5 Questions with Activist, Artist and NYC Poll Worker, Lindsey Briggs

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Lindsey “Z” Briggs is most known, internationally and domestically, for her work in the world of puppetry.  But for me, the most interesting thing about Z has always been her passion for activism.  I can’t think of a conversation that I’ve had with Z, where she didn’t talk about service, doing something for others, or what she thinks could be done to make the world a better place.  In trying times like these, seemingly small acts of volunteerism, like becoming a poll worker, makes Z a role model for me, and so many others.  Anyone who walks the walk, and talks the talk, is always worth my time and consideration.  (A side note: We had a different blog lined up for this week, but after the specific acts of hate that took place in my own borough last night, I decided we needed to take it up a notch.  Thank you to Z for making time at the last possible minute).  Here are “5 Questions” for advocate and activist, Lindsey Briggs.

JMK:  At this moment in time, it is impossible not to see how crucial it is to vote.  As a young voting citizen of this country, what made you volunteer to be a poll worker, and what have you learned from the experience?

LB: Following the 2016 election I wanted to be more involved.  Because I have two young kids at home, I can’t show up to meetings or rally’s in the same way that I could before kids.  It occurred to me that helping with the election might be a good fit, and I looked into being a poll worker.  I want to be a friendly face that can help to make the voting process a positive one.  I have learned quite a bit about the election process, and the work that goes into being a poll worker.  I had no idea that all New York state poll workers must arrive at the polling site at 5am and are not dismissed until at least 10pm, but sometimes much later.  We receive two, one hour breaks throughout the day, but it is a very long day.  If you see a poll worker, be sure to say thank you.

JMK:  Z, when I think of you, I think of you as an activist first.  How are you giving your time to your current primary cause?

LB: There are many causes that are very important to me.  Black lives matter and educating others about institutional racism and common sense gun legislation are both topics that I feel very strongly about.  As I said above I don’t have time to attend the meetings and rally’s that I wish I could be at, but instead I make sure to have conversations with people about these topics and do small things in my own way to help promote positive change.

JMK: You are a parent of two young, beautiful and imaginative boys in NYC.  What active measures are you engaging in to teach them compassion?

LB: We talk a lot about empathy and trying to see things from others perspectives.  Everyone’s feelings are important.  I feel very lucky to be raising a family in New York City, as it is so diverse and a wonderful example of so many different people living and working together.

JMK: Anti-Semitism is on the rise again globally and in this country.  Just last night, a synagogue in Brooklyn was vandalized with disgusting graffiti.  The words written on the interior walls of that house of worship makes one’s chest tighten and heart sink.  As an artist and activist, what do you do when you hear of such horrific hate crimes?

LB: I think about what must have happened in that person’s life to make them feel such anger against others.  It makes me sad.  I have hope that the next generation will be an example of understanding, peace and tolerance.

JMK: Agreed!  We must keep hope alive for our children.  On a lighter note, at this time of year, families are gathering around the table to share time together.  They’re also sharing food!  Would you please share what your favorite family dish is and how it makes you feel?  

LB: We have spaghetti and meatballs every single Monday night.  You are all welcome to come.  It is everyone’s favorite meal, and we will likely still be making it every Monday night in 20+ years.

JMK:  You’re awesome.  Thanks for this.  I now officially feel hopeful for Tuesday’s vote. 

Lindsey “Z.” Briggs is the Foundation Manager of The Jim Henson Foundation.  She has been working as a professional puppeteer since 2004 and has had many opportunities to perform in television, internet shorts, pilots, live theater, and independent films.  She studied at the University of Connecticut Puppet Arts masters program for 3 years and has attended and worked as staff for the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.  Z. lives in Astoria, Queens with her husband and 2 children, and performs live puppet theater for families throughout New York City as co-artistic director of WonderSpark Puppets.

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Why Do We Crave Hearty Foods When It Gets Cold?

Meat Pie
A meat pie c/o my mother.***

As the weather gets cooler here in the northeast, one is inclined to eat rich hearty foods.  The soup lists on menus are getting longer and the warm food trays at buffets are looking better and better.  I am craving mashed potatoes.  (That probably has nothing to do with the weather).  As someone who tries to eat whole foods and fresh vegetables as much as possible, the cold weather is a challenge for me.  I don’t care for salads in the cold weather, no matter how savory they may appear to be.  I crave warm foods, starch and calories.  But alas, the whole food edict is helpful in assuaging these desires and leading me down the road of roasted vegetables.  As I approached the starch filled lunch line at work today, the question on my mind today was, “Why do we crave hearty foods in the cold”?

