Monday, November 1, 2010

Attention To Detail

This morning I showered and got dressed for the day right around 9:00. I had been up for an hour or so, and felt reasonably awake even though I was up late last night watching the Giants beat the Rangers.

During the course of the morning, I checked our various pantries while making a grocery list, I went over said grocery list with Natalie, I made my breakfast and ate it, I followed Natalie around the house having a conversation with her while she Swiffered the floors, I did school with Colin. In other words, I was fairly actively moving around the whole house, and I had contact and conversation with both of my kids.

At 1:10PM I was standing in front of the stove, polishing the ceramic top. Colin came up behind me and said "Oh, so you're doing a half-Indian thing, are you?"

Now, Colin is the King of Random and I've learned to stop and consider what might have gone through his head before he spoke, rather than jumping to conclusions about his meaning. I paused, I considered whether he meant "Indian" in the "India" sense or the "Native American" sense. I pondered whether he had seen me looking through the cupboards and had made some assumptions about what we were having for supper. I was stumped.

"Son," I said, "What are you talking about?"

"You're doing a half-Indian thing! You have half of an Indian thing on!" (At this point he reaches under the edge of my shirt in the back and gives a tug.) "You've got this towel hanging down in the back, but you don't have one in the front."

I set down my paper towel. I reached around and felt my waistband. I tugged. Yep, I had a large-ish burgundy hand towel caught in the waist of my slacks...hanging down over my behind like half of a Native American loin cloth.

Apparently the towel was sitting on the bed when I got dressed this morning, and I managed to pick it up and incorporate it into my dressing process. Somehow I had not registered the presence of an extra piece of fabric hanging off of me while I went through my morning's activities. Somehow Natalie had not noticed that I was sporting a dark burgundy terrycloth addition to my outfit of gray pants and purple shirt. Colin was probably closest to me most of the morning, and he had not noticed it until 4 hours after I got dressed.

This is yet another reason why it's best that I don't work outside the home. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nehemiah And What It Means To "Man Up"

I've been thinking about the concept of "manning up" a lot recently and in several different contexts. Tom and I need to train Colin to "man up" and learn the skills and character qualities he'll need to serve God as a man some day. I hear Natalie and her girl friends lamenting the lack of real, grown up, Christian young men who will "man up" to pursue their life goals and then to pursue young women with the intention of marrying them someday. Tom occasionally tells me about men he meets in the course of his work who need to "man up" and take responsibility for their actions. We know of churches where bad doctrine and practice are allowed to flourish because the leadership of the church won't "man up" and root them out. There are plenty of examples out there in all sectors of life in our world.

At the church we've been attending for a few weeks now the pastor has been preaching through Nehemiah. Yesterday's sermon was from Nehemiah chapter 4. Nehemiah and the people of Israel are facing opposition as they rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The attacks are coming from all sides. Nehemiah prays and asks the Lord to make the insults the attackers are flinging at the Israelites fall back onto them instead. This is what he says and does next:

••So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes."••

God frustrates the plans of their enemies and they go back to work, all of them armed and ready for battle at the same time. The work requires them to be separated from each other, they cannot stand around in formation with shields locked together. Nehemiah tells them:

••And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us."••

Nehemiah doesn't call them simply to man up and fight. He calls them to "Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome" and later says "Our God will fight for us." He's not asking them to fight in their own strength, he's not requiring them to have some super exciting vision for the future, he's not sending them out there specifically to slay these enemies, he's not giving them a political or patriotic motivation for the fight. He's saying to them "Remember the Lord. Carry your weapons. Do your work. When you hear the warning trumpet, come help us. When we have to fight, fight on behalf of the families and homes the Lord has blessed you with. Our God will fight for us." The Israelite men were called to do the action of fighting, to "man up". But the one really fighting was the great and awesome Lord they served.

That puts the whole issue of "manning up" in a different context, doesn't it? It's not a matter of summoning enough testosterone and adrenaline. It's not a matter of getting all your ducks in a row and all your plans mapped out so that you can't fail. It's not a matter of being particularly strong either physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, or in any other way that we humans define strength. It's simply, and not so simply, a matter of a godly man taking up his tools and his weapons and stepping out to do the work God has for him and fight the battles God has for him. The beauty of the matter is that the godly man is not working and fighting on his own. God will fight for him.

Recently I've had the privilege to observe some godly men stepping up to fight in this way. A few weeks ago I posted our reasons for leaving Pilgrim Bible Church. I told you the reasons I could tell without making accusations against anyone. Those reasons still stand. But since the time of that post many other families have also left. They have all left for specific stated reasons, and those reasons are all different.

I'm picturing PBC right now as a tree that is rotting from within. There may be a few cracks in the bark, but it looks fairly intact on the outside. Until one branch falls off. Then another loses its leaves and the homeowner prunes it off. An ice storm hits the state and several branches on one side of the tree crash off under the weight of the ice. All of these branches depart from the tree for different proximate causes, but the heart of the reason for their leaving is the rotten core.

Exploring the whole issue of the rotten core of PBC is beyond the scope of this post. God establishes churches, cities, governments, and kings all according to His sovereign will and in His timing. He also brings them down according to His sovereign will and in His timing. That is evidently what is happening now to Pilgrim Bible Church, and the Lord will be glorified even if we do not understand why this is working out this way.

