How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work?
We had to quickly transition from the office to home. The Alumni Relations team is a tight-knit group, and we rely on each other’s expertise to make the programming run smoothly. We are used to popping into each other’s office to ask a question and can’t do that anymore. In lieu of face to face, we rely on Google Chat. I definitely miss seeing my Lafayette friends face to face. I do have my husband and my two daughters at home and am very lucky to not be totally isolated.
What's been the most difficult part of it?
I miss being able to see the students and catching up on their adventures, discoveries, and challenges. I also miss walking to Wawa to grab a cup of Joe and talk through work challenges with my Lafayette peeps. It’s amazing how you can figure out a solution to a problem in a few short blocks.
What are you doing to keep your sanity while working remotely?
The pandemic has forced us all to do an unnatural thing. We are social creatures and now have to sequester ourselves and hide behind masks. At lunch, my two daughters and I take walks along the Karl Stirner Arts Trail or other trails along the Bushkill creek. I make a point to say hello to other people we see to remind myself that we are all connected to each other. I have also been sewing masks out of happy fabric. If I have to wear it, why not make it fun?
What unexpected positives, if any, have you seen during this time?
Having to stay home has forced me to be more contemplative and work more on my gardens. I try to embrace edible landscaping and have used the time to transition an empty flower bed to a potato-and-onion patch. We are preparing to plant some other vegetables once the weather gets warmer. I am waiting for George, the sour cherry tree in my yard, to bear fruit in June. I pick the fruit and then make cherry wine.
How long have you been making wine?
For about six years. George had a bumper crop a while back. I didn’t know what to do with all of the fruit; you can only eat so much cherry jam. My daughter had a “Duh, Mom!” moment and said to make wine. It requires a lot of fresh fruit, and I was up for the challenge. Since then I have branched out to other wines like mango, pineapple, peach, raspberry, blackberry, and raisin but find the cherry the best. I don’t make grape wines because I can easily buy a bottle of great grape wine. I also dabble in blending fruit wines like pineapple peach. If a batch isn’t the best, a co-worker takes on that challenge and makes a popping sangria out of it.
How much wine do you make?
If there is a good cherry crop, I will make about 10 to 15 gallons that year. I pick the fruit, pit it, and freeze it to break the fruit open. I then make batches during the year as I have time. I find that the 5-gallon batches come out better than brewing one gallon at a time. My youngest daughter loves to put the corks in the bottles with the corker.
Who gets to drink it?
Anyone who helps me pick fruit gets wine down the road when it is ready as a reward. If I post pictures of the bottles on FB or Insta, I get requests and will drop off bottles. I run out of wine quickly that way. I have also been known to drop bottles off to people on campus who need a happy surprise or as a thank you.
What's the secret to making good wine?
Using good quality fruit and waiting for it to be ready is key. You also have to drink it when it is in its prime. The fruit wines I make should be consumed within two years of brewing. The raisin wine is the only one that can sit for a long time and becomes akin to port. They are all sweet dessert-type wines and won’t appeal to everyone’s palate.
What does the Rotary Club do, and what's your involvement in it?
Rotary Club’s mission is to advance peace and goodwill throughout the world. I am part of the Easton evening club that meets after work, the third Tuesday of every month, at Easton Wine Project—Simon Silk Mill. Rotary is a service organization that works on local and international projects; I have set up and also worked on many of them. We even worked on a project with the LIME students by providing funding for an English reading area at the high school in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
I often bring students to club meetings to network with the Easton Rotarians. They adore the Lafayette students. The club is eager to have anyone pop into a meeting to enjoy the comradery.
What other volunteering do you do, and why?
I like to do service work because it feeds my soul. If we all do one act of kindness, one person at a time, then this crazy world would not be so miserable, right? I have volunteered for the Lafayette Friendship Partner program. I have become friends with a few students and learned a lot about other cultures and countries. The students I am privileged to know have become family, and we stay in touch after they graduate.
I have worked on the Heritage Day festival for quite a few years by volunteering during the festival and was a board member. I have also volunteered for other Easton festivals, nonprofits, and events.
I have also participated in ASB [Alternative School Break] trips during spring break. I hope to be able to be part of a team in the future.
What's a funny Lafayette story you’ve experienced?
A few years ago, I had one of my international students return from an interim trip. The flight landed late, and she missed the last bus to Easton. She was in a bad spot and had no way to return to campus. Don’t tell Janine [Block ’94, associate director of international student services] this, OK, but I got in my very tiny Honda Fit named Harvey and drove to the airport. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that she wasn’t the only one stranded. How the students and all of their luggage fit into Harvey is beyond me. Think London phone booth challenge. We drove back to Easton hoping to not hit a pothole because the car was so low to the ground. I know they had to be uncomfortable with the luggage on their laps and elbows in each other’s sides. They spent the time telling me about their incredible interim trip experiences and laughing about Harvey’s accommodations. I ended up getting home late and had a rough next day at work, but it was well worth the laughs.
What did I miss about you?
I loved Curious George as a kid and feel like he is my kindred spirit. My curiosity has led me to do some odd things and also gotten me into trouble. Curiosity has led me to take classes and giggle when I get the funny “Who are you?” looks from students because I am old enough to be their mom.
I participate in the Big Easy Easton Brass Band second line parade, which usually struts around Easton during Easton Out Loud when it’s warm outside. I get to wear a Mardi Gras-style mask and tap my tambourine. Lafayette students join me when they have time.
I enjoy quilting, ceramics, and gardening, which to me is painting on fabric, clay, and with flowers. The world is a wonderful place with discoveries waiting to happen and better shared with people I know and hope to meet. It is so good to be curious.