10 May 2016

family bugs and a guest post

Life's been a bit miserable over here at Epenthetical House over the last while. We all got some kind of stomach bug. E. had the mild version, but J. and I got the horrible kind. On Sunday night, we took turns in the bathroom and spent a while lying in bed trying to sleep between times with the puke bucket. Then we spent Monday watching cartoons with E. in a daze while being grateful that we could at least keep water down by that point.

Today's been a bit better, but a trip to return books to the library kind of exhausted me and J. was still a bit too sick to go back to work. So there were more cartoons, and I kind of let E. eat bananas her own way, which involves taking a few bites out of one then demanding a second one (as Ramona says, "The first bite tastes the best!"), because I was too tired to argue with her. Tomorrow's plan, if I'm still on the mend, involves taking her to the library for storytime and then to the park for a few hours. She needs outdoor time, and so do I.

On a happier note, I have a guest post up over at Unfundamentalist Parenting. It's about my struggles with the Bible and its many stories and sources and how I handle talking to my child about that. It's going to come up, given that we are practicing Anglicans. I'm still sorting, so we'll see where it goes from what I've expressed in this essay. Check it out if you're interested!

Now I'm off to drink some more water and then convince my child that it's bedtime. Good night!

13 April 2016

Adulthood, one bowl of pasta at a time

While making spaghetti sauce this evening (Bolognese-ish style), I suddenly found myself remembering one of those days when it had hit me that I was turning into an adult. I don't ever feel entirely like an adult, but I have moments where I have the sudden realization that I am not a child. Oh, I know that, all the time, and go about my day, but it's the sort of knowledge that resides in the back of my mind.

The day I remembered was an afternoon in late autumn when I was in my third year of undergrad. I was hanging out and doing homework in the common area of my boyfriend's dorm. At that time, he lived in a dorm with a big shared kitchen, and it was always fun to camp out and watch the guys he lived with figuring out how to cook edible food. While it wasn't a new skill for many of them, some of them got more than a little creative in their efforts. We kept wondering if the guy who literally lived on meat and potatoes, no salt, would develop a vitamin deficiency. J.'s roommate seemed to mostly subsist on instant kimchi noodles. And J. himself was a big fan of orange juice smoothies. Made mostly with a can of orange juice concentrate and very little else.

Anyway, that day, J. was still in class and I was doing homework, and one of our mutual friends was making spaghetti. He could definitely cook, and cook well, but he preferred non-Western food. This was his first time making a spaghetti (Bolognese) sauce. He called me over to taste it. He felt like something was missing but didn't know what. "Needs more oregano," I said, almost without thought, after tasting the sauce. So he added more oregano and went on with his dinner preparation.

I remember the moment because I then noticed I had become someone who could figure out what a sauce was missing, a skill I had mostly attributed to adults. And all of sudden, I was one of them.

My current version of spaghetti, which includes carrots, cheese, and pork.
Adulthood, in my experience, is something that comes in small experiences which add up to a large whole. It doesn't happen instantly, overnight. It's a process. It doesn't mean I have to act like the token grownup 24/7, but it does mean that those responsibilities of adulthood, of being the grownup, become more familiar every day. Sometimes it means that I floss my teeth every day, whether I want to or not, as an example to my daughter and to avoid massive dental bills in the future, and sometimes I means I can tell when a sauce needs another spoonful of oregano.

07 April 2016

assorted things I read and write

It feels like most of my recent posts have been on the heavy emotional side. Well, that's where I was when I wrote them, so it's fine, but I'm having a good day, so I figured I'd write something less serious. Earlier this week I had a couple of bad days which reminded me to appreciate the good days when I have them (oh, the joys of depression).

My recent reading has been a tad bit eclectic. I skimmed through The Selection by Kiera Cass after picking it up on a whim at the library. Hints of fairy tale plus the Book of Esther plus a dash of dystopia with a side of teenager. Enjoyable but not particularly remarkable. Typical for a lot of the romance dystopia teen books that seem to be popular right now.

