Friday, October 31, 2014

I Forgot to Remember…

September 23, 2014 9:46 pm by  
Filed under Life, Women

I’m in the process of moving my office which I’ve occupied for twenty-two years. A typical “type A”, my work space looks crowded and cluttered, not in a hoarders sort of way, more like a piles of papers and stacks of notes way, but I know where everything is, or so I thought until I started to dismantle it.

Tumbling out from shelves and drawers came letters, memos, accolades, and souvenirs, and most of all memories I’ve collected, but hadn’t thought of in years.

The Paper Stackpace of my highly focused packing slowed to a leisurely journey down memory lane as I sifted through one project, one accomplishment, one challenge, after another.

When I finished, I had a small metal chest, a fireproof model I bought for important papers like insurance policies, filled with much more important papers that, when looked at as a whole, represent two decades of accomplishments about which I am very proud.

I taped a note to the lid of the chest that reads “Victory Box”

I used to tell my women’s leadership classes that they should keep a “brag file”…every time they do something above & beyond, write a note to themselves and put it in there. Each time someone sends an email or memo thanking them for their help, or when they receive a great performance review, put it in the brag file. Then on those days when it hasn’t gone so well, when you’ve screwed up, or been accused of doing so even if you didn’t, pour yourself a cool beverage and go through that file and let your past efforts speak for themselves.

Sometime we simply need to be reminded how smart, how competent, we really are. Starting now, I’m taking my own advice.

Proudly Presenting Perspectives Poetry Contest Winners…

July 28, 2014 6:12 pm by  
Filed under Life, Women

When one begins something new, there’s no way to know how successful it might be or how it will end. In the case of the Perspectives Poetry Contest, “it” has exceeded my highest expectations and ended with a stunningly beautiful winning poem by Gwyndolyn Parker, and with inspiring second and third place poems by Lindsay Schaefer and Donna Fleetwood.

As a writer myself, I understand the courage it takes to open your innermost private thoughts to the scrutiny of others. Many thanks to all of you who submitted your work for consideration: (In the order they were received) Gloria Domina, Valerie Kovacs King, Cindy Schneider, Natasha Serrano, Carol Minski, David Drescher, Carrie Ward, Robin Zmoda.

My goal for the contest was to encourage people, especially those who do not write professionally, to tap in to their creativity, let their thoughts flow, and be willing to share the product of that process. The outcome was an amazing display of talent.

Special gratitude goes to our three judges, Bathsheba Monk, Kae Tienstra, and Carolyn Potser. So many wonderful poems were submitted that they really had their work cut out for them: The final round of voting, based on a points and grid system, found several of the top tier poems separated from each other by a margin of only a half percent.

It is with great pleasure that I present to you the top three winning poems…

First Place: Shaping My Life by Gwyndolyn Parker of Douglasville, Georgia

Gwyndolyn Parker

Gwyndolyn Parker

Gwyndolyn is retired from Dun and Bradstreet where she served as Director, Supplier Diversity & Socio-Economic Business Solutions. Before moving to Georgia, Gwydolyn was very active in her Lehigh Valley, PA, community, serving on the City of Allentown, Human Relations Commissions, as well as the Board of Directors of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches and Hispanic American League of Artists.

Her passion for fairness, justice, and diversity has inspired her worldwide travels and her authorship of six self-published books.

Shaping My Life

 There are some women,

Who have shaped my life

 Nina Simone

With her songs

Maya Angelou

With her poetry

Faith Ringgold

With her art

Barbara Jordan

With her political stance

Shirley Chisholm

With her run for president

Oprah Winfrey’s

Climb to the top

Harriet Tubman’s

Fight for our freedom

Sojourner Truth’s

Ain’t I A woman?

