Tuesday, December 30, 2014

20 things I learned in 2014

I'm participating in a blog linkup with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky--What We Learned in 2014.

1) I learned about African refugees from Congo and elsewhere, right here in Illinois, who fled persecution for being Christians.
     Among others, I got acquainted with two sisters who came here with their aunt--their parents were murdered.

2) Don't leave hand-knits within reach of a puppy.
     (Really I knew that, but it only takes a lapse of a few minutes...)

3) That Jeremiah 17:9 does NOT apply to the Christian regenerated under the New Covenant.
     It gets quoted a lot: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" That's the King James and I still have it memorized. But that's an Old Testament verse about the carnal heart! I learned this from John Eldredge's book Waking the Dead.

4) To accept my childlessness.
     Thanks to the Beth Moore study Breaking Free.

5) That I have insulin resistance and the ketogenic diet is the one for me.
     ... in other words: "Butter makes your pants fall off!!"

6) I really really need to journal.

7) Also, I'm supposed to be blogging.

8) However: Writing is not an end in itself.

9) I learned disturbing things about the founder of the cult I grew up in.
     More about that some other time... maybe.

10) Why my husband felt sick more often than not for almost a year.
     He had a hidden pocket of infection. When it was finally drained, he felt better immediately. In a friend's words: "No wonder he felt bad--he was full of toxic goo!"

11) That I can buy yarn faster than I can knit it up.

12) It's all very well donating to a cause; the challenge is trying to help a real, live, flawed and neurotic human being whose problems have no easy solution.
     There's someone who just exhausts me. Mostly I just drive her to church, because she doesn't have a car, but just listening to her talk wears me out. I'm not sure if I just need to let her chatter just roll off my back, or what. Do I just need to learn patience?

13) Even mild sleep apnea takes a lot out of you.
     I wrote a whole blog post about it.

14) The power of the Holy Spirit in my life means I don't have to succumb to my fears and weaknesses.
     um... duh?

15) I may have made an agreement many years ago to the effect that I should never reveal my heart.
16) Listening to an audio Bible while knitting rocks!

17) I learned about hybrid cameras, and got one.
     Many settings available--aperture, shutter speed, plus digital effects--but the size of a point-and-shoot. Perfect for me!

18) Lots more about introversion.
     I read Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh, and Quiet by Susan Cain.

19) That I'm a direct descendant of John and Priscilla Alden of the Mayflower.
     My aunt did the legwork to prove it to the satisfaction of the Mayflower Society, which she has now joined. I could join too by just appending proof of my descent from her parents.

20) How to survive a polar vortex.
     Wear all the wool!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Change happens

Sometimes unforeseen changes come with blinding rapidity, one after another, just when you were settling into a routine.

I'm starting a new job tomorrow. I wasn't looking for a new job; this one came looking for me, by way of a former coworker letting me know about an opening where he's working now.

At first procrastinated following up, assumed it wasn't for me, told my husband I wasn't really considering it. In fact, I tried to push it away. I wrote a high desired salary on the application form; I told the interviewer my limitations quite frankly. "I don't want you to think I...."

But when the interviewer told me what the job actually entails, I realized it would be a good career move for me. If nothing else, it'll look better on my resume than what I've been doing the last 18 months. They didn't offer what I had asked, but I negotiated them up to about halfway between what I'd written down and what they'd initially offered. (First time I ever negotiated; I guess it's true what they say about being prepared to walk away!)

Meanwhile, our 15-year-old dog died. Butch wasn't sick long; he had some sort of crisis at 3 a.m. and went rapidly downhill from there. By the time I got home from work, it was obvious his time had come. My husband and I took him to the vet and had him put to sleep.

I would have been fine with just our cats for a while, but Brian missed having a dog. So long story short, we brought home Sassy from a local shelter on the day before Thanksgiving. Going from an arthritic 15-year-old dog to a 7-month-old chewing machine is quite an adjustment! But walking the dog is back to being good exercise for me.

By the way—this all happened in November!

So I am trying to cut myself a break. My attempts at writing a blog post during this past month have been abject failures; but I was trying to write something Penetrating and Profound, and I just didn't have the bandwidth. So here you go: Prosaic and Paltry.

Even the good changes require that we give ourselves time to adjust.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Been feeling a lot of overwhelm lately. At work, at home. It often leads to collapsing with Facebook... which is counterproductive, of course.

I was thinking about writing about overwhelm earlier this week, jotted down a few thoughts, but Saturday came and I had no rough draft. And I helped with a fundraiser this morning, and vacuumed this afternoon, and I'm pretty tired...

