Almost there…

I have 122 squares in my sticky little hands–so only 22 squares to go until we reach our target! It’s so exciting!

We had an impromptu knit-in today–I was contacted last week by the Kentucky Kernel who are planning to run a huge feature on the Project in this Thursday’s edition of the Kernel and they wanted to send a photographer to get some pictures of the knitting in action, and of the squares themselves. We were small in number, but it was an incredibly productive meeting and we’ve decided a few crucial things. Mary-Beth and Margie have very kindly agreed to start work on finding a venue for displaying the finished blanket. Top contenders right now are The Kentucky Theater, Central Library, and the empty space in Lexington Green shopping area. I’ve left this in their very capable hands and will keep everyone updated with progress.

We also talked about how best to go about raising money from the completed blanket. Initially, I had thought that a charity auction would be the best way to raise funds but I admit I’ve had some concerns about whether or not anyone would actually bid for the blanket. Today, Kerri came up with a superb idea–sponsorship. She suggested that we could offer the squares for sponsorship–either by individuals or businesses–with a set minimum donation. That would remove some of the uncertainty about raising funds and would be a much more viable proposition. Sponsors would have their name listed next to the square that they have sponsored. We’re thinking of a minimum donation of $15-$20 (can’t decide–opinions would be welcome on this point) but, naturally, we would be happy for sponsors to donate more, if they chose to. I’m so grateful to Kerri for this gem of an idea–seems far more workable to me than a charity auction. And it removes the deadline of June–although I’m still planning on getting the blanket finished by the end of March and getting the funds in by the end of June so that we can start with scholarship applications.

Finally, we’re going to have one last knit-in before I close the door to squares. Next Wednesday, 18th January at Coffee Times on Regency Road, 6.30pm start. I’ll continue to accept squares until the end of January, though, so carry on knitting–if we get more than 144 squares we’ll just make a bigger blanket!

Homecoming

I have two exams tomorrow which means, naturally, that a great deal of today will be spent procrastinating–and what better way to procrastinate than with facebook. Browsing the status updates I came across a post on Nicky’s wall, linking to a story that ran in yesterday’s Daily Mail–a British newspaper for those of you not in the know. The story was about a young lesbian couple–Rebeca Arellano and Haileigh Adams, seniors at Patrick High School in San Diego–who were crowned as Homecoming King and Queen over the weekend. Rebeca was crowned Homecoming King at Friday’s pep rally, and Haileigh crowned Homecoming Queen as Saturday’s dance.

To say that this makes my heart glow is an understatement–in fact, as my friend and Writing Center colleague Ashley will attest to, it actually made me cry. So many of the stories that we hear are so desperately tragic that to hear such positive news is wonderful–and proof that although we still have SUCH a long way to go, we’re making tiny, tiny baby steps. These girls were chosen from their peers–what more affirmation do we need that at least in some parts of the world (and I know, it’s not happening in enough parts of the world, not by a long chalk) being LGBT is accepted–not simply tolerated–and that love among two people, whoever they happen to be and however they identify themselves, is celebrated.

There’s more of the story here, on the Daily Mail’s website, and it’s worth looking at for the lovely photographs and the video clip of Rebeca speaking about the weekend’s events.

Among other things, this story is a reminder to me that the Diversity Project is as much about celebrating life as it is about remembering the lives that have been lost. And so, there WILL be a square in the blanket in celebration of Rebeca and Haileigh (I’m thinking it has to have embroidered crowns on it…) and their story will be told alongside everyone else’s–their relationship, their love, and the hope that their story brings will be shared with other people who need to hear the positive stories and the changes that are happening, albeit slowly.

So, before I head back to studying for these flippin’ exams, I’d like to raise a metaphorical glass to Rebeca and Haileigh, and offer my congratulations and love to them both. Cheers, girls.

