Observations and Oddities

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Somewhere In Between category.

Never forget

I struggled with whether or not I wanted to make a 9/11 post on Facebook today. I considered the standard “where I was when the planes hit’’ note; a heartfelt thank you for the first responders who on that day and everyday ran in when others were running out; a note of appreciation for our servicemen and women who put their lives on the line to ensure we continue to live ours in the land of the free; prayers for the families who lost loves ones and still grieve each and every day;  a simple God bless America- but none really summed it up for me.

As I’m sure many others did today, I reflected on many things related to that fateful day 10 years ago. I remembered the feelings of disbelief and fear as I heard (and saw) the news. I reflected on the fact that the one thing I desired most that morning was to get back home to my husband and daughter where we could just be together. I relived the grief and fear. However those memories were not the ones that most occupied my mind.

Over and over, rather than remembering the terror, the pain, the horror, my mind turned to the days and weeks following the attacks. The days when people flocked to churches, searching for faith, peace and answers. The days when families reconnected and refocused on the most important things in life. The days when we were united as Americans- cloaked in patriotism, goodwill and unity.  In the shadows of one of the darkest days in our country’s history, the United States blossomed and the words “proud to to be an American” resonated with me more than any other time in my life.

Now, here we are, 10 short years later.  We pledge to never forget the lives lost, the acts of amazing heroism, the day that changed the world; and as a whole, we remain true to that promise. However I wonder if we would extend that commitment to never forget the beauty of unity, service to one another, and return to faith that came in the days following what effect it might have in our world today.

I, for one, commit to making a dedicated effort to honor those lost and those who continue to sacrifice for our freedoms by striving to live the life that so many of us sought in the aftermath of terror. I will flock to my church in search of faith and peace and answers. I will focus on my family and try to keep my priorities straight. I will seek unity, exercise goodwill through service to others and display my patriotism.

I will not forget.







Lessons learned

As I was working today on the copy for a new brochure, I heard a voice from my past.  It was my high school English Composition teacher saying to me “one sentence does not a paragraph make.”  Now, you should know that I am a professional communicator.  I work in marketing, where the rules of writing are a bit more casual than the rubrics of formal composition.  As such, it is perfectly acceptable for me use a standalone sentence as an opening paragraph. It is also acceptable for me to use the occasional run-on sentence, to start a sentence with “but” or “because” and to break a myriad of other proper writing rules. However I can’t help but hear the echoes of one of my life’s educators in my head as I apply the skills she helped me hone.

Today, for some reason, this resonated a bit more with me than it has in the past and I started to look back on some of the other great things I have learned from teachers throughout my life. While the list that ran through my head included people from various walks of life who had crossed paths with me in a wide variety of roles, I kept finding myself focusing on the professional educators that were (along with my parents) charged with the task preparing me to be an effective, functioning  adult. 

These teachers performed all of the obligatory tasks- I learned to read, write, spell and tabulate. I understand (a little more than) the basics of life science, anatomy, U.S. and world history and geography.  I can even speak a little bit of Spanish.   My teachers did their job. They taught me the required subject matter. They saw me through the system and prepared me to be an employed grown-up.  But when I reflected on the things that they taught me that have most impacted who I am today- it had nothing to do with what was in the lesson plan, or what I needed to know to score well on the ISTEP test, or even what the requirements were to earn my college scholarship.  The things they really taught me are far more important.

I found it fitting in the wake of recent events, to list a few of the things I’ve learned from teachers along the way. As people are pondering the monetary value of the service educators provide, I’ve gathered a few of the priceless things they gave to me in the bullets below.  This list could go on for days and days, so I mean no disrespect to those who may not be mentioned, or by leaving out additional things I learned from those listed, but here are a few that stand out:

