Thursday, July 20, 2017

How knitting can change the lives of teens, or is it: How teens change volunteers’ lives, through knitting

“I did it!  I created a blanket!”, “WOW! I didn’t know it would be fun!”, “My grandmother taught me to knit, but I didn’t think anyone else would be interested in helping me finish a blanket.”  Heartfelt words from troubled youths who found solace in learning to knit patches which then were stitched into sanctuary blankets at The Mann Center. This is what volunteering is all about: joy, promise, fulfillment, and a purpose for doing good.
On 2017 MLK day of service, 20 Engage in Knitting volunteers met at the Mann Center to help troubled youths learn to knit or continue to use what they have learned and turn it into something amazing.  Two long tables; one for actual knitting and the other for stitching patches together, were provided.  The knitting table volunteers worked with boys and girls teaching them to roll skeins of yarn into big balls (explaining that it would make knitting much easier in the long run as unrolled skeins tend to knot and that can be frustrating to a knitter), how to cast on stitches, and how to knit 25 stitches without stopping, quitting, or getting frustrated (that was a challenge but the frustrations opened discussions with the youth and that was miraculous). At the stitching table, volunteers taught the knitters the art of whip stitching or crocheting the patches together.  The challenge at this table was to create a color theme first. Volunteers had their own ideas of what would work, but the children ruled at this table; after all, it was to become their blanket.
By the end of the day we had one blanket stitched together, and several rows of knitted patches started.  The promise, from both our volunteers and the children and staff at The Mann Center, was to continue the project throughout the year.
Two months later, several female youths and staff came to the UJA-Federation office in Mt Kisco to continue to work on the knitting and stitching of patches.  Four blankets were created that day.  The volunteer turnout was great so we could work with the girls one on one.  This experience became something unforgettable as the girls, forgetting themselves, shared stories about people who taught them to knit or for whom they wanted to make a blanket. At the end of the two-hour session we agreed that this was a successful event and should continue.
Our next meeting will be soon.  Volunteer knitters are working hard creating patches for the children to assemble into sanctuary blankets.  Those children who knit will be encouraged to continue making their own patches.
So, who is the beneficiary of such an experience? Is it the volunteers who donated their time and expertise to troubled youth and left feeling fulfilled and accomplished? Or is it the children who spent time with people they ordinarily would never have spent time with and left seeing the world differently, perhaps with hope and promise?

Karen, Volunteer Leader/Organizer for Engage in Knitting

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Naughty Boy, Dash

Today is the last day of Dash's visit with us.  He seems to know this.  He's been acting weird.  Here's an example:

Yes, that's Dash!  He got into my knitting bag and found an almost completed square, still on the knitting needle and ripped it apart!  Then he went after the ball of yarn.  This, after having tried to get him to play with a ball, fetch a ball, and play tug with some rags laced with almond butter.  Perhaps he doesn't like almond butter.  He sure does enjoy a ball of yarn, however!

Dash knew he was naughty because he scampered right into his crate when I came into the room and saw what he did.  Interestingly enough, I did not scold or yell (but I did say, "Oh my goodness, what have you done?").  I think he's smarter than he let's on.  He knew he was guilty!

It has been said, "the closer the bond the more difficult the separation",   Perhaps Dash knows he's going home tomorrow and is "acting out" in order to make the separation easier; although it's never easy to say good-bye to a loved one.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Fostering Dash Week 2

 When Dash first came to visit us, he was shy and did not want to do much other than go outside to walk and do his business.  

One week later, Dash has come out of his shell and is part of our family.  He plays with a ball and totally ignores the cats.

In fact, the cats totally ignore him!  

