Monday, April 3, 2017 – Artwork at the MKT!

Monday, April 3, 2017 – Artwork at the MKT!

I am learning that when you live INTENTIONALLY, you start seeing the value of things you used to take for granted. You can no longer brush over the little things and only pay attention to the bigger things. The things you “always knew about someone” somehow can be seen with fresh eyes. Those eyes can belong to an artist’s mother.

Melissa found art, or perhaps, ART found Melissa. In her sophomore year of high school, she was put in Art Class “by mistake”. (For those of you who know me, you know I believe that nothing really happens by mistake. The reason might not be clear at the outset, but looking back, the universe really doesn’t make “mistakes”.) So, Melissa asked for an “open end/study hall” instead of Art, and her guidance counselor said, “Your mother will never go for that. Just take the class!” I am eternally grateful for that advice from the counselor. Melissa took the class!

Melissa’s first Art Show was at City Hall that semester. She hated that paper machete pig, but I loved it. Her senior year, she painted a mural on a hallway wall at Norwalk High School. It is still there. Two years after that “art class mistake”, the first college she applied to as a Fine Arts major, Keene State, accepted her, and off she went to be an artist! Melissa graduated in December of her senior year at college and she and I went to her first ART SHOW at a real gallery in Burbank, CA that following Spring. It was five hundred dollars per ticket for us, and $1,000 to ship her Artwork to California and back, but every second was worth it! We did rent the red Mustang convertible and I began to see the world through my daughter, the artist’s, eyes!

Fast forward five years, and thousands of photography pictures later (with almost 200 clients!), and many pieces of painted artwork later, Melissa told us about two months ago that she would be the Art Director at a new restaurant/bar opening up in Norwalk – MKT.  It would be her framed artwork for sale on the walls and her painted artwork adorning the walls. The theme is “The Stock Market” and the artwork reflects a time that she nor I really know about, but on Monday, April 3, 2017, my sisters, my cousin from Canada, my daughter and her baby, and Vinnie and I went to see her work in progress. I have to say, as I stood there taking it all in, with walls in various stages of completion,  I almost got very emotional!

I have been watching her rough sketches take shape for over 10 years. I have seen round circles become eyes and straight lines become legs. I have observed a red splash become a ribbon or a ruffle or a floor length skirt on a woman’s whose face I can’t see, but I feel somehow that I know the woman. All of these #progressshots start off as glimmers of what is to emerge. After watching for so many years, I do know that the art isn’t always created by Melissa, but it comes through her from someplace deep within or maybe even beyond her. Sometimes she is even surprised by the results, and that makes me step back and smile in amazement.

Standing there at THE MKT restaurant, I couldn’t help but think that I have been privileged to be the mother of an artist. Through the highs and lows, a talented young lady continues to emerge and I can’t wait to see how the “progress shot” of her own life will end.

I wish the best of luck to THE MKT at it opens its doors on April 28th and to Melissa, owner of EMPTY BEE ART & PHOTOGRAPHY as they both make their way in this world! I pray, for both ventures, that each day is lived INTENTIONALLY!

 

Saturday, April 1, 2017 – Glass Blowing!

Saturday, April 1, 2017 – Glass Blowing!

I love the fact that two very dear friends can call me about 5 days apart and say, “Here is something you haven’t done before!! And I want to do it with you!!”   They were absolutely correct. I had never gone glass blowing before! So we used the Groupon voucher and 4 of us went to Fairfield, to The Hot Spot,  to blow our own handmade glass……  Liz and Sharon chose the tumblers and Kali and I chose a wine glass. All 4 came out beautifully. Mine is a little lopsided, but I love it anyhow!

I have to say, I was just as blown away  (pun intended!) when I walked into the converted garage and watched the two men spin the metal pipe with the orange glowing blob as I was when I was about 10 years old and saw glass, for the first time, being blown in a “colonial town” in Virginia. I could have stayed all day way back then and I  could have stayed watching all day on April 1st. It is simply amazing to me that this “ancient” art style is still being done in a little shop about 10 miles away from my house. The only thing different between the two moments in time was that my “instructor” had to stop to fix an error with a swiped credit card on his cell phone. He left me in charge of carefully rolling the metal pipe in smooth, rhythmic waves. (That is probably when the lopsidedness occurred!). Talk about two worlds colliding! The ironic twist of the ancient technology and the modern technology, all in one small space, wasn’t lost on me!

