Monday, December 12, 2011

My Mission...10 Years Later

With my brother just before I officially entered the MTC
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of my mission.  I entered the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC) on December 12, 2001.  Like with anything that marks the passage of time, in some ways it's hard to believe it's been 10 years while in others, it seems like a lifetime ago that my mission started.  I often reflect on my mission and the experiences I had, especially around this time.  Since I entered the MTC on December 12 (12/12), it's easy to remember! My mission really taught me about missionary work (what it is and what it isn't and why we do it) and tons about the difference between doctrine and culture.  I also learned a lot about what it means to sustain our leaders and how to be more direct with my own views and concerns.

MTC Referral Center
When I look at pictures of myself at the MTC (the few that still exist...most were lost when my luggage was stolen January 3 just after arriving in Tucson), I often think "wow, you have no idea what's coming!"  Indeed, I really didn't.  Going on a mission was something I was definitely ready for.  When my brother dropped me off at the MTC, he was far more emotional about it than I was.  I was more of the "OK, here we go" mentality.  Basically, it was a new phase in my life that I was ready for, so there wasn't a lot of emotion involved for me.  As emotional as my brother was, even so he gave me some blunt, but sound, advice: "Make sure to have fun...if people around you don't want to, they can go to hell!" or something like that.  I still laugh about it, but it was something I tried to hold to my entire time.  Yes, missionary work is important and serious, but it is also fun (or should be).  I saw too many missionaries around me make it into something unenjoyable.

On the MTC campus Christmas Day
The hardest thing for me on my mission was the whole process of filling time every day.  You really get to the point that if you aren't actively doing something like tracting or visiting someone that you're "slacking off" or "wasting time".  Especially as a senior companion (when I was in charge of what we were doing), I would just agonize over how to spend the day.  As a junior companion, I remember many times my senior comp would fill time with tracting (going door to door).  Not only was tracting the least effective way to reach people, but the whole monotony of it drove me insane.  I usually resorted to tracting only in the rarest of circumstances; basically there was nothing else to do and/or we had no one to teach.  I tended to focus more on us being seen in public and getting to know the members more.  Along with that, getting to know families that members who weren't LDS was something I focused on.  It wasn't a "schmooz them so we can baptize them" kind of thing, but rather a "get to know them so we're more than just recruiters" kind of thing.  We called that "building relationships of trust" or "BRT".  Even so, I did my share of tracting in the Arizona Tucson Mission.  I never really had any success from it in any area.

Article that ran right before I left for the of those pictures I look and think "you have no idea what's coming!"

Before I left...
Success was another thing I have thought a lot about.  In most of the LDS culture, "success" on a mission is defined by the number of baptisms you have on your mission and/or by the positions you hold.  I really don't even know the number of baptisms I "had" since there are many ways you could count them.  There were some that I taught from the very beginning, some I came in near the beginning, and some I barely even knew before they were baptized; I just happened to get transferred in at a certain point.  And heck, there were some I taught that got baptized after (in some cases LONG after) I left.  Even then, who cares?  The number isn't what's important.  The important thing is that I got to know the person as a friend and was able to teach them.  I still try to keep in touch with as many of the people I taught as I can.  Why?  Because I consider them friends.  And really, what happened after the statistic of the baptism?  Did they stay active?  Were they baptized because they were really making a new commitment in their lives or were they doing it for some other reason?  No, the real measure of success of a mission is not only in how the people you taught are doing years later, but also how well you are remembered by them and the others you worked with.  In that sense, I feel like I had a very successful mission.  I also feel like there were definitely points on my mission that I was so concerned with getting that "statistic" that I ignored that fact that the people we were teaching weren't ready to be baptized.  There was an instance in Las Cruces, New Mexico that I will never forget.  We were teaching this guy who was pretty interesting (I'd say CRAZY...I could write an entire blog post just on my experiences teaching this guy!) and he expressed an interest in being baptized, so we got everything ready to go, which included an interview with the zone leader (a fellow missionary).  Well, he "failed" the interview, meaning the zone leader didn't think this guy was ready.  I remember being pretty upset about it and feeling like he was being too picky, worrying too much, etc.  At that point, I just wanted that golden baptism stat so it looked like my companion and I were accomplishing something (even though in reality we were accomplishing quite a bit).  Not too long after, we found out this guy had been meeting with people from other churches too and was basically just trying to find someone to give him a welfare handout. He had no interest in taking any of the baptismal commitments seriously.  On the flip side, I and this same companion also taught a guy in Las Cruces who never got baptized while we were there (I was in Las Cruces for 12 weeks and my companion had been there 6 weeks prior to me getting there...I taught him every week I was there and my companion had taught him for the first time the week before I arrived).  We asked him a number of times, but he always hesitated.  Basically, I remember telling him that if he wasn't sure, to wait until he was sure or it wouldn't be worth it.  Well, I had been home in Ohio about 6 months when I got a call that he was going to be baptized that weekend.  It was almost a year after I had been teaching him.  He's still active in the church and was sealed in the temple.  Is that my success story?  Hardly, but I'm glad I was able to play a part in that.  THAT is success on a mission; being an instrument in the hand of the Lord to help bring people closer to him, whatever step in coming closer that may be.

