Saturday, June 25, 2016

Skipping ahead ...

to day 25.

I haven't missed a day yet this month, though it's taken some extra effort to make it happen. For instance, last Thursday, we were away from home and there was no way I could take my bike. I made do with Thomas's too big shoes and extra socks stuffed in the back. I also rode his too big bike. Looked a bit like a cycling clown, but I got my ride in.

Yesterday, getting the ride in involved sticking the bike in the back of the car and squeezing a ride in before dinner at my parent's.

Today was easier. Back home. My own bike. 5 days to go. Then what???

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Every day in June #s 13, 14, & 15

The streak is still going. 25 miles on Monday with Coty, and then two short days, squeezing rides in between thunderstorms or at the end of a long day. I am finding that the first few strokes on the pedals are like a deep breath. Riding a bike makes me feel like a kid sometimes. Pedal, breathe, coast, lean into a turn, stand up and pump going up a hill, lean way down gripping the lower bars, back parallel to the ground, fly downhill. I finish each ride coasting down the street and then a few pedal strokes to shift to a higher gear so the next day's start will be easier. I turn into the driveway, a slight uphill, and stand up on my bike over the bump and down the driveway, like a jockey at the end of a race. I am that ten year old girl who dreamed of race horses and pretended to win the Derby.


I was very sad today when one of my students, an Afghan woman who wears a hijab, explained to me that the reason she hadn't come Monday or Tuesday was that she was afraid to walk from her apartment the half mile to the center. Someone might be angry with her because of the gunman in Orlando, she said. I am afraid, she said. Drivers passing by would not know, of course, that her husband has a Purple Heart and that he fought shoulder to shoulder with American Marines in his home country, the country he had to flee because he fought with the US. I couldn't tell her not to feel afraid because she is right, her fear is not irrational. Someone might see her hijab and be angry. There could be some backlash. I could only say I'm sorry you feel afraid and tell her that I pray for her protection. She asked if I could give her some fabric so we pulled out bags of brown and purple, her choices. She will make beautiful headbands with embroidery and earn money for her handwork and be delighted that she is able to help her family with the skill of her hands. When I was leaving the building, she saw me and waved and smiled and blew me a kiss. I wanted to cry for all the crazy, terrible, unjust, beautiful, messed up, sweet, tender things in this world.

I came home with two teenagers - one from Congo, one from Burma. They are beautiful, bright, thoughtful girls. They swam for two and a half hours, laughing and lounging in the pool.


We are reading aloud again. Coty reads and I cut fabric or press quilt squares. Deep jewel colors - purple and teal - and goldenrod in simple squares are the start of a new quilt. I am working at it slowly, but reading together in the evenings will speed it along.


It's morning now, after a night of storms. The air is cooler and fresh. I hear a wren. The coffee is brewing. I will sit on the porch for a bit and read. It's a very good way to start a day.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Every day in June #12

All I can think about tonight is Orlando and the grieving families.

Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Every Day in June #11

Just one picture, though it doesn't do this terrace garden justice. The hydrangeas are huge pink balls, the daylilies are all different colors, the tomato plants are huge and bearing, and there's a new little whimsy.

That's all. I'm too tired for anything else tonight. Time to rest!

Every day in June #10

We rode out past the roadblock again, over the newly constructed bridge and into the sort-of country. New mown hay in cylindrical bales, scattered across the field as though tossed at random by a giant throwing bread crumbs. The smell of fresh cut lawns and people cooking their burgers on the grills beside the baseball fields.The sign in front of the elementary school beyond the park said "Have a great summer!"  On the way back in, I heard the first cicada of the season.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Every day in June #9

Today ...

H, from Vietnam, wondered aloud why her life is so hard. Why did her husband leave her? Why does her 21 year old son have kidney disease and have to go to dialysis every week? Why did she have stomach problems two weeks ago and go to the emergency room and then get a bill for $4000? Why did she have to leave her home country?

F, from Afghanistan, brought her brother's paperwork and we looked over the Department of Defense form that will have to be filled out in order to try and locate his American supervisors. We came up with a list of things she will have to find out from him in order to complete the forms. His life is in danger. He just wants to bring his family to this country to be safe. F is desperate for any help she can find to help make that happen.

T, from Nepal, told me about her husband's friend's mother who died yesterday from blood cancer at age 52. There will be a three day wake which, she said, is very hard on the family.

