23 December 2016

In the Bleak Midwinter

 It's a couple days after the Winter Solstice and a couple days before Christmas. Our Christmas this year is quiet: just us, no traveling.

There's a little tree on the windowsill, and E. keeps taking the Nativity scene my grandmother gave me on adventures. Good thing they're sturdy. I played around with making a holly wreath, and put gardening gloves on my mental "to-get" list again. I have Christmas-themed bags for the Etsy shop cut out and ready to sew together, but I'm guessing they won't sell for a while given that the Christmas season is nearly over, so I'm not in a hurry to get them into the shop, since listings do cost a bit of money.

There's been snow, and ice, and then rain and slush. The temperature went down and then back up. We're back to snow right now, which makes me glad that we don't have many plans for the weekend, other than visiting J.'s grandmother, and the roads to her place are almost always clear. There's also the Christmas Eve service, late at night.

Christmas is that weird time of year. I like Christmas music, and movies, and the bright lights and decorations. I'm less enthused about the whole Santa Claus thing and while the story of the Nativity is nice, and familiar, it's less comfortable this year than it usually is. I love Christmas-time, and I have mixed feelings about it. So I listen to David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries" and some of the more tongue-in-cheek essays about Christmas on This American Life, and I watch The Family Stone and brood over the whole Christmas thing, since I'm that sort of person.

In the end, it'll be a quiet day, with good food, and that most Christmassy of movies, Die Hard.

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.

music education

 Recently, I decided to try to get E. listening to more music, in an effort to help her improve her speech. So I pulled up some children's music on YouTube and tried listening to it with her. After a few songs, I went back to the computer and switched to a channel of Broadway songs. Much better. But it got me thinking.

I was a 90's kid, but I know next to nothing about the music of 80's and 90's. My family listened to NPR and to a collection of records, tapes, and CDs that, while diverse, skewed heavily towards classical, folk, and Broadway music. I could blame my lack of knowledge about pop music on my parents (Mom always said she needed to give me something to talk to my therapist about), but that's not really fair. They love music and listen to a lot of different things, but they also have well-formed opinions about what they want to listen to, and well, a lot of pop stuff isn't really on that list. We did listen to a number of Christian artists, but all of them were more musically interesting than a lot of the popular worship songs today seem to be (at least as far as I remember; I've been in the Anglican world of hymns for the last couple years and completely out of touch with what's in with the rest of the North American church right now).

I was content to listen to what we had available at home for a long time and didn't start seeking other genres out until I was nearly out of high school, and even then I limited myself mostly to Christian pop music because that's what a lot of my friends listened to and I wanted to know what they were talking about. And it seemed safer; like I was exploring something that was off-limits but wouldn't actually get me in trouble. My teenage rebellion was very reserved in that way (my really big rebellion was going to a play audition without permission and then I felt horrible about it and cried for hours).

These days I'm thinking about how I knew most of the words to all the songs in The Secret Garden and Les Miserables but had only the faintest idea of who Madonna was. Angsty teenage me wasn't listening to Ani diFranco but to Simon and Garfunkel. I was busy memorizing lyrics to traditional British folk songs while some kids I went to school with were starting a metal band. Picking up a few CDs of Christian rock music when I was about sixteen seemed edgy in a weird way. It wasn't what my family listened to, and Avalon and the Newsboys were out of place in my collection that included the cast recordings of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Wicked and the second CD by Nickel Creek. I was still the geeky teenager blasting PDQ Bach's "1712 Overture" out the windows as I drove to community college. But I listened to my new music religiously (hah) and sang along when I was alone in the car and then when I went off to university, I got another music education from my peers.

My roommate introduced me to a few other Christian bands whose music I still actually enjoy sometimes and my boyfriend made me listen to The Arrogant Worms. I listened to more Celtic music and cemented my love of it and then borrowed my brother's Celtic CDs whenever I was home from school. I got more daring in the music I listened to - I learned that I really did enjoy rock music and sometimes found it excellent for studying. Another friend was playing Regina Spektor once and I found myself hunting through the CD section at the store for one of her albums.

