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Friday, April 30, 2010

Why I Knit

"Knitting [...] was a comfort to the soul. It was regular, it was repetitious. And, in the end, it amounted to something."
-Jan Karon (At Home in Mitford)

I almost feel like I could stop here, and let the above quote be my explanation for why I knit. It sums up in just a few words the beauty of the craft I've adopted as my own, without belittling it. A while ago, I wrote about how I first learned to knit and the about the people knitting brought into my life, so I won't bore you by repeating that story. But I why I fell in love with knitting and spend so much of my time doing it, that story deserves a little explanation. 

More than once I've heard fellow knitters describe knitting as mediative, and I must agree with them. There is something very soothing about the receptive motion of making a stitch. Whenever I am nervous or upset, knitting few rows will often take the edge off my feelings. When I'm feeling confused about something, or hurt, I pick up my needles. They don't have secrets; they are simple tools that allow me to create works that sometimes surprise even me.

While I often knit while watching TV, and love that knitting is an activity I can engage in while still holding a conversation, there are times that just sitting alone and in silence while knitting can be more of an escape for me than reading (which is saying something). I also find that, for me, knitting can be a spiritual activity. It settles my mind and clears away the inner turmoil, allowing me to hear that "still small voice". And when I'm not knitting for myself, I pray for the future owner of whatever I'm working on. May this scarf bring warmth, may this blanket bring comfort.

And, as the quotation also says, knitting amounts to something. It takes a simple piece of twisted fibre and creates something else- something greater. In a knitted piece, the whole is surely greater than the parts. I love the act of creating things in words, but can sometimes become frustrated when I can't bring a story to a proper conclusion, or my characters get away from me. In knitting, I have a definite end. A finished, complete project, with no trailing prepositions. There is something wonderful about that.

So in the end, I guess I just elaborated on the quotation I began with, because it's right. Ultimately, I knit because it is truly a comfort to the soul.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Miss me?

I've been bad, I admit it. I've missed two days of blogging this week, and I apologize. I've been unusually busy and, as a result, not getting enough sleep, and decided that rest had precedence over blogging. I am, however, back to my regular self, and will resume blogging as usual on Friday. (that was a remarkable number of commas for just 4 sentences, wasn't it?)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Creative Gifting

If you are a knitter (or any other kind of crafter) there will likely come a time when you start knitting all your gifts. Do this enough, and it becomes an expectation. Do this too much, and well, when deadlines get tight, you have to get a little creative (how do you nicely present one sock?)

Well, somehow or the other, my Mom's birthday snuck up me and the lovely...something...I was planning to knit her for the occasion didn't even get cast on. Instead, she got this:


I told her it was a gift of "potential".

So, what have you done when a project isn't finished (or even started!) on time?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Track Meet

I've been helping coach middle school track, and the kids had a meet today. They did great, and I'm so proud of them, but I am beat. So, it's off to bed for me. I'll owe you a post.

Monday, April 19, 2010

67 Books Recap

I want to start off by saying that Brian Feldman did an amazing job organizing 67 Books, from getting permission to use the Orlando Public Library's roof, to lining up sponsors to support the workers, volunteers, and readers. (You also should check out Thomas Thorspecken's post on 67 Books)

For those who missed my previous post, 67 Books was a project designed to bring awareness to National Library Week, and for 67 hours (the number of hours the library is open during the week) 67 readers read from 67 books (not all at once). I wish I could have been there all week, but I did manage to see quite a few readers live and several more online. I was also lucky enough to get to be one of the readers.

I asked you to choose which which book I should read from the roof of the library, and ended up with a tie between Madeline L'engle's A Ring of Endless Light and C.S. Lewis' Perelandra (I've blogged about this book before here). Since Amanda C. read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, I decided to read Perelandra.

Reading out loud is an unique experience in and of itself. If you haven't ever done so, I'd encourage you to try it. But reading out loud to an audience- that's a whole different story.

I read chapters 6-7 of Perelandra in my 1 hour time slot. Chapter 7 is where the main character, Ransom, encounters, in a sense, the Devil, in the form of a man named Weston. They engage in a philosophical dialouge, and it was that dialogue I wanted to read, both because I thought it was worth sharing and, to be honest, because I thought it would make for a dramatic reading.