The mission was full of fun and new experiences...
This one's for you Jensens!!
My mission also was my first real taste of the "Utah" culture I've blogged about before.  Prior to that, I had only even visited Utah a few times on family trips and we were only there for a week or two at the most.  I mostly interacted with my cousins, who were all at least 4 years younger than me.  My mission is also where I first heard the term "Utard" and saw real-life examples of it. That said, of the 15 different companions I had, one of the worst I had was from Utah and one of the best I had was also from Utah, but I had extremes from other places too.  Even so, I definitely noticed a general trend among the attitudes, particularly in how they regarded members and themselves, and their general ignorance of other religious beliefs and customs.  My first mission president wasn't immune from those attitudes either.  In fact, from what I heard from my own companions (my first 4 companions were zone leaders, meaning they interacted with the president much more than your typical missionary since they were in charge of several companionships), he pretty much promoted what I felt were very condescending and arrogant attitudes, like the missionaries (particularly those from Utah) were more knowledgeable about how the church operates than any member in the area.  Ummmm, no.  As I've said before, it's like me saying I'm more knowledgeable about how our country runs because I'm closer to Washington, DC, than someone from, say, Utah.  And as I've said before, in no way do I consider this a general view of everyone from Utah; I have many very good friends from Utah who are in no way like this.  But I saw it enough that I knew it wasn't isolated to a few people.  
Elder Huwe, far left, was my last companion, and someone I still keep in touch with.  We were about as opposite as two people could be, but we got along very well and got tons done in Ruidoso!

My companion Elder Graff in Las Cruces, who I still
keep in touch with.  We were cool like that
I also made tons of friends on my mission who I do my best to still keep in touch with.  Many are people I worked with who were members of the various wards and branches I served in.  Others are former companions or other missionaries I served with somewhere in the mission.  Of the 15 companions I mentioned earlier, I am still in touch in some way with 10 of them (via Facebook and some have blogs...well, their respective wife has a blog!).  Of the other 5 I simply haven't been able to track down 4 of them and 1 decided he didn't want to stay in touch with me via Facebook.  I try to visit many of them as often as time and means permit.  Of course there are many experiences that bring people together and a mission is one of many chapters of my life that has brought people into my life that I still consider great friends.

Elder Kay was one of my favorite companions.
We served together for 6 weeks in Safford, AZ.
I learned a great deal about myself and really refined my personal ideology and general beliefs.  That's not to say I haven't had any refinements since then, but the mission definitely exposed me to a lot of new ideas and concepts and made me analyze many of the ideas I came on my mission with.  One thing I really saw refined was my view on sustaining church leaders.  Being on a mission showed me the humanity of church leaders, so it made me even more of a person who questions authority than someone who easily submits.  That's not to say I question everything, but I definitely think it over and generally say something if I don't think it's the best course of action or that it could be improved somehow.  Just ask the guys I served in bishopric with during my one-year tenure as ward executive secretary!  You can also ask my second mission president.  In all honesty, my first mission president intimidated me to the extreme.  Not only was I a new missionary, but his personality didn't exactly come across as warm and caring.  Plus, he left when I had been on my mission all of 7 months, so I never really got to interact with him all that much.  My second mission president, however, was much different.  Not only was he more approachable in terms of personality, but since I had been out on my mission 7 months already AND I knew he had never served a full-time mission, I wasn't intimidated at all.  This helped me be more direct in addressing concerns than I had been before my mission. I'd say we began and ended on a good relationship.  In the middle there were definitely some rocky points, which shaped my views on leadership, how it works, and how I choose to deal with it.  I think our relationship was at its lowest point when I was in the latter half of my mission, mostly because he had heard some rather ridiculous things about how I was as a missionary and interpreted my very laid back and hard-to-impress attitude (which I still have) as not being excited about missionary work.  Even when I was about to get transferred to my final area, he asked me where I wanted to go so I would be most effective, but it was preceded with a "do you plan on being sick the rest of your mission".  Apparently, he had heard (who knows WHERE) that I had been staying in until like 1 PM every day.  It was ridiculous because we had morning appointments at that time every day except one.  The heat definitely got to me throughout my mission, so I would take naps at lunch, but it was rare that it took multiple hours.   In the transfer leading up to that, I remember staying in a few times when I didn't feel good, but it was hardly anything remotely unusual.  Anyway, I ended up going to my last area, Ruidoso, New Mexico, and did very well there.  The comments he got from members there about how my companion and I were doing combined with some positive comments he had been getting the tail end of my time in Alamogordo, NM (area I was in before Ruidoso) really helped turn my reputation around with him.  Plus I know he was under his own stress and was learning a lot "on the job" too.  I think being out far away from mission headquarters and in an area that I seemed to understand what they needed as far as missionary work went was the difference.  I'll definitely give him the credit for being inspired to ask me where I wanted to go, but I take the credit for being inspired as to where I should've gone!