But the families who have left are all headed by godly men, by men who made the hard decision to "man up", to do what was right, to confront, to lead. They stepped out and did what they needed to do, not in their own strength, but because our great and awesome Lord was fighting for them. I am very thankful that my husband was one of those godly men, one who had the courage to "man up" and fight for the truth. One who knew the Lord was fighting for us, and who stepped out in that knowledge to protect his family from evil.

I want to mention one other side to this issue of "manning up", particularly as it applies to the situation with PBC...but also as it applies to Christian families in general. I know the men who have led their families to leave, and I know this to be true of all of them: these men were not afraid to take counsel from their wives and to seek their input on the various issues and events that came up.

There are some movements in Christianity right now that emphasize the leadership of husbands and fathers in the home to the point that it makes me wonder sometimes why they think God bothered to give them wives. Oh, obviously they can't birth the children on their own, and it's also handy to have a woman around to cook, clean, and educate said children. But it's as though when God declared in the beginning that Adam needed a helper, He meant a physical helper who kept her thoughts to herself and followed Adam around like a beaten dog.

How well does a world leader, a military leader, a business manager, or a pastor get on with his tasks when he ignores the knowledge and counsel of those God has placed in position to be his assistants, his vice-presidents, his elders and deacons? Not very well, or if well at first, not for very long. In the same way, men who ignore their wives, who marginalize their knowledge and their input, who place themselves in a position to take no input from them, put themselves in a place to fail and to fail miserably.

God didn't give wives to husbands to be duplicates, to be clones, to be always smiling like automatons and saying "Yes, dear!" God gave us to our husbands to be helpers, and helpers help. Sometimes that help is smiling and saying "Yes, what a great plan!", sometimes it is saying "Have you thought of this issue?", sometimes it is saying "I know something about that situation that you probably haven't heard, let me tell you before you make a decision". Sometimes it is simply being there in the back of his mind as the one he is "manning up" to fight for, and sometimes it is helping him figure out battle strategy.

Well, Nehemiah doesn't mention wives except in the context of fighting for them, so perhaps those last few paragraphs don't fit well with my title. But I believe that those issues are part of the bigger picture of godly manly men. I do believe that being married to a truly godly manly man who is willing to "man up" is a lot better than being married to either a wimpy man or one who expresses a false manliness by marginalizing his wife.

It seems like, at this point, I should have a fabulous summary to pull all these thoughts together. I never was very good at writing concluding paragraphs...lucky for me I'm not still in school, eh? Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts about godly manliness in light of the book of Nehemiah. Any thoughts? Arguments? Additional insights? Comments are always welcome!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Twenty-one Years!

Today, at around 7:30 PM, Natalie will be 21 years old. I'm sitting here struggling to figure out how to summarize 21 years in one blog post, and I'm not sure it can be done. Some highlights, then:

Natalie was supposed to be born on October 19th, but we figured she would follow in what had become a family tradition and be born on the 20th. Her second-cousins Lauren and Aubree were born on the 20th in 1986 and 1987, respectively, and her cousin James was born on the 20th in 1988.

Natalie has been an individual from the start, and wanted her own private birthday, so she was born 7 weeks early instead. She weighed 4 lbs. 4 ounces and had fuzzy reddish-blond hair and blue eyes.

Those eyes stayed stubbornly blue past her first birthday, and then changed to green just to spite some of her relatives who insist that a true Roth has blue eyes. (Never mind that all the Beattys except me have green eyes...this child is a Roth, where are her blue eyes??!)

During the 17 days she spent in the NICU after she was born, the nurses tried to keep her wrapped up in blankets. She would always wriggle out of her expertly-wrapped blanket and scoot up into one corner of the isolette.

She would also wiggle one foot free and hang it over the edge of the tray in the isolette. Even as an adult, all these years later, if she is crashed on her bed napping that same foot will very often be hanging over the edge of the bed.

I think Natalie's first word was either "mama" or "dada" (I can't remember, but I'm putting my money on "dada") but her first phrase was "I do it myself!" Beyond just a phrase it was her personal motto as a toddler. She wasn't belligerent, she was just very, very confident. :)

And brave. I remember sitting at the park with my mom, watching Natalie at 18 months traipsing across a hanging bridge apparatus on the playground equipment. She was surrounded by older kids twice her size, the bridge was bouncing, and she was just plowing across without a fear in the world. My mom, on the other hand, was about to have a heart attack and was seriously concerned about my lack of parenting judgment.

But who does Grandma call now when she needs someone to scramble up a porch railing and hang Christmas lights or crawl up into the attic to find something that's been shoved to the back. Yep.

Natalie will always be my First Baby and she was my guinea pig for so many things. She was the one who cried for hours as a baby when we tried to let her determine her own bedtime (we were insane is all I can think), ate nothing but chicken nuggets and fish sticks for way too long while her dad and I grew backbones and learned to say "no", and later she was the victim of the Figure Out Our Homeschooling Philosophy years. I'm not sure how to put a positive spin on this, but we didn't kill her and I don't think we damaged her too much.

I could go through a year-by-year summary of her teen years, but fortunately for both of us I don't remember a lot of details as well as I remember her early years. I know, and Natalie will attest to this, that she lost her brain for a couple of years between age 14 and 16. But she found it again and it was none the worse for having had a little time off. :D

Even when she was in the flaky-brain teen years she was still sweet, loving, respectful, creative, kind, and a hard worker. There were many days that I would not have made it through without her help. She has been my assistant, my right hand, my sounding board, and my best female friend for years.

