Friday, December 28, 2012

Ending One Year, Starting Another

Well that last post was pretty serious. I know it's the season of joy but I was living in this sober state for at least part of the time leading up to Christmas. I did enjoy the few days around Christmas very much! I had friends around and made a traditional Christmas breakfast for my brother and his wife. That was a very last minute thing. I don't want to end this year without some joy and gratitude expressed for God's rich goodness to me. I wish I saw it more and more. I am very blessed to have a cozy roof over my head and a little bit of community here in my home and neighborhood. Despite being a little financially strapped at this point in life, I am so thankful for God's provision.

On Christmas Day I went to see Les Miserables. The new film adaptation of this classic Victor Hugo story was outstanding. It was filmed in a way that allowed you to feel the emotion of the moment with the characters in each scene. The picture of one life transformed by God's grace shown through another up against the grace that was rejected even in the face of “the law” not working for him is such a stark picture. I love that grace. I want to live in 2013 in that grace.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Struck with the Sadness

(I actually wrote this on Dec 18th but am just getting around to posting it today. Maybe it's best I saved it until after Christmas.)

The intensity of this season is starting to get to me. I love being in my own home with the all the homeyness this arrangement offers. I have some decorations up, including my skinny tree with all African ornaments – mostly sisal angels, mini baskets, and little gourds. It snowed properly out there a couple weeks ago so it looks like Christmastime to me.

But. An old friend passed away last week. It was unexpected. She was sick but no one thought it very serious. She had been diagnosed with cancer in the fall but was undergoing chemo and was doing well – or so it was thought. Turns out that about a week before she passed away the doctors discovered that she had a bunch of tumors. Her two daughters are in their early 20s, one still in college. I can't help thinking about G. She was the kind of friend you could pick up with again after a long time of not being in touch. I feel fortunate that I saw her about 14 months ago when I was touring with Afrizo. I stayed with her for a couple nights in their home in Queens. Now I can't stop thinking of her family and the great loss.

The news of the elementary school shootings in Connecticut was shocking. Today I saw another post on FB about ten small Middle Eastern girls who had gone to collect firewood and were blown up in a landmine explosion. I clicked on the article to see a photo of draped caskets all lined up. It hit me hard. Why is there so much death? I know this Christmas, like all since then, is a challenge for my sister-in-law who lost her mother on Christmas day eight years ago.

At the same time, I know many friends expecting babies or who have just giving birth, let me count: four just born in the last two weeks, two more on the way in the next two or three weeks. These are happy thoughts but what a world they come into.

For a moment I think of my own loss and loneliness. I am torn between the deep sadness I feel. I think of my mom while crafting for Christmas, my dad when I'm cooking a big holiday meal, my sister too with a the stories we told each other and laughed at our family history. I think too of how G is free from all the cares of this world. In some ways, I wish I were in her place. I would have been a better one to take, the losses to others would have been less and I am jealous for her freedom now. I have no daughter to get through college, no loving husband to miss me. I'm sure I would be missed but not like G is missed by so many close to her.

In some ways all of this is a distraction from Christ's appearing. He came to give life. We grieve death, but forget the eternal life that is the reality. G lives in the presence of Jesus rejoicing with no thought of the fuss on earth. I wish I could worship like that for even moments of the day. But hers is constant now. May I focus more on Him in this season and always.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Reformation Day

This morning I fully intended to study. I have a paper due tonight and reading left before I can fully finish it. However, I did my quick round on the blogosphere and ended up watching a video that brought me to tears. I'm still trying to work out why it was so emotional.

Yesterday I was thinking about the fact that I don't have children and therefore my descendants will not know a very different world than I know. This thought comes from several recent other exposures:
  • I watched Atlas Shrugged, Part I last weekend.
  • I'm reading about worldview for my class.
  • I'm recently noticed that many families in my church have mixed race families now through adoption. (Which I love but will really be different from experience when they are adults.)
  • I've been thinking about my pastor's retirement and what an influence he's had on his congregation and will continue to have on those who listen to him during his retirement.
All that is to say, the world is changing – rapidly – and I have mixed feelings about missing it. In some ways I am very thankful that I don't have to navigate guiding children through the potential craziness of the future; in other ways, I would have liked to have been a guiding force of influence to some portion of the future generations.

I wish I were young in a time growing awareness of reformed theology of African Americans. There, I put my finger on it. This video brought me to tears because I love this dialogue. And best of all, I'm not really missing it. Happy Reformation Day!

Here's the video:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Sad and Glad

It’s finally hitting me, the family that I’ve known for over 5 years and that I’ve lived with two different times is about to move away -- far, far away. I have the gift of helps and sometimes I let it go a little far. However, I find there are times that call for supernatural giving beyond what you are really able to do naturally. Getting these guys ready to go has been a privilege and an honor. It’s necessary for sending them well. In many ways, it’s the least I can do because they and a whole team of others took care of my affairs while I was overseas.

I’m sad because the five little ones are so much fun to be around. The old “kids say the darnest things” quote is fleshed out in these precious little ones. Iain’s seriously worried about language acquisition which comes out something like this, “Only 3 days left? I’m not ready to go?” When asked what he needs to do he replied, “I don’t have any [of my new country’s] words yet! We need to learn our words so we can talk to the people.”

Of course, I have been building other memories with them too. A recent trip to the Renaissance Festival, one last trump through the MIA with Mags and Laena-lu, just to name a couple. Auntie Jan is going to miss them ever so much.

But Matt has been working towards this day for at least 16 years or more. He is more than ready to have a life dream come true. I’m sure he’s sad to leave his church and so many dear friends -- but he can’t wait to get there.

This is his calling. So who wouldn’t be overjoyed to be finally getting to the point you spent a third of your life preparing for, something so right that all your fiber is waiting for the fulfillment of. Not to mention the need it fulfills and the call of all believers to preach the gospel. Who wouldn’t be overjoyed to see this happen for a dear friend. There is something about this moment that says -- there is something right in the universe today, something good and perfect happening. I wouldn’t dare stand in the way.

