Friday, April 3, 2009

Writing workshop

Hello ladies,

it's been a long while since I've posted (or even visited) on this blog. I thought some of you might be interested in a writing workshop that is happening this summer. I saw it on below are the details:

Hi Astorians,Here is some info on a community-based writing workshop that I will be teaching this summer. It's happening in nearby Woodside, but I live in Astoria, so I hope that's okay. Respond with any questions and I'll reply. Also, if anyone has any suggestions of where else to post it online or any cultural organizations that might be interested in it, please let me know.Here's a link to a pdf file of the info: cut and pasted below:Our Side: A Creative Nonfiction Writing Workshop on Cultural IdentityLed by Nancy Agabian at TOPAZ ARTS CenterDates: 10 Sessions, Saturdays, June 6 -- August 15, 10 am – 12:30 pm Participants’ reading: Sunday, August 16, 3 – 6 pmFee: Sliding scale donation: $10 -- $200. Free for the unemployed. Each participant will decide her/his own fee and pay it at the 2nd meeting Description: Our Side is a new workshop for writers of all levels to write in English about the worlds they live in, past and present. For the first five weeks, we will read work by Amy Tan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, and others; then we'll discuss the issues these writers address on emigration, dislocation from homeland, assimilation to a new land, mainten-ance of cultural identity, and trans-nationalism. These discussions will prompt writing exercises to explore our own experiences with migration and views of cultural identity. For the following four weeks, we'll read to the group our writing to receive feedback and help polish it into memoirs or personal essays. During the last meeting, we'll prepare for a reading of our work. Eligibility: Applicants must be immigrants or have a parent who is an immigrant. You should have (familial, national, intellectual, or spiritual, etc.) connections to a place outside of the U.S. that you would like to write about.To apply: Write one page on your experience with writing, why you would like to take a writing workshop on cultural identity, and your commitment to attend each session (except July 4, a holiday). Include your name, email address, and phone number. Participants will be chosen on their ability to commit to the workshop and their level of writing. Every level will be included from first-time beginners to advanced. Email your application (or any questions) to deadline: May 9, 2009. Participants will be notified by May 23, 2009.TOPAZ ARTS is located at 55-03 39th Avenue in Woodside, Queens. Subway directions: #7-train to 61 St. or the R, V, G trains to Northern Blvd. Details and directions are available at Nancy Agabian is the author of Me as her again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter, a memoir on her Armenian American family history. Currently, she is working on a book about her experiences living in a community of artists in Yerevan, Armenia, and an article on the history of the Turkish and Armenian communities in Sunnyside, Queens. Since 1994, she has been teaching community-based writing workshops in Los Angeles, New York and Yerevan, Armenia. She teaches writing at CUNY, Queens College and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. She lives in Astoria, Queens. http://nancyagabian.comOur Side is made possible, in part, by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.TOPAZ ARTS, Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by artists Todd Richmond and Paz Tanjuaquio. TOPAZ ARTS fosters the creative process, enabling artists to realize their projects. TOPAZ ARTS, Inc. is made possible, in part, by public funds from the NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs; New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; National Endowment for the Arts; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Dance Theater Workshop’s Outer/Space Program; Foundation for Contemporary Art; The F.B. Heron Foundation; QCA Queens Community Art Fund; Material for the Arts, a program of NYC’s Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Dept. of Sanitation and Board of Education; and the generosity of private individuals.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

No tree house, but a fort is a possibility

We are lucky enough to have a small house with a little patch of grass -- ok, weeds cut very short-- in the front, and a tiny garden in the back. My big boy, 4 1/2, has always enjoyed hunting for bugs and worms in the earth, and it has long been a requested outdoor event. We have recently spent some time in parks with real "woods" to play in. And have been to a few homes with real back yards to romp in.

It's reality time: we have no yard to play in.

Now, there are many other things that I could worry about, and do. But, sometimes I allow myself to sweat the small things. And this is a small thing, but a real gripe for some about living in a city. "Don't you want them to have a yard?" I have been asked, and have asked myself more than once.

There will never be a tree house. And that's ok-- I didn't have one growing up in the suburbs, either. And, eventually, I would have to rip it down to prevent it being a possible place to be up to no-good once the kids got old enough to figure that out.

I will get over myself. I chose to live in a city, and will make sure that my kids get to enjoy all the cool things about it. We've been collecting big sticks whenever we see them-- those that have fallen from street trees on our block, in the park, from the backyards of friends.

This year, I'll move a garden in the back because we need some room for fort building.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What a great day......

What a fantastic day.....

