Monday, July 23, 2012

Sometimes God moves FAST (my new J-O-B!)

I have been in my new job, Program Coordinator for The Community Cloth, now for almost a month. I have to tell you all about it and how amazingly it all came to be! I also wanted to remind myself of a time in my life when God chose to provide and answer quickly because most times I just wish he would hurry up. :)

In early February (2/7 was the day I have in my prayer journal) Cason and I began praying. I had found such great contentment and satisfaction (and brokenness and challenges to my selfishness!) in my role as a stay-at-home mom. Madeleine was about 15 or 16 months old at that time, and we just started praying, basically "God, if there is something out there that Allison could be doing that would work with the strengths you've given her, be a worthwhile endeavor, help our family out a bit financially and not disrupt our schedule with Madeleine too much, please show us. If You want her to continue to be a solely stay-at-home mom, she is fine with that too.  Guide us, please."   Days later my friend and former co-worker Josh (was at Family Services, now at Neighborhood Centers) contacted me. He is on the board of the parent organization Our Global Village, of which The Community Cloth is a program. He told me they were growing and they were going to be doing a part-time, work-from-home hire, (!!!) and would I be interested in meeting the co-founders and some other board members to see if this would be a good fit?  Yes! I was very interested, so Roxanne and Quynh-Anh (the co-founders), Josh and myself all met at Central Market for lunch toward the end of February.  We had a great time at lunch and really hit it off. With every bit I learned about the Community Cloth program, the more I was impressed and excited! They explained to me that the position wouldn't begin until mid-summer, if this all worked out. (Perfect! I can finish my "school year" of ESL and other commitments, have time to get used to the idea and make plans for Madeleine.)

In the meantime, we continued to get to know each other. I helped Roxanne with an event in mid-March, and we met again for lunch. The more we talked the more excited we got. God aligned things so perfectly. Roxanne mentioned the fact that a lot of our refugee women don't speak English, but she wasn't worried about me communicating with them as best I could because I had just been an ESL teacher! Things like that kept lining up. Small world - we even found out our parents live in the same neighborhood, and her parents live next-door to my aunt and uncle! Crazy. By early April, she and the Board had written up a job description for me and extended an offer. I accepted April 17, with a start date of July 1. While in some ways it was hard to wait to begin, I was able to really enjoy those couple of months and prepare for what was to come.  At the beginning of July, Madeleine had just turned 20 months and was really excited about and ready for two days/week of being up at church. (She was already used to being there during the week while I taught ESL.) Mom has remained flexible and available to pinch-hit on other days when I might need help or coverage, but so far that two days a week (plus my night/weekend events or working when Mads has gone to bed) has worked out just fine!

What am I doing? Well it changes day-to-day which is fun and good for me. Roxanne is the captain, I am the first mate, and we have a wonderful working Board and fantastic volunteers that help keep this thing going (and have been so kind to answer all my questions along the way!) Some of my jobs and tasks include communications for the program, coordinating volunteers, helping with media coverage, assisting with product development for the artisans, finding good, mutually beneficial partnerships for Community Cloth, helping the artisan women to develop their own small business skills, designing communications pieces, donor cultivation...and lots in between!

I love this organization. I love having more multi-cultural interactions on a week-to-week basis, with our refugee women and our partner organizations. I love that Community Cloth has so many angles and facets - philanthropy, business, art, fashion,'s just amazing how easy it is for so many to fall in love with it, no matter what their interests are. I love that the artisan women get 100% of everything we sell.  If Moo Htoo sells a scarf for $35, all $35 goes directly to her.  I love coming in on the ground level and my opinions being trusted and heard. I love getting to do big-picture planning and strategy along with meeting these women face-to-face, hearing their stories and spending time on the "front lines" as well. I love that our umbrella organization, Our Global Village is all about empowering grassroots leaders all over the world. I am so, so blessed.

We have been busy! If you'd like more information about some of our recent events, please click on the links below!

Houston Chronicle, 7/22/12, Business Section: Women bring their homelands to the Houston market

CultureMap, 7/22/12, Chloe Dao & Mandy Kao team up for a fun-filled, shopping-themed fundraiser

CultureMap, 5/23/12, The Art of Survival: Weaving Home reveals the courage of Houston's Karenni refugees in cloth

And, of course our website is I am going to be working heavily on updates and revamping for our busy fall season!

