Shannon Dunn

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Stoop Stories Operates at Hopkins Friday!

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Sometimes spending an evening at Johns Hopkins Medicine isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

For one night only the innovators of the Stoop Storytelling series will combine with the innovators at Johns Hopkins Medicine for an operation that is sure to be a success.

On Friday, May 4th, the JHMI Office of Cultural Affairs will host The Stoop Storytelling Series in Turner Auditorium for “Hopkins: A World Inside a City, II.” Seven storytellers will get seven minutes each to share true, personal tales about close calls, humbling experiences, great victories, and crushing defeats — anything that shines a light on what life is truly like at the renowned medical institution.

Amongst the storytellers are some of Hopkins’ best-known, including Dr.Robert Montgomery, director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center, Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa (a.k.a. Dr Q), associate professor of neurological surgery and oncology, neuroscience, and cellular and molecular medicine, and Dr. Chris Kraft, co-director of the Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit.

As always, three audience members will be selected at random to hop on stage and share their own abbreviated tales of medical miracles.

Award-winning restaurant Clementine will be vending food before the show and local troubadour Caleb Stine will sing before the show.

For tickets, click here.

The Truth about SAHMs (Stay-at-Home Moms)

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What’s a Mom to Do?

Recently I received a shaky call from my lifelong friend Kate, 42, who walked me through a disturbing conversation between herself and her eight-year-old daughter. After a heated back-and-forth about whether or not the child actually had brushed her hair as instructed, the little one stood straight, put her hand on her hip and explained: “Mom. I lead a very active lifestyle. All you ever do is walk around and do the dishes. Of course your hair is never a mess.”

My friend, whom I met when she was not much older than her virtual-clone of a child, was uncharacteristically speechless.

But to me — a woman with no children, only dogs to offer comment on the state of my kitchen or my hair — she cautiously confided: “I mean, if that’s what my kids think of me, what does the rest of the world think?”

I reminded her that there are still plenty of people over the age of eight who remember her as leading a lifestyle equally as active as her children’s: working 18 hours days on the first Clinton campaign, then as public relations director for the local chapter of Second Harvest, an anti-hunger awareness organization, serving as the family’s main breadwinner while her husband was in medical school. Volunteering tirelessly and passionately for Planned Parenthood with two little ones of her own, until the birth of her third child transitioned this dynamo of a woman into a dish-doing walkabout with perfect hair.

But what of the child’s assessment?  After the dishes and the walking, how does the average stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) fill her days without longing or regret?

Souper Mom

Just after her second child was born, Cynthia Shea, 40, former owner of the popular Hampden restaurant Soup’s On, began to think about entering the world of full-time momming. But as the owner of her own successful business that required her physical presence daily, it just could not happen right away. She admits that the pressure was intense and that she was always on a very tight schedule: “While I was trying to do it all, one extra red light would make me feel like my whole day was shot to hell. I just felt like I wasn’t doing my best at doing either.”  Finally, after a year of trying to make it all work, she decided to shut down her business and go into the arena of the SAHM.

On the day I sat down to talk about the transition into her new lifestyle, it wasn’t at a table-clothed kitchen table, but in the place where most SAHMs spend the much of their day: in her car.  Between school and afterschool activities, plus household-related errands, it’s not uncommon for the average SAHM to spend more time in her car every day than the average pre-mom woman spends on, say, Facebook.

When we picked up Cynthia’s four-year-old from preschool, the little girl explained to me that it was Yellow Day at her school, proudly displaying her yellow T-shirt emblazoned with a cartoon monkey.  Cynthia slyly leaned over to explain, “That’s actually my son’s shirt. It was the only yellow shirt in the whole house.“ Just as it always has been, necessity is the mother of invention — and this time she’s of the stay-at-home variety.

Spending the Day without Spending Away

As for how Cynthia fills her day, she has learned to embrace and celebrate the wonderful world of what Cynthia calls the Fun and the Free.  “When you have a whole afternoon to spend entertaining children, it’s very easy to spend $40 or more just to keep everyone occupied and happy,” she explains. Without extra funds from a second income, it becomes quickly apparent that happiness may be free, but most places open during the day are not. Her faves are, in no particular order, the BMA, the Walters, the ASPCA, and the library.

Pushing It

Even though the primary focus of an SAHM is on her kids, there is a principle that Cynthia—like the many others you see everyday—keeps pretty sacred: when traveling with a small child, put your own oxygen mask on first. For Cynthia this means getting exercise and fresh air every day. I followed her on a lengthy walk up and down harrowing hills in her Roland Park neighborhood on one of her daily constitutionals. And while this ability to exercise her rights to Vitamin D may sound like a luxury that many would welcome, there is one qualifier: Each time she heads out, it’s behind a double-wide stroller filled with two kids.

