A Refreshing of Our Dreams

 A Reminder:


As I sat in a quiet room this morning, listening to the sound of water fall, I was reminded that maybe I’m pushing too much, too hard.
See, when I originally founded LYDIA, the idea was to have a place – maybe a coffee shop or cafe, maybe just have hot water and regular coffee – that our clients and friends could come hang out. We would have books to read, some to purchase, but our goal wouldn’t be on selling anything (other than items created by our clients, rare books, etc.).
What does this mean? To me, it means that all these challenges of HOW would we fund a bookstore and HOW would we compete with a certain online retailer….while they should be considered, shouldn’t be our focus.
Instead, our goal would be to create community and train clients.

I remembered a peer mentorship program I participated in before I had my second baby (2005); we all met at the department of children’s services and had coffee or tea, cookies, and a nice talk. That’s where the idea behind LYDIA began to take root.
At the college, before I got pregnant with the baby and went on bedrest (2006), we held a women’s tea – it didn’t go off as planned, but the survey revealed a deeper need.

In 2007, I had a prematurely born baby and a 3 yo/almost 4 years old child. I was a single mom, trying to go back to school and make ends meet. We met with and used the services of Maury United Ministries (MUMs). They had a Bible study and get together for clients, where we could take our children with us or find a babysitter.
Where we lived in the projects, there was a community center that held big events like Christmas parties, information on HUD changes, or even orientation.

   The Dream:

Here’s what I envision, taking form more than a decade ago. You walk into an inviting room. There’s the scent of fresh-brewed coffee on the air, and the smell of well-read books. There’s a welcome friend sitting in the corner, in an overstuffed chair. S/he looks up, a smile gracing his or her face, and you head over, browsing along the way. Glass cases house antiques and classics. Art that clients have created line the walls and small hand-made items for sale, such as jewelry, throw pillows, area rugs (hand tied), etc. can be found in little nooks and crannies. You hear the quiet hum of computers running in the background; the computers are for clients’ and students’ use, therefore kept separate from the Book Lounge. Beyond the book lounge are classrooms and conference halls for workshops and training opportunities. Behind the classrooms and conference halls are the administrative offices and our business apparel clothes closet.

We also have a child care center. Here, clients who are looking for work can drop their children off for a few hours a day to fill out applications and go to job interviews with no worries of needing a babysitter. These services are offered at $1/day or 1 hour of time doing work for the teachers or cleaning. We have a daycare center where clients who have gained employment are able to bring their children for the first six weeks at their new job; this is so they can safely save up to pay the deposit and have enough to supplement the state waiver for childcare. Finally, there is the option for clients employed with us (running the Book Lounge/Cafe, doing administrative work, or managing the clothes closet) to leave their children in our center. This is to promote and improve familial relations (taking lunch with their children or being available as needed).
I’ve been asked if we’ll have a sick room. This would be ideal. I’ve also been asked if we’ll have special needs teachers. As I have special needs children, I would love to be able to secure these dear people.

We’ll have something for the teens and young adults to do. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights will be when teens can work together on projects, produce band and drama nights, and generally hang out in a safe environment. My hope is to partner with local teen and young adult agencies already in our community that have similar or compatible programs.

The Reality:

We have a business apparel clothes closet. We do online non-medical case management and life coaching. We do networking and are making connections within the community.

 The Need: 

Even to start small, we need an office location as we currently work from my home. We need to be able to store and sort clothes. We need to be able to meet with clients. We need to be able to offer an internship program for high schoolers and collegiate students. We need somewhere to begin building community.


So, we’re taking a step back, breathing easy, and hope to meet you soon. Please, let us know how we can help you build a stronger community, together.

Life Skills Classes

Okay, now. I know we’re already offering this one, and of course we have our blog!

How about learning to shop on your foodstamps – get the most for your “money”? Shopping for the day you come off your foodstamps? Learning to budget to account for the amount of foodstamps you receive, so that when you budget your new income, it’s not a hard adjustment to make – if I get $290 in foodstamps now, I have to include that $290 in my food budget for when I’m not on foodstamps anymore.