If you are reading this and have made it this far, it's probably because this cause has tugged at your heartstrings as well.  If you want to get more involved, here are some things you can do:

  • Attend our volunteer training event on August 16th at 6 p.m. in our studio space at Baker Ripley.  I will be going through all the ways you can get involved.
  • Host a party in your home - this is the main source of income for our refugees.  We make this really easy - large or small group, we would love to bring and set up our product in your home and are happy to make a presentation and answer questions.  Depending on their schedules, sometimes we can bring one of our artisans as well!  This is so much fun for the holiday season, but contact me quickly - our calendar is already getting full.  (Special thanks to my sweet friends Brooke Richards and Katie Holt for already booking a party in late October, as well as my mom for hosting one in early November!)
  • Shop for our items with our retail partners - we have product in Kuhl-Linscomb, the Methodist Hospital gift shop, the Houston Museum of Natural Science gift shop and One Green Street (moving to the Heights)
  • Make a donation to Our Global Village.  We rely on donations and grants for all of our operating costs (such as purchasing high-quality yarn in bulk/discounted so our artisans can buy it from us as they need it as well as other infrastructure)
  • Follow us on twitter (@communitycloth) and join our facebook group (The Community Cloth) for the quickest, up-to-the minute information.  We post a lot about upcoming events and new products that are for sale.  Our women are artists, and they make what they want when they want.  Sometimes we will have a large quantity of something, but most of the time we don't.  If you want something you have to snatch it!
I love this picture of Roxanne and I from the event at Chloe Dao's store. 
photo by Carlos Pena

I also love this picture of Nada getting her new sewing machine from one of our partner organizations, Amaanah Refugee Services. Nada was persecuted in Iraq for being a Christian, and I will be working closely with her on product development for this fall. She is an amazing seamstress, and I know she will put this serger to good use!
Why do I always lean in for pictures? Stand up straight, Al! photo by Ghulam Kehar

All in all, I am so excited about this new chapter for me, professionally and personally.

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Daddy's Duck Shoes

It has been raining cats and dogs in Houston this week. Cats and dogs. I love rain, and I especially love it in the wake of last summer's drought (yes, I'll bring up the demise of our new, beautiful grass just one more time.) Today, friends, today it really began to accumulate as the ground is so soaked. I wished I had some rain boots. I'll admit, I've made fun of rain boots in the past - while they aren't as useless as Ugg boots in Houston (or Ugg boots period? ;) my practical side just won't let me get 'em. I have friends that make them look quite cute. Anyway, today I was eating my words even though my Sperrys did just fine. I got to thinking about shoes for all seasons, and I had a memory surface. I remembered rainy Sunday mornings when I was a little girl. I remember us all getting ready for church and trying to also factor in how to manage things with the weather. Growing up, our church was in the middle of lots of building, so we were in several different buildings, sometimes temporary ones. There wasn't a central covered drop-off, and you couldn't bet to stay dry for the next few hours. On those mornings, my dad would put on his suit, maybe slacks and a dress shirt, and he would lace up his duck shoes. I guess they were from Land's End or LL Bean, but they looked something like this:
Armed with his large golf umbrella, we'd load up our old suburban and venture out. I didn't realize this as a little girl, but in my memory today the emotion surfaced. I felt so safe when Dad put on his duck shoes. I felt like he had everything under control, even in the midst of unpredictable circumstances. He was looking out for his girls. He has always been that way - even now when any of us ask a question or where something is in the house, he hops up.  We have to force him to stay in his chair. "Dad, I can get it! Just tell me where it is!" He loves his girls, and he loves to fix and find things for us. I am so thankful for a Daddy that showed us the love of our Heavenly Father. He modeled exactly how God looks out for us. He is prepared for anything and He has our best interests at heart. He deserves our trust and devotion.

Deily girls and our dad on a (sunny) Sunday:

Thursday, July 12, 2012

June Top Ten!

Y'all, I keep doing these infrequent, massive posts. I can't escape it. I wish I would've devoted an entry to each of these things I'm about to share with you, but I just haven't had time! I even tried to do the FatMumSlim photo a day challenge in June, and it didn't happen. (sigh) Ah well. I felt like the best way to recap all these super fun things would be a top ten list of June. It's not ranked by importance but by chronology. :)

 #1 - Gajdica Reunion - Not all of our family could make it this year, but we had a good group at Mom & Dad's in Cypress. It was so nice, relaxing and lazy. Guys golfed, we spent plenty of time in the pool, and we ate a ton. Good reunion in my book!

#2 - Madeleine's first pedicure - I didn't plan it or set out to make it a big deal, but it was such a sweet time. Y'all know me, I'm not super girly, but this sure was fun. One afternoon after her nap, I noticed her toenails needed trimming. As she sat on her changing pad and was so still and patient while I clipped them, I started to think she might be able to handle polish. I was right! It was so sweet and fun to watch her pick colors and be so still while I painted her toes and they dried. I LOVE HER.

