Sunday, October 16, 2016

Some Thoughts On Sunday Mornings, Running, and Prayer

Over the last few years, Sunday mornings have become truly sacred to me.  I spend them in one of two ways - either running along the trails in one of two favorite parks, or curled up in my nook in the basement with a nourishing book and my journal.  Sometimes, I get to do both.  

What follows is a portion of my journal entry from July 3 of this summer.  I've debated for a long while whether or not to share it - I've NEVER before published something straight from my private journals - and this morning it felt right to finally do so.  The only editing I've done is to divide it into some smaller paragraphs so that it's a bit easier to read.  

But first....another cup of tea...

And as I came back down to my chair, the thought that crossed my mind was that I wish I lived in a Sunday morning sort of world.  Imagine how lovely it would be if I had this kind of time every single day for quiet reflection, for communion with God.

It would be lovely.

But it wouldn't be the real world.

By the way, when the Urgent Care Doc told me I couldn't run for 2-4 weeks, my 1st thought was, "But that's how I talk to God."  It was an interesting gut response, and one that I think bears some attention to.

I don't actually pray during most runs - I listen to books or podcasts.  I do pay attention to my surroundings, and I like to capture the special things (Morning light, the lake, the stone people) in pictures.  I take selfies to celebrate the successes or to just record the day - making sure I'm inserted firmly into my life - or to just grab another picture of a happy me.  Each run is a success in some way, each run is a victory....over my health or over past expectations, or over my own fears....over what I thought was possible or over what I once knew was true about myself.  I love it, even when it's hard or frustrating, even when I question my sanity or why I keep going.

So while I don't pray i the traditional sense, each run becomes a prayer - a thank you for the yes I can, an appreciation for how far I've come, a challenge to continue so that I can be the best Kristin that God wants me to be.  Despite those stories in my ear or maybe because of them, this is when I'm the most present in my own body....and in the world.  It's when I'm the most focused, and it's when I'm paying the most attention.  I'm rewarded with sunrises so beautiful that they break the heart, still reflective waters that center me and calm my soul, the magic of the rock cairns, the gentle recognition of other souls on the trail, the calm presence of the trees, and the deep knowledge that yes, I can.  It's not always so deep (although Sunday mornings tend to be) but there are always at least glimmers of this.

So yes, I talk to God when I run, and He always talks to me.

Friday, September 30, 2016

September Reading

1.  A Song for Arbonne, Guy Gavriel Kay (audio) - I was completely out of fresh podcasts, and needed something to listen to while running, so I found this while browsing for favorite writers in our library's digital services.  While technically it's a reread, it's literally been decades since I actually read this book, so I honestly didn't remember much at all.  (This is a sign that maybe it's time to start pulling out crates from the basement so that I can reread a couple of series that I remember loving from college.). One of the things I most love about Kay's work is that his female characters are so well-drawn.  I don't find that in the work of many male fantasy writers, so it's always a treat.  I love falling in love with characters, as I did in this book.

2. Mothering Sunday, Graham Swift - This is one of the last recommendations I took from Books on the Nightstand before that lovely podcast decided to come to an end.  It's a slim book - I was able to read it in a single evening - and it packed an emotional wallop the size of which way outweighs the number of pages.  It's the story of a single afternoon, and what comes of it.  I loved the way in which the narrative shifted back and forth over the events of that day, with hints of things to come gradually becoming the full story of an entire life.  I loved the details...the way in which all senses became involved in the telling so that it felt like I was actually a part of the story.  And I loved Jane...just because.

3a.  The Key To The Coward's Spell, Alex Bledsoe - love Bledsoe's short stories, which support his two series of books.  This is an Eddie LaCrosse novel....some time ago I listened to the audio of those books and just fell in love with them.  Super fun!  The short story goes into some rather serious issues, and it's not exactly a light read because of that.  Still, it's good to revisit a character....and perhaps this means Bledsoe is working on a new Eddie LaCrosse book?

