31 October 2016

Potato Chips

In November, I will be dusting off my TA skills and putting them to use in helping a friend with a class she's teaching on making box bags, also (apparently) known as Dopp bags (after the men's shaving kit bags). I made one, in fits and starts, over the course of a week, because I was feeling unfocused. I finished it on Monday morning and it didn't look so good. So I put together another one in less than an hour and it looked fabulous. Tuesday I did another one.

It's like I can't stop. Sure, I'm limited by the amount of interfacing and number of long enough zippers I have on hand right now, but they're fun to make, easy, and I feel very accomplished when I finish off the last of the hand-stitching on the inside. And the ones I'm making use up two fat quarters, one for the lining, one for the outer fabric. You can adjust the size up or down pretty easily, but I'm having fun with the fat quarter size, particularly because if I have fat quarters that are already cut, then the only things I have to cut out are the interfacing and the bits for the handle and tabs at the end.

Monday's messy one used dress plaid for the outer fabric, white cotton flannel for the lining, and light-weight interfacing on both sides. I goofed at the ends of the zippers and now have gaps there that need fixing, and didn't catch the tabs with the seaming, so I recycled them into Tuesday's bag instead. I'm thinking of just hanging onto it as-is for now and using it to remind the students that leaving half an inch unsewn at each zipper end is in the instructions for a reason. I'll tinker with it and fix it after.

Monday's not messy bag used plain cotton fat quarters and heavy-weight interfacing on both sides; tabs and handle made from leftover quilting cotton. I picked up a new zipper when I bought heavy-weight interfacing on Monday and used that here. 


Tuesday's was made with two cotton flannel fat quarters, heavy-weight interfacing on the outer fabric, light-weight interfacing on the lining; tabs and handle of the same quilting cotton as Monday's bag. The zipper's one of a handful I bought at a thrift shop ages ago.


Wednesday's was made with more cotton flannel fat quarters, since I'd bought a small bundle with  50% off coupon from Michael's. This time I tried heavy-weight interfacing on only the outer fabric, and no interfacing on the lining, to see the kind of results I got. The zipper was from the same batch as Tuesday's. It's nice having a chance to use up some of the zippers that have been lingering in my notions box for a while.


I have one more box bag almost finished; just the hand sewing left. That one was me tinkering with the size a little to use a slightly shorter zipper. I managed to goof up the top stitching on the zipper by catching the lining in the wrong place, so I had to pull out a seam and fix that, and then the rest of it went smoothly.

Then I decided to use up one of my short (9 inch) zippers to make a pouch-style bag like one I'd seen on Pinterest. I'd glanced through the tutorial a few days ago and then improvised from there and it turned out pretty well. Blue dinosaur flannel on the outside, lined with heavy-weight interfacing, some plain beige cotton on the inside, and a yellow zipper.


I may need to go get more interfacing. And zippers.

25 October 2016

Christian Romance Novels: My Introduction to the Genre

While I was rearranging some books on my bookshelves recently, I noticed that I still have a couple of Grace Livingston Hill novels. I've had them for years. I don't know why my mom gave me a couple of her books back when I was a pre-teen (I'd guess around eleven), but the end result was that Hill's novels were my go-to romance novels for a while when I was a teenager. I later branched out into more modern Christian romance novels and have since migrated into secular romance novels when I feel like reading something along those lines (thanks to my grandmother handing me a Nora Roberts trilogy right before I turned 20).

Grace Livingston Hill was one of those very prolific novelists (check her out on Goodreads; she has a serious number of titles credited to her), so the only thing that limited me from reading book after book after book was the number of books by her in the local library's collection. Her books are almost all overtly Christian, with a strong focus on conversion and redemption. Sure, some of her characters don't repent of their wicked ways, but many do. The books are "preachy," and certainly not the sort of thing I'm into now.


She had a very strong emphasis on having a "real" faith, rather than simply attending church. There was a lot about sin, and how we've all sinned and need to repent for it. Bright Arrows features a relatively sheltered wealthy young woman whose only living parent has recently died, as she comes across a book of her father's about sin and Jesus. She has a conversion to a more "active" faith, mentored by a young lawyer working the law firm her father employed. He gets to fall in love with her, and have a dream that Jesus has picked her out for him and he shouldn't be afraid to go and propose. She's been having fond feelings for him, too, particularly since he's by far the kindest and most ethical young man in her life, so she eagerly accepts. Happy ending. Well, except for her criminal relatives who rob her house early in the book and go on the lam. They both end up dead, no repentance scenes for them. One of her would-be boyfriends dies, too, but he has a dramatic come-to-Jesus moment a few moments before he succumbs to his injuries. Her other would-be boyfriend gets slapped a couple times for trying to take liberties and then banished from her house.


