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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Made it to Jerusalem

After an overnight flight, and all that goes with traveling, I am ready for bed. This will be quick initial thoughts followed by a polished post later. Please come back!

Julie and I are traveling to Israel for the next 34 days. Don and Ashley are fending for themselves at home and taking care of the pets (hopefully that does not become a story).

Our plane left yesterday at 4:55 pm, well really closer to 6 pm because of a medical problem not related to anyone on our flight. Other than that, the flight was uneventful, and non-stop. We made it through the Tel Aviv airport pretty quickly, even though we did check our luggage (our trowels needed for the dig would not have made it through security).

Julie and I took a "sharet" to the hostel. A sharet is a shared taxi. They wait for 10 people to show up, charge everyone 67 shekels (about $20), and drops us each off at our hotel. We felt we had a bit of a wait for that tenth person, but c'est la vie. Also a religious man insisted we had to change seats because he could not sit in the same seat as a woman (I know, when in Rome).

We did get money from the ATM. We did not get a SIM card or a phone. There is a lot of WiFi, and I really enjoy the forced disconnection. I can read a map.

We are staying in single rooms in a hostel really close to the main market, which looks more like a pedestrian street than a market. The shops are more permanent. Will explore tomorrow when I do some shopping.

Julie's initial observation is everything looks the same -- all limestone buildings. Some taller, some shorter, but basically the same. Reminded me of Paris in that way, the Jerusalem look instead of the Hausmann look.

As luck would have it, the night before I left Nancy stopped by to wish me Bon Voyage. She put me in touch with her friend, Connie, who works for the Israeli Museum (links and correct names to appear in the updated version). We decided to go today because Tuesday is their late night. The museum was fairly quiet -- and very air conditioned. While we were there a French film crew was filming (yes, that sentence could use a rewrite). It was jarring to hear French -- I typlically hear French while traveling, but I didn't expect to hear it on this trip.

Connie is a conservator (she explained the difference between what she does and what a ____ does). She is on the team creating awesome displays and figuring out the best way to highlight the artifacts. Sounds like a dreamy job to me. She introduced us to colleagues and showed us where she works. She also gave us the high level tour. Did you know the Israelis invented glass blowing? Israel has so much more to offer than being the birthplace of monotheism (though that is quite amazing in and of itself). 

The Israeli Museum has a lot more than just Israeli items. Hoping my pictures freshen my memory so I can flesh this out in a few days. I made the mistake of checking my backpack with my notebook in it, and could not then take notes. Add in being sleep deprived, and the retention rate is low.

A new exhibit just opened comparing Peter Pan with the mythical Pan. Yes, they are related. Again, odd seeing a bit of Disney in a museum filled with ancient treasures.

I enjoyed their exhibit of the notebook found a year after a space shuttle exploded with notes from the first Israeli to go into space. A Torah similar to the one he brought with him was on display.

The highlight of the museum is the Shrine of the Book -- bits of the Dead Sea Scrolls housed in a building the shape of the container where they were found 72 years ago. I would have taken pictures, but I heeded the no photo warning. Years ago the Franklin Institute had an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls. That was sort of meh, THIS was amazing -- large chunks put together to give the sense of something bigger.

Julie and I parted ways for the return trip. After the long plane ride, I needed to stretch my legs so I took the map the hostel provided and walked back. I took a detour through the ____ Rose Garden -- which is not nearly as stunning as the one in Portland, OR or the one in Columbus, OH. 

I found the hostel. After setting the timer to warm up the shower (for which I am glad we are not sharing a room), I pulled out my laptop to get some thoughts down. I wish they were more inspiring. Perhaps after tomorrow's walking tour of Jerusalem (which I will take notes during), I'll have more to say.

'Night.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Time for Some Reflection



A recently Facebook post has generated a lot of energy, so I decided to share it here to be able to return to it later.