I got to go first. I chose my colors and followed the instructor to the fire pit of molten glass glowing and giving off the heat of over 2000 degrees! He dipped the pipe and took out a glob. He rolled it into the colors and walked me back to the fire. I held the pole. After a few moments it was time to blow!! (Insert all the jokes you want right here!). I sat on the cement block and he explained, “Go easy at first, keep up with the pole,  and blow steady.” I tried my best to keep a clean mind and concentrate as the pole knocked against my teeth, but I heard, “Nice job! You can blow a little harder!” So I did. We repeated the process a couple of times and then it was time to transfer the glass to a different pole and from the opposite end. I held the pole steady as he connected another small glob to the bottom. The glass globe was formed and now it was time to open the top of the glass. The top edge was heated and he used a tool like pliers to open the mouth of the glass! So exciting to watch my glass emerge!

When mine was done, the instructor disconnected the pole and carefully placed my new glass into the cooler to cool down slowly so it wouldn’t break! Sharon volunteered to pick them up the next day.

I was mesmerized while I watched Kali, then Sharon, then Liz experience the same thing I had just experienced and I couldn’t wait to see it all done! For the first time, I, along side my good friends, had made my own wine glass!

On Monday, April 10th, Sharon, Kali and I met to “break our new glasses in”. So with good friends, great laughs and a shared new experience, we drank a little wine from the glasses we made together at The Hot Spot!

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – A New Perspective via Wave Runner!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – A New Perspective via Wave Runner!

Sometimes it takes a Barefoot Billy’s 2 hour Jet Ski Tour around Key West to force you to reconsider your perspectives.  When you intentionally choose to see something from a very different angle, you have to think about the perspectives you have been complacent with and the lessons you think about that may actually apply to a new situation. Here are a few examples:

First, the guide  who was with us said, “Hang tight, Don’t let up on the gas, It’s going to be rough, but then it will get better”. I tried to remember this as we flew and bounced around next to a cruise ship parked at Mallory Square, but all I could think of was, “HOLY CRAP!” I tried to keep my eyes off the black base of that massive ship only 15 feet away, but I felt like a firefly drawn to a light. I tried to keep my eyes straight ahead and my hand on the throttle, but I kept flinching with every bounce….. “hang tight, don’t let up on the gas, it’s going to be rough, but then it will get better”….there it was! That little voice in my head starting to drown out the words from my mouth; a lower-case “holy crap!”  Once we got through it, we killed the engines and he said, “GREAT JOB! You handled that part beautifully!” That 30 year old, who I had only met 30 minutes ago, made me feel proud.  The first lesson was not lost on me. I will have to remember that when life gets a little tough….”hang tight, don’t let up on the gas, it’s going to be rough, but it will get better!” Then, once the rough part is over, if no one else is there to say it, it is OK to say to yourself “Great job. You handled that part beautifully!

Second, sometimes we can start to think (or maybe it is just me??) that life revolves around us. We sometimes see our problems or challenges as bigger than they really are. They become our universe! However, when you are on a wave runner out in the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, you are reminded how vast the ocean and universe really are. In fact we are tiny and our problems are even smaller than us! We are really in control many things in our life, but only a very tiny part of our world. You also realize that the ocean and all the creatures take care of themselves. They instinctively know what is right for them, where they should go and be, what their basic needs are, and how to keep themselves safe. We, or maybe it is just me again, don’t always trust our instincts when we are faced with challenges in the world. We were meant to be a small, but very important part of this vast universe! The second lesson is to trust that there is plan for each of us and each of us is an important piece of another’s plan. We are all connected.

