Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Books!

1.  The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky (audio) Truth be told, I only made it a third of the way through the book, which is a real shame.  I actually enjoy heavy, Russian novels, and the beginning of The Brothers K is quite good.  However, by the time I quit I was thoroughly disgusted with every single character.  Even worse, Blackstone audio used an aristocratic Brit as the reader, and his accent really seemed to confuse everything.  This is the first classic novel I've listened to where I found a trip to Spark Notes was neccessary to make sure I hadn't missed anything....largely because the reader was so difficult to follow.  And dull...he was dull. 

2.  Howard's End, E.M. Forster (audio)  Probably a result of my Downton Abby craze.  I remember reading lots of Forster in college, but honestly didn't remember the contents of this book at all.  It was delightful.

3.  Blood Work, Holly Tucker (Ebook)  I heard a rather extesive interview with the author on one of my podcasts, and was intrigued.  Consequently, when my desire for nonfiction appeared out of nowhere this month this is the first book I turned to.  Blood Work is the story of the history of blood transfusions, complete with all of the religious and philisophical ideas that existed at the time and a mystery surrounding the first successful experiments.  Tucker managed to solve the mystery during her research, and the result is a fascinating book.  Don't read it if you are on the squeamish side...especially when it comes to animal research. 

4.  Allergic Girl, Sloan Miller (Ebook)  Sloan Miller is somewhat of a celebrity in the allergy world, and her book was an interesting combo of memoir and advice.  I have to admit, though, that it left me feeling pretty cold.  There is a lot of time devoted to helping allergy people eat out safely...and that's just not my thing for a lot of reasons.  Also, Miller falls into the camp that seems to believe that if you don't go into anaphylacsis with the barest touch of your allergies than it doesn't count.  I don't know that she honestly believes that....but it sure felt that way.  I was pretty upset when I finished the book....and a tour of popular food allergy blogs and websites didnt' help. 

5.  Franklin & Eleanor, An Extraordinary Marriage, Hazel Rowley (library) - A Books On The Nightstand recommendation, Rowley's book was delightful.  The Rosevelts had a very unconventional marriage, and the story of it was fascinating.  I've wanted to read ths for a long while, and it didn't dissapoint. 

6. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon (Ebook)  I actually read this book years ago, and enjoyed it quite a bit.  For some reason, though, I never read any of the other books - preferring to take this one as a stand alone.  I might have been perfectly content to never, ever read these books if they hadn't started popping up on list after list after list.  SO, needing a break from heavy classics and nonfiction, I read the whole thing - all 800 some odd pages - in just a few days.  Super fun, can't wait to read the next one.

7.  Hit List, Laurell K. Hamilton (library) - I'm done with Hamilton, and I'm done with Anita Blake.  The problem is that after 20 books it feels like Hamilton has exhausted her ideas for that particular character and has fallen into the dasterdly trap of lazy writing.  Done. 

8.  War Horse, Michael Morpurgo (audio) - The audio is only four hours long, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  I don't think I realized it was a children's book...but I love children's books so that wasn't a problem!

9.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling (library) - A quick and very entertaining read.  Little bit like Tina Fey's Bossypants....but that didn't take away from it at all.  Kaling is very relatable.

10.  Let's Take The Long Way Home, Gail Caldwell (library Ebook) - Another BOTNS recommendation, I was  a bit hesitant.  For starters, I'm a dog person who has no patience with dog people...and the friendship the book memorializes was built around that dog people thing in the beginning.  It also felt a bit syrupy due to Caldwell's writing style.  But I stuck with it anyway, and I'm glad I did.  It's a short book...and well worth it.

PS.  Blogger and I had an argument this morning, and as a result the spell check didn't work.  I have notoriously bad spelling, so please forgive my errors.  Part and parcel. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why Yes, I Do Knit In Church

During one of the hymns yesterday morning my eldest child leaned over and whispered,
"Mom, why do you come to church if all you do is knit during the service?"

A very good question, indeed.

Yes, yes it is true that I knit during church. 

