Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Heard my dad for the first time in months this weekend. He's enthusiastic about the blanket, which should arrive in the next week or two. And he's even more enthusiastic about the second blanket I've promised to make - one to go to a wounded soldier. (And yes, got a picture of the blanket, so it should be going up soon.)

Spent the weekend with Mom, up in Lancaster County, PA, where we picked up some seriously good food - chocolate, pretzels, chips, rootbeer (You know, she never *used* to let us have this stuff.) and some stuff that even had nutritional content, like cheese, dried apples, cherry cider, and fresh bread. Mmmm.

And I got a fair way into the small project I picked up after the blanket - a pair of socks in various shades of blue that I'm crocheting. (Yeah, I *could* knit them, but I could find my small hook much more easily than my double points. Besides, my husband complains if I leave double points sitting around and it's easier to keep track of one hook than 5 needles.) with purple and yellow heels. (Remember - walk softly, but make loud socks.) It's toe-up with an afterthought heel, for those interested in such details. I have wierd to fit feet, so I vastly prefer to work toe-up so I can try on my work as I go. Also, it gives me more time to think about what stitch I want to do the legs in. If I were working in plain colors, I think I'd have a try at tapestry crochet, since there's a really cute horse pattern for a purse that I saw somewhere and am sure I could find, if I just looked...

In any case, socks are a lovely, refreshing project - small, with just the right kind of detail. Light. Completely unrelated to the current violence that my dad is caught in. (These will be mine, thank you. I can't imagine making socks for someone I didn't know, simply because feet are so individual.) And they go quickly. In fact, I'd better decide on a leg stitch quickly, since I'm nearly finished with the ankle. After them, then the Other Blanket awaits.

I'm thinking of trying a design that I've kind of had in my head - essentially, drawing in crochet - a nice, peaceful scene, either the hills, or the seashore (seashore would be a little bit easier, and I may start with it.)

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Thursday, February 22, 2007


The blanket is done. All the squares are connected, and I've promised Dad that if he wants, I'll edge it when he gets back, but for now, the edges will remain plain. My husband has promised me that he will get a little bit of dried whole sage to pop into a muslin bag as insect protection (I usually use lavender for my stuff, but figure since this is for a soldier...)

Yesterday, I'd half figured that after it was done, I might seriously take a break from crochet, but I'd hardly put down that project when I found my fingers scrambling through a bag of yarn and picking out some red wool to work on. The feel of the yarn has become comforting. When I'm worried, out comes that crochet hook and yarn.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Establishment of Religion

*sigh* The Washington Post has a story about an Army chaplain who converted from Christianity to Wicca in large part because his inner voice convinced him that he ought to be a universalist and led him in that direction. As someone who has been both Christian and Neopagan, I know how hard it can be to struggle with the feeling that a different path is calling. (Calling? Heh. Sometimes, it felt like the only solid ground for miles seemed to be on that path.)

Feeling deeply convinced that he needed to follow that path, he applied to become the first Wiccan chaplain and was denied. As shown by the recent flap over a grave marker, there are Wiccans and other Neopagans in the armed services, and as of the present moment, they are all pretty much not served by the chaplaincy. His superior in the chaplain corps believes a grave injustice has been done, and I agree.

This is not about converting all soldiers to Wicca. For mercy's sake, it would be one chaplain (and hopefully a few more later) serving soldiers who have not had a chaplain to speak to their concerns. He specifically converted in part because he doesn't believe in the exclusivity of Truth. He jokes about being diagnosed with "Multiple Religions Disorder" (Hmm. I never really saw it as a disorder, but...)

Given that chaplains are expected to serve all soldiers, regardless of religious belief, I would think that another universalist would be a good thing, but then again, I'm not big on clergy, so what do I know?

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A brief note

My hands have been engaged in crochet rather than typing this week, folks. Sorry, but this blanket needs to be done by this weekend, and if I type a lot and crochet a lot, my fingers go numb. As of now, there is less than a row to be attached. Whew!

I'm so happy that my mom and I have arranged to meet this weekend, so she can see it before it is sent. (In fact, I may show it to her, put it in the box, and have her come to the post office with me as we send it off.) Whee! I'm sure that probably some time next week, I'll miss this blanket, but right now, the dominant feeling is relief and a wee bit of triumph. We did it! Also, I think I'm going to ask Mom to bring a digital camera to take a picture of the thing all done, so the final picture can go up on the flickr page as well.


