Waiting with Joy: Advent Crafts!

December evenings may be chilly and dark, but Lydia’s House is glowing with holiday cheer. I’ve never heard so many spontaneous outbreaks of caroling! We have been observing the season of advent by praying together, lighting candles, and making holiday crafts.


I bought some pom-poms, raided the craft closet, and opened up many pinterest tabs on my phone. It was ornament-making day! But once the kids got hold of the colored paper and tacky-glue, all plans were abandoned. And, of course, their creations were delightful! They made little books, abstract sculptures, and yarn puffballs.

The children at work.


A fine, funny puff.


This one’s up for a Caldecott medal.


Our sweet, unfussy tree.


The next week was cookie decorating. Alton Brown inspired me to haul the stand mixer out of the basement and bake a platoon of sugar cookies. Some stiff frosting was whipped up, and community member Anne offered up her wide selection of sprinkles for the cause.

The whole crew focused on frosting.


Astoundingly, this 2-year-old decorated more cookies than he ate, and did not get any frosting on himself (though he did make a hill of sprinkles).


The wacky and wonderful final results.










A Christmas star and a Christmas bat.


Thanks, Twinkle-toes!


-Taylor, Associate

Giving Thanks for Answered Prayers


Healthy births for two first-time moms, L and D.

S’s beautiful family, sweet new baby, and her new apartment.

T’s healthy new baby, and her new apartment.


L’s safe transition to the Shanklin’s house.

A’s transition to her own apartment through the Welcome Project.

The Affordable Housing Trust Fund, created this year in the city of Cincinnati.

All the generous donors that allowed Lydia’s House to acquire a building & develop affordable apartments.


The great success of the Women for Women event, and the ongoing friendship of the Krzeski Family.

The enrichment provided by our community partners, including Upspring Summer 360, Camp Joy, Procter Camp, and the Wuests.

The safe travel of the community to the Women’s March on Washington, the Ohio Valley Catholic Worker Retreat, and the Wild Goose Festival.

Committed volunteers old & new: Ana, Lou, Janet, Sally, Jeannie, Ann Hamill, Jenn Jenny & Maria, Jeanne, and Deborah.

Meridith’s transition to working full-time at Lydia’s House, and for Ben and Laura who have come on part-time.

The wonderful associate years of Deb and Taylor, and the upcoming discernment of Elisa.



J’s graduation from Home Health Aide training, and her new job with Blackstone.

E making a home at Lincoln Scholar House & continuing in her studies.

L’s high school graduation, and the hard work of our first graders K and S.


The election of Norwood’s first black councilwoman, Leslie Stevenson.

Increased representation of women of color at all levels of government.

The bounty of the gardens, and Marykate’s presence in our community as “House Farmer”.

The love, joy, and grace of our life together.

Our Version of All Saints’

First, we must acknowledge the very happy occasion of a birth and a birthday:












Baby S was born On Friday, October 13. And Kid J celebrated his 2nd birthday on the 20th! His badge is a teeny tiny flip-phone with a text message that reads: “HELLO NANNY” (his favorite words).

Many former guests and neighborhood friends joined us in celebrating All Saints’ on Sunday, October 29. The house felt full and lively. Each room in Lydia’s House is dedicated to a different (sometimes unconventional) saint. At this worship service, we remembered them using props, stories, and prayers. Here, Annie represents the Blessed Mother Mary.


We also introduced our 2017 “Saint of the Year”: the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray!

Rev. Murray is the one in the frame. An activist, feminist, lawyer, priest and poet, Rev. Murray inspires us by her work, her life, and her refusal to take no for an answer.

Born Anna Pauline Murray in 1910 in Baltimore, Pauli lost both of her parents at an early age. She enrolled in college but the Great Depression caused her to leave school and seek work. She ended up in a Works Program where she met Eleanor Roosevelt, whom would later become a life-long friend. Pauli also became a published writer during this time for her poems, articles, and stories.

Pauli grew in her involvement with the Civil Rights movement. In 1940 she was arrested for refusing to sit at the back of the bus in Virginia. This was 15 years before Rosa Parks! In 1941 Pauli enrolled at Howard University in DC. She graduated top of her class and received a fellowship to Harvard Law, but they took the fellowship back when they realized she was a woman. Pauli continued her education at the University of California where she received a degree in law.

In the early 1960’s Pauli worked with the mainstream civil rights movement, including Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. She was unhappy about the way women in the movement were put on the sidelines in favor of male leadership. In 1977 Pauli became the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest. She died in 1985.

