Archives for category: Uncategorized

Ok, so right up front I have to confess that the title is a play on words. The “ERR” actually refers to the Employment Rights and Responsibilities Committee of the ABA Labor and Employment Law (LEL) Section. That said–what a meeting it was. The Committee’s annual meeting was in New Orleans this year, so you can see where this is going. Ironically, I didn’t want to go when Samantha Grant reached out to me as a potential presenter. The conference was scheduled during a really busy time, right before spring break, and the topic of the panel was, “Law School Rankings and Ensuring a Diverse Attorney Workforce: Is It Just Lip Service?”

When Samantha called I told her that I was frustrated about trying to convince law firms to set aside their pedigree snobbery, so I would pass. But you don’t tell Samantha, “No,” so I found myself headed to New Orleans on a 6:00 a.m. flight to arrive in time for the panel. By the way, after reflection, it’s not a topic I can afford to tire of raising. (To whom much is given…)

The other panelists were Pia Flanagan, John Henderson and Joe West, along with Samantha. Everyone was great to work with while preparing. We had our paper and slides, and were ready to go. In preparation for our talk, we met for lunch, the day of, at a restaurant Joe prearranged for us, Palace Café. We had a private room, in a beautiful setting in which to get down to work–thought we mostly got acquainted and talked about diversity, and life more generally. The meal was great, and the service fantastic. That was the first time I tasted crab meat cheese cake (Yumm! Don’t knock it until you try it). My entree was Andouille crusted, pan-roasted gulf fish with crystal beurre blanc, chive aïoli  and seasonal vegetables. It was tough head o after Joe treated us to such a great meal, but we thanked our gracious hosts and set off for the meeting.

Preparing to take the conference by storm: Pia Flanagan, Joe West and John Henderson

Our panel went well. We began by (once again) making the case for diversity, and then proceeded to deconstruct the U.S. News Rankings, so that folks would understand what goes into them. We were also fortunate to be able to share research from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association entitled, “The Myth of Meritocracy: A Report on the Bridges and Barriers to Success in Large Law Firms.” There was a decent audience for so late in the day, and they were very engaged, which really made the time go by quickly.

That evening Joe planned a dinner for all of us at Emeril’s, which was a perfect way to celebrate a successful panel! Now, we knew that Joe had connections, but we were over the moon when we found out that we were having dinner in the kitchen–a chef’s tasting menu. What follows is a bit of food porn, but can you blame me?

 

Dinner at Emeril’s: John, Samantha,Jami,  Joe & Me.

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Duck, two ways

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Scottish salmon with Andouille pork sausage and potato hash

Photo Mar 16, 8 08 49 PMNeedless to say, we all greatly enjoyed the meal, service and atmosphere. Shout out to Joe for arranging it all. Gentle reader, I ask your indulgence for photos of the courses (which in the blogger’s opinion is  perfectly appropriate for a fantastic meal in New Orleans)

It probably goes without saying that the entire experience was a gastronomic grand slam, with superb service. Writing to share this with you makes me wistful about bring there. It was truly an extraordinary dining experience.

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Barbecued shrimp with rosemary biscuits

And, yes, in it’s true. We did indeed enjoy dessert afterwards. Decadent, yes, but when again will one (this one at least) have dinner–a tasting menu– in the kitchen at Emeril’s? Ah, my friend, life is short and no day promised, so it made perfect sense. No regrets. All in all, it was a might fine way to relax after a long day, experience the best of New Orleans and to celebrate a successful panel.

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Dessert storm

 

The view from the “kitchen table”

 

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The American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, specifically the Section Council, and the Accreditation Committee are recognized as the accrediting agency for programs leading to a J.D. degree. The Council of the Section promulgates the Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools with which law schools must comply in order to be ABA-approved. In addition, the Section’s Standards Review Committee is charged with reviewing proposed changes in or additions to Standards, Interpretations, Rules, Policies, Procedures, and Criteria. Proposed changes are referred to the committee by the Council for its review and recommendations. The goal of the Standards is to establish requirements for providing a sound program of legal education.

This is all by way of background to say that there are important proposed Standards changes which, I suspect, will be of interest to many who follow developments in legal education. Consistent with the Section’s Internal Operating Practices, the proposed changes are currently being publicly circulated for notice and comment. The two proposed changes that have garnered the most interest are:

  • Standard 316, Bar Passage – “At least 75 percent of a law school’s graduates in a calendar year who sat for a bar examination must have passed a bar examination administered within two years of their date of graduation”;  and
  • Standard 501 Admissions, specifically, Interpretation 501-3, “A law school having a non-transfer attrition rate above 20% percent bears the burden of demonstrating that it is in compliance with the Standard.” A full explanation of all the changes can be found here.

The Section is seeking written comments, either by letter or by email, on the proposed changes to the Standards. They should be submitted no later than Friday, July 29, 2016.  The Section will also hold a hearing on the proposed changes on August 6, 2016 at 12:30 during the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California.

 

Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools

Pea Pod, Pea, Pea Plant, Grow, Vegetables, Green

Yes, it’s true. I’ve become one of them–the pod people. No, not those pod people, but one of the folks who listen regularly to podcasts. I’m sure many of you already know this, but since it is all new to me, so you’ll have to bear with me as I share my new-found knowledge. The term podcast is apparently a combination of the words iPod and broadcast, and according to Merriam Webster is defined as, “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.”

It (obviously) has taken me a while to warm up to them, but now I admit, I’m hooked. No more dead air, forced consumption of dreaded earworms  or even worse, political pabulum. Instead, via my new pod life, I enjoy a fairly eclectic mix of news and culture. The best part is connecting to, laughing with, and learning from other people of color. We are, apparently the demographic advertisers are looking for (Hey, what? I’m young at heart!).

One of the funniest podcasts I’ve heard was PostBourgie’s episode on “Dating While Black.” The day l listened to it, I was walking on the hills of my neighborhood, and am certain that I added to the perception that I am quite daft. I laughed myself up and down the streets, feeling an affinity towards both the storytellers, and the situations they described. I feel the same way about Latino USA. Many of the stories and experiences cut across cultures, and as much as I enjoy the episodes, I also come away with a greater understanding of important issues as articulated in a Latino voice. For this I am grateful. I also very much enjoy the two amazing ladies who host #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, and find their episodes enlightening, funny and thought-provoking. I only wish their stuff dropped more often.

One of my naughty pleasure podcasts is The Read (NSFW). It may be hopeless, but I am thinking that after a while of listening to their weekly posts, I will at least be able to keep up with (kinda, sorta) the conversations of my students. The first couple podcasts were like drinking water from a fire hydrant, because I had to keep asking,”Who?” when hosts Kid Fury and Crissle would dish on folk. But they are so engaging and funny that they drew me in and now I know things about popular culture that, well would surprise you–a’igh, it surprises me. Anyway, they are a fun listen, and might even up my street cred (ok, I know that’s pushing it).

You can find a list of additional diverse podcasts here. At some point, I’ll share more, but right now, it’s for this pod person time to take a walk and catch up on a couple of episodes.

Earphones, Blue, Sound, Glamour, Fashion, Phone

 

 

I realize that this post is a little late but I wanted to share it. I promise to catch you all up in the coming weeks on what has been a very busy and eventful fall semester!

It was the first day of classes of the fall semester 2014. The start of school is always a hectic time, but this year felt even more chaotic than usual. I had my classes prepared and ready to go, both Torts and Poverty Law. Up early, I headed to school in plenty of time for class only to notice that on the day I meet my new students for the first time, I have on mismatched shoes. Now, they’re special shoes because Mom bought them, both pair while I was dean. She used to go shopping for me, for the things she thought I would need in that role. It was super sweet of her. Even when she purchased something I’d never have purchased for myself I always appreciated the fact that she took the time, and spent her limited dollars to help ensure my success. In fact, it makes my heart full just sharing that with you. These particular shoes were white strap sandals (in my defense) that were quite similar. See for yourself.

Ooops!

Ooops!

My class either didn’t notice or were too polite to point it out, but to add to the craziness, the strap broke on one shoe, just as I started class. The students were wonderful. In fact, for the first time I can remember (I’m pretty certain ever) several of them came up after class to introduce themselves. It was fantastic! Have I told you I love teaching? If not, I do, truly. My students (yes they belong to me—at least I claim them) are inspirational, challenging, funny and smart. After covering the first chapter of the text, we watched the documentary, Hot Coffee.  My Poverty Law class that afternoon was also great. Though we didn’t engage as much as I did with my Torts class, their feedback was positive and I look forward to our discussions. After the preliminaries in Poverty Law, we watched The Line. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a social conscience and cares about the plight of people who are poor. I also renewed my pledge to get connected to and working with Legal Services before the end of the semester.