Oh, and I did get a chance last weekend to do some actual storytelling, which always makes me happy. I enjoy writing stories sometimes, but when telling them, well... there are gestures, facial expressions, modulations of the voice that make the whole thing more. I think that this is why I am sometimes reluctant to write things down - I fear that I'm leaving just the bones of the story, without the flesh. And I met someone new while storytelling, which is fun, especially since she hadn't already heard some of my favorite stories to tell and was polite enough to let me run on, telling story after story, which I really enjoy doing.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quiet contemplation

And folks, check out the thoughts on Quiet Paths. There's an entry there, A Chapel in Time, that's well worth reading. It's about taking time for contemplation, and allowing beauty to seep into us, forging a connection. So often, we go into nature as "outsiders" - nature is the birds and the trees and so forth, but not us.

One of the gifts my dad gave me as a girl was to take me on nature hikes - we'd walk across logs over streams, sit on rocks and watch the forest go about its business, trace out the fossils in the limestone that made the bones of the hills, nibble on sassafrass leaves, and sometimes bring back trillium for Mom. Dad would sometimes pick up a daddy longlegs so we could admire the beautiful elegance, but always made sure to put him back, well off the path, so he wouldn't be smooshed or eaten by a bird.

And of course, putting up food with my mom certainly taught me a lot about my connection to the land, as did tending our garden. There's nothing that connects me to the Earth so much as eating wild blackberry jam. The domesticated variety that you get in the supermarket bears next to no resemblence to the real thing, and the berries taste sweeter for the scratches on your arms. And just a bite of it, smeared on toast in the winter, brings back a warm day, with the quiet rustle of the blackberry canes, the birds watching suspiciously as we poach some of the berries. Knowing that we, along with the blackberries, and the birds, and even the little grass snake hiding in the canes are part of the same whole.


A day at home

Yesterday, the federal government's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) made a really bad decision - they kept the government offices open despite the fact that several bus routes were closed and some major arteries were still not clear. This took the cost of staying home and put it on those least able to afford it. My husband took the train to work and discovered that only perhaps a third of the staff were there at all. The roads that were cleared quickly clogged up, and the whole thing was apparantly a mess. And those train routes that were primarily above ground ended up being single-tracked. Just bad all around.

I called in to my office and said that if a major emergency happened, I'd take the train, but otherwise I'd be home, and set about making bean soup and homemade pies. Since it was Valentines day, I dug out the individual pans in the shape of hearts that I keep in my bread making bowl, and made steak and mushroom pies, to be served with green pea soup. (I got this idea from a Terry Pratchett novel - apparantly, it's a famous dish in Southern Australia.) It was really good. With sweet pie for dessert. Now, bean soup takes two days to make, so tonight will be bean soup (with potatoes, onions, carrots, and plenty of garlic.)

I didn't get much work done on the blanket, though I'd hoped to, because my shoulders and arms were aching from all the crocheting I've done recently, so I took a fallow day. Just read, made soup and pies, and visited with my husband when he got home. Got a couple squares added, but not much. Still, I'm down into the teens, waiting for my last package of squares to arrive, with 2 more. And that's it. 2 squares to edge, and about 14 to attach. And the extra squares I now have will either go to Afghans for Afghans or to a pillow to go with the blanket. (If it looks big enough for a baby blanket, it's going to Afghanistan. If not, I cover a pillow.)

And I thought about the pace of my day, and the really bad decision to send people out onto icy roads, making the job of deicing those roads harder. How much was accomplished that absolutely could not have waited until the snow cleared? Especially since several police departments were asking people not to go out unless they really had to. What was the hurry? Why did the government force those who take certain bus lines to take a day of leave since they could not come to work?

To me, this is a further sign of how far we have moved away from taking time out. Ice storms had knocked out electricity for many people, the roads were not cleared, and even the train lines were iced over, yet the government decided that people should come in to work. It was a natural day for drinking cocoa, having bean soup and bread, and waiting for the snow plows to do their work. Given the amount of productive work that I suspect happened yesterday (how many people stayed home? How much work gets done on such days?) couldn't we have saved all the fuel that went into turning roads from sheets of snow and sleet to sheets of ice, heating nearly empty office buildings, etc.?

