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Sunday, May 8, 2011

One in a Million Mom

One in a Million Mom:
A writer’s tribute to the world’s greatest mother
By Mike Lauterborn

Her smile lights up a room. Her warmth lights up the world. Her generosity knows no bounds. I’m proud to call her my mom.

Sylvia Lauterborn was born in May 1939 in a small coalmining town in South Wales. Teaching and nursing, then a stint as a stewardess with Pan American Airlines, led her to my dad, an American with upstate New York roots, and a budding marketing talent at General Electric Company. The two married in September 1963 and settled in Schenectady, NY, where GE was then headquartered. Mom had hung up her flying wings at that point, and focused on building a family. I appeared in December 1964, followed by a brother, David, in February 1967.

From the start, mom encouraged my creativity, introducing me to drawing, painting and modeling clay, which instilled in me a certain way of looking at the world. She taught me to read, through the Dick and Jane series of children’s books, a skill that opened my eyes and imagination to volumes of literature, other cultures and foreign lands while instilling in me a love and curiosity about words. Being a Brit, manners were a priority for her to teach – in this, she may only have been partially successful, but provided the guidelines nonetheless.

A lover of games, mom introduced me to playing cards, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, word scrambles and more, challenging my brain. Often, we would work on these collaboratively, which created special bonding moments.

Through my elementary school days, she helped me with my penmanship, tutored me on difficult subjects and praised my achievements. She was such a visible presence at my school that classmates embraced her as their mom figure as well.

In my high school years, mom tried her best to help me avoid pitfalls and dangers, while guiding me about dating, teaching me to drive and helping me excel with my schoolwork. At the same time, as a product of lean war years, she showed me how to make things last, reuse and recycle, ahead of her time as a green pioneer.

She also taught me the joys of being social and great acceptance of people, no matter what color, status or plight. She is always the first to strike up a conversation, to offer a hand, to make the introductions… even to offer a complete stranger room and board.

As I entered the working world fresh out of college, she took interest in my career pursuits, expressed concern for my well-being and even shared recipe cards so that I might prepare the same meals I’d enjoyed under her roof.

When I started my own family and then bought a first house, she was there with paintbrush in hand, grout mix and whatever other supplies or equipment to do some initial renovating. There seemed to be no limit to her energies, or willingness to help.

She continues to inspire -- painting landscapes, illustrating books, gardening, making her own clothing, quilting, genealogical research, home maintenance and traveling, among her many pursuits. She has an infectious passion for learning and maintains a genuine interest in people.

I’m happy to pay tribute to this very special woman and send heartfelt Happy Mother’s Day greetings to my Mom!

Much love and many hugs from your son,


Sip and Shop Celebrates 10 Years of Music For Youth

Sip and Shop Celebrates 
10 Years of Music For Youth:
J. McLaughlin fundraiser features classical performances in-store
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – In a cove between shelves of spring clothing, the young prodigies plucked and stroked their instruments for an appreciative crowd of parents and local residents that had come to celebrate an important milestone.

Early Saturday evening May 7, J. McLaughlin clothing retailer at 1026 Post Road East helped the non-profit Music For Youth organization celebrate its 10th anniversary with an in-store fundraising soiree. Guests enjoyed wine, nibblies, live music performances by young people that play in the MFY’s master classes, and shopping, with 15% of the revenue from purchases during the 3-hour event donated to MFY.

“J. McLaughlin has a brand-new beautiful location, after just moving from its former home on Main Street,” said Cynthia Cummiskey, Secretary on the Board of MFY, “and one of our board members suggested we collaborate with them as the store is as dedicated to the community as MFY. This is a great way to celebrate our 10th anniversary season, now beginning.”

The board member to whom Cummiskey referred was Elise Russi, from Westport. “I thought this partnership would be fitting and our small ensembles really gain exposure in a wonderful space,” she said.

As to the store’s role, manager Samantha Holmes said, “J. McLaughlin likes to give back,” she said. “Our space is perfect for special events. We like to highlight the space while doing a good community service.”