 

My first impulse is to say that we need to insulate ourselves. To some extent, depending on where you live, this is certainly true.  But after a bit of research,* this hypothesis does not satisfy me.

chipmunk

However, it did lead me to find some data on another thought I had. “What if we’re stockpiling for winter”? It turns out that there is research that, while not conclusive, suggests that as it begins to get darker sooner, we begin to eat more.  Whether that’s out of boredom or a natural hibernation instinct, I can’t say.

But it is third and most soulful possible conclusion that I relate to the most.  As it gets cooler, we lead into the holiday season where memories quite often collide with food.  In my family, there are a few favorites.  Turkey dinners for my mother.  Shepard’s pie, a stew or a roast for my father.  And for my brother… Aunt Peggy’s legendary meat pie.**  I confess that I don’t have one food that is my go to. I just like food.  Really well made, preferably healthy, food.  But whole foods and vegetable diet be damned, for the past week, I have been craving that meat pie like a lion craves an antelope.  Bring it on!

Putting aside the irrational arguments for the health content of the meat pie that my family often makes, I know that our communal craving is not just the taste.  It’s the activity.  Meat pies are made with love.  The meat is seasoned and slowly cooked.  The crust is laid into the very specifically chosen pan with great focus and care.  When cooked and drained, the meat is poured into its shell with such anticipation.  As a child, helping to break the pieces of cheddar cheese and carefully laying it on top of the meat, making sure that the entire surface was coated with cheese was a very pleasing task for me.  And of course, we would now lay on the top blanket, the soon to be crust , by artfully placing the croissant dough triangles on top, while trying to keep aside a reserve of dough.  But the best part, truly, to this day, is deciding what to “draw” on the top crust with the leftover dough.  When the pie hits the table, everyone looks to see what the lovingly drawn image is before cutting into the pie.  Memories.  So many beautiful memories.  Often, after the meal was through and the leftover pie was placed carefully in the fridge (the leftovers are even better), my mother would call my aunt and tell her the tale of the evening’s meal.  My sweet, funny, loving aunt would go on about how it is always a crowd pleaser and how now she would have to make one.  Family.  It’s not just about taste.  It’s about family.

I guess in the end, for regular, everyday people, it does not matter why we crave more calories in the winter.  It matters that we do so healthfully and mindfully.  Roasting vegetables.  Limiting gravy and fatty contents.  Keeping a holistic approach to eating while allowing ourselves a few of the treats that the cold weather traditions bring.  And when we are dining with loved ones, that we eat up the very special gift that we have with them, time.

*https://www.npr.org/2011/12/19/143938954/winter-munchies-do-we-eat-more-in-colder-months

**If this recipe is really owned by Pillsbury.  Sorry.  We’re giving Aunt Peggy the credit.)

***Check out some of my mother’s blog entries at https://diaryofadedicateddiabetic.wordpress.com. 

(This is the video of the chipmunk in the photo above:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTjGNhuPl2c)

5 Questions with NOAA’s Senior Media Relations Specialist, Christopher Vaccaro

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As Hurricane Florence bares down on the Carolina’s, it is hard not to think of those directly effected.  It doesn’t matter where you live, you have likely experienced a major weather related event.  So, it’s understandable that those not in the wake of Florence’s path are still moved by it. Life’s banal activities quickly become seemingly inconsequential when one considers natural disasters. Major environmental events remind us what is most essential in life.  NOAA’s Christopher Vaccaro is one of the people our country entrusts to get essential weather related information to us in a way that makes sense.  Chris’s work, and the work done by his colleagues, are saving lives right now. Here’s “5 Questions with Christopher Vaccaro”.

JMK: Where did your passion for weather come from?

CV: Weather is so influential on our lives and I’ve always been inspired by its power and intrigued by the challenges with predicting its behavior. Weather has daily impacts from what we will wear, to whether we need an umbrella, to how our commute will be affected. Then there are less frequent – yet major – events such as hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, blizzards, droughts and floods that demonstrate the true power and force of nature and how vulnerable we can be. This raises the importance of timely and accurate forecasts as to best prepare for such events in advance to save lives and minimize impacts to property.

Most people in the field of meteorology cite a weather event that gave them the “weather bug.” For me, growing up on Long Island in New York, it was Hurricane Gloria in 1985 which brought high winds, heavy rain and the eerie calm eye of the storm as it passed over my childhood home. Snow, especially blizzards, also influenced my fascination. Living near the Atlantic Ocean, some storms brought tremendous snowfall and the wonder of whether school would be closed. However, there were other storms that disappointed snow lovers as the warmer ocean air changed the snow to a wintry slop of sleet and even plain liquid rain.