And as an update, I did take some of my yarn stash and make a pretty bright pseudosphere at a 3 to 1 ratio - which is looking like the most cuddly brain coral ever thought of.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fiber arts in wartime

As I've worked on the blanket project, I've been aware that I'm part of a long tradition. "Our boys need mittens!" "Our boys need socks!" Many people don't realize that many of the Confederate soldiers in the Civil War didn't wear grey, but butternut homespuns, because wives, mothers, and daughters made them due to shortages. One reviewer of this exhibit said that the heart of it was the "knitting for soldiers" area, noting that women have fought our lack of power over the fates of our soldiers by making handwork for them, making those connections despite the distances.

Like many women who craft, I learned from my mother and my grandmother. I know lace crochet because of a great aunt and an older woman in the community I grew up in. I know needlepoint because of another "old woman". I do crochet my granny's crochet, at least a little bit. She's now mastered a stitch that I want to learn, and I intend to, once I've got a little bit more breathing space in my crafting bags. And like the women who taught me so many crafts, I've been trying to give forward, to teach other folks to craft - braiding, sewing, weaving, spinning, crochet, knit, and now naalbinding. And yes, I'm proud to have learned my crafts from them, and to pass on their knowlege and skill.

And like so many women over the course of history, I find myself crafting "for our boys!" And yes, it's still very oriented to men. One of the requests that is made of crafters wanting to send something to the wounded is that all colors be "gender neutral" - in other words, no pastels, no pink and purple, no fuschia. Even I, who normally don't *do* gendered color, am beginning to find the restricted palette irksome. Never mind that I don't normally do pastels, it irks to be told not to. I find myself longing to do the more fanciful types of lace, or even just to do a pseudosphere. In something silky. And bright pink. And never mind that my main project, the Blanket, has some pastels in it. Even a little fuschia bow from some chain stitch by a little girl just beginning to learn crochet. I'm still tired of being told *how* to crochet by the folks putting my dad in harm's way.

And I wonder if women from other wars felt this way. I wonder if the women ripping bandages for the Crimean War wanted to embroider instead. I wonder if the women making "Union Quilts" for the Civil War sometimes wished they were making more fanciful patterns. I know they put the same wishes into every stitch, but I wonder if their own wishes might have been the same as well...


Blanket update

Wow. It's nearly done. All the pieces I have are edged, and more than half have been put into the blanket and the ends woven back in. I only have 22 more to attach, and those will be done in the next few days. When I see my mom this weekend, I'll be able to show her a finished blanket. And then we bundle it up in the bag, pop it in a box with a letter and off it goes.

I'm eager to see it finished and amazed to see how far it has come since December, when I first set out to do it. I think somehow I thought it would grow faster, or perhaps that it wouldn't take off at all. I certainly didn't imagine that it would become a source of comfort for me, as I sat working on it. I'd pictured it as somehow magically coming together and being wonderful for my dad. The reality, though, has been better.

I've sat up nights with this thing, letting the worry flow into the stitches, at first praying only for my dad, but later praying for all the people whose lives he's touching as he's out there. Thank you, Rae, for seeing that so clearly and helping me to see it. I've put in squares from friends, family, and even one woman who knows my parents but doesn't know me. There's one square to go in today that was brought to America by a friend's grandmother. I've prayed over it, and sat under it as I worked on it. One woman who saw me working on it in public asked me what I was doing and when she heard, said a brief prayer over it.

I'm going to miss it when it's finished, even though I already have my next project sitting in a project bag ready to go. (I'm doing a lap blanket for the folks who are returning wounded.) There are even a few stitches in that next project already from a day when I'd gone out without realizing that my backup skein for Dad's blanket was sitting at home in a different project bag. This project currently occupies 2 project bags, down from a high of 3 a couple weeks ago. When it is finished, it will have a home-sewn duffle to make it easier to carry.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Finding strength

Folks, when they try to claim that speaking out on torture hurts America, it's important to remember that it's not just the prisoners who are hurt by prisoner abuse. The Washington Post today published an editorial by a former interrogator who is now himself tortured by nightmares of the role he played in dehumanizing another person. I really believe that when we seek to dehumanize another person, the person we most succeed in dehumanizing is us.