My 21st birthday in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  I've always loved this picture
I definitely tried to follow my brother's advice and have
fun...PLUS I did see snow 3 times the entire mission!
I could probably go on for quite awhile about things I learned and experienced on my mission.  I think what  I want to drive home the most is being honest about what a mission really is.  The general culture of the church really tends to frown on talking negatively about one's mission, like we're supposed to pretend that nothing bad happens and only pass along the faith-promoting and positive experiences.  I had tons of that, but to sit here and pretend like that's all I had would be not only disingenuous, but dishonest.  There are LOTS of things that I didn't like about my mission.  To be honest, most days totally sucked or were rather ordinary.  The difference, though, is that the great days and experiences that accompanied them were so wonderful that they were able to carry me through the more mundane and discouraging days.  Going on a mission is rough and there were many days that I wondered what on Earth I was doing, why I was there, how I could possibly last one more minute, and just wanted to throw in the towel and head home.  I didn't like seeing missionaries seemingly blamed when they didn't get baptism numbers or when they were having a rough time finding people to teach.  I also didn't like how so many elders were complete brown nosers, but in reality were completely out of touch with the realities of what they were there for and how to really be the most effective and genuine missionaries they could be.  Too many were concerned with the stats and statures of the mission.  That led to the whole mission politics aspect, which I could've easily done without as well!  That said, I never regret serving a mission.  It is an accomplishment I am proud of and cherish for what I have learned and the lifelong connections I have made.  Would I do it again knowing what I know?  Eh, probably not.  It's not being negative, just being honest and real.  It's tough work...and if all I had to worry about was just missionary work, I'd definitely do it again!
Elder Miles is another companion I keep in touch with.  We served together for 12 exciting weeks in Alamogordo, NM.  I was seriously depressed when he got transferred.  My mission president can be seen on the far left
But here I am, 10 years after it all started.  It's good to reflect both on how far I've come and where I still would like to go from here.  Things definitely haven't worked out the way I always envisioned them, but hopefully 2012 will bring some positive developments!  As for missionary work, we just got two missionary elders in my ward, the first time we've had elders in a few years.  It's interesting that this happened right when I was really thinking a lot about my own mission and now I can more actively participate in missionary work again.  Not that I couldn't with the awesome sister missionaries we've had here the last few years, but there were some limitations for sure that I don't have to worry about with the elders.  To any of my many mission friends (members and missionaries alike) who may read this, I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ohio License Plates

I read a few days ago that Ohio will be getting yet another new license plate design coming soon.  This is after we just got our current license plate design (known as Beautiful Ohio) only about 2 years ago.  It was originally supposed to come out in 2008 I believe, but when the economy really went south, the state decided to hold off on introducing them.  Instead, they became optional late 2009 (along with the previous Sunburst design) and then in 2010 became the new standard plate.  I honestly don't have a problem with the Beautiful Ohio design.  I know some people think it's too busy, some don't like the colors, others don't like the artwork.  You're never going to satisfy everyone.  I'm more of an artsy and creative person who loves color, so the new plate was a welcome change over the boring Sunburst design.  I got my Beautiful Ohio plate back in February 2010.

File:Ohio License Plate 2004.jpg
"Sunburst" design, used from 2004-2010
File:2010 OH passenger plate.png
"Beautiful Ohio" design, first used in 2009
New proposed design
Now, we will likely be getting another plate design.  Again, I'm not opposed to it, though the design kind of underwhelms me.  Reading the comments, those who disliked the Beautiful Ohio design really liked the new design, while others derided it as boring (again, you can't satisfy everyone).  The new red part of the new design is supposed to emulate wings to continue Ohio's obsession with connecting to the Wright Brothers.  What I do like about the new design is that "OHIO" is bold and easy to read.  The last three plate designs for Ohio have all had "Ohio" in script, which is very hard to read.  I'm someone that likes to be able to look at a license plate while I'm on the road and easily be able to tell which state it's from.  The thin script used for Ohio has never been something I've liked.  Make it bold!  The new design does that, which I like.  I don't mind the overall simplicity either.  I do like all the little slogans and facts in the background, but who's gonna see them and read them?  Interesting idea, but not very practical to me.

Anyway, for the longest time I've thought we should incorporate the fact that Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, is from Ohio.  That's a pretty cool fact to me.  No disrespect to the Wright Brothers, but we've had "Birthplace of Aviation" on our license plates since 1998.  More than just the Wright Brothers came from Ohio, not to mention that North Carolina also capitalized on the Wright Brothers' flight with their "First in Flight" moniker.  So, here's my plate design.  I'm sure people might think it's too busy, but I think a lot of people would like it.  It uses one of the pictures from the "Earthrise" series taken from the surface of the moon, which would be easy to use since they're in the public domain already.  This is my idea:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blogging decline

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a stats person.  It's part of my attention to detail, but I will definitely notice statistical measures, especially things like attendance at sporting events versus seating capacity and other numerical trends.  Well, I've noticed how much my blogging has declined over the past few years, going from 69 posts in 2008 (which included my posts on my old MySpace blog), to 44 in '09, to 37 last year, now to just 16 (this is #16) in 2011.  It's not like I have less time this year than last (it's probably about the same amount really), but for whatever reasons I just don't find the time or motivation to blog much the past year.  I've noticed my Wikipedia activity has also declined over the past year, though lately it seems to be increasing again.  Even so, it's nowhere near the peak I hit back in late 2010. 

Part of the decline with my blog here has been because I've been blogging on the Kent Patch website.  Originally the idea was that I would blog about once a month there, but that hasn't panned out either.  I have a blog in the works, but have found the current reading audience there really isn't all that interested in sports, so I'm far less motivated to write blog posts there since my topic is sports.  The only post that got any noticeable amount of comments was my post about the Kent-Ravenna football rivalry and how it's much older than it is credited for.  The comments, however, came not because of interest in the topic, but more because one specific commenter thought they were smarter than they were and basically called me out for using the name "Kernel" for the 1923 Roosevelt yearbook, assuming that I was just "sloppy" in using that term instead of "Colonel".  Well, unfortunately for that person, the 1923 Roosevelt yearbook was called "The Kernel" (The name The Colonel for the school publication seems to show up in the late 1930s/early 1940s, but it was never the name of the yearbook or "annal").  Most of the comments after were directed at that individual showing them how incorrect they were.  It was nice to see that people were reading it, but most of my other posts seem to go unnoticed.  Maybe people aren't commenting, but when I see other blogs getting regular comments, it's less motivating!  Keep an eye out, though, on for my blog.  I just submitted a new post today, so it should be up in the next few days. 

