Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer in the City

I love summer anywhere, but summer in this city is particularly special. When the weather improves and the days get longer somehow attitudes improve and food and fun activities come out of nowhere.

Two sticks, string, a bucket of soapy water and a crowd = endless fun in Union Square
As if there weren't enough of these year-round...

They've multiplied as the weather gets nicer.

Peruvian Fusion food truck? If you can dream it, you can eat it on the street.

Of course everyone's old-time favorite is back in full force.
"The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream you can get."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Masters, or Two

Our family celebrated Sapientia et Doctrina this weekend at Fordham University's 167th annual commencement. What a joy!

Dominic and his classmates: His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Tony Bennett and Phylicia Rashad graduated on Saturday morning on Edward's Parade in front of Keating Hall.

To clarify, Mr. Bennett, Cardinal Dolan and Ms. Rashad were earning honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters. In 2001, Tony Bennett founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria with his wife, Susan Benedetto, a graduate of Fordham University. Phylicia Rashad is Fordham's inaugural Denzel Washington Professor of Theater. And as Archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan is the ninth archbishop to succeed Fordham's founder, Archbishop John Hughes. I digress...

Dominic shocked us all with his entrance:

None of us knew he would be the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Banner Bearer, but it sure did make him easy to spot! Dominic's school is represented by the owl of Pallas Athene, the goddess of wisdom and rational inquiry.

After the procession, we sat back to enjoy the invocation by the Associate Director for Campus Ministry. I couldn't see her, but I recognized her voice from a graduate school prayer group we attended on a weekly basis last year.

John Brennan (a 1977 Fordham grad) delivered the commencement address. When the university gave him his honorary doctorate, the following was read:
Millions of Americans depend on John Brennan to keep their country safe, our nation's leader among them. As Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor, Brennan reports to President barack Obama on a wide range of issues - from terrorist threats to environmental disasters. 
He did a nice job. I don't remember much of what he said, except that his last piece of advice for the graduates was to spend more time with their families.

Tom, Peg and I moved from the lawn to University Church where Dominic's school was awarded their diplomas.

Tom, Dom and Dr. Schwabenberg, the IPED program director
Tom and Peg celebrated the weekend with us. We enjoyed sights from Ellis Island to St. Patrick's Cathedral, sounds including an Armenian/Russian concert, and visits including a post-graduation brunch with Dominic's classmates and a road trip to New Jersey to see a dear family friend named Father Bob. It was an exciting visit and an excellent opportunity to reconnect. 

Dominic graduated with his IPED degree this weekend. He will finish his Economics degree comprehensive exams in early June. We welcome your prayers as we prepare for what the future holds. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mercy Me

For the past two years I have had the distinct honor to work with a team of amazing volunteers at Mercy Center. This little building in the South Bronx offers everything from parenting and family life skills classes to ESL/immigration services and computer training. You may have read about it in the past when I described our annual Project Cicero runs. It's a beacon of grace in a tough neighborhood and a place I'll miss dearly when we leave New York.

When I contacted the center in 2010, they asked me to work with children in a program called Saturday Reading Enrichment. I was less than thrilled due to my inexplicable fear of groups of children in a learning environment (aka teaching), but agreed as soon as the program director, Mayra, told me I could work with the kids one-on-one as a personal reading tutor.

Two years later, I have a special place in my heart for five budding scholars. I've done everything from environmental science with David to first grade sight words with Myra. Ariel is one of the best second grade readers I've met. She makes me smile when she reads a sentence ending with an exclamation point with enthusiasm and italics with sarcasm. These kids have been nurtured by a team of wonderful volunteers and will continue to progress until one day (we hope) they become college-educated volunteer tutors themselves:

Mayra is such a special woman. She beams with joy when she looks out over the group of kids every Saturday. She is flexible, tender, open and gracious. When Meg (above, far right) and I offered to start supplying healthy snacks for snack time, she embraced our idea and encouraged us to try new options every week. Imagine our surprise when they gobbled up baby carrots (without Ranch dressing!) or came back for second helpings of bananas! Mayra said she would continue the healthy snack plan next year, I have high hopes for it's ongoing success.

Mercy Center is built in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy. In the spirit of the Gospel, the Sisters of Mercy's mission is to help people to overcome obstacles that keep them from living full and dignified lives. My prayer is that the Saturday Reading Enrichment program continues to help these children overcome obstacles through education and literacy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

He did what?

Our picnic dinner in the Botanical Garden
Demonstrating appreciation. I suppose everyone does it in their own way. I tend to make cards, some might buy flowers. These days, Dominic plans parties.

For some reason, my darling husband decided that after two very successful years in the Bronx, and with graduation right around the corner, it was time to celebrate his accomplishments... by throwing a party for me.


If you think this sounds backwards, just imagine how I felt when I arrived at a surprise party called: "The Sarah deserves a party party." To Dominic's credit, I certainly was surprised. To our friends: thank you for spending your Saturday night at such an event.

Dominic had worked out some pretty creative photo shop photos as decorations and our dear friend Jon created a Sarah-specific MadLibs*. We played pictionary, ate fresh fruit and sipped margaritas. It really was a Sarah party!

Marrying Dominic was the best decision I ever made. Talk about experiential learning -- marriage has been one learning experience after another. Learning how to show appreciation though... we practice that one daily.

*There's a back story to this, but that will have to be shared at another time.

Everyone should have an industrial-sized whiteboard somewhere in their home.