Home

Later that day, I headed up to see Mom, stopping first to pick up a chocolate malt at Braum’s. She was in a sad mood when I arrived, as she had been “travelling all day” and was tired. The milkshake was “Just the thing, and hit the spot!” We sat outside for a long while and she shared her day with me. I’ve learned not to correct, but to engage her where she is. It was lovely time well spent. I showed her my mismatched shoes and she commented, “that’s a little bit odd. Why did you do that?” I had no explanation, but I did remind her she bought them for me. “Like that?” “No, I said you actually gave me matched pairs. I did that.” “Oh,” she said. “Thank God! I have a lot of problems and I don’t need to own that.” And we both cracked up laughing.

Mom825

When we went back inside, I was putting her clean clothes away and noticed that her bottom dresser drawer was in pieces. Now, I did take wood shop in high school, but as my friends can attest (Carol Goforth, Melissa Lee, Carol Gattis and Steve Sheppard) I should not put things together. It’s just not my forte (to put it mildly). So I did what any good daughter would do. I outsourced. I took a picture of the broken drawer and asked on FB if anyone could fix it.

broken dresser

Before I got to my car to leave (amazing) Laura Sparks Adams and her husband Forrest responded and came to the rescue. I live in a truly amazing place, with such loving folk. They were there in a flash and had the drawer reassembled, glued and nailed back together in no time. Mom asked to be propped up so she could observe all the excitement from her bed, and thanked them several times for their help. I add my thanks to hers and know that we are both blessed to have folks who care so much for us both. It is a fact that I don’t take for granted.

Lauren & Forrest to the Rescue
On the ride home, I made a detour to do a little shopping for the next day’s Panty Raid. This is an event sponsored by Womenade of Northwest Arkansas on behalf of the women at the Peace at Home Family Shelter. The mission of Womanade is to “give our time, our talents, and our treasures to help and preserve the dignity of those in need.” It exists to help those who have a need which cannot be met by area non-profits or other agencies. Typically, this is an urgent need where no other help exists. The Panty Raid a gathering of women who are invited to come, relax and bring undies that are donated to the shelter. I’m looking forward to the event, and can truly say the semester started with a magic Monday.

Panty Raid

P.S. The “Panty Raid” was a big success. Through Womanade, we collectively we donated 315 pairs of women’s underwear, and 113 pair of children’s underwear to Peace at Home Family Shelter  Here are a few pictures. By the way, I’ve posted a flyer for our next event, “Bring Bling” at bottom of this post.

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bringbling

 

 

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A couple of weeks ago I attended The Law School Admission Council Board retreat in Park City, Utah. It was my first trip to Utah, and so while I read the materials and was prepared for, and interested in our discussions, I was also looking forward to seeing the area. It wasn’t an easy trip though. My initial plane out of Northwest Arkansas was delayed. When I arrived in Dallas, that flight was also delayed, and the plane was eventually pulled from service due to mechanical trouble. That made my arrival into Utah much later than expected. The irony was that my original flight was at 7:00 a.m. and the shuttle arrived at 5:15. Ugh, it made for a very long travel day. However, the view from the plane as we were arriving in Salt Lake, suggested it was worth the hassle (setting aside for a moment the importance of the meeting).

2014-07-31 15.09.22When I arrived, I felt a bit loopy. I don’t know whether it was lack of sleep, crazy travel, or altitude. I grabbed my luggage and picked up the rental car. While I was in line, I ran into fellow board member Athur Pinto and his partner, Stephen Bohlen. Had I known I’d arrive at the same time as they did, I would have ridden with them. It turned out to be okay in the long run though, because there were other folks at the retreat, without cars, and we were able to get out and look around together.

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I have learned over time that trying to do too many things at one time (especially as it pertains to driving) is never a good idea. So, I sat in the parking deck, pulled up my Mapquest app, entered the hotel address, and got the radio tuned to NPR before pulling out. It didn’t help me initially though.  I ended up looping around the enclosed area, behind the parking deck, from which there was no exit. A guy with a heavy Eastern European accent flagged me over after my second pass by and told me how to get out. From there the drive was fine, and quite lovely.

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As I arrived, I bumped into board members Marie Jivan and Christina Whitman, visiting in the lobby. We hatched a plan to do a little sightseeing and to grab dinner in Park City. I dumped my bags and we headed off in my SUV rental, having confirmed the location of the Harley store. (Surely, given the beauty of the area, the t-shirts would be keepers.) We got into town late afternoon, parked and walked Main Street, ducking in and out of the many boutiques, jewelry stores and gift shops–and of course stopped at the Harley shop.

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I didn’t realize until Marie pointed it out, that Park City is the home of the Sundance Film Festival, which you can read more about here.  It was also one of the sites of the 2002 Winter Olympics, another fact that eluded me until someone pointed it out. I felt that I had been in “go” mode so much lately–prepping for the meetings and getting from one meeting to the other, that I hadn’t put two and two together. I was even more grateful for Marie and Chris’ company as  they helped me take the time to stop and appreciate where we were. Park City2014-08-03 09.09.37

After a while, we had worked up an appetite and chose Bistro 412 for dinner. We were glad we did. Our server was excellent, the atmosphere relaxing and comfortable, and the food, terrific. By the time we ended a very leisurely meal, it was time to head back to the hotel and rest. The time difference was catching up with us, and so after a glass of wine back at the hotel, we said goodnight.

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Settling in for the day’s work

The next day the retreat filled the entire day. We grappled with a number of important questions about the future of the practice of law, law schools, and LSAC itself. Everyone worked hard, participated, and was quite thoughtful. By the end of the day, we were looking forward to relaxing. We enjoyed a group dinner in the hotel that night and were back at work again the next morning. On that second day, we adjourned with time to get out and sight see. Some folks went on the bobsled ride at Olympic Village and rode the lifts to enjoy the views, while several of us went into Park City to enjoy the Kimball Arts Festival.

The hotel staff informed us that there was too much traffic to drive, so we took the shuttle to the Park City free bus into town. The first stop was a pub (sorry, don’t remember the name) where we grabbed a quick a burger for lunch. Then we wandered Main Street, people watching and browsing the art.

Park CityLater that evening, a few of us went to dinner at The Riverhorse on Main restaurant, which was great. There was singer/pianist performing that evening who had a terrific voice. She performed an eclectic and interesting range of songs that added to the ambiance of the restaurant, which I’d describe as casual chic. The food was quite good as you might suspect based on the pictures below. My meal consisted of a beet salad and a lobster tail special. Both were wonderful. My friend Marjorie Larue-Britt ordered the halibut and she thought it was terrific. If you’re in Park City, I’d say give it a try, along with Bistro 412.

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The Riverhorse on Main’s beet salad

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The Riverhorse on Main’s lobster special

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Crosses sent as gifts from visitors/travelers from around the world

The next morning was a Sunday, and it was time to head home. However, because my flight left at noon, it gave me a little extra time. I decided to use the extra time to pay a visit to Shepherd of the Mountains ELCA church, which I’d passed on my way to the hotel from the airport. The parishioners and Pastor were very friendly, and I felt welcomed and comfortable right away. They used a different setting of the liturgy, but I knew the words and could follow along. Pastor Steve Leiser’s sermon was based on the story of the loaves and the fish. He reminded us about how fortunate we are and our responsibility to provide for others. He asked us to think about how much we need compared to how much we have and challenged us to engage in and support ministries that share our gifts with others. I enjoyed the service, and it felt like a good way to begin the trip home. 2014-08-03 09.20.22

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Little did I know when I arrived at the airport that I would be delayed 6 hours and have an overnight stay in Dallas, with another two-hour delay the next morning.  At one point I felt so exasperated that I tweeted to the airline for an explanation.  I didn’t get an answer, just an appeal for patience. Ultimately, I know it’s most important to arrive safely, and for that, delays and all I’m grateful.

Screenshot 2014-08-18 11.40.04

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Gentle Readers, as you know, my preference for mystery novels is books that feature diverse protagonists. It’s even better when the author is a person of color writing about the familiar. Well, I’ve stumbled across another fine series. The author is Kwei Quartey, who was raised in Ghana by a Ghanaian father and African-American mother.

It occurred to me one day that other than the delightful and lighthearted No. 1  Ladies Detective Agency, series by Alexander McCall Smith, I hadn’t yet located a series set on the continent of Africa. McCall’s series which is set in Gaborone, Botswana, features  Mma Precious Ramotswe as the protagonist, a full-figured, practical woman who’s had her share of heartache. The novels are a fun read, and my Mom and I traded them back and forth and shared a love of  Mma Ramotswe’s adventures. The series has been adapted into a television series by HBO, starring Jill Scott.