3b.  Night Flower, Kate Elliott - and this was a short story/novella that supports Elliott's Court of Fives books!  It's the love story of her protagonist's parents, and while it was a sweet read I'm not entirely sure it was neccessary.

4.  How to Live: or A Life of Montaigne, Sarah Bakewell - An older BOTNS recommendation, that I picked up when it finally went on sale.  It was interesting...but I didn't love it as much as other people have loved it.  I will say that it was an excellent introduction to the life and works of Montaigne, written in a very approachable manner.

5. Sister Light, Sister Dark, Jane Yolen - This is the first book in an older trilogy from an author so beloved by me that I find it difficult to understand why I hadn't read them before.  Hmmm..  They only recently became available in digital format, and I snapped the first one up when it went on sale.  I will soon be procuring the other two books.  I adore fairy tale, folklore, mythology...all of that good stuff!  The fact that Yolen tells her tale through those devices, followed by the 'truth' of what happened to create them makes these books truly special. (As an aside, it's fun to imagine where our modern day scholars do and don't get things right!)

6.  Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel - This is also one of the later BOTNS recommendations.  Probably wouldn't have read it if it hadn't gone on the ibooks sale page, but nevertheless I enjoyed it.  Told through interviews, news reports, official briefings, it's a quick read with some fun characters.  There's a sequel coming out...I may or may not read it.  As much fun as it was, it's not really sticking with me - despite those fun characters and a unique plot.

7.  Chapel of Ease, Alex Bledsoe - I love Bledsoe's Tufa novels.  This is his fourth, and I was happy to find that it returned to form after a somewhat dissapointing third novel.  The fact that it folded Broadway musicals into the narrative perhaps made it even better for this Broadway superfan!  The spin on the main character was unexpected given the general nature of the books, but it was well done.

8. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead (audio) - I'm going to be clear.  This is not a "fun" book to read.  It is, however, and important book to read...and one that I think should be required reading for all students of history in this country, no matter how Whitehead plays with reality by altering time and space and by making the railroad  an actual railroad.  If you don't understand the Black Lives Matter movement, you should read this.  If you care about equality and justice, you should read this.  If you don't understand or want a better understanding of race relations in the US, you should read this.  It's not fun, and it's not easy....but it is neccesary.

9.  Children of Earth and Sky, Guy Gavriel Kay - This is Kay's newest, and it was true to form.  The world he built is rich, and the characters are lovely. Interestingly enough, it was a continuation of his long-ago Sarantium books.  (and I may have to reread those, too....sigh).  Again, I find it amazing that the best characters are the women.  Lovely, lovely read.

10.  Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo - I adore Leigh Bardugo and her Grisha world.  This is the sequel to Six of Crows, and I have to say that I'm glad it completes the story which that book began.  I don't know if I could have waited another year to finish!!  Take note, this is how you do flawed characters who maybe aren't the nicest people in the world, but with whom you want the readers to be fully connected with and rooting for.  Loved the backstories that were fleshed out in this book.  Once again, I also truly appreciate the diversity among the characters.

The Pile O'Unfinished:

11. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, trans. Ken Liu (audio) - Yep, this book was a really big deal in the science fiction world.  While normally I'm not a fan of actual science fiction, I do love Ken Liu's work, so I decided to give it a try.  I appreciate the writing, and I did find it interesting...but for whatever reason it just wasn't my cup of tea and I couldn't bring myself to finish it.

12.  Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton (audio) - I'm a fan of Melton's, and while sometimes her writing style strikes me as a bit much, I generally find her work meaningful.  I think my mistake was in picking up the audio version of her new memoir.  Melton does the reading, and while normally I enjoy hearing the author add to her work, this time it just didn't work for me.  Melton does an excellent job with the narration - adding just the right amount of emotion - but (and I hesitate to actually say this for a variety of reasons) for me, her voice was annoying and childlike.  I'll pick the book up in print at some other time.

13. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell (audio) - I tried.  It was annoying.  The humor was just too much for me, although I did appreciate the guest voices that were brought in.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Reading, Part 3 - AUGUST!

