Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 'ville is good, but could be great

I’ve tackled controversial topics in this column before, indeed.
            I’ve always shied away from writing about politics, however. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because I know how divisive it can be, and in general I don’t feel qualified to discuss matters that seem way beyond my scope of understanding.
            I’m not apathetic though. My parents’ words echo in my head every time an election comes around, “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.” I always head to the polls.
            Well, I’m writing about politics now, and not because I have delved into matters of tax abatements and TIF districts and have any insights there, but there are some things that I have observed.
            We were happy to put our two cents in when the city hired a firm to garner citizen input and put together a strategic plan for downtown. We’d given our ideas as to what we’d like to see and we had this vision dangling before us of what Noblesville could be. A Riverwalk? More walkability and more diversity of shops downtown?  More public spaces, trails, and ooh, how about a theater to replace the ones (yes, multiple) that were torn down once upon a time in favor of parking lots?  The plan was put together and…nothing happened. This was in 2005, and downtown still pretty much looks the same.
            I’m concerned about the unprecedented Positron deal. $7 million given to a company called Positron, currently already based in Fishers, so that they would build a facility in Noblesville. $7 million. That could have gone a long way toward a parking garage or two and a downtown theater, both things that would have enhanced downtown and met needs for the public sector.
I have several friends new to Indiana and to Noblesville that have expressed their disappointment in our lack of voting pool diversity here.  One said to me, “I’m used to having a large pool to pick from either party. Not having that can’t promote true democracy.”
With the election coming up in two weeks, I’m thrilled there is an actual mayoral race. You’ve probably seen the signs around town, ‘Mike Corbett for Mayor.’
You can check out Mike’s website, to read about his positions. Most important, make your voice heard on November 8. You can even vote prior to Election Day by going to the Election Office at the Judicial Center downtown. 

Pieces of You

(from Sept. exhibit at HEPL)

            With only three days left in the month (where did September go?), I recommend that you make a point to visit the library to see the Art exhibit Pieces of You. This collaborative Art project was made possible by Kandi Jamieson of Arthouse and her students at Cicero Adventist Elementary and Indiana Academy.
            Stapled onto the curved wall, you will see 2,947 small plastic bags, each containing a small object. These comprise a memorial representing all of those that died ten years ago on 9/11. On the anniversary of 9/11, amid a flurry of facebook questions and status updates asking and answering ‘where were you?,’ I stayed quiet.
            Where was I? I was safe in my tiny house, hundreds of miles from the horrors. I didn’t lose anyone I loved. I didn’t personally have to grieve the loss of a husband, a child, a friend. I didn’t know anyone that was there.
            The exhibit is poignant in its simplicity—ranging from items as common and mundane as a twist-tie or candy wrapper to a tiny dog biscuit to a crocheted flower. “Each item represents a person like you and me,” Jamieson said.
            “It’s ironic because all these items can be found in the junk drawer at some point, and just like the junk drawer where items are lost and forgotten, we’ve taken them out and put them on display to remember. I wanted to find a way we could connect it to our personal life.”
            After September, the exhibit will be on display at Arthouse, 195 S. 10th Street, Noblesville.

Be Open Minded--Arthouse

(this also wasn't published, but hey, I'll blog it, too)

Art Teachers Billy and Kandi Jamieson of Arthouse recently wrapped up a Graffiti and Mural painting class, where the end result was a collaboration of ideas and designs painted onto a vintage VW bus.
Often graffiti is painted without permission, but “it’s also a style,” Kandi Jamieson said.  “In the class, we went through the whole history of it.  Graffiti art is a way to make political statements. Kids have something to say. Let’s allow them to speak their mind—they need a voice.”
The Jamiesons juxtaposed the concepts of graffiti and murals together in the class, allowing students to contribute ideas and collaborate on the design for the bus.  “We had to compromise and even agree to disagree sometimes.
One of the phrases that was painted on the bus, Be Open Minded, “really captured it,” Kandi said. “Even for adults who see graffiti art around, for them to be open minded and ask ‘why are kids doing this?’”
“Have we given them the opportunity to speak their mind and a place to create art? That’s what we want to do here.”
The Jamiesons plan to continue offering the Mural and Graffiti classes, and hope to do some inside murals in the colder months.  Stop by Arthouse at 195 S. 10th Street, visit or call 773.0038 for class schedules.

