A Hungry Caterpillar & a Blue Horse

Eric Carle’s illustrations are easy to identify. My husband did not recognize his name, but recognized his artwork as soon as he saw it at the Montclair Art Museum (MAM).

A kid-painted blue horse in at the Montclair Art Museum for the Eric Carle exhibition.
A kid-painted blue horse in at the Montclair Art Museum for the Eric Carle exhibition.

Carle’s books are well-known staples in the world of children’s books. His writing is simple and he created his colorful illustrations by hand-painting tissue paper collages. Among the original collages on display at the MAM exhibit, are his sketches and book dummies/mock ups.

And, appropriately, there is a space in the exhibit that has been dedicated as a child-friendly book nook with carpeted steps, bean bag chairs and, of course, Eric Carle favorites such as his 1969 title, “The Very Hungry Catepillar.”

The exhibit will be open until January 3, 2016. Click here for museum and event information.
My husband and I were excited we were able to take our six-year-old niece to the MAM Lawn Party on Saturday. I think we enjoyed it as much as she did. (But, admittedly, I was disappointed our niece did not want to paint the almost life-sized horse – blue – in Eric Carle fashion.) In addition to being able to check out Carle’s exhibit, Parents Who Rock featured a great line-up of local bands including Thee Volatiles.

If you missed the festivities on Saturday, the MAM’s Eric Carle Family Day for more hungry caterpillars and blue horse celebrations on November 15, 2015.

Advertisements

Stronger Than the Ocean?

Text & Photos by K. Cecchini

If going down the shore is a rite of passage in New Jersey, then owning a piece of it is a dream. So how do you convince homeowners to return their seaside fantasy to Mother Nature before she sends the repo man?

The Jersey Shore After Hurricane Sandy
Stairs separated from a boardwalk on the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was the most devastating storm to lick away at beach front zip codes since 1962 from the Highlands to Cape May. With its winds and rains, Sandy also brought questions about the Jersey Shore’s future. And, although many homeowners rally to rebuild, Dr. Ben Horton of Rutgers University’s Marine and Coastal Sciences Department warned that the Jersey Shore’s vulnerabilities are increasing.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated a global mean sea level rise of over three feet by the end of the century. This change will largely be due to the greater volume of a warming ocean and melting glaciers. However, Dr. Horton said, sea level change is not uniform and New Jersey has other factors biting at its shoreline.

For instance, most of the shore’s real estate is low-lying and Dr. Horton said that the land’s height continues to decrease because of freshwater removal below the land’s surface. This allows the sea to overtake more of the land.

Of course, there are many ways to mitigate the impact. In response to Sandy, Governor Chris Christie called for sand dune construction and the nourishing of beaches with additional sand. 
But John A. Miller of the New Jersey Association for Flood Management (NJAFM) warned that these efforts are only a short term fix; he said it’s “a speed bump for energy coming off the ocean”. Furthermore, in municipalities like Sea Bright which has the Shrewsbury River on its western border, Miller said, “it doesn’t matter how big the sea wall is, it doesn’t matter how big the dune is, it doesn’t matter what width the beach nourishment is, the water’s going to flank the town.”

On the other hand, Mr. Miller said he was pleased at how well Governor Christie implemented NJAFM’s recommendations around the Raritan and Passaic Basins.

The first recommendation? Blue Acres.

Miller calls the voluntary Blue Acres program “a restart on life”. Through federal and local fund matching, Blue Acres offers to buy property in flood zones at pre-damage value. The land is then designated as a natural buffer for their communities in future flooding. Although it can be a difficult choice for most homeowners, the program has proven to be particularly successful in river communities. In fact, Miller hailed Mayor Verango and Consultant Jeff Ward for having made Wayne Township “the champion for buyouts in New Jersey”.

After Sandy, the state successfully promoted buyouts in inland towns like Woodbridge and most recently, Manville, but the program is still virtually nonexistent in coastal communities. Why perpetuate temporary fixes like sand dunes instead of removing people from vulnerable areas? Miller said that he believed the reason the state administration avoids the coastline is because of its perceived economic value as a vacation and investment community.

However, Blue Acres‘ Communication Director Andrea Friedman said that she believes that for the last two years while some seaside homeowners are interested, their municipalities have resisted the program. Union Beach is one such town; Sandy flooded more than half of its 2,200 homes and some families have yet to return, but Blue Acreshas made no inroads.

