Just back from Boston, I’m taking this writing time to decompress and make some meaning to my NWP/NCTE experience.
I drove to Boston from Paramus with Tara Smith, who made the journey up and back, a pleasure. Not only was the drive a breeze with such stimulating conversation, but throughout the conference experience, when I least expected to see Tara, there she was for coffee and down time. By the time I left her at her hotel, we had a clear plan for our collaboration through the holidays, with a video piece for the start of 2014. What?
As much as I looked forward to this experience, I knew I was cutting myself thin. Just back from a great week in Cancun with Tuvia, I had one day to unpack, wash out the sand and repack for winter. I’m not complaining but I left vulnerable and as Tuvia was getting rid of his head cold, my sneezing began. A full fledged cold flared out as we drove and it kept building through the first day of conference, dimming a bit on the second and finally as we headed for the conference conclusion, yes, I was starting to feel better. I tried to ignore it but I had trouble concentrating in the workshop sessions, especially when I was presenting with Troy Hicks and the study team, but outside in the conference center, over coffee and bagels, I made headway, using my energy to catch up with friends and forge new connections. So all was not lost.
Wednesday night was for our HVWP leadership team at a hip spot for dinner, CODA, on Columbus Ave: Tom, Jackie, Tim , Mary and I ordered up a list of dishes that filled the table with a wide array of tastes to sample. We didn’t talk business, just good reconnecting face-to-face in fresh city. As much as I looked forward to staying with family this time, I was off base from the conference norm of spending quality time with my team, but I wanted to relive my Boston memories as well, maybe it was more than I could expect, given that it’s been almost ten years since Boston and I were connected.
I was happy to be back in the city, as I walked back with Tom and Jackie to the conference center. I found my car in the parking area and with a bit of help from my GPS and my own memories of Boston streets, I arrived at 64 Sewall St., my cousins’ latest home in Brookline. A great condo, I had a sweet space with my own bathroom and still, I didn’t sleep much with my full fledged head cold demanding all my attention. Sleep wasn’t on the agenda and I was impatient to just get started.
Finally, the morning, cereal and coffee with Janet and I was off on the train to the Hyne Center. With a bit of help, I did find the NWP area and got to my first session, a bit late but I slipped in and felt comfortable to share my early memories of our HVWP Summer Institutes. 40 years of SIs, was a perfect way to begin the conference experience.
In a large ballroom for the Plenary session, Sharon Washington spoke for the last time as NWP Executive Director. I remembered her first speech, the year that Obama had just been elected president we were so hopeful about the future. Our Tom was introduced to full NWP, along with the new Board of Directors. NICE for us and for the whole organization. There was a good feeling in the room. More members present and hopeful about the future.
I had a long afternoon, waiting for our workshop to begin 3:30, sadly, the graveyard spot after we were moved from the 1:30 session time. We had a small group of interested participants and even though I was at my lowest, Troy was in charge and the rest of the team kept me engaged with them.
I didn’t stay for the evening actives and that was probably for the best, but I did miss the schmoozing as I headed back to the train station and family time. Janet had a big chicken stew and a smooth glass of red wine. I did get to sleep more and the next morning I wasn’t quite so miserable. Even though it was raining as I stood with the commuters at the train stop, it was warm and even though we were packed in like sardines, the ride felt more familiar..
I was scheduled for two long workshops: 9-12 and 1-4 and I wondered if I had the energy to stay engaged. The first workshop session was just too chaotic and charged up for me and when my buddy Patti Stock, texted that she was ready for our coffee time I quietly found my things and left after the first hour, guilt free. Two hours with Patti Stock is worth every minute and sitting across from a good friend was perfect, as I sneezed into my tissues as best I could and gulped down my extra large orange juice. Patti was filled with great energy and ideas for me.
But 11:30 I was back the NWP registration table waiting for Kevin and lunch at noon and ready to switch my afternoon workshop plans to Puppetry with Circuits. Okay, why not? I used to love making and playing with puppets and Kevin was in. Could be great. We lunched just across the street on Boston clam chowder and planned to rebrand our iAnthology site. I was coming back to life and ready to make a new style puppet and sitting with Kevin, I knew I would have extra support if I needed it. We were back and in with lots of new faces, and some old buds from Chico! But even with Kevin’s lead I could tell this was not for me and when I got the text for coffee from Tara, I made my apologies and I was back out in conference center with Tara drinking coffee and catching up on her first national conference experience. And after an hour, I realized it was better for me to head back to Janet and Boston memories. We had dinner plans to make and lots of catch up on. I had one more morning of conference meet ups and I wanted to feel better as we drove home the next afternoon.
So good to be eating in the neighborhood, sipping wine and trying some interesting dishes as we shared life stories about family. As much as this conference experience was feeling unusual, I was loving the return to the city I once loved.
Yesterday I was up, more refreshed and back in my car headed for a Slicer breakfast with 11 others. Organized by Stacey, of Two Writing Teachers fame, I had time to catch up with Linda from Denver and Tara as we walked over together. It was a new day in many ways and I was scheduled for important face-to-face meet ups with my buddy Jonathan and Renee Hobbs of the U or Rhode Island for a new project. I live for new projects and way beyond my expectations, our conversation was stimulating and my head was clear enough now to keep up. Time was now a luxury as Jonathan and I debriefed and moved on to meet up with Troy for more conversation and planning.
As Tara and I headed for home, debriefing the conference experience, we were both feeling good that we started and ended the journey together.