Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A sorry lesson

I don't like to get political in this space, but I just have to say that I am disappointed by local government. My school district and my city. Certainly, they have done some very good things. But when it comes to a prime and public piece of real estate, they have failed miserably.

And yet, maybe the public has a role here as well. We ALL have been terrible stewards of the Milford Main School. All talking about how important is it, but doing little to change anything. Yes, there was
an advisory committee that trumpets how it
made the recommendation some years ago for the district to divest itself of the building and even some ideas on repurposing it. However, the district always seemed clear it was not their job to re-purpose and has limped along thanks to tenants who discovered the charming, if less than perfect, and reasonably priced space. We're here to educate, they sing, while constructing new elementaries and upgrading other buildings. They have an operations manager.

For years, I have heard the city was offered the building and declined, yet council has voted to purchase and raze a downtown gas station for parking and a building at the Little Miami Trail head.

And the public LOVES the building, yet any recent effort to do anything with it has been invisible. Years of talk and inaction bring us to where we are now: at the knees of a developer who insists on a density higher than typically allowed, and a new zoning. Why the zoning variance for the higher density was approved, 3-2, before the actual zone change (from institutional to multi-family) seems so backward and reactionary to me. We have a city admitting they are deciding development issues on a case-by-case basis, abandoning and having not renewed a 1997 land-use plan in which the community participated.

I sat through three-plus hours of an initial public hearing in which the clear majority of speakers, yes mainly affected residents, objected to the density and massiveness of the proposed 92-apartment structure for seniors. I understand there was standing-room only at the last hearing and yet the project was approved.

Now on to city council Feb. 3

The developer has gone to great lengths to find a suitable project that meets a need, makes money, complements his Riverwalk development and is palatable enough to get approved. He has said he desires the highest and best use. I say the city ought to be looking for the best use. This has been public property after all to which many children have had access for running around at recess, playing in the gaga pit, tossing some baskets, riding bikes and skateboards. Not to mention church and event parking. That will be reduced to a 4,000 square-foot triangle at the five points intersection and 190 parking spaces to be shared by 92 one-to-three bedroom units and the churches.

The two affected churches have written letters of support of the project to the city. I was somewhat surprised. The developer approached me, too, and I politely declined. It's a lovely project, but I am not sure this is the best plan for this site.

If things progress surprisingly swiftly as they have and the measure moves through council so easily, we'll have to accept this major change in our neighborhood. I certainly hope it fills a need, is successful and accommodates seniors, otherwise it will be marketed to whomever can afford the $1200-$1500 monthly rent.

I hope we learn the lesson of what happens when we are reactive, not proactive here. Had we been proactive, there would be a new plan designating a very studied and beneficial use for the land that benefits all. And, if a developer came along and deviated, s/he could be denied. Better yet, maybe we'd be planning a community center funded by a bond issue, grants and private donations that we could all enjoy.

It's not too late for other properties such as the former Millcroft Inn and vulnerable, historic landmarks.

Sadly, even though 46 students trudge in every weekday with their teachers, aides, principal and staff, the St. Andrews kids storm in lunch and the hand full of artists still make art, Main has lost it's shine. The 1912 portion of the building I occupy is never cleaned unless I do it, all sorts of inspectors and workmen stomp in leaving their trash, dirty footprints, disturbing me by helping themselves to my studio and poking holes in walls looking for asbestos, leaving swirls of dust and debris. And no one else cares.

That's a sorry lesson to convey to Artsy Fartsy kids: that no one else cares about the space that has been sacred for us. They already typically feel as if no one cares. On the upside, it's not about the location, our efforts and energy will thrive other places.

If you have an opinion, write city council or attend the Feb. 3 meeting when it will be discussed.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Perspective of God's vision

January was supposed to be my month "off," a respite from the previous, dizzying year and holiday season. It began on a relaxing note with a re-grouping retreat and, listening to collective widom, unscheduling the January session of Artsy Fartsy. Of course, I didn't feel as if I could completely abandon the kids, so I prepared, with the help of my oldest, art kits with supplies and activities, then sauntered up to their complex in almost sub-zero weather with my youngest to leave them at each door.

