Friday, September 21, 2007


Revgalblogpals ask this week:
1. Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
I have a 3,000 square foot house that i share with 3 cats and a dog (actually only 2 cats, since Buster lives outside). The house is full. That answers the question. My hoarding is selective, though; yarn, fabric and books are my vices of choice.

2. Name one important object (could be an heirloom) that you will never part with.
First choice would be my teddy bear. He was the first toy my dad bought me when I went to live with him, and he's been all around the world with me. He's pretty much hairless at this point, and has been retired to his own personal rocking chair on top of a bookcase (out of reach of the dog, who loves stuffies). But the fact that he's survived this long, including through a flood and a fire, means I hope he'll last as long as I do. If the nursing home has to put him in a biohazard bag for him to be in my room, then do it.

3. What is the oldest item in your closet? Does it still fit???
I don't keep clothes much. If I can't use them I pass them on to someone else who can. So the oldest things in my closet are costume items left from when I sang with Sweet Adelines. I have a mandarin-style red satin jacket that I made from an evening coat; I never wear it, but looking at it makes me happy, so I keep it. And I have a pair of fuschia snakeskin high heels that I will also never wear again, but they have happy memories of days when I could wear high heels. Other than that and an old tatty bathrobe (we all have one of those, don't we), the rest is relatively new.

4.Yard sales- love 'em or hate 'em ?
Despise yard sales. Refuse to ever have another one. And only go to them when I'm with someone else and then under mild protest. I don't need kid's stuff or more old paperbacks. On the other hand, I have a friend who loves yard sales and finds amazing things in them, some of which she has given to me, and I love every bit of it. She has a gift for sorting through to find treasure; I didn't get that gene.

5. Name a recycling habit you really want to get into.
I wish we had recycling here in my community. But the fact is, I don't have that much trash that could be recycled. I don't buy pop or beer, so no cans. I have pickle jars from time to time, but they would fill maybe one bin a year. I don't subscribe to newspapers except the local weekly. Plastic bags get used for kitty litter.
When I do get into a sorting and sifting mode, I box up everything that I think someone could possibly use and carry it to Goodwill or some other mission organization with a thrift store. The stuff goes to good use, and doesn't end up as trash. Books that I don't want to keep go to the local library for their collection or their fundraising sale.

There's something about hitting the 50th birthday. I became acutely aware in new ways that my lifespan was finite and that the time would come when I would have no need for most of the stuff I spent the first 50 years of my life accumulating. Putting my dad in a nursing home and seeing his needs whittle down to a few sets of clothes and a telephone made me first aware of that. And while I could take care of disposing of the rest for him, I will have no one to do that for me. So I want to be sure that I don't leave a mess behind me, assuming that I have the capacity to make my own decisions for a while to come. So I've stopped buying the kinds of bright shiny things that attracted me when I was younger. Yarn and fabric get made into things for others; books feed my soul. I buy clothes to feed my fabric addiction and to look acceptably "chic" in the world. I replace needed things that wear out or get broken. The rest is up for grabs. I look forward to passing it all on to someone else who will love and enjoy it as much as I have. Except for Teddy; he's gonna have to go to the crematorium with me.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Sometimes you need a friend to give you a nudge toward getting something done that you've been putting off for a long time. This morning my friend Amy, who meets me every weekday morning for coffee, Literati, and knitting, challenged me to sew together two baby sweaters that had been languishing in the bottom of my "finishing basket" for about a year. The reason they were there was that they needed to be sewn. I've more recently been using a pattern that is all one piece and just needs the ends tucked in and ties put on at the end for finishing. So these two poor orphans sat at the bottom of the basket.

So, because Amy challenged me, I declared today to be Finish It Up Day. And the results have surpassed even what I imagined I would have to show.

First the baby sweaters. I had the two that needed sewing, two that needed ties, and one that needed sleeves. Here are the five of them, all finished and tied and ready for Church World Service layette kits. This finishes my 20 for the year. But I still have partial skeins in my knitting bag, so I will probably go ahead and knit them up before I quit doing baby sweaters for the season. So I should have 22 in the drawer at the end.

