14 August 2015

grief

Some nights, I dream that she's still here, that she didn't die after all. That she just went away for a bit and then came back, her heart healed so she's finally well again. And those dreams hurt, because I want them to be true.

I want to be able to share things with her. To tell her stories about E. is growing, to tell her what I've been sewing lately, and to apologize for forgetting to call as frequently during these last few years where my life and mind got busy and frantic. I want to see her again. I want to thank her for the friendship with her cousin who lives nearby, something that feels like the last gift she gave me. I want to hug her again. And I can't.

I sort of believe in heaven. And I sort of don't. I want desperately to believe that I'll see her again, that all that she is and was isn't just gone. And I think I believe that. Sometimes. I don't know.

I love you, Grandma. And I wish you were still here.

05 August 2015

ephemera: July's gone already?

I just noticed that it's been about a month since my last post. Apparently I spaced out and forgot I had a blog for a bit. It's been a busy month.

J.'s grandmother has been in hospital for the last couple of months, and we've been visiting her once or twice a week, which involves a drive to the east side of the bridge and all the way out to Abbotsford every time. A few weeks ago, we showed up to find her not doing well at all and we left feeling like she was not long for this world. But she's rallied and is doing a lot better. The difficulty now is that she can't move back in to her apartment at the assisted living facility she's been at since 2006 because they mostly just do meals, cleaning, and laundry, and aren't set up to provide the level of care she now needs. She's going through an evaluation process so they can figure out what she does need, and then she has to wait for a placement at a facility that offers the kind of care she requires. We don't have the space (or the right kind of bathroom) to take her in, assuming she would let us do so; pretty much everyone in the family who would take her doesn't have the right set-up or room to convert to the right set-up. My mother-in-law said that the estimate they were given is that it might be December before she has a placement, and it could be pretty much anywhere in the province. It would be nice if she ended up in our area so we could go visit a couple times a week without worrying about the bridge tolls.

So, we're getting pretty familiar with the Abbotsford hospital these days. E. really likes the chairs and tables they have for children in the atrium, and is wildly excited about all the hand sanitizer. She thinks it's the best thing ever. The elevators with all the giant buttons are also cool. And the gift shop, which is full of stuffed animals, is another popular destination when she tries to run ahead of us.

There's been the usual anxiety and depression for me that varies depending on whether my meds for the day have kicked in yet, and how stressful everything else is. E. had a throat infection last week and was absolutely miserable and didn't sleep well, so I was pretty miserable, too. Two of my closest friends are both going through some really difficult times, so I'm concerned about them, which ups my anxiety levels a bit.

My parents are coming for a visit on Friday, which I'm looking forward to, but that also means that I need to clean everything up (it's really not that bad at the moment, but the kitchen floor looks pretty gross, especially after I made oatmeal cookies today). And I have to do some decluttering, since they're bringing birthday presents for E., J., and I (all our birthdays fall within the same 3 week span), and my grandfather is giving me my grandmother's serger, so they're bringing that up, too. Time to move stuff around and sort through things again. My to-do list tomorrow includes cleaning the bathroom and going to the recycling centre, and possibly sorting through the compartment under the sofa. I was thinking about going to yoga tomorrow night but I doubt I'll be up for an hour-long class by then.

At any rate, I am tired. And I have a cookie that I need to finish eating, so we'll call it good for now and I'll try to remember to post something with actual pictures soon.

07 July 2015

Lessons Learned from Godly Play: The Creation Story

Last month, I started the training to do Godly Play. Our church is planning to start a program, and I'm one of the people who are going to be heading it up. I was excited about the whole "teach kids about this thing we call religion but through play and encouraging them to form their own ideas" but more than a little apprehensive about how I might feel about the stories themselves. I am extremely ambivalent about the Bible these days, and many traditional Bible stories come with a great deal of baggage for me. I wondered how on earth I was going to teach this version of Sunday school, when I can't, in all honesty, be enthusiastic about many of the Old Testament stories (or their traditional interpretations, which is another post). 

Godly Play is a method for teaching kids about God that was inspired by Montessori education methods. The basic format involves telling a story accompanied by visual materials, followed by encouraging the kids to wonder about the story, to form their own ideas about it, and to come up with their own answers to the questions about the story. They then get to do individual work on art projects, which can include painting or drawing, writing, or a variety of other things (like playing with the story materials to tell it in their own way). The work can be their response to the story or not, depending on what the child wants to do.

Each story in Godly Play tells a story from the Bible or a story about church traditions, but they're not exactly your typical renditions of the story. And this is one of the reasons why I appreciate this method.

During the workshop series, each participant gets the opportunity to tell one of the stories. On the first day, I surprised myself and volunteered to do the Creation story--the very first one. I struggle with the Creation myth, not because it's not an interesting story, but because of the way literal interpretations of it have negatively affected the Church. Because of all the baggage I associate with the story, I have a hard time listening to it and experiencing it simply as story. Telling it felt strange until I hit the wondering questions at the end. One of them asks whether we could leave things out and still have a good story. Another asks whether we can rearrange the days and still have it work.