When I'd met with a potential Artsy Fartsy board member at the end of the year, he'd wondered out loud why I was taking January off. "This is when you should be planning," he mentioned supportively. Well, yes, that was what I intended. Taking time off from the everyday busyness to look at the BIG picture and spend reflective, prayerful time seeking God's direction. He – the man, not God –  suggested developing a business plan and accompanying financials. Did I mention I also had two grants due?

When I thought I'd take off the month, I had not envisioned writing a deep and truthful letter to the city planning commission about the proposed re-zoning for Milford Main. That took effort and energy, but I felt as if God was pleased. Nor the workmen who kept entering my studio, then knocking out walls searching for asbestos. They threatened the safety and security of my space. I don't know how easily that can be restored.

Least of all, I had not expected the call for a job interview as a PR/media strategist. I thought, what the heck, why not? The call came Monday and they wanted me Wednesday. I had planned no work for Tuesday, my birthday. Fortunately, my resume was together, but work samples were not. Yet, I also tempered my efforts with the thought that this was just a conversation.

Indeed, it was a good one. Maybe too good. I loved the synergy of the workplace, the type of work this organization does and the complexity of the job. I could easily imagine working under this boss and in this small group within the larger body. I felt like we clicked. That is, if I actually wanted the job. Do I want it or want to be wanted?

I'd prayed to God earlier to make this easy. She complied, though I am not sure she heard the rest of my pleas: "Make the path clear." EXCEPT ...

Tuesday, I'd raced through my morning swim, attempting to get done in time to take my daughter to school. All night long I struggled with shoulder-blade pain ... and into the next day. Because I had the interview, I stretched the shoulder, applied an Amish-cream remedy, then popped Ibuprofen. It was enough to get me through the interview. Wednesday evening it began to really bother me and there was no way to get comfortable in bed.

Thursday's saving grace was a previously scheduled massage. As I struggled with the pain (interesting how one single spot can affect so much of your body and movement), I began to wonder if this was God being clear: you can't handle a full-time job right now.

During the interview, I certainly felt that I could. In the aftermath, I reconsidered. My massage therapist/shaman/pastoral counselor sent me from his table to the chiropractor with a dis-aligned rib. Ouch. Aggressive swimming. During our talk (we do that, then get into the body work), he suggested that I had plenty of clarity. "You seem to understand and see the whole picture," he said. "What you need is guidance." That stopped me. He was right; I had plenty of clarity – perhaps too much. 

I don't believe God causes pain for any reason, including in order for us to shift direction. I am aware of some of its causes in my case, but it sure seems to get in the way. Mostly the way of living a regular, normal life.

Why do I seem to covet that at times? Because it seems easier going with the flow. Swimming upstream is hard work (ask my ribs). A story I just read and I movie I treated myself to resonated deeply with me about being who you are. 

The story of the Fourth Wiseman was all about his journey to find the baby Jesus based on the Truth he got from a particular star. He missed the opportunity to meet with with the other three when he stopped to nurse a sick Jew along the way. He kept stumbling into needy people all through his travels, finally giving away the last treasure he had carried for when he met Jesus. The Wiseman arrived in Jerusalem just as the earth was quaking and Jesus was dying. He tumbled and hit his head, dying in the arms of a woman he'd rescued from slavery with a precious pearl. The woman overheard a conversation between the man and a strangely sweet voice. The man was saying how he had looked and looked for Jesus, only to just miss him. The voice replied he had seen Jesus in every face of every person he had helped.

Though VERY different, the story of genius mathematician Alan Turing is also of one committed to another path. Turing's honesty brought him undue suffering for being truthful about who he was (a homosexual living in England when it was against the law) to the point of ending his own life. While alive, he would never know what he began: the fields of computer science and morphogenesis, mathematically revealing how cells differentiate to form shape and attributes such as stripes or spots.

Right now, I see several paths personally. Spirit, please help me chose the one that brings me closest to you.

• What measure do I take to step back from life and seek God's input?
• When do I take a respite?
• What spiritual practices support that?
• What daily spiritual practices help me take the longer view?
• Where am I on my path right now?

through the haze of
busyness and

it's awfully

hard to see
what lays ahead

or remove

oneself altogether

to step back

and see things

relying on

God's vision

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