The best part of Dash's acclamation to his new temporary home is his antics, especially when I'm cooking!
He's just so funny!!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fostering Dash

It's been two years since Sheba crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  I am now ready to have another furry friend join our two cats, a friend I can walk with, talk to, and love unconditionally.  My husband, however, is against acquiring another pet. He wants his freedom to travel and stay out for long hours without worrying about getting home to walk the dog. I see his point and agree to some extent.  For me, I see having a dog as my personal therapy.  I get to walk it daily hopefully lending to some weight loss, I get to have company when my husband works late, and it loves me back - unconditionally (although husband would say he does too only he doesn't bark; well, sometimes he barks, but not often).

I signed up to do foster dog care as I felt it would be a nice compromise.  Dash arrived yesterday after having been out in the world for only 3 months, even though he is 21/2 years old.  You see Dash is a rescue from a biomedical research lab. He is so sweet, but has no idea what the world has to offer. Consequently, he startles quickly.

Outside and loving it

Dash loves to be outside. He will sit for the longest time just sniffing the  air, cocking his head to every sound, looking here and there, enjoying the ambiance of the outside.  Walking is his greatest pleasure and he could do it all day long if I had the strength and stamina. On our walks he will sniff everything but when he steps on a dried up leaf and it crackles, he bolts!  He's never heard that sound before.  When a car goes by, a dog barks somewhere, or even when I cough, Dash bolts. Fortunately, he's leashed so the bolting goes nowhere.

In the house, Dash seems sad.  He doesn't engage in play, preferring to rest in his crate or on the floor near me.  I think he doesn't know how to play!  Or his natural instincts haven't kicked in to tug at a rope, chase a ball, or romp around. Or he's tired. Or....whatever.

Dash's toys remain unused

This happened to the cat I adopted last year.  When I got her, she was so scared she peed in the bathtub and kitchen sink.  She knew how to use a litter box and did so, but her anxiety was such that negative peeing behaviors took over.  She had never been outside in her 13 years on earth. Her paws were baby pink and soft, no black roughness to them.  Her negative behaviors were so bad I considered giving her up, but felt determined to help her overcome her anxieties.  On the advice of my Vet, I put her outside for long periods and she thrived. In fact, the other day she caught and killed a mouse that was scurrying around the kitchen!

Dash will learn new things while living with me.  He will understand that when I pull out my knitting needles and yank on the yarn it doesn't mean danger.  He will become familiar with sounds that we have become oblivious to such as fast cars passing by, trash trucks loading and dumping trash receptacles, and twigs breaking. He will learn that he is safe.

When fostering a dog, I know that I do not know what he's been through, but I do know that it will take much time and lots of love from me and my husband for him to become accustomed to the outside world. I'm up for the challenge, and based on Dash's happy reaction when I greet him in the morning or when I return from being otherwise occupied, he is ready, too.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Where is my someplace?

My someplace is my journey.  It's like a cobweb with thousands of threads leading to thousands of places but always from a solidly  and masterfully designed center.

I remember this little girl who, being of rebellious nature and of inquisitive mind, took a walk one day and ended up 5 miles from her home.  She was interested in the way the sidewalk twisted and turned, and she was curious as to where it would lead.  So off she went, not thinking about consequences just wondering where the sidewalk would lead. 

Meanwhile, at home, her mother was frantic.  She did not know where her daughter went or disappeared to, or was she kidnapped?  She called the police!

The little girl, meanwhile, ended up at a supermarket where she found policemen approaching her.  They were quite friendly and so the little girl answered all their questions without fear.  Oh what a fun day this turned out to be for the little girl; or so she thought.

Her mother came to pick her up at the supermarket and was she ever furious!  The little girl did not know why. After all, she was fine, she was happy, and the policemen were so nice.

Later that day, her mother reprimanded her for being so foolish as to walk away from the house without telling anyone, but worse, from walking away from the house! Still the little girl did not understand.

Now the little girl is a woman and she continues to follow paths that lead her to someplace.  Every path was an adventure and every someplace was a place of wisdom. 

The cobweb is this person's being; the masterfully designed center is her spirit.  Without one the other just falls into nothingness.