I’m so glad they are going. I’m so sad they are leaving.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday's Child

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good, and gay.

It first appeared in 1838 in a book about the Traditions of Devonshire, by A. E. Bray.

My mom taught me this poem when I was a child. I liked that I was born on the day that had the most attributes, it made me feel special. I guess that your birthday falls on the same day of the week when it's fifty years later.

Stop on over and celebrate with me between 3-7 p.m. Bonfire in the backyard.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Great Shuffle: An Unnecessarily Long Description of One Aspect of Resettling

I packed up my house all into my attic in the fall of 2007. But I was around for a few months before I left for Kenya so I was in and out of my attic a few times. Then I was home starting in the fall of 2008 for another 8 months and I was up there again often enough to know exactly where certain things I wanted to get at were. Just before I left in 2009 I had a small influx of items from my sister’s house in Washington because she had passed away and we had shipped several boxes of photos to her when Mom had passed away in 2005. Plus my attic gained some of her artwork and eventually some pottery. I was here again briefly in the fall of 2010 and grabbed a couple of items from the attic. For the most part, my carefully packed attic was only lightly touched and mostly memorized until this point.

But when I finally landed in the Twin Cities at the start of last winter -- I was in my attic often enough to start shuffling items around. I needed some things for living. I was moving in with some dear friends who provided a bed and dresser, but I needed a winter coat and some wall decor -- you get the picture. This is when the shuffle really started.

At the beginning of June I moved back into my own home! I was elated and didn’t waste a moment of unpacking all my furniture from the attic. I nearly filled up the house. How had I managed to contain all that is my little attic? I then arranged one corner of the attic with a bed and night stand. It’s very cosy there. But I left the attic for sleeping only and set about on a million little details around the house. The details are so minute I can’t even think now -- but they managed to drain my time over the last two months. I wanted to get everything just so for sharing the house with strangers.

All this is to say I have neglected my attic until now. As I was unpacking in June I noticed that I kept some things that were very odd -- telephones and cassette tapes -- I dubbed my attic a time capsule. Finally I have to deal with the time capsule because I need a place that doesn’t take up the dining table to work. I have school to do. I looked around the other day and I couldn’t see a single surface in the attic. I have two small work tables, a large wooden desk and a laptop table but nowhere I could safely set my little Mac.

This won't be easy. I call it the great shuffle because I will likely spend the entire winter shuffling piles around trying to figure out what to keep, what to chuck, where to store things and so on. There’s a whole wall of footlockers and boxes; more in the closet and crawl space that all need to be dealt with. There are 2 boxes under the desk and several works of art under one of the tables. Maybe in the spring I can have a big sale. Eventually I will have a room back, but in the meantime, I’ll just shuffle.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back in School

Being back in the school is a good and right thing to be doing at this point. But at the same time feels funny. I have or I should say, had the potential to be one of those English nerds -- someone who went around correcting people’s grammar. If, at a young age, I had been at all pushed in that direction I would have been into reading and writing. It all comes fairly second nature to me. With my tendency towards perfectionism, I would have been a natural. Of course, I don’t have the personality of a librarian, so I’m sure it has all turned out for the best.

Regardless, I am thankful for a natural ability to “hear” the correct way to write a sentence under usual circumstances. I do a have bit of trouble in a few area but I’m learning tricks for remember grammatical rules.

So far, songs have been my best help. When I was studying for the grammar entrance exam for Northwestern I wrote out a little card with a chart for “lay” and “lie” and at the bottom I wrote, “Bob Dylan was wrong.” I had one of the real grammar nerds in the school’s learning center ask me what that meant. I explained,

“When Bob Dylan sings, ‘Lay, lady, lay. Lay upon a smoky brass bed.’ he was wrong, it should have been ‘lie’. In this way, I can remember what people do and the difference in  what we do to objects.”

The other day I was struggling in the school library over “I was” and “I were”. (I was working on the grammar rules for a class.) I asked a librarian for help. In her effort to explain it to me she went to the Grammar Girl website (which I highly recommend) to help explain the time when you use were. As she showed me the page I realized I’d read and maybe even listened to this topic from Grammar Girl before. That was disconcerting since I just discovered Grammar Girl within the last 6 months -- why can’t a remember this rule! But then someone said, “Think of Tevye.” I immediately thought of the line, “If I were a rich man...” The trick for “were” is if it’s a wish or impossibility. I feel confident I will remember now.

If I run into any more issues I have trouble remembering I will look for a song that illustrates it. Unfortunately, it’s a little late in the game for me to become a proper grammar police officer. However, with a bit of effort I hope to get to the point where I can catch myself and avoid being lazy in the area of writing. It turns out that Business Communications class is almost all about grammar, so here’s my chance to practice.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

I’m missing the get-together. The Minnesota State Fair is known for being the “Great Minnesota Get-Together”. I can’t really afford a visit this year, so I have spent considerable time thinking about past outings to this event over many years.

I first remember going to the Fair in high school. I may have gone when I was younger and just don’t remember. I went with some potential boyfriend and a group as a teen, I can’t see allowing a teen to go on her own now that I’m an adult, but my parents had raised a few kids by the time I got to be a teenager. My mom went to the fair with her girlfriends when I was in high school and I couldn’t really figure out what the draw was for her. We spent our time on rides. But I do remember her being disappointed in seeing what her favorite (WCCO) radio voice looked like in real life. Not exactly what she imagined from that handsome voice.

As a young adult I was at the Fair several years running. I worked in the International Bazaar in the KENYA KENYA booth for a few years selling my favorite handicrafts from East Africa. It was fun to have the access and see the throngs stroll by. I worked with a Muslim Kikuyu gal who wanted to go out for a beer after we got off for the day. I told her I don’t drink and thought it strange that she did. But then it slipped my mind and I brought her a ham sandwich for lunch. Oops. We both got over it.

I lived in a Christian community for a while and one of the guys there was enthralled with the ‘freak’ or side shows in the midway. He came home from seeing the ape women “Zambora” calling me Jambora. It wasn’t really endearing, but we were kids, so to speak. That experience made me aware of part of the Fair I hadn’t considered until then, and honestly I haven’t thought of much since either.