My Series:

Didn't happen this month. Whoops!

My Short Story Collection:

1. Points of Departure: Liavek Stories, Patricia C. Wrede and Pamela Dean - I started reading this some time ago, and truth be told it would have been better if I'd been able to get through the entire book in a relatively short amount of time as there were some stories that connected throughout.  I absolutely love the world that Wrede, Dean, and several other writers created to play around in, and part of me wants to track down the rest of the Liavek stories.  Enjoyable, but ultimately not pieces that will stick with me as grand favorites.  At the very least, I appreciated the fact that most of the stories were long enough that it really felt like I was getting something out of them.

The Rest:

3. Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine - Oh man, I loved this book more than I can possibly say! It's another recommendation that came from the Huff post article that also recommended Roses and Rot.  In fact, given how much I love both books, I may have to find that article and read the rest of the books in the list.  Plucky heroine, alternative history/gaslamp fiction, interstellar travel done Victorian was so much fun!  Levine is definitely someone I'm going to keep an eye on.

4.  American Gods, Neil Gaiman (audio) - This was a reread for me, and this time around I had the added benefit of being able to easily google some of the crazy locations mentioned in the book.  (And now I need to go on a big, fat road trip.)  I chose to reread it in large part because of the upcoming television adaptation of the book, which looks to be amazing.  I love Gaiman's work, and it was fun to revisit this book.  It was a lot less action-packed and a lot more rambling than I remembered, but at this stage in my life that's exactly what I wanted.

5.  Throne of Jade, Naomi Novik - AND THE LIBRARY NOW HAS SOME OF THOSE FABULOUS DRAGON BOOKS I TALKED ABOUT LAST MONTH!!!!  Now, there are some issues.  They have books 1, 2 and 9 available in digital ebook format right now, while 7, 8, and 9 are available for audio streaming.  This is somewhat annoying, but it does mean they are most likely working to get the entire collection.  So I happily moved on and read the second book, and I loved it every bit as much as the first.  Now I just keep telling myself to be patient for the rest....

6.  Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow (audio) - With the soundtrack of Hamilton: An American Muscial being the soundtrack for our family's summer, it was inevitable that I should read the book that inspired it all.  Goodness, though, this book is a beast!  I chose to listen to the audio, which clocks in at 35 hours at normal speed.  I was able to speed it up a bit and cut that down to 29ish hours, but that's still a major, major time commitment.  Chernow does a really good job of telling the story of our first secretary of the treasury in an engaging way that feels relevant.  This is certainly not a dry history book.  Occasionally it does get rather bogged down in the details, but that's to be expected.  While that can be overwhelming at times, I'm hard-pressed to come up with any ways that Chernow could have condensed the details without leaving out some important information.  I love that the book began and ended with Hamilton's wife, Eliza, who was fascinating in her own right.  All in all, an excellent read...even if it did rather wear me out!  (Plus, it was super fun to listen to songs from the musical after reading about the events that inspired them!)

7.  Poisoned Blade, Kate Elliott - This is the second book in her Court of Fives YA series, which I've been eagerly awaiting since I finished the first book!  One thing I appreciate is that our plucky heroine is also a very real person, with fears and insecurities of her own.  (Plucky heroines get a bit tedious unless they are fully fleshed out characters, with warts and all.)  Elliott finished the book in such a way that she can continue the series or not, and I'm really hoping that she does.

8.  The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin - This is Jemisin's follow-up to her Hugo winning book, The Fifth Season.  As with the first, I felt it was a tad difficult to really lose myself in this book...perhaps because of the shifts in point of view, perhaps because of the super-dense - and completely gorgeous - language.  The payoff for getting to the end, though, is massive once again.  There is another book to come, and I think when it gets here I'm going to have to start from the beginning and read them all together.  These are not easy books, and they have some pretty powerful things to say.  Much as I enjoyed some of the 'easier' books I read this month, I'm very glad that there are writers like Jemisin in the world.  (Bonus: an article on Jemisin that came out this week.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Making The Decision

