A vase is a container used to hold cut flowers. Traditionally, they’re made from glass, ceramics, or non-porous materials; however, today’s vase is a shell.
It’s a tiny shell. A garden snail succumbed to its fate, leaving a bleached and hollow vacancy behind. I used a toothpick to remove the dirt, knowing the shell might be useful.
Scale is everything when you’re creating a vase. You want something tall in the back and a bit of green for contrast, allowing the flowers to be the main attraction. Following those guidelines, I’ve used asparagus fern for greenery and height, showcasing the lovely blue Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ front and center.
Satisfied with my tiny vase, I snapped a few photos, then let “Bubba” have a sniff so you could see the true scale of the snail. Snail shell, that is.
The vase provides a focal point for one of my fairy gardens. I rearranged the lawn furniture, repaired (and then broke) the tiny door, added small pebbles, and returned my mostly rust-free garden gate.
This year’s garden features a tiny Alyssum hedge and a lawn of small greens, the name of which currently escapes me.
There you have it. The importance of a tiny vase on Monday to celebrate the opening of the fairy garden. The fairy garden sits beside the fountain’s right, surrounded by Campanula, commonly known as bellflowers. It’s a welcome respite for fairies and garden visitors alike.
I performed the Heimlich Maneuver on an unhoused woman earlier this year as she choked on a chicken burrito. She thinks I saved her life, and perhaps I did; however, as years go, this barely made my top ten. I am so ready to leave 2022 behind.
While nothing magical happens between December 31 and January 1, it feels like a fresh start.
I’ve watched helplessly as someone near and dear suffered through treatment-resistant depression most of the year. The constant worry and the overwhelming sadness never goes away.
My younger sister made multiple trips to the ER. She suffered three falls over eight months while trying to get out of bed and endured other medical maladies. Her advancing MS is taking a toll. She’s fought hard to retain independence, but in October, she finally agreed that she needed daily help.
Together we made one of the trips to the hospital on foot (I walked, and she used her mobility scooter) because Paratransit couldn’t accommodate a same-day appointment. Crossing two freeway entrances without the benefit of a traffic light proved harrowing. Every bump caused her pain. It’s not something either of us cares to repeat.
In June, I found myself alone in a building with a mentally unstable man who had set fire to the church sanctuary. I volunteered in the back half of the property. The sound of a distant smoke alarm and the smell of smoke sent me to explore the outer corridor. The man emerged, engulfed in a cloud of white smoke, holding a lighter in each hand.
My fumbling fingers managed to call 911, and I safely exited the building without another encounter. The fire went to two alarms, but thankfully there were no injuries, and they arrested the arsonist at the scene.
In the aftermath, we learned that Lifted Spirits’ entire inventory of donated clothing, masks, blankets, and more would be a loss. In addition, exposure to lead and asbestos rendered the building and most of its content unsafe.
At the time, I served as one of two lead volunteers. We moved the program outside, rallied our resources, and rented a portable storage container to continue helping vulnerable men and women from the parking lot. Unfortunately, San Jose had several days with triple-digit temperatures this summer, making for a few long months.
For various reasons I won’t go into, I tendered my resignation from Lifted Spirits at the end of October. I had hoped to stay through year-end, but that didn’t work out. After nearly five years of service as a volunteer, program lead, former board member, and donor, my last month felt demoralizing. The executive director showed up on my last day of volunteering (at my request), so I could hand over keys and other property. She called “thank you” as she raced to her next appointment. It’s been painful letting go of something I’ve been passionate about for so long. I miss the program, my fellow volunteers, and, of course, the women we served. I’m disheartened to hear how quickly things changed.
While outdoors this past summer, our volunteers put lifting spirits first. We welcomed women through the gate, set out pretty paper placemats, and offered them water or lemonade and a scone. They requested hygiene items from a private station, then “shopped” in our clothing area. I enjoyed selecting outfits and setting aside clothing favorites as they came in. We also had a few food staples provided by our local food bank. We knew the women by name and were there to listen and offer support.