These women

Have shaped my thoughts

Prepared my way

With their life

The way they lived it

The way they saw it

I want to change something

By being in it

I want to know

My thoughts also made a difference

My feet left prints

My stones made ripples in the ocean of life

I want to know that the world

Has been forever altered

Because I lived

I know the world

Will not remember

Me like a

Nina or a Maya

But if

Someone

Somewhere

Remembers something I said

Or something I wrote

It will be enough

For me to rest my head

Knowing I too made a difference

By being in it

                                     Gwyndolyn Parker

*****

Second Place: Once a Dancer, Always a Dancer by Lindsay Schaefer of Bethlehem, PA

Lindsay Schaefer

Lindsay Schaefer

Lindsay Schaefer is the artistic director of Artists in Unity, a multi-disciplinary arts company, and creator of Movement for You, a way-of-life practice that is a fusion of Yoga, Pilates and dance. Lindsay’s career has taken her throughout the US as a performer, choreographer, and teacher in the world of dance and movement practices. Her creative spirit led her to form Artists in Unity five years ago after moving from NYC to the Lehigh Valley. In her “spare” time, she is a wife and a mother to two children ages nine and seven.

 

 

 Once a Dancer, Always a Dancer

The Dance-

It slips away

Then runs back

As if…..

It never left

                                                                  

Once a dancer

I say

Always a dancer

 

Our bodies may change

Our ability to do everything may change

But, our hearts and deep love

For the dance

Never changes

We are always one with the Dance

 

A beautiful image

I carry

Of dancers

At 60, 70, 80

Maybe 90

White loose fabric blowing in the breeze

With hair long and free as the neck releases

The body twirls

As if

I am

Visiting years past

But, present today

 

The maturity

Grounds the body

Places me in my pure reality

The confidence

Eases the body

Into lightness and flow

My movement

 

The body has aged

Beautifully, I may say

 

I still see the dance

I still feel the dance

 

For I am still the dance

I am Always a Dancer

                      Lindsay Schaefer

****

Third Place: Beloved Babies by Donna Fleetwood of Mechanicsburg, PA

Donna Fleetwood

Donna Fleetwood

Donna Fleetwood is a full time Real Estate agent in the greater Harrisburg market. She also coaches other Real Estate agents and writes a professional blog, “Sell with Meaning”. Donna enjoys the meditative quality of reading and writing poetry, and has attended writing workshops in New Mexico and Utah. She often incorporates her poetry into visual journaling, layering paint and words. In addition to her business and creative pursuits, Donna serves on the executive committee of an international non-profit and works diligently in behalf of their constituents in Rwanda and Central America.

                                                                 Beloved Babies

                                                                    Rwanda was a slaughterhouse.

                                                                     Woke up this morning thinking

                                                                    About that blood soaked school

                                                               Of death and torture

                                                                Graduating class, April 1994.

                                                              Anitha tells of her cousin,

                                                              Delicate heel sliced with machete.

                                                             She falls, no place to hide.

                                                             Tall tree lasts a week,

                                                                Chopped down piece by piece.

                                                             Turn your head now,

                                                             “Don’t tell me more!”

                                                               In the land of safety, these things don’t happen.

                                                               In the land of plenty, this is not our human experience.

                                                             Only savages do that.

                                                              Flash forward July 2012.

                                                             Bloody theater Aurora, Colorado.

                                                            Orange headed clown with gun and grin,

                                                             Once known as Beloved Baby, soft and pink,

                                                             Now he goes by darker names.

                                                         From outside in

                                                           We blame object-

                                                            Gun, Parent, Media, Government.

                                                         We still can’t see inside

                                                           Where fetid madness starts.

                                                                The heart of darkness is not a place

                                                                 With borders and directions.

                                                            No geography really.

                                                              That map walks around on two legs.

 

Conspicuous Consumption…

July 1, 2014 12:37 pm by  
Filed under Absurdity, Life

The technology bounty of just one Christmas...half of which was never used. Technology recycling day was an eye opener.

The technology bounty of just one Christmas…half of which was never used. Technology recycling day was an eye opener.

The smallest moments can sometime have the largest impact on the way we see life and ourselves. One of those moments happened recently for me when our community held a free electronics recycling day.

Instead of paying someone to pull the precious metals out of our old computer’s brain and guts, we could hand it over for free – our tax dollars paying us a small return on investment.

My first impression was, “this will be easy”. It wasn’t. Once the hunt through the house began, it seemed nearly every room held some outdated device. From telephones that hung on the wall with cords connected to a handset, to an ancient electronic Rolodex, to an almost as ancient fax machine, several generations of cell phones, all the way to a huge computing tower and even larger monitor weighing over a hundred pounds, years of old technology was removed from closets, drawers, and desks.