A parent, Mia Herstatt of Redding, whose child Olivia was a member of the quartet performing in the store, praised the program. “It has been a wonderful experience for Olivia to have such exposure in a high caliber musical setting and to experience this with other well versed young musicians,” she said. “They all see it as a celebration of music. I think music will be a lifelong pursuit and interest for my daughter.”

The organization’s matriarch, Marianne Liberatore, said it didn’t seem like 10 years had passed since the group became incorporated as a non-profit. “It’s been a wonderful time with amazing concerts highlighted throughout,” she said.

Liberatore also related some of the other anniversary activities that led up to the Sip and Shop store event. “Earlier today, we had a one-hour concert featuring prize-winning marimbist Pius Chung,” she said. “He was joined by Westconn master’s student Matt Bronson, who played various drums. Yesterday, we had a celebratory session at High Horizons School in Bridgeport wherein Cheung performed for all the band students there. When the program was over, there were about 25 students who wouldn’t go. They were so entranced. So he gave them mallets to play the marimba. The kids would play a rhythmic pattern while he provided the melody, all improvised. Everyone was so happy and, really, that’s the beauty of music.”

Pequot Library Trots Out All the Trimmings for Derby Day

Pequot Library Trots Out All the Trimmings for Derby Day:
Big ole hats and mint juleps rule
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – It had all the elements of the celebrated Churchill Downs event: fancy hats, a swing jazz soundtrack, navy blue blazers, Kentucky-style food, mint juleps… even racehorses. It was just a few miles further east… about 840 to be exact.

Late Saturday afternoon May 7, Pequot Library at 720 Pequot Ave. hosted its 3rd Annual Derby Day, aligning with the 137th Kentucky Derby Run for the Roses. Event highlights were numerous as Robin Jerrild, the library’s Special Events Coordinator, explained.

“We have 19 tailgating groups, including vintage automobiles and even a John Deere tractor, each with its own spread of food and beverages,” she said. “In addition, The Shack is here providing Kentucky fare including barbequed chicken, cornbread, coleslaw, briskets and sliders. Adjacent to that is a full bar donated by Diageo, with mint juleps as the special drink of the day.”

The title sponsor of the event was clothier Lilly Pulitzer, which provided multi-colored table linens and a number of gift baskets. New York-based Brenda Lynn was also on hand displaying and selling hats. A flatscreen outside and big screen in the library’s auditorium kept attendees apprised of all the race action. A pair of horses was brought onsite by non-profit Fairfield Bridle Trail. Finally, a 50/50 raffle allowed guests to select a favorite horse to win, place or show, for a cash prize.

A passing shower at the start of the event, that sent people scurrying under tents and umbrellas, yielded to bright sun. The rain did not dampen spirits at all, nor the competitive spirit in evidence.

“Like many people who don’t closely follow horseracing, I pick my horses not by odds but by name,” said guest Kelly Kingston. “Dialed Up and Midnight Interlude look good to me this year. A couple of years back, that strategy paid off – my horse came in second and I won some cash.”

Under the food tent, Chris Gould of Southport said that this was the second year she was participating. “We picked a winner last year,” she said. “Our money’s on Archarcharch; our sleeper pick is Brilliant Speed, at 30-1.”

“God Bless America and let’s watch the ponies!” said Southporter Alex Christon, chiming in.

Deborah Webb of Westport, who was set up with friends within their own tailgate space, said, “This is a great way to keep alive the horse community and showcase horses, but also socialize with Pequot Library members and friends. My pal Anya Porter and I are getting behind Animal Kingdom to win.”

Anya’s mother, Dorothy Porter, of Fairfield Bridle Trail, explained the connection between her organization and the library. “They give us two tailgate spots and 10 parking spots to provide both horses and riders in riding garb to enhance the event,” she said.

About the event itself, Porter added, “The Derby is big, and though based in the South, it’s really a national celebration. The library hosting it brings everyone together for a great springtime affair. It’s like Halloween in the spring. How fun is that?”