JMK: As someone who is so focused on science, what do you find satisfying about your role in PR at NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration?

CV: My job is to make the meteorological information from NOAA and its National Weather Service as understandable and accessible as possible. Such important weather information is conveyed all day, every day across the United States and I find it exceptionally rewarding to know that my efforts help to get that information to those in harm’s way. Often this is done through the media who then convey the information to their audiences. This is also achieved through the agency’s website and social media platforms that reach the public directly.

JMK: Natural disasters are a horrific thing.  What have you learned that uplifted you when you were on the ground?

CV: The worst weather can bring out the best in humanity. Living through a natural disaster can be exceptionally heartbreaking – whether experiencing it directly, seeing it on the news, or through the process of forecasting and warning for it. In 2011, I visited Joplin, Missouri after it was devastated by a tornado rated an EF-5 (the highest on the intensity scale) with winds greater than 200 mph. After a disaster, communities come together to support each other and can more quickly get back on their feet that way. While in Joplin, I visited the Joplin High School which took a direct hit from the tornado. In the school parking lot, a local group was grilling food for anyone who needed a meal – a very warm, yet surreal, sight. As I was standing near the food tent one of the cooks noticed the NOAA logo on my jacket. He walked up to me and said “I know who you are. Thank you.” Even though lives were tragically lost in that historic tornado, he knew that NOAA was the agency that issued the Tornado Warning that saved countless lives.

JMK: You are a frequent traveler.  What area of this country has made the biggest impact on you?

CV: From a career standpoint, that would be the East Coast considering the region’s wide range of weather. But that diversity truly applies to the nation as a whole. Considering the geographical diversity of the U.S. as it spans from one ocean to another, has mountain ranges on both sides and has both a northern climate and elements of a tropical climate, this unique blending of climate zone creates some of the most extreme weather in the world. Nowhere on Earth are there more tornadoes than in the U.S., and our hurricane season commands the attention of a global audience. This nation is the place to be for studying and practicing in meteorology.

JMK:  Natural disasters are inevitable.  As someone located in a major urban hub, I often feel helpless.  What do you recommend for people to do to help?

CV: No matter where you live, it’s critically important to be prepared for the weather. Know your risks (eg: tornadoes in the Midwest; flooding near a river or ocean, etc.) and make a plan on what you would do when life-threatening weather is expected. Have a to-go kit ready in the event you choose to leave your area or are directed to evacuate. Just as you’re prepared for a home fire with smoke alarms, water sprinklers and a fire extinguisher, you also need to have the right tools and information that will have you weather ready. For preparedness tips, I recommend visiting FEMA’s website www.ready.gov

Chris Vaccaro is the Senior Media Relations Specialists for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration based in Washington, D.C., where he leads the development of strategic media-focused communication activities for the agency and serves as a spokesperson. In this role, he supports the mission of protecting lives and property by working with and through the news media to get important information to the public. Previously, Vaccaro held other NOAA communication positions, working on issues regarding climate change, satellites, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and topics related to the ocean and atmosphere. He was also assistant weather editor at USA Today, where he developed exclusive weather and environment-related news content for the print, online and broadcast units. A native of Long Island, N.Y., he graduated from Nassau Community College with an associate’s in physical science, received a bachelor’s with concentrations in meteorology and social science from Lyndon State College, and earned a master’s in communications from the University of Oklahoma.

So Many Questions. So Many Thoughts…

Hi.

My name is Jean Marie Keevins and I am infinitely curious person.  I genuinely like people and find a great deal of pleasure listening to them and hearing about what makes them tick.  Going back as far as childhood, I have always spent a good deal of my time attending live interviews, reading short and long-form biographies and conducting private interviews myself.  Recently, I found myself with a deep desire to make my intrinsic interest in people more active.  After listening to Brian Grazer talk about his many years of “curiosity conversations”, I thought that’s me!  I need to be doing this, but in my own way.

This blog is intended to create one of may platforms that I will use going forward to simply talk to people.  Innovators, artists, cultural icons, leaders in their respective fields and more.  People that I find interesting.  I can’t wait.

Thanks for joining me!

~Jean Marie

It doesn’t take money to turn off the television and cultivate real bonding time. ~Marianne Williamson

“There’s a rainbow in the sky all the time.  Don’t be blind”. ~Ziggy Marley