By the time we finished, the entire back compartment of our SUV, with the second row of seats flattened, was filled to the roof with extinct dinosaurs, victims of technology’s evolution.

Looking at the tangle of plastic, metal, glass and wires, I started running a tab in my head: When the total reached $6000, I stopped counting.

As I watched burly big men toss our hard earned dollars into bins, heard the smashing of once glorious machines, I tried to rationalize the loss. Those things were not luxuries, they were necessities that made it possible for us to do our jobs, be more efficient, and overall have a better quality of life. But oh, wouldn’t I like to have those six plus thousand dollars, now. Exotic locales await…

That money, and the money that followed, did not take me to the Greek Isles, instead it bought an entire new generation of machines that no doubt will someday end up tossed in a bin of no return.

Every experience in life is a lesson. What this one has taught me is, going forward; I will be very selective with my purchases. Do I really always need the latest and greatest or would I prefer to cruise to Mykonos.

Bon voyage my friends.

 

A Rhyme In Time…

June 18, 2014 4:42 pm by  
Filed under Life, Uncategorized

Dear Friends,
The recent passing of Maya Angelou, one of America’s greatest poets, and my own modest success of having a poem published in the New York Times, led me to think that it would be fun to have a poetry contest of our own.No matter how many forms your creativity takes, from cutting edge leadership to great cooking, writing down your thoughts and observations can free your mind to fly.  I believe there is a poet in all of us…

We have three wonderful judges who have volunteered to read your work and render their opinion.  So dust off that old journal that’s stashed in a drawer, and get writing.  And be sure to let your friends know about the contest, too. You might find you are friends with the country’s next poet laureate. The world is waiting to read your thoughts!

The “rules” are listed below; here’s the bottom line… Write about whatever speaks to your heart and soul, then send it to Pam@PamelaVarkony.com. We’ll announce the winner at the end of July.

 

 The rules for Perspectives Poetry Contest are simple:

** The subject can be anything you like and in any form or format… from elegy to sonnet, from haiku to prose. Poems should not exceed 300 words. One submission per person, please.

** For your poem to be eligible, you will need to be a member of my Facebook page, PamelaVarkony/Speaker

** Email entries to Pam@PamelaVarkony.com, along with your contact information.

** Deadline for entries is Monday, June 30, at 5:00 p.m.

** The winner will be announced and their poem will be published on my Facebook page on Monday, July 28, and in the summer edition of Perspectives on July 30.

** The winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to their favorite organic food purveyor or grocery store.

** Be sure to  “like” my Facebook page to be eligible; you won’t want to miss all the updates and the big reveal.

 

Meet our three Judges
Add a description
Bathsheba Monk

Bathsheba Monk – Writer, Author, Speaker

Bathsheba is the author of five novels, including a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year. Bathsheba is also a producer and program host on WDIY, an NPR Community public radio station, and a popular speaker at colleges and universities. She’s currently writing the Swanson Herbinko Cozy Mystery series:  Dead Wrong, Dead Silence and Dead Karma.

 

 

Kae Tienstra

Kae Tienstra – Founder, KT Public Relations & Literary Services

Kae served thirteen years as publicity director for Rodale, Inc., before founding KT Public Relations, specializing in publicity and marketing campaigns for authors and book publishers. Kae is also an avid writer; her short story, “The Plum Pudding Phenomenon,“will be included in A Cup of Christmas Cheer to be published by Guideposts Books in October 2014.

Carolyn Potser.

Carolyn Potser – Teacher, Author, Columnist

After a storied career as a high school English and Creative Writing teacher with a particular love of poetry, Carolyn launched her own writing career, authoring a popular book on the history of her hometown, and becoming a freelance newspaper columnist. Famous for her high standards and red pen, Carolyn’s former students range from widely read authors to editors for the New York Times.

 

 

Commemorating The Memories…

April 10, 2014 6:54 pm by  
Filed under Life, Politics

The commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act taking place this week at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, reminds me of my own somewhat distant history with President Johnson, my first big professional break, and of the excitement that comes with having your whole life ahead of you and thinking anything is possible.

My first professional "head shot". Can you tell I was trying to look older. Note prim chignon.