As an adult, she is still brave and confident. She meets people easily and makes friends easily, even though she is shy and introverted on the inside. She loves adventure...she always the one in the pictures clinging to a tree on the edge of a mountain, the one who decided she wanted to learn to contra dance and convinced her friends to join her, the one who still scares her grandma...but now by whipping her car into the driveway at high speed.

Natalie loves God and wants to please Him in all she does. She loves her family and her friends. She works hard and her employers trust her judgment. She is still always learning, always growing, always moving on to new adventures...and she is still my First Baby and always will be.

Happy 21st birthday, Natalie, with love from your Mom :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Okay, let's just get this over with...

I am mad. I am seriously ticked, peeved, and cussedly cuss cussed...at myself. I'm also doubting the wisdom of even having a blog, since I obviously lack discretion and judgment and don't know when to just Keep My Mouth Shut!

In my most recent post I mentioned that we had left our church and offered more details via email to anyone who wanted them. When I typed that, I was envisioning hearing from far-away relatives and friends who had only heard me rave about how wonderful the church was and would be wondering if I'd suddenly gone loony.

In retrospect I should have just sat on my hands and left that part out. Apparently that one line, probably combined with what I said about not feeling free to blog, gave some of my readers the idea that there was some Big Scandal, some Juicy Gossip, some Major Heresy that I was being coy about and would divulge via email.

No, no, no...a thousand times NO! Those of you who have contacted me about this, let me just say it again: I should NOT have said things that way. There is NO scandal, NO gossip, NO heresy, and there will be NO juicy details forthcoming.

I'm just going to spell it out as quickly and succinctly as I can right here and right now. Full public disclosure and I won't be sending any emails. Please forgive me for saying I would, it was a stupid thing to promise.

Here's the deal: God has been working on Tom and me in a lot of areas, showing us some things about our convictions and life choices that didn't match up with the Bible. We believe that it was in His sovereign will and provision that we were at Pilgrim in the first place, and in His sovereign will and provision that we have left.

Basically, we have, over the years confused being likeminded with being identical. We have sought to surround ourselves with Christians who make lifestyle choices and have family rules as similar to ours as possible. We have shut ourselves off from the conviction, the sharpening, the refining that comes from fellowship with Christians who are very different from us. We were comfortable being with our "own kind", and we realize now that God didn't want us to be so comfortable.

Even as we were teaching our children the difference between "family rules" and "God's rules" we were bent on keeping them in an environment where they could not see that God allows so much diversity and variation in "family rules". (For anyone wondering about the terminology...God's rules are the specific commands He has given Christians to follow. Family rules are the preferences and choices each family makes in how they serve God and train their children. As an example: God's rule is that Christians are to train up their children to serve Him. A family's rule might be that that training includes family Bible reading every night after supper. Other family rules might govern what kind of media children are exposed to, what sort of education they receive, where the family shops, etc.)

The decision to leave was not something we made lightly or in a hurry. There were some precipitating factors and situations that God used to open our eyes to our error. Those situations that involved other people are not blog fodder, and have been dealt with to the best of our abilities through the proper channels of authority in the church.

When I said that I suddenly felt very free to blog, it was not because I had been censored or censured by anyone or anything involved with Pilgrim Bible Church. I was, however, afraid of what people (from Pilgrim and elsewhere) would think of me if I posted the things I was wrestling with. God also used that fear of disapproval, that need for approval, to convict me of not seeking His approval first and foremost. So, yes, I do now feel free to blog...but I still need to learn discretion. Discretion rather than fear...

So, that's it. That's pretty much the whole story. We are still searching for a church to attend. There are 3 or 4 churches that are very good possibilities, but we don't intend to make a decision quickly or lightly. If you feel led to pray for us, pray that we will make our decision based on the right priorities and not give in to our human desire to retreat to a place that feels "safe" and "likeminded" but instead to go where He wants us to be.

Now, I'm going to go clean my bathroom and put away a big stack of books that is cluttering up the kitchen. I'm going to fold laundry, and I am going to get ready for a big weekend of non-stop part-ay. :) Natalie's birthday is tomorrow and our new family rule is that 21st birthdays take a whole weekend to celebrate. Tonight: company, pizza, and Star Wars!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's Alive...and riddled with bullet points!

I guess I took a wee break from blogging, eh? Let's dive back in...here's a few things bouncing around in my head:

• Summer is almost over, and I am very happy about that! I'm ready for cool breezes, dry air, red leaves, and a new year of school.

• Yep, even the school part sounds good. Colin and I did summer school this year, as usual, and he made some leaps of progress in a couple of areas he had been struggling with. I'm looking forward to seeing how he likes his 3rd grade work.

• We left our church this summer. I won't go into details about that on the blog, but if anyone really cares about the details I do answer emails.

• Totally unexpected result of leaving: I suddenly feel very free to blog. I think of myself as the sort of person who speaks her mind no matter what people think, but apparently I'm not really that brave.

• Today I started a "Bon Jovi" station on my Pandora. The music of my youth makes me feel all warm and fuzzy...yeah, even the occasional AC/DC song.

• No matter what sort of artists or songs I use to start a Pandora station, they always try to add Daughtry to it. Do they get his music for cheap or is he really that versatile?