It's MLK day, the day before Barack Obama's inauguration, AND a day with snow, snow, snow. We went sledding in Astoria park for the second day in a row! Fun!

To celebrate MLK day, I've signed us up for volunteering as a family. We're doing the community garden thing again, which is good, but we're also doing some fundraising, and will be helping to clean up the parks and waterfront this spring.

Clarification in order: I checked the parks dept, and the Astoria Waterfront websites, but haven't seen the dates yet for cleaning, BUT, I will be checking to make sure that we are there. And if not, we will call and make our own date to help out.

To help out with little kids is super hard. I do have the time, if I make it there without incident, but bringing them along can make the actual helping part almost impossible. My commitment depends on my ability to take my husband along with me, so that someone is with the little guy, and the other adult can help our big guy understand that we are there to have fun, but also help others or our environment. Maybe something will actually get done with all of us there.

Doing "walks"-- breast cancer, autism speaks, the american cancer society event in Astoria park, and whatever else we can squeeze in this spring and summer (AIDS? Hunger? we support it all.....) is really easy to do with kids, though, so we will try to do more of those this year.

Of course, I am often torn. It's not like I'm a rich dowager. So, my fundraising is usually pretty small. Does one do a lot of walks? Is that a good use of the rather small amount of money that I use for donations? I emailed folks I knew once for a breast cancer walk and got some pretty substantial sponsors. But, should we really be spreading out our money like that-- I mean, we could give ONE organization one nice check, instead of giving a bunch little teeny checks.

I do want to support the organizations that mean something to our friends, though, so I guess that we will be doing a bunch this year, regardless.

And, I feel that these walks are also a good way to introduce philanthropy and trying to make a difference (TRYING) to our kids. Are there other ways? Sure, but this is something that we can do as a family, and with others, and can say, "See all these people? They also care about this and want to help."

So much of "volunteering" in my house when growing up was done in hiding. My parents wrote checks to organizations, and I never heard about it. My parents gave time to our church, but I didn't learn about it until later. Giving to others was not something that we talked about. Like money. And I never thought that it was very important to my parents. Volunteering doesn't really do anything for my dad, so he says. Why does it do something for me?

I don't want to be "showy" about volunteering with our kids, like it's something that needs to be flaunted or deserving of great pride, but I do want them to know that it is something that is really fun (most of the time, at least), needed, and an important part of being a good citizen and person here. And, it's important to me. I hope that it becomes important to them.

I wonder how much of what will begin tomorrow will affect them? I grew up with Regan, mostly, during my formative years.

I read an interesting article about the Bush presidency, and consuquential handing over of the reigns to Obama in the Financial Times (of all places!)

"Tomorrow Mr Bush will hand over to a man who won a thumping victory by rekindling a dormant American enthusiasm for public service. Mr Obama could not have done it without Mr Bush. Among the epitaphs available, Prof Lindsay's from his home state of Texas might prove the most enduring. 'I can summarise Bush's legacy in two words,' he says, 'Barack Obama'."

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's Our Park

Just in case you wanted something fun to do in Astoria with the whole family--- our community garden, Two Coves Community Garden, is sponsoring an "It's My Park Day" on October 25th from 12-4. The Astoria CSA is co-sponsoring it.....there should be some pumpkins, face painting, and a nice chance to hang out in the garden with other folks.

Socrates Sculpture Park is having their Halloween Festival on October 18th from 12-3 (I think that's the time I saw posted on another site, but I couldn't find it on their site). Seriously, it is a FANTASTIC party! A dog costume contest, music, and materials for the arts brings materials to make costumes!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wishing and Hoping......

I watched the Democratic National Convention, with not quite rapt attention. I've been afraid of getting too hopeful. Kept my head down and listened, cautiously.

Will my heart be broken, again? Will Barack Obama do what the rest of the democrats have not been able to do? Secure the presidency?

I'm not a political junky-- though I enjoy listening to a good debate. I only really researched Obama's platform vs. Hillary's and McCain's when I started working on it with my students. That's when I started thinking seriously about Obama. His platform was almost identical to Hillary's- very sound and almost everything that I believe in. And when it looked like it was all over for Hillary, I thought-- I'm not that unhappy. He's a great candidate-- most of his ideas for fixing the economy, the war, education, etc-- issues that I care about-- are ideas that I agree with and like.

Months ago, a friend sent me a slanderous email about Obama. I immediately smelled a rat and checked the snopes website. Sure enough, it was garbage. I never normally do this,since I rarely really care about those stupid forwards that I get from people, but I emailed my friend and told her how upset I was that she was emailing lies to people. I said that I bet that she was too smart to believe crap like that, but there are other people who believe everything that they read. She was offended and said that she would never send political emails out again because she offended all of her liberal friends.