Desirous of more variety, I did a bit of searching for and happily, I turned up several new (to me) mystery series set in Africa. Which brings me back to the Quartey novels. So far, I’ve only read the second book in the series, Children of the Street, but I could not put it down. The novels are set in Ghana, and this one takes place on the streets of Accra, the capital. In some sense, the mystery was a minor player to the sounds, sights and smells Quartey evokes in his novel. As his protagonist Darko Dawson walks the streets, I found myself captivated be the evocative manner in which Quartey describes the realities of  life in Accra. I also found Darko’s relationships with his coworkers and the cadence of their conversations interesting and an important part of the texture of the novel. Dawson, is not without his own personal struggles, and I especially enjoyed his efforts to compartmentalize the horrors of his job as he returned home to his wife and son.

This novel is also an homage to the lives of the many children who flee to the city looking for better a better life, only to get caught up in the harsh realities of living on the street. The book gives the reader a sense too, of the complicated relationships between the non-profits working with street children and their donors, and the relationship of the police to them both (a difficulty relationship here as well). I look forward to reading the other novels in this series, and to finding additional series to read and to share with you.

Update: NPR Recently profiled Kwei Quartey. You can read the interview here.

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With Mom

Those of you who follow along might recall that one focus of mine this year is to work on a more integrated life. It is a different, and I believe more holistic approach than work-life balance. I wanted to circle back around a give you an update on my progress. For one thing, and this may seem small, but it’s a really healthy development, I have been doing a lot more cooking. From pulling out the smoker and throwing down on some chicken and ribs to baking fish, and tossing salads with veggies fresh from the farmers market. I’m going to try to keep it up. Along the same lines, I have enjoyed getting back into breaking bread with, and hosting friends. My sweet, funny friend and fellow Diva Michelle and her constant companion Alice came for a visit, as did  my wonderful friend and former student, Cameron McCree.

Michelle

Diva Michelle

Alice

Alice gets comfortable

On another front, I mentioned being in the moment with friends and family, and more frequently spending time with them. Here, I’d have to say it’s been a mixed bag. I have spent many quiet hours with Mom sitting in the unseasonably pleasant weather. Sometimes we have conversations, and other times I listen to what is on her mind. Many of those days, she enjoys a nice summer treat. It has been good. Not all our days are easy though, but I have been more patient with the tough days, making a real effort to redirect her when she is fearful or combative. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes, I am not. But I have been responsive and present, really present during our time together. 2014-07-20 18.56.24I say it’s a mixed bag though, because there are many folks I think of during the day, who I need to call, or who I’d like to see, and I’ve yet to follow through. For example, I have been missing my great-nephews and need to plan something with them, and I’ve not been on a walk with my neighbors in a few weeks. On the other hand I did get to spend some time with the Chrome Divas. We rode to Natural Falls and Grand Lake Damn in Oklahoma, and grabbed lunch in Disney, Oklahoma in a tiny little diner that serves great milkshakes. It was fun to see everyone, and to ride together again. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and the scenery was lovely.IMG_0049IMG_0045I also mentioned getting back into providing service as a witness, in a manner that is much more hands on.  Still on the to do list is to volunteer with Legal Services. Attorney Marshall Prettyman told me he would supervise my work, and numerous colleagues stand ready to serve as resources for me. I’ll get there.

Melissa

Melissa Jones, our fantastic Sunday Supper Coordinator

In the meantime, I have enjoyed working at Sunday Suppers our church serves on the 4th Sunday of every month. They’re held at Trinity Methodist Church and this past weekend, we served 97 adults and 24 children, a healthy, fresh, delicious meal. The extraordinary Melissa Jones is our leader and she does a fantastic job of organizing and coordinating us all. Sunday Supper Sunday Supper2This past supper, I worked as a dish washer “Busting Suds for The Lord,” and went at it so diligently, that I sweated so much my hair was wet. That’s saying a lot, because I enjoy and can take the heat. (I guess that means I can stay in the kitchen, huh? Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Another opportunity to witness in terms of faith, though for sure, it’s a different kind of service, was to be a part of a panel of people of faith who support the LGBT Community. The panel was arranged by the Human Rights Campaign, as part of Project One America, “a comprehensive, multi-year campaign to dramatically expand LGBT equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.” Reverend Lowell Grisham welcomed everyone as the program started. Pastor Abigail, Noah Meeks, Cathy Campbell of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Reverend Britt Skarda, Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock, I  each spoke openly about how our faith and life experience influence our decision to be advocates for the LGBT community. Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of the Religion and Faith Program at HRC,  moderated the panel. You can read a blog post about the event here. Although the panelists opened the discussion, there was much sharing between everyone in the room, and the powerful testimonies were moving and memorable. This week, HRC released ‘the results of the largest survey of its kind to-date on the needs, experiences, and priorities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans,” and announce the state’s new Director, Kendra Johnson.

 

Of course life is unpredictable, so during this time the air conditioning went out in both the car and the house (yes, I know–first world problems, but they had to be dealt with nevertheless). It was also a busy time for travel and meetings and such. I took a quick trip to Dallas for the NALP Foundation Board of Trustees meeting. The trip, in hindsight did not proceed as quick as planned however, because the weather wreaked havoc in Dallas and there were numerous cancellations and ground stops. This meeting was focused on strategic planning and visioning. Some of the discussion centered around branding, but we also looked at our current emphasis and asked whether that’s the proper focus for the organization and also thought out loud about what else we might be/do. I’ve mentioned the NALP Foundation in the blog before, but I’ll note here for those of you with an interest in law and the practice of law, the Foundation publishes important research that you might find to be of interest. My fellow trustees are smart, interesting people who are leaders in the profession and care deeply about the practice of law and legal education.

Professor Michael Z. Green

Professor Michael Z. Green

In addition to making the meeting, I was happy to get to Dallas, because it afforded me an opportunity to see my very good friend Michael Green, who was recently elected as a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. I’m excited for, and proud of him for achieving this well deserved recognition. Michael is a prolific scholar who writes on matters of importance to the practice of law and working people, He’s also an AAA arbitrator and Secretary of the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section . More than that though, he is a terrific person and I’m happy to say, one of my closest friends and now, a fellow Fellow! I invited him to dinner with the Board, and he invited me to his law school’s reception for the new dean, Andrew P. Morris. Things worked out perfectly as the reception was being held at Belo Mansion, which wasn’t very far from the offices of Alston and Bird, where our board meeting was held, thanks to the gracious hospitality of the firm and our trustee Liz Price.

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Dean Andrew P. Morriss, Texas A & M School of Law

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Texas A & M School of Law reception, Belo Mansion

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Michael met me at Alston and Bird for a reception sponsored by the fire, and was able to meet a number of the trustees, as well as our NALP Foundation Administrative Staff, President Tammy Patterson, and and Senior Vice President, Michelle Nash. The reception for Dean Morriss was very well attended and I had an opportunity to meet  the Dean, A & M (formerly Texas Wesleyan) Law School alums and many members of the local bar. During his remarks, the dean gave Michael a shout of for his recent election into the College. It was an enjoyable event.

After the law school reception, we met the NALP Foundation Trustees for dinner at Perry’s Steakhouse and Grille, which is know for its pork shops. These are no ordinary pork chops, they are huge. Neither of us who order them was able to make a dent in our dinner. There was enough food left to take out for a small family. As always, our dinner consisted with warm, funny conversation and an the opportunity to catch up, on a personal level, with that was new with everyone.

Perry's porkchop

Perry’s porkchop

Our board meeting wrapped up at lunchtime the next day, and I literally flew back to Northwest Arkansas to be able to attend the Odom Law Firm Seafood Jubilee that afternoon. This is an annual tradition and is attended by the who’s who in the state. There are tubs and tubs of crawfish, and boiled shrimp, plenty of cold beer, and lots of meeting and greeting and even a little trash talking. I love it, and make the effort go if there’s anyway I can make it. I had a special reason for attending this year. Denise Hoggard, a dear friend was coming to town to attend and to solicit support for her candidacy for Arkansas Bar Association President. We were going to dinner afterwards, and as I love Neecy and her company, I didn’t want to miss her. And we  did have dinner at East Side Grill, kicking off the weekend before she had to head back to Little Rock, after what had been a busy work week for the two of us.

The fabulous Denise Hoggard

The fabulous Denise Hoggard

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A big hug from Bobby Odom

Early the next week, it was time for me to hit the road again to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the annual EEOC TAP, or Technical Assistance Program. By the way, I mentioned Hot Springs in the last post, but neglected to mention that it is the site of the Arkansas Bar Association Annual meeting every year, and for many of the Bar Association’s other CLE programs.  I don’t think that I’ve posted pictures of Central Avenue and beautifully restored bathhouses, and I thought you might enjoy seeing them.

