Saturday, June 30, 2007

With Friends Like These . . . .

. . . one is very blessed. I have been admiring this handbag for a couple of weeks now. Nicole has made at least two that we know of (scroll down her blog to see them both -- can't decide which is more wonderful), and probably isn't ready to quit yet. In my current bag lady mode, I just knew I needed this pattern, too. Went so far as to check it out on Ebay just the other day. Decided the pattern prolly isn't going anywhere, but I am. We leave for our trip in less than two weeks. So, using maturity I rarely exhibit, I decided not to purchase the pattern just now. But to wait and see if my smittenness continues after returning from our trip, and then choose whether or not to succumb.
. . . .
Sistah Kathy B has spared me. I was out running morning errands on this beautiful day Near Philadelphia, and came home to find the postal person had arrived. Bringing me this pattern, directly from my good friend in California! Isn't she a peach?
. . . .
And you know what this means, don't you? With any luck and good time management, I will have my Frenchy Bag made and ready to take with me on my trip! Let the sewing begin!

The Monthly Hand-Sewing Group: WWIT?

We get together on the first -- occasionally the second -- Tuesday of the month, the eight of us. Ostensibly our purpose is hand-sewing, each on her own project. But many's the month that we do far more giggling and exclaiming than actual stitching. We've been together for three or four years now, ever since the first Tuesday in January that I hadn't put my Christmas things away and the house still looked nice and I invited a bunch of girlfriends in for a night of hand-sewing. People are seldom absent, for who doesn't need a monthly evening of hilarity?
. . . .
This is our second summer for a challenge and this year it is called "What Was I Thinking?"as in "What was I thinking when I bought this fabric?" Each participant (six of the eight of us) put some fabric in a brown paper bag and we switched them around, sight unseen. This happened at the May meeting. We have until the October meeting to do something with what we received.
. . . .
Kathleen took home two pieces of warm Kaffe Fasset orange tones and Bonnie got a nice piece of white with rows of international flags. Emily received two totally unrelated pieces of something or another and I forget what Honna ended up with but it was something she liked. Helen got my Mary Engelbreit (WHAT was I thinking?) and I brought home six half-yard pieces of fruits and vegetables.
. . . .
Last night I finalized my plan for the WWIT fabrics and did some cutting. Joe is out of town (out of state, actually) today and Honna is coming over to sew. WWIT will be my project for part of the day. Come the first Tuesday in October, I'll post a picture of the final outcome!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Stash is Not the Problem

All over blog land I see the badges that Kim creates each month, badges for those who have taken the pledge to purchase no new fabric. There are, of course, some clauses, some conditions that people will cite as exceptions, the most popular being the need to purchase additional fabric to complete a project. I'm impressed with their commitment and their determination; I'd probably be impressed with their stashes, too.
. . . .
Buying more fabric isn't my particular problem. Rather, it is starting new projects! For example, the project to the left is something I started yesterday. I'd been dazzled by the Disappearing Nine Patch quilts that people have blogged about and had been thinking of doing one. Sometime. And then it turns out that Diana is adopting a little girl from Central America and, of course, I want to make a quilt for this wonderful new person. So yesterday I grabbed a pair of those charm packs that I've been wondering what to do with, and started my project. I did buy a small amount of yardage to accompany the charm packs, so I'll be able to put borders on this as soon as it is finished.
. . . .
But, as I was saying, it isn't a voluminous stash of fabric that is my bugaboo. I really only very seldom buy more than a FQ without a plan. My problem, my weakness, isn't busting stash but rather it is busting blocks. I'd start talking about blockbusting, but a movie rental chain has pretty much claimed that name.
. . . .
I sign up for swaps. I run swaps. I enter lottos. I accumulate sets of blocks. These are the Amish Star blocks from a recent birthday block swap, put together and waiting for a border (do you get the feeling I'm in for a weekend of "border issues"?). I've only had these blocks since February, so this is pretty near record time for my getting something together.
. . . .
My plan at present is to try to get block sets made into flimsies and then store the flimsies until the appropriate occasion for finishing the quilt appears on the horizon. Flimsies are easier to store than completed quilts.
. . . .

Sets of blocks abound. Here we have appliqued animals and things from the Farm Swap; we have miscellaneous small blocks from a Halloween mini-block swap of about eight years ago; we have more applique blocks, these from the Garden Theme swap; and the terrific Coffee and Cream Churn Dash yield and the glorious Almost Amish batiks on black. Back in the upper left corner, you can't really see the Assorted Chickens. And these are just some of the collections of blocks waiting to be made into tops.
. . . .
And a conflict, of course, has to do with the scraps that live in two great big Rubbermaid storage bins -- one batik, the other not -- that lurk, piquing my interest. Which would lead to making more blocks that will need to be made into more projects. Ah, well, there is never a lack of options!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

William Morris, Where ARE You?

