A Remarkable Young Man…

This is actually a follow-on to the post about STEM and STEAM. I just sent in the article for this week’s South Dade News Leader, so consider this as an “insider” preview.  Each year non-profit grants are awarded by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). These are special funds put in place after Hurricane Andrew that will expire in another few years. The CRA has different grant programs and one is focused on non-profits that support education, enrichment, etc., within a specified area of town where many families struggle economically. There are always more applicants than funding and the committee carefully reads all proposals to determine which ones are most likely to be able to have an impact and responsibly manage the funds.

Brandon Okpalobi, founder and CEO of DIBIA Athletic Development, established Dibia Dream in 2014 as a non-profit in order to expand their community outreach to students. While this is not uncommon within corporations, Brandon’s background, success, and sincerity in what he does is truly heart-warming. Originally from New Orleans, he was removed from his second grade class for being such a disruptive influence. In the way alternative classes are supposed to work, his life was pointed in the right direction and he learned to channel his tumultuous emotions correctly. I may be able to hear the whole story someday, but he left New Orleans later, was a walk-on to the U of Miami basketball team and in founding his business, he’s won a string of awards. From the very beginning, he did outreach for under-served youth because he knows it can make a difference.  All their different programs are listed on their website of https://dibiadream.org

Even though there are moments when trying to juggle writing for the paper and other things is tiring, getting to meet people like Brandon is always worthwhile.

 

STEM and STEAM….

In a few hours, Hubby and I will be going to a STEM event at a local Community Center. A group I will learn more about received a grant to do a series of STEM Saturdays for students K-12. Today’s focus will be how to design and build cars.

I haven’t looked to see where STEM and STEAM originated, but became aware of it a few years ago when I did a series on local education for our weekly community paper. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math can also be Science, Technology, Engineering, Aviation and Math or Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math to give the STEM/STEAM acronyms. The intent is to try and make science, etc., “fun” from early on in order to guide children toward those skills. I actually used a passage about this in my novel,  “To Play on Grass Fields” . The point was made during a discussion about education in the context of children seem to naturally take to art, music, dance while the other subjects can be “scary”. I am a great example of that which I believe I mentioned in a post quite some time ago. My sister and brother were both mathematically inclined and I was not, nor were my parents. Our junior high school had two math teachers; one excellent and one not (You can guess the one I got). I was fine with ordinary math and the binary system and basic algebra were what threw me off track.  In trying to help me, my sister couldn’t grasp why I couldn’t understand and thus our “tutoring” usually ended quickly with both of us angry. At that stage, the accepted wisdom was, “girls don’t need to be good in math”. Since much of science is grounded in math and engineering certainly is, the simple solution was for me to focus on my talents. This is one of the reasons I firmly support doing everything practical to make math “fun” for kids. It does not mean I don’t support the arts and there are studies which show how music for example can be integrated into math. I don’t have the name of those studies at my fingertips, but will look for them to do a future post. Actually, now that I think of it, there’s probably a future article for the paper in that idea as well.

 

The Staple of Hamburger Helper….

Okay, if you are utterly opposed to boxed meals, go ahead and skip this post. It isn’t even exactly in praise of Hamburger Helper, but rather some amusing anecdotes. I don’t know the history other than it was created in 1971 and was probably considered an “advancement” for busy people and those who were perhaps limited in culinary ability. After all, being able to brown hamburger, measure milk, stir in the other few ingredients in the box, and keep from burning the dish isn’t too challenging. A fairly complete meal in a single pan is welcome when it comes to clean-up.

My first introduction to it came a bit later, when I was involved in a somewhat serious (not long lasting, but that’s not the point) relationship with a guy who made it very clear he wouldn’t have it as a meal. Apparently in his brief and badly matched marriage, this was basically the only meal his wife was willing to prepare and he refused to eat it again. (I don’t know if he ever got over that.)

I don’t recall when I did prepare it the first time and as with many of these conveniences, adding ingredients such as onions, peppers, a few more seasonings does give more depth. Hubby is in fact a fan although one of the only versions I don’t care for is the classic Cheeseburger – his favorite. That’s one of the dishes he often makes for himself when I am on a trip. We will be having the Stroganoff this week on Thursday because that’s Camera Club meeting for him and it’s easy for me to have dinner at normal time and him to zap in the microwave when he gets in much closer to nine o’clock. That’s the version with the noodles, not the potatoes.

Desert Aspects….

I suppose Hubby’s venturing out into the Everglades at ungodly hours for the recent meteor shower and then Blood Moon is what caused me to think of this. My only passage through American deserts was many years ago when I went cross-country to California for a special Army course. My objective was to get there as quickly as possible so there was no lingering for sight-seeing although I do wish there had been time to at least go by the Grand Canyon. That will come about in some future travel.