Another reason for the decline in blogging is, I think, trying to figure out which direction to take this blog.  Do I want it more personal?  Do I want it to be on certain topics I like?  Do I want it to be reviewing products or experiences I've had?  I already broke off the most personal aspects of the blog by creating a private blog.  But lately, with my interest in local history at an all-time high, perhaps I should consider making a history blog separate from this one.  My worry is that I have too many blogs to manage.  At this point I'm thinking of making this more of my opinion blog (since it's subtitled "The World According to Jon") and having that cover my political rants and other opinions, while separating off my history posts to a new blog and possibly expanding my personal blog or having two personal blogs (keeping the existing one for my most personal opinions while making another one to share pictures and stories.  Still much to think about!

Lastly, I think my interest in history has taken much of my motivation and time from blogging.  For the past few months I've really been active in the Facebook group "You Know you are from Kent if/when..."  I have posted several photos of local interest and have commented on many others that have been posted.  I've learned tons of new things about Kent history and shared my own insights too.  It's been a lot of fun and has been nice to be appreciated for what I have discovered about Kent history!  If you're from Kent and on Facebook, be sure to check it out (and it's more than just history too!).  It's a "closed" group, so a current group member has to add you, but it's easy to request.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Davey Discoveries

When I posted last, I had hoped it would be the first of a succession of Kent Schools-related posts.  Well, life had other plans.  After an unexpected trip to the hospital at the end of August, surgery, recovery, getting back to work, and other life adventures the past month-and-a-half, I finally find myself able to start catching up on blogging again.

 I decided to blog again about what many in Kent refer to as the Davey building.  It is currently Davey Elementary School, but opened originally as Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1922, as Davey Junior High School in 1959, and Davey Middle School in 1993.  After a major renovation in 1999-2000, it reopened in August 2000 as Davey Elementary School.  It is the oldest school building in the Kent City School District (DePeyster School is actually older, but no longer serves as a school).  As I talked about in my blog post about Davey last year, I attended the building for grades 6-8 in the mid 1990s during its run as Davey Middle School.  Even as a student I recognized the building's rich history and was always fascinated by it and how much it has changed over the years.  Recently, I've been able to find out even more about the building's early days and confirm some of my suspicions about how things were when it opened and even discover some things I never even knew!

Subbing at Roosevelt the last 2-plus years, I've spent some time in the teacher's lounge for lunch or other down time.  In the lounge is a display case of Roosevelt memorabilia, which includes a photocopy of the 1922 dedication what is now Davey.  I had been pining to get the case open to get that program and the 1959 program from the original portion of the current high school because I suspected the 1922 program had a map of the building when it was new which would answer some of the questions I had.  I finally was able to get it open last month and was more than thrilled to find that the 1922 program did indeed have a detailed building map that not only shows the building's layout, but even details like where doors and windows were.  I've also been participating in a Facebook group called "You Know You're From Kent if/when..." that has several history-minded people like myself and past Roosevelt graduates who attended school at "Old" Roosevelt and even scanned some yearbook pictures and/or shared experiences.  It's been a lot of fun!  Here are some of my discoveries and confirmations along with the building maps from the 1922 dedication of what was then Theodore Roosevelt High School.

I was particularly happy to see the picture on top of the southeast view of the school as it originally appeared.  The 1966 addition to the school was built on this side, so you can't see it anymore.  In the background you can see the end of the gym that is covered up and where the windows used to be on that side of the gym.

Approximate views from the 1922 angles as seen in 2006.  As you can see in this second picture, not much has changed on this side!