As I get ready to embark on a 5 week adventure in Israel (4 weeks on the Tell Keisan dig near Haifa and Akke, and a few days of sightseeing in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) I can't help but be amazed at how I have changed since starting to work for The Bridge Academy.
Many of you followed my job hunting saga through Facebook and personal conversations. I left traditional work in 2002 when Ashley was born. Over the years I did some freelance writing for local papers, earned my MLIS degree from Rutgers, did some other freelance work, tried to start a business, and did some volunteering here and there. Nothing consistent or solid. A couple of years ago I wanted to return to steady income and applied to a bunch of jobs and had some really fun interviews, but alas no offers. I was fussy about what I wanted ... I wanted to work someplace where I believed in the organization, I wanted flexible hours (after years of freelance I knew regular hours would not work), I wanted to do a variety of tasks every day, I wanted to work with people I enjoyed being around, I only wanted to work part-time, and I wanted a short commute. In the end, the new position had to fit into my life, which is not always easy.
Backtrack to when Ashley was little and we were in MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers). A woman said she prayed about the type of man she wanted to marry--he had to love her children as much as she did, he had to be God-fearing, etc. A week later she met HIM at a wedding. Remembering this story, I told God what I wanted in a new job. He provided me with a job that is even better than I could have dreamed for myself.
I'm leaning on skills I developed as a freelancer (writing, taking pictures, reaching out to the press, keeping all the balls afloat) and learning new ones (I ran my first gala, I put together a newsletter after teaching myself Publisher). Six months later I am still amazed God sent this opportunity to me and that The Bridge Academy took a chance on me and my sketchy resume.
The Bridge Academy routinely take students who have been broken by their past educational experiences and fill them with love and confidence. They are doing the same for me.
In a couple of months I'll be having a milestone birthday and be setting up a Facebook Fundraiser. I recently learned 100% of the money my friends and family donate will go to The Bridge Academy. What better way for me to celebrate? Visit www.bridgeacademynj.org to learn more about the school and to make a donation.
The wine bottle was left on my desk one day last week. The art teacher transferred the Bridge logo (which is hard to see in this picture) on the bottle and left it, with some flowers in it, as a present for me. Who wouldn't love working someplace when you are routinely filled with so much love and thoughtfulness?
I'll be sharing my adventures through Pillspress.blogspot.com. Chances are initial posts will be rough sketches to be polished after I come home, so visit often if you want to read about life on an archaeological dig in the blazing heat.


Princeton Pride Parade

Yesterday Princeton held their first Pride Parade. Seems with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots many places are holding Pride events, and that is great.

Warning: potentially unpopular opinions ahead.

Princeton's felt, well, rather Princeton. Even looking at my pictures I see a bunch of white people wearing rainbows. I'm sure some are LGBTQ, but many others care like we do. There were some kids and some people of color, but most looked like they walked there. Corporations from Stark & Stark to Triumph Brewery to Small World Coffee (and many others) walked in this 10-minute parade handing out stickers, beads, reusable bags, and other future trash.

Governor Phil Murphy walked with his wife, but I didn't notice them. 

For me the highlight was seeing Chet and Frank -- a local married couple most famous for posing with the oxen in Hopewell a few years ago wearing matching outfits -- matching to each other and to the oxen. After years of following them on Facebook, I was a little starstruck to meet them in person. Frank has been attending the NYC Pride Parade since about 1973 or 1974. He spoke about the early days of the Pride movement.

On the positive, nothing bad happened. The weather was perfect (sunny and in the 70s -- very rare for New Jersey this year). We stood in a shady spot near the start of the route. Pictures closer to the turn from Witherspoon to Paul Robeson Place looked more crowded. A friend was there and received a free Pride flag -- a memento I would have snatched up for Ashley who was at work.

Krystal Knapp posted a lot of pictures at Planet Princeton. Her headline says "thousands," even walking from the front to the back (but on parallel streets) to the after party it never once felt crowded.

