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Friday, January 30, 2015

Would You Please Get in the Darn Van, Mrs. Lo!

By the time this Blog is posted, at 6:30 am, I will be in a non-descript White Van with 2 Coaches and a dozen rowers.  It must be crew season.  Well, almost.

Talk about two worlds colliding.  The coaches and I will be taking a total of 32 athletes from the Newburgh Rowing Club down to the Ironman Erg Classic, an indoor rowing regatta which just so happens to be held at my son’s private Catholic high school, Don Bosco Prep HS in Ramsey, NJ.
            A few hours later, Anthony will be departing Newburgh to bring Christian, our oldest, to Track Practice at Don Bosco.  Presumably, Christian will eventually make his way from the track to the gym where the giant indoor rowing meet will be held.  This time two years ago, he was rowing in the Newburgh indoor meet.
            God Bless the organizers of the Ironman Erg Classic.  Having been only somewhat involved in the Newburgh Rowing Club’s hosting of a large indoor rowing meet (OK, I made granola and sold 50/50 tickets, we could say I was marginally involved) all I can say it is a HUGE production.  In a small space.  Think of taking the Broadway cast of Lion King and producing it at Starbucks.  The organizers hook up indoor rowing machines (ergometers) to computers and score each athlete’s time as they “row” against their competitors.
            Then there’s the Joy of the 2K.  What can I say?  If you have not done a 2K with a certified rowing coach, there really is no other frame of reference in sport.  We have athletes who have taken some pretty ferocious hits in football, hockey and rugby.  When asked which is worse, getting your bell rung  -- or doing a 2K, they invariably say: “Hmm, that’s a tough question, let me think about it.”  Here’s a description of a 2K from Urban Dictionary:
The most painful and stressful period of minutes where a rower places oneself on the erg and is determined to finish in the lowest time possible. A rower pulls the distance of 2000 kilometers, hence the name 2k.Extreme amounts of water must be consumed before the painful experience to hydrate the muscles. Talk about lactic acid, your body is full of it and crying out for help. During this time period, you will cry, scream, sweat, and be full of pain. However, the dreaded 2k may determine your seating position, so there is no time for slacking.
COACH: we will have a 2k test on Friday” 
So, there will be crying, there will be pain, maybe there will be medals, maybe not.  We are the Newburgh Rowing Club and we do not go for the medals.  We go to test ourselves, to prove to ourselves we can do it, to challenge ourselves. 
          Hats off to the Don Bosco coaches and parents who are putting on this meet.  Big props to all the rowers competing today, wherever they are from, it is a big challenge and something to be proud of.  I’m especially proud of the Newburgh rowers and, of course, my Student Ambassadors.  For those who don’t know, the Student Ambassadors are the athletes who row for the Newburgh Rowing Club on scholarship, through America Rows and Swims Newburgh, a not for profit of which I am the Director.  We have a lot of youngsters who are rowing in an indoor regatta for the first time, some kids who have never left Newburgh before, it will be overwhelming for many.
          It has been 4 years since I took my first group of Student Ambassadors to their first indoor rowing meet.  One of them, Kelvin, will be in his 4th meet with us.  This program has been my Life for the past 4 years, I have personally funded the original program, paid for many regatta “road trips”, and founded and capitalized the not for profit America Rows and Swims Newburgh.   We have taught hundreds of kids to swim, for free, and scholarshiped almost 100 athletes in rowing and kayak programs.  As all my readers know, I just love these kids and this program, it is the most satisfying thing I have ever done.
          And as I teach the kids, no matter how little they may have, they must always give back.  That’s why Sunday, we are participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring.  Along with the Goldbacks YFL athletes, we will be outside of Shop Rite in Newburgh all day, collecting cans and coins for the Newburgh Salvation Army.  Because giving back is its own reward.
          With that said, I think I hear Big Coach calling with his melodious voice:  “Mrs. Lo, will you get off that computer thing and Get in the Darn Van!”  Off to Bosco, wish us luck!  Go Newburgh!
          Have a great day, everyone and, as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo
          For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, visit www.LoBiondo.org
         


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Open Letter from Mrs. Lo to the Powelton Club

OPEN LETTER FROM MRS. Lo TO THE POWELTON CLUB - Congratulations on your tax assessment reduction of $900,000.00 per year.  The property tax, for your 103-acre country club in the Town of Newburgh will be reduced by more than $224K.  Your country club was assessed at $2.1 Million, but you will now be assessed at $1.3 Million for 2011, 2012, and 2013, which will go up to $1.4 Million in 2014.  Congratulations on having your assessment reduced 38%.


