Family Camp at Pocter Center

We’d been talking about it for weeks. When Anne first suggested it at dinner back in June, every hand shot up: Yes! We want to go to camp! We filled out health forms. We pored over the packing list (yet still forgot a couple things). And then, last week, the day finally arrived. The minivan was fully loaded with duffel bags and campers. We took off!

But first, we had to stop for lunch. For weeks, S had had a powerful pregnancy-craving for Chic-Fil-A. So that’s where we stopped. Gosh those fries are good.

At the green and spacious Procter Center,  we unloaded the van to a chorus of children pleading for the pool. This was a theme of the trip. Mary Ellen was the bravest and jumped off the diving board many times. Though it was his first time at the pool, Toddler J splashed with delight in the kiddie pool for hours. Kids of all ages enjoyed the shallow kiddie pool because it was so warm in the sun.

Our guests strongly approved of the Procter kitchen’s lasagna and meatloaf, and we all appreciated the cherry tomatoes and salad greens from the on-site farm.

Because of her pregnancy, S didn’t get to join in the rougher games and activities. She spent a lot of time in the Arts & Crafts cottage, tie-dying T-shirts and painting, making art for her daughter and baby-to-be. Then we got bit by the friendship bracelet bug! Many a tangle of strings could be seen hanging off our water bottles, and half the heads at our table were down, focused on our knot-work after dinner was done.

We loved all the sing-song times at camp, and have brought a few camp songs home with us. The big finale of Family Camp was the BLOB. A terrifying, exhilarating experience wherein a camper seated at the end of the blob is launched (by the force of a counselor leaping onto the blob’s other end) into the air, flies for a moment, then lands in the lake. Not everyone was brave (or foolish?) enough to try it. But we got to see Kid A somersault in the air, and our co-founder Mary Ellen go flying.

Family Camp was a great opportunity for the volunteers, staff, and guests of Lydia’s House to bond as a “fmaily group”. We ate, sang, and played together. Though we do these things at home in Cincinnati, it is special to be together in a beautiful place where we are reminded so often of God’s love and presence.

All the guests of Lydia’s House who have gone to camp in their life remember it happily, even if everything else in their lives at the time was rough. So we are glad to continue in the tradition of this safe, fun escape. We especially thank Procter Center and the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer for their scholarship support. ***

Field Trip to Gorman Heritage Farm

Here are some of the highlights from our excursion to Gorman Heritage Farm generously hosted by Kathy, a friend of Lydia’s House and one of the farm’s volunteers.

Look at that!  One-year-old resident of Lydia’s House points to one of Gorman’s goats – a new mother of twins.

Ever wonder where apples come from?

Chickens might be a little scary when they’re not on your plate…

…but rabbits are cute and fuzzy.  Can we take it home?

Before we take a break for lunch, we stop to feed the little lambs.

Our tour concludes with a riveting game of tic-tac-toe in the children’s garden.

Home Improvements

A house is like a living, sighing, leaking creature, and it always needs a little help somewhere. The house that holds St. Lydia’s has been standing for a century, and received some loving attention this week. We residents inside the house have seen the friendly faces of Georgia and Dennis Bishop popping up in the windows. This couple, our regular building maintenance volunteers, are taking on the long-term improvement project of installing new storm windows. The house’s original windows are still in place but have not always provided the most security from the weather, especially cold winds.

We really appreciate Dennis and Georgia for their commitment to us, and to the house’s many needs.

 

One of my first memories of Lydia’s House was a rainstorm so heavy it woke me up through the night, and when I finally got up in the morning I found the basement had flooded. Just a few inches, but still, a major project to drain and clean. And then, the next time it rained, it happened again. Our resident architect, Ben, and I started talking about how to fix it. So, a few weeks ago, a young guest and I dug up the yard, looking for the pipes that direct rain water away from the house. Once found, Ben gave directions for extending the pipes farther from the house, all the way to the gravel and concrete of the driveway. Look at the trench we dug!

 

I am so proud of this work. Four hours of digging, with a 7 year old assistant. We finagled some joinery, moved some pea gravel around, and tried to replace the sod. The yard looks a little bald in some spots but the basement hasn’t flooded since!

Post by Taylor Hand, Lydia’s House Associate

Some Things in Spring

A few months ago, folks were getting antsy. We were all swirling around in the doldrums and getting a little uncomfortable. Then Meridith pointed out, “It’s February.” A sort-of-stuck season, just on the edge of coming back to life and warmth in spring. And listen, she was right. Flowers are unfurling, seedlings are thrusting up from the dirt, and the house seems refreshed and lively. Two young boys have joined the community, and they are energizing the whole house.

Just a few days ago, the boys moved to Lydia’s House with their mother, who is expecting a baby girl at the end of May. She was grateful to receive a whole load of adorable baby clothes and other necessities from a former guest. I love watching community work this way. But this isn’t the only baby we’re expecting! There’s also a baby boy on the way. His mom-to-be is feathering her nest with all the things her baby will need, while completing her GED, taking parenting classes, and meeting with Every Child Succeeds. Marykate has generously volunteered to be her doula.