Third, when I asked him “Is it possible that I could flip this thing?”, the guide’s answer was….”YES, if you go too slow and both of you lean over too far in the same direction. SO, go fast, stay above the waves, and balance each other out!” That sure is a lesson for life! If things get stagnant and you go too slow, and the individuals lean over too far as you go nowhere, I can imagine the collapse will be inevitable! We all need people who will balance us out and keep us going at a pace that will help up stay above the waves! It is important to find these people and take the ride in life with them.

The fourth lesson was one of calmness. When the view becomes breathtaking, step off the wave runner and step onto the sandbars to enjoy the sights! To get to the sandbars you may have to stay flexible, stay determined, and look forward to see where you are going. But, when you get there, stop the ride of life, enjoy the success and the views around you, and then take the time to re-assess your plan. Then get back on the ride and continue on.

Fifth, when we were riding through the Mangrove trees, I couldn’t help but think about the roots that stabilize the entire tree and yet still filter the waters to create the outcome of beautiful green/blue waters. It was so peaceful and calm going through the Mangrove trees…simply breath-taking. I could only hope that as a mother, I have created the same stabilizing roots for my family while still allowing each of my children to become the beautiful individuals they were meant to be! And as a mother, who laid the roots, my breath is often taken away when I see the talented adults they are becoming!

And finally, the sixth lesson here was one of going full circle. When we started the ski jet tour, I knew we would go in a circle and end up where we started. What I didn’t realize at first was that I would come back and hook up to the same buoy we left from, but I would be a little bit different. I returned to that sandy white beach with a new perspective; a clearer mind. Yes, a little saltier too! I was “seasoned” (and humbled) by this new experience!

 

Friday, March 17, 2017 – St. Patty’s Day Parade! YAY!

Friday, March 17, 2017 – St. Patty’s Day Parade! YAY!

Two years ago on St. Patty’s Day, I was parasailing with Vinnie in Key West. Last year, I was at work dreaming of being somewhere else…anywhere else!!

If you had told me last year on St. Patty’s Day that this St. Patty’s Day I would be retired from Darien, working in Bridgeport, walking in a parade with 100 8th graders, being cheered on by 200 4th through 7th graders, and carrying my grandson, I would have told you you were crazy! But there I was with a Shamrock sticker and an Irish sweater…in the parade on a school day!! Life is good!

I have never been in a St. Patty’s Day parade. Actually, I have only been to two St. Patty’s Day parades in my life! One was NYC in 1981. The other was in Stamford in 1990. In NYC, we watched a little and bar hopped a lot! In Stamford, we bar hopped a little and Vinnie had to wipe 9-month-old Stephanie’s baby-puke off the back of my brand new leather jacket!

This year was different; almost surreal. It was like playing hooky with the full support of everyone! My Superintendent was in the car in front of us waving to the crowd and feeling the love right along side of us all!

Coming around the corner, there was Stephanie, 27 years later, handing off her 10-month-old Baby Anthony to me. I took him in my arms for his first parade! Just he and I were sharing a FIRST in my year of living intentionally, alone in a crowd of hundreds! He didn’t know what the heck was going on….moving crowds, yelling people, strangers saying “HI Baby!”, bands playing, bagpipes whining, and the Kolbe HS Drill Team stomping their feet and singing right behind us. For Anthony, it was chaotic and bizarre. If only he had words to put to it! For me it was an amazing moment in time. A moment I would like to freeze and relive again and again. For me it was another snapshot in my life experiences that have woven together to create who I am, inside and out.  A special moment that is almost impossible to attach the right words to, even though I have so many words to choose from.

In that one hour span of my life, I felt honored to be a part of a very cool school community that is tucked inside the middle of Bridgeport and proud to be a grandma showing off “my baby”. But most importantly,  I felt very proud to be Irish!

P.S. It was my first St. Patty’s Day parade ever that I wasn’t cheering with a full pint of beer to all the Irish folks I have known and loved!  Truth be told, I did catch myself getting a bit emotional as I felt their presence with me as we walked through the streets of downtown Bridgeport!

Saturday, March 4 – Tuesday, March 7, 2017 – DRINK and LEAD!

