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.

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.

Making Progress

It’s been quite a day and I’m posting this at the wrong end of it, and after my brain has been taxed to capacity so please forgive any scattered thoughts. But let me just give you a quick update on the day’s progress before I hit the proverbial hay.

My Jury is, I think, in place. I had coffee with a couple of friends earlier today. Side note: I always wonder about declaring that I “had coffee” with someone when, in fact, I don’t drink coffee. But “having tea” sounds just a little awkward, even for an English lass. Has the term “having coffee” simply come to represent the act of socializing with generic hot beverages? If that’s the case then I did, indeed, “have coffee”. Anyway, I’ve known MB for about a year–we were in a writing class together (yes, I’ve taken more than my fair share of them) and quickly became friends, although we barely get to see each other anymore and communicate mostly through facebook. I’ve only met Margie once, at a knitting group (of course) here in Lexington but she’s a very close friend of MB’s. Both of them are very excited about the Project and have dozens of great ideas for publicity and possibly sponsorship.

I’m rambling though.

To cut a long and unnecessary story short, I asked MB to be my community jury member. She’s been a member of the Lexington community for a long time and has her finger on the pulse of everything from politics to fine arts.  I respect her experience and intellect greatly and really value her opinions. MB has agreed to serve on my jury so all that remains now is to check with my Fellowship directors that both she and KJ fit any criteria that the Gaines program has. Assuming that they are happy with my choices, then the jury is complete.

In other news, the Diversity Project now has a facebook page. In the 24 hours since the page was set up, an astonishing 49 people have “liked” it. At the risk of being repetitive, I am once again amazed at how many people are interested in this Project. And, even better, I’ve noticed that a significant number of people who don’t actually know me are joining the page, which is even better–the word is spreading!

I still have to apply myself to the mathematics of this piece–with so many people expressing interest it’s really important that I keep the momentum going and publish specific details about how to contribute before that energy fizzles out. Besides, if I’m going to meet my potential deadlines, this Project needs to get going in a physical way pretty quickly.

Today, I had plans to get all of my class work done in the sanctuary of a local coffee shop (20 credit hours this semester…you all know what that means for my sanity!) but the best laid plans and all that mean I only got through a fraction of what I needed to. I’ll be on campus and in class all day tomorrow with no time to catch up, and we’re out for dinner with family tomorrow night so I don’t expect much progress will be made on the Project until Saturday when, hopefully, I’ll have had chance to catch up on my class work. The next few months are going to be an exercise in time–management and juggling, I think. Still, it will keep me out of trouble.

As ever, I’m eager to hear suggestions and ideas. Keep liking that facebook page and start planning your blanket squares!

Making a Start

There’s no time like the present, so they say, so today was a day of action on my part. I’d already decided that setting up a blog would be a great way to communicate with people about the progress of the Project, and explain how they can contribute so when, at 3.45am today, I found myself awake and full of bouncing thoughts there was nothing else to do but get online and get started. You’re reading the result right now,and I’ve been updating furiously throughout the day in a bid to get completely up to date with what I’ve done (not much) and what I still have to do (more than I can possibly imagine).

One of the Gaines requirements for the Jury Project is that we have a jury–a panel of people with whom we will consult throughout the process and to whom we will present our projects sometime in the spring. That jury will be made up of one of the Gaines directors, our senior Gaines mentor (mine is Ainsley Wagoner), a UK faculty member, and a member of the Lexington community not affiliated with UK. It is important that our jury be kept in the loop at all stages of the project so I wanted to get mine in place as quickly as possible; the instant that I decided upon my project, I knew exactly who I wanted on my panel.

This semester one of the classes I’m taking is a creative writing course with the subtitle “Narratives of Gender”. My instructor–KJ Rawson–is relatively new to UK and I hadn’t had the opportunity to take a class with him previously; nonetheless I was excited about the course content and the opportunities for learning and developing that it presented. By the end of the first class (which was only last week) I knew it was going to be a fabulous class. KJ handled the introduction of a controversial subject matter with tact, care, and elegance, and is clearly committed to issues concerning gender and identity. I knew instantly that he would be a great addition to my panel and asked him earlier today if he would be willing to be one of my jurors. I’m delighted that he agreed and although I haven’t known him for any length of time I’m more than confident that he will be a wonderful mentor and juror.The final juror position left vacant is for a member of Lexington’s community. I hope to have some positive news on that front later this week.

Meanwhile, it seems that people actually want to get involved in the Project. I’ve linked this blog to my facebook page and have had several comments from people wanting to be involved in making squares, or embroidering quotes. Some friends on Ravelry have offered to contribute, and one local friend, Sarah (who I met through Ravelry) has offered organizational help as well as knitting tuition for people that want to contribute but can’t knit. I also ran into one of my Gender & Women’s Studies professors on campus earlier today and quickly outlined my project to her–she’s eager for the department to be kept updated and offered their help in publicizing the project. Then tonight I got what could be a huge break.

Since we moved to Lexington we’ve been involved with Woodford HumaneSociety. We adopted our youngest cat,Jeoffrey, from them back in 2009 so when we made a decision to offer help by fostering kittens, they were the obvious place to approach. We quickly made friends with the wonderful people working there and although our circumstances and hectic schedules have meant that we haven’t fostered for about 6 months, we keep an eye on their website and stay in touch through facebook. Tonight the lovely lady who used to work for WHS as their PR director, saw my blog and instantly offered her expertise in PR and marketing. To say that I’m grateful is an understatement. We have plans to meet for coffee next week and talk about exciting things like press releases! This is really happening!

Now, though, after three (or is that four?) blog posts it’s time for me to sign off for the night. I’ve got a couple of things on the agenda that should keep me busy over the next couple of days. First, I need to set up a facebook page–no project of any size or consequence is complete these days without the addition of social media and the Diversity Project will be no exception. Which reminds me, I’ve already set up a Twitter account–you can follow my tweets @ukdiversityproject. Over the next few days I also need to start making some calculations about the size of the project, how many squares and quotes I’ll need, how much the yarn will cost, whether or not to seek sponsorship, and who else to contact to publicize the Project. I’m open to any and all suggestions so please feel free to email me at ukdiversityproject@gmail.com, catch me on facebook if you know me personally, message me on Twitter, or comment here on this blog. Don’t be shy, I’d love your input!