• This is an excellent post from the Practical Theology For Women blog about what the term "helper" means in the Bible and how it applies to all women in every stage of life.

• For supper tonight we are having BLTs. Tom cooks the bacon on the grill to avoid smelling up the house. Bacon, ripe tomatoes, crunchy lettuce, lots of mayo...all on lightly-toasted homemade white bread...drool. Probably my favorite summer supper.

• Oh yeah, I also made a pitcher of iced tea to go with the sandwiches...can't have BLTs without iced tea. Proper Yankee iced tea with no sugar in it, the way God intended tea to be. :)

• My current knitting project is making watch caps for Army troops stationed over in the "sand box". This came about because of a podcast I listen to. The podcaster's husband is currently deployed and told her that he and his fellow-soldiers could use warm knitted caps to wear while they sleep this winter.

• I've never felt motivated to do a "knit for the troops" type project before, but I feel like I've sort of come to know this podcaster and her husband and that makes the project more meaningful. It also doesn't hurt that hats are fast and fun to knit.

• Once again, Natalie and I are taking a year off from entering things in the Dixie Classic Fair. Natalie is busy with a somewhat unpredictable work schedule right now, and I lack the motivation to bake a bunch of stuff that we don't normally eat.

• For instance, in order to win in the cake categories I have to make my cakes with cake flour, shortening, and tons of icing. Our preference for cakes to eat, though, leans more toward heavier, moister cakes made with real butter and much less icing.

• Does it really mean anything if I win a ribbon for something that I'm not happy about making? I don't think so.

• Yikes, Blogger apparently didn't like that last bullet point...it suddenly threw up a red bar telling me that Autosave had failed. Then when I tried to save manually it acted like it wasn't going to work. Quit threatening me, Google People!

• I could go on a rant right now about blogging, and SEOs, and blogging conferences, and what I think blogging really is. But...eh...who really cares, right?

• Colin's kitten, Paisley, (maybe I should post about her sometime?) is trying to sleep on my shoulders while I type. Since she's not so much a teensy kitten anymore and is more of a 7-pound Catten, this is not working as well as one might hope.

• Natalie turns 21 this weekend, which seems almost impossible. How could she be that old? (How could I be that old?)

Okay, enough for now. More to come next time the muse strikes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Things I Like

On a Tuesday afternoon...a random list of some things I like:

• Being well and also having the rest of the family well. Colin and I got colds on January 20th, and it all just went downhill from there until all four of us had worked our way through bronchitis, consumption, typhoid, and plague. (hack!) 6 weeks later I think we are about back to normal.

• Snow! Our part of NC got more than the usual amount of snow this winter, and there was very great rejoicing at our house.

• Having the option of not interacting with/driving in snow. I do realize one reason I can be so cheery about snow is that I very seldom have to leave home.

• Spring! Now that the snow is over with and gone I am very much liking the sunshine and 60-something temps this week.

• Tea. I've been swilling gallons of the stuff this winter. It may not make me healthier, but it's keeping me warm. My favorites: Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe and Lipton White Tea with Island Mango and Peach Flavor.

• My fuzzy plush electric throw blanket. Tom and I gave our moms electric throws for Christmas, and he sneaked out and got me one for Christmas as well. (Because underneath the glamorous exterior I am really a senior citizen.) (And maybe because he got tired of hearing me whine about being cold in the evenings.)

• Podcasts. Listening to podcasts is like having my own little talk radio station where the shows are all about things I'm interested in.

• Watching the Winter Olympics. Although we did cut back too much on our sleep while they were on.

• Knitting in general. I'm becoming one of those crazy knitting people because of the soothing effect of the repetitive motion combined with the narcotic effect of pretty wool. I haven't done any cross-stitching in weeks...very bad.

• Knitting socks in particular. I started a pair of socks while I was sick and actually finished them long before I got well. Somehow the state of illness overcame my nerves and jitters about knitting something so complicated. I just waded in (with the help of lots of videos and my in-house knitting therapist) and somehow magically a couple of balls of wool became socks. Totally addicting.

• Taking pictures of knitted socks. (Well, okay, I haven't got to the point where I really really LIKE taking pictures. I just needed some way for this to be part of the list and theme, instead of just bunging a picture in at the end and saying "Look! I made socks!")

• Look! I made socks!! (My socks, Natalie's feet and legs doing the modeling...)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I sailed away to China in a little rowboat to find ya...

How long has it been since Christmas? Today is the 12th, so about 19 days, maybe? My 2 year desk calendar ran out at the end of 2009...making a note on the to-do list to Order One From Amazon TODAY! No doubt this fancy computer has a calendar program on it somewhere, but it's not the same as actual paper and pictures of cats.

Since sometime around Christmas our family has been involved in a wee bit of Drama. It's all over now, everything is resolved, nobody got hurt, valuable lessons were learned, no need to stage any interventions or call out the National Guard. I'm not offering any specifics or particulars about the Drama; three or four of my readers will know what I'm talking about and it's only significant to this post because it establishes the context for the strange dream I had last night.

Digression One: Don't you hate it when bloggers talk about things they can't talk about? Especially with that certain secretive "I have a rilllly exciting life that you don't know about" tone? When someone says "I'm not going to share this part of the story because Relative B didn't want me to." that's understandable. We all at some time resort to saying something like "Life is hectic, but it's unbloggable, so let's talk about baseball." Some bloggers, though, make a big deal about how much Mysterious Other Life they have that isn't featured in their blogs.