Since my departure, all of the offerings have been reduced to efficiencies. Clothing remains in the POD, and women climb a small ramp to view them in an unlit space. Hygiene items are pre-packaged, and they hand women a lunch instead of serving them at the table.
Last year at this time, we created a party-like atmosphere. We decorated the canopies, played Christmas music, and passed out hot chocolate and tea. In addition, we provided a hot, seasonal lunch, and one of our volunteers made soap and donated earrings so our clients could give someone else a gift and a card. Everyone received a generously portioned gift bag and left with a smile.
This year they put plexiglass barriers at the gate, and two volunteers asked if they “wanted a gift” and then passed it through the opening.
I’m heartsick when I hear of these changes. I’m trying to process my anger and grief, my sense of loss for a program I poured my heart and soul into, and an enveloping sadness for my sister, who I moved to an assisted living facility two weeks ago, just a few weeks after she turned 62.
I received the following email in late June via my blog:
Good afternoon, I came across your web page as I was researching Windsor water woollies of Poulton-le-Flyde near Blackpool as I have recently managed to purchase a large number of photographs depicting the companies swimwear products from the 20’s and 30’s. The photographs I have are the actual original copies the company had taken in order to select for their advertising and obviously your Aunt Alys features in quite a few of them and I was wondering if you would like copies forwarded to you? I look forward to your reply. Regards Jeff
I felt giddy as I promptly replied with a resounding “yes!”
Of course, it pays to tag your blog posts, which is how he found my previous Aunt Alys’ posts.
My goodness, you’ve just made my day. I would love copies of any photos you have of our Aunt Alys. If there are several, you can add to a shared Google drive. If there are just a few, email attachments work as well.
I would love to hear more about your collection in general and your interests in the Windsor Water Woollies.
Mr. Riddle forwarded these photos of Aunt Alys (Alys Milner Lancaster) and gave me permission to share his story.
Thank you for your reply. I am sharing with you copies of the pictures I have of your Aunt Alys. Sorry, there aren’t more.
Long story short: I used to own an antique shop and also ran Flea Markets throughout the northwest of England. During one of these markets, I met a couple who had purchased the old Windsors factory in Poulton-le Flyde near Blackpool. The couple were selling items they had found in the building, and after a conversation, they invited me to the factory to try and assist them in selling items they had found. To my amazement, when I arrived, the factory was like a time capsule, having been locked up and left untouched following a burst water pipe inside. It was a treasure trove of items ranging from vintage automobiles to little tin whistles, which were part of a children’s sailor outfit the company used to produce. One of the highlights was the bathroom in the office area, which was original art deco in design and beautiful for an office washroom. Anyway, I was able to advise them on the best way forward selling the items, and they gave me the collection of photographs.
I hope you enjoy the pictures. She truly was a beautiful lady.
Isn’t that a great story? Mr. Riddle describes the factory in fascinating detail. What a lucky break to run into the factory’s new owners and to further receive an invitation for a walk-through. I would have never known of the photo’s existence if he hadn’t reached out and graciously shared these images of my father’s only sister and my namesake aunt.
President Jimmy Carter is celebrating his 98th birthday today.
He’s my idol.
I met President Carter and First Lady Rosalyn Carter in 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s an extraordinary man who’s done amazing things in this world. Here are just a few:
Jimmy Carter served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.
He negotiated the Torrijos–Carter Treaties, which provided for the return of the Panama Canal to Panama in 1999. In an effort to end the Arab–Israeli conflict, he helped arrange the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.