Pauli was ahead of her time in many ways. She also identified as gender non-conforming, and would be considered part of the LGBTQ community today. She lived proudly as the child of God she was created to be, and shows us what bravery and commitment look like.

Chipotle generously catered our post-worship dinner (that may have been some folks’ favorite part). Above is a scene of the melee. Do you get the feeling of many little crawlers, toddlers, and kiddos underfoot? The babies of Lydia’s House are growing up!

Norwood Flora & Fauna: Temporary Beautification for Abandoned Space

The new building when Lydia’s House first acquired it, in May:











The same building, on October 29:












Lydia’s House’s new building was facing a long year of renovations. The windows would need to be covered, and we wanted to do that in a way that would be beautiful, and show that the building had new owners who cared about it. We connected with Woven Oak and Garden Camp, hoping that local kids could be involved in some kind of creative project to make this popular corner more beautiful. In mid-September Erin, Laura, Elizabeth, and I made some drawings from observation around the neighborhood. Elizabeth collated these drawings into a design, spread out over the shapes of the windows at 4502 Carter Ave. She chose six colors and created for us a simple but beautiful plan.

On an early morning in the last week of September, Ben and I bought 25 sheets of plywood. We got right to work cutting them to size, then priming and sealing them. Over the weekend, Deb and I finagled the Lydia’s House projector to enlarge the drawings and cast them on the boards.












Here is our tracing scenario, erected among the primed boards. We outlined the drawings in pencil, and wanted to finish them all that weekend, because on Monday the kids would start painting!


























This was our very first day of painting, with Girls’ Safe Space! Almost every weekday in October, kids’ after-school groups (facilitated by Grace and Erin) worked on the panels.












The next week, the Girls’ Safe Space girls finished the “hummingbird” panel.












These two created some very painterly cabbages.












We soon realized that “adult touch ups” would be needed. We also found that by painting the outlines in advance, kids were freed up to have more fun just filling big spaces with color. And why make a mural if you can’t go big?
















A scene from “the warehouse”. Making progress!












There is a method to the messiness.
















The kids of Garden Camp carried their panels safely across the street, to work outside in the lovely weather.


















A beautiful day with eggplants.











We brought a segment up to Lydia’s House, so the guests and their kids could have a hand in painting.











And then the day came to install! Here I am, in the air, “not terrified”. We got help from some Habitat for Humanity Young Professionals.
















There’s my co- associate Deb in the air with a drill. Some folks just passing by stopped to help, including our buddy Brent who advised us on ladder safety. He also suggested that we pre-drill the screws into the boards, which was very helpful.












We found a second drill and really got into the swing of things. Work like this is fun but also frustrating, each window had its own challenges. There were even a couple of times we had to remove a panel we’d already installed, to straighten it out or make it fit better.












Goodbye SNACKS!


Here’s some before & after images from each window panel:































































I really loved working on this project with Elizabeth, Erin, Grace, and all the kids. It was truly a collaborative and community-based project, and it couldn’t have been done without the work of many hands.

-Taylor, Lydia’s House Associate

September in Review

Every weekend in September held a joyful event! Here’s a few pictures and notes from the last month at Lydia’s House.


It’s our biggest event of the year: Women for Women. Maria Krzeski has planned and hosted this fundraiser for us for five years, and it is an incredible labor of love. Women gather, clad in shades of blue and purple, to hear the stories of our guests and the trajectory of our mission. MUSE choir serenades us, and we end the night with dinner and desserts. This year, we raised $75,000, exceeding our $50,000 goal. We truly could not do the work of Lydia’s House without Maria and the incredible generosity and commitment of women in our community.


Guests J and S planned this baby shower for weeks! J was our emcee, and led party-goers in some goofy games (including a milk-bottle-drinking contest). Anne prepared an incredible breasts-&-belly-shaped cake, as requested by S. It was beautiful to see S & her daughter, and her future daughter, surrounded by love. S was so delighted and grateful for all the cute and useful gifts she received, and is feathering her nest in her new apartment. The baby is due any day now!


It was the last night of September, and the last night of open season at The Cone. Lydia’s House guests and staff piled into minivans for a chilly night of ice cream in celebration of Meridith’s birthday. We all love ice cream (except toddler J, who is scared of it), but for Meridith, soft-serve is part of her daily office. After gorging on banana splits, ice cream sundaes, and classic soft-serve, kids and adults alike scrounged for quarters to play arcade games and hope for prizes. Our time at this local landmark was so much fun, but my favorite moment was listening to Raffi on the way home and hearing everyone sing along.

Though life may be challenging and stressful, we try to have fun together and celebrate each other. We’re looking forward to all that October brings!