One year I lived a few blocks from the main gates. Oh, the traffic! Some boy I knew at the time took me flying over the Fair at night. I toted my camera with the macro lens and got some awesome shots of the midway lit up at night. I’m sure if I dug through my photo boxes I would find those.

At the end of one of the years I worked there I bought at hammock chair from the booth across from us. I couldn’t help myself, their spiel was so convincing. I got a deal on one that had been up the whole 10 days. That hammock chair hangs on my front porch today and is still one of the most relaxing chairs to sit in after a busy day.

I’m not one of those people that LOVES the Fair and can’t miss it! But I do like to go for a number of reasons. I remember one year going with a father and two sons to see Kirby Puckett and get an autograph. Going with different people allows you to see things at the Fair you may have missed. I like the art displays and seeing what the Grad Stand Hawkers are selling. When I was into swing dancing I went to see the competition of friends.

Nothing tops seeing through the eyes of internationals that have never before experienced such a thing. Last year I took the AFRIZO! Team to the Fair. They had their first public performance at the new Crossroads Chapel. But seeing them enjoy turkey legs and rides was much more fun! Also just experiencing the wide range of folks who attend the Fair is interesting. There is no better people watching then there.

My trip down memory lane makes up for not going this year. I wonder if I’ll ever need to go again if I can just think about the past trips.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Points North

Today Alice and I head up to Duluth and join Lorraine for the evening. Tomorrow we continue up the coast of Lake Superior to Grand Marais, returning to Duluth for a some more fun on Monday and Tuesday. I love the North Shore. I used to make it a regular practice to get up there often – but the last few years have been challenging. (Never mind I've been living out of the country some of that time.)

Needless to say, I'm looking very forward to this road trip. (I haven't been able to say that too quickly after 2.5 months on the road last fall.) Even though I hadn't initially thought of it when planning, I think this will be a great bonding time for 3 new friends. Now, off to hunt for my camera. Hopefully photos will follow the weekend.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Three's Company

That old show conjures up memories of being young and having fun. I don't remembering it being a particularly edifying story and I am no longer young – but I hope this next season on life will be a little light-hearted on the home front. (That is not to say I haven't enjoyed the dear friends I have stayed with over the last year. But it is to say that I am glad to be in my place and settled. See previous post.)

About a month ago I was joined in my house by a new friend, Alice. How I found her was unlikely and farfetched. However, once we met we discovered that we had one set of close(ish) friends in common. I guess that made the agreement to live together a bit easier than total strangers. Turns out Alice is almost exactly 5 years younger than me, an age I consider to be in my range. AND she is also going back to school so she can pursue a new career path. She returned from 'the field' after 18 years of service just two years ago. She has some very different interests from me, but so far it's been a very good combo.

Tomorrow Lorraine is starting to move in. I met her almost the same way, just as unlikely. She is starting her second year of furlough from 'the field' in the hopes of recruiting new teammates for her area during this year. She's put in something like 32 years on the field. So she's a little older than me.

All three of us were working with people from the same continent, but those two speak French. (Is it too late to learn?) I really feel like God came through for me here in the housemate area. I was dreading renting to young people again because some of my past experiences were challenging. One good thing is that I'm a different person! But there is a camaraderie with like-minded, over 40-year-olds. I am hopeful this will be a good combination for the three of us. We'll see what happens.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Moving and Settling

I have moved a lot of times in my life. I have lived in several places in the past year, including a 12 passenger van! Now I'm back in my house, my own home. I love having a home and making it mine. In fact, I am feeling close to settled for the first time since May of last year. But I'm not completely settled. I did hang up some art today, a few of my mom's paintings and some other décor, but I didn't quite get it all up. In fact, I feel like I'm missing a few things. Things I may have stashed away and still haven't uncovered.

On top of feeling like I'm not finding all I thought I had stored, I have a nagging feeling that I shouldn't enjoy all these things. I should be content to live in a fox hole, or something simple anyway, but I'm not. I feel somehow guilty about my life back here in the US. To some it may sound silly, but that's how I feel. I haven't lost my love for Africans but I like making a home nice. It's important to me. I do that overseas too, but without my resident's status there, feeling settled alluded me. It seems to me that I am hardwired to want to feel settled.

I'm done moving around for a while, but I'm not totally settled. I may never feel settled. I was asked the other day if I miss Kenya with a deep longing to go back. I replied that both places are home to me. So maybe in a sense I'm never fully at home anywhere.

That is the point. We aren't at home anywhere here on this planet, our home is elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seven Years

Today I had enough time and presence of mind to look at the calendar and realize that it is just two short days until the anniversary of my Mom's death. Hard to believe it was 7 years ago. My wise older brother commented how it feels like it is so far in the past and yet just happened all at the same time. I agree. Still, being in transition after a whole year back in the US makes it even harder to be without Mom. I miss her most when I am in transition.

Just this morning I was thinking again how I wish I could talk to her about what is rolling around in my head these days. It's just the kind of processing of thoughts that you don't blurt out to casual friends. And sometimes your close girlfriends don't have time for these conversations. Mom would always have time to help me think through things without trying to solve it all for me. I have probably said this a hundred times here, but my mom was not your typical controlling or even overly doting mom. She was laid back, easygoing and never fussed by the things that jar life. She took it all in stride as if it were no bid deal. But she did make a big deal about congratulating accomplishments or loving on you for who you are.

And she had a special gift for seeing you as you really are, so it made the loving-you part all the better. I wish it were easier to be without her but it's not.

Mom and Dad in 1992

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'm back in my house!

It's the middle of June already!

I have been enjoying my home so much! But I sometimes feel bad for liking 'stuff'. I unpacked most of my household items and realized I have a lot of kitchen and entertaining items, a ton! But I like them. I like what they represent and I like using them. I love having people over. But I still wish my life was simpler. I wish I didn't like it all so much!