Photo cutline: “Billboards are all over and right in your face, why can’t art be like that?” Kandi Jamieson, who wants to see more public art in Noblesville.

Historic Home Tour—be there or be square

(this wasn't published in CIN, but since I wrote it I thought I would at least blog it)

I lived in downtown Noblesville for four years before I ever went on the Home Tour. I was so enchanted that I immediately volunteered our home for the next year’s tour (seriously). I’ve been involved with the Noblesville Preservation Alliance (NPA) ever since.
This year’s tour will be extra special with so many great complementary events, which you can read about in the cover story. I love the stories woven into this town’s fabric and I had a great time learning more about the stories of those who’ve lived here for years.
Storyteller Elizabeth (Betty) Gerrard plans to be at one of the homes dressed in costume. Gerrard, who has lived in the same home in Noblesville for the past sixty-five years would like to share with tourgoers some of the changes she’s seen.
            She recalls that there was only one stoplight in town when she moved to Noblesville in the 1940’s, and she has vivid memories of Gran’pa’s Candy Store, featured as a Point of Interest on the Tour this year.
Dottie Young shared her experience being on the very first home tour in 1986. “Carol Karst-Wasson talked me into it,” Dottie said. “I was teaching full time in Indy and raising Emily Young Compton, now the tour chair. I think I had just gotten out of the shower as the first guests started coming in (Tom Bond and his wife).”
Now here I learned something else—the Bonds parked their antique car in front of the Young’s house. When you realize that the Young’s live on Conner street, wow! There was parking right on Conner Street.
Dottie recalls over 500 guests that first year. (We can top that this year). “The tour started right on the heels of moving the Craig House. That was a fabulous day, watching that huge house roll across Conner,” Dottie said. “This history gives us a sense of place, a touchstone to know where we are to consider how this town would look without its centerpiece.”
Jill Hutchinson is another avid tourgoer. “I love it when the volunteers have a story about the home or there are pictures of the original owners and you get a small view of the past. That's my favorite but what's not to love? You get to walk around our beautiful town and see great decorating ideas.”
I hope to see you September 17.

Still spinning the circle, seeing where it takes me (sept. 20)

Last weekend I participated in a Neighborhood Block Party in downtown Indy. Windsor Park is a historic neighborhood on the near east-side, near Chatham Arch and Mass Ave. It was a beautiful Saturday, the cold and rain that was predicted and that populated the previous week never materialized. We were so grateful for the sun that warmed our damp bones.
I brought my six year old hooper and helper, Lily, and we set up our ‘hoop booth,’ having brought community hula hoops for the party goers to hoop to the live music. Lily became immediate friends with a girl her age who lives in the neighborhood, and kids and adults gravitated to the hoops we’d brought.
Two of the girls became so enamored with the hoops that they ended up spinning them for hours. They got so good that I challenged them to a race. We ran, with the hoops spinning around our waists, to the Food Truck parked a few houses down. (I’m proud to say I won. Three times.)
One girl told me it was the best party she’d ever been to, because “I’ve never been around such cool stuff.”
And in this little neighborhood miles from Noblesville, I even saw people that I knew. Kay Grimm and Sue Spicer have an incredible story. They live not far from Windsor Park and have purchased vacant city lots and turned them into heirloom gardens—Fruit Loop Acres. I had met Kay and Sue earlier this year—in Noblesville at a house concert—and I was and am captivated by their work and their passion.
And, two days after this I got invited to perform with my LED hoop at a launch party next month.  The hoop has taken me to amazing places. The circle keeps getting bigger and bigger. It’s an incredible life.

Touring Noblesville's History

Read the story here (p.9)

Be smarter with water usage-cut water footprint (Sept. 6)