As I told the story, I rediscovered that sense of wonder in the legend, a joy in it that I lost a long time ago with all the arguments about creationism vs. evolution. I rolled out the felt that symbolized the darkness before creation, and tumbled headlong into the story. I saw the light emerge in the chaotic darkness, and the butterflies and birds arrive on the scene. It wasn't only a source of deep conflict anymore. It was a good story, a myth about how our world came to be. It tells us that our world came into existence through exciting and mysterious processes. We can tell it in other ways, and it's still a good story.

And with that, the creation story in the Bible was given back to me as something beautiful.

25 June 2015

new review for "Comrades We"

My first review! Lady Licata of As I Live and Read has posted a review of Comrades We. The review is available here.

She liked it and it was great to read what someone else had to say about the book. I'm still waiting on some of the other reviewers to work through their backlogs to get to my book, but I'm looking forward to seeing what they have to say.

11 June 2015

making: a shawl, yarn, and jam

Today's post is going to be more cheerful than the last one. Yes, I'm doing better, and have taken constructive steps so I don't implode. Also, I've gotten a short story rejected from two different magazines, and am setting up to take another run at sending it in to another magazine. The rejections didn't crush me (unlike my first book rejection a few years ago did - man, I did not react well to that!); they were pretty much expected. At some point, hopefully, I'll get an acceptance and it'll be a lovely surprise. In the meantime, story rejections aren't exactly personal. I've been going through my other short stories and, unfortunately, classifying most of them as "rubbish," "really bizarre and pointless," "from my way-too-religious high school phase," or "my brief foray into trying to make romance writing work." I don't think I'll give up on that last category, but the take-away has been that I need to write more and better short stories, along with working on Ley Lines.

In the part of my life where I make things, I finished a shawl for a friend and sent it off to her. It turned out beautifully, as you can see below.

Dragon Wings shawl
The shawl pattern is Dragon Wing, by the designer Patti Waters. It's available on Knitty.com. I knit it out of Handmaiden Seasilk, which is awesome, awesome yarn. The colourway is "Glacier," if you're interested. I got it secondhand from someone who was selling off part of her stash, so I got it for half-price. This is expensive stuff, and I've been hoarding my two skeins for a while until I could figure out what to make with them. This left me with about 70% of a skein, enough for a pair of mitts. I love the yarn, though my colour preferences usually lean a bit more vivid. Next time I buy some Handmaiden, I'm definitely picking one of their other colourways. The last skein I had of one of their other yarns was in "Nova Scotia," which is blue and green. It was gorgeous and I still love the mitts I made with it, but I'm really attracted to warmer colours, like purples and reds and browns lately. And Handmaiden has some amazing warm-toned colourways. (No, I don't get paid by them or anything like that; I just happen to live in the same country so their yarns turn up at a lot of local shops and they're pretty).

Silk hankies/mawata dyed with food colouring
I started (and finished!) a spinning project. It's been a while since I've done any spinning, so it's been nice to pull out the wheel and see how out-of-practice I am. I had some silk hankies (mawata) in my fiber stash, which I had dyed with food colouring (see above picture). I spent a couple afternoons working through the hankies, spinning singles. Silk hankies are hard on the hands, since you have to stretch them to prep the fiber. Silk's tough enough that I've actually developed blisters on a couple fingers.

The singles were a little inconsistent; some of that has to do with my lack of practice, but some of it was related to the material. Silk hankies aren't like working with combed top or roving, and silk doesn't adjust as easily while spinning as other animal fibers do. So there are some super-thin bits, and some puffy bits. When I plied the singles together, I ended up with a yarn that runs a little thick-and-thin, from light-fingering to DK/worsted, averaging out to a DK weight through most of the skein.

2-ply silk yarn
The final skein weighed about 45 grams (the last 5 grams are still on the bobbin; I ran out of yardage on the second bobbin and stopped there; it'll be chain-plied later so I can practice that technique), and, measuring with my 1.5 meter niddy-noddy, I ended up with about 155 meters. It's enough to actually do something with. I think it'll probably be a hat.

I've also managed to make time to do a little bit of canning. We do have a ridiculous number of jars of jam to work through over the summer, but it's also that time of year. I'm working my way through the recipes in Preserving by the Pint that pique my interest. Marisa McClellan's most recently released book is a lovely little gem of a cookbook that focuses on extra-small batch preserves. Rather than making half a dozen pints of jam, the recipes usually make a couple pints at most. The recipes I made yesterday gave me two 250-ml jars each.

  
Two jars of jam; two jars of strawberries
I made a batch of Whole Strawberries in Vanilla Syrup, because I had strawberries in the fridge that were starting to go. I had to cut some in half because these were bigger ones, unlike the small ones recommended in the recipe. The stuff tastes amazing, and I had a ridiculous amount of syrup left over. There's a 500-ml jar in the fridge that is mostly full of strawberry-vanilla syrup and will be going on pancakes.