  • Mrs. Willis taught me in kindergarten that it is OK to be proud of your talents and to share them with others without feeling like you are different or showing off. I was an early reader when many of my classmates were just beginning to explore the concept. She would have me read to the class during group reading time, something that made me very self-conscious.
  • Ms Tonies taught me that you shouldn’t cave to peer pressure.  A classmate had dared me to bite him. I knew better, but he was one of the “cool” kids and I was not.  I caved to his pressure and was immediately reprimanded and sent to the hall for a one-on-one conversation with Ms. Tonies (and, I feared, the paddle).  However, I received no corporal punishment. Instead I was given the 8-year old equivalent of the “if your friend told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” lesson.
  • Mr. Guerin (OK, so he was a principal at the time) taught me that if you want something, you should tell someone that you want it, ask what it will take to get it and then work hard to do just that.  As a fifth grade student, I wanted nothing more than to be asked to participate in Project Challenge (an extra curricular learning program). However, an invitation was dependent on teacher recommendation and honor roll grades.  The grading period in which invitations were extended I received one of very few C+’s in my K-12 educational career- in handwriting.  I was devastated by the fact that something so (in my esteemed ten year-old opinion) insignificant, could keep me from my goal. I plead my case to Mr. Guerin.  After helping me see that handwriting was indeed important, and gaining my commitment to work hard to improve my script, Mr. Guerin offered me the chance to test for inclusion in the program.   I made it and improved my handwriting grade immediately.
  • Mrs. Grossman taught me that I had a natural talent for teaching.  I was never a student in Mrs. Grossman’s class. However, I did help lead a junior Girl Scout troop that met in her classroom after school when I was a junior high school student.  As such, she would often still be there, grading papers at her desk, silently observing how I interacted with the girls I was directing.  One week she stopped me and told me that I should really consider being a teacher, having been impressed with how I was able to connect with my girls and to really get them excited about what we were learning.   I did major in elementary education for a brief time in college before realizing it wasn’t really for me (I don’t really like kids as much as I thought).  However, years later I found that she was very right as I found myself in a job I loved- educating adults as a corporate trainer.
  • Mrs. McNeely told me I had stage presence. Following my first performance in a high school drama club production, she pulled me aside in the lobby and informed me of this. It was one of the biggest confidence boosters of my life and has been instrumental in helping me become a comfortable (and pretty effective) public speaker.
  • Dr. Hall taught me that the appropriate answer is usually “it depends.”   During the discussion of confounding variables in a Sociology 201 class, Dr. Hall taught me that things are hardly every black and white and before making a judgment  one should always consider what other variables there may be that have been overlooked. The foundation of critical thinking, a lesson I am reminded of on a daily basis and one that I believe has helped shape my character as an adult.

It is my sincere belief that individuals are created by their unique combination of exposure to- and experience with- others. It takes others’ contributions to create who we are. In my case, I feel blessed to have had some amazing people help make me who I am today and to continue to have others who are helping shape who I am still becoming.  My teachers have provided more than their fair share to this monumental task and I think one more recognition is appropriate as I close this entry.

Mrs. Talley taught me  that “once sentence does not a paragraph make.”

About Porkopolis

In the early 1800’s, the city of Cincinnati (previously known as Losantiville) became the meat processing capital of the world, thus earning the moniker “Porkopolis.” The qualification the title was based on was only temporary, lasting just a few decades, until Chicago claimed the title as meat packing capital later in the century. However, Cincinnati’s adoration of the pig and their related nickname remained.  You’ll find evidence of this in the aptly named Flying Pig Marathon held every spring as well as the popular Porkopolis Tavern and Grill, and varied statues, monuments and art displays dispersed throughout town.

No, this isn’t a lesson in the history of Cincinnati (at least not a formal one).  It’s simply one of the few random facts I have picked up about my current home since I moved here in 2006.  Being a lifelong Hoosier prior to my move to the Buckeye state, I had a lot to learn about my new town.  Today’s post covers some of the more interesting (at least to me) things I have picked up along the way.

A city of many names
In addition to Porkopolis, Cincinnati is known as “The Queen City” and “The City of Seven Hills”.  The royal name was earned in the years following the loss of the Porkopolis credentials, when Henry  Wadsworth Longfellow referred to the town as ‘the queen of the West” in his poem Catawba Wine (although credit for coining the term is actually given to a local newspaper writer, Ed B. Cooke).  The monarchy reigns strong to this day with references to the queen city found everywhere.  The most recent and high profile of these references being the addition of the new Great American Tower at Queen’s Square to the city Skyline. The building is even topped with a tiara to confirm its noble standing. The sparkling crown is modeled after Princess Diana’s famed topper. Why the “queen” of the city is topped with a princess’ crown rather than a queen’s I don’t know? Maybe the architect just doesn’t care for Queen Elizabeth.