Look, if I read your blog I'm going to assume you're not telling me everything about your life. No one should blog without filtering, and if you happen to be the one person who does I'm not reading your blog anyway. So, having said all that, I'm blogging about what I can't blog about.

Digression Two: The Drama was a really, really small drama. Infinitesimal. It probably wouldn't be a Drama at your house. But remember we are the Roths: introverted, homebodies, homeschoolers, dorks. "All me life flashed before me eyes. It was really borin'!"

Last night I spent the evening relaxing, knitting on my everlasting stash-busting afghan and listening to podcasts. Podcasts about knitting. Podcasters who discuss knitting, yarn, spinning, Ravelry, more knitting, what to knit next, which yarn is best for which project, etc.

Then I went to bed and slept soundly and dreamed. I dreamed that The Drama had been restaged as a knitting argument. The two characters involved were knitting the same sweater. It was some sweater that was very popular on Ravelry right now. (Therefore guaranteeing that I would not remember its name when I woke up! I will call it The Sweater.) There were whole Ravelry forums devoted to The Sweater; there were Ravelympic teams forming to knit The Sweater together as a Ravelympics challenge.

But the characters in The Drama could not agree on the best type of yarn for The Sweater. One of the characters believed that a commercially-produced, carefully quality-controlled yarn would give the best results. This character wanted a yarn that had high positive reviews on Ravelry, something that was proven to be long-wearing and easy to knit with. The other character wanted to use handspun yarn and was planning to learn to spin in order to make the yarn for the sweater.

For some reason the characters could not go their own ways and use different yarns. This had something to do with the Ravelympic team they were joining, as I remember...this part was a little fuzzy. I believe they were allowed to use different colors, but not different yarns, so they had to come to some agreement about the yarn before joining the team.

The dream dragged on and on forever and was thoroughly tedious. I like listening to podcasts where knitters and spinners discuss the qualities of different yarns, but this was one of those dreams where you feel like you're stuck....you try to wake up but it doesn't seem possible. There were all these little samples of commercial yarn in various colors and all these batts of unspun wool in various colors and all this arguing. Somehow my mind was going along with the premise of the dream that The Sweater was worth arguing over, but it was just crazy-making.

Finally I woke up and realized what I had actually been dreaming about. And was relieved, yet again, that it was Not An Issue either in the form of the original "drama" or in the form of...yarn and sweaters.

Now, aren't you glad you wasted the time it took to read all that? Have a great day...American Idol starts tonight and I am not watching it. So there.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Why I Bought Cheap Yarn

Okay, I made some progress today. And what is WITH the sudden burst of posts on this blog, anyway? Don't get your hopes up for it continuing is all I've got to say...

Believe it or not, I purchased yarn today from Joann Fabrics. Apparently it is possible to order from their website if one uses Natalie's computer...or if Natalie uses Natalie's computer, at any rate.

My computer is an Apple iMac. I use the latest version of Firefox and use Leopard as the operating system. Natalie's computer is an Apple Macbook. She uses the latest version of Firefox with Leopard as the operating system. There is no sensible reason why Joann Fabrics' website should be cooperative with her and not with me. But that's how it is. Natalie placed the order with no problems; we both have yarn on the way. We think.

This is the project I bought the yarn for. (Yes! I took a picture! After much fiddling about, I uploaded it...Natalie fixed iPhoto for me...are you noticing a theme?)


This stripey blob of yarny stuff is the scrap afghan I am knitting. A while back I rounded up all the balls and partial balls of medium and dark colored acrylic yarn that was piled up in bags around the house. Some of these are leftovers from other projects, some were bought and then not used, some were donated to my "cause" by Natalie, some she found for me at Goodwill.

The plan was to knit in garter stitch stripes until the yarn ran out, making either an afghan or perhaps a small cat blanket depending on how long the yarn lasted.

Somewhere along the way the plan got expanded a bit. One of the yarns Natalie gave me was some Lion Brand Homespun, which has a reputation of being fuzzy and hard to work with. But it added a textured effect and wasn't too hard to work with, probably because I was only knitting one row of it at a time and it was always being worked onto a firmer yarn.

I liked the effect so much I bought a couple more skeins of Homespun in different colors, and also picked up a couple of skeins of plain acrylic worsted in some other coordinating colors. Then Colin gave me some more Homespun for Christmas, and that made me think of a couple of other colors I'd like to add to it. Which led to yesterday's failed and today's apparently successful attempt to order some more yarn on sale from Joann Fabrics.

Right now the afghan is about 16 inches long and somewhere between 40 and 50 inches wide. I weighed it on my little kitchen scale...subtracting a roughly estimated amount for the big circular needle it is attached to. Then I weighed all the little and not-so-little balls of yarn, figured the number of grams per inch of the knitted object, the total grams of yarn available, and calculated how many more inches the blanket could grow before running out of yarn.

123. 123+16=139. Yes, there is enough yarn to make this thing 139 inches long (that's roughly 353 centimeters). Wow.

For anyone wondering...yes, that figure is BEFORE I ordered six more skeins of yarn today. Uh oh...