For the record, I'm not the only one, and probably wouldn't have the gumption to do it if I were alone.  There are actually three or four of us who can be found with our knitting bags by our sides on a regular basis, picking up our knitting needles periodically throughout the service.  I must also say that no one has ever complained about this behavior, and if any such complaints were brought to my attention I would immediately stop out of respect for my fellow congregants.

So why do I do it?

I knit during church because knitting helps to still my mind.  Finding a quiet place then helps me to focus my attention on the service itself, and helps me to open my heart and mind to any messages that I might need to hear.  (Incidentally, I also take notes during worship services.)

I knit during church because quite frankly I am someone who has trouble sitting still.

I knit during church because my church family values my talents and appreciates my work.  They never belittle the things that I make and do, and they've made it abundantly clear that they love and respect this part of me.

I knit during church because it is a time when I often think of others...and so often the projects I take are gifts.  Truth be told I'm a bit superstitious about gift knitting, and like to put as much love into the projects as possible.

I knit during church because I have enough of an old fashioned soul to believe in the old adage that "idle hands are the devil's work."

I knit during church because our church believes that we should put our minds and our unique talents to use....and I know without a doubt this is an expression of both for me.

I knit during church because a more relaxed Mama means more relaxed children...which ultimately means a better Sunday morning experience for all of us.

Just as I don't believe there's any one "Right" church or any one "Right" way of belief, I also don't believe there's any one "Right" way to worship. 

And knitting during church just so happens to be my way to worship.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

R2 Gets Glam

Little girls with early January birthdays must sometimes celebrate a little bit late to make sure that as many friends as possible are able to come.

Which is why we found ourselves at Empire Roller Rink this morning with 9 adorable little girls, a group of happy parents and one very awesome glamed up Star Wars Cake.

Last year Darth Vador went Glam, so it was only fair that this year the Rebellion had its turn.  
Honestly, it was funnier with Darth (seriously, Darth Vador in pink!) but R2 is quite dashing with the glam treatment as well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gentle and Quiet

Way back between the trees on the path, if you squint and look very closely, you can see Sean and our Princess on their very first Daddy-Daughter run this last weekend.  They made it 2.4 miles, and both had a fabulous time.
 
  • I've started exercising again.  I'm trying to follow my doctor's advice, which is to start out as gently as possible - with walking and some yoga.  Weight lifting and more strenuous stuff is off the table for a while because my body is still adjusting to my allergy diet. 
  • It's hard enough to get enough calories when you are eating nothing but rabbit food...for now I don't need to push.
  • My doctor has told me that I need patience.  I'm not particularly good at that.
  • This week is an interesting week for me.  My extra kids are with their grandmother all week because of parent-teacher conferences, and my own kids are only in school for three days.
  • I spent ALL of yesterday at Starbucks, happily camped out in my favorite chair with my knitting.
  • Today I'm spending all day at home - and hopefully I'll get some things done this afternoon.
  • Tomorrow morning I'm getting my hair cut...and then, who knows?
  • I think I needed the wee break.  There has been a lot of stress for the last month or so.
  • Oddly enough, I've not had much to say for the last few days.  My restful time appears to also be a quiet time.
  • I received a present in the mail a few days ago, which I absolutely adore.  Once I get an official thank you in the mail, I will share it with you all. 
  • I still don't have much to say....time to go knit. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Slogging Along

 It is rather beautiful.
 Which is good because we seem to have hit the boring part.
Four repeats of the center pattern to go
...now at about 15 min./row
...and an increase of 46 stitches / repeat

Sigh.

Still, totally worth it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bounty

 I went to my guild meeting Tuesday night, and had no sooner sat down when a small mountain of leftover sock yarn came my way.  My friend Jenny gave me some green (wrapped in paper, labeled nicely).  The rest came from my friend Janet. 

Oh my!

Just think....so much beauty, and it all came from leftovers...scraps that otherwise may not have found a use.

A big thank you to my friends for helping my blanket to grow!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

21...and Counting

My new essay on Meg is coming along nicely, and hopefully I"ll have it to present to you in a day or two.  I also have some fun knitting and crafting to share soon.  (That was the original intent of the blog, right?)

