Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Drops of Hope Project

drops of hope earrings

I have often wondered, in my years here in this community, how I can give back...aside from helping the wayward kids that have wondered through our doors over the past Nine years here. There have been many that KW and I have cooked for, sheltered and briefly fostered to our best ability, while navigating turbulent teen years of our own children. The house is more settled now, and I have some time to spend on a small project here and there. I try to know my own limits as a person, so I don't take on too much at once and beat myself up for not "making it happen".
My current project is one close to my heart. I have even gotten help of my youngest, who punches cards for me. I think it is very important for children today to be involved in giving back. I think it helps to keep them more aware of the community in which they live, and it shows them the importance of working together.

our little guy punching cards
This project, I call "Drops of Hope". 
The earrings I make are simple. Made with vintage bead caps, faceted glass and non-reactive brass earwires and they come in pretty colors. At the end of each week, I use the money I make to purchase baby food for the local food pantry. So far, I have sold several pair and was able to donate two whole flats of large jars of babyfood to the local pantry, "People Helping People."

I am also hosting a free earring making class at the local library in August, and have plans to speak with the local Lions Club about hosting a walk-in workshop  for local teens to learn how to make jewelry of their own.  I'll keep you posted!

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don't need a lot of money to be happy--in fact, the opposite.” ― Jean Vanier

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Making Love

Recently, I received an amazing care package from someone very special to me. My idol, Stephanie Lee!We've never even met in person. It was filled with homemade jams, a piece of amazingly gorgeous jewelry, beautiful beads, and one of the kindest, softest notes I have ever received. This has become part of the unforgettable memories of my life. I know how busy life can get. And I know what it takes to send a package to someone...I do it often in my line of work...but one carefully filled with little glass mason jars in bubble wrap among other things? Well, that is above and beyond a care package...It made me feel seen and loved and heard...all of those things which we need as a human "being".
jams and preserves
            I lined the jars up and gingerly held them up to the sunlit window, slowly turning them like chunky kaleidoscopes. Each jar carefully labeled with the contents...beautiful amber and red colors...tiny chunks of fruit carefully cut and suspended in time. Friends, I know about canning. I know how labor intensive it is...
Nanny taught me about canning.
            During the hot summer months on Lake Santa Fe in northern Florida, I'd sit barefoot and tanned in a metal folding chair on the carport with my Nanny (Kathleen) Roberts shucking peas, de-veining  string beans, snapping them into smaller pieces...the scent of raw green in my nostrils and the gentle sound of the lapping lake in the distance. She called me Jenny in her gentle, southern voice and the sound soothed me with warmth each time.
Granddaddy and Nanny circa 1982
          Those summer days are some of the most cherished memories of my life. She and I and large bowls of snap peas and beans, chatting about canning and how long she had been doing it. The sound of metal lawn chairs scraping the carport cement as I scooted closer to her so I could see how it was properly done.
The large jars of butter beans were stored up on a shelf on the carport in long, neat rows. They could be seen when you drove up onto the carport, up to the kitchen door. I can still hear her voice calling to my father, Jerry, to go and get a jar of butter beans for supper. I can see his sun-browned hands reaching for one of the the large mason jars. Jars filled with those pale beans;  jars filled with conversations and sunshine. and the labors of a community garden in the deep southern sun.
            Holding those little jewel filled jars that were sent to me, my memory was flooded like a tide pool...holding the most precious living things I could ever own; my memories.
            Nanny is gone now. She was 85. Jerry left long before her in 1983. I was 14. She always said one should never have to outlive her children, but that he was with Jesus now.
            Holding the little jars from my box to the light, I remember love. I remembered family meals around a creaky old table. And I felt loved.... my mind flooded with memories of my father; of love, family and gentle conversation with one of the softest, kindest women I've ever known. All of this from a single box bearing my name.
            I bought muffins yesterday. Savoring the thought that this morning I would open one of the jars with that familiar POPing sound as the seal breaks, and spreading the fruity sweetness over crusty brown bread and  real butter...almost like the feeling of rolling vintage jewels around in the palm of my hand. I imagine the journey from garden to hands to bowl to plate. I hear voices and laughter spilling out into the morning air.
            I sigh with the thought of it all. Where love begins and never ends...long after the jars are empty, rinsed and ready for the next season. Jars turned upside down, long bereft of their contents, a symbol of hope for another season of love to be made.

Jewelry by Stephanie Lee

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Pennies from Heaven (because I forgot the really good title)

            I found the perfect one word title for this post, and then as quickly as it came, I lost it. Which is very much like me I imagine. Forgetting things, names, words and appointments. Forgetting why I came into another room with the purpose lost by the time I entered into the middle of it. And then leaving said room frustrated with myself. I read that it has much to do with the neurological issues I have. I have so many labels...fibromyalgia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, depression, bulging disks and torn stuff in my spine, arthritis, Fabry's disease...
            Truth is, no one really knows why I am loosing myself to whatever this body of mine decides to do. Could be hereditary, but I know very little about my natural fathers health before he died. I only know that sometimes I am scared. I am scared of becoming encased in skin that cannot feel.
            I've lost my feet to numbness and  I experience excruciating neuropathic pain that saps my energy. I've lost my shins to partial numbness and parts of my thighs. Parts I didn't even realize were gone until the neurologist started poking me with a pin and caressing parts of me with a piece of tissue paper as my eyes were closed...
"Can you feel this?"
"How about this?"
           Mostly, I miss the feel of the grass beneath my feet. Oh, and sand too. Now I have to wear "special" shoes. I smile to myself as I write this because I think immediately of Forrest Gump when I put them on each day....these expensive pseudo-hip mary janes with fat heels and velcro straps to keep me steady.
I miss my feet.
         But none of this can stop me from my belief that it all has a purpose beyond what I can see. Because I've seen it in action, this truly amazing Grace that God gives to us each and every day.
I look for it. And it is there.
In the smallest of things.
            Last Sunday before church we were running late. The last spots were by the big mud puddles outside of the parking lot fence. I decided to walk along the fence so I could touch it as I skirted past front bumpers, secretly savoring the cool metal beneath my fading fingertips. It reminded me of my childhood, walking by fences and running my fingertips along to cool metal as I walked. I held on to the fence to steady myself before entering the parking lot of our church. When I reached the entrance, I happened to look down. At the entrance, right by the big metal post, embedded in grass and mud and leaves, was a penny.
I was not looking for pennies. It found me. I picked it up and looked closely at the date.
The year I was born.                                                                                                                                                                                                           God knows my thoughts. He knows my pain. To me, it was a sign  that I was born for a reason. That my life has a divine plan.  Not to give up.
I'm not saying that God throws pennies down just for me to find.
What I am trying to say is that if your heart is open to receive will find them.
There are little miracles everywhere. I truly believe this. Signs of God's love exist all around us.
        I could not stop the tears coming from my eyes during the whole service that day. My youngest son, looking over at me from his seat with questioning eyes and I couldn't explain why the tears would not stop.
How can one really explain to anyone how finding a penny with 1969 on it was such a touching thing...
I guess that is what I'm trying to do here.
Through an old penny, God said to me that I was born to do this.
That my life is purposeful and that I was on the right path...just watch for big muddy puddles, touch everything and everyone you possibly can. Hold on. This numbness in your body is a gift. Use it. Use your life.

You were born to do this.