The other book on my shelf is Where Two Ways Met. A young man returns home from WWII, a little earlier than most soldiers (something about being wounded, I think), and takes a job at a financial firm. The boss' spoiled 17-year-old daughter takes a shine to him, because he's handsome, and also because a local pastor's daughter is spending time with him, and apparently spoiled young women are all about hot young former soldiers who teach Sunday school and are sort of dating pastor's daughters. She conceives a dramatic scheme to get her man; her father turns out to be a bit of a crook (Wall Street style) so the young man quits his job and goes to work for a more honest firm; the pastor's daughter gets to be in an exciting train wreck; and the young man and the pastor's daughter get engaged at the end of the story. Spoiled rich girl doesn't succeed in her scheme and is deeply pitied by the young man and the pastor's daughter. This was also the book where I first heard of chicken and waffles and thought the dish sounded weird since I never actually encountered it in real life until a couple years ago. I still find it a little weird.

I read a lot of these books, and the formula was usually the same, with main character becoming more fervent in his or her faith, falling in love with someone who was deeply worthy and having someone who was worldly and therefore unworldly tinker a bit with the romance, and then it all comes out in the end. Sometimes the antagonists reformed, sometimes they didn't. She didn't shy away from the seamier sides of life (seriously, one of her novels is called Blue Ruin), but she was never graphic about it, either. Her female characters do mostly epitomize the Madonna/whore dichotomy, but sometimes her male characters do as well.

Like a lot of romance novels, there are strong elements of wish-fulfillment present in many of the novels: characters finding a family when they had none, coming into money, falling in love with someone wealthy who happens to be wonderful. The spiritual side of life is considered important but the material side isn't neglected either, which is admittedly nice to see in a Christian setting, which can easily skew into favoring the spiritual over the physical.

I don't regret having read the books, and I don't really regret having them still on my shelf. I may gravitate to Lisa Kleypas and Nora Roberts when I want romance novels now, but once in a while, I pick one of these up and revisit them and the joy I had in them when I was an eleven-year-old who wanted life to be as neat and tidy as a story.

18 August 2016

Sunglasses Required



I'm no stranger to wearing sunglasses frequently. I pull them out for driving, for sunny days, and for migraines. Then I managed to do a dramatic trip and fall on a set of concrete stairs last weekend.

Now my sunglasses are even more crucial than usual. The concussion means that I tire easily, and that I'm prone to headaches. My doctor tells me it'll be two or three weeks before I'm back to normal. In the meantime, over-doing it means headaches and exhaustion. I even developed a migraine yesterday, on top of the rest of it. I can't drive right now, because it makes me too woozy. I'm avoiding alcohol since tossing that into the mix seems like a bad idea, and my approved pain medication is Tylenol, which helped with the migraine but doesn't seem to do much for the general headaches.

I was wearing sunglasses indoors at the library today, because it was look weird or have my head hurt more. I'll probably be doing the same thing in October/November because the seasonal change typically equals migraines.

J. is, as usual, making jokes about my head injury. E.'s not old enough to, so someone has to pick up the slack. Laughing at things helps, a bit. Sleep helps more, admittedly, and concussions come with some wild dreams. Other than interesting dreams, though, there are no perks to having a concussion. I recommend avoiding them whenever possible.

So for the next few weeks, my sunglasses are one of my most prized possessions, and woe betide anyone who tries to steal them. (Seriously, I will bring woe upon you if you make them disappear).

30 July 2016

On a lighter note...

Apparently I tend to switch back and forth between angsting and crafting on here. I suppose that's sort of what a blog's for, but I'm not sure if the angsty stuff is the best use of my time. It does serve to get the feelings out, and that's a hell of a lot more constructive than some of the other methods out there, but I don't know if it's actually worth putting on here or if I'd be better off just journaling.

I'm tinkering with beads lately, in the world of crafting. I signed up for a table at a local festival in September and now I'm in the process of making sure I have enough stock for the day. I have a lot of bracelets put together, and a bunch of glass bead necklaces of the random multi-coloured type, and I've been on a bottle pendant kick the last couple of weeks. I've been sticking dried flowers and sea shells and rock salt and other bits and pieces into little glass bottles, attaching wire to the corks, and then gluing the corks in.

My knitting group has provided feedback so I'm under orders to make a few more sets of earrings in a specific type, and I have a few ideas of things I want to try out. I have about six weeks to go, which is both exciting and terrifying. I'll be getting around to taking pictures at some point, so I'll share a few of those then.

22 July 2016

never-ending tragedy


It's hard, some days, especially after the last couple weeks,  to think about what's going on in the world without wanting to swear copiously, or bang my head against the wall, or just huddle in a ball on the floor. I'm currently far from most places where the world seems to be going to hell, but that doesn't mean I don't care.

And it's turned into a polarizing mess. I got into an actual shouting match with someone who called me up to yell at me about something I'd posted on social media. That was new, and it really sucked, especially when I realized that I wasn't the better person - I shouted back and it got more than a little nasty.