In the meantime I have  a question. 

I have in my possession 21 journals.  I started keeping them back at the tender (and somewhat nutty) age of 13, and while I've not been entirely faithful to them over the years I am very much aware that a good chunk of my heart and soul can be found in their pages.  They are among my prize possessions...for all that I don't reread them or even remember what secrets they hold.  (I've reread the first two...and as with my essay on Meg they are quite illuminating.)

So, here is my question. 

If you were in possession of a similar pile of journals, what would you do with them?  Keep for all eternity, leaving to your descendants to read and/or do with as they please?  Destroy so as not to share?  Some combo of both? 

Just curious. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Ghosts of Valentine's Past



If you are very lucky, you will have been touched by people who have taught you what it is to be loved.

As I think about the relationship I have with my husband - who truly is the perfect partner for me - I am mindful that a Sean would never have happened if it weren't for my past relationships.

I was so, so blessed to have been loved and cared for by two separate groups of boys during my formative years.  In high school I had a boyfriend, best friend and adopted big brother.  In college it was a group of four (Sean was one of them.)  who took me on as a token female..only to quickly become family.  I could write a book about what I gained from each and every one of those relationships...and actually I just might do that one day.  Suffice it to say - for now - that the older I get the more I recognize just how lucky I was to have had such a solid foundation for my current life.

On this Valentine's Day, I want to say thank you to those men...for being who you are, for loving and caring for me, for keeping me safe, and most of all for showing me exactly what I needed from life and love.

I hope my girls are lucky enough to find your counterparts some day.

And,
 Happy Valentine's Day Sean.
I Love You!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meg and Me, 1992

Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time.  Though rejected 26 times before publication, this book (As Im sure you all know!) has become a beloved classic.  I first encountered A Wrinkle In Time in Bright Ideas, my elementary gifted program, when our teacher played the audio to us as part of our end of day quite time over a period of some weeks.  I've read it countless time since...along with it's two sequels.  The following essay was written in the February of 1992, during my last semester of high school in AP English.  The assignment was to write an essay placing the self into a cultural context.  Forgive the sentimentality...I was only 18 at the time...and enjoy.  I've refrained from editing in even the smallest way, and so all errors in grammer and spelling are original.  Later this week, I'll give you a new essay on the 20 years since.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to read.  She spent every spare moment reading all of the books she could get her hands on.  Her poor mother was kept extremely busy providing an endless supply of literature that her daughter devoured.  Then one day, the little girl was given a copy of A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  As she read, she became aware that this was no ordinary book.  This was the story of an average girl who had her own share of problems.  More importantly, the book could have almost been a portrait of its reader.

A short time later, the little girl was given A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tiltiling Planet.  She eagerly read through the two books that completed the trilogy.  She was dissapointed, though, because she no longer saw herself reflected in the pages.  Several years passed before she touched the books again.  When she finally reread them, she found that she had grown closer to them.  Now she could again see herself in the story.  Who was this girl?  She was myself, and she had found herself in Margaret Murry-O'Keefe.  As i have come to realize, Meg and I are the same person in many ways, and we have a unique place in society.

I guess I should tell you about Margare, or rather Meg.  She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Murry, both highly respected scientists.  She is the eldest of four children, and she is the only daughter.  Twins Sandy and Dennys follow her by a few years, and Charles Wallace comes next.  Meg's family is very close-knit and loving.  They are almost a model family in that respect.  Within the family, Meg is closest to Charles Wllace.  They share a special relationship that one doesn't find very often in siblings.  The family lives on a small farm that is located on the out-skirts of a small town somewhere in New England.  Their home is a cozy, old farmhouse that is always full of light and warmth.  There are always a few kittens around as well as a dog that has found its way into the family circle.  But those are just the basic facts.