It felt like it could have been the Memorial Day Parade. Other than the ubiquitous rainbows, nothing stood out as Gay Pride, but maybe that is the point. LGBTQ people are people. They live here, they work here, they pay taxes here. Still, a few drag queens would have added some flair and panache.

The word on the street is this will happen again next next year. May it grow and flourish.

Here are a few of my pictures.


Mike Hot-Pence




Miss Gay New Jersey



The largest group

Love kids riding decorated bikes





Chet and Frank

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Mudder, Mutter, Mother's Day

As I was stepping over and through mud puddles in Washington Crossing along the canal, I came up with the title for this post: Mudder, Mutter, Mother's Day.


Part one of the day was a 10K race sponsored by RunBucks. It is a good distance for me, lately a stretch distance for me as I've been running less. The weather was horrible -- 50s and raining. Only the day before we had a beautiful blue sky while doing goat yoga. This was not that. The course was almost as muddy as a Tough Mudder course (or so it seemed to me).

To add insult to the injury of being outside on a cold, rainy day, the race started 10 minutes late. Ugh. RunBucks usually runs a tight ship. They start their races on time, and they always have great post-race food (for example, the December race has Thanksgiving dinner food at the end, the March race has tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches), plus they keep their prices reasonable.



There is nothing you can do about the weather. You can see in this picture everyone is huddled under the cover. Runners showed up late to avoid being outside. The day before the race they sent out an email saying they were short volunteers --and it showed. The first three miles had markers, but not the last three. 

I've done different distances on this course with the same group -- the 4 miler and 15K courses come to mind. This was the first time we both started and ended with the "spiral of death." I get it in the beginning -- it thins out the crowded course so the super duper fast runners can PR without us more social runners getting in the way. At the end of the race it is pure torture! The slow runners have to push through the ones who have long finished and are sauntering back to their cars with their families. You can't tell who is still just trying to finish and who finished long ago because by the end, they are all going at the same pace. When I was finished and walking back to my car I met a couple of women who still had half a mile to go. They looked at my lack of medal (what do you expect for a $20 race?) and nearly continued to their car without finishing. We did get a lovely women's cut tee-shirt (the few men participating received a pint glass instead) and a carnation at the finish line, but no medal, which I am fine with at this stage in my running career.


I finished about where I expected to. I can do 1:10 for a 10k, but wasn't feeling it that day. The puddles were awful and unavoidable. For the last half there was no one close enough in front of me to try to pass, and no one close enough behind me I was afraid of passing me. Don't let anyone tell you differently -- there is a lot of psychology involved with running. It is not all physical. My head was clearly not in it. It did not help that my GPS stopped working for nearly a mile, and the lack of mile markers made me question where I was and how I was doing. See, psychological.

After a warm shower, Don, Ashley, and I went into Philadelphia to visit the Mutter Museum with free library passes.

It was still raining. It was still cold. Don scored street parking around the corner from the museum.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Mutter Museum, it is a museum of medical oddities. Some are pretty cool, others are nightmare inducing. My favorite part were the beautiful wood cabinets.


"Alice in Wonderland" explained scientifically.
One statistic I am wrestling with is the museum states 83% of the US population has their ears pierced. I found an article on racked.com that supports this stat. While I do know men with at least one pierced earlobe, in my world they are the exception and not the rule. I did not see the word "women" or "females" by the stat.

We were only allowed to take pictures in the lobby due to the fragility of the items on display. Therefore you are spared from seeing fetuses. skulls, and the world's largest intestine here. If I had been allowed to photograph, I don't know what I would have taken pictures of. An image of the skeleton of a very tall person (7'6") was in the lobby allowing us to photograph it next to a 5'2" person.

We only spent an hour there, partially because the exhibit we did want to see (Bones, Books, and Bell Jars) was closed for a private event. At $18 for an adult, it seems a bit steep. Check with your local library before going to see if they, too, offer day passes.