But what I wasn't counting on was the impact reading it aloud would have on me. When I read, I tend to comprehend chunks of texts at a time. But reading out loud forced me to read each and every word, and as I read them, I found myself caught up in them like never before. I had always disagreed with Weston's arguments in chapter 7, but for the first time I found myself truly frightened by them.

I was actually startled to realize that I was standing on the roof of the library shouting "I am the Universe. I, Weston, am your God and your Devil". I wanted to stop reading and call out to the people walking by to stop and wait, because there was more they should hear, though I didn't.

It was an amazing experience, and while it may have been intended to impact the audience members, it truly impacted me. Maybe I'll make it point to slow down read out loud from time to time.

Pictures:




Friday, April 16, 2010

KnitGyver

My Grandfather on my Mom's side of the family was a bit of a carpenter, and once built us this:

It's a winder for kite string, with a handle to hold onto. Ever since I've started buying yarn in hanks (as opposed to center-pull balls), I've been eyeing it. Surely, surely, I thought, there must be a way to convert this into a ball winder.

Now, I've had a swift for a while, and find it very useful for keeping my yarn from tangling while I wind it by hand. And, truth be told, I very much enjoy winding my yarn by hand. I feel like it gives me a chance to really get to know a yarn before I knit with it. But then I bought this beauty:

It's "Bamboo Fingering"a bamboo/cotton blend from The Great Adirondack Yarn Company in "Amethyst". It's soft, has beautiful, vibrant colours, and comes in 990 yard hanks.

990 yards! I like hand winding, but that is a bit too much. So, I decided it was time to try to Macgyver a ball winder.

I assembled my tools: Kite string holder, cardboard tube, plastic wine cork, hair ties, rubber-bands, and scissors. 

And I put them together like this:


And started to wind. Sure, it was making more of a center-pull football than a center-pull ball, but it would work, and was going much faster than winding be hand. So, I put on a TV show, and happily wound away, checking my work every now and then. But not, it soon became evident, often enough.

Somehow, the loops of yarn started to slide under each other, and before long, I had this:
One big tangle. 

I've managed to untangle most of it, and am now at the point that I know I can untangle the rest without sacrificing any of the yarn. Still, it was rather disappointing to have my little invention fail. I guess I'l be investing in a real winder soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Corporate 5k is tomorrow...

So no post tonight.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Creativity on Demand

Tonight, as I sat down to write this, I felt I had writers' block. Yes, I know some people deny the existence of writers' block, or at least discourage the use of the term, and I can understand their point, but the fact is, whether you're writing or doing something else, it can be very difficult to be creative on demand.

This difficulty is something I know pretty well, both as a blogger, and at my job. Working in social media demands a certain amount of constant creativity- if you turn it off, you risk losing your audience. And since in the business world your audience is often your customers, that's not a good thing.

Mind you, I don't think it's ever good to think of social media solely as playing to an audience. It's about connecting to people and interacting with them (see this blog post for my views on social media). But when you are acting as a company and not an individual, the divide between you and the people you interact with is greater, and there is very much a sense that your company is in the spotlight. And as everyone knows, when you're in the spotlight, you're expected to perform.

So how do you keep up a performance day in and day out? I think the most important thing is that you truly believe in what is you are presenting, be it a company, a product, or yourself. People crave genuineness, and that's something that can't be faked. If you have to fake it, you might as well give up now, because sooner or later you will slip up, and if you aren't genuine, you won't be able to recover.

Likewise, you should play to your strengths. I've sometimes been told that you should "write what you know" and I think this is a broader way of expressing the same thought. Are you good at understanding others? How about interpreting other people's ideas? Do people find you funny? Is your gift with words, paint, or some other medium? Find what you're good at, and let it shine.

But at the same time, it's important to be willing to step outside your comfort zone. In fact, I believe that its when you're outside your comfort zone that you're the most creative. It requires you to think on your feet, and to draw on all your strengths. Maintaining creativity is about finding a balance of pushing what you're capable of without going so far that you fall off the edge.

I'm not sure where I'm going with all this, except that I sat down to write today with no topic on my mind. I do know the challenges of having to be creative even at times you don't feel like it, and will be the first to admit that I sometimes (okay, often) fail to rise to the challenge.  That being said, a lapse in creativity can be forgiven; a refusal to be genuine can not.