Meg is really a very complex character.  When I think of her, the first word that comes to mind is awkward because she just doesn't seem comfortable with her lot in life.  Meg is one of those poor souls who went through a difficult adolescence.  It started with a seemingly ugly appearance.  She was frumpy, and her hair was mousy.  Thick glasses and braces did not help the situation at all.  As she grew older and her looks didn't get any better, she developed a low self-esteem.  mrs. Murry tried to help her daughter cope because she too had been through the same thing.  Unfortunately, Meg's self-image is so horrible that she can't (or won't) understand her beautiful mother. 

In the midst ofher early teen years, Meg became self-conscious.  She honestly believed that she was so ugly that people watched her on purpose.  She became defensive to protect herself.  She refused to let anyone outside of her family get to know her.  Others would comment on how unpleasant she was.  This was due to her frequent arguments and fights with her classmates and principle.  She in turn thought everyone was out to get her.  Trust is difficult for her, and she has isolated herself for lack of it. 

I mirror Meg in many of these ways.  I have also expereienced the low self-esteem that results from believing that I was not as pretty as the other girls.  I have built protective barriers to shield me from the girl.  These similarities began in early junior high.  That is the time when people begin to form attitudes and cliques.  I was so confused about where I belonged that I drew back form the world.  I started to gain weight and I got braces.  Then people began to pressure me about cutting my haiur.  That criticism about the one part of myself that I liked was one of the crushing blows.  I still bear the scars from my feelings of inadequacy and rejection. 

One other thing that Meg and I share is our intelligence.  We have both taken refuge from the world by seeking out information of all kinds. We are strong in virtually all areas of study.  The difference comes in the fact that Meg never realized that she was gifted.  Unfortunately, our "gift" has been a stumbling block at times.  We sometimes intimidate people, and that frustrates us.  The one thing that those people don't realize is that they intimidate us because they have achieved normality. 

That isn't a completely correct picture of us because we are, of course, changing with different events that shape our lives.  The personalities described above are only a horrible beginning.  I am pleased to say that Meg and I were able to grow into much more confident individuals.  The most dramatic improvement was physical.  We lost our braces and Meg traded in her glasses for contacts.  Then we both became skinnier.  Our hair was the next to change as it subtly changed color and texture.  One day we looked into the mirror and realized that we had become almost as pretty as our friends told us that we were.  Sometimes we still are amazed.

Our emotional transformation was slower, and it was a direct result of events that shaped our lives.  IN Meg's case the events were dramatic and highly unlikely.  She has tessered, wrinkled, through time and the universe.  She visited her brother's mitochondria.  Her mind has learned to kythe, or share every thought and memory with others.  With each experience, she learned to love and accept others.  The end result was that she loved and respected herself.  In my own case, I learned self-worth with the help fo a counselor.  I had to learn to explore my reasons for feeling so bad about myself.  I also had to learn to deal with stressful situations.  Only then was I able to accept the place in society where Meg and I belong.

Meg and I are a strange lot.  We don't fit in with today's picture of the average teen-ager.  According t society, the average teenager should be close to physically perfect, should enjoy certain activities, and should always live as if each day were to be their last.  This just isn't possible for Meg and I.  we can't ever by physically perfect for two reasons.  The first is that we will never be able to get rid of the adolescent image of ourselves.  The second is that we have come to realize that there is no such thing despite what our mass mediums tell us.  Where teen-activities are concerned, we could usually care less.  We hate sports, avoid crowds, and prefer burying our noses in books rather than spend a night on the town.  This isn't to say that we are impersonal.  We just feel more comfortable in small groups.  As far as living for the moment goes, we are too serious to ever be able to gain the freedom to live life to the fullest. 

So we have become the silent observers of life around us.  We sit back and watch life go on around us.  We become support givers to those whom we allow into our lives  It is a life that is both saddening and strangely wonderful.  Meg and I have often been upset by the way in which we have isolated ourselves, but we are tough.  We have learned to enjoy solitude and tranquility that accompanies it.  We like the mental freedom we have found that frees us from being tied down to an image.  Frequently we like to surprise people by showing them a new piece of ourselves. 