Budgeting – see above. Also learning how to enjoy life on no-to-little income. You can share your tips and tricks with us!

Hygienic concerns.

Cleanliness (don’t look at my house. Seriously, stop on by, we’ll share a cup of tea and a conversation. Cross my fingers, we’ll hope to make it a good one!)

What would you like to know? How to change a tire? How to make proper change? How to wash clothes – read labels? How to sweep and cover the most space? Mopping? Canning? Sewing? Wood-working? Metal-smithing? Real life, hands-on skills? How to wash dishes and get all the grease off? Water conservation – that one I need to work on, myself.

Participatory classes.

Real teachers who will answer your questions.

So much more than a computer screen or someone on a video telling you what to do.

What do you think is most important to learn? Work with us to customize a program to meet the needs of the community.


Okay, here’s another “hard” one – reliable transportation.

First off, let me admit that I have severe anxiety when it comes to driving. So much so that I got my permit but was never able to pass the driver’s test. Now (maybe in part due to this anxiety), I’m not allowed to drive (yes, my physician stated it was safer if I don’t).

However, when I had my babies, I bought a car. I thought maybe I could learn to drive it for them. My anxiety prevented that from happening, but that started my journey into needing reliable transportation.

Sure, Medicaid will pay to go to/from the doctor’s office. Some states, some cities, have a job-transport program where you pay $2.50-$5 (each way) to get a ride to work.

When I lived in Tennessee, I met MUMs. They offered transportation – and they had licensed, insured drivers who volunteered.

We want a similar program here. Need to take your child to daycare before heading in to work? No problem. Need to have a trusted adult transport your child from school to the daycare center? (We’re talking that one over – do we want to be responsible for your child if you’re not with him/her?) Need to get to work?


What are your thoughts? Would this be helpful or cause more problems? What about insurance needs? Would we need to have a contract for clients to sign stating that you would not hold us liable for any accidents? Tell us what you think about this possible program.

***No child will be transported without a proper car seat or restraint system.***

Child-care or Day Care Solutions

Day care. One of my own primary complaints, and one that we’ve heard often from clients and those we’ve interviewed, is that in order to get a job when one has children, one must have child care. But in order to obtain and keep child care, one must have a job. It’s a catch-22 situation. A “between a rock and a hard place” setup, and one that we hope to help solve.

For $1 dollar a day (up to 4 hours) or 1 hour of time in work (cleaning, helping the teachers with prep-work, etc.), clients may drop off their children to attend job training, interviews, or other job-seek programs. There is no maximum day, week, or number of months that the clients can utilize this service. Clients must provide proof of activity to participate in this program.

After the job is secure, clients may choose to use another daycare facility. For the first 6 weeks, in order to save up the deposit, first week, or other required fees, employed clients may use our daycare for free. Absolutely free, as long as employment has been verified, attendance is tracked, and a center has been contacted to reserve the child(ren)’s place in care.

Clients who choose employment with LYDIA, Inc.’s Book Lounge and Cafe may receive free daycare (only during the hours they are scheduled to work).


Child care at cost: considering participating in the state’s approved-daycare program. Not certain yet.

Logistics for sickrooms, special needs children, and other issues have not yet been addressed nor resolved.


These are just some of the childcare ideas we’ve come up with at this point. Do you have any suggestions for us?

Youth Programs

What youth programs do we want to offer? Why do we want to offer youth programs, and how will they differ from what’s already available in Santa Fe?

Peer mentorship and tutoring. Youth will help each other, form groups, and support one another on life’s journeys.


Performance nights: teens will be able to present their skills.


Bands/band nights: teen bands will be able to perform and earn a percentage of the proceeds from selling tickets. Teens will create their own marketing plan and carry out advertising their event. The rest of the proceeds will go back into the Youth programs.

Teens will be able to find employment either with or through LYDIA, if that is their desire, create their own programs and pursue their avenues of interest in a safe, healthy environment. Teens will work closely with other youth-oriented service providers in Santa Fe to make a program that meets – if not all, then most of – their needs.