(I really need some sort of tag-line to end my posts with)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Socks

You know you have too many projects on the needles when...you've run out of needles to put new projects on. Which is where I found myself about a month ago.  So I made a promise. No more starting new projects until I finished what I had already started. And I've done pretty well. Until this week.

No, I didn't break my promise- I've not started anything new, despite a bag of yarn waiting to become a sweater, and a beautiful bamboo blend waiting to be wound. But I've also barely done any knitting. Why? Because I have three projects left: K's hat, the Acorn Hat, and my college roommate's other sock. 

Now the Acorn Hat, I willingly admit I'm avoiding because I'm done with the knitting part and just need to sew it- and I don't particularly enjoy sewing (ask my Mom about all the half-finished sewing projects I left when I moved out for college). 

But K's hat is a different story. I'm delaying on finishing that because once its done, all I'll have left to knit on is the sock. 

It's not that it's a bad sock. I like the colour. I like the pattern. I think it works well, and I've already knit one, so I'm not overly concerned about any difficulties I might encounter while making it. It's just that...well...it's a sock.

Now, I know many knitters who constantly sing the praises of the Sock. It's small and portable, there is an endless variety of beautiful yarn made just for it, it knits up quick. But I just can't see it. I've made one pair of socks, three quarters of another sock, and the mate of the sock I'm currently working on it. I love sock yarn (who doesn't) and have no problem kitting in the round (I love making hats), and have no issues with small needles. And yet, inexplicably, I find that I absolutely cannot stand knitting socks. And so to paraphrase Catullus:

"I knit, I purl. Perhaps you ask why I hate to knit socks.
I do not know. I only know what I feel, and I am tortured".

P.S. "Sock" starts to look very odd if you type it enough times.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

No Party Affiliation

I submitted this as an opinion column to Mercer's student paper during the elections- it still seems appropriate today. 

My Democratic friends find me to be conservative, and my Republican friends think I’m liberal. I like to call myself moderate, and so when it came time for me to register to vote, the box I chose was “No Party Affiliation”. It’s a common misconception that people with “moderate” views don’t have strong opinions on political issues, but nothing could be further from the truth. I am very opinionated and extremely firm in my beliefs, as anyone unfortunate enough to be in hearing distance during one of my rants about the public school system can vouch. What I don’t believe in, however, is voting along party lines. On some issues, I take a very conservative view; on others my opinions are quite liberal. And on some of the biggest issues, I hold neither party’s view, but take an extreme middle-line stand.

It frightens me when I hear people define their political views as those of either the Democratic or Republican party. I have to wonder if such people are truly aware of the issues at stake, or if they blindly fill out their ballots the way their chosen party told them to. The truth of the matter is, America’s bi-party system allows an easy way for voters to be lazy by allowing people to believe they are performing their civic duty of voting, without first performing a much more important action – thinking. And as America becomes more and more divided between parties, the problem is just going to get worse.

Perhaps one of the saddest signs of the growing blindness of American voters is the invasion of religion not just into political issues, but into political parties. It is one thing for an individual’s religion to influence where he stands on various issues, but quite another problem when one is told that she must support such-and-such a party by a religious leader. With religion determining party lines, Americans just have one more excuse not to think before they vote.

At the root of the problem, I believe, is the fact that we only have two strong political parties. The natural result of this division is that in order to better challenge their opposition, each party is forced to take only extreme views on the issues that face this country. Either war is right, or war is wrong. Abortion should be legal, or it should be illegal.  The Democrats must present the opposite opinion of the Republicans and vice-versa. Consequently, when it comes time for Election Day, voters only have a choice between two extremes or, as the saying goes, the lesser of two evils.

What I and, I imagine, other moderates would like to see is the emergence of a strong third party, one that reconciles many of the ideals and extremes of the Republicans and Democrats. There are, admittedly, many so-called “third-parties” already, but none of them have the political clout to challenge the two established groups. And so, for this presidential election at least, most American will be choosing to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Will I be voting in the upcoming election? Of course. Will I be voting for a moderate third-party? Sadly, no, because I know that such a vote will ultimately count for very little. But I’m still hoping that eventually a strong third-party will emerge. After all, who doesn’t like more parties? 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

This post is for you...no, really, it is


I've been thinking about my blog lately. What started as a simple way for me to keep my friends and family up-to-date with my life while I was studying abroad has grown into, well, something else. And in a lot of ways, it's no longer my blog. This isn't a bad thing. I've always felt that once you've written something and shown it someone, it ceases to be solely yours, as the reader now has some ownership in it. And as my blog now has readers (more than ever before), I think it's time you had some ownership in it.

