Taking the TI to TX

My first trip to Texas. My first trip with Shannon. My first “work trip” to somewhere more exciting than Brussels… why?

The TI.

The Transformational Index helps organisations measure their impact more effectively and meaningfully. It helps organisations say “This is what good looks like”. And the aim is that it can be used by any kind of organisation, anywhere in the world. So – I found myself in Texas in June, helping Shannon & Andy S to train facilitators, start a pilot project and deliver TI workshops.

There are now six Texas-based trained facilitators. Eight organisations taking part in the four-month pilot project. Six other organisations who have completed TI workshops. And new partnerships formed, and friends made, all over Texas.

And, it seems, this is just the beginning. We’re going back in October. And I, for one, cannot wait.

– Becca McGowan

Shannon, Andy S & Karen


Sharing families

Last month we had the honor of taking our lovely English friends to our favorite river spot on the Guadalupe. It was such an enjoyable weekend, catching up with all that is going on with everyone from London.

Justin and I have truly enjoyed being able to spend this time with everyone and even getting to introduce our children to the people with “funny” accents! We love what God is doing with and through this wonderful community and are so grateful we have been able to be a part of it.

My journey began when Shannon invited the Jill Reno Collection in May 2011 to host a Sweet Notions design camp with the women at the Marylebone Project…what an amazing group of women and a life changing experience for me!

Then Justin and I were invited on the Chateau Duffy adventure in France…an unforgettable adventure with men hanging off the roof and the women working like little ants stacking clay tiles.  We loved being there with you all and know that we have made friends for life and can’t wait to do it all again!!!

– Lisa Carpenter

Brad with Justin & Lisa at the Chateau Duffy reunion


I have experienced a lot of hospitality in the last few years. A lot of people have opened their homes to me, and done so with amazing generosity…

I’m in Texas right now. Over the last month or so I have stayed in at least six different households. Every single one has responded to my (and often several other people’s) invasion with a great deal of generosity, going far beyond what is necessary. They have opened up their homes and their lives, showing us their cities, feeding and watering us (and rarely letting us pay for anything).

I am awed and humbled by this generosity. And I dearly wish I could reciprocate.

Hospitality is a key part of Matryoshka Haus life. It is part of how we define ourselves as a community, and it is how we want to express ourselves to the world – by opening up our homes to strangers and friends, thinkers and dreamers, wounded travellers all. It is one of the characteristics of MH that is most meaningful to me and why I am so committed to them.

But I am keenly aware that I am almost always the recipient of this hospitality, rather than the provider of it. And that saddens me.

Over the last few days an unexpected crisis has seen me decamp to Dallas, a town that was never on the itinerary for this trip. At very short notice an amazing couple called Dawn and Mark have opened up their home to me, despite significant chaos in their own lives right now (they are in the process of selling their house and getting ready to move – possibly out of the country). And they did so unthinkingly, because radical hospitality is so ingrained in their DNA.

I only wish that I could do the same.

It looks like it may be a while before I find a place to be “mine”. Something is nagging in the back of my mind telling me my nomad days are not over yet… But that means it will still be some time before I can host others, before I can offer the kind of hospitality I have received.

I do hope it’s not too long.

[A version of this post first appeared on Andy’s blog.]

Transatlantic Community

When friends asked me why I was planning a trip to Texas, my short answer was “I’m going with the community I’m involved with in the East End” – which was kind of true. After all, Cathers, Andy M and I spent a week road-tripping and we’re all from the London community. But really, it’s not a community that just exists in London – it’s a transatlantic community that exists just as much in Texas as it does in the East End.

In the early days of Matryoshka Haus, the links between the two continents grew thanks to visitors back and forth over the pond. More recently, deeper connections have developed thanks to Texans’ involvement in the Chateau Duffy trips. For those few weeks in France, the community has been united in one place and in one task – a true community experience.

Visiting Texas for the first time was full of new things for me, but at the same time there was plenty of familiarity. In each place I visited, I met old friends – from dinner with the Paolis in Houston and live music with Stacey in Austin to the Chateau Duffy reunion BBQ in Kerville. But in each place I also met strangers, but because they were part of the Texan Matryoshka Haus community, they didn’t seem like strangers – they were friends I simply hadn’t met before.

Meals in Houston, Austin and Kerrville were so similar to our community meals in London – there was good food, great banter and plenty of wine. One meal with the Richards family in Kerrville ended up in a girly conversation that wouldn’t have been out of place at Thursday night curry. I may have been in an unfamiliar place, but I didn’t feel like I was with unfamiliar people. That is the beauty and blessing of the Matryoshka Haus community.

Mr Richard & Carl at the Chateau Duffy reunion

Jacob the hoover

Jacob Scofield, offspring of Thomasin the cop and Andy the consultant, will always be a healthy child and adult. His parents have assured this by allowing him – nay, nay, by encouraging him – to graze across my colorful carpet.

During his and his parents’ May and June stays in the Houston home I share with Robin the public relations lady, I thought he was just an unusually quiet seven-month old, a toddler saving his vocal efforts for the terrible twos. But as I observed him wiggling across our moderately-price imported carpet, I realized he was too busy to say anything: He was licking the rug. and it is one offering an enriched nap of imbedded dog hair, crushed tortilla chips, and a fine crumb of imported shortbread, enhanced with the dried yet heady aroma of tequila, Texas corn whiskey and a splash of soda water. And, afterwards, no reaction. The level of immunity he has built must be incredible.

Jacob takes his own photo with an iPhone

Jacob’s self-portrait

I have yet to vacuum the carpet hoping Jacob might soon return and save me the trouble.

– Richard Paoli

[Mr Richard is the Matryoshka Haus’ head chef and favourite story-teller…]