The Book Lounge and Cafe

So why a bookstore? Because I love reading. Because I want to share my passion for reading and learning. Because meeting, connecting, over a good book – there’s nothing else like it.


How will it work? Well, clients who want to work with us will sign a contract, in which they agree to abide by the standard “tardies, bullying, and sobriety” responsibilities. Clients, who are then employees, will be cross-trained – able to work on the floor and in the back office. We will also have our employees who can work the floor and the cafe (kitchen staff is limited to the kitchen).

antique books

So, the book lounge will be a place for clients and community members to come and browse, borrow a book, have a nice cuppa and read right there. Want to buy a book? We can help you find it. I remember being pregnant with my first daughter and spending hours at my ex-husband’s work – a bookstore. I knew more about Christian romance at the time, and my ex (we were still married at the time) would bring seekers to discuss books with me. It was enjoyable and I got to meet a good number of people. There was a lovely family who had their own struggles – and an on-site cafe.

The Cafe. What will be so unique about the Cafe? Clients who receive services from local area organizations will be able to bring in a voucher for a meal. The vouchers will cover up to $10. That will include a healthy hot meal, or a cold sandwich, a drink, and a side. Why do we want to do this?

woman drinking coffee

I remember when both my children were still considered “babies” – for $6 I could go to a specific restaurant on Friday nights and feed myself and both kids. I would get the salad bar with a country-fried steak and side of mashed potatoes. If I got water to drink, I could keep the cost to an even $6. I would eat the salad bar and the girls would share the “entree”. The staff would turn a blind eye when I shared my potato salad and cole slaw. It was a nice way for us to get out of the house, mingle with people, and eat something we didn’t have to cook.

Following certain guidelines, we will also have a garden and use fresh foods as much as possible.

Military personnel will receive a 25% discount throughout the entire store – barring already discounted items. Family members with proper ID will receive a 15% discount.

Does this sound workable? Doable? Feasible? Let us know your thoughts on the matter.

Why LYDIA, pt 3

Thank you for your interest in LYDIA, Inc.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It’s a day of green – in many ways……

Many people have asked me what my vision is for LYDIA. I want to post a brief overview of the current programs (which you can find out more about by visiting our website and going to “Programs we Offer”)….But I’ll expand on the programs in detail in future posts.

Firstly, our job-training program. We want to have a bookstore and cafe – why a retail store? Why a bookstore? Honestly? Because I love reading. I’ll talk more about this store at length in our post on the Book Lounge. Why a cafe? Because everyone has to eat and I love to cook. There’s some good news in store for our clients, too. Partnerships with local area businesses, possibly including a grant match type situation.

Our job-skills training will match mentors with clients who want to learn hands-on trade and/or encourage clients who attend trade or vocation school.

Our child-care solutions will approach child-care needs in a 3-fold approach.

Transportation will be volunteer-based/driven.

Youth programs will include tutoring, drama teams, and band nights.

There is, of course, so much more we want to do and offer. But we want to hear from you, our community.




Why LYDIA? pt 2

In each state we’ve lived, we’ve had a bit of LYDIA going. But when I learned about Santa Fe, I knew that this would be our home. We moved out here in 2013 – it was our best decision yet.

sun over Santa Fe

In 2013, I decided to volunteer at Care Net, our local crisis pregnancy and parent education organization. Check them out, over on Fifth Street. (Don’t tell them I sent you!) While at Care Net, I met teen parents, young couples, struggling parents, pregnant moms with multiple children, those who were having their second babies…..and they all had more than their pregnancies in common. Some had no jobs. Some had jobs and were still fighting to make ends meet. Some of the partner parents were also struggling – making minimum wage, talking about giving up on their plans and dreams….because any money at least means they can provide for their families.