The second name is much more literal.  The seven hills that made up the landscape of what was then considered Cincinnati were described in The West American Review in June, 1853.  They are: Mount Adams, Walnut Hills, Mount Auburn, Vine Street Hill, College Hill, Fairmount, and Mount Harrison. These rolling beauties, along with several other hills that are part of what is now considered Cincinnati are one of my favorite things about the “Nati (oops, there’s another one of those nicknames)  I highly recommend the views from both Mount Adams and Price Hill (one of the later incorprated hills) and will gladly show them to you if you should ever choose to visit me. The seven hills name is also still prevalent, gracing the front of schools, doctor’s offices, office buildings and more. (For those of you who are real history buffs, there’s a connection to the original City of Seven Hills too, as Cincinnati is named for the Roman general and dictator, Cincinnatus.  Look it up.)

Chili, Please?
Two things that really required some adjustment on my part were Cincinnatians’ use of the term “please” and their definition of chili.  I learned quickly, although not without some confusion, that locals use the word “please” in place of the phrases “excuse me” or “could you repeat that” when they have not heard something in its entirety and would like you to repeat it.  While I have not adopted the use of this phraseology, I at least no longer hesitate to process what is being asked of me when I hear the oddly placed “please.”

 I have also not adopted a taste for Cincinnati chili.  Chili is big business here and the source of many heated debates.  Cincinnati chili lovers fall into one of two camps: Skyline fans or Gold Star fans- there is no crossover. They are passionate about their preferred brand and about their serving style: 3-way, 4-way, 5-way or coneys, all topped with pounds upon pounds of shredded cheese.  While I can appreciate the cheese topping, the underlying chocolate and cinnamon flavored sludge is one queen city staple I will not become accustomed to, ever.

Where are you from?
My fair city offers a series of idiosyncrasies all related to determining where someone is from.  When moving to Cincinnati, the first thing you need to understand is West side versus East side.  The West side is the home of lifelong Cincinnatians, their parents, grandparents, great grandparents and the members of their families who originally boarded the Mayflower. The only way in is to be born there or married in (and even that route may be questionable). Individuals raised on the West side who choose to leave and move to the East side risk possible shunning.  The East side is reserved for transplants or those not lucky enough to be born on the West side.

The second key understanding is that when someone asks you where you went to school (specifically if the question is being posed by a Westsider), they are not expecting to hear where it is you attended college. They are referring to your high school. What’s more is, they are referring to your Catholic high school.  If your answer is not one of the schools affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, you can at least know that this conversation will be a short one, as the inquisitor will be at a loss for a follow-up question.

Then, there is the strange phenomenon that occurs due to Cincinnati’s tri-state location. With the corners of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky making up the greater Cincinnati area, you’ll run into residents of all three states in most local workplaces.  What I’ve found interesting about this is, when you ask an Ohio resident where they live, they will answer in great detail with the name of their city, town, village or neighborhood.  However, when the same question is posed to an Indiana or Kentucky resident the answer is more often than not a general reference to the state from which they hail.   I have yet to make a conclusion about the reason for this discrepancy. Do the Hoosiers and Kentuckians think their states are so far away that there is no way the Buckeyes would know the location of Lawrenceburg, Indiana or Covington, Kentucky? Or do they have the impression that their home states are so small that there is no need to clarify what part of the state they call home?  I’m determined to get to the bottom of this one.

Cincinnati in a the box
There are dozens of other quirks I could expand upon, but won’t right now.  Instead I’ll offer the following references for you to further expand your Cincinnati knowledge on your own time.  All are television references, so you can get your ‘Nati exposure straight from the “box”.