1922 map of the basement and 1st floors.  This confirmed what I suspected in my previous blog that the original balcony in the gym was three-sided.  Today only one side remains (far left side) and it is separated by a wall from the rest of the gym and the floor on it was leveled, so most people don't even realize it was ever a balcony.  Of course today the full balcony wouldn't work because a regulation-sized basketball court wouldn't fit on the floor below!  The basement plan also shows where the original doors to the gym were that have been bricked over.  Other points of interest include the boys and girls locker alcoves on the first floor, the "dental clinic" on the first floor, and a "foot warmer" where the display case is now across the hall from the main entrance to the auditorium (labeled as "Assembly Room").  I've been told the foot warmer is actually still there underneath the display case!  My lingering question is whether or not the "passageway" on the left (west) side of the auditorium was open air or fully enclosed like it is now.  The passageway on the right (east) side was most definitely open air with a roof prior to the construction of the 1966 addition.  I also never realized that the far left (west) side of the 1st floor was one huge room originally.  When I was at Davey it had long been divided into 3 rooms and today is divided into 2 rooms (music and art) with 2 offices in between.  This building was also the home of the entire Board of Education too!
Map of the 2nd and 3rd floors in 1922.  I was surprised to see the emergency exit on the front right corner of the balcony.  That doorway is still there, but goes into the back of the teacher prep room (where the copy machine is) that is located in what used to be a staircase.  Both staircases on the right side of the building were removed during the 1966 addition.  I couldn't help but notice how many staircases there are in this building (particularly staircases that are more than likely emergency exits), which leads me to believe it was influenced by the Collinwood School Disaster just a few years prior (1908).  
Another discovery made recently was the sign that was once over the front doors.  Last year a local antique dealer, Don Barrett, found a large metal sign that read "THEODORE ROOSEVELT HIGH" with "Class of 1933" in small letters below it.  Roger Sidoti, who was principal of Roosevelt until this past summer, bought the sign and it's currently sitting in the wood shop at Roosevelt.  There are some tentative plans to mount it and have it displayed at the high school.  Where it was mounted at Davey is still visible (the bolt holes are still there) and one of the posted yearbook pictures from 1959 (last year the building served as Roosevelt) show the sign above the door.  As far as I know it's only the second class memorial to get moved from "Old Roosevelt" to the current building, the other being a decorative medallion of the school seal from the Class of 1940 in the sidewalk in front of the main entrance off North Mantua Street.  It had previously been in the sidewalk that goes straight out from the front entrance at Davey.  All other class memorials are still at Davey.  The current Roosevelt building has very few class memorials.  Most class "gifts" these days are purchases of equipment or something low-key (Class of 1999, however, helped pay for the large metal Rough Rider sculpture at the main cafeteria entrance) versus the bronze plaques, lamp posts, and even a Bible verse (Psalm 90:12) that are all over and around Davey.  

Front doors of Davey Elementary School on October 5, 2011 showing where the bolt holes are still visible.
Sign sitting on its side in the wood shop at Roosevelt.  On the back are wedges that angled the sign down slightly.

Picture of the front doors at "Old" Roosevelt in late 1958/early 1959 in its last year as a high school.  The metal
sign can be seen above the keystone of the arch.  It even gives off a small triangular shadow showing that it was angled down slightly, which matches the structure of the sign currently sitting in the wood shop.  The lamp posts seen are still there and were restored recently!
Class of 1925 Memorial from Psalm 90:12.  This is over the main doors to the auditorium and is the first thing you see upon entering the school through the main front doors. 
School seal from the Class of 1940.  This is located in the sidewalk right in front of the entrance to the auditorium lobby facing North Mantua Street at the current Roosevelt High School.  It is the only class monument currently on display at the high school that was moved from the previous building to the current one that I am aware of.  It was previously located in a triangular area where the sidewalk from the main entrance (which lines up with the centerline of North Prospect Street) to what is now Davey met the intersection of Lowell, Whittier, Park, and Prospect.  When I was a student at Davey, there was a similar medallion in the sidewalk that had been placed there in 1959 for the dedication of Davey Junior High School.  It was removed during the 1999-2000 renovations and not replaced.  
Location of the seal seen above at the current high school building.  I had to brush it off before I took the picture above!  "New" Roosevelt opened in 1959.  This section of the building (auditorium addition) opened in late 1972.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rough Rider Way

Over the last few months, I've gotten into the habit of walking and jogging at the Roosevelt-Stanton campus pretty much every day or as close to that as possible (outside Sundays).  It's relatively close, there isn't much car traffic to deal with (crossing the roads), and when I get there I have a choice of 2 all-weather tracks to use for my jogging.  Only my ankle sprain in June derailed my walking for about a month and my jogging for a little longer than that (much to my dismay).  I started when the weather first started getting a little warmer back in May (was very late this year) and lately have been going in the evening so that it's not as hot and the sun isn't scorching me too bad.  Plus, after a certain time, Roosevelt Stadium is covered in shadows from the trees, so I can do my jogging there.  The track at the adjacent Stanton Stadium has absolutely no shade at all, so I only jog there when it's dusk or cloudy.

Roosevelt Stadium, which got a new scoreboard and new
goalposts in the last few weeks!
Anyway, all that walking, especially the unshaded parts, definitely got me thinking.  Now, for those who don't know me very well, while I love music and teaching, it wasn't my first passion.  No, through elementary, middle, and much of high school I had every intention of being an architect.  While I obviously didn't go down that career path, I still love architecture and designing buildings.  Too often I find myself looking over a building and renovating it in my head; things I would change, additions I would make, etc.  That has definitely been true for Roosevelt as well.  Not only did I spend tons of time as a student there, but now as an employee I have even more time in there.  These next few posts I'll share just some of my ideas; basically, the ideas I think could be feasible versus my more grandiose pipe dreams for Roosevelt High School.  The first has to do with what most people know as "Roosevelt Drive".