Later my knowledge of music broadened as I listened to podcasts and then more as I watched the first seasons of Glee and got my first real exposure to pop music. I swear, I don't think I'd ever really heard any of Brittany Spear's music until the episode featuring her songs. I admittedly don't like all pop music but I do enjoy some of what's out there. I sometimes pick up other songs that I like from music used on television shows that I enjoy. I found a couple of artists I really enjoyed from watching Castle, for example.

These days, our go-to car music is CBC Radio 2. E. is growing up listening to the variety of music they have on offer there, paired with whatever my current obsession is. Last winter it was most of the songs in Rent. Right now it's a mix of folk and indie music, and occasionally Broadway songs and a lot of Great Big Sea. I'm sprinkling in some children's music, too, just so she has stuff with vocabulary that she can follow more easily. There was a mix of children's music I picked up at the library recently that's performed by a variety of different artists and I liked most of that.

The appreciation of music I gained from my parents' choices in music has made me want to impart that to my own child. My parents didn't censor our music - I learned about prostitution and suicide from Les Mis and adultery from Into the Woods, and realized after a while that one of the really lovely songs from Once on This Island was basically about the main characters having sex with each other (also learned quite a bit about racism from that musical). Our family typically didn't listen to things with profanity in them (other than Paul Simon's The Capeman but my mom usually skipped the songs with swear words or very explicit lyrics in them when we kids were in the room), but otherwise didn't fuss so much about the content of the songs. I don't object to the occasional swear word, so there are a few songs that I will listen to around my child that other parents would probably skip over (though there are some that I still object to, like Book of Mormon's "Hasa Diga Eebawai" because holy profanity, Batman! That one goes way too far for me - there's judicious, thoughtful use of profanity and then there's that).

I'm still searching out more children's music that we can all enjoy. I can listen to Raffi and Fred Penner without the songs driving me nuts, but there's a lot of really mediocre children's music out there. To be fair, there's just a lot of mediocre music out there in general. If that means we're listening to Candide instead of whatever's in for E.'s generation, well, she can always catch up later, like I did. And then she can complain about how we deprived her of the music her peers liked to her therapist when she grows up.

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.

26 January 2016

this is not an apology, but there are pictures

I'm not going to apologize for my dearth of posts over the last few months. I do this blog for fun, not profit, and my mind hasn't been in a good writing space lately. I'm trying to change that, and part of that is committing to writing daily, regardless of whether or not it's something good. So, here we go.

I took the above picture shortly after New Year's. I love the way frost decorates the landscape. It throws objects into sharp relief and brightens those colours that remain during the darkness of winter. I sort of wish we were having more frosty days, but we've got rain instead, which is also beautiful.

My latest crafting experiments have included knitting to use up some of the bulkier yarn in my stash, since that's the stuff I like the least. I've knitted two hats and have plans for a third, and possibly a fourth. I sewed a pair of jeans and a dress for myself in December, sewed a Christmas dress for E., and knit her a pair of mittens. She'll wear the dress but refuses to so much as try on the mittens. Such is life.

The other thing I've gotten into is jewelry making. It's fun to tinker with metal and glass instead of wool and cotton. I made the earrings below last night, using some beads a friend had given to me in lieu of gas money. There's something just very fun about tiny owls. I know, the internet's been obsessed with owls and that's mostly over now, but I still like them.

I really like the look of wire wrapping and chain maille, so I've started experimenting with both of those techniques. Wire wrapping is fun and mostly takes lots of practice; chain maille is fiddly and time-consuming but definitely worth the time. I've only done a little bit of chain maille, but I've practiced making jump rings and made a double-chain bracelet and a couple very short lengths of Byzantine chain for earrings.

The jewelry, the knitting, and my current obsession with NCIS, which I've been burning through as fast as I can get the seasons from the library, have served to help distract me from the panic that ensues when we are getting ready to travel somewhere. We're off to Cancun with J.'s family in about a week and a half, and I alternate between panic and mild anxiety about the trip. I'll be fine eventually, probably after we've been there for a few days, but it's one of those annoying things about having my brain. I plan to go hunting for interesting beads in the marketplace there - something lightweight that I can bring back as a souvenir. I'll see what I can find, and try to remember to take pictures.

And that's that for today. I don't know if the "writing something every day" thing will result in more blog posts, but we shall see.