Your school tax liability has been reduced $150,000.00 per year as well, which will extrapolate out to a loss of Millions of Dollars to the Newburgh School District over time.  Congratulations, I’m sure hardworking taxpayers throughout the School District will be happy to make up the difference for your golfers.  Or perhaps this will simply result in the reduction of teachers or programs to make up for the shortfall.  The children of Newburgh and the Newburgh School District lose the most.  For every One Dollar reduction, the School District loses approximately $4.00.  The School District has a primarily minority population.  By losing $150,000.00 in assessment dollars, they lose about $600,000.00 off the tax rolls per year, forever.  How many teachers and programs will have to be cut as a result?

The Powelton Club has a history of institutional racism -- blacks and minorities were banned from joining their country club in writing.  But here is a golden opportunity for Reparations.  A just solution would be for the Powelton Club to donate a portion of their facility to programs that benefit children of the Newburgh School District.  Allow kids from the Newburgh Schools to use the facilities for sports or other events such as the teams' Annual Banquets, for free, one day per week, on a rotating basis.  
Sincerely,
Mrs. Lo

Friday, January 23, 2015

If I Had My Life to Live Over ...

On a recent Tuesday night, I made my rounds at the Union Avenue Community Pool, where the America Rows and Swims Newburgh kids were doing their  thing.  In the double lane, Alexandra was teaching the youngest kids water confidence and the basics of Learn to Swim.  In Lanes 3 and 4, Coach Frankie was coaching the after-school swim club, teaching them to swim laps of freestyle and backstroke.  Davonte was apprentice lifeguarding – he is a Student Ambassador and the program paid for his Lifeguard course.  In Lane 6, Johnny was training the older kids to pass dive down for the brick and pass the upcoming Lifeguard test.  Coach Kennedy was at the other end, administering the USRowing Swim Test to the older kids, so they could safely be out in crew shells come Spring.  And Mikey was acting as our main Lifeguard.  There were about 40 kids in the Pool at some level or another, and everyone teaching / lifeguarding was either a program volunteer or paid for by ARSN, my charity.  All the kids in the pool were participating for free – we provide a free swim clinic, swim lessons, afterschool swim club, and lifeguard training – to underserved youth.  Virtually everyone came to us as a non-swimmer.  As I made my final round, I just looked out, inhaled the delicious smell of the Pool and said to myself, “I did this.  Coach and I did this, we all did this.”  I knew we were not only teaching a sport and fitness, but we were saving lives.  And I felt pretty darn good.

            I tell you this not to toot my own horn, but to share with you the Joy of helping others.  I want to leave this world in a better place than where I found it, even if it is just my little corner of the world.  I have had great success as a lawyer and a business owner, and I keep expanding and growing the businesses every day.  I love being an entrepreneur.  But it’s not OK to “just” achieve financial success.  Once you hit that goal, you have an obligation to give back to the world at large, whether it’s donating to charity, sharing your skills, or in my case, founding a not for profit, America Rows and Swims Newburgh.  If you aren’t doing so already, find a charity or a cause you love and get out there and give!  There are countless opportunities, whether it’s helping out at a food pantry, volunteering at a hospital, or mentoring a youth who could use your help.  Put down the remote, and do something, so that someday people will say:  ah yes, That Person, they lived a good life, they gave their talents freely, I will remember them well. 

I will leave you with these words from the beloved and brilliant Erma Bombeck, entitled, “Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I'd have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the "good" living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television ... and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn't show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more I love yous ... more I'm sorrys ... more I'm listenings ... but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it ... look at it and really see it ... try it on ... live it ... exhaust it ... and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it … When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.” 
 
Erma Bombeck, Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream: Thoughts on Life from Erma Bombeck
Have a great day, everyone!  And, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings -- and they're all Blessings <3 Mrs. Lo.  For more of the Mrs. Lo Blog, visit www.LoBiondo.org.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Who is That Beautiful Woman?