In his final months in office, Carter was able to push through important legislation that created Superfund to clean up abandoned toxic waste dumps and that set aside some 100 million acres (40 million hectares) of land in Alaska to protect it from development. Carter would also be remembered for his inclusion of women and minorities in his cabinet, including Andrew Young, the African American former mayor of Atlanta, who played a prominent though controversial role as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
He considers one of his greatest achievements, the near-eradication of Guinea Worm Disease. According to the Carter Center:
Incidences of Guinea worm disease have been reduced from an estimated 3.5 million in 1986 to 15 in 2021. The disease has been eliminated in 17 countries.
The Guinea worm eradication campaign has averted at least 80 million cases of this devastating disease among the world’s poorest and most neglected people.
The campaign has helped to establish village-based health delivery systems in thousands of communities that now have networks of health personnel and volunteers who provide health education and interventions to prevent other diseases. Source: The Carter Center
Happy birthday, President Carter!
“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.”
Megan Hanson, from the non-profit Little Free Library reached out to a number of LFL stewards in December, encouraging us to apply for a free book bundle. Stewards would also have a chance to have their LFL featured on Good Morning America.
I didn’t win the book bundle, but she contacted me again last week and said I was one of 150 LFL stewards to be selected for the February book club. Megan wrote:
I’m reaching out because a few months ago you entered to win books through LFL’s partnership with Good Morning America. While you were not selected in January, you have been selected to win two copies of Good Morning America’s February Book Club Pick! Here’s what you can expect next: February 1 is the proposed air date for the Good Morning America segment. They will announce their February Book Club pick and share a map of the 150 Little Free Libraries that received copies of the book–including yours! They will encourage viewers to visit those libraries to find a copy of the book. They may even feature photos of select little libraries on air.
Good Morning America
A photo of our LFL appears in the segment! I feel like a twelve-year-old. It put such a bounce in my step to see our Little Free Library and Donna Pierre’s beautiful design featured on the morning TV show. It’s also an honor to place a copy of his book in our LFL.
Here is the link to the two-minute segment on Good Morning America, featuring Brendan Slocumb’s debut novel The Violin Conspiracy. Our LFL is pictured towards the end of the segment. Following is a blurb about his book:
Slocumb’s debut novel is a riveting page-turner about a Black classical musician’s desperate quest to recover his lost violin on the eve of the most prestigious musical competition in the world.
Good Morning America
Doesn’t this sound like a great read? I received two copies of Slocumb’s book. I placed one in the library on the designated day, and after reading the second copy, I’ll place it in a different LFL in the community. I can’t wait to get started.
At the start of the pandemic, Santa Clara County shut down pretty much everything for three weeks. That was back in March. I’ve been serving unhoused women at Lifted Spirits for three years, and it was devastating to see our program closed. We qualified as an essential service, but protecting volunteers from COVID seemed daunting.
Undeterred, we figured out a way to serve the women that came to our program and dubbed it Lifted Spirits Lite. Gone were the days of respite from the street, hot meals, and a place to nap and socialize for a few hours, all the things we were known for. It was no longer deemed safe to invite women indoors.
Instead, we served women from behind an iron fence, lined with clear shower curtains. Masks were a must, along with hand-washing every thirty minutes. Patio tables pushed up on our side of the fence enforced physical distance from our clients. We were able to serve in what we now call “contactless” engagement. What strange times we’re in!
We rolled out racks of clothing and toiletries at the start of each shift. We provided the essentials: feminine hygiene needs, adult diapers for sleeping rough, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and other items critical for well-being. Hand sanitizer, along with face coverings and wet wipes rose to the top of the list.
We stocked our racks of clothing all summer long: shorts and dresses were available, along with t-shirts, straw hats, pants, and scarves, all donated by women in our community.
A generous board member donated boxed lunches each week, and we had extra water on hand to get us through the hot, horrible summer filled with smoky skies and unhealthy air.
I knew we couldn’t continue our services outdoors during the winter months, but as the pandemic dragged on, it was clear we had to adjust once again. It took weeks of planning, testing, input from volunteers and board members, but in the end, we came up with a way to serve the women in a more sheltered way.