On April 8th, (name of publication) spoke with Union Beach Mayor Paul Smith, after Governor Christie and Army Corp of Engineer officers delivered news that they would be fulfilling Union Beach’s 20 year old request with a $202 million network of safeguards that includes levees, pump stations, dunes, beach nourishment and much larger flood gates. The elated Mayor said of the project, “I think this is truly going to help people make their decision to come back home.”
When it comes to Blue Acres, Smith said that he would support the program in his bedroom community “if it helps people get back on their feet”.
Then why have Union Beach homeowners not been able to opt for it? The mayor contends, with residents, that he has considered it but tells them that “they’re not going to buy your home, they want the whole block” so Union Beach has not made use of the program.
A major factor in rejecting Blue Acres, according to Friedman, is that governments are concerned that they will lose tax revenue if the compromised properties are sold back to the state and Mayor Smith confirmed the fear, “in a small town like ours, we really can’t afford to lose those (blocks of homes), their revenue.”
But NJAFM’s Miller disagrees. He thinks these properties may actually be revenue negative, “The services provided and the risk to first responders and debris removal and all the costs around these chronically flooded properties are increasing all the time with climate changes.”.
So is Blue Acres revenue positive or revenue negative? The Regional Plan Association is now studying the economic and health impacts of buyouts. In the meantime, another flood could change minds. Miller, who emphasized that he has no desire to see more flooding, calls it “giving people religion”.

Are buyouts a ‘managed retreat’? They are often denigrated with this defeatist connotation; it’s something most Americans would call ‘un-American’. But Jerseyians might not take that for an answer. Perhaps handing the keys over to Mother Nature before she takes them is really ‘Jersey Strong’.

THE GREAT NAME CHANGE DEBATE: MISS OR MRS AND OTHER TROUBLES OF WOMANKIND

This post was originally published on MissCareerLess; an awesomely honest online magazine featuring ‘Women Who Change, Dare to Change and Dare the Change.’ Because everybody has a story to share!

Text by K. Cecchini

I have been Kimberly Cecchini for 36 years.

Since my birth, in fact. And, perhaps, until my death.

According to a recent New York Times article, ‘Maiden Names on the Rise‘, I am part of the upswing. The slow upswing. Authors, Claire Cain Miller and Derek Willis, said that women largely began keeping their maiden names in the 1970’s as part of the feminist movement but, by the end of the century, the maiden name trend had declined.

According to the article, about 20% of women who married in the last few years have kept their maiden name – that’s a few more than in the 1970’s. In general, though, the reasons are different. Many women who make the choice today are like me; they look at the decision from more of a practical rather than a feminist perspective.

Miller and Willis said there are a few demographic categories common among women who keep their name. I fit three of them; I am older, not religious and have an advanced degree.

Equal parts feminist and pragmatist

When I got married four years ago, my mom was excited for me to take on a new last name. In fact, she tried to insist that I no longer shared the family name she had taken on when she wed my father.

No, Mom, I’m still a Cecchini.

She tried to shake me from the family name tree by saying if I didn’t change my name, I’d be her-Mrs. Cecchini.

Then, Ms. Cecchini it is.

My mother is not a staunch traditionalist. When I said we were getting married at the courthouse, she had already given up on a church wedding for me and was just thrilled I was not actually going for common law. (Incidentally, we would have achieved it if our state had common law, but it doesn’t – Mom, of course, checked). Not taking my married name, I suppose, was just a bit too much. No, I didn’t just keep my maiden name to oppose my mom. (But, it does make it a wee bit more fun, eh, Mom?)

I kept my name because I’d been Kimberly Cecchini for 32 years by the time we tied the knot. It seemed strange to be anything but Kimberly Cecchini.

The other reason? I’m equal parts, feminist, and pragmatist.

THE INNER DEBATE

1. My husband would not take my name. Ahem.

2. 3 syllables + 3 syllables = A NOT-pragmatic-hyphenated-mouthful.

3. Creating a hybrid of an Italian and a Slovak name would make an unholy mess of consonants.

4. The Department of Motor Vehicles. And all the other paperwork.

5. My signature, with my maiden name, is an illegible masterpiece refined over many years. I suppose it would take time, but I have not found such rhythm in doodling my married name.

6. Replacing my middle name with my married name. More paperwork.

7. Changing your name can negatively impact careers. More women today are getting married at a later date, and, therefore they are more likely to have well-established careers by the time they do wed. I have read a few articles where women have spoken about keeping their name to maintain their ‘brand’ in certain professions like journalism where you may lose part of your audience if they don’t follow a byline change.

8. And, most importantly, we are just as happily married.

THE OUTER CONSEQUENCES

1. On business calls, I have to often add that my name is different than my husband’s – and spell both. All 17 letters.

2. People are not sure how to address an envelope to us.

3. My Grandmother insists on addressing mail to me with my married name. She “can’t” use my maiden name. She’s Grandma; she gets a pass.

4. I could use my married name in personal contexts and my maiden name in professional contexts. The other day, though, a friend said this arrangement made her feel schizophrenic, and so she took on her married name full-time.

5. It’s a thing. That takes explaining. Somehow it’s still kind of a novelty – or an oddity. As progressive as many of my own friends and colleagues are, I can only think of two women that I know have kept their name.

6. My husband’s comments on the subject aren’t his wittiest.

However, the truth is my husband supports my decision to keep my name, even though I do feel a little guilty for not adopting his name when many other women are eager to make the switch. Then, again, he loves the not-so-traditional woman that he married.

So will I ever change my name? I’m not sure. Does it matter a great deal? Again, I’m not sure. But, if I do stick with Cecchini, I may need a disclaimer on my tombstone so that it’s acceptable for my husband and I to share a grave when death do we part.

Or opt for cremation.