The biggest project in the basket was a prayer shawl that just needed fringe. I think I started this shawl when I was on retreat last fall, so it was high time to finish it and have it available for donation. It too, left the basket for good today.
And then, there were the hats. I knew there were a few hats in there, but I had no idea there were nine of them. I also had one on the needles, with just the bottom ribbing to finish. Having ten to show seemed like a good idea, and here they all are, with all their tops sewn up and their ends buried. I haven't counted these yet, as the season on these is picking up again. Arkansas Children's Hospital is looking for 30,000 hats in their Knitting for Noggins program this year; I'm sure they'll be able to use whatever I give them.
So my basket is a good deal emptier than it was at the start of the day, and my finished project drawers are a good deal fuller. There are still a few odds and ends in the basket - a couple pairs of mittens that need thumbs that will have to wait until their pattern surfaces again. And then there's the striped prayer shawl that has endless ends to be worked in. And I've lost my place to hide leftover yarn that I want to keep out for the present; balls of yarn have to be kept away from my black yarn thief. He got a small ball away from me in mid-afternoon, so I let him have it. But then he got a big ball out of my bag, and that was one I wasn't willing to give up. So before I go to bed tonight I have to rewind the tangle he left strewn across the bedroom floor.

So tomorrow it will be back to the two projects still left on the needles - the Tofutsie socks and the EZ square baby blanket. I will need to start another hat before Thursday, so I can work on the easy part while I wait for a meeting to start. And there are the remnants of the baby sweater yarn to work up. I think the socks in the morning. I'm in danger of an outbreak of Second Sock Syndrome, and I need to nip it in the bud.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


This has been a busy week, so knitting has taken something of a back seat. I did finish the hand-dyed silk shawl, and I'm very pleased with the result:
Because of the pattern, the shawl is very soft and drapable. It makes a nice covering for the shoulders for the summertime, but will also draw up and make a lovely accent scarf with a winter coat. I don't keep many of the things I make, but I'm keeping this. I want it as a memento of my Alberta trip. If you want to see what this artist has to offer, check out her website at

On the needles at the moment are the EZ square baby blanket, now approaching the half-way point, the Tofutsie sock, and 2 baby sweaters. I have meetings coming up this weekend, so I have 2 sweaters worked past the armpits, so all I have is mindless knitting to finish the bodies. Besides not having to count, I've also discovered that doing this partial start lets me get past the starting of the new skein of yarn, which sometimes results in a wad of yarn that has to be knit up before it becomes a tangled mess.

For those that like novels that have a knitting theme, I have a new one to recommend. Ann Hood's new book is The Knitting Circle, and I found myself moved by this book beyond all expectation. Those who have recently experienced profound loss might want to wait on this one; what unites the main characters is their separate losses. As I read I was reminded of my own losses, which brought new feelings of grief and loneliness I would rather have kept safely hidden away. But the book promises from the very beginning that all will end well, and it does, although not always in predictable ways. The book will never make it to anyone's list of great literature, but it was profoundly moving in its own way.

But having finished that - and then sat up half the night knitting on the baby blanket so that I could just sit with the feelings for a while and not be overwhelmed by them - I needed something light-hearted. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off has not disappointed. I recognized myself in this book as well, but in ways that I could laugh at, even though laughing out loud when I read distresses Calico and Bart, who think beds are for silent snuggling.
The only other accomplishment this week was to finish the quilt from the Strip Mine class. I needed it for the start of a new tv series, so that meant it had to be quilted quickly. I ended up doing stitch-in-the-ditch around the stars, then a kind of meandering through the scrappy parts; I used a variegated thread in autumn colors that blended well with both the top and the back. As I kind of warm up after being away from the studio so long, I made a few stretched star blocks and a couple of blocks for the Celestial Migraine block-of-the-month. I'm trying to spend a few minutes every day in there, even if all I do is pick up pins off the floor.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


This week's preaching from Judges takes the downward turn we've been expecting from the beginning of the book. Last week's narrative of Gideon left possibilities open; Gideon's turn toward idolatry at the end of his career could have been nothing more than a temporary setback. But this week we're looking at his son, Abimelech, and there's nothing good to say about him.

