To the outside world, I look completely normal, mentally stable and healthy. But inside there is a gnawing desire; it eats at me day and night, controlling my every thought. It’s a monster that takes control more often than not. I wake up at the kitchen table, paper strewn everywhere, dull scissors next to my face. I don’t like to talk about it—admitting it makes it real. I fear of being harshly judged by those who don’t understand my sickness, an ailment incomprehensible unless one found itself afflicted too. But, I’ve decided it’s time to get this off my chest. I’ve been living with this secret far too long, and I’m finally ready to tell the world and show them what I really am inside. I…am…a crafter. There, I said it! I dream about crafts, plan them while hiking, turn every event into an excuse to craft and even throw crafting parties. They plague my thoughts; infiltrate my daily plans. I save every scrap in the hopes of later using it in another craft, physically pained to throw anything away. I am a girl obsessed. I can admit it. Sadly, there is no “Crafter’s Anonymous”, no support group and definitely no medical cure! I have come to terms with the fact that I am simply stuck like this. So, instead of fixing me, people utilize me.
People come to this conclusion early on in our relationship, finding out my creative quirkiness almost immediately. Maggie’s Place proved no less perceptive. This was how I found myself covered in paint and sunburnt at 1:00 pm on a Saturday. I was sitting on an empty cooler in the backyard of The Elizabeth House, squinting at a bicycle with a paint brush in my mouth and baby items melting at my feet. I was a sight to see for sure. Oddly and thankfully enough, none of our generous donors decided to pay us a visit! I was deprived the opportunity to scare away anyone, which could have very well been a blessing.
The reason for the above scenario was the Resolana Project. I was ‘voluntold’ (a term The Elizabeth House MissionCorps use to describe a situation where others volunteer you, by no choice of your own) to decorate a bicycle representing Maggie’s Place, that would be included in an Urban Art Exhibit located off of College Ave. in the heart of the ASU Tempe campus.
“Resolana; a south facing wall where the sun shines and people gather to engage in community. The Resolana Project is a permanent urban art installation involving ten local non-profits, hosted by the local boutique, Here On The Corner and envisioned by artist, Alli Dodt.
Each non-profit will be redesigning a bike in a way that represents who and what they are to the Tempe community. The bikes will be mounted down the 60ft. wall outside of the boutique, joined by 100 steel butterflies. These butterflies will be individually painted by Tempe residents and dedicated to someone or something that bring happiness and light to their life,” (The Resolana Block Party Facebook page).
My instructions were as followed: locate the drop-off location, inconspicuously carry off a broken down bike back home, buy metal spray paint/primer combo, and decorate this bike in true Maggie’s Place fashion. I was challenged to think about what represented this wonderful organization. I sat looking at these thin bars of metal, perplexed as to how I was going to convey 14 years of mother’s life stories. How could I embody the founders’ dreams, volunteers’ and donors’ efforts; not to mention a year of my life, all on a canvas that would be hard to even read my own written name on. I have another confession—apparently this is the medium to share all my secrets— but I was stumped! I was completely convinced that I had finally met a project I didn’t have the creativity and skill to pull off. This was a low moment in my crafting career. But all jokes aside, I feared that this was an impossible task and I wouldn’t do the spirit of Maggie’s Place justice.
When I need guidance, I usually turn to reading, specifically Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which probably wouldn’t have helped much this time. So instead, I grabbed the pamphlets and postcards from our media box, picked up the Maggie’s Place book (a must read by the way!), and desperately read through everything. The answer jumped out at me right away! I feel slightly foolish I didn’t think of it sooner. The founders had a clear purpose when establishing Maggie’s Place. I went back to our roots; our core values. It was so simple, yet so profound. I meditated on Love, Hospitality, Community and Excellence. Seeing these values firsthand every day, they shouldn’t have ever slipped my mind. I experience community each Tuesday night, sharing a meal as a house and laughing hysterically for one reason or another. Every single day I see my fellow Corps members strive and achieve excellence in their coordinating positions, and in their contact person relationships. It’s actually quite humbling to work alongside them, knowing how much effort and care they put into every task they dive into. Every donor, mom, volunteer, guest and potential Corps member can attest to the hospitality found under this roof. The warm smiles, decorations, house tours, offerings of food are just a few examples of how Maggie’s Places welcomes and fosters a community rooted in hospitality.
But all of these combine into the epitome of Maggie’s Place, which is love. Tearful goodbye candle lights, birthday celebrations, fun contact meetings, long hugs, drives to various appointments, CPS case heartbreaks, 3 a.m. wake ups to distribute medications, even handing out strikes—knowing it’s for the mother’s overall benefit—there is nothing but love here. Our lives are difficult, moms and Corps alike. Living with 10 women, emotions running high, enacting tough love, being away from our families, daily chores when we are dog tired, facing daily challenges (big and small) is not easy. But not one day goes by that it feels like work, and definitely never has it felt not worth it. Love is what brought me here— brought us here—and love is what keeps us all going. It’s why we get up in the morning, why we do everything we do, why the moms can accomplish their dreams, and why I know I made the best decision in spending the past nine months of my life across the country, in a home with complete strangers. Love has made Arizona my home and love has made Maggie’s Place my family. LOVE is what was written in bold lettering on the seat of the Maggie’s Place bike that will forever be seen on the Resolana wall as a permanent part of our Tempe community.
By Sarah Gregorini, MissionCorps Member at The Elizabeth House