Monthly Archives: October 2011

Making Connections

In 1992 I moved out of Lansing to Richmond, Virginia. I was twenty two years old, five months married and eight months pregnant with our second child. Thinking back to that day I can’t figure out why I wasn’t more scared. We didn’t know anyone in Richmond. My husband’s job that was taking us there had the potential for a new career path in computer programming but the pay was what he was making as a cable installer in Lansing. Yet on August 3, 1992 I was driving our car while Pat drove the u-haul the 714 miles to our new place of residence. For four years Pat worked crazy hours with an experienced group of southern computer programmers gaining experience in multiple facets of life. I stayed home with the boys feeling isolated and alone until I decided to go back to school and earn my bachelor’s degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1995 I graduated with a degree in psychology.
The following year Pat was finally burned out. The in-house billing system for Continental Cablevision that Pat had help maintain and build for four years was being outsourced. Pat was politely told he needed to go along with it quietly or get out. He decided to get out. He took his experience and moved us back to Lansing. It was a good time to move back since our oldest was starting school at the end of the summer and settling in back home was something both Pat and I really wanted for the boys. Pat got a programming job working for the state and I found a job at PTD teaching state workers computer classes. We were quickly able to purchase our first home in Colonial Village. Our son, Michael, started at Elmhurts Elementary school that year.
At some point in the move back to Lansing I had the thought that we would be returning to the city Pat and I grew up in and that we might start running into people we knew. We had been living in a city where no one knew us. That was about to change. At first we reconnected with our old circle of friends we had left behind. There were a few friendly sightings at Meijer or our kids’ school. But in general there wasn’t too many run ins. There were the reunions, weddings and even funerals of friends that brought a group together. Usually, however, those were passing niceties and nothing really stuck. Then in 2008 I joined Facebook. My goal was to locate as many 1988 Eastern alumni as I could in hopes of improving our turn out at our next reunion. Most of my early connections were with family and friends of families. There were only about 10 alumni I was able to friend and I eventually created my first group. Within a year that alumni group grew from 10 to over 100. It was a great way to reconnect and find out how my fellow classmates were doing. This also led to invitations to events that were happening in Lansing and around Lansing. We were invited to the Technological Innovation Center’s open house through a classmate that was moving into this new office space. We attended and were quickly introduced to the project manager and other entrepreneurs in this office. A few months later the TIC hosted the first Ignite Lansing. We joined a group from Traction (formerly Vision Creative), with whom Pat had been the in house programmer for. It was a great night to mingle and network. Through our continued connections on line and in business we were able to attend the Addy’s, Ignite Lansing, TEDx Lansing, Studio Crawls, and Launched Parties. I eventually extended my connections even more by volunteering for both of the TEDx Lansings, the last Ignite Lansing, Lunch with a Purpose, and many of the events happening in Old Town. Through all of these interactions I’ve met an incredible group of people who enjoy putting an energetic spin on all the great things in Lansing. I’ve learned through this group that what you put in really is what you get out. It was this diverse group of people that inspired me to start City Saunter. As I continue into my second year on this project I am often amazed at all the people I have had the honor of meeting. And even more amazing to me is all the great adventures they are all a part of; NEO Center, Art Alley, LWP, New World Flood, Mid Michigan Creative Alliance, LansingLive . I could really go on listing for a long time. I’ve become friends with so many strong supporters of Lansing and also supporters of all the things that help make Lansing better. Yesterday I was on the LCC program Connections with Tess King and Mark Stiles. She found out about my project when Brent Knight, the LCC president saw one of my photos online and wanted to purchase it. Through her research she found out about my City Saunter project and asked if I would be a guest on her show. At the studio I finally was able to meet her “in real life” instead of chatting on Facebook and Twitter. At the studio I reconnected with Nichole Szymczak. I had met Nichole last spring while volunteering for the Capital City Film Festival. On my walk to the studio I also ran into a family friend, Mike Messick. Last year Mike was offered an internship at Rizzi Designs, a local design firm that Pat does programming work for. It’s these kind of connections that really make living in Lansing, a relatively small town, so interesting and really exciting. I still laugh at my trepidation of maybe running into someone I might know when I first moved back to Lansing. Now I’m shocked if I’ve been out and about in Lansing and haven’t ran into someone I know!
Here’s the link to my interview

