It was a wonderful community event – Main Street was crowded with mini-reunions and people reminiscing about their time at North. The yard sale was a screaming success – I got a (working) microscope for a dollar which we will actually use. The food looked great – I was on the Joos cleanse so I stayed vegan.
Claudia Wu and Kristen Grannon were the volunteers coordinators behind Bringing Down The House and all of their hard work and meticulous planning and coercing volunteers was evident as was the true spirit of Newton North.
It is a hideously rainy night and I am slogging through serious puddles in a vain attempt not to look like a drowned rat when I reach my destination. I am only mildly successful. The house is lit up and I can hear the voices and laughter of the women (yes, this is a women only event) before I even open the door. Is this some great party – on a week night, in the suburbs? – no, it is the brainchild of five amazing women who decided that they could do something more. More than care for their families (which they all continue to do), volunteer in the community (still doing that, as well), more than work at home or out of the home (again, yes)? Yes, they went even further and saw a need for local charities to be given a bit more attention or, as they called it A Step Up.
I walk in and am warmly greeted and I write a check for $35 for the featured charity (tonight More Than Words) and place it into a large glass bowl. The energy is wonderful and although I only know two people there, I am welcomed and made to feel comfortable. We mingle and chat over wine and lovely food and it seems like another Mom’s Night Out. Then our attention is directed by the hostess to the reason we are here and we gather on couches and chairs and turn to the speaker. She is engaging and well-spoken and sincere and clearly outlines the program and why she started it. Her name is Jodi Rosenbaum and she if the founder and executive director of More Than Words*. More Than Words is a physical bookstore on Moody Street in Waltham and it is also a social services connected program that helps some of the most marginalized youth through support and job training. Jodi’s commitment and dedication are evident and we are all attentive but when we really sit up and become fully engaged is when the two teen speakers – graduates of the program – tell us their stories. Their stories are a far cry from the comfortable suburban lives we are living and the opportunities that we are able to provide for our children. In turns, I feel guilty and blessed.
The amount of work that has gone into this evening is incredible. These women have, as a group, carefully researched the charity being showcased that evening and prepared for a party of 100 plus people, and made it look effortless. All five members of A Step Up invite their friends who are encouraged to invite their friends. It is a truly collaborative effort.
Here is a great article about the women behind A Step Up that ran in Sunday’s Boston Globe –
*MTW is led by Founder and Executive Director Jodi Rosenbaum. She has over 13 years of experience in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and education fields and was a Teach For America Corps member. Jodi has an Ed.M. in risk and prevention from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education
**Check this out – I wrote about the non-profit Web of Benefit, when I had just started this bog, here (way back in February) which was introduced by… A Step Up
Phew. What a day. The 26th Annual Book and Author Lunch was held at the Newton Marriott (with over 245 people in attendance) to hear Andre Dubus III and Anita Shreve speak. Mayor Setti Warren made a nice speech before the lunch and the very dedicated Friends of the Newton Free Library did a wonderful job organizing this event.
When the Library has visiting authors, someone from the volunteers “hosts” them – basically makes sure they are comfortable. Anita Shreve was to be hosted by a lovely friend who needed me to pinch hit at the last minute. Gladly. I like Anita Shreve’s writing and have read more than a few. Was I nervous? Well, if you measure sheer nervous energy by the sheer volume of words – yes, I was. I have hosted authors before and didn’t think I would be, but I was. I did google her before lunch, mostly to refresh my memory – I knew Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife off the bat but she has fifteen books listed on her website (a very thorough and lovely website). Hopefully we made Ms. Shreve feel welcome (I did open her water bottles and protect her dessert) and luckily Andre Dubus is a charming force of nature and is friends with Anita. So I scooted over and let them sit next to each other. The conversation was lively and the talks were inspiring. Go to the Newton Free Library page where I hope that Anita’s recommendations will soon be posted, I want to read (or re-read) each writer on her list.
Andre was engaging, funny, charmingly edgy and handsome (bonus in a room of women) and most of the audience is ready to sign up to audit one of his writing classes. You can tell that he loves what he does, both writing and teaching – and his enthusiasm is contagious. You can see for yourself in this video.
His new book is due out in February, called Townie about growing up in a New England mill town. I can’t wait to read it – I think his voice will be so strong in this book. All in all a very interesting day.
I know you are. It just occurred to me that if you don’t know me you may think that I cook all the time and when I’m not doing that I am at fundraisers. Patently untrue.
While I do cook or prepare three meals a day for four people (okay, husband makes his own breakfast and lunch – see, I do exaggerate), I am doing laundry, taking care of the dog, the house (cleaning, maintenance – you name it, I will tackle it), keeping track of appointments (medical, dental and other), keeping the activity schedule on track (sometimes I mess up and we are off but it is usually okay), grocery shopping and chauffering children to various activities. Are my children in school? Yes. When they were younger – it was all me, all the time. So that is why I have time for lunches or volunteering. Just saying.
I volunteer at three schools (in transition to one) and with two groups at the local library. I support my friends who are volunteering at various other organizations and I am glad I can. The volunteers are amazing and kind and energetic and intelligent and committed to doing the best that they can. Would I like to get paid? Sure. Do I? No. So far I have gotten some free chocolates and that was the best thing ever – great chocolates from Fancy Nancy. Hmm…I work for chocolate. Not a bad tag line.
I almost forgot to add that I do this. I blog. What a weird verb. I am learning about social media and SEO (search engine optimization),dabbling in HTML (so far reading stuff or watching tutorials – everytime I try to do something – the computer becomes unhappy), connecting with other moms, other mom bloggers and enjoying the process.