Well, for one who claims she does not buy fabric without a specific project in mind, we are up against an exception. Jan wrote about a trip to this shop where she bought some of this wonderful William Morris fabric. The drooling, the hyperventilating began almost immediately. If Blogger is working properly, you should be able to enlarge the print by clicking on it; then you will see what I mean. It is downright gorgeous.
. . . .
If you have read this blog for a while, you may have gathered that I have a serious weakness for Will's (we're that well acquainted) designs. It is the one fabric (well, if you don't count the batiks) that I buy with absolutely no plan in mind. I keep the yardage, the FQs, the scraps, in a cupboard and from time to time take them out, fondle them, arrange them, and put them back.
. . . .

Occasionally I'll make a large project or or a small one out of them but that, of course, diminishes the quantity. And I get some peculiar sense of security out of having a quantity of William Morris. I need to get some of this new line. I need this very badly. But going to the shop on line doesn't help me -- apparently they do not have a way to order on line. Googling, and prowling around the Freedom Fabrics site hasn't helped; the best I came up with was a long list of shops that may or may not have this particular line.
. . . .
So here I find myself in the humiliating position of inquiring: Does anyone know of a shop in her area that has an on-line sales component and carries this line? Or a plain old on-line source for Morris Springtime? Any help for a desperate quilter?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Slow Man

I wanted to like the book. I tried to like the book. It had come recommended by Bonnie, who is seldom wrong about book. She liked it a lot. I didn't.
. . . .
The premise is interesting enough, and I did like the first couple of chapters. A sixtyish-year-old man riding a bicycle is hit by a car in the very first sentence. As a result of the accident, he loses a leg. The opening part about the accident is captivating. The time spent in hospital and the early part of his at-home recovery is also interesting. But with the entry into the story and into Paul's life of one Elizabeth Costello, I started to lose interest.
. . . .
Unlike many people who lose a limb, Paul rejects the idea of a prosthesis, preferring to hop about his daily life relying on crutches. The hospital equivalent of social services (the book is set in Australia) provides him an in-home helper who doesn't work out. After a couple more mismatches, Marijana is sent and Paul finds himself falling in love with her and becoming inappropriately involved with her family.
. . . .
This is the first Coetzee novel I've read, and to be fair, I suspect if I'd read his earlier work, particularly Elizabeth Costello, I wouldn't have given up. But it wasn't clear to me how this woman came to intrude on his life, why he put up with her, or -- indeed -- whether she and her prescriptions are real or fantasy. Reviewers liked the book. I found it to be a peculiar juxtaposition of excellent writing and a story that just didn't captivate. I gave up midway.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tonic X 2

Well, after my rant of the morning -- which really started when I read about the plenary indulgences, long before I learned of Her Release -- I needed something to make me feel better this afternoon. A kind of a tonic, I think. But without the gin. I'm loving being on "summer hours" where I leave work at 2:00 in the afternoon instead of 4:00, after having started work at 9:00 instead of 8:00. It is great to have these chunks of time at the start of the day and again before dinner.
. . . .
I've been using the later chunks for sewing. A couple of days ago I put a set of blocks up on the design wall. I belong to a couple of on-line quilting groups, and both of them have a project going where one month per year I get to send out a fabric of my choice with a request for a particular type/size of block. My blocks from the BDR group yielded the quilt for Allison. The blocks to the left represent the harvest from the FQ group. Sent out a terrific black-on-black fabric and requested that the group make me 12" Amish Star blocks, using two relatively tame batiks. The blocks that came in are stunning. As you can see, I pretty much need three more. So this afternoon's Tonic No. One was going into my batik bin and choosing the components for those blocks, cutting the pieces, and starting to sew them together.
. . . .
Tonic No. Two, of course, would be Sam. Being with him or even looking at a picture of him is enough to lift my mood, my spirits, on even the grumpiest of days.
. . . .
This picture was taken at his house a few weeks ago when Sherry and Chris invited us to have dinner with them and then attend a program at Sam's day care center. This pic is from after dinner, when he's cleaned up and ready to go.
. . . .
And, yes, the curls are as much fun to touch as one would expect!