My first professional “head shot”. Can you tell I was trying to look older. Note prim chignon.

While visiting my parents, a friend who worked as a copywriter at ABC News in New York told me that the network needed to staff up for the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. He knew I wanted to be a journalist but he also knew how old I was so I’m sure he was teasing me. Without telling anyone, a few days later I got on a bus and showed up at ABC’s employment office in New York…they didn’t have “HR Dept’s” yet.

I told just a teensy tiny little white lie to get hired…that I was about to graduate from college with a degree in journalism. Actually I was still a teenager. Before the internet it was much easier to get away with that kind of thing. I dropped the name of my parent’s friend, saying he had referred me for a position, again, no one checked, and I was hired right on the spot. The job description was a little vague, something about “assisting as needed”, but nothing could have mattered less…I floated home.

I'm so glad I still have this; found it in the bottom of a drawer not long ago... My official name badge I wore to gain access to the Convention Hall.

I’m so glad I still have this; found it in the bottom of a drawer not long ago… My official name badge I wore to gain access to the Convention Hall.

My parents were more supportive than I expected. Of course, I was once again stretching the truth a bit, like how all the girls who were hired to assist at the convention would sleep in a dormitory and be chaperoned.

I had my first professional head shot taken and off to AC I went in my father’s “quarry car” a beat up Plymouth with big fins. I found a room for $20 a day at a boarding house near the convention center. I was so naïve that it never occurred to me I could be in any kind of danger or that anyone might be dishonest. The first night I got in from work, all my jewelry had been stolen from the room.

Even that reality check could not take the glow off what turned out to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I’ve never worked harder, had less sleep, or felt more exhilarated. We were making a difference; keeping the American public informed. Everyone, even rival networks, had a spirit of camaraderie. The ABC anchor booth was near NBC, and one day, when nothing was happening on the floor, the famous Chet Huntley of Huntley and Brinkley, invited me in for a cup of coffee. They seemed genuinely interested in how I was doing, how I felt about being there, and what kind of career path I was planning. Not sure a leading network anchor would do that today…

It was my first taste of power and success. I’ve never forgotten it. When Johnson walked in to the Hall, his presence changed the air…it was thicker, heavier, carried more weight. So as we honor Lyndon Baines Johnson and his momentous accomplishment for this country, I’m also enjoying honoring the adventurous spirit of a young woman I used to know.

 

Women of the World at the United Nations

March 17, 2014 9:38 pm by  
Filed under Life, News, Women

That first view of Manhattan is always a thrill but never more so than knowing we were headed for the United Nations.

That first view of Manhattan is always a thrill but never more so than knowing we were headed for the United Nations.

Every conceivable event, product, food, seems to have its own day or month: March alone runs the gamut from ridiculous to serious, from National Ear Muff Day to International Women’s Month. Although it was chilly enough for the former, it was in honor of the latter that I, along with friend and colleague, Attorney Eleanor Breslin of Easton, traveled to New York to attend the United Nation’s Conference on the Status of Women. 

Eleanor and I share a desire to have a positive impact on the struggles of women in the developing world, especially in post-conflict countries where war and violence have resulted in many women being subjected to brutality beyond the imagining of most westerners. Eleanor has traveled to Africa to work with victims of mass rape and I have been to Afghanistan as both an advocate and writer. We have found outlets for our passion on this side of the ocean through two NGO’s, The Business Council for Peace, Bpeace, an organization whose focus is creating women entrepreneurs who will then create jobs, and Open A Door Foundation, OAD, who believes in global transformation through women’s higher education.

Four of OAD’s students are currently in the Lehigh Valley, three at Lehigh University and one at Lafayette College. More will be coming in the fall of 2014, including the addition of a student at Muhlenberg College.  It was at the invitation of OAD that Eleanor and I boarded a bus bound for New York and the United Nations’ CSW Conference.

To call our experience “inspiring” would be an understatement. Sharing the energy of women from around the world all gathered in one place for one purpose, advocating for the welfare of their sisters, creates an atmosphere of “anything is possible”. Eleanor and I especially enjoyed two panel discussions where OAD co-founder, Barbara Bylenga, participated; “Empowering Women as Change-Agents through Global Networking” and “From Higher Education to Women’s Leadership”.

