Sunday, October 26, 2008

Imagination Can Alter A Life

My sister Patty, me, and Ericka, used to spend a lot of time outdoors goofing off. When we were together (and maybe with other kids in the neighborhood) we would play the usual games of tag, red rover, ghost in the grave yard, and hide-n-go-seek.

But sometimes, there were no other kids to play with and when left to our own devices, we always managed to figure something out. In other words - boredom wasn't even in our vocabulary.

For example, while waiting for Selsa to drop off Ericka at my house one day, I stood outside and walked the curb of our street. I practiced putting one foot in front of another - like I was a gymnast walking on a balance beam. I'm sure that I had seen something like this on ABC Wide World of Sports - my whole goal at that time though - was to just pass time until Ericka got to my house.

Over time, using the curb as our balance beam became one of our games. We would judge each other - pretend that we were losing our balance - pretend that we were the most graceful girls that ever were. Sometimes, we danced on our balance beam.

I have no clue how it happened, but the next thing I knew, my mom and Selsa, had signed me, Ericka, and Patty up for classes with Marlene's Dance Studio.

We were enrolled in gymnastics and tap. While Patty and Ericka were much better at the gymnastics part, I was a total genius in the tap area.

Gymnastics significantly altered both Patty and Ericka's life. They both went on and excelled in gymnastics, receiving huge accolades in the form of awards and state recognitions.

And it all started - on the curb of Cedar Crest Circle. Who would have thought?!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Frazier's and The Couch's

The map probably looks familiar because I've posted it before. It's my memory of the kids that lived in my neighborhood, plotted out on each street. When I was in Fort Wayne in May, I stopped by the old neighborhood and snapped pictures of the houses where each one of my friend's lived. That one up there is the house where the Couch's lived.

In 1971, I made a lot of great friends at Indiana Village Elementary School. One in particular was Ericka Couch. We sat at table #6 (Miss Crouse's afternoon Kindergarten class) and I think we bonded because one of the other girl's who sat with us (her name was Smokey - I kid you not) - well she kind of scared us. We paired up out of fear - I guess there are worse things to start friendships over :).

Like me, Ericka was the oldest child with one sibling (her - younger brother Aaron, me - younger sister Patty).

We also happened to live in the same neighborhood - well kinda - as she was on the "outskirts" or what was known as Kyle Road. Not that I was allowed on Kyle Road at that age. It might as well have been Sandpoint Road as far as my parents were concerned. Crossing over to it was like asking for a car to hit you. Really. They were convinced that Kyle Road was a main thoroughfare, with wildly - out of control cars and trucks - that struck innocent children - dozens of them.

Another biggie: we also had staunch Catholic mothers and non-religious fathers.

But none of this came to light until one day when my mother dropped me off at school. Ericka's mom was there too. They introduced themselves based upon the fact that they had heard each other's daughter talk about the other (of course they never did know about the "fear" factor and they must have assumed we had gobs in common to bond so quickly).

Before we knew it, my mom (who had recently left her KMart job) and Ericka's mom, Selsa, had made this arrangement in which my mom would babysit Ericka and Aaron during the week. Selsa was an elementary school teacher at Ward Elementary and was looking for help with her two kids during the day. With me and Ericka becoming instant friends, this situation looked very perfect to our moms.

And I absolutely enjoyed having someone else aside from my sister to play with. Although Ericka wasn't really into Barbies, she was adventurous and would play in the ditch with me or on the swings and she was definitely a fan of Gilligan's Island and the Brady Bunch. And she's also the one that showed me how to climb trees. There was one at Scott's Court that was great climbing material - it was a cherry tree and many cherries were collected for pies from that tree...

But anyway - this friendship between our families was a big deal because as I've mentioned previously, my father was extremely racist. And the whole babysitting situation almost did not come to be...because Selsa wasn't white.

But she wasn't black. I'm saying this from the perspective of a six year old because when it came up in a discussion between my parents (of course I was listening - duh!) my dad flat out asked if Selsa was 'that word' which he always associated with non-white. That's when I learned that Selsa was born and raised in Taos, New Mexico and that she was married to Larry who was white. So even though my dad labeled this as an interracial marriage, the fact that Selsa wasn't black but "Mexican" must have been okay. I didn't understand the reasoning then (or even now) - I just know that this distinction is what made it okay for our families to socialize together.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

20 Years Ago - Inspiration, Hope, and A Reason To Be Involved

NOTE: I am live at the Indiana State Fair today - blogging about the Barack Obama Rally for Change. I'm including just a small portion of it here - just cause it really applies to what I write about on Child of the Fort.