Friday, January 1, 2010

One Addition and One Rant

I knew I would forget something I wanted to put on yesterday's list. Photography. This year I would like to learn how to use our digital camera, how to take decent-ish pictures with it, and how to upload/crop/publish said pictures.

IF I can accomplish that, you may actually see an occasional photo on this blog. Imagine! The mind boggles...

The rant: The economy is in the toilet, right? People are losing jobs and companies are going out of business right and left, true? If I owned a business I would want to be one of the lucky ones who didn't go under during the Great Recession. If I had a paying job I would want to be one of the lucky ones who didn't lose it.

But it seems I am perhaps...unique or at least rare...in holding to this philosophy? If I were a company who did business two ways: a physical store (maybe made of brick and mortar, but more likely steel and some sort of plastic stuff) and a website...I would want customers to spend money at both of those places. Right? Unless maybe I was running the business as some giganto tax write-off or as a cover operation for my drug ring??

So why, why, WHY do the folks who own Joann Fabrics seem intent on discouraging people from buying their merchandise?

There is a Joann Fabrics store in our fair city. It is in an inconvenient location for me, but that's not the deal-breaker. The deal-breaker is that the store is just nasty. It is dirty, it is unorganized, it is confusing, it is lit with glaring fluorescent lights, it is staffed with people who know nothing about the products, and if all those weren't enough, the restrooms are a nightmare of filth and disease. So I shop there only when I have absolutely no other choice, and I most often manage to find some other choice.

But Joann Fabrics also has a website! Aha! A website...so I can shop from the comfort of my reasonably clean, incandescently lighted home! A website...with information about the products so I can pick what I want without needing sales staff to help me. A website...with many products always in stock so that I don't have to worry about them being out of what I want. A website...so I can shop conveniently. A website...so I can take advantage of their sales and get what I need shipped to my cozy little house.

If only.

No, Joann Fabrics has one of THOSE websites. The finicky kind, the kind where you log in to your account and add things to your shopping cart and sometimes they stay there but sometimes they don't. The kind where you try browser after browser, even stooping so low as to try Internet Explorer on a Windows machine to see if that will work. The kind where you pull up all the items you want to buy in your browser's tabs and get ready to add them super, super quickly so you don't lose them. (That works with one of my other nemesis websites, Kohls.)

Joann Fabrics currently has a sale on some yarn I want, some yarn Natalie wants, and a thread organizer Natalie wants. I had considered driving over to AC Moore today to get my yarn, but why do that when I can get the sale price and shop from the comfort of my home? Well, now I know why. Joann Fabrics is corporately suicidal. They do not want to stay in business. What other conclusion can a sensible person draw? If I cannot place an order after fussing with it for over an hour and getting help from my in-house tech support (who designs websites and KNOWS when I'm just making some stupid mistake in using one), then how in the world do they manage to stay in business?

Tomorrow I will again attempt to buy some yarn. I will likely get in the car and drive across town to either AC Moore or Michaels. Both of them are enough cleaner and better staffed than Joann that I feel better about giving them my money. Because the yarn I need is cheap acrylic I'm sure to find it at one of those stores.

But I could also consider going to one of the two real knitting shops in town where no doubt I would find friendly people to take my money. For some projects I would do that, or I would order from a real knitting shop such as Webs in Northampton, Massachusetts. Webs, amazingly enough, has a website that allows customers to purchase things! What a concept!

Do you think anyone at Joann Fabrics' corporate office cares that they are losing business like this? I really wonder.

So...pictures and e-commerce. One addition, one rant. Welcome to 2010!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

What ho, 2010?

What should I do differently in 2010? I don't make formal New Year's resolutions, but a swirl of thoughts keep poking at me the last few days.

Digression: I am finding it incredibly difficult to get this post written. I put it off too late today and now the house is full of people TALKING. I just put on my headphones and fired up iTunes and am hoping a little John Cougar music will wipe out the background noise to the point where I can think to type.

Explanatory Digression: My 47 year old ears can't understand one word in five that John Cougar sings unless I crank it really loud...effectively making his music into white noise when played at a lower volume.

In 2010 I want to:

1. Once and for all solve the Killer Dishes issue. I'm tired of worrying about whether there is lead in the old transferware dinnerware we eat off of (and microwave in) daily. Either Tom is going to come up with a test that will reassure us both, or we are going to replace them with something we know is safe.

2. Understand what holiness is. I know it is being like Christ, but I want to really know what that means. Not what people mean when they say "holy" and hold up their list of rules that I have failed to adhere to . Not what the hymn Take Time To Be Holy seems to mean...although the author lists some things that might be components of holiness. The idea of "taking time to be holy" scritches at my nerves like the spray-painted graffiti that says "Try Jesus". Yeah, try Jesus...if that doesn't work, maybe some Lipitor? Take time to be holy, and then take some time to exercise.

3. Knit a pair of socks. Tom gave me teeny double-pointed needles for Christmas. I intend to buy some sock yarn, perhaps even tomorrow, and make some socks. Perhaps very bad socks. Perhaps the last socks I ever make. But I will try it and accomplish it, even if very badly.

4. Settle for myself the whole issue of being busy. This may be related to holiness because I find myself feeling guilty for not being busy enough. Or not being as busy as some people I know. I need to come to find out for myself whether I am right or if I am shirking my duty.