Reinventing the Real

And then there’s the SAHM who went the other way.  Baltimore mom Jill Smokler, 34, started her blog, Scary Mommy, as a “baby book for my children and hope that, someday, they appreciate it more than resent it.”  The funny, frank, and sometimes gritty site features not only witty and insightful posts into the Real World of Motherhood, but also an anonymous Confessional, where moms can download their private stresses and indulgences free of judgment. The site took off and now boasts an average 750,000 page views a month. This past May, Jill partnered with Target for an exclusive “social media fashion experiment.” She was given a month’s worth of clothes from Target, and Target Facebook fans (4.5 million) chose and voted on outfits. The project was advertised on sites such as Oprah.com, In Style, People, and Real Simple and has been called “the most revolutionary social media campaign ever.” Oh, and she has a book coming out next year — on Mother’s Day, of course.

Points Well-Made, Points Well-Taken

When I checked back in with Kate to tell her that I was writing an article trying to discern exactly what an SAHM does all day with her time, she gave a thoughtful pause (she was naturally in her car waiting to pick up the middle child from gymnastics after helping the eldest with homework and then putting the youngest to bed), and said, “I fill my day just like anyone fills her day. It’s like filling your closet. Even if it’s not exactly what you want to wear every day, you’re always grateful to have a closet full of clothes. And that’s how I feel about these days with my kids — grateful.”

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Don’t worry Cynshea fans! She’s still available for catering jobs, something she welcomes and adores as a way of balancing her two passions: her family and cooking (in that particular order).

Sports and the City: More than Just Playing the Field

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Yes, little Cooper and Willow have been enrolled in Gymboree, Mommy-and-Me swim classes, and tee-ball since they were able to roll over. Then it was field hockey, lacrosse, baseball, soccer, swim team, maybe cross-country. 

In case you don’t already know this firsthand via countless hours shuttling pre-drivers to their many, many practices, games, clinics, and team dinners, playing sports-–just like education-–rapidly becomes a family affair. Not to mention that Olivia’s trip to the All-Stars with her basketball team often takes financial precedence over, say, a sorely needed winter coat for Mom or Dad.

But for many Baltimore families with equally precious children, there aren’t enough resources to even sacrifice. The many benefits of playing on a sports team go untapped.

Thankfully, several enterprising programs in Baltimore are stepping up to the plate to introduce and encourage growing bodies and minds, and put not only athletics but also academics to the test.

Not Just a Racket

Inspired by their own love of the game, a group of Baltimore-area squash players set their sights on sharing the experience with the city’s youth, and in 2007, founded SquashWise. More than just interested in introducing the sport to the next generation, the board members were determined to expand and improve upon the extracurricular opportunities available to Baltimore city kids. 

But that’s just the squash part. The wise part comes from the rigorous academic expectations of the program. 

Once enrolled in SquashWise, students attend six days a week during the school year. The SquashWise bus picks them up after school and takes them to either Meadow Mill Athletic Center or the Johns Hopkins University squash courts-–both donated spaces-–where they have a healthy snack before changing into their sharp red and black uniforms (donated by squash athletic gear company Harrow). For the rest of the afternoon, students alternate between academic tutoring and athletic coaching. 

As a member of the National Urban Squash & Education Association (NUSEA), SquashWise based itself on the model of urban squash and education programs that have been successful in many other cities across the country, including the original SquashBusters in Boston, founded in 1996. In 2008 the Baltimore group was selected as NUSEA’s first-ever “Star Program,” receiving a $100,000 challenge grant over the first two years—a challenge that SquashWise met in full with support from Baltimore’s charitable community.

Currently working in partnership with Baltimore Civitas School, SquashWise strives to provide full support to students who are dedicated to becoming accomplished scholar-athletes, as demonstrated by gains in classroom effort, behavior, fitness and attitude.

“We describe our students as under-served, “ says SquashWise Executive Director Abby Markoe. “By ‘at-risk,’ [we mean] they are actually at risk of missing out on academic opportunities and athletic opportunities. Very few have ever been members of a team before. SquashWise works to fill the gap that often exists between school and parents and kids. We provide support to the kids, schools and parents. Everyone is communicating.”

Communication must be going well. In 2010, the Baltimore City School Board selected SquashWise as an “Outstanding Partner,” in recognition of the impressive work they do with city students.

As helpful as the tutoring is, Markoe admits, “It’s the squash keeps them coming back every day. [SquashWise] opens opportunities for high school play. Plus it gives students an identity that separates them from their peers.”

Skating Toward Success

Even before the introduction of the urban squash program, another innovative program was offering unusual athletic opportunities for Baltimore kids living on thin ice: hockey.

Since lakes and ponds in the inner-city rarely stay frozen long enough for an outdoor team to develop any kind of magic, or for a regular pick-up game to establish itself in the neighborhood, ice hockey around here requires a substantial commitment of both time and finances.