A Face For Radio…

I get to campus around 7.45 most mornings, usually only half-awake and in need of a gentle start to the day. Tuesday mornings are my favourite though; I work in the Writing Center on Tuesdays and don’t start until 10.00am which means only one thing: Starbucks Chai latte. Yes, I admit, I’m a fan of the Evil Coffee Empire. Chai latte is my vice; I could drink gallons of the stuff but instead I limit myself to a grande non-fat on Tuesday mornings whilst I get some class reading done before my Writing Center shift starts. And, of course, that’s exactly where I found myself this morning when my cellphone rang.

I’d been reading “A Christmas Carol”, as folks do in October. Actually, I’m reading it for an English class, but it’s always such a jolly romp of a story; the ending never fails to make me cry (even in public) and it’s always a pleasure to have an excuse to pick it up again. I’d just discreetly wiped away the tears and was moving on to “Cranford” when my annoying ringtone burst through Starbucks morning jazz. I must have sounded like an idiot when I answered it and couldn’t tell who it was, but after several requests for them to repeat themselves I managed to ascertain that it was someone from a television network who had a free slot on their lunchtime show and wanted to feature the Diversity Project.

After I finished internally squealing, I realized that I had a slight problem. I was scheduled to work until 3.30pm and they wanted me at the studio by noon. Thankfully, I have the most supportive and wonderful boss at the Writing Center and after a quick conversation with Ashley, an email to Judy, and a little wiggling of the schedule I was freed up to go, Cue a mad 11am gallop (actually, it was more like a hectic walk) to pick up the car from the other end of town, followed by a nerve-wracking drive across Lexington to the studio. The drive shouldn’t have been nerve-wracking, and to anyone else it probably wouldn’t have been but the car was low on petrol (that cute little orange light flashed at me all the way there) and I have a track record of getting hopelessly lost every time I try to go somewhere new. The universe was smiling today, though, as I arrived safely at ABC 36’s studio with ten minutes to spare.

I was ushered into the studio where Kristi Runyon was busy delivering the lunchtime news and Geoff Cornish was working on the weather report, and was more than excited to see the interview couch all set up and ready to go.

Yes, I am the sort of geek that takes a picture of this kind of thing. See the camera? And do you see what’s on the screen behind the couch? It’s our yarn picture! And there were screens and autocues everywhere I looked. The cameraman got me set up with a microphone and by 12.20pm we were ready to go.

Kristi, I have to say, was absolutely lovely–and really pretty, she did a great job of putting me at my ease and making it sound like I knew what I was talking about. In reality, though, I was nervous as heck and found myself babbling a great deal. Typically, I was just starting to get into my stride when my three and a half minutes of fame was up and it was all over. Check out the video here, and see what you think.

This wasn’t my only television appearance this week, though. Last week, Emily from UK’s Student News Network interviewed me for their broadcast which was aired on Monday evening on Channel 16. You can view that interview here, my part starts at 2 minutes and 56 seconds. Huge kudos to Emily and the rest of the journalism majors responsible for this broadcast–they did a very professional job.

So, how do we top this? Ellen…?

About Last Night…

The first Knit-In for the Diversity Project was a great success and thanks so much to everyone who made the effort to attend. It was lovely to see new faces–some I’ve already got to know “virtually” through the facebook page but some were completely new to me. I’m grateful to everyone that came, brought yarn, ate cookies, and knitted. We even had three completely novice knitters–Jenna, Brandi, and Mary–all of whom picked up needles and yarn for the very first time and all of whom were knitting by the end of the night. That’s real effort, ladies, and thank you. Thanks too, to Bea and Tonya for helping out with the knitting lessons. And to the other ladies–Dani, Melissa, Margie–thanks for adding to the fun and I can’t wait to get your finished squares.

We also had press coverage–the Kentucky Kernel sent both a reporter and a photographer to cover the event. The article itself hasn’t been run in their print edition but it is available online. Click here to read it.

WRFL, who have been massively supportive of the Diversity Project, also sent a reporter. DeBraun was busy taking soundbites for his upcoming “Campus Voices” show, which I’ll also be part of. Campus Voices goes out live from the WRFL studio on Wednesday 12th October at 5.30pm. Listen in, it should be a great show.