But this is who God made me to be so it's hard to say that it's not what I should enjoy. Needless to say, I'm a little conflicted within myself these days.

Plus I can hardly believe how busy everything about school and unpacking makes me. Give me just 4 more weeks and I will be hopefully much more verbal here in the blogosphere.

Thanks for tuning in.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More Transition & the Emotional Roller Coaster it Brings

Ever have those moments when you are feeling so low, and while you keep telling yourself to just snap out of it, you can't? That was yesterday afternoon. I had a conversation with someone that was strained and even though the conversation ended cordially, I felt completely misunderstood and misrepresented.

That's the way I arrived at church last night. I wanted to just forget about the conversation and sing. But everything in the songs just made me realize how hurt I was and how there was no way to fix it myself. In every song I literally cried out to God to fix it, but I couldn't see how he would be able to do it. Even though I couldn't repair the situation and I couldn't see a good outcome eventually I stopped crying and pulled myself together to listen to the sermon. But I wasn't feeling like anything was resolved.

The preaching pastor for this weekend was the missions pastor at Bethlehem until a few months ago. He and the international student class are about to start a church plant. Although I usually enjoy his preaching, I didn't expect to hear anything relevant to my situation. But in his preaching about the church being multi-ethnic he talked about how we are the family of God to one another. And in a sense, though he didn't say this, these internationals sort of need each other because they are away from other family. He did say that we are all in the family of God.

I realized in that moment that part of the effect of that earlier disconcerting conversation was that I felt so alone in the process; no one to turn to that understands my side and would defend me. And somehow being single makes you less credible, or so it seems. Just hearing and remembering that we are the family of God helped me to feel less alone.

And then after the service, I was able to connect with someone who is able to help me sort out the misunderstanding. Thank you, Lord. It really is totally His work to bring me from the despair I felt so acutely at 5 PM to the joy and lightness I felt at 7 PM. He truly is a good God!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Little Piece of Me Back

I think I'm finally starting to feel like myself again. For sure I'm still in transition, but today I had an experience that told me I may actually be returning to normal. I was on campus to study all afternoon and into the evening. At about 5:30 I wondered up to the commuter lounge where I'd left my “lunch” in the fridge. After a few minutes two ladies came in working on a text together. One was reading aloud while the other made coffee. Tomorrow is the last day of finals for regular day students. We exchanged niceties and they carried on with their work and I with my supper.

As I was leaving I decided to test my cultural guessing abilities. (I think I'm rather good at it when it comes to Africans. Though, I made a mistake earlier on campus today mistaking a tall and very dark man dressed in a tie dye outfit for a Sudanese when he was actually Ethiopian.) When I got up to go, I about how their topic of discussion seemed interesting but I had to get back to the library. Though I could her no accent I thought the one gal was Ethiopian based on her features. I asked her name and it sounded Ethiopian, so I offered, “Are you from Ethiopia?”

“Yes! How did you know?” I explained that I had lived in East Africa and our bond with cemented. She pointed in the direction of her office and told me to come sometime and see her. I smiled as I left thinking of the prospect of a new African friend.

But the real joy of the story is that I felt that I was totally uninhibited, like I used to feel. I felt like myself, not like I'm on hold and I need to figure out how to navigate through this thing called life back in America. I was so happy that to finally feel like it was me inside again, and not some stranger I'm getting used to being.

Thank you, God, for a little piece of normalcy for a change.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Winds of Change

I started this year of blogging with a bang! But unfortunately I have not keep up very well. It's not that life isn't full of interesting adventures. And I sincerely hope that being in a communications degree will help me blog more in the future. But for now, I still have a limping long computer, a ton of homework and some more transition ahead.

I will be moving back into my home on 12th Avenue as of June 1st. As of now I don't have any housemates lined up. I will need one or two but not before July 1st. I am looking forward to a little bit of a personal retreat at home. I've been in transition so incredibly long that I am really looking forward to settling in some ways. This does not mean being a hermit for me. On the contrary, being settled means entertaining and having a base to flourish from. Perhaps, I'll even have to plan a big house warming for the middle of summer.

When it comes to housemates I am hoping and praying for some real community. I would like to live with a couple of gals who care about living together in harmony. (I've lived communally long enough to know that there are always a few bumps along the way no matter how great the housemates are.) I would like to live as adults in the 'hood. And I hope to have the energy to be a little more neighborly that I've been.

Thanks for sticking it out with me here and through the transitions. Being settled doesn't mean my heart isn't still in East Africa. But for me, being able to minister in any kind of way means I have somewhere to start from that feels like it's my space, it's home.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your faithful attendance to my blog. I have had some huge setbacks over the past several weeks.

I finished up my Math for Liberal Arts class and managed an A with the help of my very gracious teacher. But starting school introduced a virus to my computer. A team effort worked to recover my files and restore my computer, but in reality, I'm barely limping along. I do email, but I don't even have a functioning copy of Micro Soft Word working. Since I just started my Research Writing class, this presents a problem. If I don't solve it soon I don't know what I will do; the writing class has homework deadlines ever 3-4 days for 7 weeks. I don't want to get behind.

My housemates are gracious in letting me use their computer too, but with 5 kids and home school going on, I can usually think better out of the house. Still I'm grateful for the assistance it gives through all this crashing. On top of all this my phone started acting up and this morning also presented a blue screen that wouldn't allow me ever to power it down. Alas, I got it restarted by taking the battery out and putting it back in.

All this is to say, besides being rather preoccupied with school, I have been technically impaired the past ten or so days. I'd appreciate your prayers over all this. And I'd take any advice you are handing out too.

I've been enjoying the kids I live with - the 5-year-old and only boy in the house just stopped in my room to ask advice about how to ask his mom on a date. I kept a straight face as I advised him and off he went with his Elmer Fudd accent to ask mama. I smiled at the thought. I wish I had more presence to enjoy all this.

