Monday, June 30, 2014

Ta Da!

 All of this lovely stuff from the UK...
(Jamieson and Smith!)
Will be used to make this beautiful thing!
 
The OXO Fair Isle Crewneck
Country Weekend Knits by Madeline Weston
(Which is an updated reprint)
 
Let the adventure begin!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Extend Welcome

Why yes, in fact I DID deliver a sermon this morning about my dog!
 
Let me explain....
 
I've been on the schedule to speak today for quite some time.  I LOVE it when I have lots and lots of time to prepare because it allows me to explore a variety of options.  This particular idea - that of using my dog as an illustration - came to me about a month ago, and I just couldn't shake it.  My friends helped out with pictures of their own beloved dogs.  (Note to self, when you ask for dog pics on FB, everyone you ever knew...even marginally...will come out of the woodwork to offer pictures!  Dog love is MIGHTY!)  What follows is the meat of my sermon.
 
Extend Welcome, June 29, 2014
 
Our scripture for today:  Matthew 10:40-42 (NRSV)
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.   Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple - truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.
 
First, we had a discussion of the tradition of hospitality/guest rights in the classical world to help explain the scripture above, which is part of Christ's instruction to the 12.  (Insert joke about my minor in the Classical Greek language finally coming in useful!)  We then talked about how the idea of hospitality translates into the modern world, and about the fact that it's a foundational aspect of Christianity. 
 
"Patti asked me to speak today because of the fact that I'm the Mission Initiative Coordinator for our congregation.  It's a big job title, and honestly I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it means.  One part of what I'm to do, though, is to help facilitate a welcoming environment here in our church. 
 
The more I get to thinking about that, though, the more I have to laugh.  I've said often that God seems to have a sense of humor in what He's calling me to do. 
 
You see, I'm a person who is well known for not liking people all that much.  I'm an introvert with a Capital I, and a personal space bubble so big that it often excludes even my daughters and my husband.  There are a lot of things traditionally associated with hospitality that I am not.  I am not a social director.  I am not someone who likes having company in my home.  I am not someone who enjoys parties...in fact, I actively avoid them.  If any of this is a surprise to you, congratulations!  That's a sign of how much I love my church family, and of how comfortable I am around you.
 
The point being that to a certain extent, I don't have much to draw on when talking about how best to extend welcome. 
 
Fortunately, I have the perfect role model.
 This is Winston, my dog...and my teacher.
 We brought Winston home about a year and a half ago.  I was over the moon because I adore big, black dogs.  The girls were allowed to pick his name, and after great debate they settled on "Winston" because it was a name that had been used on the Puppy Bowl just a week or so earlier. 
 
I included here a bit about Winston Churchill and The Black Dog...about how I've chosen to embrace the beast, and about how making friends quite literally with a black dog has been a healing and helpful experience. 
 
One of the things I love the most about Winston is his unabashed enthusiasm for EVERYTHING.  He's particularly fond of meeting new people and new dogs.
 
Each and every time he meets someone new all he sees is a potential friend, and believe me...he LOVES EVERYONE!
 Winston likes little dogs with big ears.
 He likes silly dogs with funny faces.
 Winston likes dogs with funny haircuts who could maybe use a trim.
 He likes dogs who wear clothes.
 Winston loves fancy-pants dogs who just like to be pretty and adored.
 Winston likes dogs with a crazy mixed-up ancestry.
 He likes dogs of indeterminate origins.
 If you already have a friend, GREAT! That's one more!
 Winston likes dogs who some people think look tough.
 He likes dogs who might have a bad reputation with some.
 Winston likes the very young.
 And the older.
 Winston likes the teeny-tiny.
 And the great-big!
 Winston likes dogs with fancy pedigrees.
 He likes dogs who look as if they are close to their roots.
 Winston likes dogs who have jobs...like this service dog.
 And he likes dogs who have an instinctual need to work.
 He also likes dogs who like to lay around and relax. 
 Winston likes dogs who have what some people see as defects - like Lentil with his cleft-palate.
(Lentil, is an ambassador dog for the Children's Craniofacial Association, and does amazing work to help kids.  I don't actually know him, but I felt strongly that he needed to be included as he's come up in my sermons before!)
 And Lizzie with her missing eye. 
He likes dogs who like to have fun...no matter what their challenges.
 Winston even likes dogs when he can't understand why they don't act like dogs.
Winston is a happy guy...and with each and every dog he meets all he sees is the potential for friendship.  He doesn't care about differences.  He doesn't make judgements.  He doesn't care if you aren't just like him.  He just wants to be your friend.
 