So, after the excitment of last night it’s on to the next thing and I got home last night to discover that two other local news sources want to run stories about the Project. I’ve been contacted by the UK Student News Network who want to conduct an interview with me and a contributor this coming Monday evening. The UK Student News Network is run by broadcast journalism majors which leads me to believe that it’s a television thing. Scary, huh? I need someone who is participating in the project to be interviewed with me so just let me know if you’d like to come–I’ll buy you coffee!

And it seems that the Diversity project is also on the radar of the PR department here at UK. They’ve been talking to the editor of the Chevy Chaser and Southsider who is also keen to run a story about the Project. Hopefully we can get a meeting set up soon and spread the word to more people.

Finally, a date for your diaries. The next Diversity Project Knit-In has been booked. It will be on Wednesday 19th October at the 6 Friends Cafe on Kentucky Avenue, Lexington, between 5.30pm and 8.00pm. This is a great opportunity not only to work on the Project but also to support a great local business. If you haven’t been before, 6 Friends serves wonderful crepes and paninis, and their gelato is simply amazing. Kentucky Avenue is in the Woodland Park Triangle area and 6 Friends is directly opposite Woodland Park itself. Mark this is your diaries–it’s going to be fun!

Gathering Momentum

As the Project approaches its one month anniversary I’m delighted that we’re continuing to make progress. Three beautiful squares arrived in the post last week from “A Perfect Stranger, Greater Chicagoland”, there have been massive donations of yarn from Mary Beth, Katie, and Asri (with lots more promised), and there’s been a phenomenal response to the upcoming knit-in. If you missed the post about it, it will happen on Thursday 6th October, 6.30-9.00pm, at the Gaines Center for the Humanities on East Maxwell Street. More details can be found on the facebook event page. The media frenzy continues–last week I had a wonderful time talking to Allie from WRFL on their Out Loud show and I hope to talk to them again as the Project develops. This Sunday, I’ve been very kindly invited to talk with the members of the Interweave group at the Universal Unitarian Church here in Lexington. I’m very much looking forward to meeting everyone there and certain that it will be a positive event.

But what’s most pressing now is getting squares for the blanket. I’m estimating that there are already around 30 squares that I either have in my possession or know to have been completed–that’s wonderful, but we need more! If you haven’t already started knitting (or crocheting) and want to contribute, I’d urge you to do so sooner rather than later. I know December sounds like an age away, but I really need to have all squares in by the start of December and that’s only around 9 weeks away. Please, if you can find the time (and these squares don’t take long at all to work up) make a square (or two!) and get it to me as soon as possible.

The first drop-off point has been set up this week, which should make things easier for you to get squares and yarn to me. It’s on the 13th floor of the Patterson Office Tower building in the University of Kentucky’s main campus area, and the box itself is just outside room 1353. Feel free to just drop your donations in–there’s no need to register them. There will be at least three other places on campus, as well as some downtown locations, so watch this space for more details. Until then, you can continue to contact me directly if you have donations ready.

Tomorrow will be a day of writing press releases and seeing what extra publicity I can drum up–although I already feel like my name is popping up every time I turn my head. This afternoon, our eldest daughter announced, on her return home from school, that a fellow student had asked her if her mum’s name was Catherine. When she answered “yes”, the student went on to say that she’d heard me on WRFL on Friday afternoon and thought it was an amazing project. I’m thrilled that the news is spreading. And our youngest daughter–who is just getting into Twitter–decided to tweet the website address to all her middle school teachers. Add to that my wonderfully supportive partner who, as well as writing articles about the Project for local newspapers, has been amazingly tolerant about the ever-increasing quantity of yarn in our living room and you can see why I am so incredibly fortunate. This project would not be possible without their support, or your support. I might be organizing it, but it stopped being “my” project a long time ago–it truly is a community effort and that makes me very, very happy.

Incidentally, Ellen hasn’t called yet. If you want to give her a nudge, you can do so here.