Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer's finally here!

I'm sitting in the car, Trey at the wheel, kids bouncing around the backseat (though totally secure in their seatbelts) on our way to family camp in Colorado. It's amazing to me how one of the most patient men in the world can almost pop a vessel at the prospect of getting stuck behind a tractor trailer on a two lane road.

"Drive! DRIVE!"

Perhaps it's the horror of having to read his lame bumper stickers over and over again for the next forty miles.

Perhaps it's the fear of the kids breaking out into another round of "Friday" that makes his blood run cold. I can't blame him. He's only human.

Anyway, we've had a pretty nutty May with Hannah getting married, Trey giving Covenant's commencement address, and the endless end of year parties that required cookies, and gifts, and washed hair. I have pictures but they're still on my camera waiting to be downloaded, organized, and uploaded. They may be waiting a while.

This momma is ready for a long summer break.

We're starting off spending a week with some pretty incredible people who we love but never get to see. Namely, The Kelleys and the Kings from Common Ground in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Wuerfuls and Gordons from Desire Street Ministries in Atlanta and Mobile. We can't wait to hang out and hear what's going on with their ministries. And sleep. We're gonna sleep. Alot.

Then when we come back we'll celebrate as Darius graduates from Pinkston H. S. He's excited but nervous about what's in store for him over the next couple of months. Dea has been an encouragement and a voice of reality for what lies ahead. We've loved watching these boys become young men and look forward to enjoying with them what will most likely be their last summer in our house.

Hoping to post a little more this summer! Thanks for sticking around.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The tears of a clown.

Sadie gave her last presentation of first grade this afternoon and, although a little late, I actually made it this time. That made my record 1-1 for the season in presentation show-ups for my youngest child.

The children made dioramas of different ecosystems.

Sadie chose the Rainforest ecosystem. Actually, that's not exactly true. Initially, she was assigned Wetlands - an assignment that made her cry so hard in horror and dissappointment that her kind and tender teacher gave her Rainforests instead.

Now, at this point, let me say two things.

1. Reason #234 that I love my husband is that he sincerely enjoys doing projects with the children. He gets all creative and uses interesting things like moss and snakeskin instead of the posterboard and Sharpies that I would use. He has made the process fun for the kids and for that, I'm thankful. Incredibly thankful. More thankful than I can put into words on this page because, while he was helping cut and glue, I was catching up on the news commentators speculations on whether or not we'll ever really know who actually made the shot that took Osama bin Laden's life.

My personal favorite was the scenario the guys on Dallas' The Ticket speculated.

'Seal Team 6 guy is at Thanksgiving dinner with his family and his little sister's annoyingly boastful, young, upwardly mobile, yuppie husband. An afternoon of him jawing on and on and on about his clients, power lunches, and great tickets to the Cowboys season opener, is wearing on Seal Team 6 guy. Finally, he's had it and can't stand another minute. "Dude, you know the greatest terror threat of our generation? I killed him. Now, make yourself useful and go get me some more turkey and dressing. And cranberries. I like the cranberries.'

2. When I was in the eighth grade, I went to debate camp at Baylor University. The national debate topic for the year was on Wetland Conservation. The knowledge I gleaned that summer and subsequent year debating carried me through many a science fair, extra credit project, and research paper. My junior year at A&M, to satisfy a science credit, I found myself in a Geography class because, duh, how easy could that be? Not easy. After two tests I had a nice solid D. That's when I noticed on our syllabus that an optional 25 page paper could be written on anything pertaining to Geography for, like, 40% of your grade. I hammered out a paper on wetlands in about a day and made a B in the class.

So, when Sadie came home the other day and I was kind of half listening to her tell the story of the ecosystem she'd been assigned, I heard 'wetlands' and panicked. Although I love the topic, the thought of turning my love into something that was actually interesting to look at inside a shoe box gave me the willies. Thankfully, when she again explained her tear-induced, ecocystem-reassignement to Rainforests, I rejoiced at being, once again free from the bonds of semester project assisting.

If it weren't totally innapropriate, considering the timing, I might say I dodged a bullet there. But, that would be totally inappropriate.

On a side note, as an additional visual aid, Sadie took Oliver Twist, the Ball Python to hold while she presented.

Walking to the car in the school parking lot, Olivia was holding the snake and kind of messing with it.

"Olivia, what are you doing?"

"Oliver has a splinter in him and I'm trying to get it out...hang on...I... can't... get it."

"Let me see, baby...Oh...Hmmm...Huh...Oh! Olivia, sweetie, that's not a splinter. That's Oliver's penis."

The learning really never ends, does it?

Monday, May 2, 2011

West Dallas Earn-a-Bike Program...in the News

This really great article ran in yesterday's Dallas Morning News about the Bicycle Garden at Mercy Street. Johnny is my friend Hannah's brother and truly a gift to the city.

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to access it on their website and became frustrated and ate Dea's chocolate bunny he'd put in the back of the refrigerator from Easter.

Sorry, Dea.

Now, I'm all jacked up on sugar so I decided to just re-type it so you could read it. It will bless you, I promise.

Melissa Repko wrote it and did her first name proud. ;)


MENTOR SMOOTHS TEENS' ROUGH RIDE

In a small garage in West Dallas, DeMarcus Moore learned how to change a flat tire. He also learned how to talk to girls and cope with bullies.

At 15, he's considered an elder at the West Dallas Bicycle Co-op, where he joins about a dozen boys and girls each Wednesday night to memorize names of wrenches and scour rust off bike frames.

The class began in autumn with a promise that if students put in the hours, they'd ride away with bikes of their own.