5. Read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I know I read this back in high school, and I know the basic plot. I realized not very long ago that I think of this book as "Dickens Light" or "American Dickens"...the one story of his everyone knows. It's part of our culture, Scrooge McDuck and all that. In the last few years I've come to appreciate all the Dickens novels I've read. I need to read A Christmas Carol and experience it through the lens of that appreciation.

After I publish this post I will, no doubt, think of several more things I could add to this list. But this will have to do for now. The garage door just opened. (Hitting "play" button on iTunes) Colin and Tom are back from fetching Chinese food for our festive New Year's Eve dinner. Tonight we will eat yummy food, work on a puzzle, watch a silly movie, play some games, and who knows what all else.

I'm looking forward to 2010...Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baby, if you've ever wondered...

...wondered whatever became of me...

So, anyway, we went to Cincinnati for Thanksgiving this year. I think I could write several posts about our trip, but I'm going to try to fit it into one by dividing my thoughts into categories.

Family: We spent our Thanksgiving holiday with my brother Jim, his wife Julia, and three of my...there needs to be a generic term that covers both nieces and nephews. And, after a little Googling, it turns out there IS such a word: nibling. Which sort of sounds as though Rebecca, Andrea, and John are hors d'oeuvres. (Thank you, Merriam-Webster online dictionary.) Oh, and my parents traveled up there, also, mustn't forget them.

Food: What didn't we eat? Julia and the girls (Jim helped, too) kept us fed all weekend long with wonderful, yummy food. Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and ham and spinach casserole and sweet potato casserole and potatoes and gravy and real homemade crescent rolls and pumpkin pie (secret creamy recipe!) and pecan pie and caramel apple pie and whipped cream and other things too, but I can't remember everything. Stir fry that tasted like it was from a great Asian restaurant, shrimp Creole, pea soup, chocolate cake, chai tea, coffee...and all of it was totally delicious. It felt really odd to not be cooking on Thanksgiving, but it was also really fun to eat Thanksgiving dinner and actually feel hungry for it...having not been looking at it and smelling it and fussing with it all day.

Field Trips: (Uh oh...just realized I've got all "F" headers so far and at some point I will have to break the pattern.) Friday we went to the Cincinnati Art Museum and saw maybe a little over half of the exhibits. I would have to go through there with the map in hand and mark off each room as I went through it to be able to feel I'd seen it all. Colin was thrilled with the museum; it was his first time in an art museum and serendipitously it turned out to be just the right timing for him to visit. He loved almost every kind of art work we looked at, although furniture didn't enthrall him like the Egyptian carvings. When he draws pictures he always represents people as cats, a bus driver or pilot or any other character in the drawing will always have cat ears and whiskers. The Egyptian exhibit included several little statues of cat warriors/rulers/deities; he liked seeing that the Egyptians had a "cat theme" to their artwork also.

Saturday we went to the Cincinnati Zoo. Tom and I took Colin, Rebecca, and Natalie with us on this trip while Andrea and John went with my parents to the Creation Museum. Colin was less thrilled with the zoo than he was with the art museum which surprised me. After some discussion it turned out he was expecting the animals to be displayed closer together, not all spread out over a large area with lots of paths to walk on in between. This was our last day in Cincinnati and he had been getting less sleep than usual every night and trying to keep up with the adults and the big kids, so his enthusiasm was starting to fade. He did end up having a good time at the zoo, he just wanted to have that good time without the walking. (I agreed with him on that one!)

Cincinnati: I was a lot more impressed with Cincinnati than I thought I would be. I was there once before, 30+ years ago, but I remember very little about the city from that trip. In my mind I pictured it being a cross between Springfield, IL and Pittsburgh. (No offense intended to my former hometown or to P-burgh. Springfield is Springfield, and Pittsburgh might be perfectly lovely if you see parts of it other than the ones we managed to find on the trip we took there.) Instead Cincinnati reminded me much more of St. Louis...an art museum in the middle of a park in the middle of an historic neighborhood, lots of neat little gentrified old neighborhoods, lots of confusing highways all twisted together by a river... I'm sure there are seedier parts we didn't see while we were there. In fact, Jim kept saying as he gave us directions to different places "Yes, you could go all the way down Street X or Y Avenue, but not at night." But I liked the parts we saw and almost everywhere we went it seemed pretty straightforward to navigate...unlike say, Greensboro.

Other fun: We spent a lot of time sitting around and talking, of course. The kids went on numerous hikes around the neighborhood and to the handy nearby Starbucks. I'm sure Natalie will blog with pictures of some of their wild and crazy games. I'm not really sure what they were up to a lot of the time. We picked the busiest travel days of the year for our trip, so we fought traffic quite a bit both coming and going. Having three drivers makes a trip so much easier now, though. On the way home I was very sore and stiff from our expeditions to the museum and zoo so Natalie and Tom decided they would do all the driving and let me rest. It turned out Natalie ended up doing 2/3 of the driving, so Tom got more rest than he expected, too.

It seems like there was a whole lot more I was going to say, but this post is already very long. We had a wonderful time, we liked Cincinnati, we liked being with our family, our trip went smoothly. Thank you to Jim and Julia and the niblings for their hospitality!!

Now, I'll just be putting down some masking tape on the floor around my desk here...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Unfortunately...