For the past 13 years Baltimore Youth Hockey has sponsored the Patterson Park Stars, a 15-week program of ice hockey instruction and team building for boys and girls, ages seven to 14.  Like Squashwise, the program offers an uncommon opportunity to play ice hockey for dozens of economically-compromised boys and girls from East and Southeast Baltimore.  Participation in the Patterson Park Stars requires a strict set of academic and behavioral standards. And as with SquashWise, it’s the game that keeps players on their game.

“The kids love it,” says former professional hockey player and current BYH Director Boe Leslie. “It’s not a sport most of them normally get to play, but once they get a chance on the ice they really thrive.”

Each season, BYH contracts the Patterson Park Ice Rink on Sunday mornings for the Stars’ games. Players are outfitted and loaned new and used hockey equipment for use throughout the program. 

Advantage Everyone

Moving further down the court, Greater Baltimore Tennis Patrons (GBTP) actively works to turn a sometimes-exclusive sport (remember being bounced from the club for wearing pastel instead of white?) into a truly all-inclusive game with programs that teach not only the basics, but also wheelchair court skills. The specific mission of BTP’s programming for low-income and other under-served youth is twofold, to use tennis to inspire and assist children to stay in school, graduate, pursue higher education with scholarships/financial aid or gain satisfying employment, and to impart education and skills that will lead to safe and healthy decision-making, elevated self-esteem and multicultural social competencies.”

GBTP offers another benefit often missing in its players lives: a sit-down supper. Through the Family League of Baltimore’s Snack and Supper Program, meals are provided and shared in the cafeteria each time the groups meet. “It’s not true for all but many of these kids don’t have a regular family meal,” notes Director of Programs Lynne Morrell. The meal exemplifies GBTP’s commitment to nutritional education, something that reinforces the relationship between diet and exercise.

Consistency of encouragement and support is crucial,” stresses Morrell. “We require a commitment from our staff for the full 24-week program. People come in and out of these kids lives a lot and we don’t want to mirror that negative experience.”

It’s Not Baltimore without Lacrosse

Baltimore Youth Lacrosse League (BYLL) was founded by Ryan Boyle, Rob Lindsey, and Dave Skeen, three Gilman grads and former lacrosse stars who wanted to share their love of lacrosse with some of the probably-not-Gilman-grads of Baltimore City. The summer league was created to give kids an outlet for lacrosse once school was dismissed for the summer, and a skills clinic run by Boyle, a professional lacrosse player and member of the Championship 2010 U.S. National Team.

Dave Novak, exec director, sums up the appeal of lacrosse: “It’s fast and involves contact but you need a team to make it work.” As with all of these programs, the BYLF recognizes the importance of getting kids involved in sports early to keep them out of trouble later. “Middle school is really the last chance to have a profound effect,” recognizes Novak.

And then the police got involved—as coaches. This year the BYLL partnered with the Baltimore City Police Department and Parks and People to increase the number of their lacrosse programs. The interaction between the officers and the “at-risk” youth leads to an uncommon bond. Potential adversaries on the stark streets of the city become supporters, allies, and friends on the grassy lacrosse fields. 

Ball’s in Your Court

All of these amazing programs are always looking for donations of both time and money. To learn how to volunteer, and to find out about upcoming events, visit the organizations’ websites. Or better yet—go out and cheer at one of the games. Encouragement and recognition are always in demand and often in short supply.

Give It Up for Shelter Pets

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If you spent a leisurely Memorial Day Weekend having fun instead of a yard sale this year, you still have a chance to share your treasures with your fellow citizens and do something nice for your furry friends. On Saturday, June 4, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) holds a yard sale at 301 Stockholm St. to raise money to help take care of its animals, and they’re looking for donations. Donations can be taken to the shelter from 2-5 p.m. on June 2nd and 3rd. 

Items high on the wish list: furniture, home and garden items, small appliances, purses, jewelry and gently used children’s items. No thank you to computers, computer parts and grown-up clothes.

If you’re more of a spender than a giver, stop by to get a bargain, grab a snack and have a little gamble.  Raffle tickets and refreshments will be for sale at the event. Then come back the next day on Sunday June 5th to bid on some charming art made by the second graders at Southwest Baltimore Charter School, who visited the shelter a few weeks ago and took photos of some of the adoptable pets. Bidding on the collection of oil and watercolor paintings will begin at 4 p.m and exhibit runs until 7p.m.

All proceeds go toward BARCS and its continued mission to help homeless and neglected animals.

Come on! Lend a paw! Just imagine if YOU had to spend the summer in Baltimore walking barefoot on the pavement in a fur jumpsuit, doused in a perfume strong enough to repel and kill fleas and ticks.