We could have a special street sign like this (since it's not a city road)
or just use the traditional green and white Kent street sign format,
but either way it needs a street sign!
The road that goes across the entire Roosevelt Campus is known colloquially as "Roosevelt Drive".  It goes west from a signaled intersection with North Mantua Street (SR 43) to an intersection with Hudson Road and Robert Drive.  The road is not part of the city of Kent's road system--it's maintained by the school district--and has no street signs.  As a result, it's often omitted from published maps of Kent and some of the older maps identify the road as the "Roosevelt Service Road" if it's on there at all.  I've seen Google Earth label it as "Robert Drive" since it lines up with Robert Drive at Hudson Road.  In any case, it has no official name and no signs to identify it.  That's the first thing I'd like to change.  I'd like to see it officially named "Rough Rider Way" complete with street signs at each end of the road, whether they be special red street signs with the Roosevelt "R" logo or the typical green Kent street signs with the city's tree logo.  Basically something so it can be identified by anyone, especially people from out of town, for the purpose of giving directions.  I chose "Rough Rider Way" because Kent already has a "Roosevelt Avenue" in the southwest part of the city, so having a Roosevelt Drive and a Roosevelt Avenue in two different parts of town could be somewhat confusing.  Plus, the road at the high school includes Stanton Middle School, which also uses the Rough Rider mascot and it's how you get to Roosevelt Stadium and all the athletic facilities.  I've seen many other schools use their team name as the name for the road and I must admit I was initially inspired by these metal collectible "street signs" I've seen in some of the classrooms that say "Rough Rider Way".

Wouldn't this look much better with
trees lining the sidewalk?
The other things I'd like to see along this newly-named Rough Rider Way are some trees!  Walking along that road so many times now, I have lost count how many times I wish I had some shade.  Most of the road is completely devoid of trees.  On one part of the road, there can't be any trees because it parallels the main water line for the city of Akron.  But the side of the road that has the sidewalk can definitely have some trees and the part that runs almost directly east-west could probably have trees on both sides.  What I'd like to do is set up a program kind of like those brick-paving fundraisers where you can buy a personalized brick.  Instead, you have it set up where people, families, businesses, and other organizations can pay to have a tree planted along this Rough Rider Way.  It could even be tied in with the Urban Forestry class at Roosevelt not only for the physical act of planting and caring for the new trees, but also the research of what kinds of trees would work best for lining the road and even some research on what trees will turn red in the fall.  Anyway, the cost would include the tree (maybe have more than one choice) and some kind of sign or plaque for a personalization aspect.  I proposed this as an option for Kent's new Veterans Memorial Park, but I submitted it late and they went another direction anyway.  Either way, I think not only would it create a shaded area for those that walk along the road (students walk between the two schools all the time and I'm hardly the only resident who uses the campus for exercise!), but in the fall, it would be quite a sight to have a whole line of trees on Rough Rider Way turn a blazing red.  Added to that, we're beautifying the campus and hey, this IS the Tree City!

I recognize that there would be drawbacks, mostly maintenance issues and the removal of leaves in the fall.  It would be interesting to see what kind of discussion or response such a plan would get if it were ever proposed.  But in terms of cost, this would be largely self-supported.  About the only cost would be the street signs for Rough Rider Way.    
Map of campus, ca. 2005, showing in yellow where I would like to see trees and where they seem possible.  The south side of the part of "Rough Rider Way" where it runs diagonally is over the main water line for the city of Akron, so we couldn't plant a row of trees there.  The line runs diagonally across the entire campus.  There could also be trees on parts of the other roads on campus if the program were popular enough!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tree Top Villas

Front view of our unit at Tree Top Villas
I'm pretty sure this is my last post related to the big family trip to Pennsylvania, but I did want to post a little about the place we stayed for the week we were there.  One of the great things about the web tracker I have on this blog from (it's on the right column a little ways down the page) is not only telling me where my blog traffic is coming from, but many times it tells me why they came to the site in the first place.  When you click on "real-time view" you can often see what browser the reader used, what time they visited, and if they came via a weblink, what website that came from.  If they came from a search engine, it will usually say what search term they were using that my blog came up under.  As a result, I wanted to make this post for those who might do a search for the resort we stayed, the Tree Top Villas in Bushkill, PA.  That's why I did my recent post on the whole AT&T U-Verse thing too; just in case it could be of help to someone searching the world wide web!

Rear view of our unit
As I said in my recent post "Five-year photo", my grandma selected Tree Top Villas about a year ago after my sister had looked through every available property we could go to and evaluated the nearby attractions and resort amenities.  We had 18 total people (though had a friend of my sister for one night before we took her to JFK) and had 4 total units.  The unit I stayed in with my 3 siblings was a 3-bedroom unit, which apparently are fairly recent additions to the complex.  We had 6 people in the unit (7 for one night) and it had 6 total beds, though it can comfortably sleep 8 people in the beds.  The master bedroom has a king-sized bed and one of the upstairs rooms has a queen-sized bed.  The third bedroom (where I slept) had 2 double beds and then there's a loft area overlooking the living room that had 2 twin beds.  There was a couch bed too, so total, it could technically sleep 10 people if absolutely needed.  In addition, we also had 6 family members in an adjacent 3-bedroom unit (it was right next to ours and was simply a mirror-reflection of it), 2 in a 2-bedroom unit not too far from us, and then my grandparents were with an aunt and uncle in a 2-bedroom unit on the opposite side of the property from us.  I was never in either of the 2-bedroom units, so can't really comment on them.  My grandma thought theirs was difficult for people their age (my grandparents are in their 80s) because it had a lot of stairs.  Their unit, according to my aunt, was also much older and not in the best of shape.  The other 2-bedroom unit, from what I heard, was newer and in better shape but was the same basic floorplan.

