One Last Scare

Looking to tell a good scary story? Check out my article with advice from expert storytellers here.

Photograph of Reformed Church in Montclair, NJ as referenced in the article. The church is now occupied by a different Christian denomination.

Previously a Reformed Church

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“EVERY TIME I CLIMB TO THE TOP OF A MOUNTAIN, I FEEL SO FREAKING AWESOME” – INTERVIEW WITH BETTINA PEETS FOUNDER OF THE ADVENTURE GODDESS RETREATS AND EVENTS

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!

Photos and Interview by Kimberly Cecchini

Bettina Peets is changing her life – one adventure at a time. And, with her new business Adventure Goddess Retreats and Events, she is also doing this for other women. In Bettina’s words,

“Adventure Goddess was created to bring women together to bond, to help women step out of their box, to give women adventurous experiences that help them reclaim themselves and help them dream again. I do all this by creating these amazing retreats that have physical activity, has bonding experiences, workshops. So it can be a five-day retreat, it can be a one-day excursion, but all of it is designed to help women connect with women and help women connect with themselves.”

As her friend, I have had the joy of witnessing and being a part of Bettina’s transformation because adventure has truly become her pride and joy. She has made it her life. (And – I admit – I sometimes think of Bettina as my Adventure Goddess…so what are we doing next, my friend?)

Although, Bettina and I often share our stories and support and share each other, I was excited for the opportunity to have a more formal conversation on Adventure Goddess, embracing change and living the adventure. On a Sunday night, I went over to Bettina’s home, and we have talked about inspiration for her business, representations of African-American women in adventurous activities and valuing ourselves as women. 

Kimberly Cecchini on behalf MissCareer/Less: Why did you start an adventure business for just women?

Bettina Peets: Because I think men do (adventure) so easily, from Little League to going to sports bars to sports. And once women start having children and families, it doesn’t happen so easily for us. We have to remind ourselves to have fun and support each other.

MCL: I know that you have received both positive and negative reactions to the concept. Can you please give examples of both?

BP: It’s so funny, once women come to an experience, and they’ve done it, afterward, it’s all positive. All positive. The hesitation I get from some women is that they think they should not go on trips or excursions without their husbands. And sometimes the price is an issue. Sometimes women easily spend money on their hair and their nails or spend money on their children and their husband, but won’t so readily give themselves an experience.

The hesitation I get from some women is that they think they should not go on trips or excursions without their husbands.

MCL: What do you say to (these women) then?

BP: I just put a question out there on Facebook: if women would (go on trips without their husbands) and I just kind of let the answers speak for themselves to those doubters. They were able to read other women’s responses and reflected on their own thoughts as far as alone time, and it’s value. And not just alone time, but time with other women.

MCL: Can you name one of those Facebook responses?

BP: One (response) was ‘We deserve it. We need it because we give our time to our husbands and our children. We need to recharge.’ And one woman even said ‘it makes me a better wife when I spend time away from my husband.’

Adventure Goddess Participant with Aerial Dance Instructor

MCL: Since creating Adventure Goddess, you have been very inspired to include more adventure in your life as part of your self-care. How do you make this happen for yourself within the constraints of having a full-time job and other obligations?

BP: Just like how we schedule our doctor’s appointments, our hair appointments, nail appointments. I just really started to manually schedule (adventures) and now it’s automatic. Like my car, the minute I turn it on, it goes to the beach. (Bettina laughed)

MCL: How has this changed you?

BP: Oh my god. I feel more content with myself. I’m happier. I enjoy my time alone, and I enjoy my time with other women. I think they enjoy me more because I’m happier with myself. I’m excited about life every day. And I don’t even have to be doing anything. I can be sitting still, and I’m freaking excited.

“I just really started to manually schedule (adventures) and now it’s automatic.

MCL: What are the primary elements you want to integrate into your retreats and what’re their purposes?

BP: I was actually working on something (today), in my retreat. I was trying to give it a name, and I thought about my favorite song, ‘Dream On’ (Aerosmith). I was thinking about the song and the name of the retreat is going to be ‘Reclaim Your Dreams Retreat.’