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This year, I was had the honor of being invited to dinner the night before the conference with EEOC staff, including the General Counsel of the EEOC, P. David Lopez, a brilliant and passionate advocate for employees and Katharine Kores, the Memphis District Office Director who helped develop the ADA training for all EEOC attorneys. It doesn’t get much better than that for a labor and employment law academic, and I was grateful for the invitation. GC Lopez gave an overview of EEOC litigation and initiatives the next day, that for a law nerd like me was riveting. Dinner was in the Superior Bathhouse Brewery which features a casual menu and wide variety of beers (as you might expect, though none brewed in-house, yet).

EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez

EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez

My session, was entitled, “Tricky HR Situations,” and it’s one the conference participants enjoy, because (I think) of the format. Dan Herrington of the Friday Law Firm and I have presented this session twice. Our presentation takes the form of a talk show.

 

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Someone from the EEOC plays the role of  moderator, and Dan and I take (typically) opposing views of the issues. In fact, one of the biggest chuckles from the audience is when one of us says, “Write down this date I agree. ” Deb Abney Moser Finney, an EEOC Program Analyst, who played provocateur during the session, who was our “moderator” last year. This year it was Bill Cash, the Director of the EEOC’s Little Rock Area Office, who has a wonderfully wry and understated sense of humor. As we put our presentation together, our goal is to pick controversial and cutting edge topics. The hypothetical are projected onto a screen for the participants, and then we open the discussion with Dan and I weighing in, and taking lighthearted jibes at each other. One of the scenarios we crafted this year involved an employee from Colorado, with a seizure order to transferred to Arkansas. In our hypo, she legally used legal medical marijuana, in Colorado, to control the seizures, but stopped once she arrived in Arkansas. Soon after her transfer, she dropped a coffee pot in the break room, was injured, required to take a drug test. You can figure out the rest. The participants really got into it, and so did Dan and I which makes it fun. For all the scenarios, we both provide case law, citations to the regs and statutes, and policy arguments for the positions we take, our EEOC moderator chimes in with the Agency’s likely position.

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Katharine Kores (left) and Deb Abney Moser-Finney

I like to stay to the end of the TAP Program, but I left early this year to hightail it back for Mom’s birthday that day (circling back to the theme of this post).

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Later that week, I flew to Chicago to participate in the ABA Labor and Employment Law (LEL) Section’s Leadership Development Program (LDP). As described in LEL Section materials:

The Leadership Development Program (LDP) is designed to support Section members interested in expanding a current leadership role or growing their knowledge of the Section so that they can assume a leadership role in the future. These individuals reflect diversity and help the Section support ABA Goal III. It is our hope that at the conclusion of this program, LDP participants will have a better sense of how the Section operates and of leadership opportunities available, and will be better able to focus their future Section involvement.

Brenda Sutton-Willis & Cassie Springer Ayeni,, Co-Chairs of the LEL LDP

Brenda Sutton-Willis & Cassie Springer Ayeni, Co-Chairs of the LEL LDP

The LEL Section operates on the basis of consensus and this is reflected in everything we do. This means that there is a balanced perspective for all the Section’s activities. Union and or employee representatives, management lawyers,  and neutrals share leadership responsibilities, and those affiliations are taken into account along with diversity and geography in selecting the LDP participants. You can see the consensus principle reflected in the Co-Chairs of the LDP Program this year. They are: Woody Anglade, Deputy Executive Director for the U.S. Senate Office of Compliance; Cassie Springer Ayeni, Springer and Roberts; Jeffrey A. Dretler, Fisher & Phillips; and Brenda Sutton-Willis, California Teachers Association.

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Examples of the LDP session topics include: Section of Labor and Employment Law Overview, Structure and Organization, Effective Communication and Working Effectively in a Diverse ABA, and Understanding and Resolving Conflicts.  My role in this year’s program was to present a luncheon talk on mentoring. You can view the Prezi I put together here. I was worried about it, because although I am the beneficiary of tremendous mentoring, and have been a mentor myself, I don’t think of myself as an expert on the topic. But thankfully it was well received.

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More important than being a speaker, though, was having the opportunity to interact with the rising start of our section. I always learn from them and from the other speakers, and enjoy the camaraderie of and warm friendships I have with our Section leadership.

 

LEL Leadership, (L-R) Joyce Margulies, Gail Holtzman & Stu Manela

LEL Leadership, (L-R) Joyce Margulies, Gail Holtzman & Stu Manela

 

While I was there, I was able to visit the offices of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, which are housed on the same floor as the conference room in which the Leadership Development Program was held.  I enjoyed the tour of the place where the so much of the work of the Legal Ed Section is done. In addition, because the Legal Ed Section was preparing to present the proposed Standards for Approval of Law Schools to the ABA House of Delegates in August (the stuff of another post), I was able to visit with Barry Currier and Becky Stretch about that while I was in there.

 

Barry Currier, Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education at the American Bar Association

Barry Currier, Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education at the American Bar Association

I flew out early from the LDP so that I could return in time to participate in the One America panel I mentioned earlier. It’s difficult to know exactly what the best allocation of one’s time is. Some things are not easily categorized as personal or professional, complicating the calculus of how to think about the time spent.  But, I am being much more intentional about my choices as I continue to strive work an integrated life.

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Chicago River

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We love the staycation idea, Carol and I. It allows us to get away for a while in the midst of our crazy schedules and many commitments. This time, we decided to take Bea the Blessed Harley & Fat Boy on a 3 day ride across the state and into Oklahoma. We were fortunate because as the day arrived, the weather was unseasonably mild for July (at least at the outset). We started out early in the morning, since we were going to take the interstate through Fort Smith, Arkansas, and we wanted to dodge the “rush hour’ traffic.

I met Carol in West Fork, and from there we rolled onto I-49 South (newly renamed after years of being Highway 71). We made it to Fort Smith, seemingly in no time. It’s interesting the reaction we get from drivers on the interstate (for which we are most grateful, don’t get me wrong). Once they see two women on bikes, they slow down, signal left, get in the fast lane, and pass us. We tend to ride in our own little traffic-less pocket, for the most part, until we exit.

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In Fort Smith, we exited at Highway 71 South (still), and stopped at a new (to us anyway) restaurant named “The Egg and I.” We recommend it for breakfast. It is bright and clean, with plenty of plugs, free wi-fi, and a menu that offers something for everyone. It also turned out that the manager, and two of the wait staff who were both women, were riders! As you might imagine, we very much enjoyed our breakfast stop. Our food was hot and tasty, and the servers were  attentive and friendly. We rolled out of there at about 9:00 a.m., with full tummies, having made great time thus far on our journey.

Heading south down highway 71, our pace was nice and easy enjoying the beautiful scenery and agreeable weather. Anytime some doofus began to tailgate us, we found a spot to safely pull over and let him go by. It was a lovely ride, and we felt grateful that we had the time to get out to see and appreciate the beauty of our Natural State.  Stretches of the road abut the National Forest, which provides intermittent, welcome shade. About halfway to Mena, Arkansas, we made a quick stop for gas. The attendant was quite friendly until she saw me, but since all we needed was to get gas, hydrate and make a pit stop, it really didn’t matter (though she did go out of her way to make it obvious).

Our next stop was Mena. We pulled into a gas station and realized we’d finished off our water. After refueling, we went in to fill our thermoses (they didn’t charge) and to purchase snacks for the next leg of our journey. We weren’t really hungry yet, as we’d both had hardy breakfasts, but we knew at some point we’d be ready to munch. While we were there, we met a group of BMW riders from Ontario, Canada, who said they’d ridden 4 days just to ride the Ozarks. The day before they’d been to Hot Springs, Arkansas. As an aside, you may not be aware of it, Hot Springs was the place that the Chicago gangsters vacationed back in the day. Here’s a bit more about Hot Springs from the City’s webpage:

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Hot Springs Bath House

Hot Springs, Arkansas, gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters found here.  Flowing out of the ground at an average temperature of 143°F, the hot springs produce almost one million gallons of water each day.

It’s hard to tell exactly how long people have been visiting the springs. Native Americans called this area “the Valley of the Vapors,” and it was said to have been a neutral territory where all tribes could enjoy its healing waters in peace.  Spanish and French settlers claimed the area in the mid-1500s. In fact, famous explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to visit Hot Springs in 1541.

The hot springs were such a coveted natural wonder that in 1832, President Andrew Jackson designated Hot Springs as the first federal reservation.  Hot Springs Reservation was essentially America’s first national park, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years.