Thanks again for your faithfulness in my very sporadic writing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

conversations about real life
recounting the events that shaped the last week of Christ’s life
my diverse neighborhood

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

more thanks

decorating for a new season
the greening of outdoors
good kind of tired for physical exertion
fresh air in the house

Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Week

realizing afresh what Jesus has done for me personally on the cross
reading through the events of the last week in Christ’s life (Justin Taylor is posting these happenings each day this week. Here’s the first one.)
helping others

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Serious Note for April Fool's Day

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” –Jim Elliot

Saturday, March 31, 2012

the smell of coffee brewing in the morning
a sense of smell to appreciate it
friends that can explain math
being done with homework

Friday, March 30, 2012

walking by the river while it’s warm enough to walk but the leaves aren’t out so I can see the river
naturally good grammar
a good night’s sleep
my small group
dear old friends that remain over time and miles

Thursday, March 29, 2012

more gratitude for more grace

I-pod nano
and the docking station to play it
recipes that work
comfortable bed
clean house

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Grace of God

Sometimes when I see or hear about a situation I think, “There, but by the grace of God, go me.” I’m grateful that’s not just a saying but it’s really true that God’s grace holds me here every moment.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

a kind math teacher
comfortable chairs
new shelves to organize
“Last Night’s Bagel’s” from Bruegger's

Monday, March 26, 2012

learning to cook Ethiopia shiro
quiet house
space heaters
lots of grant money for school

Friday, March 23, 2012

studying the Bible
discussions that make me think
familiar friends
rain that smells like Nairobi

Thursday, March 22, 2012

more things I'm grateful for...

fresh juice
creative friends
cell phone texting

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cultivating Gratitude

I decided for lent that I would try to be more thankful and grateful for all the wonderful gifts in my life. I had just finished Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts and I was inspired by her journey. I started a list on the computer but then I never get back to it when I’m thinking of what I’m thankful for. So I thought I would try to journal some of them here. That may be all the blogging I can get to during these back-to-school days.

Here’s a few to get me started here…

old cars that run well
real and not contrived cultural diversity
sunshine even if it’s cold outside
wiggling babies that fall asleep on your shoulder
commercial free jazz
concentrated work time (getting things accomplished)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ethiopian Baby Quilt – My First Ever Quilt

Here’s the baby quilt I made for little baby Toph! He’s a cutie pie. His mom loved the quilt so much she said she wasn’t going to let him use it. I sincerely hope she changes her mind since it was meant for use every day.

Here are some photos of the process of making the quilt. I started with a sketch (not a pattern).

First I pieced it together starting from the middle.

Then added backing before I could "quilt" it - sew through the layers.
Here's the finished product -

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crazy Life

Starting classes in a rush – as in registering on a Friday and starting on a Monday (that was the first day of Spring Break), my dear ‘family’ arriving from 2 months on the read, and starting a part-time weekend job all at once conspired to keep me from writing on the blog at all. I knew it’d be less often, but I didn’t know it’d be this long before I got back to this.

I have now survived a few of the math class sessions, although the first one was very emotional. I realized somewhat after the fact that I am still in a huge transition with very little routine in my life, not a good recipe for healthy mental living for me. But since I’m starting to get a handle on studying again after 20 years out of school (not counting last year’s truncated start) and having worked a tiny bit now, I’m starting to settle back down. My ‘family’ hit the road again, (poor things – all got hit with a horrible stomach bug half way to their sister’s wedding in GA) so what do I do? Party!

Don’t tell them.

I had my small group over for dinner last Thursday. It’s really a large group. Being shy a couple of kids and some adults didn’t seem to really make it a small group. I enjoyed every minute of it. I love entertaining! The best part about having a small group dinner is that it doesn’t have to be fancy. Unlike throwing a shower, which I’m doing this evening: that takes a clean house and some decorating, and in my case, making a baby gift too.

Next entry, I’ll show you what I made. Thanks for praying by the way.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pulling the Trigger

I'm actually still undecided about where to attend school. However, one program has a class I need starting on Monday, so I'm going to register today! Still not sure I will be going there for the whole program, but I may as well start with 2 classes and 6 credits, right?

All this is to say, the blog might be a little slim pickins over the next few weeks as I get back into academia. The gray matter might be a little slow at booting up.

Thanks for your prayers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Few More Thoughts on Art

I am a highly pragmatic person and at the same time I’m also very creative/artistic. Whenever I take the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator I score back and forth in one area, the Sensing and Intuitive area. I don’t think I’ve ever scored dead in the center – what is referred to as an X. My preference actually flip-flops on either side of this scale. The sensing person is stimulated by the tangible and the intuitive by imagination or possibilities. In fact, this is the area of the Myers Briggs test I have struggled the most to understand, because I don’t see these two preferences as opposite ends of the same scale.

My creative side crescendos when I can make a creative idea come together. But I rarely do anything creative that doesn’t have some practical purpose. I suppose the truly utilitarian person doesn’t find décor practical. But even in my recent venture into sewing I have tried to make useful items.

Some would say that we’d be nowhere without art. But I have struggled within at times to reconcile helping a starving, parentless world of need with creating beauty. Regardless of my mental struggle I am still driven to create. And that creative side usually produces practical beauty. If I’m good for nothing else to the needy, it’s to teach them some way of using their hands and imagination to make something practical.

Friday, February 24, 2012

One Day's Freebies

One day this week I ran a bunch of errands that included a trip to 2 of the three post-secondary schools I attended and hand-delivering the second official transcript from each to the office of the school that lost* my first ones. The third transcript was coming from Seattle, so I couldn’t go get that one. On that day I got a ton of free items, mainly from that school but a few others too.

Here’s what I came home with:

Courier bag
Water bottle
Black & yellow rice bowl with matching yellow rice spoon
Coffee mug
2 half-blocks of branded post-it notes
A set of word fridge magnets
Yellow rubber ball
A ball point pen
Orange highlighter
A University car window sticker
2 branded lip balm sticks

Plus –
A cup of Caribou coffee
Tortilla chips at Baja Sol

*I say “lost” because they claim all three never arrived there. But with three transcripts coming from three locations, I have a hard time believing all three never got there. I still think they are stuck to the back of someone else’s mail and filed away.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I have to do before I do it

This is the kind way my mother described first-born perfectionism. I actually don’t ever remember her saying it about me, but she probably did. I’m the second first-born in my family. (We have a 10-year gap between the first three and the second two.) I do remember her using this phrase to describe my oldest brother. But I see it’s often fitting for me too.

