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Members at the 2007 OWA Retreat at Westerbeke Ranch

OWA 2007 Annual Retreat

--Marda Quon Stothers

Sustainability: Life and Career, 2007 OWA Retreat

This year's retreat may be the largest yet with nearly fifty women gathering at Westerbeke Ranch Conference Center, the weekend of September 14th. Many women from the 1977 class from UCB Wurster Hall joined us for their 30 year anniversary reunion. Sylvia Kwan entertained us with her tales of brief survival in "Survivor" and Janet Tam returned to tell us her child is college bound.

Diane Dunlap, PhD professor from University of Oregon in Eugene, talked with us about brain research and leadership issues. My take away from her presentation is "humor is good and stress is bad" so I laughed a lot all weekend. She outlined three approaches to life's changes: first we tell ourselves to suck it up, things could be worst. Then we give ourselves permission for a time-out or whining. Then we say, okay let's figure it out. For women our frontal lobe is developed to allow us to be rational with emotion at the same time using more of the brain.

She skillfully engaged many members to give their advice and I heard from Kathleen: "don't be howling at the moon", from Lisa: "establish your own benchmarks for success", from Julia,"it's a hard world for bright women", from Judith, "I kept a job for a nice person as a value decision".

We did skits demonstrating attitude, and all sang "Row, row, row (it's work but you can find a rhythm) your (own not someone else's) boat, gently (be kind to yourself) down (down not up) the stream (life rolls along be going somewhere), merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily (four times merrily), life is but a dream (more on dreams later)" Parenthetical comments what I heard or interpreted.

We shared our stories and some projects, soaked in the hot tub, Kathleen swam, we walked the labyrinth, we did yoga, some of us got massages (thanks Lisa Kramer), and we made marbled paper (thanks Rene Yung). Our own Cammy White and her group, Con Alma ( sang and performed for us and we sang with them. We no longer hesitate to get up and dance without partners or men.

I would like here to expand "Sustainability: Life and Career", to include sustainability of our organization, the OWA. Our sharing time included the sobering and invigorating concept that two of our former members, Sigrid Rupp and Nan Crowley, left sizeable estates, both to charities. Sigrid's estate has established a prize to be administered by Wurster Hall which intends to recognize and benefit women in architecture. After a year of calls for a task force and discussion of giving a donation from our surplus we have finally generated interest and action. We have morphed our thinking to explore our own separate charitable organization with Lisa Kleissner and Lisa Kramer volunteering to help organize this effort.

Leslie Allen and Caroline SooHoo volunteered to join the 2008 Steering Committee. Darlene Jang volunteered to take my place when I resign to leave the country. Stacy Webb volunteered to shadow Suzanne Stewart to learn the newsletter editing and production. Larissa Sabsay sent around a signup sheet for interest in an OWA trip to Russia next year.

Thank you everyone who came and participated. Our organizational concept of leaders every one and a non hierarchical steering committee has bore fruit and a sustaining future. The crowning comment I heard (paraphrased) from Caroline SooHoo, when she said I liked this year's retreat most of all, because I realized I felt like I belonged. Welcome everyone, to belong if you want to.
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