Here I feel the need to digress again for a moment. For those of you who ride, or who are interested in riding, Butler Motorcycle Maps are a must. [I am not a paid endorser, for Butler or any of the products or place I mention in my blog.] Their maps are invaluable. They provide detailed information on routes and roads. The roads are coded according to the type of ride and each map sets out recommended routes that have been ridden and rated by an owner of Butler Maps. For example, there are G1-G3 rides. The maps describe a G1 ride as, “Steep climbs, tight switchbacks, deep canyons and million dollar views. These roads have an undeniable appeal that set them apart from everything else.” The roads to Hot Springs, depending upon the routes taken, are examples of those highlighted by the Butler Ozarks map. The maps also list all the bike shops in the state, and have QR guides that link to useful information by using a smart phone. The maps themselves are durable and beautifully made. You can read more about the Ozarks map here. End of digression.

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The BMW riders were headed to ride the Talimena National Scenic Byway, which is also where we were headed. Knowing our tendency to be poky riders, we let them roll out first, then geared up and pulled out. We rode through Mena, past the courthouse, and the Skyline Cafe, which came highly recommended, but we didn’t stop to try since we weren’t hungry. Being there reminded me that it wasn’t long ago that Mena was hit by a terrible tornado. It was nice to see that the city appears to have fully recovered from that awful event. Before long,  we were on the Talimena Scenic Byway, “54 miles along the crest of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita National Forest.”

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We stopped at the Visitor’s Center which was right at the entrance to the highway. I walked back to get a picture of the sign, and it took so long that Carol thought something had happened to me. It was a walk folks, I hope you appreciate the photo. There was a nice, older-than-us guy, in the center and he seemed happy to have company. He gave up maps, brochures, tips on the road, and seemed genuinely concerned for us. He finally bid us farewell, with a “Be careful out there you two.” We promised we would, and with that we geared up again with a sense of excitement and adventure to explore the highway. IMG_0003IMG_0006IMG_0005

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There are 26 vistas along the byway. They are each colorfully named: the Choctaw Vista, Potato Hills Vista, Castle Rock Vista and many more. Each has a detailed explanation for the name of the view. The road itself has turns, but really few serious twisties (tight curves) and the views are spectacular. Remember the Butler Ozarks map mentioned above? It highlights the Talimena Byway, and classifies the roads as great rides.

Talimena Road

Perhaps because we went on a week day, the traffic was light so we felt free to ride at our usual meandering pace. We stopped at many of the scenic overlooks, each of which is named, and took photos. We were astonished at how amazingly, achingly beautiful the views were. Neither of us had been before, and we wondered how we could have lived in Arkansas for so long and not have visited this breathtaking treasure. The day began to get warmer, so we peeled off a few layers and took a break to hydrate and snack at one of the shadier vistas.

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By that time, it was getting to be late afternoon, so we started to think about getting to our resting place for the evening. All in all, I’d say we spent about 3 hours up there marveling over the breathtaking views, enjoying each other’s company, and trying to capture what we saw. I’m not certain that our photos do it justice. [One note for riders, some of the vistas are gravel and there is no indication which is which. In addition there was a lot of loose gravel at the entrance to, and in some of the paved vistas/overlooks.]  The Byway runs through Queen Wilhelmina State Park, which has a lodge that is closed for renovation. It has a restaurant, and what are supposed to be vastly improved rooms, once the work is completed.

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We headed west and a bit south on another scenic road, Oklahoma 271 (also highlighted on the Butler Map). It took us into Talihina, Oklahoma, where we were staying at the Hootie Creek House Bed & Breakfast. It dawned on me as we rolled into town, I had no idea where B & B was from the highway. We decided to pull into a drugstore parking lot to ask. A guy in a very large pickup truck, seemingly bemused by us, laughed and said, “You’re almost there. It’s right around the corner!” We rode the block and a half to the Hootie Creek and parked across the street (next to the police station). By then, we were hot, tired and ready to “stretch out” as my Aunt Ethel used to say. Essex and Carolyn were waiting for us and had ice-cold water ready. Wonderful! We got checked in, and they helped us carry our things upstairs and showed us around.

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This is a terrific bed & breakfast run by lovely people. I cannot say enough about how much we enjoyed our stay there. The rooms are charming, immaculate and perfect for the typical traveler—very convenient. There is wi-fi access, DirecTV and two inside, common area sitting rooms with comfy seating and a homey feeling. Each room (there are 5) has its own bathroom, with a face bowl in the main room. There is plenty of seating, storage and outlets. Both our rooms had a little desk or table and on the sink there were amenities. If something we needed wasn’t there, they told us to ask. In addition, the Hootie Creek’s website contains a list and map of great local rides.

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After we cooled down a bit, a beer sounded like a good bet, but one of us had to ride to the convenience store. I opted to go. It was hot y’all—really hot, but the store was only a 5 minute ride up the street. When I got there, it was chaos. There are no designated curb cuts, so cars pull in from every which-a-way. To add to that, there was a chat (at least that’s what we call the small pebbles spread on the road in winter for traction) everywhere –WTH?!?, and a large group of not so friendly bikers and their even less friendly girlfriends hanging out in front of the store. This was the first time I’d even thought about carrying a six-pack in my saddle bags, and I had a fantastic time getting situated in front of an audience. I told Carol when I got back, “This had better be the best tasting beer ever!”

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We put the beer in the fridge and headed to the Hateful Hussy (yes, you read it right) diner, a block away from the Hootie Creek House. Carolyn and Essex recommended it, and we weren’t disappointed. After we got past that moment where the door closes, and everyone looks the “not from ‘round here folks” up and down, it was all good. The food is home cooking, in Flintstone sized (remember the ribs?) portions. Neither of us could finish our dinners, Carol her chicken tenders, nor me, my chicken liver supper. Sated and hearing the siren song of a cold beer we sauntered (can you do that for a block?) back to the Hootie Creek House to sit on the balcony and wind down from a great day. To our surprise and delight, there were fresh-baked cookies waiting for us when we returned and more ice-cold bottles of water. We stretched out on the balcony under the umbrella, with our feet up, and toasted to a perfect day.

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The next day was forecasted to be much warmer, so we decided to get an early start. We got up early, packed our things into our saddle bags, and sat down to breakfast at 6:30. Now, here I need to tell you again how thoughtful Carolyn and Essex are. When we got downstairs, there was a big box of clean rags by the door. They’d anticipated the wetness on our bike due to the morning dew, and had the cloths there for us to use. Breakfast was beautifully prepared and presented. We had French toast with fresh berries and whip cream, an egg, and bacon. The coffee and tea were piping hot. There was not a thing more we could have asked for. After visiting a bit over breakfast, we were reminded that we needed to get going, so we reluctantly said our goodbyes, saddled up and hit the road.

We started out on 271 north headed towards Poteau, Oklahoma. The coolness of the morning and beauty of the scenery combined to give us a fantastic start on the second day of our staycation. There were a couple of dogs that ran out on the road after us, but we were able to dodge them fairly easily–thank goodness. We stopped in Poteau to gas up and picked up Highway 112 north, which from the map, looked as though it would take us into Fort Smith right about where we could pick up Arkansas Highway 10.  We stopped in Pocola, Oklahoma, and according to the map, we were to ride through Cameron & Rock Island (at least that’s how we read it). Instead the next thing we knew, there was a sign announcing that we had arrived in Fort Smith. We had absolutely no idea where we were, except to say it was definitely an industrial area. We pulled over at a Volvo truck dealership and a couple of kind employees gave us directions (three times before we got it), and we headed out again. “Ooooooohh,” I said to the inside of my helmet as we navigated the instructions we were given. We had come out on the south side of the city, but north of highway 10. We rode south once again, passing The Egg and I, and before too long came to our turnoff on 10.

By that time, we thought it best to top off again, and take time to drink some water, because the day was heating up quickly. We met a biker (nice looking, great blue eyes and mischievous smile) at the gas station in Greenland. He told us about his vacation in Colorado, and encouraged us to ride out there if we ever got the chance.  He took off and so did we. The ride east across 10 was so relaxing a pretty that it had an almost lulling effect. We pulled over in Magazine, Arkansas to take a break, grab a cool drink and top off again. I forgot to mention that given the anxiety some of our friends and family had about our trip, we would check in on Facebook at every significant stop to let them know where we were and that we were ok. We continued on 10 west when we rolled out of Magazine. By the way, Mount Magazine is the highest point in the state, and is a lovely state park with a very nice lodge.

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The view was scenic and pastoral, with the Ozarks and Ouchitas at times framing the road from a distance. It was an easy, but hot ride. We stopped in Danville because from there we were to head north on Highway 27 for a short distance and then west again to Petit Jean State Park, which was where we would stay for the night. In Danville, having learned from the night before, we thought we would pick up some beer for later. It was going to be a real treat after a much hotter ride than the day before.  Crap! Major Bummer! Dry county. Yep, that’s right no beer to be had. None. “How far, we asked?” “Oh, not too bad. Go up the road to Dardenelle, hang a left on Highway 22 and you can’t miss the store. It will be on your left about 20 miles down the road.”