OF course the transformation has not always been easy.  We grew up too quickly.  Then we tried to live within a world that we created for ourselves.  Within that world we were children.  At various times those children saw themselves as being enclosed in a glass bubble.  They hated watching the world marching by on the outside, but were to afraid to break open the glass.  As we grew older, we realized that we didn't want to lose ourselves in the crowd.  That was when we started to realized that we liked being different.  It was almost as if we had been walking the tightrope of sanity with chaos beneath us.  With the realization that we actually liked ourselves, the tightrope became first a path and then a road.  We were finally happy.

Snow Day

This is actually from a brief snow last month.  My apologies for an inaccurately dated picture, but I was feeling rather too lazy this morning to take new ones.  Besides, it's still snowing!

We woke up to a what promises to be the first significant snow of the year...and multiple texts from the school district announcing a snow day.

I've been absent for the last several days because I've been reading.  I've been reading in the sort of book-binge/all-absorbing way that I used to be able to indulge in all of the time.  Then I had kids.  And a grown up life.  It's rare to allow myself the luxury these days, but I'm so glad I did.  I really needed it.  My book list at the end of the month is going to be rather lengthy!

Of course, while I was 'gone' my girls managed to completely destroy the house.  My husband was sick, and with both of us otherwise occupied I'm afraid they rather ran amuck for a few days.  Adding to that horror...my grandmother and parents came up for a visit yesterday, and saw the disaster.  I'm rather embarrassed, but it is what it is.

Which is why today we are cleaning instead of playing. 

In other news:
  • I have a special post to put up later today...I hope you all enjoy it.  There will be a companion piece tomorrow.  Both are intensely personal, but I feel like it is something I want to share as they both will honor a book and an author who have helped to shape my life.
  • I am nearing completion on my embroidery piece, and may try to do that this afternoon.
  • I've been angry a lot lately, which is part of why I've been so silent.  None of it needs to be shared, and anger does not make a good writing companion.  I'm not yet all better, but I'm getting there.  If there is one thing I've learned, it's that I simply must honor those ugly feelings by letting myself experience them if I have any hope of working through whatever problem lurks behind.
  • My parents don't notice a bad smell at all from the Jacob wool.  This is a serious problem.
  • I now have a flock of goldfinches at my birdfeeders.  This is new, and very exciting!
All for now...I hope you are all enjoying your day, with all that it is bringing to you!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

100 Days

I thought I would want to jump up and down and throw a party today.  After all, I've been looking forward to this occasion for quite some time now, and today does represent a fairly hefty accomplishment.

Instead, I'm feeling quiet, reflective, and more than a little bit sad.

Today is my 100th day of Clean Eating on my Allergy Diet.

To be honest, there have been a few slips....not many...but they've been there.  The difference is that this time I didn't let those slips turn into stumbles which carried me to the edge of a cliff and then sent me over the edge to tumble down, down, down - head over heels - into the depths of despair.  (I like to imagine Wesley and Buttercup when I'm visualizing this.)  This time I slipped, but quickly picked myself up, FORGAVE myself, and got back to the business of doing the best I could do...which is why I still count today as 100.

Novel concept, this being nice to myself. 

I would also like to add that this time there has been a pretty big price to pay for each and every slip.  Having been clean for a time, my body is now extremely touchy and gets pretty upset if I ingest an allergen.  My doctor calls this, "unmasking,"  which means that I've moved from a state of chronic illness to one of acute reactions.  In a way, I'm grateful for the heightened reactions because they are scary enough to frighten me away from the things I shouldn't eat. 

At any rate, 100 is a big number...but it's just a drop in the ocean.

I would be lying if I didn't cop to the fact that the social difficulties of this diet are really starting to come into focus. I've found myself withdrawing quite a bit lately rather than face up to them.

But that is a post for another day....or another blog.

Today, I'll focus on the positive.

So what exactly do I get from this diet?  I think many people are surprised at just how much of my overall health and well-being my food allergies have affected.  A partial list (and believe me, I could go on and on if I wanted to!) of benefits includes: 
  • freedom from tummy aches, gas, digestive distress, constant (and embarrassing) belching...in sort, every IBS symptom that has been plaguing me on a near daily basis since I was 17
  • Freedom from joint pain, (most) headaches, locked muscles, and carpal tunnel
  • greatly reduced anxiety levels, an even temperament, and rapidly evaporating depression problems
  • relief from acne and from facial swelling (which I didn't notice until it was gone)
  •  freedom from the crazy exhaustion and brain fog
  • lessened chemical sensitivity
  • the best - and most consistent - sleep I've ever had
  •  falling numbers on the scales (without any effort)
100 days down...a lifetime to go.