For information on today's rally, check out Fort Wayne Politics later - where my stuff will appear.

This is my first time blogging about anything remotely political but after thinking things over, I felt strongly that not being here today would be a big miss on my part.

Back in my younger years, I was quite the activist. Maybe I wasn't as "radical" as people wanted me to be but in my own way, I stood up for what I believed in and I was all about stickin' it to 'da man'.

I did a lot of that as a student at IPFW. After flunking out of school (I stopped attending because - I don't know - I was bored, indifferent, caught up in teenage angst...)...I decided to go back and try to get serious.

One of the electives I signed up for was Introduction to Sociology. Yawn. Snoozer. I mean really - a frickin lecture class which was three hours in length on some weekday night (I'm thinking it was a Tuesday night).

I couldn't have been more wrong in my assessment of this class.

I had one of the best professors ever - Patrick Ashton. He made me think. He made me care. At whatever age I was 18-19? - I started thinking about things other than myself. Along with my classmates, we took a long, hard look at the world around us....our community...poverty....child abuse....other social injustices. And by golly - that professor guy, he lit a fire of passion in my belly. But not just mine - others were affected as well.

Just when I thought I was home free, he mentioned towards the end of the semester that the chancellor at that time (NOT Joanne Lantz) had not supported his application/petition - whatever it was - for tenure. Seems that that administrivia person thought that he spent too much time teaching and not enough time researching.

James Craig and I, who became friends because of this class, looked at each other. So did Ashton totally blow off his responsibility for research? We did our own research and the answer was NO. There was oodles. And oodles. Maybe he did 10 things and the norm was 12 but then he taught 2x the amount of classes (to underclassmen) as others up for tenure.

It just didn't seem fair.

And I was pissed.

So, naive as I was, I did something that literally changed the course of my life. James Craig and I stayed after class one night and put together a petition. We worked tirelessly for two weeks. There were at least 10,000 students at IPFW at that time and we were able to procure thousands of signatures. I can't remember how many off the top of my head but it was a HUGE number.

I know that we pretty much stunned the IPFW Administrivia team. We hand-delivered a copy of our petitions but then we took it a step further. We got in a car and drove to Bloomington to see President Tom Ehrlich.

He saw us too. We were give 15 minutes with him in which we explained what was going on, why we were very passionate about this professor and how we spent two weeks gathering the signatures of fellow students.

I don't know what happened after that - but the next thing I knew - that Chancellor was gone, Joanne Lantz was in place and Patrick Ashton was now a tenured associate? assistant? professor.

When I saw him (Professor Ashton) next semester, I wasn't thinking at all about what *I* did. I was beaming at him because he made a tremendous difference in my life. And what I did? Oh my - it was the very least I could do.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

St. Therese Catholic School - Fifth Grade Class Photo

St. Therese Catholic School
2222 Lower Huntington Road
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46809

Photo Credit: KFH
Date Taken: May 23, 2008

As I've told you in earlier blog postings, I switched over to St. Therese Catholic School during the second semester of my fourth grade year. When I went for an extended visit back home in May, I made sure to stop by the place and soak up the memories. More on that later.

Because I know y'all love class photos - here's one to whet your appetite. I think I did pretty good remembering most people but of course, correct me if you know something that I've forgotten...

P.S. if you want to see the larger sized view - go here -

Row 1: Principal Sister ?, Miss (Christine) Majewski, Larry Cobb, Linda Tuttle, John Gannon, Debbie D?, Bobby Braun, Wendy Farmer

Row 2: Tom Mallot, Darlene Miller, Leo Cummings, Jeff Tourney, Terri Anderson, Gregg Jehl

Row 3: Nick ?, Alice Jordan, Phil Romary, Traci Olry, Jeremy Hensler, Dianne Miller, Doug Creech, Shannon Juza

Row 4: Kristina Frazier, Dorothy Bohn, Marlene Fremion, Tiena Spears, Mary Coffee, Marci Barnibee, Patty McClenahan