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Posts published in “Day: April 14, 2009

Being bad at things can be good

By Kristan Hoffman

A few years ago when I was in college, I asked a friend to join me on an intramural softball team. She looked at me as if I were crazy. “Thanks, but I’m terrible at softball,” she said with a laugh.

“That’s okay, I am too!” I replied. “But every team has to have four girls on the field to qualify, so you’re helping out no matter how good or bad you are.”

My friend shook her head. “Sorry, I only do things I’m good at.”

Then it was my turn to look at her as if she were crazy.

Yes, it’s normal to want to be good at things, but do we have to be good at everything we do? And how can we get good at something if we don’t practice when we’re still terrible? Do we have to get an A in a subject for it to be fun or have value?

When I was a girl, I remember believing I was a natural-born artist. Both my parents were architects, so how could the ability to draw, paint, and design not flow through my veins? My parents must have thought the same thing, because they bought me sketchpads and fancy pencils, canvases and paint.

Much to our collective surprise, I could barely color within the lines.

Determined to live up to the talent in my blood, I took art classes almost every summer. Over time I did improve, but I was never the best student in the class. There was always someone with better technique, greater imagination, or both. But even though I wasn’t going to be the next Monet, I didn’t quit.

Because sometimes things we’re bad at can still be good for us. For example, art, music, and dance are all powerful creative outlets, allowing you to express what you’re thinking and feeling even when you don’t know exactly what that is. Sports are group athletics, so you get the physical benefits of exercise plus the social benefits of hanging out with your teammates. Cooking and gardening are both challenging — at least to me! — but they can really nurture your spirit and help you tune in to nature.

In this day and age, with a million things vying for our attention every minute of every day, simply taking time out for yourself is therapeutic, no matter what you’re doing. So even when my boyfriend tells me my drawing looks like a sausage (it was our dog!) I feel calmer and happier just for having given myself those fifteen minutes to sketch. I don’t have to be the next Monet to love art, or the next Michael Phelps to enjoy a dip in the pool, or the next Iron Chef America to appreciate my kitchen.

We spend so much of our lives being graded — in school, at work, even among our friends and family. We try so hard to please everyone else that we forget to make ourselves happy.

So forget your critics, and forget your fans. Do something for yourself. Even if you’re bad at it.

Arlene Nichols, community advocate, dies

Arlene Nichols, 62, well known in the Northeast community for citizens’ advocacy, and as a legislative aide to the State Representative for District 140, died on Thursday, April 9.

She was known in the community as a tireless worker for citizens issues, working with management districts, civic clubs, and government agencies to help citizens improve their lifestyles.

She was involved in water & sewer issues, public law enforcement, water rates, Aldine Taxpayers Association, METRO bus lines and transportation issues, street lighting in the Airline district, junkyard regulation, children’s health issues, and educational and teacher salary issues.

Nichols worked as a legislative aide for over 18 years, living in and concerned with District 140, that included Greenspoint, Airline, and Aldine Management Districts, which she helped to establish.

Arlene Ann Nichols was born in Providence, Rhode Island on May 29, 1946. She was married to William Nichols for 43 years, and they have four children, son John, daughters Drue Miller, Jennifer Spainhower, and Sandra Dennis. She is also survived by a brother, Thomas Dacey, and her mother Dorothy Dacey, and 4 grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Services for Arlene Nichols were held at Rosewood Porter Chapel on Monday, April 13, 2009 at 12 noon. Memorial donations can be made to Aldine Y.O.U.T.H., or St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital.

HCC meeting highlights benefits to North Forest of affiliation

Hundreds of North Forest residents and parents attended an Economic Impact Breakfast hosted by Houston Community College last Thursday morning at the old Forest Brook High School.

The college district’s Chancellor, Dr. Mary Spangler, was addressing the subject of benefits to the North Forest community if they voted to join the HCC taxing district in an election next November.

Also speaking on the subject were HCC-NE president Margaret Ford Fisher, and HCC board members Bruce Austin and Yolanda Flores. Welcomes were issued to the group by NFISD Superintendent Dr. Adrain Johnson.

Dr. Spangler’s message was basically that HCC’s presence in the community would have a positive impact on the local economy, society and educational opportunities. She noted that today, 80% of jobs require some post high school education and training, and that community colleges are providing this education for almost 50% of all students attending college nationally.

Said Spangler, HCC is “not only educating people, but we are helping them get better jobs and higher salaries.”

She spoke about the accomplishments of the HCC system, noting that they are number one in the state in preparing students to go to the college of their choice. HCC has four locations in the Northeast area, including the Northeast Campus, the Northline Campus, the Automotive Technology Training Center, and the Pinemont Center.

Spangler noted that HCC currently partners with NFISD to provide Dual Credit classes at the high school. However, when high school students elect to go to HCC, they must pay the “out of district” credit hour fee of $104. If North Forest were to vote to join the HCC taxing district, this credit hour fee would be only one-half, or $57. Therefore, a full-time student can earn their 2-year associate degree for only $3200, much less than at any other institution, she said.

The tax rate for HCC is only .092 per $100 valuation, with exemptions for senior citizens up to $90,000 value. This makes it a real value to the community, she noted.