And yet, I've found a news source that reminds me that there is still good stuff out there. Thank you, Katya. This is excellent stuff.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wrapped in the Universe

A few things have been sitting with me recently. Pam, over at Reaching for the Light, asked why Love is not one of the usually listed Quaker Testimonies, and there has been some really good discussion in the comments. And both Peterson Toscano, over at his blog, and Thee Hannah! have pointed out the recent news that Pastor Ted Haggard has announced after three weeks that he's certain he's completely heterosexual. (Wow, I couldn't announce that after years of faithful marriage.)

And I found myself thinking about an experience I've had at some of the most frightening times in my life - when I left college because of my health and didn't know what was next, when a dear friend and mentor died, each time my dad has been sent someplace violent, when I was so sick that noone knew whether I would live or not... Sometimes, when I feel like I'm falling, it feels like the Universe has reached out to wrap me in an Infinite Love. And that Love is offered freely, so much that it is too much for the finite me to contain. I wonder if that is what some of the Catholic saints have meant when they ask to become simply a vessel, a tool in the hands of God. What Jews mean when they talk about the Shekhina. What Rumi meant when he said "I am drunk. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home."

The finite me, of course, knows that I often stumble and fall. I am impatient, a perfectionist, all too often careless or selfish. And yet, that Love isn't just for other people. It calls me to forgive myself as I would forgive others. And it finds blessings in me, who I am, the essential person. Not just the me who does good things, but the me who likes ginger lime soda and bluegrass music, the me who sometimes writes down odd little thoughts, the me who has those thoughts, even the me who is sometimes sad or angry, who is impatient or stubborn. That person is part of how the universe is made, and it is good.

Ted Haggard, too, and even George W. Bush are parts of the universe. I could wish that each of them might also experience that Love, so big it washes beyond the person, beyond fear, way beyond hate. I could wish that Mr. Bush could know that love, that wish to reach out in trust and hope to others, rather than staying in fear and hatred, trying to keep others there with him. I could wish that Mr. Haggard could see that simply how a person is made to love doesn't define their worth, that each of us has an essential core of being that is good and part of the beauty of creation and that our capacity for love is part of that.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

We interrupt this life...

Mom just contacted me to assure me my dad is okay. Apparantly, something happened today that hit the news and she wanted to be certain I wasn't quietly upset, waiting for more information. Neither of us follows the news much anymore, but she'd had the radio on because of a snow emergency.

And I find myself conflicted- happy that my dad is one of the living still, and sad for yet another family who find their hope turned to dust. Worried at the reminder. Angry that people still have the gall to insist that our all-volunteer army is "working". Well, yes, they are working and have been working very hard. You want this war, think it's a good thing? Then go. And take as many as you can convince that it's a good thing with you. You work with them.

And when you get there, tell the folks who are there how much we love them and want them to come home safe. I'm not in the mood to concede that an economic contribution is enough. It's not. We're paying for this war in heart's blood. I hate this war, and I've given more to it than many who claim that it is the only hope for this country's future.

If you're right, then give.

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Meatless Mondays?

Today I read an article on the environmental benefits of vegetarianism (comparing it to the Prius). Now, I'm not sure that the approach taken in the article is the best one for most people. Yes, vegetarian foods are better for the environment, and often for the person consuming them. (As much as I love Worthington Foods Little Links, I do concede that they are little bundles of fat and salt.)

However, if I were to say to my husband, "So, how about going veggie, then?" he might well go and eat a steak just to prove he could. And I don't think he's all that unusual in that reaction. On the other hand, I know he's looking forward to tonight's dinner of bean soup. And he also likes Worthington Foods stuff. Or going to Tiffin for benghan bartha, dal, and palak paneer with naan and aloo pratha. Oh, and fresh lime soda. And almond halwa for dessert, please. (Or their nearly as fabulous carrot halwa. Hey, when you've got a place this good just a few blocks away, you get to know their menu.)