I'm working my way through Kate Bowler's Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. I've never completely understood the full-blown prosperity gospel, though I do get some of its milder forms. My parents have never been excited about it. I remember my brother once saying, "God is not a vending machine." At any rate, this text is certainly informing me about where on earth this all came from. I'm still in the section on the late 1950s/early 1960s. I hadn't ever noticed the connection to the Pentecostal movement but that actually makes a great deal of sense. I might write a little more about it once I've finished the book.

And, as usual, I've been reading fanfiction here and there because I am hopeless geek. It's my friend Sarah James Elliot's fault. Years ago she got me into Harry Potter fanfiction, which eventually led me to Sherlock fanfiction, and it sort of went from there. I've been reading a lot of Avengers stuff lately. It's addictive, I swear. Plus, in the universe of fanfiction, Tony Stark does things like invent sentient toasters. (This, among other reasons, is why I haven't finished Ley Lines yet).

I tried reading a chapter book to E. recently. She was really into it until the last few chapters and then she got bored. She's only 2 1/2 so it's a tad early. My Father's Dragon seemed like a good start (she likes dragons, she likes animals, there are pictures) but she prefers Where the Wild Things Are most nights. I have that and a few other picture books just about memorized.

I've hit pause on my NCIS watching for the moment. I did seven seasons, one after the other, as I got them from the library (have I ever mentioned just how freaking awesome the library is?), and I think I need to take a break. Otherwise I'll end up dreaming about a body turning up at Rock Creek Park (is there no other park nearby for the show's killers to dump bodies?). I have a book to finish, a couple submissions to tweak and send out, and a handful of knitting projects to complete.

I worked on Ley Lines this week. Really. But then I got lost in a side story about a character from what will be a companion series to Comrades. After Ley Lines, and the third book, Sword Song, we're scooting back in time to check out some of Peterkin's predecessors and their adventures. I have a couple other plans in mind for different books that are unrelated to the Comrades universe, so I don't know if we'll be getting the Greatmagi series going right after Sword Song or if I'll tackle something different first to take a break from that world.

And with that, we'll call this update complete. Time to do something besides typing for a little while.

18 March 2016

Lessons Learned from Godly Play: The Holy Family

As I've stated in a few earlier posts, my experience with Godly Play, a Montessori-inspired method for teaching kids about Christianity, has been primarily positive. It's been a way to re-experience stories from the Bible in a positive light and to embrace that, whatever I think or feel about religion, there are parts of that I don't experience as damaging. However, during the certification process, I had a negative reaction to a Godly Play story. This was primarily because of one of the props and the angle at which I saw it, but it's worth exploring the what happened, in part because the negative experience had positive aspects to it. (I did start writing this earlier but then had to let it sit for a while, which is why I'm writing about something that happened months ago now).

I finished my certification for Godly Play back in September, last fall, and we currently have a once-a-month program with it at church. During the last training workshop, we went through some of the liturgical stories, the ones that help teach kids what the heck is going on with the church year (there's a fabulous one with all the Sundays represented by little coloured blocks using the altar cloth colours; mostly it's green, but the one red Sunday really stands out). Most of the liturgical action stories are very well thought-out and are very interesting. I did the Epiphany one back in January with the kids and the process of lighting incense and candles went over very well with the kids (anything with fire, apparently).

One of the liturgical stories for the Christmas season got to me, though. One of the people in the training class performed the one about the Holy Family. The story involves a Nativity scene, and focuses on the roles of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. One of the points of the story is that the baby Jesus grows up to be the risen Christ. This is illustrated by holding up the baby in the manager against the figure of the risen Christ, an angelic-looking figure with its arms outstretched. From my angle, it looked like a cross. My brain jumped to "baby Jesus on the cross" to "holy shit, child torture and death" to "oh dear god, that's basically what we claim God did to their child" to "I think I may need to vomit or have an anxiety attack quietly in the bathroom."