So, I'd like to ask for your feedback on my blog, what works, what doesn't, what you would like to see more/less of, etc.

To get you started thinking, I've come up with a few questions you can answer if you're so inclined.

1. What topic(s) do you most like reading about that I currently write about (e.g. knitting, running, poetry, stories)?

2. What subjects would like to see me write more about (e.g. philosophy, Classics, my activities, etc). Are there any new topics you would like to see?

3. What would like to see me write less about?

4. Would you like me have a day where I let you (the readers) pick the topic I write on (options include adding another blogging day to my week, posting on reader topics on Monday, picking one day a month to write on reader chosen content, any other ideas you might have).

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog, and I look forward to reading your feedback!

P.S. Perelandra and the Iliad are currently tied for which book I read from the roof of the library- if you haven't voted, please do so :)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Easter



Twas the night before Easter; I thought it a poor lot,
That Christmas should have a poem, while Easter did not.
So I took up some paper and took up a pen,
And set about writing that I might make amends.

I wondered ‘bout the difference ‘twixt the Holidays,
That one was quiet, and the other a mad craze.
Santa has stockings, and wild preparations;
Easter is greeted with a few decorations.

At Christmas the presents are stacked under the trees,
You’re able to find them and open them with ease.
At Easter there are eggs hidden out in the yard,
For just a little candy you search pretty hard.

But surely Christmas and Easter are about more
Than just Santa and Bunnies and other such lore.
Surely I can find out some deep hidden reason,
To explain the difference between the two seasons.

In the dark of Winter, Christmas promises Life,
A season of hope amidst a season of strife.
And along with the advent of the Savior’s birth,
Comes tidings of peace, of goodwill, joy, and of mirth.

Easter is in the Spring when all the world flowers,
A time to rejoice in the Life that is ours.
And when the dark Death of Winter is left behind,
A new kind of rebirth is promised to mankind.

For though Christmas starts with birth, there is Death to come;
In the end it’s Easter that is Death overcome.
For the Life of Christmas lasts for just a short time,
But the Life that Easter brings is forever thine.

So while the Christmas celebration can be wild,
Leaving Easter, in contrast, to seem rather mild,
I believe that I can say without any doubt,
Easter, my friend, is what Christmas is all about.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Tradition

In the almost four years I've had this blog, I've posted the following story every year around Easter. So I figure by now its not so much repetition as it is a tradition. So here, for those of you haven't read it, is an Easter story. I wrote it, but the original idea came from a Bible Study I went to in college.


The Prisoner
The prisoner lay on his back, a thin pallet of straw the only thing separating him from the cold stone floor of his cell. The first rays of sunlight were filtering in through the tiny barred window near the ceiling, and as he watched, the rays began to travel across the small room. Determinedly, he shut his eyes, trying to fall back asleep. It had been a restless night. Instead of quiet, the night had been filled with the shouts and the comings and goings of travelers. Had he wanted to, he could have dragged the bed to one of the dark corners the sun didn’t reach, but already the sounds of people beginning the day’s work interrupted the sleepy stillness of the morning.

Resigning to the fact that his sleep was indeed over, the prisoner opened his eyes, revealing the ceiling, who’s every inch had been under his scrutiny the past few days. When first arrested, he had spent his days walking the perimeter of his cell, but that had only served to remind him how small it really was. Soon the prisoner had discovered that by lying still on his mat he could allow his mind to wander outside the constraints of the cell and join the hustle and bustle of the city outside. Today though, the sounds were different. There was a concentration of sound just a little ways away from the prison, and he could hear the sound growing. People were gathering for something.

Allowing his mind to wander, he began to imagine what could be going on outside. Was it some Roman spectacle? Acrobats perhaps? Gladiators? While he pictured the carnival-like scene, the sounds grew louder, then suddenly stopped. Straining his ears, the prisoner could just make out a low mumbling of voices, which the whole crowd seemed to be listening to. Was this a play then? But what an odd place for one, next to the jail. The voices stopped and once again the people in the crowd began to talk amongst themselves. Despite his best efforts, the prisoner was unable to make out the topic of all the excitement.