We created a volunteer position called the gatekeeper. I set up three stations allowing our volunteers to be indoors, one in the lobby and two more along the building’s back. A handyman repaired the walkway for safe passage, we purchased two large canopies and created a sheltered area along the back of our building, once a church. Claridge donated five rolling, tempered-glass screens, which we use as a barrier between volunteers and clients.
It’s been a hit with the women we serve. They pass through our decorated lobby, one at a time, affording them privacy when making requests. They exit through the kitchen and wait for the clothing station under the canopies in a garden setting. We roll out a rack of shoes for self-service.
Women can choose two outfits per day at the clothing station. They can pick out a warm jacket or coat if needed and lots of wonderful extras like gloves, hand-knit scarves, and knit caps. They visit the final station for lunch and a few pantry items. The gatekeeper escorts them through another gate, where they exit on the sidewalk. This avoids passing others and allows for social distancing among our clients as well. Our gatekeepers wear a mask and a face shield for safety.
It’s an exhausting shift requiring a different approach with each woman’s unique challenges and needs, but at the same time, they are my favorite hours of the week. Getting to know the women, encouraging them, listening to their stories, all the while helping them choose an outfit or two is rewarding. It’s not about the clothes, but about the normalcy of “shopping” for an outfit in your favorite color or style. I’ve learned a lot. I work with amazing volunteers. We all support each other.
I really enjoy the behind-the-scenes work as well. It appeals to my love of organizing, merchandising, clothing, and decorating. It’s fun learning a woman’s style and setting aside items in her size and favorite color. Keep in mind that everything is donated, and many things are dated. It feels good filling needs.
We created a small Christmas celebration this week, serving close to 40 unhoused women in two hours. Our Board chair and his son played Christmas songs while the women waited in line. We assembled Christmas bags filled with soft grey hoodies, a $25 Target gift card, fuzzy socks, and other personal goodies. Mary ordered boxed lunches with a traditional turkey sandwich, and Sharon baked cookies in her scrupulously sanitized kitchen. Our new director passed out the gifts and offered hot chocolate after they picked up lunch. Barbara handed out socks, new underwear, and other essentials, dressed as the slimmest Santa you’ve ever seen.
I staffed the clothing station most of the time, and helped troubleshoot in the parking lot when problems arose. All the planning paid off. We generally serve 30 women a day, but we planned for 40. We served 37 in the first two hours, and we’re able to provide lunch and gifts to two late arrivals. I’m so relieved that it all came together.
Of course real success would be knowing these women were tucked into bed tonight, warm and safe, well-fed and at ease.
It should be criminal to allow men and women to live, unhoused, in a country with such immense wealth. It’s unconscionable. Our vision is to put ourselves out of business because everyone is safely housed. For now, I’ll continue to lift the spirits of others, as I work to keep my chin up.
I hope you are safe and warm, and most of all, healthy as we count down to the end of this dreadful year.
I headed home from my volunteer shift on Monday, shortly before 6:00. Lifted Spirits is in the heart of downtown San Jose, and less than a block from city hall.
Outrage over the murder of George Floyd has led to protests around the globe. San Jose is no exception. Protestors chant for hours each day in front of City Hall, followed by marches in the early evening.
As I left Lifted Spirits, I pulled into the mini-mart on the corner to buy a cold drink for the ride home. I had one of those surreal moments when I saw a row of police officers on motorcycles lined up against a two-story mural. I snapped this photo:
Tommy Smith-John Carlos Thank You.
The mural depicts a message of thanks to San Jose Olympians, Tommy Smith, and John Carlos. It’s officially titled: Tommy Smith-John Carlos Thank You.
Here is some history, courtesy of Wikipedia:
On the morning of October 16, 1968, US athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 meter race with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds. Australia’s Peter Norman finished second with a time of 20.06 seconds, and the US’s John Carlos finished in third place with a time of 20.10 seconds. After the race was completed, the three went to the podium for their medals.