"Mad as Hell . . . ." -- A Rant, by Nancy, Near Philadelphia

What the heck is wrong with our country that this the main story on CNN today?
. . . .
Britney, Paris, Nicole, Lindsay . . . . I'm so tired of their drinking, their drugging, their shaving, their pantilessness for crying out loud. Even after her death we are still infected by the ever useless Anna Nicole. Are there actually people who are interested in this tawdriness that passes for lives?
. . . .
And the bigger, more important question: Why has the media prostituted itself for the likes of them?
. . . .
I stopped watching network news on the big three with the fall of Dan Rather, still grieving the retirement of Walter Cronkite. I discovered Aaron Brown on CNN and admired his taste, his demeanor, his credibility, his thoughtful, quiet commentary. Gave up on CNN news when he was replaced by Anderson Cooper (is there anyone who doesn't recall his desperate clinging to a street sign during Hurricaine Katrina when anyone with a shred of sanity would be reporting from inside?) who reminds me of nothing more that Kermit The Frog in hysterical reporter mode. Wolf Blitzer (and just what was his mother thinking when she named him? Does he have siblings named "Moose," "Coyote," "Tortoise"?) isn't significantly more tolerable.
. . . .
In a way, I guess, I'm thankful that Chet Huntley isn't around to witness any of it.
. . . .
Last night, after the TV tripe I was sewing in front of was over, I caught a glimpse of the local news with the obligatory weekly shot of a microphone stuffed in the face of a grieving mother after yet another random shooting, and I remembered why I stopped watching the local hacks as well as the national ones.
. . . .
So the default news sources for me are my morning paper -- which this very morning incensed my Lutheran soul by proclaiming that the Philadelphia Archdiocese has reinstituted the offering of plenary indulgences, thus jeopardizing any progress made in the thirty years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue (but that isn't the fault of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the story was well-researched and well-written with quotes from credible authorities for a change) -- and an as-needed glimpse at the CNN website. Where I discovered the aforementioned lead story.
. . . .
As Bogie said, "We'll always have Paris." But do we have to have so damned much of her?

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I saw a table full of the book the last time I visited Barnes and Noble. I made a mental note to put it on my list at the library, but before I had a chance to do so, Nita mentioned that she had it already and I could get on her waiting list for it. Then Maggie bought it and passed it along last week.
. . . .
I could not put it down. If you read and liked The Kite Runner, I believe you will like this book just as much. Like Kite Runner, the book is set in Afghanistan. It is about two women, Mariam and Leila, and their relationship is the heart of the book. Disappointments from men abound for Mariam, from her shallow father who is ashamed of her illegitimacy to the older man he marries her off to. He turns out to be a ruthless abuser. Leila fares better in the "what are men like" department, having a father who absolutely dotes on her and a tender, loving boyfriend. Yet life for Leila turns as sour as Mariam's life, until the two realize that they have each other.
. . . .
Hosseini explains the politics of Afghanistan in a way that is understandable; yet he doesn't dwell on the politics. He is here to tell Mariam's story, Leila's story, and he tells it so very well. A book that easily earns an "A" from me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Walk in the Woods

As I mentioned in my sidebar when I put up the picture there, Joe picked this book up at the used book sale for twenty-five cents (just typing that makes me grieve, yet again, the loss of the cents symbol that used to be above the 6 on the keyboard, but I digress). He went through it at high speed -- unusual for one who usually takes his time with his books, savoring them -- frequently interrupting his reading to share a tidbit with me. He loved it so much that I knew I would have to read it. The last time this happened was in 1968 when he'd picked up Steinbeck's Travels With Charley, a book I still remember with great fondness.
. . . .
It prolly doesn't take a genius to realize that walking in the woods is not on my top ten list of favorite activities. I don't detest it, mind you, but twenty minutes every year or two satisfies that urge, and hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail is even more remote for me than skydiving would be.
. . . .
But much as one doesn't have to like the protagonist to appreciate a good movie (We're watching Masterpiece Theatre's "Cousin Bette" at present and talk about an unlikeable main character! But it is superb drama and if you have Netflix, you might consider putting it in your queue), one does not have to have any interest whatsoever in a backpacking adventure to appreciate the quality of the writing of this book. Bryson hikes with an old long-lost friend named Katz, who seems only slightly more of a plausible candidate that me for such an undertaking. The two of them plod forth, day after day, getting in and out of some difficult situations and meeting some of the finest, most colorful characters I've encountered anywhere, not just in the middle of the woods. You just can't help rooting for them. Interspersed with the tale of their pilgrimage are facts and stories and mythology about the AT, presented in palatable and interesting form. A splendid book. I'd give it an "A."