For more information, call 410-396-4695.

MVA Has M-O-V-E-D

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Next time you need to get your driver’s license renewed, make sure that you and your vehicle aren’t set on autopilot straight to the same place you’ve always gone. If you do, you’ll just end up taking a stroll down memory lane, and maybe down a few aisles at Shopper’s. After 40 years in the Mondawmin location, the Motor Vehicle Administration has packed its bags and eased on down the road to a new Park Heights location at the Hilltop Shopping Center on Reisterstown Road. The new location is intended to keep the MVA in the city proper and also as part of the revitalization of the Park Heights community. Sad to see them move, but the new location has plenty of service windows, a bigger parking lot, and access to public transportation. Plus, the Park Height’s location is the MVA’s first with a 24-hour self-service kiosk where you can renew or return your license plates, get a copy of your driving record, and almost everything MVA-related that doesn’t require a test.

Holy %^$*! Tavern Institutes

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If you’re headed to the Mt. Royal Tavern, a Bolton Hill landmark and beloved home-away-from home for many generations of Baltimoreans, you’d better bring cash if you plan to drink because they don’t take American Express Visa Players Club anything but cash. If you plan to drink and swear, you’d better bring a roll of quarters. Because there’s a new “cuss bucket” in town and it seems like everybody’s talking about it. Recently fed up with the increasingly profane language being bandied about by patrons and the occasional bartender, the owners plunked a “cuss bucket” behind the bar, collecting twenty-five cents per swear word. The nominal tinkling of coins can really add up when the crowd is watching local sports or American Idol. In the first month, the Cuss Bucket netted $110 that was donated to the SPCA. The latest charity to benefit from the crowd-gone-vulgar is the Baltimore Zoo.

Before You Grab Your Diploma and Run

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Before you say goodbye to the freshly minted college graduate down the street, you may want to say something else first: stay. Kiplinger.com just released its list of Ten Great Cities for College Grads and Baltimore made the grade, ranking higher than Austin, Denver and Atlanta in per capita income for downtown residents. Citing a relatively low cost of living and rent (compared with other major cities), strong income growth, thriving waterfront and downtown districts, extensive bus and subway systems, and an easy train commute to Washington, D.C., the report gives plenty of reasons not to pack it in just yet. Why not just take off your cap and gown and stay a while?

Swinging Mondays

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Like it or not, there will be dancing at the next wedding you attend. Wouldn’t it be nice to be prepared and feel good about it? Charm City Swing offers group swing dancing lessons on Monday nights at Club Baltimore, 8014 Pulaski Hwy (Hwy 40 for $10 or $5 for students). No registration or partner required! Just show up and they’ll teach you the basics, plus some of the fancier steps. There’s also an 8-week series on Wednesdays at the Vietnam Veterans Hall off Holabird, 6401 Beckley St. To check out what you’re missing, Charm City Swing has posted some free dance lesson videos. With a little practice you’ll be ready to jump (and jive) in with both feet, maybe even taking the bride or groom out for a swing.

Reel Work in Baltimore

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Yet another Baltimore boy is wearing his heart on his sleeves, then rolling them up to make a film set in his hometown. The Tradesmen: Making an Art of Work (trailer now showing on our home page) a new documentary by  26 year-old Parkville-native-turned-LA-filmster Richard Yeagley explores the modern role of working professionals –hard working professionals: plumbers, painters,  stone masons, carpenters, auto mechanics, and numerous other craftsmen. Filmed entirely on location in Baltimore, The Tradesmen opens a powerful discussion about the meaning and definition of work.

The doc features another Baltimorean, star and creator of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe, who had to miss the Baltimore premier on May 12, at the Charles Theater, because he was testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about many of the exact issues that are raised in Yeagley’s film. From Rowe’s testimony:

“Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them…

In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a ‘good job’ into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumberif you can find one—is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.”

Johns Hopkins Office of Cultural Affairs
will present one more public—and FREE!—screening on June 2 at 7:15p.m. in the Mountcastle Auditorium (725 N. Wolfe Street). Yeagley and several of the film subjects will be in attendance for a discussion after the film.

To Market

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If your weekends are too crazy to make a trip to the market, there’s another chance to get your greens on during the week. From May 19 through November 17th, the Johns Hopkins Hospital Green Team sponsors a Farmers’ Market on the East Baltimore campus at the Jefferson Street Pathway near the Cancer Research Buildings, every Thursday from 10:00am to 2:00pm, rain or shine. Local farmers and food vendors will be selling fruits, vegetables, flowers, honey, coffees and teas, baked goods, pork, poultry, beef, cheeses, ice cream, and more. The JHH Green Team will be on-site collecting eye-glasses, cell phones, and pens for recycling. Cash is accepted by all vendors; other forms of payment may vary.

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