How little it seems our sewing can do in the midst of problems like these. What a small thing it is to sit beside a woman and show her how to thread a sewing machine. And yet ... I have a waiting list of many more beginning students than we can accommodate in the new classes we'll add in September. Women who want to be in a sewing class  for two hours in hopes, of what? 
Full time employment at a living wage? I can't promise that.
Their own business to provide a fair wage income for their family? I can't promise that.
Solutions to the problems like the ones I heard today. I can't begin to promise any of that.
 But there are things that after three years of teaching sewing classes to refugee women I can offer ...
Teachers that will share the love of Christ in word and deed; who will offer not only their knowledge but their hearts.
Teachers that will patiently walk beside students as they learn new skills and show them over and over and over again, as many times as it takes, how to thread the machine, where to put the bobbin, how to sew a simple seam. As many times as it takes.

Teachers that will go beyond the classroom into their homes and become friends. Teachers who will walk beside them, trying to learn and understand their struggles and helping with needs as we are able or pointing them to others who know better than we do how to deal with their problems.

Laughter. I can offer them laughter. Plenty of it. And smiles. And hugs.

Creativity. I can offer them the opportunity to stretch their dormant creative wings, to try new things and not have to worry about judgement. I can offer encouragement support, and applause for their efforts.
I can offer a place that is safe and warm and welcoming, where hurts can perhaps be salved for a while to the rhythm of a sewing machine. I can offer that balm, and hope for healing for women who have experienced traumas I can barely imagine. 
Classes are over for this term for Make Welcome. We need a break to refresh and recharge, to plan and prepare, so that we will be ready for a new term of classes come September, when the learning and loving and growing will continue, Lord willing.

We can't pay hospital bills, or heal kidney failure or cancer, or bring families fearful for their lives to safety. But we can show up with fabric and scissors and sewing machines and instruction and love.  That's what we'll do and we'll wait, expectantly, to see how God will work in our midst

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Every day in June: Day 8 ... late

At least it rhymes, right. Eight, late.

Anyway, I just completely forgot to write yesterday. I rode 13, found that a road we often ride on that's closed because of a bridge repair has a section still intact and the road-closed barricades are far enough apart to admit a bicycle. So, I squeezed on through and rode to the end of Stallings and then turned around and on my way back in, explored the neighborhoods that we always pass by. It was a lovely evening ride, but my legs were tired and I started to wonder if riding everyday is a good idea. Maybe you need days off. But I'm sticking with the streak. If I take a day off right now, it might turn into two ...

Now on to today's post ...

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Every day in June #7: A week in

It's been a week, friends. Strava tells me I've ridden for 6 hours, gone 90 miles, and set 4 personal records in the last seven days. Woohooo!!! I can tell you that the commitment to a streak is a great weapon against inertia. Today, for example, I left home at 8 in the morning and returned at 5. Then Coty and I went out to vote and then home again to make dinner. In the past, inertia would have kicked in after dinner and I would have begged off exercising for the day. Tonight, I changed into cycling shorts, tied a bandana around my head, donned my helmet, and headed off for the Caldwell Biz Park hills It was a short ride, slightly less than 6 miles, but it met my streak required distance and I enjoyed it. I'm kind of pumped about this streak-thing. We'll see how long I can keep it going!

I'm also pumped about Make Welcome being included in the article, "Made in America" in this month's issue of the online magazine, Seamwork. Betsy Blodgett interviewed me a couple of months ago for the article and I was so pleased to see how she framed our conversation. It was exciting for Make Welcome and Journey Home to be included with Raleigh Denim, The Makers Coalition, and others in Blodgett's piece about the return of sewing manufacturing to America and they ways in which companies and organizations are working to bring sewing back. After reading the article, I felt so encouraged and inspired to press on in our work!

I get to do interesting things most every day. In my part-time work now with Upcycle Life at Project 658 now, there is so much variety! Today included organizing the assortment of plexiglass pattern templates and figuring out fabric and hardware requirements for items that Upcycle Life sews; corresponding with the Director of the Recycling Business Assistance Center for the state of North Carolina; talking with an intern about new product photography; and spreading out discarded billboards to inspect the vinyl colors and cut into usable sizes. All of that was interspersed with a lot of conversation and laughter with the Nepali and Montagnard women who sew for Upcycle Life. They are the ones who know the sewing end of this business and I am working hard to learn from them.

Today also included corresponding with No One Left Behind on behalf of one of our Afghan students who is trying desperately to figure out a way to help her sister and brother-in-law, who worked for the US military and whose life is now in danger, get a Special Immigrant Visa to come to the US. She and I also talked about the napkins she is embroidering and trying to sell. The stories make me want to weep; the courage, persistence,creativity, and beauty in the face of it all make me thankful for the opportunity to teach, befriend, and learn from such incredible women!