I decided to make a special baby blanket for a special baby recently adopted by some friends of mine from Ethiopia. I want to use the “pattern” I saw used on a pillow in a craft store from the other day. But I needed to see if I could pull that off first, before I make the blanket.

So I decided to make a couple of pot holders in the same style. All that’s to say, here’s what I have been working on just for fun! (And practice.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Connected by Art

The other day I had lunch with my older brother and my sister-in-law. They are a good dozen years older than me so in some ways they have lived in a different era than me. While I love my siblings, the chasm between me and the rest of my family is actually rather large on many levels. But I still feel some sort of kinship to them after all, they are family.

I think I have realized it in a more tangible way. Or at least there was a connection made for me. My family members nearly all carry in them a sort of innate artistic sense. We would all have agreed that my mother and eldest sister were the real family artists. Both of them actually went to college to study art. But I don’t think my father would have married my mom if he wasn’t somehow deeply appreciative of my mom’s abilities. I don’t even know if he was even aware of that fact. The two of them produced an entire family with some amount of natural abilities.

Our lunch conversation naturally revolved around what each of us had been up to lately. These two told me they were working on a necklace for her. A group project! I got an explanation of why it was both of them and later it came out that my brother was working on controlled rusting of a metal surface, an experiment they explained. He was working on a way to write words with rust on metal artwork.

Somewhere in the conversation they were both telling me about explaining what they do in retirement to a new acquaintance, an E.R. doctor. They became aware that the kinds of things they do are not what non-artistic people do. I had just a bit earlier been encouraging them to continue making sculpture out of found objects. They had made a moose (buffalo?) head last fall. It’s up on their front porch for the winter.

It dawned on me shortly after I got home that day that this is the bond I hold with my family. I may be very different in the things I deeply value from every single one of them. Certainly I differ in many tastes and interests than most of them. But we are all somehow connected by art; it’s in our fiber. We all may approach it differently but we all have some sense of it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pondering College

You would think that my days of choosing a good college to attend would be long over. But the fact is it’s a subject that comes up periodically, perhaps in many people’s lives. Since it seems that the best step for me to move forward now is to finish a BA in something, I started looking at schools. Before you think me completely uneducated, I do have an associate degree in Bible from way back when.

It would appear that more and more places overseas would be more sympathetic to granting me a visa if I just had the degree to prove I’m knowledgeable. I hate to think how much more I know than the average graduate of many colleges. But life experience and a working knowledge of Swahili don’t always count for much on paper.

I took my little ol’ Bible degree to our two well known Christian colleges here in the Twin Cities and ran them both through the paces for their adult education programs. I hoped that one of them would float to the top with flying colors to make my chose easy. It didn’t happen.

They are neck and neck in every way. And the only way to find out who could offer me more financial help is to go ahead and apply to both. It’s a process, but we shall see how it all shakes out after the final analysis of transcripts and financial aid eligibility.

I’m actually starting to warm up to the idea of hitting the books again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I like it, but each piece gets smaller

My third creation of chenille is even smaller than Sample 1 and Take 2. I had taken apart one of those microwavable rice bags because it had collected dust in my attic over the past few years and was making me cough whenever it was heated. I just needed to refill it. In the process, I got thinking how it would be nice to have a rice bag with one side thicker than the other so as not to burn you when it first comes out of the microwave.

What a better way than chenille on one side? I’m very happy with the results and the process helped me understand how to do chenille that could be used in something else – like a part of a quilt or maybe something I haven’t thought of yet.

My main goal in the first piece I made was to determine if I could do it and if I liked doing this enough to make something the size of a throw blanket or a baby quilt. I thought it was funny that each project gets smaller and smaller. I’m working up to it, little by littler.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New Year’s Resolution Fulfilled

On New Year’s Eve I wrote about finishing my bible reading plan from 2011. I’m happy to announce that I finished today, only about 6 weeks over a year. I’m thankful for the grace to finish; make it to the end. I know reading through the Bible in a year is no big deal to some people, they do it every year! I wish I was a quick and focused reader. Honestly, I’m a bit relieved that I can now read any part I want to – not just what’s assigned for today.

I’m so thankful, too for the Bible. I finished in Malachi, so I’ll leave you with Malachi 4:2-3

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I’m not really forgetful

Being absent minded is sort of a way of life for me. I am forgetful. I come by it honestly, though. My mother was pretty scatter-brained and her mother was too. Neither were what we’d call ‘Alzheimer’s’ type forgetful, but I knew what my future could likely hold watching both of them.

For me, I find I usually forget things I’d told people I would do or appointments I’ve made. It means I miss meetings or accidently double book events.

Right now though, I feel I have an excuse; being out of a routine and in another major life transition means that it’s hard to have a set way of remembering things. I do have a calendar; I know I could use it more. But there is no specific routine to looking at it.

I felt further vindicated the other day when I made a small discovery. I went to my attic in search of a few items. Since I’ve been sewing a ton, I wanted to unearth my iron and ironing board (if I even still had them). There is an iron and board where I am staying, but they are pretty light duty ones. If I had mine still I knew they’d be a fairly good quality.

Just making my attic list didn’t allow me to think enough about finding them. As I mentioned, I wasn’t even sure I’d kept them. But as soon as I arrived in the attic and pulled out my list, I was able to turn to my iron immediately. It was in the first place I looked for it; on a top shelf with a plastic carrier bag over the top to keep the dust off of it. I reached for it as if I’d set it there yesterday.

Then I turned to the ironing board. In one more moment, I was fairly certain I knew where it was. But getting to it was much more of an archaeological dig. I had to move several items to see if it was beside a dresser in the closet. Sure enough it was right where I’d imagined it.