Remember Mike?
Well, I carefully took into consideration all of your opinions about which sweater his wool should become.  I tallied up the votes, which knocked two sweaters out of the running as they received no love at all!  Then I made notes about the gauge requirements for all of the rest.
Then I knit a couple of swatches.
Once the swaches were washed and blocked, I revisited my notes about the gauge requirements for the various sweaters.
This took several other sweaters out of the mix as they were designed for a bulky yarn, and clearly Mike's wool doesn't work up to a bulky gauge.
It came down to two choices....both lovely, both receiving lots of love from all of you.  A few texts to a couple of beloved friends as well as a thorough reading of both patterns (with a close eye on the pictures to see what the recommended fabric looked like), helped me to decide.
A thorough exploration of the finished projects on Ravelry, reading through the notes on all of the projects marked as helpful, was the last thing I needed.
and then I began

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Decisions, Decisions.....

Mike says we must choose something grand to make out of his fine fleece.

Mike is correct...and in any case, with those horns, who wants to cross him?

So here are some of my ideas with a few notes.  
Please feel free to weigh in or vote in the comments!
(Pictures snagged from Ravelry)

1.  The best part of this is that the cables rather marvelously change direction, and go in a flattering angle over the chest.  The big problem is that the pattern is apparently a wreck, and it would almost be more of a hassle than it's worth. (I totally buy it...I did sample pieces for both of this designer's books...she's an artist who couldn't care less about accuracy in the patterns.)

 2.  I hadn't intended lace for this...but I keep coming back to this design. 

3. This one is a party in the back, boring on the front sort of sweater.

 4,  It's a very traditional type of jacket, and it's been in my favorites for years.  

5.I adore everything but the neckline, which would need to be altered to be more flattering.

6.  I'm not sure about the hood...but I adore these cables.

Here are a few other ideas....these actually call for a heavier yarn, but I could make it work with some extra work.  (or I could just save them for later, and make it easier on myself by getting the right weight of yarn!)





Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Reading, Part 2 - JULY!

My Series:

The Novels of the Jaren, Kate Elliot:

1. An Earthly Crown (Act 3) - I don't remember what happened that drew me away from reading these books a few months ago, but whatever it was, I was glad that the books were divided into acts so that I had a natural stopping place.  I'm also glad that I didn't wait any longer to get back to it!

Comments for this specific book - I'm not near as crazy about the 'space' portions of the story as I am about the Jaran.  Not that it isn't well-written,'s just that traditional science fiction isn't my sort of thing, and  Interesting to add in the theater company.  Theater companies abound in fantasy books, because they can get away with living outside the bonds of a normal culture, and this was well-played even if I didn't care about the characters near as much as the Jaran.

2. His Conquering Sword - A lot of stuff happens, but there's not any specific overarching plot for this portion of the saga.  That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, or that I found that it lacked focus.  One of Elliott's strong points is that she writes amazing characters, and I feel that she did them justice in this book.  At times I felt that the whole war aspect of the book was annoying to me on a personal level, but I totally understand why this is how the story plays out.

3. The Law of Becoming - Truth.  It was pretty hard to get through this one.  I lost interest a couple of times and had to push myself to go back.  Problems I'd had with HCS were worse here, and I hated the religion and family dysfunction that were added.  We got even farther away from the Jaren, and the parts that were focused on them were often so different that they just didn't feel the same.  Some of her characters began to feel like caricatures, and not real people.  If I had to put a finger on the problem, I'd say that Elliott got too far away from where she'd begun...that or she tried to do much too much with this series.  (I say this, and she's written other big, complicated series that I love.)  In the end, I hate that she also felt the need to break Ilya.  (Reminiscent of Rochester in Jane Eyre...which also annoys me.)  The ending was just too sad, too lost.

While I'm glad I read these books, at the end of the day I'd have probably been happier if I'd never got past the first one.