I left Care Net late 2014, but had an official separation in 2015 due to medical reasons. I also filed LYDIA, Inc. (Summit International) with the State in Spring of 2015. We made our announcement then – we’re legitimately in New Mexico!

nm state seal

With much discussion between us and the Board of Directors, we have decided to offer the following current programs:

Life coaching – Emma Shows and Dr. Michael Commini are both certified life coaches. David Commini is a peer mentor, having undergone training through the U.S. Army. This program includes “brining balance to the mind, body, soul, and spirit” by addressing emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental needs. Includes: self-hypnosis and meditation instruction. ***Life coaching is NOT therapy.***

Life skills classes – workshops, blog articles, video posts, and more to come.

Business apparel clothes closet – which we originally called our Dress for Success program in 2007.

Non-medical case management – helping families who receive services from local area organizations connect with other programs, maintain records, provide weekly accountability, and more.


In part three, we’ll discuss future and potential programs.



Why LYDIA, Inc.

I’ve had many questions about “why LYDIA, Inc.?” – “what is the idea?”, “what is the concept?”, “what is the reality?”, “what do we want?”, and “why?”, “why?”, “why?”, “why?”, “why?”


Original Logo

In 2002 I was the happiest I could ever be. I got married. In 2003, I got pregnant and gave birth to one of the world’s most beautiful people. In 2004, I found myself separated, and in 2006, my divorce was finalized.

*not my belly

*not my belly

In 2005, I lived in a small apartment with my baby, and joined a peer mentorship program, where I worked with a social worker to determine the true needs, listen to the stories, and begin the idea of LYDIA, Inc. From there, I decided to go back to school. I wanted to study business management. Since I lived in the family dorms, we tried to work together to have a women’s tea/young moms support group.

Wasn't she cute?!?!?

Wasn’t she cute?!?!?

I found myself pregnant in 2006, after having what some in the church would call “a moment of weakness” – I met a man, who saw that I was hurting because I wanted to save my marriage and that my ex-husband wouldn’t consider it. This man helped me begin to heal in his own way, and gave me my second daughter.
That pregnancy was rough – I found myself on bedrest. I couldn’t pay my rent because I couldn’t keep a job….I would have contractions at the worst times, when carrying food, standing on my feet, sitting down. I had my daughter at 32 weeks – I was approximately 8 months pregnant (I say approximately, because the EDD and the Adjusted Due Date differ depending on the organization or medical community).
After she was born, I found myself homeless due to a series of unfortunate events. I went to stay in a women’s shelter until I could find a job and somewhere to live. It was at this time that I met people from Against the Grain in Nashville, TN.

2#15 oz at birth. 16.5" long

2#15 oz at birth. 16.5″ long

From the women’s shelter, we went to live in the projects – but it was a much nicer neighborhood than I was told to expect. And it was at this time that I met people from Maury United Methodist Services (I’m not sure what they’re called now).
In 2007, within the projects, I met struggling grandparents raising their grandbabies, I met moms who were with their men for the check, I met families who struggled to make ends meet and were appreciative of the roof over their heads.
I opened my home, and my doors, to the children in the neighborhood. It wasn’t odd to find anywhere from 3-10 children in my yard or my house at any given time.
But, because my pregnancy had been so hard, and my baby so sickly, I wasn’t able to work. I reached out to DCS (department of children services) and asked for help. Because of them, I found family services, a local non-profit to where we were, and began discussing various needs and solutions with them.
We began to flesh LYDIA out and see what we could potentially do with it. It still wasn’t “just right” – and may never be, but it is becoming what it needs to be.



We’re going to jump forward several years in part two, so stay tuned!

A Support Your Community Activity

Last minute notice*:

This Saturday, July 30th, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., we are gathering school supplies for recipients of St. Elizabeth Shelter’s Casa Familia. Donations can be dropped off at LYDIA, Inc.

The program manager has requested that we provide clean/brand new underwear, water bottles, backpacks/bookbags, and uniform shirts – for anyone who is able to do so. Otherwise, our request is that when you are out shopping, please pick up one or two extra items and drop them off with us. If your children need it, so do the children at St. Elizabeth Shelter’s Casa Familia. Continue Reading →