The other jam I made was the Apricot Rosemary jam. Apricots are in at the produce store right now, so I grabbed a few (several more than I needed, so more apricots, enough for a different recipe, are on the grocery list) and some rosemary, and whipped these up pretty quickly. It smells fantastic and the taste is pretty unique. I think it'll go well on some kind of meat or with cheese. I got two 250-ml jars out of it. I'm out of empty 125-ml jars, so the last of it went into a container in the fridge.

I'm off to the farmer's market this afternoon, and I plan to pick up some local strawberries there. I want to do a batch of strawberry jam and another round of the strawberries in syrup. I think we may need a trip to the store to stock up on sugar, since we're almost out.

02 June 2015

feelings of implosion

It's Tuesday. And it's one of those days where it feels like all the things are wrong.

My toddler has the flu. She kept waking up last night because she was coughing, and it would upset her enough that she would cry and try to kick me while I tried to calm her down. She dumped a bowl of dry cereal on the couch.

I have two packages sitting at the post office waiting for me to pay the postage so they'll actually get mailed, but their credit/debit system has been down since yesterday and I haven't gotten to the bank to get cash yet.

I actually dreaded E. waking up early from her nap today because I just want a day where I have no responsibilities for my child at all. I just want to be able to drop her off with someone I trust for a day, so I can pretend that I'm not a parent for a few hours.

I stay up late reading at night and then get sleep-deprived because I go to sleep after midnight and then get woken up by a toddler. It's like grad school pre-antidepressants but with a child instead of homework.

My husband's grandmother is possibly dying; we're not sure, but we haven't gone to visit her yet because E. has the flu and J. is coming down with what she's got, and he's afraid he'll push his grandmother over the edge by giving her whatever bug our family has right now.

We have way too many sticky ant traps carefully set around our kitchen, out of reach of the small one, because our house is built over what used to be riverbed sand, and we live in the basement suite. Also, messy child. Ants think our place is paradise. Our landlord is happy to provide ant traps and is willing to either caulk up gaps or let us do that, but they're still annoying.

I'm waiting for an email about something that should show up within the next ten days, but it means I'm checking my email constantly to see if it's there yet. Not productive.

I feel...squirrelly. Like I need to do something. I have a feeling that I'm going to be dyeing my hair sometime in the next week (cheaper and less drastic than getting a tattoo or a piercing).

Maybe I'll feel less like imploding tomorrow.

18 May 2015

first backpack

Toddler Backpack, front view
Toddler Backpack, back view

I finished E.'s backpack this morning. It turned out well, and she was very excited about having a new bag to hide things in. It was a good project for me to do, since I've never made anything like this before.

The pattern is Made by Rae's Toddler Backpack. The pattern itself is great; the instructions were clear and they come with directions for enlarging the pattern and for adding a lining. I kept it the toddler size, since E.'s on the small side anyway. I may need to shorten the nylon straps a bit more; otherwise she'll be dragging the ends of them on the floor.

I used a flowered canvas that got passed on to me when a friend was de-stashing. I'd originally though to use it as a child-size tablecloth for E. when she was older, but decided it would work well for this. Most of the lining fabric, the base, and the shoulder straps were made of a green fabric that also came from someone else. I think it's mostly cotton. The base for the lining, since I was out of green fabric by then, was made of a yellow cotton.

I chose to go with a lining rather than using bias binding on the inside seams. I didn't feel like doing bias binding, and wanted the added stability of a lining. I think it probably took just as much time as it would have to do all the bias binding.

Toddler Backpack, inside view
I used a yellow-green piping for most of the trim, and yellow nylon straps for the adjustable straps. I also used a light purple piping to trim the front pocket (because I only bought one packet of yellow-green piping and then didn't have enough for the pocket. The purple piping was leftover from another project), which was my own addition. I cut out an additional piece of canvas using the front pattern piece as a guide, just folded over so the pocket would be the height I wanted. I added the piping to the pocket, topstitched it, then layered it on top of the front and added the edge piping and proceeded as the pattern instructed.

Toddler Backpack, side view
The zipper is a white plastic one with a metal toggle that will be easy for E. to pull. I had to shorten it, but that's not really a difficult modification to make. Sewing the lining to the zipper panel was a little messy. I didn't quite manage to line it up with the stitching from earlier, so it doesn't look perfect, but the lining won't come out easily, which is the important thing.

If I do another one of these, I'll probably do the front pocket again, and maybe add some inside pockets to lining as well. I'm considering getting a piping foot. I ended up using my zipper foot to apply the piping and while it worked, it was hard to get it close enough to the cording. I used a denim (heavy-weight) needle, and one backpack plus a lot of piping was enough for the tip to start getting dull by the end.

The next sewing project is a t-shirt for me. Pictures to come!