We continue walking with our Congolese guest on the long road of her asylum process, and are working hard to learn sign language and communicate better with her. We’ve really appreciated weekly ASL lessons from our high school volunteer, Caroline. Our house outings this season have included ‘Deaf Day’ at the Aquarium, trips to the Art Museum, and breakfast at Sugar & Spice. And we’re excited to see the butterflies at the Krohn Conservatory soon! A guest and her baby daughter have transitioned to the Lincoln Grant Scholar House. She’s the second of our guests to have moved into this new supportive housing development for single parents pursuing a college degree. We’re so thrilled to see both of these young moms thrive and grow towards their goals.

During our March worship service, some young friends of Lydia’s House helped Mary Ellen re-enact a key moment in the personal and political foundation of Jesus’ ministry: the arrest of John the Baptist. Mary Ellen’s sermon asked us to reflect on our own calls to action– to think of those close to us who face injustice and make the personal political in building God’s beloved community. We sang together “I Saw the Light” and other Lenten favorites performed by the fabulous new girl band of Marykate, Taylor, and Deb. At the service we also celebrated many achievements in our community and formally welcomed Deb Koch as a new associate. We thanked Marykate for her time with us as an associate and shepherded her transition to community farmer. For the rest of the season, she’ll be growing food for Lydia’s House and for Norwood.

We’ve had some special birthdays this season, as well as a few “celebrations of belovedness”. These celebrations mark a guest’s first 60 days at Lydia’s House. On these occasions, we gather ’round the table like at our regular dinner, but with streamers overhead and a tiny bell at each place setting. After dinner, and a home-made dessert, we take some time to share. Each person speaks to the celebrated one seated at the head of the table, sharing memories and observations, affirmations and praise. We see and name each other’s kindness, wisdom, strength, grace, humor. It is easy to get lost in the scuffle and pettiness of everyday life, but we are brought to the table together each day, and fed, and held, in love. For centuries the church has marked special occasions with the ringing of bells, and so after each person speaks we ring our little silver bells, turning our collective joy into a bright sound. Then, the celebrated one is given a special blessing, and a small gift: a silver napkin ring, engraved with her name. So she will always have a place at the table.

 

✨ Photos courtesy of Julianna Boehm http://www.juliannaboehm.com/ ✨

Let them Hear Your Voice

Almost every day there are reports of new ways our elected officials are making the lives of poor women harder as they struggle to find affordable housing, living wage work, childcare, education, and healthcare. Many of us at Lydia’s House have been frequent callers to the state and D.C. offices of our senators and representatives in the last weeks. With the daily calls we are getting increasingly familiar with the answering staffers: “Hey! It’s me again! Just calling back to urge you not to gut healthcare for millions of vulnerable women and children. Also, it’s really important to me that our senator doesn’t confirm a cabinet member who wants to privitize education, further decreasing the resources and opportunities of low-income children who rely on public schools. You know, like the 47% of children here in Hamilton County who live below the poverty line. Okay, talk again soon!”

It’s a daily lighthearted exchange with heavy implications, but we recognize the systemic causes of poverty, racism, sexism have been a long time in the making. As we work with guests on their journey to stability, we’ve become ever more convinced of the need to address social injustices in our country and community that perpetuate the cycles of these struggles.  Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we as women from diverse backgrounds engage in both direct action and advocacy on a policy level in our local, state, and national government for the rights and well-being of women and children in poverty. This year, Lydia’s House staff will be hosting Community Action Nights as a time for our extended community, including current and former guests of the house, to learn more about issues, share resources on how our actions can be most effective, and to take action together as a community. Volunteers will also be taking concerns from these action nights into the larger community, attending rallies, meetings and joining in coalition with local and national representatives to advocate for homeless families and an end to family homelessness.

At the center of our work is the belief in the God given dignity of all people, the basic human right to housing and the belief that women are stronger when they are given the tools to determine their own destiny. We hope this community work will lead to long-term change and empower our guests as they seek to change their lives well beyond their time at Lydia’s House.

Two issues that directly impact the lives of women and children served by Lydia’s House are healthcare and funding for affordable housing.

Calling your representative to voice your concern on these issues can be a great first step. It also helps to call knowing the specific piece of legislation you’re concerned about and your position on how you want your representative to vote. A great resource for following upcoming legislation in congress is www.countable.us. You can see summaries of bills that congress will be imminently voting on and search upcoming bills by issue categories. This site will also show who your elected officials are based on your address.

You too can have engaging conversations with your congress-person’s staffers! If you live in Ohio, here are your U.S. Senators’ office contacts:

US Senator Robert Portman (R)

312 Walnut St.
Suite 3075
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Cincinnati Office Phone: 513-684-3265

D.C. Office phone: 202-224-3353

 

US Senator Sherrod Brown (D)

425 Walnut Street
Suite 2310
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Cincinnati Office Phone: 513-684-1021

D.C. Office Phone (202) 224-2315