“WHO IS THAT BEAUTIFUL WOMAN?”  Oh boy, here we go again.  As I sat in my office with yet another office guest, I went through the familiar scenario.  It goes something like this.  They ask who the beautiful woman in the photo is.   They are referring to a family portrait from about 5 years ago.

            “That’s me in the photo,” I answer.
            “No way!  That woman is really beautiful -- and she doesn’t look anything like you!,” my guest says, squinting a little to get a better look.  “I mean she has black hair, you have, I don’t know, lighter hair.”
            “Yeah, well,” I say, “as we get older we have to dye our hair lighter to cover up the grays.” 
            The guest looks at me skeptically.  Then at the family portrait.  Then back at me.  Then the realization hits them.
            “Oh wow, that IS you in the photo.  Wow.  What a difference.  You should totally make your hair dark again.”
            “Right,” I say, “well, in the meantime, why don’t we get to that contract you wanted me to take a look at …”
            I am not offended.  When you have as many photos of your family and kids up in your office as I do (it’s a virtual art gallery spanning 16 years), it relaxes people.  That’s why I have them up.  That and I enjoy looking at them much more than I enjoy looking at my diplomas and law license.  Maybe it relaxes some people a little too much.
            I always loved my dark hair.  My natural color is a very dark brown, not quite black.  And if I had my way, I would never have lightened it.  But dark hair is a young person’s game.  As you get older, you get grayer; and gray hair is very noticeable on a dark haired person.
            And so there came a day when I was at Water’s Edge for my regular hair appointment and Karen Ann said to me that we were reaching a point where I could either “rock the salt and pepper look” (so not ready for that) or lighten my hair so the grays wouldn’t be so noticeable.  Obviously, I chose the latter option.
            When you go from dark hair to light hair, you actually have to bleach ALL the color out of your hair, then apply the lighter color.  It’s some kind of weird hair science rule.  When that day came, the girls at WE warned me it would be a little startling to see my hair with no color.  At my request, they put towels on the mirrors so I wouldn’t have to see myself with no hair color.  I came home with significantly lighter colored hair.
            If  I ever want to know how I really look;  or how good my closing argument is;  or if I have any flaws whatsoever, I have always been able to rely upon two sources:  my younger brother and my two sons.  Of course, my husband will always say I look great, so he’s no help at all.  I will never forget how good my husband had my feeling when I came home from the hospital after having Christian.  He had me convinced I was back to my pre-birth weight (I was not) and that I would be wearing my old clothes in no time (never again, actually).  Then my brother stopped by to see the baby.  “Hey Sis,” said my brother, “what did you do, have twins?” he said patting my belly, “I think they left one in there.” 
            My sons have inherited that super-honesty gene.  And so when I came home with my new, pretty but different hair color, Anthony of course told me told me how great I looked.  Then I asked my boys.  “Why can’t you have black hair?” said Michael.  “Is it too late to change your mind?  You really looked a lot better this morning,” said Christian.
            My hairdresser did a great job, and I am back every 2 weeks for touchups.  With the lighter colored hair I never see any grays, so to me it has been worth it.   I had thought maybe I’d be ready to “rock and salt and pepper look” by the time of my 50th birthday.
            That was then, and this is now – I am turning 50 in July.  And it turns out I’m not even a little bit ready.  We are going to the Disney Vacation Club in Hawaii for my birthday.  And, as I informed my hairdresser, I want her to dye my hair Polynesian Black for the trip.
 It’s a temporary color but when you get right down to it, everything is temporary.  So let’s enjoy what we have and be thankful for today! 

            Off to Zumba, have a great day, everyone and, as always, Remember to Count Your Blessings!  <3  Mrs. Lo www.lobiondo.org for more of the Mrs. Lo Blog.            

Friday, January 9, 2015

If You Can Dream It ... the Story of America Rows and Swims Newburgh

IF YOU CAN DREAM IT … last week, America Rows and Swims Newburgh received a $10,000.00 grant from the Hudson River Improvement Fund (“HRIF”), officially funding the not-for-profit that Coach Kennedy and I built from the ground up.  Literally.  Many of my readers, family, and friends have been praying, along with me, that the grant would come through so that this fabulous program could continue, so I decided to “break the news” in my Blog. 