We caucused and decided, “What the heck? We’re on staycation and we’ve not seen this area, so let’s go for it,” and off we went. I bet you know what’s coming. Yeah, that was no “short ride.” Two counties later—we were in it to win it at that point—we arrived at our destination. The parking lot was challenging, rutted, sloped and filled with fine gravel. Yikes! We had to get an assist to keep Carol’s bike upright, but eventually we both managed to get situated. “Thanks Fellas!” Beer purchased, we headed back east on Highway 22 which was quite pretty I must say, with a lake on either side of the road in several spots.

We made a short stop in Dardenelle, so I could pick up a pair of shoes. I’d forgotten to pack mine and was tired of wearing my boots around. It was really getting hot, not warm, hot. But we figured, hey, we’re almost there, no sweat. We had seen the turn off for Petit Jean on our beer run. Yeah, uh huh, well, it was longer than we thought. Or maybe it just felt that way because of the heat. Regardless, we got to Highway 154, hung a left and headed east again. We rode and rode and rode. The ride was easy but looooong. About the time I thought I’d miscalculated, we saw another sign saying, “Petit Jean State Park 15 miles.”

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Not too far down the road, we pulled over, got off the bikes, hydrated and did a little stretching. It had been a long day and we were ready to get there, but we were pooped. It was good to stop, take a breather and perk up. Little did we know what a good idea that was, but we shortly found out. As we headed up the mountain to Petit Jean State Park, there was a surprise waiting for us–a tight, u-turn like curve and another that was deceptively tight. “Crap!,” I thought entering it but managed to navigate it. Needless to say, we were a bit frazzled when we pulled into Mather Lodge parking lot.

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We checked into our room and immediately worked on cooling off and settling down. It didn’t take long, and we were out walking the grounds taking pictures.  Here’s a description of Petit Jean State Park from the park service brochure:

One of Arkansas’ finest state parks, Petit Jean lies in a unique area between the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountain ranges in west-central Arkansas. This, Arkansas’s first state park, includes 2,658 acres of natural beauty on Petit Jean Mountain. In this lovely mountain setting are an abundance of unmarred woods, ravines, streams, springs, waterfalls, spectacular views, and surprising geological formations preserved as French explorers found them 300 years ago.

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Given that the day had been a long, hot one, we decided to eat early, come back to the room, shower, enjoy a beer and relax. And that’s exactly what we did. I’ll tell you what, that was the best shower (and beer).

Once again, we decided to roll out early the next morning as the day was to be another hot one. We ate breakfast in the lodge and headed down the hill. Knowing what was waiting for us, we took our time and carefully navigated the trick spots in our descent. When we reached Highway 7, we headed north. Highway 7 is also known for its scenic beauty and neither of us had ridden it on our bikes. We stopped to gas up in Russellville, Arkansas and headed on up 7. It really was a great ride with gentle curves, a leafy canopy and tremendous views. There was very little traffic, just the Sunday morning church goers and other bikers. We pulled in at a scenic overlook where we met a group of riders going to either Greer’s or Peel’s Ferry, I can’t remember which. They told us about the ferry that takes you from Arkansas into southern Missouri. They invited us, but we told them we were at the end of a long ride and were headed to Fayetteville.

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We continued on 7 north until we reached Highway 16 where we hung a left and headed westward towards home. One important note here. There was no gas station from the time we left 7 all the way across 16. We didn’t see anything open other than churches. When we needed to stop for water and a stretch, we pulled onto the side of the road. Only one truck passed us. He slowed to see if we were ok, and when we waved him on, that was it.  As we got closer to home, we headed north on Arkansas 23, into Huntsville for lunch. It’s a good thing we made it there because my gas light was on as we rolled into the gas station. I’m sad to say I was focused on the road and my gas situation and missed a chance to greet a group of riders of color who passed us. I saw them, but didn’t realize who they were.

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A lot of bikers ride through Huntsville, and that day was no exception. It is a central  stopping point for many great rides, especially folks headed south down the Pig Trail, or up north to Eureka Springs. The gas station was busy, and as we were about to pull out, a guy in a church van pulled in front of me. I couldn’t get around him, and the other islands were busy. I waited as he went to pay, but he didn’t come out. Eventually, I backed Bea up and threaded my way through the cars so that we could get going.

Ironically, this same fella turned up at the Crossbow Restaurant, where we were going for lunch. He muttered something under his breath about us to his wife in the parking lot, came in and glared at us. Sigh. Well this joker was a real butthead it turned out, because he made a show of speaking abusively to the waitress and left a penny tip. We told her what happened earlier and she said, “Yeah, he’s always like that.” It reminded me of my grandmother saying, “That Sucka needs prayer!”

There was a really nice family seated in the booth behind us, and the little grand baby, who was about 3, was fascinated by my helmet. He was a real cutie pie, and he was super friendly and really sweet. I let him see it and when we left he came over to the bikes. As they pulled out, we beeped our horns at him to his great delight.
Well, this was the home stretch. We took Highway 74 west out of Huntsville, which dumped back into Highway 16. It’s a route we’d ridden many times, and it felt good to be on familiar turf and so close to home. It wasn’t long before we saw the signs for Fayetteville. As is our custom, I rode with Carol to south Fayetteville before heading back towards home.  It had been a terrific staycation, and after arriving safely in West Fork, Carol texted me saying that we had traveled 601 miles. Not much on a per hour basis, but it was One Heckuva Staycation!

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Gentle Reader, my apologies for taking such a long time to post again. All I can say is that sometimes living life gets in the way of sharing it. Betsy and I saw and did a lot before I left the area, and I finally have a few moments to share it with you. One of the first things we did after I got to her house was go to the Full Plate Farm Collectives to pick up her share of produce for the week.   Here’s a description of the benefits of CSAs from the website EcoLife:

These arrangements involve a consumer (you) purchasing shares (also called memberships or subscriptions) from a farmer. In exchange, you receive a weekly box (container, bag, basket) of local food grown seasonally on the farm. You may also be asked to spend time working on the farm to help out. This way, the benefits of a bumper crop are shared equally among the members, as are the challenges of a lean year.

We picked up mixed salad greens, arugula, basil, yummy whole grain bread and a few other things I can’t remember. The pickup site was located in a barn, and it had the feel of the Fayetteville farmer’s market in that everyone was friendly and chatting, and few seemed in a hurry.

After lunch we set out for more adventure. Our first stop was Ports of New York. Port wines are delicious, sweet sipping wines usually enjoyed after dinner–my definition. Read a more refined explanation here. When we arrived, we were met by our gracious host, knowledgeable wine maker and owner, Frédérick Bouché. Ports of NYThe winery’s informational brochure describes it this way:

Located in the city of Ithaca, Ports of New York is a small artisinal urban winery where Meleau™ Specialty Wines are produced. All Vinifera grapes are grown on the east shore of Seneca Lake.

Neither sweet nor dry and light in body, these wines belong to a unique category of fine Port vinification method wines. After fermentation is stopped with the addition of a 170 proof grape spirit, these wines are aged for a minimum of 4 years in a neutral oak Solera wine cellar before being bottled.

The name Meleau™ is pronounced, mellow. It is a Latin and French word which means nectar and spirit. Nectar because the yeast is grown in honey “mel” and spirit for “eau”-die-vie.

 

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Wine maker Bouché spent a good deal of time with us, explaining the wine making process, sharing his family’s wine making history and explaining the uses of the antique wine making equipment he had on display. I do like port and so Betsy made this stop for me. After the touring came the best part–tasting. I tasted three wines including two red, one comparable to a tawny port and the other a similar to a ruby (but better), and a white port. They were each delicious in different ways. I remember commenting that the white reminded me of an ice wine. On the way out, Frédéric gave me two small bottles to take with, for which I was most appreciative. If you’re in Ithaca, stop by. I know he would be happy to visit with you too.

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Ithaca Falls Street View

Our next stop was Ithaca Falls. Yep, Ithaca has a lovely waterfall right in the heart of the city. We stopped at an area off the parking lot, but then saw folks climbing a trail. Being that we were on an adventure, we decided to follow. Well, it was a good thing we did, because the view was lovely and quite different than the one from the street.