I mentioned this line of thought during the debriefing session. The "baby Jesus on the cross" imagery had a couple of the priests going, "Oh, crap, there goes Easter! Can't go to Easter services anymore!" They were joking, a bit, but they took my response seriously and didn't ignore that this is part and parcel of this religion. My feelings of being disturbed at this imagery were acknowledged as valid. I was in a place where I could admit my upset, and I wouldn't be shut down. This is a startling difference from the last church we attended, where I was so upset by a sermon on Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac that I had to leave the room, but I didn't feel like I could openly state why I was unhappy.

Over the last while, I've wandered over into alternate views of the Incarnation and the Atonement. I grew up with the general penal substitutionary view of the Atonement and it was a revelation to discover that there are other ways to see it. It doesn't have to be that "Jesus died so God could forgive our sins." Other views involve the idea that Christ died because we humans have this sacrificial idea that we've developed and that if forgiveness needs to happen, God already forgave us. Christ came to change our minds about who and what God is, rather than coming to change God's mind about us. This concept resonated with me when I first heard it. 

To be fair, I'm vaguely agnostic these days. I have had some experiences that make me think there's some kind of god (or gods) out there, but I'm not really sure. I'm not interested in constantly trying to talk myself into believing on the days when I don't. Faith is or it isn't, and I think it's more important to spend my time trying to love others and do right by them rather than expending effort on mental gymnastics trying to force every little point of Christian doctrine to make sense. I've let go of a lot of things in the religion already - hell, for example - and settled in to admit that I just don't know. I'll do the best I can, and try not to worry too much about the rest of it.

So why am I part of the church if I don't exactly believe? Well, I do get something out of being there. If it was an empty experience, I don't think I could go. The rituals of the church make me feel centred, grounded. I feel at home there. I've deliberately chosen to be part of a church where I can acknowledge my doubts, my lack of belief, and my frustration with various points of doctrine without being censured. It's the sort of place where one week we have a guest speaker come to educate us on what we can do to help with the Syrian refugees, and another week a speaker is there to talk about First Nations spirituality and how she's rediscovering her heritage after what her parents and grandparents lost because of the residential schools. It's a place where we do our best to acknowledge where we have hurt others, and try to make amends in whatever ways we can. And it's not perfect, and we make mistakes, and yet...I feel more whole for being part of the community.

So there I am, for now. My faith, like my sexuality, is caught in the middle. I can't land on one side or the other. I stand in the middle, with the tension that creates, and yet, feel more whole, and less likely to break, for standing there rather than retreating to the edges.

15 March 2016

adventures in jewelry making

My experience has been that learning new crafts takes time and often what I make starts out looking pretty messy until I've had some practice. This has been true for sewing (still is, sometimes), for knitting, and definitely for crochet. Oh, and ceramics. I spent three terms in ceramics class, loved it, and was only just starting to get out of the clunky Paleolithic stage by the end of the year. I'd still love to do ceramics, but I'd need a few hundred dollars going spare (which isn't really the hardest part) and someone to look after the tiny one a couple afternoons a week so I could take classes at one of the local art centres.

As I've been experimenting with jewelry, I've learned a few things. Wireworking, the kind that looks absolutely amazing, takes practice. Manipulating wire isn't a skill that comes without effort. To that end, I've been getting books out of the library and looking at online tutorials, and tinkering. Yesterday I pulled out my kitchen torch to see if it was high-powered enough for me to do some basic metal-working. I learned that no, it really isn't, but it will definitely get copper wire hot enough to burn. My fingers didn't really thank me for that lesson.

One of the books I've looked at is Handcrafted Metal Findings, edited by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson. I don't have the tools to do most of the projects in there (see above paragraph about my kitchen torch), but there are a couple that are on the more basic side. Like the one below.