Safety Dance

I’ve mentioned before that walking can create a very vulnerable situation for a walker. A person out walking is not only exposed to the elements but also to possible, inescapable harm. This harm could come in the form of unsafe sidewalks, a mean dog, an aggressive driver and even other people. It’s this last that I find most disturbing as it is hard to predict or prepare for it. Since commencing this project I’ve had numerous friends and family members express concern for my safety while I am out walking, usually alone. I have been told to not walk down certain streets. In February 2011 a Lansing State Journal article was written about my project. There were some comments made on the internet version implying that even stepping onto certain streets with my camera would result in getting shot at. Ironically, I had already walked those streets and found them very pleasant.
On my computer I follow quite a few news stations using Twitter and Facebook. I have seen the multiple stories about Lansing homicides, assaults and sexual attacks. I do not enjoy reading about these crimes. In a recent Business Insider article Lansing was ranked 24th most dangerous city (with over 100,000 residents) in America. On the other hand other statistics has shown Lansing’s property crime rate steadily decreasing since 2005. However, violent crimes, though still less than 2005 has been increasing since 2008. Both property and violent crime rates are higher than Michigan’s crime rate and the national average. Sometimes I wonder if just the proliferation of media access just makes all of us more aware of the crimes. We see multiple posts for each crime with updates coming in throughout the day and into the next. Sometimes a wanted person’s photo is posted. It’s a bit unnerving looking into the face of a possible criminal between photos of my friend’s vacation and that cute kitten post. The social media sites have also made us all more connected with each other. I am now aware of my acquaintances that getting robbed for the second time. I also read my friends lamenting about the loud and abusive neighbors. All these occurrences get added to some sort of measuring system.
For City Saunter I have walked over 150 miles of Lansing’s streets. I have walked back alleys. I have walked where a majority of the homes are boarded up. I have walked in areas where the day before a police sting caught a large prostitution ring (I thought it would be safer). I’ve had male drivers follow me around asking if I needed a ride. My polite decline usually sends them on their way; usually. More common are the polite walkers, the smiles and waves from residents and on many occasions the run in with at least one familiar face. Despite watching crime statistics roll in day after day, I will hold firm to my own statistics of kindness, friendliness and goodness. I think those type of people are more numerous than the others.

A Simple Act of Walking

I’ve never been much of a walker. It seemed so basic to me. If I set out to exercise I ran. I was a runner in high school and thought it was the only true endurance exercise. It gets your heart rate pumping. It makes you sweat. It really gives you a work out. Walking? Well, I was convinced that was for sissies. After walking consistently for over a year now I have changed my mind. At this time six years ago I was in my 33rd week of a twin pregnancy. I would continue to carry the twins into my 37th week, which is fantastic for a twin pregnancy. On November 6, 2005 I gave birth to a 5# 10 oz baby girl and a 6# 4 oz baby boy (total baby weight 11# 14oz!!!). Both babies were over 19 inches long. That’s a lot of baby living on my lungs, kicking me in the bladder and pushing on my lower back! During my pregnancy I was told that a twin weight gain should be between 50 pounds and 80 pounds. Yikes! I gained about 50 pounds. I also had to have the twins by caesarean since Ellie was breach and Evan was transverse. So here I was in my mid 30s with a 50 pound weight gain and recovering from major surgery. I did take on the grand adventure of nursing the twins which I think helped me drop 30 pounds that first year, but as soon as I stopped I gained 15 back. And I have sat at that weight until a year ago. I have lived in frustration for five years trying to figure out how to shed those unwanted pounds. In the spring I would drop maybe 5 pounds as we opened the pool and began heading outside again. I would adjust my eating, which is typically a lower carb/low sugar diet anyway to lose a few pounds. However as the summer faded and the smell of donuts wafted from every QD in the city the scale would start upward again. Add in the “candy” holidays; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and the five pound loss was recouped and then some by the time spring rolled around again. Then last year I started City Saunter. The idea was simple; go into town, park the car and walk an area for awhile two or three times a week. I would continue this pattern for as long as it took to walk all the streets in the Lansing city limits. My first walks were averaging about a mile. I finished tired and my feet hurt. While family and friends were training to run marathons I was depressingly barely making it a few miles. At each walk I tried to walk a little further. I found each hour I was out I was walking about 3 miles. I stayed at that steady pace most of the spring and summer; twice a week. That’s six miles a week. Not too shabby. After a few months at this schedule I noticed something. My midpoint weight (or set point) dropped. The spot on the scale where some days I was over and some days I was under went down about 5 pounds! Not only that but my fat %, which my scale measures, had also gone down. I was thrilled!! Then in August my son started classes at LCC and needed to be dropped off for a two hour class and picked back up again. I decided to use that time for my walks, allowing me to get in a six mile walk at least once a week. After a year of walking I have lost almost 15 pounds of non-fluctuating weight and almost 5% body fat. I didn’t diet and ironically I don’t really feel like I was exercising; I was just walking. There were no sweaty gyms, no weight lifting, no grapevining, no torn ligaments, and no achy knees. It was simply me with my camera wandering around the streets of Lansing.

