Thursday, August 23, 2012

Women Building Better Community Gardens

My good friend and fellow JLSA volunteer, Shannyn Romero, sent me a text last Wednesday morning. She asked me if I would post some pictures to the JLSA website that she planned on sending me later that day. Not knowing what she was up to, I asked her if her photos were "blogworthy," because I've been crazy busy at work and have had a bit of writer's block. I wasn't sure what my next post would be about. And, as luck would have it, this week's blog found me! How remarkable. Serendipity. Shannyn is the Co-Chair of this year's brand new community placement, Green Spaces Alliance. She spent last Wednesday, along with a bunch of other League and non-League volunteers, making over a 65,000-square-foot community garden on Center Street, on the East side of town.

Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas' mission is "to sustain the natural environment and enhance urban spaces through land conservation, community engagement and education." A key feature of its mission is its Community Gardens Program, which endeavors to start and maintain community gardens, which it defines as "places where people can gather with neighbors, exercise, educate children, find fresh produce, grow beautiful flowers, and preserve San Antonio's green space."

Later that day, just as she promised, Shannyn sent me "before" and "after" photos of the amazing work she and others did to transform this urban space.



Shannyn is passionate about being involved and helping our community, and it just seems to emanate from within her. She texted me: " with the sweat pouring down my face I found myself thinking about actually being a part of something bigger than JLSA, or even San Antonio. Fiskars brought down 10 people from Wisconsin and spent $45,000 to do one little community garden. I think in total there were 60 people there today. Home Depot had a huge team since they were part of the sponsorship. It was cool."

It is cool. Cool and hot at the same time, because temperatures hovered around 101 on August 15. As I read her text and peered at the photos on my cellphone, I thought of my friend, working hard in the heat along with 11 other JLSA volunteers and a bunch of other hard-working folks while she contemplated how profoundly awesome it is to be a part of something that pushes even beyond what the Junior League's mission is all about. They funneled energy, love and care into this small spot in our community and simultaneously made our whole world a better place. I felt proud of her, of the great things that she and her fellow volunteers accomplished, and of the things that JLSA volunteers all accomplish through passion, hard work and dedication. I also felt a little guilty to be sitting in my office with the A/C on full blast!

There is a great article and video clip here about the project if you'd like to know more about it. 

What are you doing this year to build better communities with energy and passion? I'd love to hear from you. Comment below or just text me, like Shannyn did. ;)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sister Stories

JLSA Communications Council Chair Erica Ellis recently informed me that the first Sunday of August is "Sisters Day," and it got us to thinking. Remember a few weeks ago when I told you about JLSA's awesome Reading Camp? I told you that my older daughter, Eleanor, went to camp this summer for three long weeks. And I showed you a letter that she sent me from camp. Well, while I only received a couple of post cards and letters, I sent her a letter EVERY DAY. And because I'm type-A, and because I didn't want her to think we weren't thinking of her and wishing her well every single day she was gone, and because I wanted her to receive sweet, vivid, colorful reminders of her friends and family at home, I ordered a ton of photo greeting cards at Treat. Check it out! I had so much fun picking out the cards, choosing just the right photos to add, and coming up with cute little things to tell her. I should have worked at Hallmark. (And, y'all, they are cheap! And Treat will even send the card to the recipient with a stamp and everything! You can even schedule cards to be mailed far in advance! It's awesome!) One of the cards I created to send to Eleanor was from her little sister, Sadie. Here is the front!

I included a cute picture of the girls in their Mexican wedding dresses that I took during Fiesta, and I included a quote by one of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison. Here is the inside of the card:

You probably can't read it because it's so tiny, but the quote is:
A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves 
and very much not ourselves--a special kind of double.

I can totally relate to this quote. My sister and I are definitely "a special kind of double." We are also both active members of the JLSA, and I probably wouldn't have joined had it not been for my sister urging me to do it. And if you know me, or you know her, or you know both of us, you might not even know that we are sisters, because we look sort of different and we both are married and our last names are no longer the same. My sister is Carrie Lane, who many of you know from last year when she was Vice Chair of Placement, or this year as Board Secretary. I probably wouldn't even be writing this right now if it wasn't for Carrie, who knows me sometimes better than I know myself, telling me, "Hey, maybe you should apply for the Blogger position!" when I was angsting over placement options.

Carrie and I are not the only sister duo in the JLSA. Araceli and Lorena Pena moved from California to San Antonio during their early teen years and both ended up having careers here after college. Araceli originally joined the League to make new friends, since most of her high school friends had moved away from San Antonio. She loved it and urged her little sister, Lorena, to join. Lorena said, "Celi thinks it was her persistence that finally got me to join [the JLSA], but it was the way the JLSA came to her aide one horrible December that made me want to give back to the League. During Celi's Provisional Year, her condo burned down. It was a complete loss. During that really hard time, the JLSA brought her meals and even some clothes. It wasn't the items that made a difference--it was the gesture that complete strangers would help her out just because she was a part of this organization." At that moment, Lorena said she knew she had to join the Junior League.

The Pena sisters in NYC!

Emily Gary and Sarah Wannarka are also sisters in the League. Somewhat similar to the Pena sisters, while they were in high school, their family moved to San Antonio. Big sister Sarah was able to finish high school in Maryland, but Emily and their three brothers moved to San Antonio, where Emily graduated from Churchill High School. (Small world--the Pena sisters also graduated from Churchill!) Sarah ended up in Austin and transferred to the JLSA from the Austin Junior League before Emily moved back to Texas after having lived in Denver for 14 years. Sarah was anxious to have Emily join the JLSA so that they would have something they could do together, and because she knew the JLSA was a great place to make new friends. Emily said, "Sarah was absolutely the reason I joined JLSA. When I first moved to San Antonio, I wasn't working outside of the home and was looking for ways to meet friends and learn more about the city that I was now calling 'home.'" Emily joined the League last year, and while the two went together to every meeting possible her New Member year, Emily has missed Sarah while she has been away in Afghanistan as a Senior Legal Advisor for the United States Department of Justice Rule of Law Program. We will have to check in on this "sister act" when they are reunited when Sarah returns!

Emily Gary and Sarah Wannarka

Remember that picture of my daughters in their Mexican wedding dresses? Here's an old picture of my sister and me, circa 1983, not too much older than my daughters are now:

Yours Truly and Carrie Lane

So Happy Belated Sister's Day, everyone! If you are a sister, or have a sister in the League, or just feel a sense of kinship and sisterhood with your fellow JLSA members, I feel like I should create a special, personalized card on Treat just for you!

Are you a sister or do you know of other sister duos in the JLSA? Let us know and comment!