#3 - Children's Museum fun! June was good and hot (not so this second week of July, praise Jesus!) so we were more inclined to use our Children's Museum membership than our Houston Zoo one. Madeleine is so much fun to watch in the Tot Spot. She is so busy and independent. I could seriously take a nap while she dominated that whole area - she wouldn't miss me. I just have to follow her around to make sure she doesn't boss other toddlers around or push them out of the fire truck.

#4 - I turned 28! I had such a wonderful birthday - so many fun moments and sweet friends and family making it all so special. We finished the day with a big Deily family dinner at Grand Lux and a DEILYCIOUS (yes I did) homemade cake by my mom with peach filling. Yum-O delicious cake!

#5 - Bee Removal! So, a colony of bees moved into the owl house in our large oak tree in the backyard. It was so bizarre - one morning I looked out our big window in the den and there they were, thousands of them crawling on the owl house! I didn't know what to do. I know about the bee shortage in North America and how vital they are to our food supply, so I knew I didn't want to just get a pest control service to get rid of them. I emailed the Houston Beekeepers Association, and they forwarded my email to their entire membership! I got several offers to come remove them for free! I took the first offer, and Dane from the Gulf Coast Honey Bee Farm took care of them. He and his partner guessed that the bees had actually been there for a long time, but the hive had just grown to include the exterior of the owl house. The bees' flight path/pattern was to fly in and out of our backyard from the north (the back of our yard) so that's why we'd never noticed them! They were building honeycomb on the exterior of the owl house too. Bees are so amazing to me. Do a little research (or just read The Secret Life of Bees) and you'll be amazed too! Madeleine was fascinated with the removal process - from the outfit to the ladder to the smoker...she thought it was so cool. The next morning she looked out our back window while drinking her milk and said "Bees new home." Every now and then she will still comment on this, very sweetly and as a matter of fact.

#6 - Paige's Shower! It was so much fun to get to be a hostess for Paige's shower for baby Cara Beth coming soon! We had a great group of girls out to Breadwinners in Dallas (only one hostess lived in town, so we thought a restaurant, especially one as delicious as Breadwinners would be perfect for the event!) It was like a mini-Baylor reunion to see all 20+ guests. I wish I would've gotten to spend more time in individual conversation, but it was so fun, even seeing everyone briefly. Funny story about the picture we took outside (you'll notice all those girls were a part of our girls' trip in March - only missing Andi and Rach in that group shot!) Some girls were leaving their own brunch and saw us. One of them said "Oh my gosh, that will be us in five years!" I guess she was referring to some of the wedding bands and preggo belly, but still - made us laugh and feel old but joyful at the same time.

#7 - Father's Day Weekend in Denton! Paige's shower was on Saturday, so we stayed in Denton for a long weekend and got to celebrate Father's Day with Madeleine's Nana and Pop. We always have such a nice time in Denton, and our pool time was so enjoyable. Madeleine has such a wonderful Daddy, she really, really does. I love Cason more and more as I watch him be a Daddy to his little girl. He makes her laugh and rough-houses with her, he pursues her on days where shes way into Mommy and he is so tender and sweet with her, always. I think her Pop had a pretty good time with her as well.

#8 - Madeleine's fearlessness in the water! I wish this girl had a little bit of healthy fear, but as the summer calendar goes on, her aquatic independence grows! (Of course I also LOVE that about her.) In Denton we figured out the perfect solution. She didn't ever like to be confined to a float to sit in, but she wanted to move. Nana got her some old school water wings and a turtle float, and she was happy as a clam to just bob around in the water, sometimes kicking her legs, no one else needed. (Now she likes for me to throw her across the pool and she doesn't need the turtle anymore period, but that's new in July!)

#9 - Vacation Bible School! I just loved my teaching team (shout-out to Kristen, Emily, Kendra and Jen, as well as our partial-week helpers Tiffany and Julie!) and our group of four- and five-year olds. Our church did such a great job of supporting us, and my team was so hard-working and fun that each day seemed to go so smoothly. Of course it was a lot of work, and to have about 25 kids each day was a lot to keep up with, but it was a blast. Madeleine really enjoyed herself as well. We left the week drained but in a good way!

#10 - OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! - Last, in chronology, June 30, it is certainly not the least of my June memories. My sweet parents kept Madeleine for two nights, and we spent the weekend having a romantic staycation that resembled our lives before we were blessed with her as our baby girl.  We stayed at the Magnolia Hotel downtown, dined at Sambuca, slept in, had pedicures (Cason's first!), went to the movies and watched a LOT of Downton Abbey (Y'all we watched both seasons from a Thursday - Monday! Addicted!)  It was such a perfect time to hang out and reflect on the past five years while getting excited for what the next five will hold!
The Lord gave us THIS day on Saturday of our anniversary weekend - it made for such a cozy day, and this weather is my FAVORITE.