From "Handcrafted Metal Findings" edited by Denise Peck and Jane Dickerson

I thought those links and clasps looked like a great idea. I had wire, I had pliers, I had a hammer. That's all I needed, right? The first one might look a little wonky, but it'd be fine once I practiced tinkering with the wire and twisting it for the centre bit. I measured and cut my wire and I was off.

Yes, well, good ideas and best laid plans and all that. As you can see, my first forays into this particular piece were not precisely how the book intended them to be. The tight centre spiral is harder to produce that I thought it would be. Next time I'm double-checking to make sure the label on the wire says "dead soft." I need all the help I can get. And the leaf shaping on each side will take some more practice to get it looking the way I'd like. I don't need them to be exactly like the picture (as that's rather boring), but it would be nice if my version wasn't quite so, ah, messy, in appearance.

I'm going to give another go at some point. I'm trying something a little simpler from a different book by the same authors right now instead. Coiled links, using a crochet hook as my mandrel. So far, much better.

29 February 2016

current crafting: jewelry

As you can see, I've been tinkering with jewelry this month. The earrings above are off a pattern in 101 Wire Earrings. Naturally, they look different than the picture because I had different beads and chose a different type of wire, but hey, what's the point in making it look exactly like the picture?

I have plans to practice making Byzantine chain, but haven't gotten to it yet. I didn't exactly want to take my jewelry-making tools with me to Mexico, and the crafting area I have in the corner of the bedroom was more than a bit disorganized. So, in lieu of Byzantine chain, I went with Moebius knot earrings instead.

They make a chiming noise when I wear them and happen to shake my head. Which is kind of fun. Working with jump rings is fiddly but I think it will get easier with practice, just like knitting on DPNs did.

And finally, I made this bracelet during an episode of NCIS (I'm into season 6 now) and it was fun, though it did convince me that the next thing on my tools list should be a collapsible eye needle. The beading needles I have now (from a packet of crafting needles I bought years ago) don't have eyes big enough for the silk thread I used to string these beads on. I got enough of it through to make it work, but not enough to let me keep it on the needle to make knotting between the beads an easy option. So I skipped knotting after every bead just to make my life easier.

I used potato-shaped freshwater pearls, round amethyst beads, and round adventurine beads (I think - can't remember precisely what stone the green ones are - they look a little like jade but definitely aren't). I've discovered that I really like freshwater pearls, particularly the ones that aren't perfectly round. I originally fitted the bracelet with a barrel clasp and then realized that I wouldn't be able to fasten it myself with that, so I switched that out for a toggle clasp.

And that's that for now. I've made a few other pieces here and there, but I just pulled these ones out to show off for the moment. I have some plans for more earrings and some more bracelets and anklets, and probably a few necklaces.

04 February 2016

crush time

So, I just watched this video from Sexplanations:

I love this channel; she has so many good things to say and share, and it's interesting and she's so excited and yeah...maybe I have a tiny crush on Lindsay.

Anyway, I felt like writing a bit of a response to this video because, well, my experience with crushes hasn't always been fun. It is now, but for a while, crushes were a source of shame and anger directed towards myself.

My family is Christian, and while we weren't exactly evangelical (being Lutheran and all), we did intersect with evangelical Christian culture in a number of ways. We homeschooled (not for religious reasons, though we did use some religious textbooks), so that meant we had quite a bit of interaction with more conservative evangelical families. I spent a couple of years at a private Christian high school, and that's where I learned about Christian pop culture. I worked a couple summers at a Christian retreat centre, and that's where I got exposed to heavy-duty purity culture.

I'd run across purity culture in various forms before. My parents did the promise ring thing with me when I turned thirteen, but unlike other iterations of that tradition, it was not public and I signed no contracts. I got to pick a cool ring from the jewelry store (I selected one that looked like it wouldn't be out of place in the Lord of the Rings and I still wear it, albeit on my middle finger), and we talked about the consequences of sex and why my parents felt it was important to wait to have sex until marriage. I was uncomfortable with the thought of sex, so I was happy to promise abstinence. We prayed about it, I got to wear my cool ring, and that was about it.