Saturday, March 4 – Tuesday, March 7, 2017 – DRINK and LEAD!

Saturday, March 4th Vinnie and I were up at Lake Plymouth. I wanted to do something new….so I looked in the paper.  What do you know, there was a Maple Sugar Festival going on less than 3 miles away, however, it was about 12 degrees! Freezing!

Vinnie was a good sport and said “YES” so off we went.  NO ONE was there! It was freezing!

So we went and watched two beautiful black horses pull a cart with a couple of kids bundled up. And one man stood with a pot of boiling sap over a fire, then we found  a few people inside eating hot dogs and waiting for the fiddle band to start. Obviously we did not stay.
We picked up some vodka at a nearby liquor store and then stopped into the Terryville library to pick up a library card and an audiobook for me to listen to as I prepared for a ride on Sunday to Newport, RI for a conference.

Trying to figure out something new to do and after conferring with Siri, I learned of a brewery only 3.8 miles away! HELLO TO FIREFLY HOLLOW BREWING COMPANY!  Off we were to Bristol.  We turned left into a driveway that ran alongside a brick factory building. We passed the scrap metal piles and bumped our way over the potholes. Then there was the sign! FIREFLY HOLLOW! We found it!

We bought a flight of 5 samples…..#1,2,3,6,8. #1 and #2 were kind of nice…sort of like a Killian’s Red. Then I liked #3 – Moonrise Amber!! Vinnie liked #6 – Lizard Breath…and we both hated #8!. As we sipped our samplers, then drank our favorite pint, we booked our rides to and from the airport for our upcoming Key West trip in only two weeks! In that moment….life felt right and good!

On Sunday I put in the audiotape and drove North for 3 hours. I found my hotel room in Newport, Rhode Island for a conference for Catholic leaders from New England. I got here on Sunday and it was a lovely evening that ended way too late in the bar! So now it is Monday evening. I had a full day of listening to a wonderful speaker, Fr. Joe,  who talked all day about being open to MERCY…..and being open to the notion that it is in the stories we share with each other and with strangers that we find God….in little ways and in big ways. This definition and discussion of MERCY, also fit right in with my LIVING INTENTIONALLY and truly paying attention to life! At dinner, I got weepy as a local school choir sang Breath of Heaven……..It was beautiful!

So, in these past few days, I have done so many firsts….the Maple Syrup Festival Flop, a new library card, a new brewery with a delicious Moonrise Amber, and a conference to learn to be a Catholic leader! All these years I have been a leader who was Catholic! Will wonders ever cease?

I am amazed that I continue to learn about new beers I love and I learn how to lead as a Catholic.

For all these experiences I say “THANK GOD, Let Us Pray, and DRINK UP!”

Sunday, February 26, 2017 – “10,000 Meals in 2 Hours”

Sunday, February 26, 2017 – “10,000 Meals in 2 Hours”

This weekend I participated in the 14th 30 Hour Famine at St. Philip Church in Norwalk. It was the 4th year in a row that we all participated in the meal packing service project. This year, however, was the first time I had a grandson join us! Of course he did not pack a meal, he is way too young, AND it was the first time I thought about it from his perspective.

The STOP HUNGER NOW truck arrived and we unloaded it. Bruce directed the volunteers and in less than a half hour we had the gym set up and ready to accept 100 volunteers to pack 10, 000 meals. As we waited for the kids to arrive to start the process, my grandson was passed from one friend to another. I thought to myself, what a lucky little boy to be so loved by so many and likely never to face a day of true hunger in his life! He was born in this great country called America to a middle class family who has a grocery story less than a mile away from their front door. He was born to a family who has always had plenty of material items surrounding them and plenty of food on the table at every meal. We all have never known an “empty fridge”. We have all actually paid money in the past to learn how to eat LESS food!! Kind of bizarre, but nevertheless, a very fortunate and lucky place for this well loved baby boy to be born into!