Now close your eyes for a moment and think about the dogs that we just looked at.
 
As you are thinking, I'm sure that you can call to mind times when you've met people that fit these descriptions. 
 
Can you see the people in your life who've maybe had big ears? or needed a haircut?  Who were either very young or very old?  Very small or very large?  People who may have a bad reputation or who look tough on the outside?  Who have you met who has a mixed up background?  Or who has that fancy pedigree?  Have you met people who love their work?  When have you come face to face with people with disabilities?
 
It is my message to you today that each and every one of these people has been a God-given opportunity for you to extend welcome...to make friends...to build relationships.  It is my firm belief that before we can share the Good News of Jesus Christ we must learn to build relationships...to listen to each other...to love each other...to accept each other just exactly as we are.
 
My challenge to you today is be like Winston. 
 
The next time you are out in the world, try to set aside any judgements that may be in your heart and look at people around you with the excitement and interest that Winston has for his fellow dogs.  Try to look at each new person who comes into your life through the lens of a potential friendship, and see what amazing things can happen. 
 
Christ has called us to love each other...to extend welcome to each other...and what better way to do that than as Winston does, with enthusiasm, warmth and acceptance.
 
And on that note, we finished up with a second challenge to go out and invite people to attend church with us!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Reading, Part 1 (June)

1.  A Shiver of Light, Laurell K. Hamilton - I'll let my iBooks review speak for itself.  (This is the first review I've ever left....I was THAT annoyed, particularly by #1.)  " Reads Like A Draft:  I've enjoyed Hamilton's books for years, and the Merry Gentry books are by far my favorites.  I was really looking forward to this book, and started to read it just as soon as my preorder became available.  I'm sad to say that I was sorely disappointed.  It had some major flaws that were pretty difficult to ignore.  1.  I found many, many grammatical errors.  In places it was actually difficult to read because they were so obvious and confused the prose.  In a writer of this caliber, it boggles the mind that the copy editing was so poorly done.  (I'm not blaming Hamilton for this....totally her publisher's fault for releasing a book that needs so much work.)  2. A frequent problem authors have when they get this far into a series is that they feel the need to constantly remind the reader of the who, what, and whys. A certain amount of this is OK, but in a couple of spots it was as if Hamilton had forgotten that she'd just reminded us of that detail a chapter or two earlier.  The exposition also felt very cut and paste - as if she'd lifted it directly from earlier books.  3.  The plot was practically nonexistent and rushed.  I get that many of Hamilton's books are more about the relationships, and that can be ok.  In this particular book, though, it felt like a complete after thought.  I really wish Hamilton had ended the Merry Gentry books after the last one, leaving the readers to their own imaginations as to what happened next.  I wonder?  Did she want to write this book?  or was it a contractual obligation?  Either way, it's a huge disservice to characters I love."  Yeah...it was THAT bad.

2.  Slammerkin, Emma Donoghue - I found this book on the iBooks sale page, and have to admit to being pretty curious.  I know Donoghou from her brilliant book, Room, and had no idea that she'd done historical fiction.  It was a fun read, but nothing that will stick with me.  I will say that I LOVED the fact that the main character was unrepentantly out for her self and her own desires.  The sweet and oh-so-good female protagonists of so much historical fiction get a bit tiring at times.  Likewise, the gritty look at the London underbelly was fascinating. 

3.  Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton - Charming, quite charming!  I have to admit that despite the fact that I had read the description many times...as well as a few reviews...I was completely surprised by the fact that the main characters were dragons.  Silly me!  The best way to describe it is as a fantasy send-up of a Jane Austen-esque novel.  It was a delight, and I loved the happy ending!

