Friday, December 11, 2009

Long Time No See

Looky here -- today I'm taking a first stab at selling my hand-knits. A friend is gathering a crowd at her house for a living room alternative to holiday shopping and I'm hanging my shingle.

Mason Dixon dish cloths just like Grandma used to use. They fade and get tighter and stronger with age -- just like Grandma!

I've used up a fraction of the Peaches and Cream stash I had, so there's been minimal new out of pocket expense (stash, no matter the total cost, stops being an expense after one year -- why, it's practically making money down in the basement in that laundry basket you got for your wedding!). Only a minimal outlay of funds for the groovy price tags I picked up at Office Max. The tags are very spartan, retro: probably what Emmett would have used in his Fix-It Shop.

I hand wrote a description in my best Church Bazaar Lady handwriting -- 'machine washable/pot scrub-able' -- I think it adds something. Besides, I don't know how to do fancy printing of tags, so you better believe writing by hand with a No. 2 adds something.

As for this fledgling blog -- practically on life support -- I may be coming back to it. You can still knit a blanket for the homeless as described below -- I am working on a couple -- I've just been laying low, down where it's dark and cozy.

But now it's time for the middle schoolers to eat their breakfast and finish their assigned pages of Esperanza Rising and remember if it's gym day or not, and to ask if there could please be some different cereal soon and for the dog to inch closer to me asking for his breakfast (which could be lamb meal and rice until the end of his days, he will never complain) and for the husband to wake up and remember his present for the office Christmas party which is an afternoon of duckpin bowling, which will undoubtedly make everyone very, very thirsty.

And I haven't packed the lunches yet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Left My Balm In Gilead

Sunday I gave a talk about the Blanket Project at a church in my town. It is a lovely old church, white-washed walls, deep brown pews, stained glass windows with vibrant shades of blue, room for overflowing crowds, which, at the 8:15 am service, weren't exactly elbow-to-elbow, but they still brought in a nice group.

I repeated a line I heard once at my church back in New York about looking for Christ in the face of every homeless person you see. I said that's how the monumental problem of homelessness is broken down into one small piece that you can help.

Now, don't run off. I mentioned the C-word and I have to tell you that I'm not devout or one of those crazy religious types you've been avoiding your whole adult life. I tend to avoid them, too. As in, I feel an immediate impulse to run screaming in the other direction.

Looking for the Christ in the face of a homeless person means look for the mama wondering what's happened to them, look for their brother wondering if they'll come back some day, look at your own situation during these troubling times and count how many fewer steps there are now between you and your own homelessness.

I grew up with a lot of religion -- in a big Irish Catholic family in rural 'Michiana:'

a flat area of cornfields that meanders back and forth over the Michigan and Indiana state lines. Religion was something I was forced to do, though I remember one Saturday night mass when I felt some fervor deep inside about being a nun. I believe it lasted about 12.5 minutes, definitely forgotten by the time the Mary Tyler Moore Show came on.

Religion was otherwise fairly benign for me until it became part of what kept my mom in a bad marriage until when she finally allowed her Catholic heart to divorce my dad, he (a nonCatholic) later got his marriage to my mom annulled by the Catholic church because he had fallen in love again and his second wife was Catholic and would be (it turns out) more successful at getting my dad to be that good Catholic husband that generation of women had faith in.

But the world is full of stories of religion failing its followers. My neck is getting stiff from looking at religion through that slant.

At 47, I'm driving a wide curve in my life back to maybe, possibly, having a little bit of faith. In something. Perhaps, in the end, Santa Claus is my spiritual leader. (He sees all, knows all, motivates me to be a better me. OK, sure, there's a merchandise payoff, but, these dark days, motivation is worth its weight in gold. Plus, this year he gave me the sewing machine I've been asking for.)

It's a pretty predictable turn: having babies knocks a little need for faith into you, having a middle schooler REALLY restores that need, my husband is 8 months post-cancer diagnosis, the world, as we all know, is in a speedy hand basket down a pretty scary path. Sure, I'm looking for faith in something.

So I'm trying to cut down on the running and screaming in the other direction. I'm trying to hang in with something and not cast it out at the first little twinge up the back of my neck.

And I'm starting to really believe that just my little bit of faith is enough.

The best thing my Catholicism gave me is the beat in my blood to be a voice for those too ground down to have one. It took me a while to realize this came from my Catholic upbringing, but there you are.

And my 'church search' as I call it is sometimes just a search for a way to refill my faith in making things on earth right after I'm out there working on it for awhile. My church in New York did this for me, but only after I stopped flinching at the C word. Sometimes they said Jesus, so it was sometimes the J word.

(I still picture Santa Claus when I hear it, or say it. In my belief system, I am not only allowed to do this, but I am most purely encouraged to do so.)

This past Sunday, with a group of folks staying AFTER church to hear what I have to say (holy crap, they stayed longer just for me?), I learned the cost of all my flinching.