Although I do not fall into this category (not does Hubby), I can understand how some people are drawn by the uniqueness of a desert environment and there are distinct differences depending on which area you are in. During Desert Storm, we were deep in Saudi Arabia, but not as far as Kuwait. Unlike the initial forces that deployed in early August, we didn’t arrive until November/December and most of the troops were out by May. Hubby and I managed to not be part of the residual force that stayed into the summer. During the first few weeks and the last few weeks we were in a city, but when in the desert there was literally nothing else for miles. We operated under blackout conditions at night until Iraq surrendered. That means even though we did have generators running for power, sound travels oddly and it is difficult to pinpoint a location by sound. It’s amazing though how the smallest light can travel. All openings were secured and our flashlights had the dark red lens which provides minimal illumination. Vehicles could use only their blackout lights often called “cat eyes”. Interestingly, one of the few documented gender differences is while men are more prone to colorblindness than women, they do tend to have better night vision than women.

The lack of light anywhere in the area did result in extraordinary brilliance of stars and the moon. A full moon really was astonishing. The connection about Hubby going to the Everglades for their photo shoots has to do with trying to get away from light in order to have a better view of the night sky. Being in a remote place certainly does give you that.

Other Army Memories…..

I have explained in previous posts about my role as an “inadvertent pioneer” in the Army during the transition time of the Women’s Army Corps into the regular force. Notwithstanding those who were convinced it would be the downfall of the military, most were accepting and in some cases it was amusing. At that time I weighed far less than I do now and in graduating from college a year early, I was barely 22 when I arrived in Germany for my first real assignment. The previous almost year was spent in a series of training courses. So here I was, this 4’11” 2d Lieutenant placed into a Captain’s position and the first female officer in the unit. One of the sergeants who willing stood by me (literally and figuratively) was about 6’3” and built like a linebacker. (He may very well have been one in high school; I never thought to ask). We lost track for many years and it was maybe five years ago he reached out to find me. Like many who were part of those tumultuous years of the Army going from draft to all-volunteer, he wanted to write his memoirs of all the changes he experienced during his career. We spoke two or three times as he worked on the project.

He was ready to send me the completed book when he had to make multiple trips to Germany as one of the senior NCOs he was close friends with became quite ill. As was the custom, each American unit had a “partner German unit” and that was where their friendship was formed. My friend was a great comfort to the man and his family prior to his passing. My friend returned and in the process of catching up on things, he finally decided to go to the doctor. Sadly, he was diagnosed with more than one condition, none of them good news. We talked about a number of things and he’ll see how treatments go. He is close to his son who is with them and my hopes are of course for the best. I know I will cherish his book whenever I receive it.

An Interesting New Series…..

We don’t have a streaming service for TV so I’m not sure how the series, “Shetland”, can be accessed. I’ve ordered the DVDs and just finished Season 3. Shetland is a small island in Scotland and both the scenery and music are captivating. The small police force allows learning more about each character, although the DI Jimmy Perez is the main focus. And yes, from the beginning, the idea of a Scotsman named Perez is remarked upon. The answer is a long-ago sailor ancestor who decided to remain on the island instead of returning to Spain or it might have been Portugal. At any rate, the stories have been intricate while believable with appropriate plot twists. The personal lives of the characters have not yet become “soap opera”. Perhaps the most complex one is the DI’s wife was divorced, teenage daughter living with mother and stepdad with real father in the same village, so of course there are some issues, especially after the wife died. There are times when the accents are hard to follow and watching it on DVD means I can replay to catch the word or phrase that slipped by me. I plan to order Season 4 and I’m not certain they go past that. Midsommer Murder is the one I’d been most fond of before and still enjoy. I’ve gone through most of those (I think), but have to check. Hubby enjoys even more of the shows, but some I’m not so keen on. I never warmed to “Vera” nor “Inspector Morse”.

I do also have some of the old American shows – Harry O, Mannix, Banacek, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, and quite a few Colombos. The real reason I have Murder She Wrote is son and grandmother loved it so and I keep the one DVD set I have in the guest room in case he’s feeling nostalgic when they visit.

Loving the Blues….

I’ve posted before about Homestead Center for the Arts and the range of things we are involved in. Five years ago (another of the, “Can it really have been five years ago? Yep.”, moments) a somewhat casual comment turned into a program for bringing different genres of music 2-4 times a year into Homestead. At that time, few restaurants featured live music although a couple are now doing so regularly on weekends. Not surprisingly, the main type of music played is the 1970s+ and lots of Jimmy Buffet tunes. So the Music Series (MuSe) of HCA looks for other genres; as local as possible, which means no further north than Miami. We don’t have a large budget, plus the idea is to highlight local talent. Last night’s (Thus, Jan 17th) group of Sonny East was superb and a few people, to include the director for Seminole Theatre, took their contact info.

The courtyard of the White Lion Cafe was perfect, even though I did put my sweater on the latter part of the night. It was fried broccoli for the table as a starter, then I had the dolphin dippers and hubby went for the blackened prime rib.

Anyway, back to music. I am not enough of an aficionado to hear the difference in Delta, Chicago, Memphis, or Saint Louis Blues. I know there are regional aspects and perhaps if i heard examples back-to-back I could pick up on the variations. We haven’t decided yet what our next performance will be and we do have a group that loves the classical string trio or quartet in from Frost School of Music (U of M). And as odd as it seems with so much Latin influence around, we have yet to locate a good Latin Band within our price range. The search shall continue.