4.  Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (audio, read by Will Wheaton) - Why, oh why? did it take me so long to read this book?  It's been in  my wish list for YEARS!!!!!  What's even more is the fact that I've had friends specifically suggest it to me.  Until I stumbled upon the audio on the library's website, though, I just didn't have any intention of reading it.  (Weird.)  On the one hand, a book that's basically about a virtual reality video game in the future doesn't really sound like me, even with a very liberal dosing of 80's pop culture.  On the other hand, I was so sucked into the book that I had trouble turning it off when I had to go do other things.  One of the things I loved most about it was the fact that the action was so intense that I actually became nervous for the characters.  That doesn't happen to me often.  Also, the whole VR thing was tilted in such a way that it became very compelling for me...especially the discussion about identity.  Of course, my husband must read this book.  (hint, hint....)  As a big bonus, Will Wheaton did an amazing job reading it!

5.  A Wrinkle In Time, Madeline L'Engle (audio, read by Hope Davis) - I am a very, very sneaky Mom.  We had a two hour drive...  I didn't want to have to listen to the kids' music... I didn't want to have to listen to the kids squabbling...  I wanted a peaceful drive.  I also wanted to introduce my girls to my all time favorite book.  Worked like a charm!  Both girls are reading it, and I had the charming experience of listening to it for the second time in my life.  My very first introduction, in fact, was an old audio version that Mrs. Andrews played for my gifted class while we finished up our day.  This is the most recent recording, and while I give big props to Hope Davis's work, I will also admit that her children's voices were a bit grating and whiny at times. What sticks out most this time is a single sentence.  "I give you your faults."  It's a phrase I'm pondering closely these days. 

6.  Written In My Own Heart's Blood, Diana Gabaldon - Book #8!  Truth...it's been a couple of years since I read the series, and as I didn't reread any of the other books (seriously, I have such a long wish list!) I had trouble remembering who everyone was and what they were all doing.  Unlike other authors (ahem, looking at you, Laurell K.), Gabaldon never feels the need to recap.  While yes, it meant I did struggle a tad with my memory and getting back into it, I have to say that I really, really appreciate this about her.  Not a word is wasted on pointless recap...she wants her story to move forward!  The good news, Gabaldon doesn't leave you with a gazillion loose ends at the conclusion.  Yay! It's a super-fun read, and as always I love Gabaldon's attention to historical detail and the rich landscape and cast of characters she's developed. 

7. The Winter People, Jennifer McMahon - Scary books in summer?  Why not!  I loved it...absolutely loved it.  There was a certain homespun quality to it that lent it an air of folklore.  Creepy, and sad, and containing a mystery which is perfectly built.  It was fun. 

8.  A Wind In The Door, Madeline L'Engle (audio, read by Jennifer Ehle) - Of course, I had to continue the series.  Duh.  Jennifer Ehle is the much better reader.  I must say that over the years this particular book has been the most meaningful of the time quartet to me.  (A Wrinkle is my favorite just by the smidge of a reason that it was first.) 

The next few books come because of my love of Krista Tippett's podcast, On Being.  I discovered it a few months ago, and have slowely been working my way through the 300ish episode backlog since the shows beginnings back around 2001.  The podcast, to me, is like church.  I adore Tippett's ability to interview people of all different backgrounds, belief systems and ideas with great respect and a spirit of genuine inquiry.  I've started checking books by my favorite interviewees out of the library.

9.  Here If You Need Me, Kate Braestrup - Braestrup is one of the first chaplains ever appointed to the Maine Warden Service, and this is her memoir about her journey into that calling.  It was beautiful.  My own calling to the office of priest is a calling to the ministry of presence...which is exactly the sort of ministry that Braestrup practices.  In many ways, I read this book as a sort of 'how-to'.  I have a feeling I'll be rereading it when I need to reconnect to my calling. 

10.  Waking, Matthew Sanford - When Sanford was 13, his family was in a devastating car accident that killed his father and sister and left him a paraplegic. In his memoir, he tells the story of his path towards healing.  It's a brutal book.  The details of his extensive time in hospitals and of his many surgeries are likely to leave you cringing.  However.  The amazing connection he was able to build with his body through yoga is truly awe-inspiring.  It for sure gives me something to think about as I continue to work to heal my own body. 