This particular church is very giving to the homeless men's shelter in my town: they bring suppers to the shelter, they share lots of their hard-given money. During my talk, not one person mentioned property values, not one person mentioned that the homeless sometimes pee on the grass in front of the library.

But I flinched when I heard mention of the regular 'foot washings' they do for the homeless men. This was way too steeped in the C- and J- words for me. I instantly ran my inner sermon, my Homily of Retreat: what am I doing here, what am I doing here, picture the parking lot, picture my little Honda driving back out of the parking lot, why don't I spend Sunday mornings with the Washington Post and a dozen donuts?

Then the pastor shared the story of how they started foot washings, even though everyone knew it but me, almost as if, ehem, it was a story that my father, Santa Claus, wanted me to hear.


Their story is simple: One of this church's members is an emergency room nurse. She stood up at one of their recent meetings on how to help the homeless in our town and said, 'if you want to help the homeless, wash their feet and put some clean and dry socks on them.'

That's how it started. That's all.

These church women, who look about how we all think church women look, get down on their knees with a pan of warm, soapy water and wash the feet in front of them, no matter what they look like, or smell like, they are on their knees, offering the homeless soul in front of them their only contact with human touch for who knows how long, talking and listening, washing, patting dry.

And if a little C- or J- words are thrown in, what's the harm in that?

In the name of Santa Claus, amen.

Friday, January 30, 2009

This is what I would do if I could -- forget talking on the cell phone while driving.

We're still unpacking from our move to Baltimore from New York, and I can't find the cable for our camera and it's too full of the photos my youngest took of our cat and dog for me to take new. So you get this one. Unless you're dying to see Cookie or Hud.

Reminder that the first charity project is a call for:


for the homeless shelter in my town -- twin size, any color, any type of yarn, any pattern, just please make sure it can be MACHINE WASHED.

Send your finished blankets to: Catonsville United Methodist Church, 6 Melvin Avenue, Catonsville, MD 21228.

My local yarn shop is offering a discount on yarn purchased for this project -- check them out here and support a local mom at the same time -- as soon as their online shop is up and running.

It's one small thing I can do for the homeless in my town. I don't pretend to know how to solve the problem of homelessness. I don't pretend that I naturally strive to be my brother's keeper. The sight of the homeless can hurt. It can offend. It can scare you. But I feel less scared if I am doing something about it. I know my own limits -- I can't work as a case manager or an addiction counselor -- I don't have the guts for that incredibly hard work. (I also don't have a college degree, but I digress.)

But I can do one small thing that helps the folks who are able to care for the homeless in those more important ways.

And I can ask you to do that one small thing with me.

Knit up your stash -- use what you have -- send it my way -- and I'll personally place it on the temporary bed of someone's brother, someone's father. Someone's son.

The blanket you make will belong to that brother, that father. The folks who help the homeless in my town help with apartment credit checks, job interviews, connections to Traveler's Aid for a free bus ticket home, finding black boots for their interview at McDonald's. They help them get off the street, into the shelter, and then into a home.

When they leave the shelter, they can take our little blanket with them.

So we'll have to keep knitting more. Because right now, in the cold, is someone's son.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Day

This is Day Two -- Two Day -- Today -- Tuesday.

OK, I've had some coffee. It's my last drug, and I'm leaning on it pretty hard.

I was hoping to start up the blog and the first charity knitting project (see yesterday's entry) with all the bells and whistles of blog-dom -- for instance, you will see fancy photos HERE and then THERE to the right, the list of blogs I read every morning will be so very neat and tidy. Maybe with some funny pix over there, on the other side. I am so very behind in learning all of this stuff. I am somewhere between being 70 and remembering when we called computers 'word processors.' Someday I'll know how to highlight 'first charity knitting project' above so that you instantly get all the info.

But my 10 year old, Maisie, started throwing up at 3 am yesterday morning, so my head was too fuzzy and I was doing laundry most of the day and once she woke up around 10, she and I made lightly toasted bread and water for her to take tiny mouse bites out of until we were sure her evil twin, Stomach Flu, had gone for good. (We're pretty sure -- but she could only venture as far as a small bowl of Cheerios and milk for supper, so she's home again today to try some real food.)

So my day was home nursing instead of fine tuning the blog, sure, some knitting between fetching more apple juice (noro scarf like everyone and her sister have been knitting -- this one in pretty pinks and light blues with already the best swatch of yellow and orange for my sister whose birthday is at the end of January -- wouldn't a picture of it right HERE be sweet? I hope she likes it -- January is a horrid month for a birthday and ever since Freddie Prinze died on her birthday in 1977 and we were stuck in our rural Michiana family home during a blizzard and she had to have homemade doughnuts instead of birthday cake, well, poor Dawn's birthdays are a bit fraught.)