Panel discussion on "Empowering Women as Change-Agents" at the UN Conference on the Status of Women

Panel discussion on “Empowering Women as Change-Agents” at the UN Conference on the Status of Women

After spending time in the company of hundreds of women committed to improving conditions for women within their countries, it’s almost easy to envision a future where every woman enjoys equal protection under the law and equal opportunity in their culture. Yet, certain voices remain with me, certain faces are imprinted on my mind days after returning home, like the woman representing a united federation of women’s organizations from the Ukraine, who stood to say that the young women of her country are demanding democracy. And the woman who spoke of the Syrian university students her organization is rescuing so they can continue their education. Through the euphoria of our common purpose, they are a stark reminder of the realities that still exist.

Why should this matter to those of us whose lives are safe and secure? Because where women are repressed, uneducated, brutalized, half of that country’s potential is lost. No economy can thrive without the input of its women. The result is poverty, war, turmoil, and terrorism.

In honor of International Women’s Month, and for the good of the planet, please consider doing your part to have a positive effect on the future of women around the world. Donate; Volunteer; Mentor. One person CAN make a difference.

 

Barra Ascendency A Double Win…

January 15, 2014 4:24 pm by  
Filed under News, Women

Mary Barra

Mary Barra, GM’s new CEO.

Mary Barra’s rise to CEO at General Motors is a win not only for women who wonder if their gender will ever see parity in America’s corporate “C” Suites, it’s also a win for STEM proponents everywhere. Mary rose through the ranks not from sales or marketing but as an engineer. One of her first public statements after her appointment was to promote the importance of girls, and boys, becoming proficient in science and math.

According to an article on CNBC online, labeling Barra a “rock star”, her mere presence at this week’s Detroit auto show caused a near media riot. While this level of attention will undoubtedly be short-lived, let’s hope her influence on how women view their chances of making it to the top, are not. And if even one smart little girl decides it’s cool to study math, science, biology, & engineering, then Mary Barra will have something, beyond her own success, to be very proud of.

Taking Root After A Storm…

September 4, 2013 12:05 pm by  
Filed under Life

When Hurricane Sandy dropped a tree on our house last October, destroying our yard and patio, an important part of the security and serenity of our world came undone. To call that event “stressful” would be an understatement, but like many negative things in life, there are lessons to be learned and even a positive outcome or two.

When Spring arrived this year, we began to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again including lots of reseeding and replanting. Just outside our kitchen door was our favorite place, a lovely, shady, patio. The steep bank that protected and provided privacy for that patio was totally rearranged when the giant tree that lived there came crashing down leaving a crater reminiscent of WWII and a slash of muddy earth that had once been a lush barrier to the outside world.

The landscaper did his best, within the limitations of our budget, to restore some semblance of green, but there were lots of barren brown patches and we knew it would take at least another growing season for that “scar upon the land” to heal.

Squash VineOne day I noticed a plant that had seemly sprung up overnight and one we definitely didn’t plant. It looked like a squash of some sort, but in its early growth stage I couldn’t tell. I asked my husband, a prolific gardener if, for amusement, he had planted something. No, he hadn’t and why would he plant a large vegetable in the middle of our hoped for butterfly retreat. The invader grew quickly and started climbing across and up the bank for some twenty feet. Soon it was covered in what were obviously yellow squash blossoms.

The blossoms have finally revealed their bounty… beautiful dual-colored decorative gourds, just like the ones I had in a basket by the front door last October when Hurricane Sandy came calling. The circle of life and a life-lesson wrapped up in a lovely little green and gold package. It reminded me that…

Life’s storms, both emotional and meteorological, can strip away everything you’ve worked for: Someone dies; someone doesn’t love you anymore; your children move away; your job is eliminated. The peace, security, and beauty that surrounded and sustained you are gone. Allow yourself to grieve, then take a deep breath and figure out the best way to move on. Begin again, planting as you go.

Squash on the VineAnd most of all, remember, sometimes unexpected surprises may take root in your life…in the midst of your lovely new garden. Don’t look at them as weeds, as uninvited intruders, instead celebrate the chance to try something entirely different than you had planned. You may end up finding an exciting new life… or with a basket full of fall gourds.

Do You Believe In Magic?