Thank you all for indulging me by allowing me to share this journey with you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekending

 
Yesterday I sat down with my quilt and at long last sewed down the binding.

Big sigh of relief, it is done....and I actually enjoyed the process!
I do like handsewing...I just don't do it often because it is very slow, and I have so very many other things I want to do.

And today I tested it out for a bit of reading and a brief nap.  I"m quite happy to report that it works beautifully!

Thanks again, Mom, for doing 99% of the work!
In other weekend news:
  • I took the girls to see Beauty and the Beast in 3D.  For me it was a real joy to share one of my favorites in the theater with my girls.  However, some movies just shouldn't be made into 3D.  It brought nothing to the film and did some weird things with perspective.  It also highlighted static background filler, which made for an odd viewing experience for me.
  • Knitting-free weekends are going to be a very good idea.  In addition to working on the quilt, I also got a lot of reading done.  Different is good.
  • Plans are in place to complete another of my Feb. Finishing projects this week.
  • I really, really love going to church!  My congregation is wonderful.
  • Both girls had a playdate today.  Total win for everyone.
  • I'm skipping the Super Bowl in favor of Downton Abby.  Also total win.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February Is For Finishing

I'm setting myself to a second task this month - and that is to finish up loose ends.  (My thanks to Bonnie for the suggestion.) 

To that end, this is what needs to be done:
  1. The binding on my lap quilt needs to be sewn down.  You may remember that I purchased the fabric for this quilt nearly two years ago...and ultimately handed it over to my mother because I realized I was never going to do it on my own.  Oddly, she did everything except for the hand sewn portion of the binding.  (She did the machine-sewn top half and the corners for me.)  It's been folded and sitting in  my rocker every since.  Ahem. 
  2. My Green Man in the Hill embroidery piece needs to be completed...and then I need to do something with it.  I love embroidery, and I have other pieces I would like to move on to.
  3. A decision needs to be made about a beaded silk stole I started a year and a half ago.  When lace goes unfinished for this long, there is a problem.
  4. I would like to complete the singles on my one drop spindle project.  In fact, it's the ONLY drop spindle project I've ever done, and it has sadly been neglected for way too long.
  5. There are two pair of unfinished felted clogs in my workbasket that simply need to have the ends woven in and then to be dumped in a washer for felting.  I'll have to take them to my parents' home for that...but this is a ridiculous thing to have let sit for so long, especially given how fantastic the finished slippers are!  (And that I have no slippers at all right now.)
  6. If at all possible, the Princess needs to be finished.  I don't know that I can actually accomplish that in February because I have a LOT of gift knitting that I need to be working on as well, but any progress will be good.  The end, actually, is in sight.  I only have about 6 repeats of the center pattern (ONLY!) and the top edging to do.  So perhaps I'll just shoot to finish the center. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Something I've Been Missing

Once upon a time I was a fabulous letter writer.

I had my first pen pal in late elementary and early middle school.  She was the daughter of some family friends who lived in South Carolina, and we kept up our correspondence for years.  In high school I signed up for pen pal programs through my French classes.  By college I was writing missives that were pages long to just about anyone I could think to write.  After I graduated I sent sweet hand-written letters to my husband during our two year long-distance trial.  When we got married I continued to write to a couple of my friends...

I'm not entirely sure what ended it.  For sure email was part of the problem.  Motherhood, and all of the time limits that institution places on a woman, was probably the other big stumbling block  Whatever it was, I find myself in the sad position today that I no longer remember when I last wrote a personal letter.  (I'm rather famous for getting what I want when I write business letters...but they are rare.)

I think that's tragic.

So, today I began the Month of Letters Challenge.

And it feels really, really good.