (More on that in a few paragraphs.)
Kayla and organization co-founder Darnell (and my supervisor) joined us to catch up on the list of activities we have going on right now.
I left the meeting energized and started pitching to my end of the media list, while Sarah handled the others. This morning, we noticed that The Valley Ledger had already posted our material. Thank you to them!
To read more about our upcoming training (please come!), click here: Act 197 training .
I hopped from there to a meeting for the fundraising committee of Mary Meuser Memorial Library. We had to cancel our annual book fair, due to Covid-19, and met to discuss future possibilities for fundraising. I floated what I felt was a good idea to use key space in the library (and facing a major thoroughfare) to promote local businesses. The committee like the idea and I am to prepare a proposal.
And the teenager made arrangements with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab (FURR) to get our kittens fixed next week.
The rest of the afternoon is a blur. But I know I helped with some correspondence for Aspire and pursued some networking opportunities on behalf of the group. I also asked my peers at the organization about an idea I had to promote the enforcement of Act 197 via a social media campaign.
Last night, I visited with my neighbors, watched Golden Girls with the teenager, went for a walk with “my other half,” Buddy’s mom who lives in the other side of my house, cuddled with my cockatoo and watched Indian Matchmaking on Netflix.
This morning somehow I slept until 8:30. And my email alerted me that it was National Drive Thru Day. I wrote a corporate sponsorship letter for Aspire and submitted it to the founders for review. Then, the teenager borrowed Buddy and we went to gather up cheap eats at the drive thru.
First I stopped at Dunkin as I still have more than $30 on my Dunkin gift card. They were offering 100 points on any purchase. I cashed in the free beverage I had on my card and bought the teenager hash browns. Then we stopped at McDonald’s as they were offering a free medium fry with any $1 purchase.
I bought her a $1 large Diet Coke and they kept offering me a $1 McChicken. The teenager told me to get it, so I did, but I had them make one without mayo and with lots of pickles.
There is still much work to be done in coming days as Aspire has several major happenings next week, but it’s exciting that between Aspire and the library board I have the opportunity to freely share my ideas and work to move both agencies forward.
There’s so much good activity in my life right now — I’ve been too busy to catch everyone up.
My last day at work is tomorrow and my colleague, Mr. Accordion, is coming over tonight.
I have been working hard publicizing Aspire to Autonomy’s upcoming events, and they have given me the title of Communications Director. I am working with a fantastic intern on public relations and I think, I hope, she is having fun.
Gayle, the teenager and I, went for a nice walk in Easton Cemetery last night. Every time I go up there I find more cool things!
Gayle, the teenager and I went to Porter’s Pub last night after the walk and they let me eat all the “stinky cheese.” Gayle bought me a very delicious salted caramel chocolate porter from Saucony Creek. To celebrate new beginnings!
I cashed in my free medium 2-topping pizza from Dominos.
I’ve been making Nala puzzles every morning to try and keep her busy.
We found someone that can get Mama cat spayed for free. (Did I mention we were out on a walk and our kittens’ mama came to us and we brought her home. She’s pregnant. Again.) We thought the organization would let us foster her and her kittens until they found homes… but now we’re being told they might keep her. So we are a tad sad.
And for multiple days in a row I have made 10,000 or more steps a day!
First of all, let me put out there that I am not as confident as I appear in that photo. I’m almost 45. I have stretch marks, muffin top and I’ve never been stick thin (well, except for that summer I lost 30 pounds) but I’ve always tried to be healthy and strong.
I’ve had a baby. I’ve broken bones. I’ve struggled with anemia, cerebral palsy and on occasion anxiety. I’ve had great jobs I didn’t want to leave (ever) and bad jobs that I didn’t want to go to.
But like many of you, I keep going. I have shiny happy days, sleepy days, down days, days I just don’t want to end and days when I cry myself to sleep.
Today I chose this outfit as my warrior’s attire. I got the shirt and the necklace from The Attic in Bethlehem and let me tell you— I never would have bought this shirt if not for the state lockdown/pandemic.
I would have said, ‘hell, no, that’s way too skimpy.’
And left that shirt on the rack. But it looked so damn cute on the mannequin— which I think that mannequin has bigger boobs that me. No, wait. That shirt clearly looks tiny on the mannequin and my boobs are bigger.
But I decided to wear that shirt and I consider it a pledge of confidence to myself. NOTHING will intimidate me today. NO ONE will change how I feel about myself.
And I am adorable.
And to make it even more powerful, I wore my circle necklace also from The Attic. I have christened it my “keep going” amulet, because circles are round. They roll. They keep going. And this one is glittery and clear. Clear quartz is the stone used to purify things and recharge them.
Although it’s not quartz, it has a shine like quartz so I will use this necklace to remind me to keep going and keep my thoughts free of negative vibes.
Now bare with me for one more topic, I’m a little superstitious and as you can see I’m almost done with my journal. New chapters always begin at the end of my journal.
I’ve been working with Aspire for Autonomy for work, and I’ve been striking up some personal conversation with Darnell about helping with his organization. I’m impressed with his energy and hope to learn more about their goals.