August 27, 2013 10:12 pm by  
Filed under Life, News, Women

Well do you…do you believe in magic? I do, and sometimes it is what keeps me going during those times when you think you’re never going to be happy, or successful, or appreciated, again. I believe that out there, somewhere, is always the possibility that lightening will strike and offer us mere mortals one of those rare moments when all the stars align.

Such a moment happened recently to Sarah Horn. Sitting in a Hollywood Bowl audience of 15,000 at a Kristin Chenoweth concert, Sarah had no idea that her lightening strike moment was coming. Chenoweth often chooses someone from her audience to come on stage to “sing” with her. Last Friday evening Chenoweth stopped in front of Sarah, who due to a ticket mix-up was in a different seat, to ask if she knew the words to the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked.  The result of this random audience selection is usually an endearing amateur effort followed by a quiet return to their seat.

Not this time: The video of Horn’s performance with Chenoweth has gone beyond viral with nearly two million hits. No wonder, it’s the kind of moment we all dream of having…of getting our shot. But this was so much more, Sarah Horn was ready; an unknown vocal instructor from Riverside, California, she had in her own way been preparing for this all her life. She had the goods and she delivered, knowing this would never come again. She got up on that stage in front of thousands, stood next to a Broadway star and held her own…it was magic.

The pay-off has come, too; Horn has been inundated with requests for interviews and she’s doing a little interviewing of her own…for an entertainment attorney and an agent. You go girl!! 

Sarah Horn’s inspiring performance provides a real life-lesson for the rest of us: Never give up your dreams; always believe in magic; and most importantly, be prepared to wow ‘em when your moment comes. Oh yes, and when they make a mistake with your ticket, trust that your fairy god-mother is on duty and move post-haste to the new location.

Children Are Starving in China…

August 1, 2013 10:36 pm by  
Filed under Absurdity, Life

When I was growing up, one of the most frequently uttered threats from my parents was, “You will sit right there until you eat everything on your plate. Don’t you know children are starving in China”.  My knowledge, at the time, of starving children was limited to hearing about them over cold, soggy peas and I couldn’t find China on a map. But the American middle-class message, imparted to my generation of Baby Boomers by millions of Great Depression/WW II parents was clear: Waste not, want not; Be grateful for what you have; Remember those less fortunate, which, along with the country’s Judea-Christian values, is likely why the United States ranks as the most charitable, generous nation in the world. 

That generous nature seems to have trickled down to the following generations with a slight twist: If I set up a charitable foundation and give to the less fortunate, I can spend as much money on myself and live as lavishly as I please. To wit… The recent wedding of, according to Vanity Fair, “social media baron”, ala Facebook and Napster, Sean Parker, to singer – songwriter Alexandra Lenas.

A fantasy wedding path into the forest... Photo property of VF.com

A fantasy wedding path into the forest… Photo property of VF.com

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a free-market capitalist. If you earn it fair and square, it’s yours to spend however you like. Mitt Romney has an elevator in his garage, John Kerry and Teresa Heinz between them own five expensive houses, and David Tepper, of hedge fund fame tore down a perfectly good mansion in the Hamptons to build an obscenely bigger one with a sunken tennis court.

But in shear “I have it so therefore I spend it” fantastical audacity, the Parker-Lenas extravaganza takes the cake, the nine foot wedding cake that is.

A cake fit for a faitytale wedding in the woods. Photo property of VF.com

A cake fit for a fairytale wedding in the woods. Photo property of VF.com

The theme was “Lord of the Rings”medieval and the backdrop was a primordial forest that cost over $4.5 million to rent. The photographs, which appear in the September edition of Vanity Fair magazine and at VF online are simply breathtaking.  They also stretch credulity that mere mortals could create such a scene in the middle of nowhere for the sole purpose of one night’s revelry.

As I clicked through the photographs, followed by reading the story in the magazine; I’m a long-time subscriber, I had mixed emotions about the amount of money expended for such a self-aggrandizing reason. My artist’s soul was mesmerized by the beauty and creativity, the attention to every detail resulting in the closest thing to a living fairytale most of us are likely to ever see. And then there was my practical head which in I heard my mother’s voice saying, don’t you know there are children starving… if not in China, then somewhere.

Next Page »