Even assuming the soup is non-vegetarian, we're still not looking at a lot of meat in it - maybe a hambone and a couple pieces of chopped up bacon in a potful of traditional bean soup. As for the Indian dinner, maybe a couple tablespoons of ghee and 6 oz. of cheese in a meal for 3 or 4 people. (I'm presuming the environment can't tell if I'm keeping a dairy cow or a meat steer.)

Such a meal, even if not as virtuous as, say, locally grown greens with squash and potatoes and a cup of home canned peach juice for dessert (not that this sounds un-tasty. Just an example.) is still better than 16 oz T-Bone with bacon and blue cheese on top per person, with an enormous dessert to finish. I just worry about the either/or sense of the article. Either eat "virtuously" or "badly" with absolutely nothing in between. How about reducing meat and dairy consumption?

In the comparison with the Prius (or my Honda Civic Hybrid), they seem to have forgotten that the hybrids don't completely get rid of the gas engine. They reduce usage. The hybrids are not as good as walking, biking, taking the train, or whatever, but they are an improvement over taking the Gargantuan Hummer when you don't need the power or carrying capacity.

I've mentioned before that one of the things *I'd* have liked to see post 9/11 is a real look at how we can, as a country, conserve energy. If you're not in the room, turn out the light. If you can, use energy-conserving lights. Turn down the heat and the AC. Consider carpooling, going public transit, or going to an efficient car. Unplug. Walk someplace local to catch a sandwich, and spend a few minutes visiting with the neighbors while you're at it.

And maybe we could consider Meatless Mondays. Even if the rest of the week, you want that T-bone or whatever, how about considering one day a week having lentil soup and a salad? How about thinking along the lines of reducing how much meat is in an individual meal... You know, instead of half pound burgers around, making casserole or a smaller sandwich and a bigger salad...

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


First, an apology. I know that normally, I don't go on about cars and stuff, but I wore out the old car, and am a little bit excited about the new one.

Well, I drove a used car until it needed to go. So we traded it in. Hello, Civic Hybrid!

Once again, a used car, this time a 2003 Civic Hybrid. Okay, so I'm being a little smug when I watch the dial indicate that the electric engine is assisting, or note my trip mpg. And the tiny turning radius. And I have always considered stop lights to be my personal time for contemplation - sort of my moment of quiet. Well, as long as the heating/cooling system isn't on, it can be literally quiet. The engine turns off, and stays off so long as the brake is down.

And when I start again, the quiet "whee!" of the electric engine starts. I love that bit.

Well, and the fact that we're looking at incredible mileage.


Friday, February 02, 2007

The rose blooms

A friend of mine is blooming today. She came to tell me that she's quitting her job and moving on with becoming a full-time writer. She's applying for a grant from A Room of Her Own, but whether she gets it or not, she's on to her next big adventure.

I'm excited for her, and will be praying that all goes well. I know this is the second such request from me today, but if y'all could hold her in the light and in your prayers, it would be wonderful.

And she's left me with a challenge: to take my writing and my art seriously. To apply for grants and publication and... well, a lot of things.

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Happy news!

A cousin of mine has just given birth to my new first cousin once removed, hereinafter referred to as "the cutest little girl west of the Mississippi!" Who has a stuffed hippo in her future. Or more like 3 (my husband had a stuffed hippo as a young boy and went a little nuts when he found 3 different stuffed hippos at Ikea). And bibs. And much love.

And I got a tiny bit overwhelmed last night when I came home to an unexpected package. Someone had heard from my mom about the blanket and over the course of 5 days had done 7 squares. And embroidered one of them, too. So I've added another row to the blanket, which will mean that even if he stretches out a lot while sleeping, it shouldn't uncover his toes. It does mean I'm going to have to clear off some space this weekend to lay out the whole thing again in order to integrate all the new squares.

The old car we'd kept going so far has finally given up the ghost - there's probably enough there to get her to a dealer, but I wouldn't want to drive her any further. So for the present time, we're on public transit and Zipcar, which is a car rental service that will rent out cars in tiny increments of time and has cars parked through the city, rather than just at the airports.

And I'd like to ask for folks to hold some friends of mine in the light as they go through a difficult time. Right now, there's a need for peacemaking at home and sometimes it seems harder to make peace at home than anywhere else.

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