I want to create experiences that will help women realize all of their potential, the possibility of creating the best life possible. Realizing their own ability to create their own fun, realizing their ability to create excitement in their own lives and not waiting for anyone to do it for them – not waiting for a man to do it for them, not waiting for a job to do it for them. I’m hoping that out of these experiences; they realize that need for fun. I hope they realize the value of fun. And some of the experiences I’m creating are physically strenuous, and I’m hoping that they can push themselves past what they think their own limits are, and that will help them in their own lives.

MCL: Please give me examples.

BP:  Like (one woman) showed up for rock climbing after just having hip surgery and she didn’t think she would be able to do it. And she – after having hip surgery 60 days prior – she was able to go all the way to the top, and she was so happy with herself. So a better answer would be creating activities that help women reach their full potential.

BettinaTreeTops
Adventure Goddess Retreats and Events Founder Bettina Peets Conquering a Treetop Course

MCL: As an African-American women you have identified that such activities as hiking and boating are uncommon for many people of your ethnicity. Why do you think that is?

BP: I think, not so much, that it is uncommon, but people think it’s uncommon. Or maybe a little of both. I think because it could be simply economics; the way some people grew up. Because if you grew up in an urban inner city environment, no you’re not going sailing. You may not go hiking. Your parents might be too busy working to think even about those excursions. So some people need to be exposed to it, but some people of color are doing all of these amazing things; we just need to connect more and bring along our friends who aren’t doing it.

MCL: Although Adventure Goddess is for all women, you have purposely highlighted African-Americans engaged in activities that they tend to be poorly represented in. How do you envision this change?

BP: I’m hoping to have a bigger presence in social media, eventually have a bigger presence in some of the bigger hiking groups and maybe combine with bigger organizations who can collaborate.

MCL: Based on the pictures you have posted (in which) you’ve highlighted some of these activities with women of color, have you received any reactions to them?

BP: Yes. I’ve received a lot of positive reactions and feedback to my pictures. It gets people excited; more people want to go. I get responses like ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe you did that; I’ve always wanted to try it.’ And that’s another goal of this business; there’re so many things that people want to do, but they don’t have anybody to do with it and they always wanted to try it, so the biggest response is ‘Oh, my God, I’ve always wanted to do that! When are you doing it again?’.

“…creating activities that help women reach their full potential.

MCL: Do you see Adventure Goddess within a larger social movement or connection?

BP: I do see (Adventure Goddess) connected to the bigger movement of women living their best lives. And women valuing themselves outside of their children, outside of their marriage, outside of their career.

MCL: Can you name other examples you’ve seen this in?

BP: I see it in all the different organizations on social media. The 21-Day Meditation Challenge with Oprah Winfrey and more women in sports.

Bettina Peets at the Adventure Goddess Launch Party with Participants and Rock Climbing Instructors

MCL: Do you think extend we use technology is supporting all these in some ways; you know, because we can see ourselves in other women?

BP: That could be. But take technology away – spiritually, women are evolving, and we have a desire to connect more. Maybe because of technology and because of the work- force; we’ve become so disconnected that today spiritually, we just want to connect with each other.

MCL: Do you feel like you’re valuing yourself more through these experiences?

BP: I do! Every time I climb to the top of a mountain, I feel so freaking awesome. Every time I just sit still in the mountains, I feel awesome. Every time I give myself permission just to drive to the beach by myself, I validate myself. Every time I create an event and I see women bonding, and women pushing themselves, it’s the most awesome feeling in the world. So the more I create experiences for myself, the more I have the energy to create experiences for other women. And it feeds my soul that I can feed others’ souls.

MCL: And how does that carry throughout your day – not just the moments that you’re having adventures – but other moments?

BP: It carries through my day because I know that I’m bringing meaning to my life and I’m bringing meaning to other people’s lives, and that gives me a sense of this deep fulfillment and a sense of contentment that I know what my mission in life is.

MCL: Is there anything else you want to add?

BP: Adventure on! (We both laughed)

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.

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.