It's Over

Well, the best I can say is, "It's over."
. . . .
For years, I've looked at the "Cathy" cartoons as Cathy experiences the annual trauma of buying a bathing suit. "How bad could it be?" I wondered.
. . . .
It could be bad.
. . . .
It has been a good many years since I've gone swimming. Since the kids grew up and left home, we stopped renewing our membership at the township pool. When we go to Cape May, neither of us is crazy about sitting on the beach for prolonged periods -- we'd much rather walk down the water's edge, collecting shells, early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and enjoy the ocean that way. And when we go to Chautauqua, we're so busy with other activities that we never have time to swim in the lake. So I've not needed a swimsuit.
. . . .
Until now. Our upcoming trip to Greece (three weeks and counting!) involves stops at several of the islands where snorkeling and other water activities will be something not to miss out on. And so it would seem that bathing attire will be needed.
. . . .
I went yesterday. And all at once I have a new appreciation for and understanding of Cathy. I found one. I bought it. And it's OVER. Now all I have to do is buy a cover-up for it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One of Allison's Biggest Fans

I started to get to know Allison a few months after her dad died. She was 10 or 11 at the time. I'd known who she was from the time she was a tiny little girl carrying a big stuffed dog into the front pew on the left each Sunday as she entered the church with her parents and her brother. But I didn't get to know her, really know and appreciate and love her until tragedy struck and her mom and I became close.
. . . .
It has been nearly three years now since her Dad's passing. And she's growing up so beautifully into someone he would be tremendously proud of. In the past year, as part of the Confirmation Class, she has assumed the responsibility of serving as acolyte about once each month, and she does it with grace and poise.
. . . .
As you can tell, I'm one of her Biggest Fans. And when I realized this past winter that her confirmation was coming up, I decided I needed to recognize this milestone. One of my online groups has a project where each month someone gets to send out fabric with a request for a specific kind of block. Everyone else in the group adds the kind of fabric that is requested, makes the block, and mails it home.
. . . .
My month was February and I chose two batiks -- one a periwinkle and violet and aqua butterfly print, and the other a purple mottle -- and sent them out with the pattern for the fan block. I asked my partners to add batiks that went well with the butterfly print and the purple, to use the purple for the background, and to incorporate the butterfly into the blades or hub of the fan.
. . . .
Watching them come in that month was so much fun! I waited until all eleven had arrived before I made my own. My friends did such a nice job for me. And for Allison. When it was all finished, I sent it off to Branky and asked her what kind of quilting she thought it should have. I told her Allison's story and she replied, "I'm going to quilt hearts, because she is close to your heart."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Couple of Things

First, about this quilt to the left. I didn't make it, but I sure wish I did! It hangs on the wall of the LQS and I'm just smitten with it. If you are able to enlarge it with a click, you'll see that the fabrics all are old looking, almost like genuine feedsacks -- they aren't 30s repros, but something else old and wonderful. I believe the block is called Jewel Box.
. . . .
I have a packet of Liberty of London FQs that I bought about five or six years ago that I take out to fondle every now and then, but until now have not known what to do with them. I am thinking this jewel box block mght be just the thing.
. . . .
Today we entered the second of our ten weeks of being on Summer Hours. My regular work hours during the school year are 8-4. For ten glorious weeks, we work 9-2, or some such variation. I can't believe how much energy I have and all the things I'm getting done. Perhaps even the Dreaded Cleaning Virus will be welcomed -- I still have that sewing studio to tackle.
For those who asked, the pattern for the handbag is Butterick BP 170. I went back to the shop today for more brown and aqua fabric. Can't stop with just the one!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A New Bag (for an Old Bag?)