On this side of the world, Baby Anthony would be able to slurp down the sweet potatoes or spit out the green beans. His parents will run back and forth to the store to get the perfect combinations of foods he likes and I, as Grandma,  will continue to ask, “Does he like the apple sauce or bananas better?”, “Does he want Cheerios or the snacks you brought?”, “Does he want milk or juice?” The choices we have at our fingertips, in our cabinets, and in the refrigerator are endless.

I thought about how many children, in a land-locked West African country called Bacino Faso, would only know food that comes in a plastic bag labeled with cooking directions printed on it and comes with an enclosed packet of nutrients. These packs of food will be cooked over an open fire and will feed a family of six in one sitting. This nutrient-enhanced rice and soy mixture will become the daily staple in their lives. On the other side of the world, in that country and in so many others, the choice is limited. Rice or no rice? Add the herbs and nutritional packets or not? Those are the choices that so many other mothers and grandmothers will have as they spoon feed their own 10 month old babies the rice that was packed by the 100 volunteers in Norwalk, CT on Feb. 26, 2017 at the 14th Annual 30 Hour Famine to raise money and awareness of world hunger.

I truly felt blessed when I looked at that baby, our baby, knowing he was born into so much love, luck, and food. And I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer for each of those other babies who will receive the work of our hands and hearts this day.

Sunday, February 19, 2017 – “Sunday is PASTA DAY!”

Sunday, February 19, 2017 – “Sunday is PASTA DAY!”

On Friday, Feb. 17th, Leslie, Danny and I were on our way to South Carolina to give a surprise visit to Mom and Dad. We were just into Virginia on I-95 when I was thinking about something I have never done before…..make pasta!  I asked Danny if he had a pasta machine I could borrow at some point and he said, “Phooey! You don’t need a machine! I make it all the time!”. Who knew??

So we decided he would show me how and I would make it for dinner on Sunday at Mom and Dad’s house! A simple recipe was all we needed and we were set to go.

I mixed the 2 cups of flour with 1/2 tsp. of salt. Then I beat two eggs with 1/3 cup of water and 1 tsp. of oil.  When I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together, the dough formed into a gooey ball. Danny coached me to continue to add a little more flour to get it just to the right consistency! When it was just perfect, I had to wrap it in Saran Wrap and let it sit for about a half hour or so. Danny told me that we had to give it a little time to “let the glutens relax”!

Leslie, Mom and I went off to Line Dancing and came back to finish cooking our pasta dinner! Danny showed me how to stretch the dough out with a rolling pin….but we didn’t have one….so a wine bottle did just the same trick! A nice thin flat dough was then cut with a pizza cutter to just the right widths. It was not even close to being even cuts, but Danny assured me that this did not matter!

The lightly salted water came to a rolling boil and I dropped the strips of dough into it. Within about 5 minutes or less, the pasta strips floated to the top and our spaghetti was done!

Covered in a wonderful meat sauce Mom had made, the dinner was delicious! I had NO IDEA how easy it was to make pasta!!

On Monday, we were back on the road to head home.  I was already an hour on the road when I realized I had forgotten the serving I had saved for Vinnie in Mom’s refrigerator in South Carolina! So, on Tuesday, Feb. 21st, I made another batch for Vinnie. By then I was feeling like a pro so I made homemade manicotti to go with it!

Delicious!

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 – “Meet My New Friend, Otis!”

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 – “Meet My New Friend, Otis!”

On Feb. 17, 2017, Leslie, Danny, and I drove to South Carolina to surprise mom and dad for Dad’s 79th birthday (one week ago!).

Chad and Jason and Vincent had just been there last week and Jason and Chad were looking at buying a house not far from Mom and Dad…so we took a ride to see it! Turning off the main road, there were a few beautiful homes, some older trailers, and a few cows standing in a back yard. The road continued straight onto grass, no real driveway, but behind the hedges was a pretty nice ranch style house that needs some work and some love. It had been started years ago, the man passed away, and his kids never finished it. Perfect house for these two young men, but a lot of work to be done. Using our imaginations, it could be beautiful.