Mother's Day was rounded out with dinner at Rossi's. After a day of being in the rain, it felt good to have a bowl of soup and some red meat. Don and Ashley gave me some presents to help prepare me for my big trip this summer.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Introducing ... Glinda the Girl Dragon

Last night we welcomed back the pitter-patter of little feet -- little dragon feet that is. After a two month saga, Glinda the Girl Dragon joined our family.

Friends remember hearing stories about Sandy Claws Dragon, our beloved dragon who died 21 months ago at the age of 13 1/2. We have known for a while that we wanted another dragon, but were having troubles finding one. I did not want a baby dragon. They are too much work and too fragile and eat way too many crickets. Sandy was 8 when we adopted him.

Two months ago we were in Petco in Mercer Mall and saw Glinda. She seemed full-grown to us, though they were insisting she was only six months old. Hmm... I brought Don back. I just wasn't ready yet. A week later I returned, only to find out she was not there. I was told she was in the back with a suspected case of tail rot. They took her to a vet.

Every so often either I called to check on her (pretty convinced she is a girl dragon because of the lack of spores on her under side) or they called to give me an update. A couple of busy months later (planning my first gala, Ashley's college tours, the spring play, etc. etc.) and Paige from Petco called me to say I could pick her up. Paige (the in-house animal handler) suspects it is not tail rot, only a kink, possibly an injury when she was younger. She also said she is over a year old -- has been there the whole year she has worked at Petco. Petco refused to pay for more testing, but nothing has changed with two months of observation in the quarantine zone. We will take her to our vet soon to get a baseline on her.
We put Glinda in Sandy's smaller tank, but will probably put her in the larger one soon. Glinda is a great climber. She eagerly snatched up the crickets today. She is cute and cuddly, loves to latch on to whoever is holding her. We are cautious around Kitty Lucy and Charlie Cat, but so far they seem to remember that Dragons Rule.

Yes, she does look a lot like Sandy, but is much smaller and has a full tail. She is probably also considered a "fancy dragon" with the diamond markings on her back.

So far she is ignoring my salads even though I've been told she is a good eater. Holding out for more crickets? Eating when I am not looking? Trying to adjust to the new space? Am I not cutting the food small enough? I should just give it a few more days.

Goat Yoga

Let Ashley's birthday week celebration begin with Goat Yoga.

We are fully aware that some of you are reading this and laughing us (one being Cousin Laura). Today we went to  Knowhere Farm in Chesterfield, NJ to do Goat Yoga with Zephyr Yoga. It is pretty much what you would expect ... a yoga instructor calls out poses and we do them while having goats crawl on us. It is a craze.



In this case, goat yoga was a fundraiser for NBC Thespians, a school theater group going to Nebraska for a competition. Half of our $30 fee went to the school, and half to the yoga studio. 

Twenty-two of us came out on a perfect spring day -- 60 degrees and sunny. We spread our mats (or in our case our throw blankets) on the grass in a penned up area. The farmers bring the goats to us.

Throughout the yoga session the farmers spread goat food on us and our mats to encourage the goats to hang with us. It was both fun and distracting. I'd get into the yoga zone and be stepped on or bumped into. 

Yes, we were stepped on. In my case my foot was stepped on twice (same foot) and my back (we made an archway for them to crawl under, but they thought over was more fun). Fortunately we were not peed or pooped on, though those are possibilities, after all we are in their home and they are free to be, well, animals.


Definitely an experience. Ashley said she would like to go back sometime, even though there was no hanging upside down like she does in Aerial Yoga.

Knowhere Farm offers goat yoga on the first and third Saturdays of each month. They are raising funds to restore their 200-year old farm house and other farm-related projects.





Now smile for the camera while little goats are crawling on you.






Nursing the little ones. A mother's work is never done.