Dr. Spangler said that HCC offered North Forest expanded educational opportunities, as follows:

– Partner to develop a Vo-Tech Training Institute

– Learning resources for students to prepare for 21st century workforce

– Reduced In-District Tuition

– Free Tuition for Dual Credit Students

– Increased college readiness

– Training in high demand fields: medical, science, technology, engineering, math, fine arts

– Expanded GED and Literacy classes

Many of these same points were made in a letter written by community businessman Elvin Franklin, and published in the North Forest News and the Northeast News this week. Franklin wrote in favor of the District voting to join with HCC in affiliation. He mentioned that HCC affiliation would improve graduation rates and lower drop-out rates, and help small businesses with specialized training and partnerships with HCC and students.

Others who spoke at the breakfast included City Councilman Jarvis Johnson, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She spoke on the benefits of North Forest joining with HCC, and also the availability of federal Stimulus monies for local projects. She specifically mentioned that the Department of Education and the Department of Labor had monies available for educational and job training opportunities that the community needed to apply for and take advantage of.

The speakers urged the community to come out Saturday, April 25 to North Forest (Smiley) High School to help paint and “lift” the gym in a joint recovery effort with businesses.

In closing, Dr. Spangler said that HCC would impact the North Forest area’s economy, increase students’ lifetime income, reduce the demand for social services, and generate government revenue. She said that HCC offers high quality, affordable education for:

– Academic Advancement
– Career and technical training
– Online Classes
– Lifelong Learning

Ritchie Brothers, major auction house, opens new NE facility

The northeast corner of the intersection of Beltway 8 and US59 has recently been developed with a large open site where industrial and construction equipment is auctioned off monthly, to a group of national buyers.

Ritchie Brothers, founded in Canada in 1958, is the operator of this huge auction, where all types of cranes, backhoes, dozers, trucks, earth movers, forklifts, and other miscellaneous equipment is sold to the highest bidder. The auction sells with no minimum or reserves, which appeals to many buyers.

Ritchie Brothers has been in Houston for a number of years, with a location on the I-10 East Freeway. However, this new location is much larger, and closer to Intercontinental Airport, which eases travel for many of the out-of-town bidders.

Ritchie Brothers is the world’s largest auctioneer of idustrial equipment, according to their press releases. The operate in over 110 locations in 25 countries. The sell, through unreserved auctions, used and unused industrial assets including equipment for construction, transportation, marine, material handling, mining, forestry, petroleum, real estate and agricultural industries. In 2007 their volume of business was $3.18 billion dollars.

In the middle of the site is a large building with offices and an auditorium seating several hundred bidders. One wall of this building opens, and equipment is driven past the bidders during the monthly auctions, which sometimes last several days. Bidders can also use the internet, at, to see and bid if they are not able to come to the site.

New 175-acre business park planned near airport

A new initiative is in the works that will help commercial development in the Bush Intercontinental Airport area.

Gretchen Larson, economic development director for the East Aldine Management District said that she recently met with commercial developers who are building a 175-acre business park near John F. Kennedy Blvd. and Aldine Bender Rd.

The Kennedy Greens Business Park is the first project of the newly created North Houston Economic Development Corporation, Larson said. She added that she, along with representatives from Center Point Energy have begun to meet with Clay Development & Construction, Inc. to determine what role each partner in the effort will play.

According to Charlie Christ, with Clay Development, the Kennedy Greens Business Park will offer build-to-suit office and/or warehouse space as needed by the client.

The location, he added, is a prime spot with easy access to both Highway 59 and Beltway 8, as well as the airport. The facility will also be serviced by City of Houston utilities.

Remembering an old friend

Lost one of my buddies the other day, this one was an old paratrooper from WWII and his picture has hung on my office wall for years. It was a photo of him with John Wayne. Had another picture below it of John Wayne and David Jansen which was photographed at Fort Benning during the filming of THE GREEN BERETS back in 1968.

Bob Fischer was my neighbor during my growing up days back in Georgia and an interesting man indeed. Being the military liaison for the State of Georgia, he had diplomatic status at the bases in Georgia. He enjoyed rubbing elbows while flying around with the General in his helicopter in those days.

He was a boxer and coached boxing at the Dixie Community Center. Having fought Golden Glove in Alabama, he knew how to box. He was a former Scout Master for one of the Boy Scouts Troops, having made a trip with his troop to the scout camp in Philmont, New Mexico. A big time Shriner, he loved to participate in parades around the state with his convertible having a large time enjoying life.

Talking about the war one time, he called me Bub. He said, “Bub, I’ve seen it all.” talking about the Germans and the mutilation that went on in Auschwitz.

Back as a chap, I was at their house next door down the hill; Bob went into his attic and came back with a Nazi flag to show us kids.

Guess you could say he has made his last jump in life, RIP old friend.

Old friends like that are hard to come by; it takes a life time to create something that special. Problem is, at my age, good friends like Bob are getting fewer and farther between.

Had lunches recently with some old banker friends. Interesting to be around people like that; find out what is going on in the area, people, events, happenings, this and that. Past dues are still past due. What areas are hot in value and what is this, that and the other going to be?

At least the working banker picked up the tab.