Having a kid with stomach flu does a lot for my Gratitude TherMOMeter:

I am grateful my girls are 10 and 12 YEARS old and not MONTHS -- stomach flu, like so much else, gets easier;

I am grateful I have a washing machine and dryer (you never say 'drying machine' do you -- let's all start -- it could become a thing --- a thing machine!) inside of my house and I don't have to go down to the building basement, or down to the corner, or over to the pole barn in front of a dead corn field and use drying machines that take all your quarters;

I am grateful that I am an unemployed mom so that a kink in my plans like a sick kid means only that I can't walk the dog or show up at the clothing closet to organize things for the men's homeless shelter in my town, but it's all still accessible, it all still works, no pressure to get to work or find someone to watch her, all that.

(Sure, there's a different kind of stress to being a stay-at-home mom, but knitting helps with that. And coffee. See above -- and perhaps an entry a week from now when I LOATHE being a stay-at-home mom.)

One note about the Knitting Blankets for the Mens Homeless Shelter Project:

Stuff can be crocheted -- of course -- I am NOT an anticrochetite!

Stuff can be sewn -- of course -- I am NOT an antisewite!

(Although my 12 year old, Ella, has said that the way the word sew is spelled has always bothered her. We were at the library at the time, reading the spines in the sewing section (because Santa finally brought me my first sewing machine and you know I would SO have a photo of it here if I knew how to do it!) and I knew exactly what she was talking about. I shuddered a bit with what she has inherited from me: this odd looking at the written word. Don't get me started on how the word 'melancholy' has gotten under my skin since circa. 1967. Why couldn't my children have inherited my awesome athletic ability instead of my cerebral hiccups? Because I don't have an awesome athletic ability. Possibly that's one reason why.)

Stuff can be purchased -- of course -- I am NOT, oh, forget it. You get the idea.

One way to think of helping is allow yourself to think of helping in SMALL ways -- if you've got just the yarn, or polar fleece, for one blanket for one homeless person, that's a lot!

If you are hitting the sales at Kohl's or Target or Macy's and you can afford just one pack of XXXL long underwear, buy just that and mail it to me -- that's a lot!

If you are ordering clothes online, and can afford to have one xxxl hoodie sent to me, that's a lot!

(Andraya Dolbee, Lazarus Caucus, 6 Melvin Avenue, Catonsville, MD 21228)

I will deliver it directly to the homless person requesting it.

It's not just about keeping folks warm -- it's about getting them thermals so they can get that job working outside all day, or about getting them steel-toed boots so they can go to the interview at the construction site.

It's about people asking in their own words for what they need -- and it's about people listening and honoring what they say.

It's sometimes as simple as a blanket, a pair of boots.

It's sometimes just that simple.

And you and I? We can do simple. So many of us can, at least right now, still do simple.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Donate Warmth

I Have The Kneed 4 Knitting.

A men's homeless shelter in my town needs blankets -- and my idea is to contact knitters across the knation:

Have you just about (now that we're in January) finished your Holiday knitting?

Was one of your resolutions that you would not BUY (or finger or drool over) any new knitting until your stash is depleted to a manageable level?

Are you wishing you had some mindless knitting to do while watching the kids, or Turner Classic Movies, or MSNBC, or while daydreaming about having kids with Ted Turner and/or Keith Olbermann and/or Rachel Maddow?

Are you sometimes overwhelmed by the problem of such things as homlessness?

I have volunteered to secure clothing and toiletries for my town's men's shelter, via a nonprofit organization that seeks to help the homeless find permanent housing, jobs, counseling and community (

I have decided that keeping one person warm who would otherwise freeze during a cold winter outside is worth doing.

I have decided that reaching out to fellow knitters to keep one homeless person warm is worth doing.

I have decided to feed the idea that the knitting you do for a homeless person will wrap more than a blanket around him; some part of you will be wrapped around him, some part of him will stay with you.

I have decided to chisel away at the mammoth problem of homelessness, one blanket covering one shivering person at a time.

Please holler at the knitters you know and send your finished blankets to:

The Lazarus Caucus
ATTN: Andraya Dolbee
6 Melvin Avenue
Catonsville, MD 21228

Blankets can be any pattern, any size, any color, anything you would want to wrap around yourself is what you should make for others. Please remember the shelter I am helping serves men only -- I will find a family shelter for blankets that seem too much for a child or woman.

The men sleep in twin sized beds (though until recently, they had to sleep on the floor) but they can take your blanket with them when they leave. This way your gift will stay with them as they move on to a real home, or back on the streets, or to another shelter.

I also need:

Thermals -- aka Long Underwear shirts and pants -- size XXXL;

Hoodies -- size XL, XXL, XXXL.

I am trying my hand at a blog to write about this project -- I'll report on what we knit together....

Now warm up the tv, or tune in NPR, or fire up the Sirius Satellite and get to knitting!