Leaving the house, we came around the bend and there was a gentleman walking down the street. He was a black man who had a slight build and a little mustache. He wore a brown suit, a little cap on his head and carried a cane. We rolled down the window to ask if he knew anything about the house and in a true Southern drawl as answered, “Yes, ma’am. I grew up here.” We pulled the car over and the 5 of us jumped out to talk to him. What a treat that was!! He stood with both hands perched on the cane and told us about the neighborhood. He had grown up just around the bend and so did his parents and his grandmother. He knew the parts of this area with his eyes closed. He was a long shore man who worked in the harbor in Savannah! He also told us about all the properties he owned in South Carolina….totaling a million dollars worth of land!  He even told us about his “Angus Steaks” he is raising in the yard…this way he gets the tax break for the “farm” he runs!  He even chuckled at that himself. His father had taught him an important lesson – Don’t let your money sit, you need to move it around and make it work for you. Clearly he had followed his Dad’s advice!

As the conversation ran down, we introduced ourselves.  Reaching out to each of us, he said, “And I am Otis Wilson, blessed to meet you” as we all shook his hand.

Almost reading our minds, as a mother of Chad, an aunt and uncle to both boys, and the 2 grandparents standing there,  he assured us that “this is a very safe neighborhood”.  What wonderful words to hear from a stranger who had grown up on this very street and obviously loved his neighborhood.

As we pulled away, our windows still down, Otis, with one hand on the cane, and one waving to us, he called out, “You’ll have a blessed day”.

What a treat it was to meet such a Southern gentleman!

Saturday, Feb 11, 2017 – “1-800-GOT-JUNK” for the 2nd time!!

Saturday, Feb 11, 2017 – “1-800-GOT-JUNK” for the 2nd time!!

I know this is a year of “firsts” however…this is the first time I had to call 1-800-Got-Junk for the 2nd time!! Those guys are amazing!! In less than 2 hours, for $750, they fully packed another truck load of “stuff” that used to fill a part of my life, but now no longer does.

It has been quite a process of letting go of “stuff”. Two years ago we began cleaning out the house to get it ready for selling. Here we are two years later, the house hasn’t sold, and I had to call the men back to get more stuff out! WHERE DOES THIS STUFF COME FROM??  I am not a materialistic person. I am not a shopper. I am not even a real collector. And yet, my house seems to attract stuff when I am not looking!

When we moved into this house 16 years ago, EVERY THING we owned fit into the dining room. I know this because for one week, we were technically “homeless”. The previous owner was kind enough to let us store everything we owned in the dining room while we stayed at my sister’s house. Over the years, our “stuff” seemed to multiply. People gave us couches (4 to be exact!), dressers showed up on my porch, sets of dishes for all our parties started arriving, and platters came with guests and stayed. Our kids were 12,11,9, and 7. And now they are 27, 26, 24, and 22 and none of them live here anymore. However, bins full of their stuff still live here! Old prom dresses whisper quiet memories of slow dances as they hang in the closets, high heeled shoes sit in quiet rows on the shelves of a closet, and old and well used weights sit idle in the basement. Exactly 12 Rubbermaid tubs are stacked neatly in the corner of the basement holding years of photo albums, old report cards, and Valentine cards from every classmate that the four kids ever sat next to from preschool all the way up through high school.

So this week, we signed with a new realtor and he had the same advice as our first one; “De-clutter and make the rooms look more sparse”.  So, with renewed gusto,  we piled more stuff in the centers of each room; the end tables no one uses any more, but came from Grandma’s bedroom originally; the heavy duty couch that I had reupholstered to match the other hand-me-down couch a friend gave us; the dresser that Vinnie has had since he was 8 years old.  Amidst the piles were 7 wooden dining room chairs that can not be re-glued together one more time, yet they hold the secrets shared over many bottles of wine; the TV stand that held three different TVs over the years, and a broken down white little dresser that used to hold every bottle of nail polish my girls ever bought. Three more bags stuffed with quilts were not in the pile. They were given a special place in the corner of the living room to wait their turn to be dropped off to the church to join the first 7 bags that have already been distributed to the streets of NYC on a Midnight Run.