At fourteen, I started high school and found myself with a painful crush on a boy. The really painful kind - blushing, stammering, freaking out, completely obsessed with him kind of crush that makes you embarrass yourself and your friends and family. My parents sort of sighed and went with it, letting me rant about my feelings and never telling me they were inappropriate. My mom told me to enjoy him as a person and not to worry, though I mostly ignored that advice. For all my interest in this particular boy, I didn't really want to have sex with him. Just the thought of kissing him kind of made me want to explode; sex was absolutely unthinkable.

It took a couple years for my feelings for that boy to run their course. By the end of it, I felt horribly embarrassed about how I'd behaved, ashamed that I'd let my feelings run away with me, and determined to not make a fool of myself again. Some of this was related to the reactions I'd gotten from people. It was perfectly acceptable to them that the boy I liked was trying to pursue a girl who'd made it clear that she wasn't interested in him, but not acceptable for me to pursue him (yes, the double standard is alive and well, more's the pity). Some of my anger at myself came from bits and pieces I'd picked up from purity culture. And then I developed another serious crush.

This crush was on a boy who was really into purity culture. Like seriously into it. I found myself reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye (the book that projected Joshua Harris' issues and opinions about dating and sex onto an entire generation of North American Christian youth) and checking myself in the mirror before I left in the morning to make sure my shirt wasn't too low-cut. The irony of trying to attract a boy that way is not lost on me. Again, my parents tolerated my latest fad, but weren't particularly enthused by it (I remember a conversation with my mom regarding her opinions on parent-directed courtship - she did not approve. I thought it sounded safe, which, of course, is the attraction - it promises a perfect relationship if only you follow these specific rules).

Crushes, in hard-core purity culture, are a failing. They're a sign that you're not focused enough on God, and that you're letting bits of your heart be captured by others, never to return, and therefore depriving your Future Spouse of your entire heart (total BS, yes, but convincing when you know you still have some fuzzy feelings for that guy you used to like. Love isn't a finite resource, which the fundies are happy to tell you when encouraging you to skip on birth control, but they conveniently ignore that when it comes to romance). Experiencing attraction to others is cast as lust, which is bad. That might lead to pornography use, or kissing, or even premarital sex. Or just fantasizing about people. Or masturbating. Though that last one was mostly for boys, since girls totally don't care about sex, they care about romance, which is why romance novels are bad. (And yes, it just keeps getting more ridiculous). And of course, all this is focused exclusively on heterosexual relationships and sexuality.

Eventually, one of what felt like way too many crushes (which weren't really all that many) led to a boyfriend, and kissing and marriage and sex and the realization that crushes aren't bad, and they aren't going to go away just because I'm in a committed monogamous relationship. The crushes that I acknowledged as a teen and a young adult on boys weren't wrong. They just were. The crushes on girls that I ignored, that I tried to rationalize as something else, they weren't wrong either. I wasn't ready to see them for what they were, but there was nothing wrong with me or with my feelings.

It took me a while to be comfortable with crushes, and even longer to learn to enjoy them, but I'm finally there. Crushes are fun now. I can have celebrity crushes, or crushes on fictional characters, or on people I know and admire, and it's not a bad thing. I let myself have crushes now, and I enjoy them. I don't try to ignore them or stuff them down. I don't try to rationalize my crushes on women as something else because I was finally ready to come out to myself and then to others. I can talk to J. about them and he can talk to me about the crushes he experiences, and it doesn't detract from what we have together. It adds to the intimacy we have with each other because of what we can share.

So the advice my mom gave me, years ago, when I was a teenager with my first difficult crush, is the advice that I have finally taken to heart: Enjoy it. And enjoy the person you have a crush on. Don't worry about it.