I have nightmares about Trump getting elected. The kind of nightmares that make me wonder if, in a few years, it'll even be safe for me to visit friends and family in the States like I do now. I already get twitchy visiting the States because the gun laws are so lax. The more sensible part of my psyche reminds me that borrowing trouble isn't worth it; I have enough to do as it is and don't need to fixate on worst-case scenario stuff that may not happen.

I've discovered that I fucking hate systemic racism and that it makes me really, really angry. I hated it before but being more aware of it just intensifies those feelings. I hate bombings and shootings and I just want people to stop killing each other already.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I suppose that's the point of writing this. Getting some of it out helps. The anxiety's been crappy, the depression's just there, and every time I check the news it gets worse, so then I feel worse. It's like it never stops.

18 June 2016

a reaction

So, we were out of town on Sunday, down in the States for a week, visiting my family. And then we heard the news about Pulse.

The first news I heard didn't mention that it was a gay club. The next news I heard, about the rising death toll, also didn't mention that. I don't think I realized it until I managed to read something that mentioned that little fact on Monday.

We were down in central-eastern Oregon, out in a rural area, with no cell phone coverage and while there was wi-fi where we stayed, we spent a lot of time hiking and so didn't exactly have 24/7 news constantly available.

It didn't really seem real at first, and like a lot of things for me, it took a few days for the emotional reaction to really hit. And then it did, a couple days ago.

I've never been a club person, but I know how important they are to the LGBTQ community. They're a sanctuary, and that sanctuary has been violated. These are my people, for all that I don't really get much of a chance to spend time with the local community at the moment, for all I wonder how welcome I'd be sometimes, given I'm bisexual and married to a man. But I don't really care right now, about bi erasure and all that.

What I care about now is the horrific loss that we've just experienced. I hate guns, and I hate violence, and I hate the facets of this culture that have helped create an environment in which events like this happen. I hate that so much of the religious right is expressing sympathy now for people in death when they've been doing so much to dehumanize us (and it's seemed so vocal, their hate, in the last year).

I don't like hate. It's one of those negative emotions I tend to shy away from, but it has its place. Anger has its place. And it should be part of the reaction to this. I'm angry, and I'm sad, and I hate that this happened.

And that's where I am now. Perhaps I'll have something more useful in a couple days.

30 May 2016

Lessons Learned from Godly Play: The Flood and the Ark

It's been a while since I've written about Godly Play. We had a bit of a hiatus while figuring out what the best time for it was, and have now switched to holding it during the readings and the sermon, once a month for now. We did a Lenten one, and then with all the busy-ness that surrounds the Easter and Pentecost seasons, we only just managed to schedule one for this last Sunday.

Our congregation's resident woodworker had built the ark and the animals for the story of Noah, so that's the one we went with. I picked up the brown felt underlay from the craft store and made a pair of people and a basket for the dove out of clay and grabbed a few rocks for the altar bit at the end. Then I read through the story the night before, and when I woke up, unable to go back to sleep, at 5:30 on Sunday, I settled down with a mug of coffee to practice the story alone and in peace without E. "helping" me with it.

The practice meant I was able to manage the story without checking the script once, which I was really happy about. The Epiphany and Lenten ones were harder to remember so I kept the script on hand as needed, which technically I'm not supposed to do. I was more than a bit wired from two mugs of coffee and a dose of cold medicine so I could talk around my sore throat, but it went well. Other than E. and one of the other young kids grabbing a few animals to play with during and then E. losing it when I got to the bit where you hold the ark up over your head to show it "floating" on the water. Apparently it needed to be on the floor. The older kids there were tolerant of it, though, so it was fine. And they liked the story. The oldest liked the bit about God wiping out everything and starting over, though, which got me thinking.

One of the things I have loved about Godly Play so far is that many of the stories offer a fresh perspective on the Bible and encourage the kids to engage with the story and think critically about it. "The Flood and the Ark" has the critical thinking questions at the end, but the story is mostly as it is, without embellishments or new ways of looking at it. There really isn't much of an alternative perspective on the flood myth in Genesis. It's the way we explain natural disasters - the people who died must have done something bad to make the gods punish them like that, right?

I didn't come out of the experience with a newfound appreciation for Noah and the ark, like I did with the Creation story. I suppose I was disappointed - Godly Play has mostly been a deeply positive experience for me and to feel unable to really like the story I was telling was frustrating. I came out of the experience with the reaction, "What the hell kind of god just decides to scrap it all and start over, like the thinking people he created are just toys?" The people doing "wicked things" in the story don't really seem like people at all - they're just there to be destroyed.

And I know it's a myth, probably born out of stories of a massive local flood that forced the relocation of many people. But myths are one of our ways of describing who we are, what our values are, and how we should live, as well as ways to explain the world we inhabit. I have a difficult time finding something to take away from the story of the flood, other than that I need to remember to be compassionate towards those who experience tragedy, because it's not about angry gods punishing them. It simply is, and that shouldn't stop me from acting to help.