Now I know I’m not losing my mind. I just need to build in some routine.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Journey into Burlap

It all started when we wondered into a dollar store. While my friend and I were on my little sewing vacation, we stopped there – just for fun. She found this fabulous book on how to make different kinds of bags, and bought one for each of us. We later discovered why they were only a dollar; the English had errors and the directions were incomplete. Never mind, we now each had a great idea book.

Inside the book were several bags made from linen or burlap. Actually, you can see one of them in the lower left on the cover. On our next visit to Walmart I purchased some burlap. My friend warned me that burlap sheds. I didn’t like the sharp fibers splintering into my dry hands. So when I get home I zigzagged the raw ends and threw it all and the washer. I made sure to throw a dryer sheet in when it went in the dryer. I don’t know if any of that helped, but it made the most interesting dryer lint.

Anyway, it was just sitting among my sewing piles. I just finished that heart wall hanging the other day and wasn’t sure what was next, so I started back on the brown strips. I made another 4 patches similar to the first 4. I had no idea still what to do with them.

I took some leftover scraps from that and tried to remember a sideways patchwork I’d seen. I even tried to search the web for something like it, but I couldn’t find what I’d seen. So I just tried it anyway. Then that little patch was done and squared up, it came to me – a table runner, or dresser runner! This time I’d do it nice and long, not like the other 24 inch ones.

As I started to sew the pieces together I realized the whole thing would be very long and only like 6 inches wide. It needed a boarder. Another light bulb went on, that’s when I remembered my burlap!

Ta-da –

I think this is my coolest creation on patchwork quilting yet.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Heart Tree

In my deep affection for Valentine’s Day I couldn’t resist doing something seasonal with the naked Jesse Tree left behind by Advent. So up went a battery of various colored hearts. It cheers me every time I walk by it.

Other related activities include making valentines last week for the family I live with that are away right now. And I have a session scheduled with the Maves kids for valentine making on Friday! I can’t wait.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Doing Things the Hard Way

I think my mom used to tell me that I have a tendency to do things the hard way. I don’t think that’s a pervasive truth in my life, at least I hope not. But when it comes to creating patchwork quilts; it may be the best way to explain how I do it.

I was inspired by the coming holiday – Valentine’s Day. But as I did at Christmas time, I got an idea in my head and just started sewing, no pattern, not even real measurements until after I got going on it. When it’s finished it will look spectacular, but the road to getting there may do me in.

It’s a wall hanging or a table runner. I’m not super big into heart things, but I really love Valentine’s Day only because I’m really a romantic type at heart.

Next year I hope I remember to go back to paper valentines so I have a lot less stress.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Second Take on Chenille

I decided the chenille was so fun I needed to do more, but I’m still not ready for something big! So I thought a little extra special taggy blanket would be fun. It looks amazing, but slightly fussy with all those little ribbon tags. Not sure that will happen again.

I sure hope the little baby sister to three big brothers enjoys this one.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog's Day

I haven’t paid much attention. And to be honest I haven’t been outside today yet. But it doesn’t look like the groundhog saw his shadow today. So, that means we do not have 6 more weeks of winter.

My only question: is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In the Meantime

I keep having incomplete visions of crafting. I studied the photo of the quilt that first inspired me for the wonky patchwork and decided I could come a little closer to what had been done there and perhaps with a little less stretch stress. (When you sew on the bias the fabric stretches.)

I just started sewing variations on brown. Taking 2 inch by 6 inch pieces, I cut them lengthwise slightly askew. That turned out pretty good for the effect, but I’m still not sure what I will do with them.

I’m collecting. If I see some fabric or a project that might be fun, I collect up the ideas, sometimes the materials. Then I am hesitant about what to do next. The fact is, my little patchwork of the skewed pieces remains unfinished. I’m now dreaming of burlap bags and holiday hearts. Enough writing, now – on to some actual sewing.

If any of my readers are giving away unwanted natural fiber fabric, I’ll take it. And I promise to make a little something in return. I’ll try to push a project to the top for you.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Taking a Moment to Think

While I love sewing for its creative outlet; using puzzle solving skills and my ability to produce tangible, aesthetically pleasing results, it’s also a mode of escape. Sewing keeps me from thinking about what’s next in my life and from actively seeking something that might be next.

I admit I wish the right thing would just drop in my lap. But it hasn’t yet. I have a ton of options before me. All good options but in a way it’s too many choices. I wish my range of interests were narrower. It’s not. I must do the work of researching and find what is out there next for me.

Oh for audible guidance from God.

Now that I have that off my chest, I think I will go back to sewing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Mini Sewing Vacation

I have a dear friend that lives in Wheaton, Illinois. She got offered the use timeshare condo in Wisconsin Dells which happens to be half way between here and there. Only catch, it was short notice. Fortunately for me, I have plenty of free time.

So we met there on Wednesday afternoon. I hauled videos, cutting matt, sewing machine, fabric and much, much more. In the process I got a personal tutorial on how to make bias binding – great for my chenille blanket habit! And I learned how to make mitered corners on blankets. Both will be useful skills to have in the near future.

I did a little hand work on my current patchwork project. My friend helped me solve some of the issues I was having with it. She was invaluable in giving tips to help me through my new-found hobby. We chatted, watched movies, cooked and ate!

We did a little looking and shopping – and were very inspired by some of the quilting we saw! It was a wonderful get-away. I’m so thankful for respites like that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Maybe Bags are My Thing

I thought that would do it for my bag endeavors for a while. But then I had this light bulb go on in my head! Some time back a friend gave me a dress her mom had sent her that she wasn’t using and although I wasn’t really thinking I would wear it, she passed it on to me. She asked for it back or to pass it along, if I didn’t want it.

I had toyed with making it into two little girl dresses for the two oldest ones I live with, but that wasn’t happening either. Then it came to me! Another bag!

This is another modification of the 6-pocket bag. I think it turned out darn cute - almost too cute to give away. But it became a birthday gift for the gal who gave it to me originally. I hope her mom doesn’t mind.

She did say when I gave it to her, “I love how you up-cycled this!”