Johnny Garippa runs vocational programs ranging from the bike shop to a gardening club at Mercy Street, a Christian non-profit in West Dallas. For the teens in the bike co-op, especially the boys, the 35-year-old is seen as an older brother, a male role model for some who don't know their dads.

They say he gives good advice on everything from school to siblings. But most of all, he's there to listen.

In a neighborhood that's home to many single-parent families with low incomes, Johnny would like to see the bike shop take hold and eventually be led by its students. Amid the wheels and gears and workbenches, he hopes bike skills might transfer into life skills.

"We're kind of in the business of dignity restoration," Johnny says. "The greatest kind of poverty is believeing that you have nothing to offer," he says, loosely quoting Mother Teresa. The surprise, Johnny adds, is that he's learned as much as he's taught.

Johnny Garippa wears a scruffy beard and flannel shirts. He works with bike greatse so often that it's more or less permanent under his fingernails.

One of seven children, he learned early how to work with his hands. his father was a pastor in Glendale, AZ, and stretching a pastor's salary meant gardening, fixing cars and a lot of doing-it-yourself.

DREAM JOB

Johnny got a bachelor's degree in international business in 1998 and scored a dream job for an avid kayaker and climber - working in product development for the North Face, a California-based maker of high-end outdoor gear.

But after four years, he grew disillusioned with tents and jackets that seemend to signal that nature came with a hefty price tag.

He quit and spent a summer bikeing along the coast near Santa Cruz, CA. He tried to decide what to do next.

Back in Arizona, he built swimming pools and spent free hours at a community center in South Pheonix, a poor part of town. The community center had a youth mentoring program and a shop called Barrio Bikes.

When he moved to Dallas for theology school in 2005, he found out about Mercy Street's work in West Dallas. The non-profit had been founded in 2003 as a mentoring program. He made a pitch: He wanted to turn a forgotten storage room full of broken mirrors, boxes and cobwebs into a community bike shop.

He would sign up kids to take classes in bike repair an dallow them a chance to earn their own wheels. One day, they could even sell refurbished bikes as a small business.

"I was sold from the beginning," recalls Trey Hill, Mercy Street's executive director. "I was sold on Johnny as a person." He describes Johnny fondly, as a Christian hippie."

DeMarcus, the 15-year-old, carries himself with a quiet maturity - thought he cracks a smile and talks in rapid bursts around friends.

He lived close to the bike shop when he was 11 or 12 and was curious about it. He's hang around, silently watching.

At 13, he became one of the youngest memebrs of Mercy Street's summer work crew and began repairing his first bike, a white BMX with blue stripes.

To Johnny's surprise, DeMarcus showed up on time each day. He completed the bike and earned the status of "junior leader", a coach for younger students in weekly bike classes.

Like most 15-year-olds, DeMarcus doesn't know what he'd like to be when he grows up. Perhaps he'll study the culinary arts. His signature dish - pasta Alfredo with shrimp sauteed in garlic - is a hit, even with his three younger siblings.

Or maybe he'll become an engineer. He'd like to learn more about what's inside a computer or the engine of a BMW.

But unlike many teen boys, he feels a deep loyalty to his neighborhood. He still considers West Dallas home, even thought he lives with his mom an dsiblings in Irving now.

"If I become big and famous, I'll come back and help Mercy Street," he says. "I'll come back to my roots."

SETTING THE RULES

Building a bike is a great social equalizer, Johnny says. It doesn't matter where you come from, what pressures you have at school, what problems at home. The only way to prove yourself is with you own two hands.

"Here's how it's going to work," he tells his young charges on a chilly night in December. "One hour equals $2. If you go to each class, that counts as two hours, and you can put in hours any time."

Bikes cost up to $150. Do the math, he tells the kids.

The classroom breaks out in sighs.

"Oh, man." one student says.

"Really?" says another.

One kids stands up and pretends to walk out the door.

"you are in a program called Earn-a-Bike, not give a bike," johnny says. "We're trying to get you to the point where you say, 'This bike is valuable. I put a lot of work into it.'"

Attendance fluctuates from week to week, but nearly 20 students crowd the room on one particular night: It's when the students picke the bikes to repair and refurbish, the ones they'll make their own.

DeMarcus picks a bright yellow Mongoose.

It's spring, and in the months that have passed, the bike shop has continued to gain popularity.

There's a waiting list of students for next fall. The co-op has started making its first sales. It holds a monthly bicycle bazaar to increase neighbornood awareness and to sell repaired bikes to help fund the shop.

After school, Johnny drives to pick up DeMarcus in Irving.

"They've taught be about the beauty of life," Johnny says of his students as he drives down Irving Boulevard.

"Getting to be side-by-side to them, developing a relationship with them. It's been about as honest as you can get."

Johnny rolls down the windows. DeMarcus and another boy hop in the truck.

They rumble down the road, talking about last night's class, how to keep the shop's troublemaker in line, when they'll hold their next group bike ride.

They pull into the driveway. A hand-painted sign marks the door of an old storage area, their new bike shop.

"Hey!" Johnny says. "Were home."

Inside, bikes-in-progress hang next to the names of their future owners.

DeMarcus spent weeks tinkering with and polishing his bike. The yellow Mongoose is shined up and ready for a ride - but it won't be his much longer.

At a sale, the bike catches a customer's eye, and she decided to buy it.

"It's cool," DeMarcus says later, with a shrug.

There will be other bikes, he says. He's glad that of all the bikes, she likes his.

Then, DeMarcus watches as, with his blessing, the Mongoose is wheeled away.