Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Yarn Along

Thanks to Ginny at the beautiful blog Small Things, each week, we are able to enjoy the Yarn Along, a link up of books and knitting.  How amazing is that?  Two of the most wonderful things in the world and the most wonderful things to dream about!  I'm not sure what I like more - finding new books and dreaming about reading or finding new knitting patterns and dreaming about choosing yarn.

This week was a good one for me.  Since school finished really late this year, that means that we go back late, too.  Hooray!  I know, it makes the lead up to Christmas really busy but it means that we get a week after New Year before we go back.  I LOVE that!  Dh's family lives about 3 hours north of us and they live in an area that gets lots of snow.  That can lead to problems during winter visits and we can't risk getting stuck up north.  We very rarely get up north during the winter, especially now that the family is so busy on weekends with skating lessons and church activities.  This week and this visit has been heavenly.

One great part of the trip is that I get to do some knitting in the car.  I had started another pair of fingerless gloves but I have to be honest, working them on the 2.5 mm needles is not that much fun.  I love the close stitches but I am so afraid of dropping them and it doesn't travel well.  I did some reviewing of my "to-do" list and decided to break out an old pattern that I used a lot last year, the Gap Inspired Leg Warmers.  I made Pk three pairs last winter and several of her skating friends had hinted at pairs, too.  I had some nice yarn left from the wrap I made for Christmas so I decided that would be the colour of the first pair.  I was also really excited because the town in which Dh's family lives has a really nice yarn store that is exactly what I look for - really nice yarns that aren't too frilly or fancy, just nice basic wool and other fibres in nice colours and while not cheap by any stretch, not insanely expensive, either.  I love some of the fancy hand-dyed colourways in some exotic yarns but sadly, most are far out of my price range.  At the visit to the yarn store, I got enough to make red leg warmers, black legwarmers (the colours that Pk wants to match her skating clothes) and a really nice green to make a green and black hat (as requested by my b.i.l.)  I could have gone crazy (they had some Cascade Eco in some lovely colours and I really like using that) but I controlled myself.  We should be coming back at March Break and between now and then, I am supposed to get a baby blanket finished so there's no point in going crazy.

Reading has also been refreshing as I finished several of the books that I have been dragging through and am now onto some fresh reading.  A book that I loved years ago is one that I am rereading - Rumor Godden's In This House of Brede.  It's hard to describe but it's about an order of nuns and the complex relationships in the community.  It's a nice change.  I am also reading Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, which I LOVE.  She would not be to everyone's tastes - she's a Lutheran pastor who is covered with tattoos, has a foul mouth and a history of living life rough and she is an Enneagram 8.  On the other hand, she is the perfect mix of sarcastic, funny and with rock-solid theology and a perspective that is often very fresh and VERY wise.  She is so easy to read but I know that she wouldn't be for everyone.  If you are easily shocked or you are uber-conservative, she isn't for you but I am really enjoying her.  I liked her previous book, Pastrix, but I like this one better.

I can't wait to see what everyone else is reading and stitching!

Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Thing

Happy New Year!  I hope the year has started well for you.  For the first time that I can ever remember, we started the year at church.  I suspect that some of that comes from the fact that any bit of New Year drinking that we might have done ended YEARS ago and that we celebrate "English New Year" - we celebrate when it's New Year in England so that we can celebrate and go to bed.  It's easier to get yourself ready for church when you were in bed at ten.  

It turned out to be a wonderful way to start the year.  It was a sunny, clear morning and the sun was streaming through the windows of the church.  It was a small turnout but it was so nice to be present with our church family.  We had a potluck lunch afterwards and it was nice to get together with church family.  Our pastor's sermon was wonderful and did a terrific job of helping us to move into 2017 with our priorities aligned.  He began with Isaiah 43:17 - 18.  

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

What a wonderful thought!  I took a few minutes last night to work on my journaling Bible.  I am new to this and when everyone started colouring, I thought that people were crazy but friends have convinced me to give it a try and I must admit, I am hooked.  

Enjoy the new things of the year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

One Word 2017 - Unashamed

Some years, I struggle to find my word.  It can be a journey of listening and waiting and trying to figure out what word feels right.  That was not me this year!  Back in November, it popped into my mind one day when I was walking my dogs that I would need to start thinking about a word.  My brain started bouncing around, as it tends to do, and about four minutes later, the word "Unashamed" crashed into my head.  The second it came, I knew that was it.