The truth is, you see, I really like Vera Bradley bags and things. I bought my first one at a local shop with some money I received as a gift, cringing at the cost of it, but carrying it every single day that first summer. Autumn came, and so did my fascination with Ebay, and behold! I became a Vera Bradley junkie, waiting patiently until something I liked came up at far less cost than the local shop.
. . .
Then the collection pictured to the left came out. Already the fabric sites were showing fantastic new prints in brown and aqua -- a splendid variation, I thought, on brown and pink which I also like quite a bit. I began to see people wearing brown and aqua together and Anastasia tells a very funny story about a shop in Richmond that uses these two as their signature colors. It was only a matter of time before Vera jumped onto the brown and aqua bandwagon and sure enough, I began to see people carrying these terrific bags. But even on Ebay, since they are so new, they are selling for more than I would care to pay for a handbag. (For more on the subject of overpriced handbags, you may wish to check out the ultimate one that Laurie talks about!) In short, I loved the bags in this great color combination, but I kept telling myself that it would not be long before it would be dated, and I decided to forego.
. . . .
Until Thursday of last week. When I saw one too many of these bags and saw it up close and personal. A new administrator at school came to a major meeting sporting one. And I caved. Sort of.
. . . .
Due to peculiar circumstances, by Thursday morning I'd already made three short trips to the LQS for one thing or another, and while there and waiting in line each of those times, I saw that terrific fabric on the shelf. Calling my name. To which I turned a deaf ear. Or a blind eye. Whatever.
. . . .
The speed and intention behind my Friday afternoon trip to the fabric store was such that I am fortunate I did not get pulled over to the side of the road. You would think I'd received an urgent phone call that the last yard on the last bolt was in danger of leaving the shop. I started working on my project as soon as I got home, stopping for a quick dinner and then back to work. I made major progress before bedtime.
. . . .
Saturday was an informal sewing day among eight friends in the church Fellowship Hall, and I'd already decided that my Civil War Meadowbrook Farm project was to be birthed. I got home a little after three on Saturday, had a quick nap and then went back to the bag. Didn't take long to finish the machine work. Then, after a nice dinner out with Joe, we settled down with the current Netflix ("Cousin Bette" from Masterpiece Theatre, BTW), and by the time it was finished, so was my bag. I carried it to church this morning.
. . . .
It was so much fun to make, that I have a hunch I'll be making some more bags this summer. I learned a few things while making this one, to wit: If the pattern calls for interfacing, use the blooming interfacing. And a sturdier batt would be better than a flimsier one. Two layers of flimsy batt might be fine. Improvising on accent fabrics may enhance what the pattern calls for. A teensy accent strip above the pocket is delicious and enticing. More pockets -- inside and out -- are an improvement. How soon can I start the next one?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chirp! Chrip!

My friend Desertsky (and great big thanks to Mrs. Goodneedle for teaching me how to make this link instead of the awkward method I'd been using!) had this gem on her blog. She's a cat, it turns out. Thinking we might enjoy some catnip or such together, I popped over to the site and -- oh, no!!!! Could this be the end of a beautiful friendship?

You Would Be a Pet Bird

You're intelligent and witty, yet surprisingly low maintenance.
You charm people easily, and they usually love you a lot more than you love them.
You resent anyone who tries to own or control you. You refuse to be fenced in.

Why you would make a great pet: You're very smart and entertaining

Why you would make a bad pet: You're not interested in being anyone's pet!

What you would love about being a bird: Flying, obviously

What you would hate about being a bird: Being caged

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Meadowbrook Farm


One of my favorite blogs, Nicole -- prolific and tasteful -- can be found here http://sisterschoice.typepad.com/sisters_choice_quilts/ if you want to see what she's up to. I recommend that you do, for I swear the woman either sews in her sleep or does not sleep at all. Surely no lint collects under her feet. Earlier this month she posted the photo of the Meadowbrook Farm pattern as well as photos of her first few blocks. You really ought to check them out; they are SO cute!
. . . .
Shortly before Nicole posted this pattern, I'd participated in a FQ swap of Civil War repros and the yield was stunning. I was so dazzled, in fact, that I immediately proposed we swap some FQs of shirtings and backgrounds, and so we did. It was while I was waiting for the shirtings that Meadowbrook Farm crossed my figurative path, and I thought this pattern would be just right for my repros. There's a suburb Near Philadelphia called Meadowbrook. I've always thought it to be a nice place. There's even a Meadowbrook Farm in the area where you can pick up some plants if you are of a mind to. So Meadowbrook Farm feels kind of personal. And at the same time, it sounds sort of Civil War-ish, doesn't it? Like the name of the plantation between Tara and Twelve Oaks? Don't you think?
. . . .
Well, I do, too. And I really need to get away from my mindset that Civil War fabrics can be made into something other than basket blocks. Meadowbrook Farm, I think, is just what I need for these wonderful fabrics.
. . . .
And this coming Saturday, a group of us are going to take over the Fellowship Hall at church again to sew together. I'm thinking this will be a fine project to start down there on what is likely to be a hot summer day. And I ain't just a-whistlin' Dixie.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sleeping Beauty