Ithaca Falls from the Path

Ithaca Falls from the Path

 

After seeing the falls, we realized we’d better get a move on it because we still had a lot to see before our evening engagement (more on that in a bit). We headed northeast to Auburn, New York, which is home to many historical sights. Of most interest to me however, was seeing the Harriet Tubman Home and “Old Folks Home.” On the way, Betsy told me more about the area. For example, I’d never heard of the Seward House. William Henry Seward, I later learned from the website I’ve linked to, was a New York State Senator, Governor of New York, a United States Senator, and served as Secretary of State in the Lincoln and Johnson administrations.  The website dedicated to the house, describes it this way:

“This beautiful estate is surrounded by two acres of lush garden and trees. The elegant interior has been restored to its original beauty and features an unmatched collection of political and travel souvenirs, decorative arts and photographs that spans William Seward’s nearly forty-year political career.”

We drove by, but missed the visiting hours. It’s on a “to do” list for the next trip.

When we arrived at the Tubman property, it was closing time.  I was in a panic, which the kind docent could clearly see. “I came all the way from Arkansas!” Graciously, she gave us a few minutes to look around. I was able to snap these photos, but didn’t get to linger over the exhibits. The site, run by the AME Church, sits on 26 acres of land. It contains four buildings, two of which Tubman was known to use, including her house and a home she established for the elderly.

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Harriet Tubman is a sheroe. An escaped slave who made numerous trips back south to free others who were enslaved. Her courage, faith and sacrifice on behalf of others, is inspirational. She is quoted as saying, “I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves,” and “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” You can read much more about her in the links I’ve posted above and here.

There was much to see in Auburn, but we were running short on time. We managed to make a quick stop at another historical site that piqued my interest. However, given our short window of opportunity we had to make choices. I opted to see the Willard Memorial Chapel before we left Auburn because it is the only intact, unaltered chapel containing Tiffany glass, known to exist. Unfortunately, the chapel too was closed and I only have these pictures of the outside of the chapel.

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On our drive back to Ithaca we stopped in Moravia, New York. There we checked out a general store, Jennings, that has been in existence since 1860 and is on the historic registry. I wasn’t thinking when we went in, so I didn’t take my iPhone in for pictures (duh). It was really interesting though, and much of the history was posted on the walls, including a resolution by the state legislature acknowledging the store’s history and significance. The owner shared the stories about it’s history, and its transformations over time. There was an old cash register that could only accommodate prices up to $99.99. The current owner told us how, before the new one arrived, the former owners had to ring large orders up over several tickets. He showed us a safe that Superman couldn’t lift (at least I don’t think so), and let us poke around the store to our hearts’ content. When we were about to leave, he suggested we stop at the Methodist church in town, which is on the historic registry as well, because of the amazing wood carvings inside. It was locked, so we didn’t get to see them. We did however, find a terrific ice cream parlor right across from the church. Since the day was beastly hot, we felt justified with our decision to enjoy a treat.

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Back on the road again there was one final stop, at Fillmore Glen State Park. Why? Well, why else? Because it had a waterfall! As described in Wikipedia, “The primary attractions of the park are the hiking trails with views of a stream and several waterfalls, and the swimming pond, made by damming the stream. It also features a (replica) log cabin near the birthplace of President Millard Fillmore.” We of course hiked in to see a waterfall and took a few minutes to look inside the cabin. This waterfall wasn’t spectacular, but it was pretty and worth the short hike in.

Fillmore Glen State Park

Fillmore2

 

Fillmore3

Replica of Fillmore Cabin

Returning to Ithaca, we didn’t have very long to dress for our evening outing. We went to see Around the World in 80 Days at the Hangar Theatre. Surprisingly, we arrived early, so we sat outside and enjoyed refreshments from the Hangar Cafe. Although it had been described as hilarious, it really didn’t tickle either of our funny bones, nor did we observe anyone else in the audience in stitches. Perhaps it was just us though, because it received this good review on Syracuse.com.

Betsy at Hangar Theatre

Betsy at Hangar Theatre

The next day we set out to tackle the wine trail, but first Betsy went off and picked fresh strawberries while I played the role of the vacationer and read a novel. We headed north and stopped off in Watkins Glen, which is home to auto racing. If you are a racing enthusiast, check out the site. It mentions Ferrari and NASCAR races. Our reason for visiting was nothing as glamorous as racing. We were looking for a pair of Croc-like shoes for me. Sadly the store that once carried them was out of stock.

We did have a great lunch though at the Wildflower Cafe. The Cafe was connected to the Crooked Rooster Fish Brewpub, which featured local craft ales. Betsy enjoyed great fish tacos, and I had a yummy crab cake club with sweet potato fries. From there we went to see–wait for it-yep, another waterfall. I admit it, I couldn’t get enough of seeing them. So gracious the hostess that she is, Betsy accommodated my obsession. When we pulled up to the park, there were six bikes (Harleys) there, and I had a chance to visit with the bikers. They were great folks, of course, and I ended up taking a picture for them  on their bikes before they pulled off. Sadly, it was to be my last visit to a waterfall, but I certainly enjoyed seeing them all.

watkins glen Watkins Glen2

 

When we left Watkins Glen we headed north on the east Seneca Lake Wine trail. Betsy was the designated driver and it was my day to taste the wines of upstate New York. As daunting a task as that might be given all the wineries, we only stopped at two. The first was Damiani Wine Cellars. I enjoyed several of their wines and purchased a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc to take to dinner with Betsy’s family. My favorite was the Bollicini described as off-dry– a blend of Cayuga, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir–a nod to Italy’s Prosecco. We learned a lot about the vineyard, and the various wines, and even where the vintners received their training. The tasting, surroundings and staff at Damiani were all quite pleasant.

The next winery we visited was a new one, Ryan William. It’s so new it’s difficult to find on the maps, but since Frédéric recommended them both, we were determined to check them out.

Damiani

Ryan William was set back from the road and we almost missed it, but Betsy spotted the sign on the left just in time. The tasting room was small but attractive. To my surprise and delight, one of the guys there was jamming some old school R & B and funk. Just goes to show, you never know. Needless to say, the tunes were quite the ice breaker and we visited with them for a while, during which I played the role of official taster. My favorite wine was the Late Harvest Riesling.

Ryan WilliamOur destination as we headed north was Geneva to have dinner with Betsy’s family at the yacht club. However, we were distracted one more time by an interesting looking craft store.

Unexpected stop.jpg45 minutes and a few purchases later, we were back on the road again to Geneva. Once there,  we enjoyed the cool lake breezes and a fresh, light flavorful dinner in great company and beautiful surroundings.

Geneva

 

 

Shese arrangements involve a consumer (you) purchasing shares (also called memberships or subscriptions) from a farmer. In exchange, you receive a weekly box (container, bag, basket) of local food grown seasonally on the farm. You may also be asked to spend time working on the farm to help out. This way, the benefits of a bumper crop are shared equally among the members, as are the challenges of a lean year. – See more at: http://www.ecolife.com/health-food/eating-local/food-coops-csa.html#sthash.CjVHOplD.dpuf
hese arrangements involve a consumer (you) purchasing shares (also called memberships or subscriptions) from a farmer. In exchange, you receive a weekly box (container, bag, basket) of local food grown seasonally on the farm. You may also be asked to spend time working on the farm to help out. This way, the benefits of a bumper crop are shared equally among the members, as are the challenges of a lean year. – See more at: http://www.ecolife.com/health-food/eating-local/food-coops-csa.html#sthash.CjVHOplD.dpuf
Treman State Park

Treman State Park

Ugh, early morning flights are a bummer, but there weren’t a lot of choices of flights to Ithaca from Northwest Arkansas. My first connection was through O’Hare. I felt like the old t.v. commercial in which OJ Simpson is running though the airport. My flight came in at the end of the G terminal, and I had to get over to the middle of E with a close connection time. Yikes! The second connection was in Philadelphia and from there to Ithaca.  All three flights were uneventful except for the last leg. Actually it wasn’t the flight, but the terminal that was memorable. I had to take a shuttle, in Philly, from the main terminal to a remote terminal. If you have done it, you know what a hassle it is getting on the shuttle bus and all that jazz. What was most notable though, was that just inside the remote terminal there was a guy playing VERY loud, hmm, acid jazz?, new age?, soft jazz. It was jarring–not the music itself, but the volume. Wow. I felt like a grouchy old lady, “These kids and their loud music!” One thing is for sure. It certainly motivated me to quickly get to my gate.

View From Cornell's Clock Tower

View From Cornell’s Clock Tower

By now you might be wondering why I was traveling to Ithaca. The reason for the trip was a very special invitation from The Labor Law Group, to attend the Group’s Conference as an invited guest. Because of the stature of the members of the Labor Law Group, and of its work, it was an honor to be invited to participate. You can read more about the Group here. Kinda buried the lead, huh? More on The Labor Law Group and the conference in the next post.