I am liberal (if you compare me to a right wing republican), but I would hardly call that a "political email"-- it was hatefully worded garbage meant to encourage people to believe lies about Obama.

Thankfully, he now has a website to address the slander:

I don't mean to belittle the fact that this does not happen on "the other side". There were a lot of hateful rumors planted about McCain when he ran against George Bush in 2004. Thanks to Karl Rove.

And in the past few months, there have been less attacks against Obama. I think that people finally woke up and looked into these rumors and realized that it was trash and insulting their intelligence. I just hope that it stays this way.

I will be wishing and hoping that Obama will make it. Theoretically, he should be able to beat McCain. Obama has the backing of the democratic party, the backing of people who want a change from the past 8 years, a great platform, sound ideas, and a great campaign team.

Wishing for a clean campaign. May the best candidate win! Go Obama!

Hoping that I'll be crying tears of joy this November!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

So Uncool.....

Me. Not that I was EVER cool, to begin with, but now I have slipped even farther down the cool slide, down to luke-warm. Tonight, I heard my neighbors hanging out -- a little party with some friends, and thought that it was the tv. Though we've had some friends over to bbq, I guess that it's been awhile since I've done been anywhere or done anything social that happens after sunset.

And, of course, that's not how I should judge how COOL I am, or anyone else is, but I realize that it's been awhile.

I was supposed to go to a rock show this week-- my babysitter is unable to watch my kids. I probably could not have stayed up that late, anyhow.

I'm glad that OTHER people are having a good time outdoors, socializing, etc after the sun has set, and perhaps can live vicariously through them in the meantime.

Until then, I will hope that Astoria gets some more rock shows that happen in the am-- at parks and such-- for me to go to while awake. Brooklyn has them, Manhattan has them, so we should get them too! Or, I will have to learn guitar and make my own band.

Is the opposite of cool, hot?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Summer in the city

It's almost summer, in the city, but it feels like it's already started. As I type, it's amazingly hot and humid, and there is no airconditioning or fan or moving air in this room.

We went to our community garden meeting today. We, meaning myself and M and N of the Meetup Astoria Moms group (or ASAHM Meetup group, as we are also known). Wow, meetings like that are pretty exhausting! Not a whole lot felt like it was being accomplished (though most of the agenda was covered), but it was very eye-opening for us all, and we got to see and hear from quite a few of the other gardeners.

Have we blogged about our awesome garden? We joined the Two Coves Community Garden. Because we are a community group, we were allowed to get a bunch of plots next to each other to use to form a big garden. Well, big if you live in the city and are used to gardening on a balcony, or a window-box. We have about 600 square feet, and we have made lots of little gardens within the space: a butterfly garden, an herb area, vegetable gardens with lots of different veggies growing like tomatoes, squash, corn, beans, lettuce, radishes, carrots, pumpkins, and cucumbers, and flowers, flowers, flowers. There's also a nice spot for the kids to dig in and make mud puddles, and they love this most of all!

The kids absolutely love the garden. It's even more fantastic than I thought it would be....and I had high expectations for it.

Yes, it was very hard to prepare the garden with kids all over the place, and it's been equally hard to plant, and now it's sometimes really hard to find time for weeding, but we're getting it done! Slowly....

Another obstacle has been that our kids are little, and active, and it's taken time for us to make sure that our kids understand the rules of being in a community garden (not stepping on other people's plots, knowing where their garden ends and another begins, common areas versus private areas in the garden, weeds versus plants....) and there has apparently been some backlash against our group.

We immediately tried to address it--- with each other, to make sure that some moms are on "kid duty" while others are gardening, and to make sure that all moms are encouraged to get some garden time in if they want--- with our kids, to make sure that they understand that there are not only expectations of their being able to behave by their parents, but also by people in the garden community (they understood that they would not be allowed to go to the garden if they didn't follow the rules!), with the garden leaders.

With gardeners that we met, we tried to address it also-- that we knew that it might be a problem and that we were addressing it. Oddly, all gardeners that we met were extremely kind to us and our children. However, we were told that there were numerous complaints! I guess that we will see....

All I know is that we love this place, our garden, and it is the perfect place to spend the summer in the city. We water our garden with water from the fire hydrant, we garden next to people in our Astoria community, we get to be with our friends, and we get to do it in Astoria! Who knew that we could have our own slice of natural heaven, and get to share it with so many people in our community! It really does feel good, and feels right to allow our kids a lot of time outdoors, and time well-spent with friends.