Monthly Archives: February 2011

Sew Many Quilts

Yesterday I was one of fifty, women and even a few brave men, that joined together to ‘Sew Many Quilts’ for the thousands of refugees that are moving to our city. Most of these refugees come from warm weather climates and will welcome the quilts when they get a taste of Syracuse winter.  We gathered together to cut, design, sew, press and tie quilts today.  A good old fashioned quilting bee.

At the end of the day we had finished 18 quilts and there were a few ‘take home kits’ available. I brought one home, the fabric already cut, colors matched and ready to be sewn together. A nine patch crib quilt top. I do not pretend to be a quilter. And I’m not a seamstress either. I have a sewing machine and I like to sew but I’ve never been very good. And I proved that to be true once again.

Yesterday I discovered that 1/4″ is very different from 3/8″. Just ask a quilter. That small difference, block after block, adds up. And when sewing in a group, with each person building on the next person’s work, let’s just say, my work created problems down the line.  And this group was not hesitant to point out that I was making a mistake. That might sound harsh but it was actually very helpful. I didn’t know that my mistake would make it difficult for others. And by letting me know I was messing up I could stop creating more work for others and actually be helpful. Isn’t that what friends do for each other? And I discovered that quilters are forgiving. They taught me, corrected me and forgave my mistakes. They even trusted me with a ‘take home kit’.  (Maybe that was one way of keeping all my mistakes in one place.)

Today I set up my table and sewing machine at home. I was careful to keep my seams at 1/4″ and finished the quilt top by myself. Only “unsewing” 2 blocks. I pressed it, laid it out and admired the creation, a beautiful patchwork of squares. Complete but not satisfied.

Today I was sewing quilts. Yesterday I was building relationships.  While  tying, snacking and sewing  I had met  Mary Lou, Joy, Kathleen, Alex and Ti Yuhn. I laughed with Sandy, Lisa, Alison and Sybil throughout the morning.  And learned not only about quilting but about friendship from Doris, Barbara and Kristen.

When I was young my grandmother would tell stories of the quilting bees that she would attend on a regular basis. I admired and eventually inherited a few of those precious heirloom quilts she made at those bees. I think I discovered why she spoke of those times so fondly. Yes, she was sewing, but more than that she was building. Building into relationships with her family and friends.

Sew Many Quilts will meet again in two weeks, making more quilts for refugees and at the same time building friendships with all who participate.

Come build something with us.
Sew Many Quilts



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I must have been hungry.  I devoured a book in less than 24 hours.  Not a novel where I got lost in the story living vicariously through someone elses’ life.  No this was something unexpected and unknown but captured my imagination and sent my mind racing none the less.

The Medici Effect:

What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation

by Frans Johansson

Create an environment for new imaginative thinking to solve problems or develop ideas by working with people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, professions and experiences.

Last year I asked my friends and co-workers to join me to solve an old problem, modern-day slavery, in an old way with government funding and collaboration with other governments.  But with creative innovative thinking I’m sure there’s a new way to look at this problem.  The old way is good.  It’s what we have to work with now, but if people from a variety of disciplines, fields, cultures, businesses and academic interests were to intersect around human trafficking – I have hope that new extraordinary ideas would come to mind.

And that’s just one area that could use extraordinary ideas.

A few months ago Mary Nelson brought together over 150 people to address the upsurge in violence in our city.  This problem needs more than just the same old concepts and solutions.  It needs an innovative idea that comes from the intersection of a variety of people coming from unexpected relationships.

After traveling to Haiti this month and seeing people still living among the rubble, destruction and in tent cities over a year after the earthquake it reminds me how much they need new innovative thinking. One gentleman we met in a rural village look us inside his home to show us his sick wife, leaky roof and dilapidated house.  The one english word he repeated over and over as he pointed to various things, “Problem”.  Yes, Haiti has overwhelming complex problems that need new creative ideas.

This book gave me some take away’s for today:

  • Carry a notebook, or ipad, and write all my ideas down, no matter how crazy
  • Exercise my thinking by breaking down usual associations between ideas and concepts
  • Reverse a goal to find a new solution
  • Brainstorm alone before you brainstorm as a group (and shoot for 30 ideas)
  • Find a way to reward failure as well as success

There are creative ideas that have yet to be developed.  Ideas that could change large problems that we face across all spheres of life – government, health care, economics, education, family life and church. My sphere my be small but this book gave me a new perspective on how to set myself up to step into the intersection of creative, innovative thinking.

Is there an area you need a new idea, a problem solved, a creative solution?  Try the Medici Effect.

Free pdf copy


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Macro vs. Micro

A picture speaks louder than words.

We’ve all heard it, and yesterday I saw it.  These two pictures tell a story about my visit to Haiti that speak to the magnitude of the issues and the current abilities and methods to address them.

An enormous problem being addressed with tools and resources inadequate for the task.  A situation that appears hopeless.  Many would only sit by and give up, relinquishing their future to the current condition.  But a few will take what little resource they have and begin to take steps forward.

I met two of the few that are taking steps toward the future, Magnus and Edlyne.  They are two bright spots shining in a remote area of rural Haiti leading the way forward.  They are managing a development program working with cooperative groups of 3-12 people who have a plan, drive and determination to create opportunities for themselves, their families and their community.  The IF-Foundation.  They are not the biggest, the oldest or the most well-recognized NGO working in Haiti.  But they are a few who are undaunted by the scope of the problems and the patterns of history that have stepped up to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem in the larger picture.

I am often paralyzed when I look at the challenge at hand, frozen by the size, scope and amount of effort it will take to make a small impact.  It is hard to see the first small step forward.  This comes when I am faced with a difficult conversation, a decision that I know will cause sacrifice or pain rather than comfort in my life or a choice that will ultimately eliminate other options.  I was encouraged this week by Magnus and Edlyn.  Encouraged to step up, when it is far easier to sit and watch, even if the situation is larger than I can imagine a solution to.

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Filed under Global Reflections