Sam; June 10, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Leaving Church

When Sharon was visiting last month, she mentioned this book. It sounded mildly interesting and I made a mental, though not written, note of it. Within a week, I'd read references to it on two different blogs, and came to believe this book was being placed in my path to pick up or stumble over. So I reserved it at the library.
. . . .
Barbara Brown Taylor is an ordained Episcopal priest who left parish ministry to teach at a college. The book is is the story of her faith journey. She is an excellent writer, she is my kind of theologian, and she appears to be very approachable. I made many notes from her book.
. . . .
Three, in particular, are meaningful for me right now.
. . . .
On page xiii she writes, "I was about to go and do what I believed God was calling me to go and do, without the least suspicion that finding my life might involve losing it – or that loss, in the end, might be cause for praise."
. . . .
On page 41 she quotes a priest whom she consulted when she was thinking of going into ordained ministry. This person told her, “Think hard before you do this. Right now you have the broadest ministry imaginable. As a layperson, you can serve God no matter what you do for a living, and you can reach out to people who will never set foot inside a church. Once you are ordained, that is going to change. Every layer of responsibility you add is going to narrow your ministry; so think hard before you choose a smaller box.”
. . . .
And finally, on page 122, she quotes Walter Brueggemann: “The world for which you have been so carefully prepared is being taken away from you by the grace of God.”
. . . .
There is a great deal more rich material in her book; there are a great many more notes. But the three I copied above speak to the bewilderment I experience at my own faith journey.
. . . .
It has been nearly twenty years since I felt that God was calling me to hospital chaplaincy. At that time, I had no credentials whatsoever, just this belief that being with the sick, with those in crisis, was to be my ministry. At the age of forty-something, I left a job I enjoyed to begin college -- a bachelor's degree was required for entrance into seminary, and I completed one in two and a half years.
. . . .
I never felt called to parish ministry. I did not want to marry, to bury, to preside at the table. But at that time, in my denomination, the path to hospital chaplaincy required ordination and three years of service in a congregation. I decided to embark on the path to ordination; however, in my final year of seminary, when I was an intern who was to be paid for being on that path, my conscience intervened. I did not know what I was supposed to do, but I knew I was not supposed to continue the pursuit of ordination. It was wrong, morally wrong, for me to plan to serve a congregation for three years simply to fulfill a requirement for my own call.
. . . .
After graduation, I decided to gain more experience in CPE -- Clinical Pastoral Education -- where I spent two years at two different hospitals, serving as a student-chaplain in a diverse learning group. Far from being compensated for this work, I paid tuition. I learned. I ministered. I laughed and cried and struggled. I loved it.
. . . .
I accumulated the four units that were required to get a job as a hospital chaplain. I had good evaluations from my peers and supervisors. What I lacked, however, was the denominational endorsement.
. . . .
It was during the CPE years that the ELCA created a new pathway to rostered ministry -- the diaconal route. The requirements were stringent, but with my seminary education and CPE credits, I had completed most of them. I entered "the candidacy process" for a second time, this time on the diaconal path.
. . . .
It was not to be.
. . . .
About six weeks ago, I wrote this blog post -- http://nancynearphiladelphia.blogspot.com/2007/04/just-piece.html -- which touched on the struggle I have experienced, trying to resolve just what this perceived call had been about.
. . . .
I don't know that I'll ever totally figure it out. But reading Taylor's book has helped. And the three pieces quoted above are what I'm chewing on these days. The ways of God are mysterious -- I knew that from the get-go.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

In Which We Visit Three Homes in Alexandria, Virginia

We visited three homes in the past twenty-four hours, and two of them are pictured in this blog. The best home we visited, that of Andrew and Amy, is not pictured.
. . . .
We left home early on Saturday morning, stopping for breakfast at one of the I-95 rest stops, and arriving at A&A's before lunch. We visited for a bit and then we out to a place in Old Town Alexandria that A&A like quite a bit to have some lunch. It turned out to be a very nice place, and apparently A&A are not the only Alexandrians who enjoy eating there -- shortly after we placed our order, I heard a familiar voice to my left and looked up to find this gentleman there, gabbing away, and wearing a red shirt. We saw Mr. Carville a second time, later in the afternoon, when he was out jogging.
. . . .
After lunch we drove off to our destination -- the joint historic sites of Woodlawn Plantation, pictured to the left, and another famous building. We had a guided tour of Woodlawn, and the docent was so good at her job. Instead of focusing on the building and the furnishings, and she did include quite a bit about both of those, her emphasis was on the people who had lived in the house and the culture of the time when they inhabited it. I confess to not being of a historical bent, and this woman made Woodlawn Plantation -- not at all far from Mt. Vernon, if you are ever in the D.C. area -- fascinating. It was a warm afternoon and the tour lasted about forty-five minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
. . . .
Next we walked across the parking lot to visit the Pope-Leighey House, one of the Usonian designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was way, way smaller than Woodlawn, and much more appealing! The guide for this property was well informed, too, and of course Joe already knew quite about the architectural nuances. We loved the cut-out motifs under the roofline, the emphasis on the horizontal planes and the use of natural materials. The house was 1200 square feet. The miniscule kitchen notwithstanding, I could actually picture enjoying living in this house! There was no wasted space, and there were a lot of built-in shelves and drawers. I thought afterwards that living in this lovely home would force me to choose what is important to have, to keep, to own, because there would be no way we could move into this house (not that it is available, mind you!) without having the Yard Sale of the Century
. . . .
A&A were so hospitable; their guest room is comfy and well-appointed, and they made a delectable dinner for us last night before taking us out to their favorite ice cream stand for a late night treat.
. . . .
Two consecutive weekends visiting our sons and their lovely wives. You might think that life does not get any better that this, but you would be pleasantly mistaken -- for now we are off to Sherry and Chris's where we will have dinner with them and with Sam and then go to attend a little end-of-year program at his Day Care Center!
. . . .
Life is Rich!
(with a bow to Mrs. Goodneedle)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Recent Reads