The Right Kind of Weather

This morning I joined my twins’ class on their first field trip. The outing was to Lake Lansing North for an outside scavenger hunt. The chance for rain could have been a hindrance to the scheduled adventure, except the twins’ teacher wasn’t the type to give up easily. Adorned with raincoats, hats, boots and some gloves we all boarded our bus and rode the short distance to the park. Scurrying off the bus we found ourselves in a new world. The towering trees blocked out the cacophony of the bustling city streets surrounding us. The wind blowing the leaves from their summer home provided a constant soothing sound that one child compared to the ocean. We watched the brightly hued leaves lose their fight and flutter swiftly to the ground, combining with the others to cover the grassy fields. The air was heavy with decomposition and decay yet it was not unpleasant. It was earthy. Despite this day not being sunny or warm, its crispness led to a new kind of delight. The clouds overhead changed from white and grey to dark blues and purples. The wind swirled around us and whipped up mini twisters of dropped leaves. Even when the rain did sprinkle down on us, our group neither packed up nor ran for shelter. We played tag. And then we went for a walk on the trail.
I realized that walking through the city hasn’t always a pleasant weather activity. Last year I walked during a blizzard so I could get good “wintery” photos. Over the summer I was caught out in a terrible downpour. However I also chose not to walk in the summer when it was super hot and if I can help it I try to avoid walks during the rain which is not good for my equipment. But today made me realize that to get a true sense of a place it needs to be represented in all climates and in multiple seasons. And only through that well-rounded experience can one get a true sense of something or even someone.
Check out the rest of my photos on the City Saunter Facebook Page!

Shared Childhood

The warm October air tussled my hair as I opened the car door. Stepping out into a crunchy pile of brown and yellow leaves the musky smell of autumn filled my senses. A year ago today I returned to this neighborhood for my walk. Last year it was celebrating my brother’s unique 10/10/10 birthday. This year I was returning to our childhood neighborhood for his 40th birthday. Through death he created a perpetual youthful state of all memories concerning him. They cycle through the end of high school back to my first recollection of him as a child. There are no new adjustments; no retelling of past memories; no reconstructing stories to consider his experiences. There is no communication at all. There is only my failing memory of him. Maybe I return to these spots to try to force the memories to the surface. I think maybe seeing that park bench or street corner will flood me with his face or his laugh. But it doesn’t. I see empty sidewalks that were once our bike trail. I see closed down store fronts that used to be our penny candy destination. I see over grown fields that we once flattened into a path. I see glimpses of a house that we used to share. The streets have all the right names but the sights are all different. It’s all gone on living and growing and changing. I feel very blessed that I had the childhood that I did. I keep all those memories in a very safe place. It’s all I have of him now. My husband has three siblings and I hear them at gatherings laugh through all their memories of childhood and growing up together. It fascinates me yet equally breaks my heart. I would love to have the ability, as adult siblings, to reevaluate a shared childhood. What a gift that would be.

Second Time Around

A year ago I drove out to the center of Lansing and walked a mile around the streets around the Capitol. There was no fanfare or signs, just my daughter and I enjoying a brilliantly sunny fall day in Lansing. Since that very first walk I have taken a couple of days a week to explore a different area of Lansing, photographing and blogging my finds. It has been an amazing year. I never really realized to what scope this project would excel to. I have now walked 142 miles. I have blogged 52 pages of content. I have taken over 15,000 photos. In assessing my progress, I wish I was father along. However, I am also very satisfied with my progress. I enjoy going back through my photos and seeing all the very amazing places I have been. Exploring a place by foot allows an intimacy that cannot be found by car or bike. I feel very connected to Lansing and the people and businesses there. It really is my home.
I appreciate all the support I have received from those that view my writings and photographs. I also appreciate those in the Lansing area that have helped me with this goal. I have felt so much affection towards those that took time to repost my information, walk with me, respond to my writings and support me in any way. It means the world to me.

Here’s to the second time around the rest of Lansing!