So on Saturday, as Jason and Ed from 1-800-Got-Junk loaded up the truck with the “stuff” that has appeared over the years, I watched and thought about all the memories that also were loaded up in the truck. Every item had a story. Only Vinnie and I know each of their stories…..who gave each item to us, who brought the item to our home, who once loved the item maybe even more than we did. Jason and Ed will never know the stories, but I am forever grateful that they took our stuff, with reverence and a sense of dignity that the “stuff” deserved for all the years it all served us so well.

PS – HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my wonderful Dad, Charlie….who turned 79 on Saturday as well! I called him to wish him a Happy Birthday, just as the canvas lid was being pulled over the dump truck full of my “stuff”.  It became very obvious to me as my Dad answered the phone that it is not the material stuff that really mattered to me in the end…it was the fact that I could talk to my Dad as the material stuff left the driveway with Jason and Ed, piled tightly and neatly into a 1-800-Got-Junk truck!

 

Feb. 2, 2017 – “It’s a RAP”

Feb. 2, 2017 – “It’s a RAP”

When I think of the word rapper, I guess I go to a place that is a stereotype in my mind. I think of a big African American guy with gold chains, gold grills on his teeth, pants hanging down, and mumbling a series of rhymes I don’t understand and certainly don’t really connect to…OR…I think of a skinny white guy with an oversize baseball cap on backwards, a few diamond studs in his ears, pants hanging down, and mumbling a series of rhymes I don’t understand and certainly don’t really connect to.

Today was a first for me! I met a RAPPER and he completely did not fit my stereotype!! He challenged me to rethink what I always thought I knew about rappers. Actually, truth be told, I never met a rapper, but I had already had a preconceived notion of who they are and what they look like.

This rapper visited my school, St. Augustine Academy in Bridgeport, to talk about his journey, his passions, and his goal of feeding the hungry right here in Fairfield County, CT. He made it very clear that 1 in every 200 children in Fairfield County do not know when their next meal will be or where it will come from. He has made it his business to do something about this very real issue for so many local children. This man grew up in Norwalk, graduated from Brien McMahon High School, graduated from  Southern CT State University, went on to UNH for his masters and is a bank manager by day and a rapper by night.  I have never been a bank manager or a rapper, but I did grow up in Norwalk, graduated from Brien McMahon High School and graduated from SCSU!!  We had more in common than it would first appear to an untrained (or a stereotyping) eye!

FNX (the rapper) also known as Ken Shuyler (the bank manager), was featured in an article in the Norwalk Hour in November 2016. He was releasing his new album for free in hopes that the people who listened to it would donate on GOFUNDME so that he could feed four families over the holidays in lower Fairfield County.  He had faith in his listeners and his listeners obviously had faith in him…..he ended up with enough money to feed thirteen families!! One of my teachers, Cindy, read the article the same day as I did. We talked about it, she contacted him, and we chatted with him on the phone. Long story short…he visited the whole school in a large group and then in small groups for half the day!

What a wonderful day it was! What a great role model for the students! He was his true self, dressed in a white shirt and black pants and jacket. No fancy gold draped around his neck. No strut in his walk or attitude oozing from his pores. All of the “stereotypical images” I had in my head were forced to leave. This man was a gentleman who spoke of God’s grace, the path he has walked, his hopes and dreams and his desire to provide for others in any way he can. He spoke to the students about being with like-minded people who help them rise to a higher level and not be brought down by the negative influences that often surround each of us. The students held onto every interaction he had with each of them.

What a treat it was to spend my day with a rapper, FNX. A basic and good human being who is originally from Norwalk, who will be married this summer to his fiancee, and who will continue to move up in the ranks with the bank he works for every day Monday through Friday. And yet, he is the same FNX, the rapper by night,  who will continue to inspire the hundreds of people who hear his lyrics and hold on to a dream that has been placed in their hearts.

I am not sure if I will ever spend 4 hours straight with another rapper, but I sure am happy my path has crossed with this one. He truly helped me to rethink what I thought I knew!

Thank you, FNX, for being the gift that you are AND for visiting us at St. Augustine Academy!