View from the front door
I can comment on our unit, though!  Overall, I liked it.  The layout was nice and open and as soon as you walk in, you're greeted with a nice dining area, an open kitchen behind it, and a very nice staircase going up to the bedrooms.  The loft overlooking the living room was a nice touch, though I'm not really a big fan of the beds being in the loft.  I'd much rather have the beds be in an actual bed room.  One feature that our unit had that the adjacent unit did not was a few extra windows.  That was because our unit was on the end of the group (there were 4 units together), so it could have a few side windows instead of just on the front and back.  For someone like me, that was an added touch, plus the window we had at the top of the stairs provided me with one of those "memorable moments" from the trip.  I was opening the mini-blinds to it one morning and my  20 month-old nephew was coming up the stairs with his mom (my sister) and saw me opening it.  His face lit up and he said "Windows!  Yeah windows!" and went over to look out.  I like windows too, but I've never seen anyone get that excited for them!  Just think, if we had been in the adjacent unit (which obviously didn't have a window at the top of the stairs like that) I wouldn't have been able to experience that fun moment.  Anyway, there were quite a few windows on the front and back, so you could have your privacy, but still let lots of natural light in.  All the rooms had a ceiling fan too, which I very much appreciated!  The furniture was good enough and having a washer and dryer (and dishwasher) was a nice touch.  I never used the washer and  dryer, but my sisters did.

The columns as seen from the front door
There were a few things that I didn't care for, most of which are quite minor and cosmetic.  First, the way the unit was designed had these stylish columns right along the main hallway when you came in.  I like columns and all, but these were placed in such a way that they narrowed that hallway considerably.  While it seemed they were structurally necessary, I could see that they could've easily been placed further out or not used at all without compromising the structural integrity of the 2nd floor.  The master bedroom has an unusual layout too.  It has its own bathroom with a shower, but it also has a whirlpool and sauna that are actually part of the bedroom.  I just found it odd.  While yes, for the most part the people using the master bedroom will be the only people using the whirlpool and sauna, that's not always true, plus it makes the whole bedroom humid and steamy when it's being used.  I would much rather have that be part of the bathroom (which was a separate room attached to the bedroom) than part of the bedroom.  The other thing I was disappointed with was that many of the technology things, like the TVs and phones, were pretty dated.  Each bedroom and the living room had a TV (the one in my room would not change channels at all), but they were older TVs with the old 4:3 format instead of a widescreen.  I could understand the bedrooms maybe not having new widescreen TVs, but just putting one in the living room would instantly update the room without changing anything else.  The TVs weren't just old-looking, though, they were starting to look fuzzy and have picture quality problems too.  I know, the TVs don't make or break it and we certainly don't come out there to watch TV, but sometimes it's nice to sit back and relax while watching TV or a movie, so having a TV that's in good shape (and at least CLOSE to as good as what I have at home) is much appreciated.  The light switches were also in somewhat bizarre places for some of the rooms and the fans were controlled by those round dimmer switches from the 1980s.  The bedroom doors have closers on them, so the only way I could keep the door open to prevent the room from being absolutely freezing from the air conditioning, was to prop it open.  I didn't really understand the point of having the doors do that, and it was only the bedroom doors, not the bathroom doors.  

View from the loft
My biggest complaint was the Internet service there.  The resort has access to wireless Internet, but only via AT&T hotspots, not a wireless network of its own.  As a result, if you don't have AT&T at home you can opt to pay for Internet service to access the hotspot, or like us, you can log in using your AT&T U-Verse account.  While it worked out for us, even so the entire complex was using the same hotspot.  As a result, Internet was very slow, and that was after the headache of just getting online in the first place!  For the amount of money people are paying to stay there, decent Internet service isn't too much to ask.  Again, like TV, it's not why we come there, but it's how most people stay in touch and connected these days.  My brother, for instance, still had to work while he was there, so he needed Internet access.  It's not that expensive to set up a simple wireless network that can properly handle the traffic from the complex, and they could even add a small fee to the bills and no one would even notice or care.  Instead, it was like stepping back in time about 15 years to the days of long-distance (there was even a charge to make local calls!) and slow Internet (the speed was almost as slow as dial-up).

Master bedroom with sauna, whirlpool, and fireplace
The complex had the amenities I expected.  It's built around a golf course, so those that like to golf were happy.  There was at least one miniature golf course there as well.  The pools were decent.  I only went swimming twice, but when I did they seemed adequate.  I believe there are 4 pools total.  Each is in an indoor-outdoor pair and then the one closest to us had a hot tub.  I did like how the pools had towels to use so you didn't need to bring your own (though we figured that out after we brought our own).  With each pool complex was also a game room with a few video games and some other game options too.  I obviously had plenty to keep me occupied outside the resort, so I really didn't use a lot of the amenities to really evaluate them.  Compared to other places we have stayed, they were right what I expected.  Nothing glamorous or exciting, but not in bad shape or awful either.  

Living room with aforementioned TV
Breakfast area...window on left was one of
the "extra" windows we had because the
unit was on the end of the row.
Living room looking into kitchen and breakfast area
Stairway above the dining area.  I loved the curved railing!

Upstairs.  The door on the far right was where my room was

Loft area overlooking living room
The room I stayed in

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hello New York!

So much has happened the last few weeks, now I'm finally able to catch up on blogging.  My last post related to my most recent trip is about my 2 fun visits to New York City on July 31st and August 3rd.  I've already talked about the nightmare trip on August 1st, so no need to go there again!  Anyway, ever since I found out that the trip was going to be in eastern PA within driving distance to New York I knew I would make at least one trip to the city while I was there.  As time grew closer I decided to make a trip to New York on my own.  What transpired was a lot of fun (and a lot of walking)!