Wish I Could Be There. Allen Shawn, son of former "New Yorker" editor William Shawn, writes about life as a phobic. He explains the physiology of the in terms that make it all very comprehensible. He tells of the factors that impacted on his life, factors that he believes contributed to his agoraphobia. His parents each had "issues" and his father definitely suffered from phobias. In addition, his father led a secret life separate from the family, a life that was known but never mentioned. Most touching are the parts where Shawn writes about his autistic twin sister, Mary.
. . . .
This is an excellent book and I'd recommend it to anyone who knows a phobic person and wants to develop a better understanding. My dearest friend is agoraphobic and -- as I wrote earlier when I first found this book -- I had been less than totally sympathetic to her situation, somehow believing that she should be able to get a grip, to get over it. This book has made me a better friend.
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Later this month, the neighborhood book group will discuss Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I sped right through this book, eager to see the story develop. In a culture where marriages are arranged through a broker and it seems unusual for real love to develop between a couple, the significant relationships for women are with their "sworn sisters" or "old sames." Lily, the protagonist of this story, forms a beautiful bond with Snow Flower, beginning as small children. Secrets, misunderstandings, and betrayal form the plot.
. . . .
It was difficult to read the details of the foot binding process. It was hard to imagine women who had undergone this horrible experience visiting it upon their daughters -- it made me think of the genital mutilation we read about in certain cultures today. Careful reading and thinking enabled me to understand that as hideous as the foot binding was, this was the one possible way a mother could attempt to assure a good future for her daughter. This book will surely provide good discussion.
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On Beauty was the book group's choice for May. It is interesting that it is always the books that no one really liked very much that provide for the most discussion! I've not read very many books that are about contemporary middle-class African-American families, so I pressed on with this one even though I did not like many of the characters. They lacked credibility. Two of the women were supposedly remarkable beauties -- one a shallow young twenty-something, and the other a mother of adult children, who had gained an enormous amount of weight. Infidelity abounds, as does scheming and self-centeredness Some of the minor characters were the most interesting, and our feeling as that we got to know them a little better than the two main jousting families. All-in-all, however, I can't recommend this as a good read.
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Several years ago, someone referred me to Naslund's novel, Ahab's Wife, and I just loved it. I hadn't been following her since then, and was delighted last week to stumble on a table at Barnes and Noble featuring Abundance, her novel of Marie Antoinette.
. . . .
History is not my strong suit, and I knew nothing at all about Marie Antoinette other than the fictitious "Let them eat cake" statement. The book is well-written and fascinating, about a self-absorbed young teenager who was practically set-up to fail. She is portrayed as more dense than deliberate. I'm about 50 pages from finished, and I give it a B+.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Letter from a Stranger


I'd been out of the office for a couple of days, and then there was the weekend. So the pile of mail in my box was quite large. It is Commencement week, and there is a lot to do; but there are still some positions to fill, so the mail and the resumes the envelopes would contain had to be a priority. I stacked the envelopes, slit them, and began pulling the resumes out. I was only a little bit surprised when one contained four hand-written pages on lined paper -- I've written before about some of the strange responses I receive for an advertised position.
. . . .
The letter opened with a salutation, and my full name. The writer was not applying for any of the vacancies I'd advertised in the past few weeks. Rather, he was a prison inmate who'd seen my name in one of the ads, and decided to invite me to be a penpal. He went on to tell me of his offenses -- a little cocaine here, a car theft there, some petty thievery, a bit of aggravated assault. He spoke of being lonely and hoping I was the kind of nice person who would want to correspond with him.
. . . .
I'm not.
. . . .
My stomach contracted. My chest tightened. I felt invaded, threatened, and a little bit dirtied. I felt revulsion, horror, and shock. I wanted this not to have happened to me.
. . . .
He spoke of his loneliness, about his childhood of abuse -- though not using that as an excuse; he talked of his few possessions (toilet articles and soup) and how long he had been in prison (thirteen years this coming September). He wrote of the desperation for companionship that drove him to write to a stranger, a person advertising for a teacher of Middle School Spanish. I thought of how sad his life is. I wondered, too, how many of these letters he has sent out, and whether anyone ever wrote back.
. . . .
Getting past my sense of shock, while driving home I thought about how each of us has made some bad decisions, some poor choices, at some time or another. I thought that he just made a few more than most of us. I thought about a dear cyberfriend who has a son that has been in and out of jail a couple of times, and tried to think if I would feel differently if the letter had come from him. But it hadn't, and I couldn't figure out whether I would have more compassion for someone I "sort of" knew.
. . . .
My correspondent said nothing suggestive or offensive. He did not ask for money and there was nothing sexual in his content. Nevertheless, I felt this very unpleasant sense of intrusion. My life has been fairly sheltered, and all at once I feel slightly less safe than before.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Adventures in Moving