Friday, January 20, 2012

Grandma’s Mystery Bag

My friend Annette is a fabulous crafter, especially in the area of soft crafts. She had reupholstered many a chair, she quilts, and makes tons of various sewn items like baby blankets and home decor for family and friends.

In late December she sent out a challenge to a few female friends and all her sisters and sisters-in-law. It was to make a hand bag in the style of one she had found among the items in her grandmother’s trunk. She figured out how it was made and made one herself. The challenge was that she wasn’t showing us what it looked like, we just follow step by step instructions photographing each part to prove we are ready for the next step.

First step: gather materials needed. Second step: cut two squares of coordinating material and sew then together so they make a big two sided square.

Step three: make the circular straps.

Step four: sew corner casings and sew the strap right in as you go.

Voila! A big o’ bag! I think it looks like a beach bag or a knitting bag. (I don’t knit.) Or it’d be great for carrying those picnic items out to the park. Since I used canvas type material it turned out much different than the original one looked.

I will still add vintage buttons that my friend will send to match the style. Not quite sure what I’ll use it for though.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bag Number 2

I decided to try a second 6-pocket bag, beefing up the measurements a bit. I changed a few other things too. I added an interior pocket. (Not that I need seven pockets.) There are also a couple of little Velcro closures to make it a little safer. (Maybe just safe for items not to fall out.) This one is a very functional size but I don’t like the interfacing I ended up using on the inside to make the inner fabric stand up more, it’s too stiff.
I’d been shopping a lot lately for fabric and it was hard to choose which three to use together. I like these three better before they were sewn together. But they turned out fine.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Make the Best Darn Granola

Years ago when I first lived in Kenya, I learned to make granola from scratch. Back then you could occasionally find muesli in the store which is the German answer to granola. Basically it’s untoasted granola (not my favorite). My recipe is fairly simple, but the process is time consuming because you have to watch it carefully while baking it. It burns easily.

The flavor is so yummy that every time I try some other kind of granola, I just end up wanting more of mine. Recently I took the time to make a batch since I’d been craving it. I’m not disappointed!
Here’s the recipe -
Combine in a large bowl:
2 cups flour
7 cups oats (regular works better than the quick kind)
1 cup coconut
½ cup raw sesame seeds

Blend together separately:
1 cup warm water
1 cup honey
½ cup olive (or canola) oil
1 T. vanilla
1 t. salt

Mix the dry and wet ingredients together well and spread over two large cookie sheets in a single layer. Break up into small pieces as much as possible.
Bake at 350o for 45-60 minutes, stirring often!

Let cool, then stir in:
1 cup craisins
1 cup slivered almonds

I have to confess that I did not come up with this recipe. My friend Laura Jane did. All credit to her.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What’s In the Bag?

After the chenille I started a bag fetish. I made the first one after seeing it at a friend’s house some time ago. The material came back from Kenya with me because it was so cute. It’s considered curtain material there. These are usually a kind of a cheap blend of synthetics that is about the weight of canvas. This one had the animal block prints in two columns with borders that I used for straps.

The straps sewn on create the pockets – thus it’s called a 6-pocket bag.

It turned out pretty cute but I thought it too small for my needs.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Lorraine Motel

Right up there with the most significant stops on our tour last fall was the visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Memphis. It was a moving display of the history of African American freedom struggle. I know that some of the Afrizo students had an “ah-ha” moment when the finished the museum. They had studied the history in school, spoken with other African
Americans along the way, but were finally able to put the significance of certain pieces together after experiencing this museum.
I too enjoyed a deeper understanding of our black brothers and sisters from our visit to Memphis. I think our Memphis hosts were nearly as significant a help in my historical understanding as the museum. Definitely a stop I will not soon forgot.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chenille from Scratch

Earlier this year I mentioned the handmade chenille project I had seen. It’s one of those things you read about and sort of think, ‘oh maybe I can get to that project in another life.’ I guess I’m having another life right now.

I wasn’t about to attempt a whole baby blanket at first. I knew this project take a lot of time and material (i.e. expense) so I decided to do what I am calling a sampler. It turned out to be about 15” by 24”. I am not crazy about how the binding turned out, but the chenille affect is so cool. It really works. Now I will have to make some more!

Friday, January 13, 2012

I'm Hooked!

Despite the challenge of working with a possible stretch factor I just couldn’t resist doing more patchwork like the first one. The fact that it wasn’t all measured and calculated makes in so much more fun! But it also means I can succeed at these early attempts because I wasn’t trying to follow a pattern.
I absolutely love how this table runner turned out! It’s too fun!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Sewing and Quilting?

Last fall I traveled all over the US and one stop was in Lancaster, PA. I remembered a quilt museum there from the last time I passed though and it didn’t disappoint me this time either. The quilts were truly inspiring and that’s what caused the first push into this new hobby.

This is just one of the quilts from the museum.

It was so dramatic and intriguing that I had to try to get a similar effect. However, I soon learned that sewing diagonally cut fabrics can be a bit tricky. The stretch!

My very first attempt at quilting (and patchwork) is this table runner.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Have I Been Up To?

Well, the New Year is speeding along, with or without my blogging. I’ve been busy but if I had a job I’d be a lot busier than I am now. Thankfully, I don’t have to account for the time spent Bible reading. I must say it’s a great luxury to have extra time each day for reading several chapters in different areas of the Bible. I’ve been doing a few other things too.

On Thanksgiving weekend I took up a new hobby: Quilting. I’ve learned a few new terms. For example, if you quilt something it usually means you have put layers together and sewn through then for a puffy effect. Patchwork is when you piece fabrics together. You don’t have to then quilt them, but often quilts (blankets) use both of these techniques.
In addition, I’ve taken on some other sewing projects; I wanted to try my hand and homemade chenille since it looked so intriguing when I first saw it was possible on a craft blog well over a year ago. I’ve also been into fabric bag making.

So just for fun and because I should have something to show for my time, I’ll be sharing some of these projects here in my blog. Maybe you’ll be inspired too.