His very name suggests that there is trouble afoot. "Abimelech" can be translated as "my father, the king." But Gideon refused to be called king. So Abimelech's name suggests that he is trying to legitimize his own claim to power by piggybacking on his dad, but without true foundation. He's the son of a concubine who lives at Shechem, making his position within the family a bit dubious. And the first thing he does is have his brothers killed - all seventy of them! One escapes, named Jothan. He won't go away quietly. In fact he knows a great deal about the reality of the situation, which he outlines in a parable.

It's significant that Abimelech seized power for himself; The narrative does not follow the established pattern here. The people of Israel do indeed "do evil in the sight of the Lord" after the death of Gideon, and a leader arises, but not by God's doing. There is no spiritual anointing for Abimelech. His entire career is marked by violence. In the end he will destroy Shechem, the very people who had accepted him at the beginning of his reign; the city will be razed, the inhabitants all killed and the land sowed with salt.

Filled with his success at Shechem, Abimelech moved on to Thebez, with the intent of doing the same thing there. In terms of the strengths of the cities, if Shechem were comparable to Chicago, Thebez would be comparable to Oquawka. It should have been an easy victory. But "a certain woman" threw a millstone down from the tower, and it crushed Abimelech's skull. True to form, he didn't want it to be said that a woman had killed him, so he had his armorbearer thrust a sword through him. The story ends: "Thus God repaid Abimelech for the crime he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers."

That has to be the preaching point in the story. Otherwise it's just a story about a wicked king and the people who were stupid enough to make him king. The people figure into the story too - that's part of what Jotham's parable is about - but the hero of the story is God, of course. God working through events that appear to have no connection to God whatsoever. Just when you think God isn't paying attention.

It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. (People in other climes, feel free to adapt as needed.)
1. Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don't just say "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or image. Help us live vicariously through you!)
The highlight of my summer is without a doubt my trip to Alberta. Being able to spend time away from home with two wonderful friends, and be as gloriously lazy as I wanted to be - who wouldn't go for that. More than anything else I loved being able to sit outdoors and be able to breathe the air and not get eaten alive by mosquitos or other insects. It was like summers when I was a child when by midmorning I had my stuff outdoors under a tree and stayed there until suppertime. Mary Jane has a vegetable garden that produced raspberries while I was there; I can't remember another time when I could eat my fill of raspberries. And there was Eddie, the golden retriever puppy, who loved balls and sticks and being with his people. It was the most relaxing vacation I've had in years. And every time I pick up my knitting these days I can enjoy it some more as I work my way through the yarns I bought there.

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?
Summers here can be pretty brutal. It's been near or over 100 here every day since I've been home, and the only rain we've had was a few showers the day before yesterday. I don't like being cooped up in the house, but I just can't handle the heat and humidity here where summer is at full bore. So I'm always glad to see September come. I know there's still a month of heat, but usually it slacks off at bit. And by October I can work in the yard a bit and enjoy being outdoors again.

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.
This fall will have a pretty busy work schedule, so the things I'm looking forward to are work related. I have a couple of retreats coming up. My personal fall retreat will be sometime before Thanksgiving; I'm thinking sometime in November to get ready for Advent. The other is our Presbytery retreat at Lake DeGray; Don Postma is coming to talk about Sabbath, which is a topic close to my heart, so I'm really looking forward to that one. There's a quilter's gathering in October, that I'd love to go to if schedule permits. Otherwise, just lots of classes and projects starting up in the next couple weeks, so work will be back to full speed.

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)
My transition to fall won't come until October. There's a week in there somewhere where I put the electric mattress pad and a quilt on the bed. I won't really need either for a while, but it's a convenient time to do it, and then they're there when I want them. At the same time I do the wardrobe shift from warm season to cool season, leaving some things behind for the warm days that invariably come as soon as I pull sweaters out.

5. I'll know that fall is really here when __________________________________.
a. The cotton is defoliated. That's early fall, but it's the beginning. When I lived up north, leaves would turn in September, and the first of this year's apple crop would start coming in. Here those things don't happen until later, but the cotton comes at that time of year when I'm thinking fall, so it's a marker for me.
b. I put the dog out in the morning and think "it's chilly today." I'm looking forward to that first morning when the temperature is in the 50's and I'm glad to come back in the house for warmth.