            America Rows and Swims Newburgh (“ARSN”) has come a long way, in a short time.  We started with 5 Student Ambassadors, at the Newburgh Rowing Club boathouse, a little over 4 years ago.  The idea was simple, to offer scholarship-based rowing opportunities to underserved youth in the City of Newburgh.  We soon discovered that the main barrier to our program was the inability to “pass the swim test.”  Our rowing coaches, also former swim coaches, started a volunteer run program to instill water confidence.  I began applying for grants, successfully.
            Since then, we have taught hundreds of kids to survival swim, for free.  Then kept them swimming and teaching others.  We have taught over a hundred kids, on scholarship, to kayak, canoe, and row.  Our strongest and most committed athletes have gone on to get private high school scholarships, and to row in local and regional regattas.  And, of course, the “Three Amigos” (my son, Christian, who attends Don Bosco Prep; Soup, who attends The Harvey School; and Kelvin, who attends Our Lady of Lourdes) have become a permanent fixture in the LoBiondo household. 
            The Three Amigos, and now the “Nora Cronin Girls” who are closer to Little Michael’s age, are my inspiration.  These kids are why I do what I do.  They are why I have raised over $75,000.00 in Grant and Fundraised money for this program; they are why I write the press releases every week;  hold regular parent meetings at my house in Spanish and English; fundraise relentlessly; go to the Pool til 9 pm every Tuesday night; put my own money, time and resources into starting and capitalizing the not-for-profit organization America Rows and Swims Newburgh; why I traveled on my own dime to Jacksonville, Florida to attend the USRowing national convention and soak up and speak on the topic of diversity in rowing.  Quite simply, along with my own husband and kids, my extended family, and my law office staff, these “rowing kids” are my everything. 
            ARSN is putting Newburgh on the map, and for a good reason.  We are an official affiliate of America Rows and USRowing, the governing body of the sport of rowing in America.  And we received “Local partner” status in the Make a Splash Program of the USA Swimming Foundation, which believes that every child in America should know how to swim, and that formal swim lessons are the key to making that happen.  This means we are official affiliates of two NGO’s (national governing bodies) of Olympic sports, rowing and swimming.  Our access to resources has been phenomenal.  As I said when I was humbly sitting on a panel about diversity at the USRowing convention in Jacksonville --  for years, I thought Coach and I were all alone, and then we learned we were part of a much larger network and we have the support and love of the governing body of our sport, how awesome is that.
            So what’s next, you might say?  We will continue on with our programs, teaching kids in the community water confidence and giving free swim clinics at the Union Avenue Y every Tuesday from 8:15 pm – 9 pm.  We are reviving the former “Hudson Valley Blue Fish” swim team founded by Coach Kennedy and applying to become an official USA Swimming team.  We are taking our Student Ambassadors to the America Rows Regatta in Baltimore, Maryland again this spring.  And we now have funding to add on a boatbuilding program, and to send some of our Student Ambassadors to the Newburgh Rowing Club summer camp.  We were able to pay for Davonte to take the lifeguarding class, which he passed with flying colors, and we will be sending our longtime Student ambassadors to the lifeguarding class and Refereeing classes, and helping them get summer jobs.
            And, while I was hosting the Winter Wonderland fundraiser at Ice Time, I met someone running a fabulous program for blind and limited vision hockey players.  It so happens that while at the USRowing Convenion in Jacksonville, FL, I sat next to a blind rower.  So, coming soon, to the America Rows and Swims Newburgh facility, we may just be introducing a new chapter, and adding Adaptive Rowing to our services. 
            Aren’t you losing business because you’re so busy?  It’s a funny thing, the more you follow your passion in life, the more things fall together.  My law and mediation practice has never been more successful or more fun.  I love being partners with my husband and we love our staff.  We are planning a winter field trip to see a Broadway play with our staff, and some team building Friday kayaking trips over the summer.  Because the more fun your “team” has, the more productive your business will be, that’s Leadership 101.  I keep a little plaque on my office desk and on my home office desk, they both have the same quote from Walt Disney:  “If you can dream it, you can do it.”   I absolutely can’t wait to see what dreams will be fulfilled in 2015!

            Have a great day, everyone, and as always, remember to Count your Blessings!  <3 Mrs. Lo 
Visit us on the web at www.RowSwimNewburgh.org.  Visit Mrs. Lo's community page on facebook at www.Facebook.com/LoBiondoLaw.  You can also find us under "LoBiondo Page" on Google+ and Twiter.