Back in the '70s when Joe and I were moving frequently, UHaul's slogan was "Adventures in Moving." He'd drive the truck, loaded with our worldly goods, and I'd follow in the car with the dog and the cat. We moved 13 times during the first 13 years we were married. The first nine moves were Before Children. So Joe's an excellent mover, a superb packer, and gifted truck-loader. I have a flair for getting furniture from one side of a room to another, and stacking boxes. With credentials like these, and being seven years since our fourteenth move, when Tom and Anastasia announced they'd bought a house, we were eager to find out if we still had the knack.
. . . .
We got up at 4 o'clock on Friday morning and were on the road by 5:15, heading south on I-95. We stopped for breakfast around 7 and arrived in Richmond sometime before 11. Anastasia was sweeping and throwing things into the last few boxes; Tom and his friend Shannon had gone off to pick up the truck and returned within minutes. The truck wasn't as big as we'd anticipated. So it took three trips. Fortunately, the new house wasn't more than a 15-minute drive from the rental house. Joe took command inside the truck; Tom and Shannon carried him the sizes and shapes of things he demanded; Anastasia and I carried odd things, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, went off to pick up lunch, and did a lot of supervising. We worked hard all of Friday and had a nice Italian dinner together before collapsing in our beds.
. . . .
T&A had wanted us to stay with them and not spend money on a hotel. We are of the mind that "it's the thought that counts" and opted for an inexpensive motel. I've got to tell you, we were both a little nervous about the Red Roof Inn, selected via internet based on price and location rather than amenities. And the place was a terrific value! The room wasn't very big, and certainly not the kind of place we'd want to more than shower and sleep in. But the king size bed was comfortable, the airconditioning more than adequate, the place was quiet, and the water pressure in the shower was stellar. And we took plenty of showers!
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Saturday we went back to the rental place for a final sweep-out, returned the truck, and found a place for breakfast. We got back to the house in time for Anastasia to get ready to go out for her rehearsal -- long before they bought the house, she'd committed to a concert for Saturday night (about which, silly people, they were all apologetic!). While she was gone, Joe and Tom moved big furniture around, reassembled dismantled objects, and planned. I got all of the kitchen dishes and glasses unpacked and into the cabinets, the silverware and kitchen odds 'n' ends into drawers, found a tablecloth and put it on the table, and she came home to find all of that plus one kitchen shelving unit fully stocked with mixer, bowls, towels, and cookbooks. Tom, at this point, had gone off to play for a wedding, so Joe and I returned to Red Roof for a shower and then picked up a picnic dinner and went back to get in the van with Anastasia and the harp to go off to the concert.
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The picnic was yummy, and the concert was in an outdoor setting with comfortable benches. We got up close and personal to get a good view of the harpist, and before it was over, Tom arrived, still dressed in his performance clothes from the wedding. The concert was all familiar pieces, ending with the 1812 Overture, which somehow seemed the perfect celebratory music for T&A and their new house.
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Pictures of the house? Well, no. I never quite found the time! To follow later on. It's a three-bedroom 1-1/2 bath ranch on a half acre of ground in terrific neighborhood of Richmond called Stratford Hills. All of the rooms had been freshly painted and the colors are all actually acceptable! Today we moved things around, unpacked some more boxes, hung a few of the larger pictures, and generally rejoiced.
. . . .
We left in the early part of the afternoon and traveled at approximately the same speed as Tropical Storm Barry all the way up. It was a stressful ride with heavy traffic, lots of snarls, and frequent poor visibility. But we're home at last, safe and dry, and trying to get back on speaking terms with our cat. And feeling so proud of these kids who have not been married even a year yet, and in eleven months time saved enough for a down payment on a lovely, wonderful home!