  1. WKRP in Cincinnati.  While Dr Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap were never really on the air in Porkopolis, the fountain that appears in the opening sequence is indeed a Cincinnati icon.  It stands proudly in the center of Fountain Square, serving as the hub of downtown’s activities and growth.
  2. Taking the Stage on MTV.com.  This reality show was set at the Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Produced by SCPA grad, Nick Lachey (who is the city’s golden child), it gives you a look at some of the talent in this fair city. Unfortunately the show was cancelled before the opening of the new SCPA last fall. The new facility is amazing and is the first public K-12 arts school in the U.S.   It’s also the alma mater of Sarah Jessica Parker, Drew Lachey, Rebecca Budig and a few other people you may have heard of.
  3. The 2009 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks follows the Cincinnati Bengals through training camp.  Camp for the Bungles is held here in Cincinnati, so the show will give you some exposure to the city. It will also help you feel sympathetic for the diehard fans that call this team their own.
  4. Policewomen of Cincinnati is currently airing on TLC on Thursday nights at 9/8c. While the show obviously focuses on some of the less desirable aspects of The Queen City, an observant viewer will also be able to see a city attempting to reclaim crime ridden areas and beautiful architecture from a variety of historical periods and well as some pretty phenomenal female police officers.

Hail to the Queen?
I have admittedly been slow to adopt Cincinnati as “my city”, harboring a love for my prior home (Indianapolis) instead.  However, in recent months I have turned a corner and have come to appreciate a lot more about what my current city has to offer. There is some incredible history here, the arts are widely supported, the geography is beautiful, it is a city of firsts and a city of great shopping (Saks, Tiffany’s, Nordstrom, IKEA and more).  The locals are willing to accept that I still wear a Colts jersey and not a Bengals version, and that I have an interest in auto racing, which is not often talked about here.  So, I’m planning on being more engaged in my surroundings and to make a real commitment to learning more about Porkopolis and I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about it too.

Anatomy of a small town

I grew up in a small town. (And I’m showing great restraint here, by not dictating the Mellencamp lyrics currently running through my head).  From birth to college graduation, I lived within the same 30 mile radius.  Since that time, I have spent my adult life living in two decent-sized Midwestern cities where I often spend time talking with people who have no concept of what growing up in a small town is like.

Some of these “city-folk” find my upbringing charming. Some are a bit more condescending. Others find my tales of small town life downright amusing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to clarify that “Boonville” is indeed the actual name of my home town and not some colloquialism rooted in the fact that we were living in the “boonies.”  This explanation is almost always met with an audible giggle and a repeating of “Boonville?” generally followed with a “really?”

I have to admit, the more time I spend away from my small town the more I fall in the amused category as well. Looking in from the outside it’s easy to see how some of the things I found so commonplace seem so odd when you’re not privy to how it all works.  The biggest example of this is generally when I’m talking about people I know from my childhood.    

I was recently trying to describe to a co-worker how it is I knew a certain person.  My description went something like this:  “Well, she’s kind of family in a way, as she is my step-father’s cousin.  But I’ve known her much longer than that. When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time with one of my dad’s best friends’ families.  Not only did we spend time with him, his wife and his kids, but sometimes we would spend time with their extended family as well-specifically the best friend’s wife’s sister’s family.  This is how I really first knew the person in question, but now I’m more likely to see her at step-family related events.” 

I must note that I am being purposely vague here in an attempt to avoid identifying the person in question, but realizing that the majority of people who will read this post are also from Boonville, It’s entirely likely several of you have already made the connection of who I’m talking about without a single mention of anyone’s name  (something else the city slickers would find humorous).

Having been away from my small town for a while I can now see how someone not so familiar with the inner workings of a place where everyone knows everyone at some level would find this description to be comical.  I’m certain some are even picturing a back-woods, inbred, hillbilly family complete with bare feet and overalls (OK, overalls may have been a possibility). I mean really, how many redneck jokes have you heard that could easily be edited to include the phrase: “my daddy’s best friends’ wife’s niece”?

But when you are the one who lived this life, and who understands that these types of community relationships are what allowed me to live a carefree childhood where, at 10 years old, I could leave my house alone on a bike and be on my own for hours without a cell phone connection to my mother. When you get that this village mentality gave me the security of knowing that if I ran out of gas on a side road, that the next person by would willingly stop and help me (and that I could safely accept their help). Then you can see how it made me feel known, protected, connected and secure. 

So, while I can appreciate the quirkyness of my small-town origins and find plenty of opportunity to laugh at it myself; I can’t help but hope that I can deliver some of the sense of belonging that comes from that experience  to my daughters as they make their way here in the “big” city.  It’s a big world out there and it’s nice to be able to refer back to the comfort of “home” every once and awhile.