The two US athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride, Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue-collar workers in the US and wore a necklace of beads which he described “were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage.” All three athletes wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges after Norman, a critic of Australia’s former White Australia Policy, expressed empathy with their ideals. Sociologist Harry Edwards, the founder of the OPHR, had urged black athletes to boycott the games; reportedly, the actions of Smith and Carlos on October 16, 1968 were inspired by Edwards’ arguments.
Both US athletes intended to bring black gloves to the event, but Carlos forgot his, leaving them in the Olympic Village. It was Peter Norman who suggested Carlos wear Smith’s left-handed glove. For this reason, Carlos raised his left hand as opposed to his right, differing from the traditional Black Power salute. When The Star-Spangled Banner played, Smith and Carlos delivered the salute with heads bowed, a gesture which became front-page news around the world. As they left the podium they were booed by the crowd. Smith later said, “If I win, I am American, not a black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are black an,d we are proud of being black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”
Tommie Smith stated in later years that “We were concerned about the lack of black assistant coaches. About how Muhammad Ali got stripped of his title. About the lack of access to good housing and our kids not being able to attend the top colleges.”
I stood for a moment facing a row of police officers with their backs to the mural. Did any of them register the irony of their position? They stood with their backs to a piece of art depicting two courageous athletes literally using their winning Olympic platform to protest racial injustice?
I got back in my car, prepared to exit onto Santa Clara street. The protestors came down Santa Clara *at that exact moment*, saw the officers, stopped, and turned into the gas station. The protesters addressed the officers with chants, and one protester instructed others “do not throw anything.”
I got out of my car and took a knee. Within a few moments, the marchers returned to their intended route along Santa Clara Street toward City Hall.
San Jose Protest
San Jose Protest
San Jose Protest
San Jose Protest
San Jose Protest
San Jose Protest
San Jose Protest
Back in my car once again, I asked one of the officers if it was okay to exit on Santa Clara. He said, “It’s not safe for you to be here.” He then directed me toward the row of officers until one of them yelled at me to stop. Within moments they let me exit the lot, and I drove home.
I’m a 60-year-old white woman who’s afforded an unearned privilege based on the color of my skin.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, lost his life because of an undeserved bias based on the color of his skin.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’ve missed volunteering with our homeless clients these past few months. I spent February and March recovering from major foot surgery. Within a week of taking my first steps, Santa Clara County implemented a shelter in place due to COVID-19. As the weeks went on, the restrictions increased.
Though we believe our services are essential, we couldn’t put our volunteers at risk. The majority of the women who volunteer are 60 and up. Asking a group of women at higher risk if they contract COVID-19 to volunteer to serve other high-risk women is untenable.
These past few weeks, we’ve worked behind the scenes so that we can launch Lifted Spirits Lite. While it’s a far cry from our full program of providing a hot meal and respite, a clothing boutique, and other services, it gives us a chance to do something during this difficult time.
We’ve implemented numerous safety protocols to protect ourselves and others.
I sent out the following letter to our supporters today, and I’m sharing it with you, too..
With #GivingTuesdayNow underway, I’d like to tell you about our modified program: Lifted Spirits Lite. While our facilities must remain closed due to COVID-19, our volunteers have been working diligently behind the scenes so we can continue to serve vulnerable, unhoused women in downtown San Jose.
Starting this week, we will provide homeless women a boxed lunch, prepared in a professional kitchen, two days a week. We will also distribute clean socks, new underwear, clothing, and other essential hygiene items.
While Santa Clara County continues to shelter in place, a shelter for many of our clients is quite different: it means a series of tarps in a parking lot or behind some bushes out of view. Providing what we can from behind our gate is essential.
Your gift to Lifted Spirits has a direct impact on homeless women living in our community. Please join me in lifting their spirits with a donation today.
