Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Relax By Turning Up the Heat With Glass Blowing

I’m not big on talking about myself. As the senior vice president of sales and marketing, I’m enthusiastic about the work being done and the relationships being forged every day at each of our Front Porch Retirement Communities, but I’d rather let those accomplishments speak for themselves. After all, if I’ve done my job right, you’ll never know I was there.

During my career at Front Porch I have met many residents who have both continued their passions or found new ones after moving into one of our communities. But for me, in my personal life, no matter how passionate I am about a particular interest or pursuit, I’d rather tell you about where to find it or how you can get involved than go on about my latest accomplishment or how much I’ve improved. After all, "actions speak louder than words," as they say.

In keeping with that mantra, there’s a passion of mine that I’d like to share with you; glassblowing. It’s an ancient art form, first developed around the middle of the last century BC. Put simply, the craft is based around the idea of super-heating small "blobs" of glass, then pushing (or "blowing") small amounts of air into the soft, white-hot material while mixing in various other pieces of colored glass in order to create specific patterns or shapes. Imaginative glass blowing artists can create a wide range of products, including vases, drinking cups, bowls, plates, and (my personal favorite) paperweights.

Paperweights are a great way for the novice glassblower to get started in the field, given their small size and flexible design (after all, not everyone wants the same old round hunk of glass). The smaller size makes them easier to handle during the course of one four-hour studio session, and the open-ended aspect of playing with various colors and glass-working techniques means that I get a different end result every time. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I like blowing glass. Like as with many art forms, no two objects are exactly the same. Each piece has its own unique facets, colors and shapes with the only limitation being the artists’ imagination. Perhaps that’s why I like working at Front Porch so much … each of our communities is unique. Each has its own personality and flavor, where all can appreciate and celebrate the “art of the individual.”

For those interested in getting started in the field, or just want to learn more about the art, I’d encourage you to explore some of the many glass working studios around Southern California or contact your local community college or adult education classes.

Practice, of course, makes perfect, but it’s this flexibility inherent to the art form that gives me the opportunity to unwind during each visit to the studio. After all, glass blowing for me is about relaxing, not a way of life.

— Joan Woodworth

Friday, April 6, 2012

Time Well Spent

Some of my fondest memories with my parents when I was a child include volunteering. Together we did things like fill grocery bags at the local food bank for needy families, spend a weekend sprucing up the church we attended, or paint a house for a family that soon would move in. Whatever the activity was, we did it together and it taught me a valuable lesson in how good it feels to give.

As time went by and into my adult years, I found myself running out of time to volunteer. I was just too busy with this and that and before I knew it I became a working mom with hardly a second to spend on myself. Recently I’ve rediscovered the joys of volunteering again through my work as communications manager with Front Porch and through the eyes of my own daughter.

It started a couple of years ago when my husband asked me what I wanted for Valentine’s Day. With a tight budget and not a lot of time to plan something elaborate, I felt I didn’t really ‘need’ anything. I asked him if there was an opportunity to volunteer at Walnut Village Rehabilitation and Care Center where he works and spend some time with the residents, some of whom I knew probably didn’t have family nearby to share the day with. That year with gifts graciously supplied by the California Lutheran Homes Auxiliary, we headed out to share the love with the care center residents.

Front Porch partner CLH has had a long and loving history of social ministry with the care center and we helped continue that mission by distributing gifts the CLH Auxiliary regularly gives to the care center residents. With each gift, a free hug or a mere touch of the hand, a greeting and a smile came with it. My daughter was five then. She was shy, reserved, and very soft spoken. But she soon realized that with every gift she handed out, a very grateful and sometimes emotional person was at the receiving end. Her confidence grew as we passed each room.

Weeks passed since that first visit and through the years, sometimes out of the blue, she would ask, “When are we visiting the grandmas and the grandpas again?” We did every chance we could. And now it has become my own family’s tradition to visit the care center during a holiday. Sometimes we bring friends, including other Front Porch colleagues and their children, to share the fun and satisfaction of bringing cheer, smiles, and free hugs to anyone that wished for one, or two, or more.

As a mom, I’m glad to have rediscovered volunteering through Front Porch and enjoy spending that time with my own family as I did with my parents. Now our daughter has her own ideas about how to cheer residents and how to get others involved and we encourage it. I look forward to her sharing the joy of volunteering with her own family someday.

— Jen Dixon