Bonus Series:

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry:  This was truly a bonus, and was completely unplanned.  My eldest daughter, Gillian, and I spent a lot of time watching movies together while her sister was in Art Camp, and during that time she suggested we watch the adaptation of The Giver.  It was of the rare movies that's truly touched my heart.  It's been years and years since I read The Giver, though, and as I'd never read any of the sequels....well, here we are.  I did chose to listen to the audio, which allowed me to multitask while I was knitting.  (It's a great way to sneak in MORE BOOKS!!!)  Altogether, the four books equal to about the same amount of listening time as my average literary audio.

4. The Giver - Perhaps I didn't read it at the right time when I first approached this book.  I honestly don't remember loving it as much as I do now...or appreciating it as much.  It's a beautiful book that asks some really powerful questions, and I think it's a must read.

5. Gathering Blue - Oh goodness, if anyone had told me that this book was centered around fiber arts and embroidery, I would have read it years and years ago!  Gorgeous!

6. Messenger - Hmmm....this may be the weak link.  It's a pretty short book, and while it should have packed a big emotional punch, it felt more like a whimper to me.  Perhaps, though, that's because I saw what was coming from the very beginning.

7. Son - These books are just so darn beautiful.  I almost think they are wasted on the young audience they were intended for.  I cried.  I really did.

Short Story Collection:

8a. From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review: A Lady Trent Story, Maria Brennan - I love Lady Trent, as you know, and was tickled when I discovered this short story.  It's brief, but it's super fun!

8b. Daughter of Necessity, Marie Brennan - Greek myth?  A slightly alternative perspective?  Yes please!

8c. Monstrous Beauty, Marie Brennan - This is actually a slim collection of 7 very brief fairy tales.  I'm really loving Marie Brennan now, and am wondering if I need to go pick up her other books!

9. Unnatural Creatures, Collected by Neil Gaiman - It's a much more lighthearted collection than the Liu book last month, and I have to admit it rather struck me as more whimsical than I generally want.  Big shoulder shrug.  It almost grew wearisome.

The Rest:

10. Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt - Oh my.  This book wound up on a lot of best of type of lists last year (and I believe it was also a Books on the Nightstand recommendation), so when it showed up on the itunes sale page, I snagged a copy.  I had a lot of hope, and it definitely lived up to my expectations.  This is a deliciously Gothic story, from start to finish, and I loved every single minute of it.  (Not a surprise, Gothic lit. has long been a favorite...I just don't read much anymore that fits that genre because I love the classics so much, and because modern Gothic often leaves me feeling a bit meh.)  I was actually caught off guard by the ending, which is a very pleasant surprise indeed!

11.  His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik - Damn, damn, damn.  My own summer reading rules prohibit me from rushing out and buying books 2-10 in this series, and right now that seems ridiculously unfair, because this book was so darn much fun.  I fell in love with Novik's award winning book Uprooted last summer.  As she was a new to me writer, I quite naturally decided I needed to check out her other books.  I hesitated, though, because of the large number of books in the series...but I did snag this one when it went on sale for just a couple of bucks several months ago in advance of the release of the 10th and final book.  Dragons in the Napoleonic's that, and so much more.  I'm in love, and although I'm being super good and am not rushing out to buy more I really, really want to.  (The library has the final three available on their streaming service in audio...I'm actually hoping that if I wait a while the rest will show up there as well.)

12.  An Altar on the World, Barbara Brown Taylor  - My early morning reading/study book, this was recommended to me by my partner for facilitating my Spec Today class last year.  I'm not sure why it took so very long to get around to it...but then again, sometimes you just happen to read the right book at the right time.  I found myself in tears at some point during every single chapter, and there will be lots of journaling about the ideas presented.  Amazing, and just what I needed right now to help me along my own spiritual path.  I have a feeling I will be reading more of Taylor's work.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


 This is Mike.

Mike is rather magnificent, and he knows it.

Mike happens to be my parents' favorite ram, in part because of his lovely, lilac-spotted fleece.

My mother had Mike's fleece spun into some wonderful yarn last year.

She didn't want to share.

I don't blame her.

I claimed this year's fleece.

2,000 plus yards

Let the adventure begin....