Let's do a meme this fine Monday morning afternoon while I try to wake up. We've been staying up late to watch the Yankees vs. the Angels in the ALCS. I was rooting for the Yankees for the sake of my father and a handful of my friends; Tom rooted for the Angels out of sympathy for the underdogs and sheer stubbornness. Now he will most likely root for the Phillies, but he will use the excuse that he always roots for the National League if the Cardinals are not playing. Unless the NL team playing is the Braves, of course.

Here's how this particular meme works: Do a Google search on your first name preceded by the word "unfortunately". See what sort of results you get, and share the interesting ones. Here are a few of the better ones that came up for me.

• Unfortunately, Beth is married...but that won't discourage Kevin...

Unfortunately, Beth had really just won a stay of execution.

Unfortunately, Beth kept her clothes on.

Unfortunately, Beth realizes she never appreciated her family enough after they are all killed in a car crash on their way to a Fourth of July picnic.

• Unfortunately, Beth still has the fever.

• Unfortunately, Beth maybe hearing from some ill-advised supporters looking to cash in on a election process.

• Unfortunately, Beth no longer wants Sarah to know that she is Bill.

• Unfortunately, Beth doesn't quite get the revenge she wants by the end of the book – though not for a lack of trying.

• Unfortunately, Beth had locked the door to our room and taken the key with her into the female shower cubicles.

• Unfortunately, Beth was a born klutz.

• Unfortunately, Beth has seen them, and she seems to be awakening.

• Unfortunately, Beth assumed my identity and went on my dream date instead.

I live quite the interesting little life, do I not?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Being Offensive Without Offending?

This summer I was cranky a lot. Many things were making me grouchy. All this was, no doubt, exacerbated by my lack of sleep and high pain levels.

Whenever I'd think about blogging this summer the only topics that came to mind were rants...rants with the potential of offending people. Lots of people out there, in real life and on the Internet, were doing things to make me mad. (Did you know that? Or did I manage to fake you out?)

One day inspiration struck. I would blog all my rants and give full voice to all the things bugging me...but I would "bleep" out all the identifying details. I would say things like "People who BLEEP in line at the BLEEP should be BLEEPED and BLEEPED."

This revolutionary idea (hey, I was sleepless, it was revolutionary) made me so happy. A huge burden was lifted from my blogging shoulders. Finally my blog would find its true niche. (You know, like "they" all say a blogger should find..."they" being the ones who've decided their blog's true niche is telling other people how to blog.)

I went to bed that night and rehearsed my next blog post in my mind as I tried to fall asleep. I ranted and raved in my head, and mentally backspaced and inserted a BLEEP as needed. I had enough material in mind for, oh, maybe six or seven posts at least! And what were the odds that people would STOP ticking me off and deprive me of material??

The next morning, after getting a little bit of sleep, I got up and thought about blogging. But, strangely, all the desire to rant was gone. Dang! How cliched can you get?! Did I just do the blogging equivalent of the old "write the letter, tell him everything he did to hurt you, and then throw it away without mailing it" shtick? My blog fodder, my Preciiooouusssss....I wants it...

Isn't this all too Aesop? Too sticky? Too Disney happy endings and we'll just live in the sea and I'll grow gills so we can be together?? Too Celine Dion ballad-y??

Coming up next time: Beautiful butterflies, soft kittens, rolypoly puppies, and sugar cookies.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Return of the Random

Just putting my hand in the blender again...

• It's customary in the Blogosphere to explain where you've been after you've taken a break. Take a breath and fasten your seat belts and we'll make this quick and painless: school/church/work/summer/reverse SAD/pain/insomnia/Daylight Saving Time/boredom/business/slow broadband/dropped connections/children/parents/legalism/socialism/patriotism/tea parties/iced tea/ennui/hyperactivity/malaise/swine flu/mass hysteria/mad hedgehogs.

• Today is the day we would normally be submitting our entries to the Dixie Classic Fair. This year Natalie and I decided to sit out the fair for a number of reasons...mostly related to lack of time to create our usual pile of entries.

• I've started planning out what to enter in the fair next year and I'm excited about trying out some new things. This year I'd like to crochet a shawl or scarf in laceweight yarn, knit something in the round (mittens? hat?), and cross-stitch a pillow.

• In the cooking categories I'd like to master a truly good pound cake. I still wouldn't stand a chance of winning yet, but I want to be ready as the older ladies retire from competition.

• My blog needs updating. I'm thinking about changing the background color and adding some headers to the side columns. I'll need to get my tech support/artist to help me with the headers because I want something to coordinate with the main title header.

• You may have noticed most of the blog links have gone away. I started to revise them and then realized my reading habits have changed to the point where a lot of them were no longer relevant. I'm thinking about doing a "blog of the week" link or something along those lines instead.

• Tom got a digital camera for his birthday, and I intend to learn how to use it and also learn how to upload and manipulate photos. IF this works out, expect to see more pictures around here.

• This was the year for technological birthday gifts. Tom gave me an iPod Touch for my birthday, and I'm having a blast learning how to utilize it best. I'm becoming obsessed with podcasts. I like having something interesting to listen to in the evening while I'm crafting.

• Do any of my readers (do I HAVE any readers left?) know where one can download books to listen to on an iPod? Our library has downloads, but they aren't in an mp3 format.

That's all I've got today. This is like going back to the gym after not working out for several months. If I write too much today all my writing muscles will be screaming tomorrow and I'll be tempted to quit. See y'all soon, I hope.