But guess what—Ann Voskamp wrote about overwhelm in her little daily Facebook post (today? Yesterday?) and I ran across it today.

Can I quote her? And here's the rest of it. (scroll way down to the bottom... there's a photo too)

Hey Soul? See that little index finger you have right there?
Here’s the deal: Whenever you feel overwhelmed today? You just point that little index finger out like an arrow. Like an arrow pointing you to that One Rock who is higher than you:
“When my heart is overwhelmed:
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Ps. 61:2....
No matter what comes at you today: 
Your heart has a rock higher than *any waves.* 

This comes from Ann Voskamp's blog A Holy Experience, which is on my blogroll. I love the way she writes. I had never heard of her when she spoke at a women's conference I attended. Her talk rocked my world. So of course I purchased and read her book One Thousand Gifts. Heartily recommended.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Failure to breathe

Sleep apnea. a•pnea = not breathing

When we sleep, we can fail to breathe.

Something happens inside, and air can't get in; carbon dioxide can't get out, and builds up in the blood.

My husband wakes me from a dream. "You're going to be late for work..." I grab my device and stare at it in disbelief. Did I shut off the alarm in my sleep?

I stumble out of the bedroom... and land in the recliner, trying to pray, trying to clear my muzzy head.

I'm told I have mild sleep apnea. It barely clears the official definition—I only stop breathing seven times an hour. Only every eight minutes or so.

How many times can you stop breathing in an hour before you never start again?

The brain and the body are trying to repair and rebuild in sleep. It doesn't go so well with inadequate oxygen. So they keep trying to snatch more sleep, while I'm at my desk, while I'm at a stop light.

Pneuma = breath; Spirit

It's so easy to fall asleep spiritually, and let the flesh block the Spirit. To neglect the word of Life, and let our own negativity build up inside.

How many of us are sleepwalking through life, going through the motions without energy, without zeal? Without the refreshing of the Spirit?

Let's breathe.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stepping out on the water

Did you ever feel the Lord nudging you to do something, and you sort of said, "Oh, OK," but actually did little or nothing?

I've had the Spirit nudging me repeatedly about something. Sometimes I've self-analyzed: "Really? Maybe that's just coming from me..."

I have felt like I don't have time, don't have energy, can't commit to doing something like that regularly. And at other times: I will, I will—real soon now.

More recently, I actually started to try to start—yes, I mean that as convoluted as it sounds. Two days of trying to set a habit, and then... I don't even know what happened. I simply forgot.

I went to my local church's annual women's retreat last weekend. 24 hours away from the grind, at a beautiful Wisconsin resort overlooking a lake and surrounded by fall colors. The theme of the retreat was Sow - Cultivate - Reap. Two things that got to me were:
  • Daily Discipline
  • Walk on the Water
I know our speaker talked about Peter walking on the water, but the only note I jotted down was the question: "Is He calling you to walk out on the water?"

It might not have stuck, except our little three-girl worship band led us in a song called, "If You Say Go"—twice.
If You say go we will go
If You say wait we will wait
If You say step out on the water
And they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come....
Your ways are higher than our ways
And the plans that You have laid are good and true
If You call us to the fire
You will not withdraw Your hand
We'll gaze into the flames and look for You.
During the first time through I remembered what I was supposed to be doing. The thing I'd been getting nudged about. Blogging.

Yes, just blogging. And not even starting a whole other blog—just reviving this one.

For me, it feels like stepping out on the water... because it's NOT coming from me. I don't know where it's leading.

In the "Reap" session, our speaker pointed out that we often don't know what kind of harvest God is bringing. I don't have to have it all figured out before I even start.

The other day, a Christian friend took a step of deeper obedience to the Lord. It surprised me at first only because I would have thought she had long since obeyed in that area. She had, sort of... but held a bit back. She wanted to erase that tiny trace of disobedience.

My dragging my feet on blogging has been disobedience. I realized I couldn't let that day end without writing at least a first draft of a post, even if it took me the rest of the week to click "publish."

So here it is. First step.

Next, Daily Discipline...
...to be continued

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dee's No-Twist Circular Cast-On

I knit in the round a lot—and I've twisted my cast-on a lot, too. That is, when I've cast on all the required stitches and go to join the two ends, I have accidentally let the stitches twist around the needle, even though I tried to check for that. It's really frustrating when I don't realize it until I knit a round or two. And of course, the more stitches in the cast-on, the more likely this is to happen.