Cousin Laura Comes to New Jersey

Cousin Laura's Spring Break was the same week as ours, so she came out to spend it with family. Her adventures included time with each of her cousins, her NJ aunt and uncle, and seeing three plays. Our time together included a tour of Wagner College, followed by seeing "Tootsie." An unplanned highlight was seeing Alexander Hamilton's grave and Ground Zero.


By pure happenstance, a friend of Cousin Laura is the former teacher of the stage manager at "Tootsie."
Sam gave us an amazing backstage tour.



Riding the Staten Island Ferry back to Wagner College.

Alexander Hamilton's grave at Trinity Church,


Ground Zero

Riding the subway


Laura, Queen of the Selfies.


On Tuesday we went into Princeton. Saw the grave of Alexander Hamilton's nemesis, Aaron Burr, and had some ice cream at Bent Spoon.


Tough choices. I went with Churoset and Manoschevitz --must be Passover. Plus dark chocolate and orange.
Aaron Burr's grave.
Grover Cleveland and John Witherspoon are also buried here.

Junior Year Spring Break

By the second half of junior year in high school, the college search suddenly gets real. We've been told the ideal time to visit a school is when it is in session, which coincides with when Ashley is in school. She doesn't like to play catch up, so the only answer was to go during Spring Break. Unfortunately this year Spring Break was late and was the week before Tech Week for the spring show. We toured six colleges in three states over Spring Break, and missed two days of rehearsals.

Monday
Wagner College, Staten Island, NY
On paper, a truly wonderful match. On tour, a truly wonderful match. On return to see a play, a truly awful match. What happened? While Wagner College is a great school for aspiring Broadway actors, they do not have a set designer on staff. Since Ashley wants to really learn how to be a set designer, it was a bad match.

Followed the tour with seeing "Tootsie" in previews on Broadway with Cousin Laura. We wanted to see how easy it is to get from campus to New York City. The answer is very easy, and very cheap (shuttle from campus and Staten Island Ferry are both free).

Tuesday: rest day

Wednesday
Lehigh University and Desales University
There is nothing like touring a college on a perfect Spring Day. Lehigh is a stunning campus. It is a popularn stop on the round of college campuses to visit. We went to the introductory rah-rah talk and skipped the tour to meet with a friend of a friend who is a set design professor. She told us how students dive into the program. Students from all majors can work in Tech Theater. The engineering students love working with set design because there is an immediacy to the end result -- it is called opening night.

Desales University
Desales is a small Catholic college ten minutes from Lehigh University. On paper, it seemed like a perfect match. We met a performing arts student in November who raved about her school. We went to a show ("Pippin") and were blown away. We had a fabulous tour with two theater majors. In reality, I think Ashley is tired of Catholic education. There were other reasons, but she quickly wrote it off.

Thursday
Rest day. Thank goodness!

Friday
Montclair University
After a three-hour generic  tour in the rain, Ashley was meh about the place. Okay, the tour wasn't really that long. After seeing a play at Wagner and talking to a recent alumnus, and scheduling a visit with the theater department on June 1, it is back on the list.

Ramapo University
Between the rain, the length of the Montclair tour, and my lack of ability to judge how long it will take to get from Place A to Place B, we were really late to the Ramapo Tour. They kindly gave us a student ambassador who gave us the quick tour as we caught up to the rest of the group. All we missed was the Freshman dorm. They are ranked #1 in NJ for dorms and was told it was worth returning to see them. The rest of the tour was good. At the end, someone took us back to the theater so we could have a look around. Looks like a nice stage. We really should return for a visit with someone from the department. The campus is only 50 years old (as of this November). It was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday
Back to Wagner to see "Pirates of Penzance." Fabulous talent on stage. 

Sunday
Rider University
Don and I returned to Rider. The tour was geared for theater majors, but did not take us backstage. We did see the theater dorm and checked out one of their two theaters (the other was in the middle of a rehearsal for a show). It is still on the list (this was at least our third visit), but as it is across the street from where I work, might be deemed too close.

The search continues.