I don't know whether you are familiar with The Enneagram but it is a personality typing system that several of my favourite writers/podcasters have embraced and it has made me curious.  I've done some reading and I am 99.999% sure that I am a type 3.  While I don't desire to be a leader, I have the overwhelming feeling much of the time that I am not good enough and I am always working VERY hard, not to be the best but because I am terrified of being judged to be a failure.  I hate having my photo taken because I can't standing seeing pictures of myself.  At work, unless I have gotten positive feedback in the last five minutes, I am trying harder because I feel like I am not doing a good enough job.  Now that the kids are getting older, every time someone boast to me about their children for any reason, I start to feel like we are the failures.  Pk has had some challenges in school over the last few years and we finally got testing done this fall and it turns out that she has a learning disability and is incredibly smart, so while she is as bright, if not brighter than most of the kids around her, she isn't doing terribly well in school because of a couple of things that hold her back and make it really challenging for her.  That has been something that has been really challenging for me because, as someone who wants to be thought of as nice and kind and supportive, having to fight back with the school to get her help has meant having to be "that parent" and it makes me sick to think that people are thinking badly of me.  Our house is small in a town of big houses, our cars are old and we don't go on fancy vacations.  The crazy thing is, I don't want the big house or the fancy car but I do want to learn how not to feel like we are second class because we don't have them.

The funny thing is, knowing that I am created as God made me and that these material things and opinions of other people don't matter, makes it all worse.  I feel guilty because I care about these shallow things and I let them hold me back and make be ashamed.  On top of it all, I feel guilty because it just proves that I am failure at accepting God's grace and love, as well.

So, onto 2017.  I am going to try (there, trying to avoid failure again, if I don't say it will happen for sure, I don't fail as badly if it doesn't) to accept the gift of God's grace.  I am going to try to stop the comparisons.  I am going to count my blessings, honour the gifts in my life and stop listening to the voices of approval (or disapproval).  I am going to work to be who I am regardless of whether that makes me "good enough."  I am going to work really, really, really hard to communicate to my children that they are good enough, not because I say so or that they are getting good marks but because as children of God, they already ARE good enough.  I am going to work to make choices to honour myself as the person I am and not to try to numb my feelings with food and caffeine and Facebook status "likes".  I am going to work to rediscover who I am and do something that affirms who I am and what I love each day.  It won't be easy but I can't wait to try.

I have a few specific goals:
1.  Pray every morning to start each day with a vision of myself as God's daughter.
2.  Make sound financial decisions and cut the impulse spending so that I don't need to feel guilty about the way I am using my money.
3.  Study a scripture passage each week that has some relevance to who I am and what I am.
4.  Keep a gratitude journal and savour being who God intended me to be.
5.  Make some time to do something each day that speaks to who I am and affirms me.
6.  Cut back on social media, especially Facebook.

There may be other things that I adopt as the year goes on but it's nice to feel as though I have a plan to get started.

I am looking forward to reading about other people's journeys with a word this year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Word in Review 2016 - Present

I don't know whether you have heard or not about the movement to shift away from resolutions for a new year to moving to a word.  I heard about it several years ago and I loved the idea!  I gleefully chose a word (my first word was "rest" I believe) and I had all these great plans to do all kinds of things to use that word to create a more intentional life.  I think that by the end of January, I had totally forgotten my word (the same as I am with resolutions).

I've gradually gotten better with my word and this past year, I've had the first year during which I kept hold of my word all year and I can truly say that my word HAS made a change.  It helped that when I shared the "one word" idea with my Wednesday night study group, everyone loved the idea and everyone chose their own words.  We did a check in once a month or so to discuss our words and we all brought our words forward in our lives in a different way.

My word for 2016 was "Present".  Since I had Pk and Lb, I have felt like I was being dragged along by life.  Between my very busy job (as a kindergarten teacher), heavy church involvement and the kids many, many, many activities (skating, horseback riding, Awana, piano lessons, etc.)  I so rarely get a chance to feel like I am here - I'm thinking about what is coming next and how I will make it happen or I am brooding over something that upset me or that was stressful earlier in my day.  I felt exhausted and I felt discouraged and I had the strong sense that I was missing out on life's great gifts.  Most of all, it made me feel sad.

