Long Time No See–Chalk It Up To Volunteer Construction and Puppets!

February 12, 2010 at 3:04 am Leave a comment

Building Eight

I can’t believe it has been almost a year since my last post! Of course, lots has gone on. My quilting guild gave me the go-ahead to make the guild website http://qntqg.wordpress.com/, so I have been doing my best to keep that reasonably up to date. Wish there was a faster way to add the 10 to 15 “Show and Tell” photos of the ladies’ beautiful quilts!  Somehow, I messed up the formatting of the blog and I don’t know how to get it back to what it should be.  That is a discouragement, and the longer I wait, the more discouraging it gets.  The old “approach-avoidance” dilemma!     

And especially, I began volunteering at a newly established restoration center for abused women and their children. I spent most of that time working in “Building Eight,” a lovely three story house that used to be just a single story garage. The campus of this center is truly a place of beauty and rest for all who enter the grounds.  My first project was to organize a quilting studio as part of the creative arts-personal development aspect of the restoration program.  Thanks to all those who donated fabric, quilting supplies and six vintage sewing machines! Once that was pretty well in hand, I moved on to other projects in Eight.

I designed the storage units and helped construct “The Storehouse,” a room on the ground floor with built-in shelves for women and children’s clothing and household goods. With the help of others, we went from bare concrete block walls to four rooms and a stairway to a second floor apartment and the third floor Creative Arts Center.  Besides the Storehouse, the other ground floor rooms will be for counseling, laundry and a handicap restroom.        

Chuck and I only go out a couple of times a week, so work has progressed slowly. Finish work is very exacting and takes much longer than one would expect. We are finally nearing completion of these rooms.  Clothing and goods have been sorted by size and packed into labeled tote boxes and stored in the the Storehouse shelves, the first room to be completed. All the other walls in the rest of the ground floor have been drywalled, electrical systems installed, and now we are sanding the last layer of drywall compound in preparation for paint.  The laundry room for the apartment is operating now, too.  We hope to paint all the walls and floors in the next few weeks, then clean up the construction debris.  Whew!  Almost a year to do that!    

Over the summer, Wing Haven had three women who fled seriously abusive relationships.  They came to the beautiful campus to rest, recover, and learn the skills needed to start a new life.  The ladies have left now, we hope to live and raise their children free of abuse.  As originally designed, the Wing Haven program provided safe housing, job training, counseling for the Mom and children, and a special children’s development program to help heal the damage of witnessing domestic violence.     

Unfortunately, given the economy, financial donations were not sufficient to continue the original program, so Wing Haven is going in a different direction. We are now offering counseling for individuals and families in the area, as well as it’s newest venture, a special program called “Confident Kids” for pre-school aged children.  “CK” teaches 4 and 5 year olds to understand and accept their God-given emotions, learn how to talk about them, and how to cope with life’s experiences in a positive way.     

David, the shepherd king, who spoke to God heart-to-heart.

David and Friends

I am one of the volunteers, performing various modern puppet character roles and sometimes the part of David, the Old Testament shepherd king who is still considered Israel’s greatest poet.    

David’s poems, recorded in the book of Psalms, reveal fear, anger, joy, satisfaction, confusion and worship.  He is a wonderful role model for the children, who are learning that all their emotions are OK, even if some are not fun to feel.       

A few of the Circle Time Friends

Besides the Bible story, there is also a puppet skit for Circle Time, which features modern kids dealing with various experiences that bring feelings of woundedness, excitement, fear and confusion.  My puppet team from Pathway Community Church came over to my house a week ago and we videotaped three weeks’ worth of Circle Time and David skits.  Luckily, our puppet ministry is blessed with many puppets and costumes.   

This was our first time to film our puppet plays “for the public,” and we borrowed my daughter’s digital video camera!  What a difference from our previous videotaping experience with the older technology! We have lots to learn from the technical viewpoint of camera placement, etc.  My puppet team did very well, considering this was the first time they saw the scripts, and we just ran through the plays a few times before filming. In four hours, we filmed five plays to be shown the first three weeks of Confident Kids, with four more plays to go in the “All Your Feelings Are OK” unit.   

Jewel teaches kids “Share What You Have.”

My newest venture into puppetry is Jewel T. Cassidy. (T stands for Trouble.)  In a small way, I have started doing interactive puppetry, without a stage, just me, the puppet and the kids. I make no attempt to use ventriloquism when Jewel and I talk.  Instead, I look at her as I alternate voices and give her various body movements to keep the kid’s attention on her by bringing her to life. Jewel is a Folkmanis full-body puppet with a hand opening in the back of her neck. She sits on my lap, sometimes at a table to color, play with toys or use other props.    

In contrast to the wide-mouth puppets I usually use, Jewel has a soft cloth mouth that allows more natural lip movement. This type of construction is most useful at a close range to the audience. She also has arms that allow me to insert my hands, so she can pick up things, wiggle her fingers, even pick her nose! That last trick came in handy the first time we went to my grandson Garrett’s pre-school to teach them about covering your cough/sneeze and proper hand washing.    

Each month, the teachers suggest a topic–sharing instead of hitting, bringing food for a food drive, etc, and it has worked out very well.  The kids watch intently and are very vocal when Jewel talks to them, asks them questions, or shares a new version of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  

In the picture above, Jewel is sitting in a cardboard box that I plan to make into a quilted carrying case. She is holding a picture of the “Crown of the Land of Sun and Smiles,”  a prop that I use to symbolize when the kids add jewels representing acts of kindly behavior.  On the back of this prop is the dreaded “Crown of the Land of Mud and Tears,” which Jewel often decorates when she behaves unkindly or selfishly.  Luckily, she much prefers the former, but before changing her behavior, she generally gets into trouble. Hence, her middle name!  

There is also a basket of canned foods and a card that says, “Jewel T. Cassidy says, ‘Share What You Have.'” Each time we go, I prepare a similar card with Jewel’s picture and the learning points of the visit. This month’s lesson was requested by the pre-school teachers because February is the month that the children can take part in a food drive. We will present it tomorrow to Garrett’s class, and sometime next week to the younger class. 

Interactive puppetry is a natural for helping children deal with the frightening things that go on when they are sick.  See “Bernard, the Hospital Puppet” here: http://www.hospitalpuppet.com/index.htm. Look for the video link down toward the bottom of the page. This was my first introduction to interactive puppetry.  What an amazing personality Bernard has!  Someday, I hope to be as skilled and effective as Diana Chiles, the “heart” of Bernard.   

I  had a chance to use Jewel in a similar fashion when Garrett’s younger brother, Quentin, was in the hospital with pneumonia.  That little 2 year old fought the medical staff like a tiger! When he was first admitted, it took two nurses and his dad to hold him down for his IV! And every time the nurses had to take his blood pressure or his blood oxygen, more drama.   

I made some medical equipment props (blood pressure cuff, blood oxygen meter, stethoscope) and Jewel and I showed up in his room, only to find him asleep.  So Garrett played doctor with Jewel, trying out the equipment.  Of course, Jewel was the drama queen, “Ow! Ow! OW!” when he pumped up the blood pressure cuff.  Garrett broke out laughing every time he did it. Eventually, Quentin woke up, and Garrett, Jewel and I went through the procedures.  More laughter, even a little snort from Quentin.  

Q came to visit me at home a few days after he was discharged. He headed straight to Jewel, who was sitting in her rocking chair, and brought her to me, along with the medical props.  Then he played doctor, telling Jewel that the blood pressure cuff “only huts a widdle while!”  


Entry filed under: Puppetry, Uncategorized, Volunteering. Tags: , , , , , .

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