Once again, the dull roar of the crowd stopped and the two voices resumed. This happened several more times. And as the prisoner listened, the crowd grew more and more agitated. Finally, the crowd became quiet once again and he could just barely make out a single voice talking. Then, a roaring wave of sound built up, startling the prisoner into a sitting position. They were shouting his name. His name. What on earth had happened that this giant crowd was talking about him? What could this possibly mean? It had been weeks since his trial, and since then the only people who ever thought of him were the guards who brought his food.

The prisoner stiffened as the crowd once again fell silent. What were they talking about? The bright carnival images were far from his mind now that he had discovered that he was the topic of all this discussion. He strained his ears, desperate to learn what was happening. Once again he could hear the lone voice speaking, followed by the shouting of the crowd. It started as a jumble of voices, but quickly formed itself into a chant which froze the prisoner’s blood. Crucify him. They shouted. Crucify him.

Overwhelmed by the sound, he curled into a ball, pressing his hands against his ears. The chanting subsided, but the shouts didn’t. People continued running back and forth and strange sounds echoed off the walls of the cell. The prisoner was ignorant of it all, caught up as he was in thoughts of his fate. He just couldn’t understand it. Of course, he had known what his punishment was to be. Even before the verdict had been given he had known. A man was only brought before the Roman court for one reason. He had no confusion about that. No. What he couldn’t understand was the anger. Where had the crowd been during his trail? There had been no shouting or chanting. The only one who had felt any real feelings about the trial had been the prisoner himself. So where had this crowd come from? Why did everyone suddenly want to see him dead?

His thoughts were abruptly driven from his mind at the sound of keys in the lock. His muscles grew rigid as he curled up even smaller. Death, he thought, he might be ready for. But not this. The angry chant of the crowd had seared itself to his brain. He knew he couldn’t face the mob that was waiting for him. He resisted the tug of the soldier trying to pull him up and found himself begging. “Please. Please. No.” The soldier jerked him impatiently.

“Aren’t you listening? You’re free!” The prisoner stared at the soldier in disbelief, and then looked at the open door of the cell. He made a split second decision and sprinted out of the prison and into the street.

He didn’t get very far. As soon as he got onto the streets, the prisoner was swept up by the pressing crowd. At first, he was terrified. What would the crowd do to him? But to his surprise, they ignored him. Not wanting to press his luck, he followed along, trying to blend into the parade of people making their way towards Golgatha. As he joined the crowd, he wondered if he was really doing the smartest thing. After all, he was walking directly towards the place the angry mob had wanted to drag him just a few hours ago. Even as he thought of changing his mind, it was too late. The press of the crowd had dragged him forward and there was no fighting against it.

As they reached the hill, the prisoner froze, causing the people behind him to stumble into each other to avoid knocking him and one another down. Still the prisoner did not move, transfixed by the sight before him. A man was being crucified. As he watched the man’s hands being nailed to the cross, he could feel the pain in his own hands. The cross was raised and he watched as people threw themselves forward, crying and clutching at their clothes. Sinking to his knees, the prisoner joined them, his fists crushed so tight that blood oozed out from between his fingers. He didn’t understand what was going on, who this man was or how he had ended up on the cross. But there was one thing he did know. That man on the cross was the wrong one. The cross on the hill had been built for him. Someone had made a mistake and crucified the wrong man. Tears filled the eyes of the prisoner, and he wept for the man who was being punished in his stead.

Late that night, even after the man was taken down from the cross, the prisoner
 was still kneeling in the field. There had been a sign above the man, one the prisoner couldn’t understand. It had read King of the Jews. What sort of king was this? The Jewish people were under the rule of the Roman Empire. Who was this man who had been punished so severely? Was he truly a king? And from what kingdom? As the first rays of light filled the morning sky, the prisoner arose from the ground, stretching muscles sore from kneeling so long. As he walked down the hill, the prisoner made up his mind. Somehow, he would find the family of this man and explain to them what had happened. About the mistake that had been made. And he would ask them for forgiveness.

Matthew 37:20-23 NRSV, emphasis added
20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ 22Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’* All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ 23Then he asked, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!