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View from McKenzie-Childs Pottery Workshop

In addition to the Conference, I was excited to see my most excellent friend Betsy(Elizabeth) Lamb, known to me affectionately as “Betsy Bug.” I’ve called her that for so long, I can’t even remember why. Betsy is a horticulture Professor at Cornell. Her specialty is ornamentals. We met during orientation, my first year at Arkansas. Betsy was an orientation group leader. We hit it off immediately and have been fast friends ever since. Betsy is the type of good friend with whom I laugh lots; and no matter how much time passes between our visits, we pick up right where we left off. We have lots of wacky stories over the course of our friendship, but it would take much too long to share them all. 🙂

Newfield Covered Bridge

Newfield’s Covered Bridge

Ok, so back to the travelogue: When I arrived in Ithaca, I went immediately to the rental car desk. My plan was to explore the area a bit before connecting with Betsy, once she got off of work. Since I’d never been to Ithaca or the Finger Lakes Region,  I thought it would be a good idea to see as much as I could during the trip, which brings us back to the rental car. I rented a compact to be economical, but when I told the agent why I wanted the car, he gave me an upgrade, at a special price, for safety and comfort. (I’m certain that was his sole motivation for encouraging me to upgrade.)  I have to say though, I really came to appreciate the sturdiness and stability of the car during my forays, especially when it was pouring rain.

Newfield Covered Bridge

I’d arrived in Ithaca at 3:00, and I had until around 6:00 p.m. to explore. So I set off for adventure! The first place I went was to (yep) Ithaca Harley Davidson, which is located down NY 13 in Cayuta, to get a t-shirt with a silk screen the local scenery. The folks at Ithaca H-D were very nice, even when my card was declined for fraud. We got it all straightened out (hafta remember to call when traveling), and they gave me a super cool riding map that listed area attractions, and they pointed me in the right direction to see a few sights before I had to meet Betsy Bug. If you’re in the area, stop in and see the good folks at Ithaca H-D!

Treman State Park

My first stop after leaving the dealership and heading back north on 13, was to see a covered bridge in Newfield. It wasn’t on the map, but there was highway marker for it so I turned off to see what it was all about. That’s one of the luxuries of having time to meander (which by the way is also how I like to approaching riding Bea the Blessed Harley). The bridge was charming and covered the west branch of the Cayuga Inlet. There’s a quaint little park there too, perfect for contemplation.

Treman State Park Swimming Area

My next stop was at Robert H. Treman State Park to see the waterfalls. There are 12 falls in all, including the 115 foot Lucifer Falls.  The fall closest to the entrance was lovely, and lots of folks were swimming in and under it. My pictures give you a feel for it, but I’m not sure they truly captured the beauty of the setting. I tried to find the Lucifer Falls and the Old Mill, which were further in. However, after driving up the road for what felt like quite a ways, I was concerned about time so I headed back towards Ithaca. On the way back, I was able to squeeze in a visit to the Buttermilk Falls, which was also quite lovely, and fortunately not far at all from Cornell’s campus.

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls

My last sight before meeting Betsy was Cornell Law School. I couldn’t visit the campus without a peek at the law school. Former Dean Stewart Schwab, by the way, is also a Labor and Employment Law academic and was one of the Reporters on the Restatement of Employment Law, which is the context in which I’d previously met him. Sadly, the building was locked and the folks watching me try the door looked askance at such a scruffy individual, so I had to leave my self guided tour of the building for another day.

Cornell Law School

Cornell Law School

Betsy arrived shortly and we met her friends, Brian Eshenaur and Margaret Kelly for dinner at Sangham Indian restaurant. Margaret and Brian were delightful dining companions, funny and interesting and I liked them both right away. We had a great meal, replete with rambling, lively conversation that could not have been a warmer welcome to Ithaca. As far as the meal, I’ve blogged before about my love of Indian cuisine, so I won’t belabor it again. Just know that the food was scrumptious, and yes I had samosas, saag and a Kingfisher. After dinner, Betsy, Brian and I headed to Purity, THE local ice cream establishment, for dessert. From there, it was time to say goodnight and to head to Betsy’s lovely home for a good night’s rest after a very full day. Before turning in though, we looked over my maps,  (My sweet friend Jeanne Marie gave me a NY highway map and AAA guide to NY for my trip, plus I had the riding map) and plotted my next day’s adventures.

Crocs

It was rainy on Wednesday, but not chilly when I left for a day of sightseeing. Betsy was kind enough to lend me her croc-like shoes which were perfect for the wet weather. I headed into Ithaca to find route 89 north. I got turned around in town and once I found 89, decided it was best to make a pit stop while still in town. As I pulled into what turned out to be the aquatic center parking lot, two school buses pulled in and unloaded what appeared to be several classes of first, maybe 2nd graders. A teacher saw me get out of the car, assumed I was a parent, and handed me a box of materials to carry inside for one of the other teachers. I did as I was told. Guess it’s OK to be viewed as someone who looks responsible enough to be a parent and who might have a 1st grader (or maybe she thought I was grandma…).

Back on the road. 89 tracks Cayuga Lake, and alternates between views of the lake, farm land and wooded areas. There are many wineries along the way , but those weren’t my priority. My first stop was to be Taughannock Falls State Park, which was breathtaking even in the rain.

Taughannock Falls State Park

Taughannock Falls State Park

The next stop was Seneca Falls, NY. It rained off and on during the drive up, but with the pleasant scenery and my upgraded car, it was a piece of cake. Here’s a little bit about the history of Seneca Falls, taken from the city’s website:

In the mid-1800’s, “Seneca Falls gained a reputation for social and religious reform. Abolition of Slavery and the Underground Railroad, the Temperance movement and women’s rights were among issues supported by local residents.On July 19 and 20, 1848 the first Convention on Women’s Rights was held at the Wesleyan Chapel on Fall Street in Seneca Falls. Organized by Jane Hunt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock and others, it was the birth of the Women’s Rights Movement.”

Seneca Falls Visitor Center & National Women's Hall of Fame

Seneca Falls Visitor Center & National Women’s Hall of Fame

After a quick trip to the Visitor Center, to get my bearings, I popped into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  The Hall’s mission is “Showcasing great women…Inspiring All.” The docent, Irene, explained that the Hall is breaking ground on a new, expanded location that it hopes will open in a year or so.

The Women’s Rights National Historical Park is also located in Seneca Falls and is right down the street from the Hall of Fame. The Park “preserves the sites associated with the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention.” The exhibits were quite well done. My favorites were anything work related, and fortunately there were several of those exhibits.

Seneca Falls Women's Rights National Historical Park

Seneca Falls Women’s Rights National Historical Park

Although I didn’t go through them, Seneca Falls is home to several other museums including the Museum of Waterways and Industry and the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum. I headed west on NY 5 & 20 towards Geneva, to see Seneca Lake, and a bit more of the Finger Lakes area. On the way, I passed through Waterloo, New York, the birthplace of Memorial Day, and home of the National Memorial Day Museum. Keeping an eye on the clock, I opted not to stop but did note the attractive patriotic bunting throughout the city.

Memorial Day

I had an additional, unusual motivation for wanting to get a feel for the area. One of my favorite fictional heroines Jane Whitfield, is a Seneca woman who helps people who need to disappear. Though I haven’t read the books in a while, I recall vividly the images Thomas Perry painted of upstate NY, and it was fun to see it for myself. I drove through Geneva for a bit, not stopping, and headed north on route 14 over to 318 and then down 90 which is on the opposite side of Lake Cayuta from route 89. It was another lovely drive, and from 90 I could see a lot more of the lake.

Grounds of Mackenzie-Childs

Grounds of Mackenzie-Childs

My last stop of the day before checking into the Statler Hotel for the Labor Law Group Conference, was to visit the MacKenzie-Childs Pottery Collective. Here’s how it is described on the website:

“We are located on a 65-acre former dairy farm overlooking Cayuga Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The grounds–open to the public–house our production studio, a Second-Empire farmhouse that is open for tours, and a retail shop filled with MacKenzie-Childs tableware, home furnishings, and gifts from around the world. The picturesque farm is also home to a small herd of Scottish Highland cattle, dozens of birds roosting in the Gothic Revival-style Chicken Palace, a duck pond, a former Cornell horse barn, a 1930’s greenhouse, spectacular and ever-changing gardens, and plenty of hay fields.”

Mackenzie2

I didn’t stay long, but took a few pictures of the beautiful grounds and some of the pottery. It was raining again and time to get back to Ithaca to check in, and to prepare for the opening dinner of the conference. I’d squeezed a lot into a short time, and very much enjoyed having the ability to enjoy a brief exploration of a very beautiful area.

MacKenzie-Childs

MacKenzie-Childs