       For quite awhile now I’ve said I’m going to cut back on my coffee consumption, but I never really do.  I like (ok, love) coffee a whole lot and it’s tough to cut back.  Sure, cups of coffee seem pretty innocuous, don’t they? But, as with most things, there’s much more than meets the eye.
            I try to get organic, fair trade coffee in the hopes that it’s really, truly a more responsible choice, but even if I do and even if it is, that’s not the end of the story.  The story actually begins with realizing that there’s a heckuva lot more water involved in that cup of coffee than what was used to brew it. 
That single cup of coffee actually has 37 gallons of water behind it. It’s called ‘virtual water’ and it’s how much water was needed to make the product, whatever it is, that you possess.
With this summer’s near drought and the constant re-realization that we need to conserve water, it’s a topic that deserves attention.   Discover Magazine puts it this way in their article titled “Everything You Know About Water Conservation Is Wrong:”  Forget short showers. Worry about the 6,340 gallons of “virtual water” in your leather bag.”
Consider how much water it takes to produce not just your food, but your paper, your clothes, and myriad other things.  We waste way too much water in this country when it’s more important than ever to be smart with it and it’s a huge issue, but here are some food related ways to conserve virtual water:
Try to avoid bottled water and use refillable canteens when possible.
Eat less meat.  Meat requires 5-10 times more water than vegetables, so by cutting back on meat, you’re conserving hundreds of gallons of water.
Don’t waste leftovers.  Throwing food away wastes all that water that went into making that food, and besides, the less cooking the better, right?
Drink more water and less coffee, tea, soda and all those other beverages, all of which have a much higher water footprint than water from the tap.

Cut your engine in line—children breathe here (August 23)

I read an article recently that got me a bit riled up.  An Indianapolis school district now must charge for bus service because of a “budget shortfall,” when voters turned down a referendum in May.
When I read the numbers—that not even 2,000 students are signed up to ride the buses (down from 7-8,000 last year)—my heart sank thinking of the environmental impact of all of those cars idling in line and all of that concentrated pollution. Yuck.
After school began I read that parents sat in long, snaking lines of cars, probably all idling.  One parent with three school kids spent four hours driving (and sitting) in traffic on the first day. 
The environmental impact is HUGE, as is the concern I have for these kids breathing in this cloud of pollution. Is there any anti-idling ordinance at any Indiana school? I’m doubtful, and it’s endlessly frustrating.
I’m so tired of the short-sightedness (we don’t want to pay more taxes!)  vs. the long term thinking of “what’s best for the students/parents/staff/environment/health?”  I think this applies to the school too, because apparently the school has a $14 million ‘rainy day’ fund. If the school transportation issue isn’t a worthwhile cause to spend money on, I don’t know what is.
If you drive your child to school, please carpool if you can and turn off your engine anytime you’ll be waiting for more than 10 seconds in line.  Many school districts nationwide have adopted anti-idling campaigns and I would love to see this here in Indiana.  Idling is completely unnecessary and it’s SUCH an easy thing to just cut the engine.  Oh, and with our state ranking number six (yeah, in the Top Ten!) for toxic air quality, it’s the least we can all do.

Eating Smart and Reading Smart (august 16)

            A recent topic of discussion that I watched unfold regarding the all-important topic of food is one that I’ve given a lot of thought to and am constantly evaluating—“is it better to eat organic first, or local first?”  In an ideal world the answer would be “both,” but it’s not as cut and dried as that.
            Grocery shopping with me is pretty much a nightmare. I agonize over everything, not just what to eat but when to eat it (hybrid hydroponic tomatoes in January? That’s an easy one, no). Is it organic?  Where did it come from?
            I can spend ten minutes in the organic apple section looking to see which apples to buy. Even if organic, if they came from New Zealand or Chile, it’s better to get organic apples from the US—they didn’t have to travel as far to get here to Indiana.
            What about local apples? Seems to be the best choice. But then there’s the issue of pesticides.  Does consuming the pesticides on local apples outweigh the benefit of the carbon footprint created by organic apples coming to us from thousands of miles away?  Further complicating the issue, I read that many organics do have chemicals used, naturally derived instead of synthetic, and many need to be applied in greater quantities. 
            And, as much as I try to garden and shop farmer’s markets in the summer, most of my diet really isn’t local.
            I don’t know what to do about this.  I’d love to hear readers thoughts on this issue. How do you eat?
            On a similar thoughtful note, I was in a bookstore last week and saw copies of the Utne Reader, a magazine my friend Linda has recommended many times. I love to hold something in my hands even though I can read online, so I grabbed a copy.  It’s wonderful and smartly written, and so I recommend it, too. 
That same day I was in the library, so I checked and they have copies of Utne (and Current in Noblesville) there too.  Sweet! Here’s gratitude for our library, which is pretty awesome and has just about everything I want, and hello, Mark! (One of the helpful and personable employees there.)
Thanks for reading me, and I look forward to your thoughts!