And More Days Slip By…..

Most decorations have been returned to their storage spot, although somehow, what appears to be the single addition of one item given as a gift now necessitates needing a box for it and three others. Apparently not everything went exactly back into the usual place, but we do also have boxes around the correct size. Leftovers have been consumed, tossed, or give away appropriately and when I pick up a pie crust tomorrow, an apple tart will complete the last of them. I don’t think there is enough apple for a full pie, plus there is still extra chocolate candy in the pantry. Small pieces, granted, yet candy nonetheless.

My lack of posting is an indicator of what the schedule has been like and not surprisingly there is no real let-up in sight. On the other hand, boredom is hardly an issue we need to be concerned with. I did manage to fire off an email to the fence company we will probably use to finally get that back in order which is the required step before contacting the landscaping lady. It so happens the big Seafood Festival will be the last Saturday and Sunday of Jan and last year, she had a booth there. This particular fence company tends to work fast if they are available and thus, it is possible, they will either be finished or have a completion date for us by that time. If she is at the Festival again, it will be a much shorter visit to talk to her than going out to her place. It isn’t really that far, but hey, every shorter errand does help.

Anyway, a very busy week ahead. In all the excitement, our only disappointment is it seems as if the hummingbird we so happily celebrated has gone away. It’s been several days with no sighting or apparent activity. Perhaps he was migratory after all. However, if we finally had one, another many well appear. Keeping fingers crossed.

 

Very Pleasantly Surprised…..

I have mentioned before we don’t really do musicals, but have been to some of the performances at our Seminole Theatre to support the theater. In view of the fact we’ve had almost non-stop events and company all the way through Jan 2, looking at our tickets for the show F”orever Young, Your Life, Your Music” on Jan 4th gave us pause. On the other hand, we did have the tickets and we did have time to enjoy dinner before going to the theater. There was a decent-size crowd, but timing no doubt affected a number of decisions about attending. We said hi to friends, chatted with the theater director who told us it wasn’t really a musical; more like a music revue. Okay, we’re good with that.

What a great time we had. “Based on a true story” doesn’t always mean that, but for the sake of this, we’ll assume it’s close. Five guys who love playing baseball together in NYC hang out in a basement and all discover different songs they really love. They go through all the teen things one goes through, certain songs making memories. The five split into their separate ways; a couple of them in fact as singers; one a baseball player. At some point, they each come to realize music is what they are truly passionate about and want to have a shot at. They individually start performing, and ultimately make their way to Branson where there are lots of singing gigs available. One of the guys teams with his brother to capture all this by creating Forever Young.

The 2-hour show with intermission was not-stop, high energy, and incredible voices. There is narration as opposed to dialogue, but everything flows together seamlessly and the range of songs are from the 1950s to more or less current. It was a terrific evening and I’m glad we went.

Forever Young is set in a NY basement. Great show.

(https://www.foreveryoungbranson.com)

In A Child’s Eyes….

Setting aside the angry/tearful outbursts that come from a variety of reasons, spending time around a child at certain ages does bring different perspective. Granddaughter was three in March and thus, her vocabulary was considerably increased from the previous visit, as was her reasoning ability.

One of the first questions as we exited baggage claim was if those were palm trees? Yes. Do they have coconuts? Not those, although we will see some that do. This is courtesy of having watched the animated movie of “Moana” set in Hawaii. Are we in Florida? Yes. Can we go in the pool when we get to your house? Tomorrow will be pool time. Oooh, the neighbor has big and little minions in their yard. (I think that’s the movie “Despicable Me” and sequels). In discussion of what adventures to go on – No, I don’t want to see alligators; they might bite my toes. Okay, I can see that.

A word about swimming – for the first time, the weather was cooperative enough to allow pool time each afternoon. It wasn’t entirely comfortable, but tolerable for an hour and hot coffee after helped. Grandma was in each day, Daddy two days, Grandpa and Mommy each also had a day. The wonderful swim vest worked well again although she was also tall enough to stand in the hot tub (not heated of course) and in the shallow end of the pool. If all goes well, there will be swimming lessons this coming summer.

I didn’t have personal experience, but had heard good reports of Pinto Farm, close to Monkey Jungle and open only Saturday and Sunday. It was a big hit and involved her first actual Shetland pony ride. The next day was let Mommy and Daddy have a “date afternoon” with movie and a stop by Exit One Taproom. The fairly long walk to the small Tot Lot yielded seeing butterflies, coconut palms, quite a few decorations, and the ability to fly in the swing since it was a “sit-in” type where hands were not always required. With Grandma pushing, it was flying like a plane, or bird, or acrobat – we cycled through all the comparisons.

Oh, and going back to an observation of an earlier post – seeing the inflatable decorations flat on the ground was remarked upon, but we used the opportunity to discuss the process of inflation. Ah, and in case you weren’t aware, a puzzle can become a cake which must be slid into an available cabinet which serves as an oven. Hey, these are the sorts of things we forget in our journey into adulthood.