A few months ago, a knitter named Dee posted her solution on the "Techniques" forum in Ravelry. I didn't see it until a few weeks ago, and I wish I had sooner! "Dee's No-Twist Circular Cast-On" is simply the best way I've heard of to prevent twisting your cast-on when you join to knit in the round. You can use it with any type of cast-on, as far as I know.

Here is a link to the original forum thread on Ravelry, where this technique is discussed at length. (If you're not a member of Ravelry, I think you'd have to join to see forums. But if you're interested in this topic, and you read blogs, and you're not a member of Ravelry... the mind boggles.)

Dee has also made a YouTube video:

Dee knitted up a strip of fabric to use, but somewhere in the thread someone suggested using a ribbon that has loops along the edge, and I latched onto that idea. There are limits to my DIY-ing. I only have so much knitting time. I'm lazy. Pick an excuse, any excuse.

I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics and found a wide, stretchy ribbon with loops AND gaps along the edges. The loops will accommodate needle sizes of perhaps U.S. 8 on down, but the gaps are stretchy and could go much bigger. It's a bright lime green that will contrast with just about any yarn I might knit.

I "hang" the ribbon either before or after the first stitch, and then every ten stitches (using it also to help me count!).
As Dee says, the fabric or ribbon must remain BEHIND the cast-on. Here you can see my cast-on stitches in front of the ribbon, with a loop of green every ten stitches.

I have way too much ribbon for this project, but that's OK—it just hangs down, no big deal. I figured too much would be better than not enough. I cast on over 600 stitches for a project once, and you never know when I might do it again!

I found out the hard way that even doing this, it's still possible to twist the stitches when I join them in the round. However, it's obvious right away. I didn't have to knit a whole round before I realized it. The whole width of the ribbon twisted up and forced me to face reality.

Here's another view of the same cast-on, in case it's helpful. Another thing about my ribbon is that one side is satiny and the other side is matte, so I can tell at a glance which side I'm looking at (and therefore, whether it SHOULD be in front or in back).

I won't be surprised if this technique starts showing up in knitting reference books—it's that handy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hugelkultur: next steps

Sticks, sticks, and more sticks. I finally had time and weather to start the next step in my little Hugelkultur bed.
First I dug up some leaf mould. This has been sitting behind my shed for two years... last year I put most of the shredded leaves directly on my growing beds.

This was harder to dig out than I had expected—roots had grown horizontally through it.

It's very very matted. It kind of just sits on top of the sticks. It rained later that day, but that didn't affect the appearance of it that I could see.
I tried breaking this up with my garden fork, but it's VERY matted. The weather between now and spring should do most of that for me.

No matter. There's a whole winter of snow coming.

The idea behind hugelkultur is to mimic what happens on a forest floor, to create a similar spongy, soft garden bed. When I first heard about it, it made all kinds of sense to me because the closer you can get to how God set things up, the better. Worms will come up out of the ground to work this over, and it's already full of beneficial microorganisms.

I did put SOME of last year's leaves to the side of the shed. Maybe I should have started with those! They would have filtered down between the sticks. Ah well--I finished off with the rest of the old old mould after these pictures were taken. Besides, I have lots of other beds I can use last year's leaves on.
Next, a surprise... There was a dead tree in the lot next door. A large limb broke off and was just lying there. They had piled other branches that fell next to the garage.

I asked if I could have them. The neighbor and her son were like, sure. Not only that, but the son pitched them over the fence into my yard for me. Woo hoo!

Alas, her landlord sent someone to take down the rest of the tree and I didn't get any more lumber from it. However, I used the large limb and branches to start a much longer Hugelkultur bed. Any new sticks from my maple and the neighborhood are going onto this pile now.

I placed a couple of pizza boxes on the ground underneath to block the grass, but it's so long, I need about three more pizza boxes.

Below is a photo of our cat Buster on the largest tree limb, for scale. He, of course, thinks I put it there just for him to sharpen his claws on.
I've started grabbing bags of leaves off the curb when people put them out for pickup. Our county requires people to put yard waste in these large doubled paper bags for composting. Yes, the county composts them—but what do they do with the compost? They spread it over the top of the landfill. wha???

I asked over at the All Things Plants website in the Hugelkultur forum if I should put compost on top now, or wait until spring. Now, they said--to prevent any of my leaf mould from blowing away. I haven't done that yet, but I will soon.

I have a lot of work ahead of me yet with this, but I'm looking forward to having these dedicated vegetable beds!