11.  To Bless the Space Between Us, John O'Donohue - Truth be told, I first heard about O'Donohue on Terri Windling's blog, Myth and Moor, several years ago.  I was interested....but never actually followed through on my desire to check out the books.  I sat down with this little book of blessings while waiting for the girls to select their own books from the library.  That was a mistake.  Within minutes I was sobbing like a baby.  I've found my poet. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Workbasket

Truth be told, there's not been much in the way of creativity going on around here lately.  Summer has been very busy so far...ridiculously so.  I feel like I've barely had a chance to breath in the last month or so, much less take the time to actually MAKE something.
 
Which tends to make Kristin a cranky, cranky girl.
 
Ah well...it is what it is.
 
The only thing I've really been working on is the Spider Queen Shawl. 
 
After a fantastic beginning (That center portion sung!), I had a really rocky start to the border.  The problem?  The yarn.  Blackberry Ridge Thistledown is a single ply, somewhat rustic laceweight with a bit of a thick and thin consistency.  Ordinarily, none of this is a problem.  When you wind up with a couple of bad skeins...holy crumb, it got ugly.  I'll spare you the details...but I will say that after an email conversation with Blackberry Ridge they sent me a new skein for free. 
 
To my intense relief, the new skein was every bit as lovely as the yarn used to make the center.  Even having fixed that problem, though, it's been a slow knit every since.  I'm now about 3/4 of the way through the wide border, and I'm only managing a row or two/day.  It feels like it's taking FOREVER.  For sure, this is not my normal pace when knitting lace.  I think the problems I had with that bad yarn put a major damper on the project. 
 
My goal for this week is to start moving a LOT faster. I would like to finish this piece ASAP.
 
Because....
 
Last Monday the yarn for Sean's sweater shipped from the UK!

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Seismic Shift


 
Last night, not being in much of a mood to either read or knit, I began the process of selecting my husband's next handknit sweater.  Those of you who've been with me for a while will remember that he gets a new sweater every other year....and this is his year!  I had a few ideas about what I wanted to do this time around, but even after talking to my (darling, sweet, handknit loving) husband a few times I really didn't have a plan.
 
Downstairs to the knitting library I went!
 
As I started to pull a few books it occurred to me that it had been a very, very long time since I had gone through many of them. 
 
Hmmmm.....
 
The next thing I knew, I was tucked in bed with the pile of books you see in the picture above. (Funny how that happens.)  As I paged through book after book after book - remembering why I bought each in the first place, and rediscovering patterns I'd long forgotten - I felt the earth move.
 
You see, I have realized what my knitting problem is.
 
Knitting problem?  What problem?  - You might ask.
 
Truth be told, my knitting life has been rather flat since I finished the Princess Shawl and my Scrapbook Blanket.  Don't get me wrong, I still love it.  It's just that nothing beyond basic socks has really attracted my attention, and I've had trouble focusing on the few bigger projects I've started.  The spark has been gone....it's all been rather 'meh.'
 
Until last night.

When the dust settled, a new mission had taken hold in my heart.
 
Friends, I think I'm done knitting lace for a while.
 
It's time to start knitting sweaters.
 
With growing excitement, I pulled out my iPad and keyboard and I started a list.  As of this afternoon I've officially gone through all of my pattern books*, and have a master list of all of the sweaters I'd like to knit for myself.  (That's 146 sweaters, if you're curious.)  Next up - that pile of magazines I've needed to go through anyway, and once that's done I'll add the dozen or so online patterns that I can think of off of the top of my head.
 
Now I'm not delusional.  Even producing a sweater each and every month it would take me 12 years and three months to get through that initial list...and that would seriously be pushing it.  With a bazillion online patterns and new books and magazines coming out all of the time I'm bound to continue finding other patterns I love just as much if not more than those that I've placed on my list.
 
But.
 
Having that list shows me some definite trends and interests.  There are specific sweater types and styles that I really want (a heavy cabled coat, lace blouses/shells, traditional fine-knit cabled cardigan, fair isle pullovers)  That list will be a fantastic reference when I want to begin planning each and every project.
 
Even better...I already know where I'm going to start....
 
 
*I did have a secondary reason for wanting to go through all of my books, and that was to pull any books that I no longer wanted.  In the last six months I've given away several silly knitting essay books and a few pattern books.  I pulled four more to give away last night - books that either didn't qualify as inspirational/educational or held absolutely no patterns I ever would knit.  I'm very happy with my decisions, and am glad to open up a little bit of room on my shelves.