PATH Train from Newark to the WTC
Back in 2009, while my brother was still living in the Washington, DC area, I took a trip to see him on my Spring Break during student teaching.  I didn't really do a whole lot while there (I was mostly just getting out of town and relaxing), but one of the days I drove his car to the nearest Metro station and took the Metro into town and just spent most of the day visiting things I wanted to see and enjoying the scenery.  I also got a lot of great pictures.  Well, with that in mind, I wanted to do something like that in New York; just take a day and go explore the city by myself and not worry about anyone else.  Initially I was going to park in Jersey City or Newark and take the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) train into Manhattan, but a friend of mine told me if I was going in on Sunday I could probably drive into Manhattan and find on-street parking.  To make a long story short, he was right and amazingly I found on-street parking for free.  Granted, when I crossed the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan I started thinking to myself "what the heck am I doing?!?" but I finally managed to maneuver my way through the river of traffic and I found parking on a residential street between 5th and 6th Avenues.  First thing after parking was I double checked to make sure it was even a legal space to park (it was) and then I found a subway station.  After paying some $26 to ride the London Subways back in 2007, finding out that the NYC Subway was only $2.25 for every time you enter the system (unlimited transfers), it felt practically free!  I got on the first train that came and took it to the end of the line, which was City Hall.  Just FYI, though, on-street parking is only available in a lot of places on Sunday.  Where I parked the sign said "No parking Except Sundays".

Finally got some pictures with the Brooklyn Bridge!
I had a great time re-introducing myself to the city.  I hadn't been to New York since I was in middle school.  My dad took my sisters and me on an East Coast trip in 1996 which included stops in Hershey, Valley Forge, Philadelphia, and New York.  We actually left the van in Philly and took the Amtrak train to New York and stayed there, I think, 3 days in a hotel along 8th Avenue.  In any case, a lot has changed since 1996 as anyone can imagine.  Most of the places I explored I ended up visiting later when I came back on August 3rd with my sisters, dad, and brother-in-law.  It didn't bother me though because I could be somewhat of a guide.  Being able to use the subway system again got me familiarized with the whole map system they use (it's not easy to read quick if you aren't familiar with it), so I was much more of a help on the 3rd.  I was also able to meet up with a friend from who lives in Queens.  He showed me around a bit and it was great to meet him!

New 1 World Trade Center under 
construction in Manhattan
Seeing the World Trade Center site for the first time since 2001 was surreal.  I vaguely remember it from the trip in 1996, where we took the elevator up to the 107th floor of the South Tower to the observation deck.  We couldn't go on the roof that day because of high winds (which we got to experience on the Empire State Building observation deck!).  I remember being up in the tower a lot more than the plaza around it.  Somewhere I have pictures I took of it, but they're in a box I have no idea where!  Anyway, seeing the massive construction site and remembering being there in '96 and seeing what I saw on the news in 2001, it was hard to believe it was the same place.  September 11th is a day that anyone who lived through and was aware of what was going on just never forgets.  I was showing some kids at Roosevelt a documentary about it back in May.  The same emotions I remember from that day were resurfacing as I watched the video.

Manhattan Temple
It was cool to see the Manhattan LDS Temple, right across from Lincoln Center and only a block from Central Park.  Both trips I went to the park via the 66th Street Subway Station, so I saw the temple both days.  It's not the most spectacular temple, but it fits in without totally blending it.  Kinda cool to see Angel Moroni on a spire in the middle of Manhattan!  Both trips were a lot of fun.  Being there solo was just a chance for me to be on my own and go at my own pace.  It was also a chance for me to be alone, which I really don't get a lot of these days.  The trip with my dad, sisters, and brother-in-law was fun too getting to spend time with them and seeing all the sites.  It was also nice having been there a few days earlier so I had a little bit of familiarity with where everything was.  The laminated map I got from my friend (who also recommended driving into Manhattan on Sunday) was a HUGE help!!

Vesey Street at the WTC site
Couple things I did learn: 1st, New Yorkers in general are very aggressive drivers.  Not just New York City, but the entire metro area.  They won't honk or swear at you if you just barge over into their lane or drive close to them (especially in congestion), but don't go slow.  Going slow is the ultimate sin in New York driving.  Keep up with traffic.  Don't drive like that in Ohio though.  We'll think you're nuts and probably give you the finger if you cut us off or drive too close like that!  Next, I also learned that I never really want to drive in New York again.  It's so slow (SOOOO much congestion everywhere) and frustrating.  Traffic congestion is one of the quickest ways to drive me insane.  I'm just not sure why anyone would ever commute into New York by car.  If I ever lived in the NYC area, I'd definitely live near a subway line or a train line.  Not only is traffic absolutely miserable, but there are tolls galore on pretty much every bridge and tunnel (at least in one direction).  The tolls are cheaper for residents and those with the automated EZ-Pass, but still...that can add up in a hurry!  I also learned that for me, New York is a great place to visit.  Keyword VISIT.  It made me even more grateful for living in good old Kent, Ohio and the whole road system we have in the Cleveland area.  It's not because I think New York is a horrible place; New York is a great place, but it's definitely not for me.

On the subway
Anyway, a great couple of trips sandwiched around one of the worst driving experiences of my life!  I'm glad I was able to go to New York and hope my next visit is in less than the 15 years between the first and second visits!