Board Vice-Chair & Volunteer
Front Door Communities,
Home to Lifted Spirits
Front Door Communities, home to Lifted Spirits, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
49 N. Fourth Street, San Jose, California 95112
(408) 600-6654 www.fdcsj.org to donate
Have you spotted any teddy bears on your keep-a-safe-distance walks?
Blueberry the Bear
I first heard about the #NationalBearHunt from a friend on Facebook. Carrie has a toddler at home whereas my boys are now 19 and 22. Without her post, I may have missed it. I’m trying to limit my news consumption.
We have one teddy bear in residence, the newly named Blueberry. My son didn’t name the bear when I made it for him out of soft fleece about a decade ago. At the time my son was more interested in the making of the bear then he was in having it. I made three bears during that time, but the other two went to a new home.
A startled Mouse the Cat discoveries Blueberry in the window
Blueberry is in the front window, visible from the curb and in view of our Little Free Library. I’ve left a small sign inviting folks to wave as they walk by.
A make-shift sign, Mouse the Cat, and Blueberry the Teddy Bear
It’s these small gestures that help keep us sane.
Here are a few others:
Anne Lawson in Australia posted this on her Instagram feed annelawson54:
“Another way to build community connections….a gallery in my own front yard. All exhibitors have to do is leave a drawing in my letterbox. Is this something you could do? (Until it rains, of course. Then I will have to be more inventive 😊)”
Jacinda Arden has a teddybear in her window in New Zealand as she shelters in place. The Guardian reports:
“the real-life Kiwi bear hunt has seen homes from Bluff to Auckland place teddy bears in their street-facing windows, allowing local children to “hunt” for bears in their neighbourhoods. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed she too had placed a teddy in the front window of Premier House in Wellington, where she is in lockdown with her fiancé, Clarke Gayford, and toddler, Neve.”
Little Free Libraries converted to food pantries, pre-packaged, sterilized books, a joke a day and more.
“Community engagement and sharing with others are at the heart of the Little Free Library movement. In just a few days, the spirit of sharing in Little Free Libraries has shifted to accommodate different and increased needs in communities all over the world.
By now you may have already seen stories and photos of stewards in cities near and far transforming their book-exchange boxes into “little free pantries,” offering items like canned goods, toilet paper, sanitizing products, and more while COVID-19 has changed day-to-day life drastically for everyone.
While some stewards have opted to close their little libraries completely to limit potential exposure to frequently-touched surfaces, others are swapping out books for household essentials to help out neighbors in need. And a number of stewards are offering both books and pantry items!”
Our LFL is a beloved community resource. Closing it down seems unthinkable, but keeping every book sanitized is impossible. I could sanitize the doorknobs, books, and shelves, only to have to start over after one visitor. Since visitors continue to stop by, I’ve taken all the back-stock of children’s books from our garage and placed them in an open bin.
Back-stock of children’s books in my garage
Adjunct bin of LFL children’s books
My hope is that books will be sanitized by the user. If the books remain untouched, they at least offer hope for the future.
It’s impossible to reconcile the death of a child. It’s equally challenging not to sound trite when you say to her mother, who’s been cut to the quick, “I’m sorry for your loss.” The loss is unimaginable.
Lauren died from pulmonary edema just a few weeks shy of her 19th birthday. We’re all in shock.
We’ve known Lauren’s family for a decade. She attended our Halloween parties, hung out with my son at the park, and was an occasional passenger in the back seat of my van. No single event stands out as extraordinary, but instead a collection of ordinary memories that can be stored and retrieved and enjoyed.
Of course, I assumed there would be many more ordinary days because that’s the natural order of things.
Lauren had an easy-going nature and a lovely smile. I remember greeting her near the bus when they returned from 5th-grade science camp and I remember the day they all graduated from high school. She was a good friend to my son and a joy to have in our home. I can’t believe she’s gone.
My heart goes out to all who loved her, especially Kimmy, Amy, and Bill. xo