While I can't say that I have entirely conquered the feeling of being overwhelmed and rushed, I have incorporated some practices this year that have helped.  I'm feeling a bit lazy so I think I will summarize them in a list but I can truly say that these things have really helped AND will stay with me as I move into my new word in 2017.

1.  Sabbath - I realised early on that it was really important for me to be able to build in a gift of slower at some point in the week.  I have been wanted to embrace Sabbath more fully for a variety of reasons and this seemed to overlap beautifully.  I couldn't eliminate everything on Sundays (and I am aware that in Biblical times, Sabbath was Saturday but for me, it's about having the time, not the "when" of the time).  I worked hard to eliminate the busy jobs on a Sunday that would eat up my time and I tried very hard to avoid plans or obligations if at all possible.  I did all my weekly baking on Saturdays, often putting meals in the freezer for Monday sot hat I didn't have to do prep on Sunday.  We made sure that any homework for the kids was done on Saturday.  I did my tidying on Saturdays and made sure that there were no pressing errands on Sunday.  I won't lie, at times, I had a struggle with people around me who didn't want to hear "no" and even Dh didn't always understand when I refused to go to run an errand with him on a Sunday afternoon unless it was essential.  On the other hand, I found myself having a day to breathe - a day to colour in my colouring book, to read, to have a nap, to work on my bullet journal, to play games with the kids.  It was so refreshing to have one morning a week that didn't mean immediately that I had to jump out of bed and run somewhere or establish myself in the kitchen for hours.  It was glorious!  While I have to admit that it feel off in December with all of the holiday commitments, I plan to go back to Sabbath on Sundays in 2017 and to fight for it.

2.  Morning prayer - Another thing that I knew that I needed to do was to pray more often.  I have wonderful intentions and I go in cycles of being pretty good about getting things done.  Then, something happens to throw off my routine and I cease being good entirely.  I discovered that Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals was available as an app and I made it a ritual that every morning, I spent a few minutes in prayer.  I am not always perfect at it and I have to deal with the frustration of the fact that if I don't get my few minutes in on my own BEFORE the rest of the family gets up (it doesn't matter whether they are 6 or 45, seeing that Mom is praying doesn't seem to be enough of a clue that whatever is being brought to me can wait a few minutes), I will be interrupted.  It's amazing, though, how having that little bit of time, especially to pray for other people, helps me to remember what matters and where I need to make sure that my time and my energy goes.  I am guilty of getting bogged down in the jobs and missing out the people and I am trying harder to fight that.

3.  Bullet Journal - Sometime earlier this year, I think it may have been in the spring, I caught onto bullet journaling.  I am a person who adores notebooks and really enjoys lists and organizers and my Bo-jo has helped a lot.  It was interesting, I don't remember when I started, but first, I added my word to each week's heading and then, several months ago, I started looking at the Bible for verses that had some kind of connection to being present (e.g., listening, being still, resting, quiet, etc) and I added a verse or two to each week.  Throughout the week, I reflected on that verse, what it might be to me and to my quest to slow down and on Sunday, I would record in my journal Bible, what significance this had for me over the week.  I definitely plan to keep that up with my new word (yesterday, I sat down and chose my first four weeks of verses for my new word and I know it's the right word because I am really excited!)

There's my word in a nutshell.  I don't know whether I can say that it changed my life but it certainly had more stick to it than any resolutions that I have ever made and it's been a useful tool for self-discovery for me.  I can't wait to share my new word with you tomorrow and to read what other words my friends might have chosen.

Wishing you lots of moments that fill the last bit of 2016 with joy to overflowing!  Be "present" in the moments that we still have :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2017 Reading Challenge

I know, I know, I keep talking about how amazing the podcast What Should I Read Next actually is.  You are probably sick of me raving but seriously, in terms of little highlights of my week that make me happy, this is top of the list.  She posts on Tuesdays and every Tuesday, I sneak out of work at lunchtime (well, not exactly sneak but I am pretty vigilant about making sure I get out) and walk to the pond and savour the podcast.  As often as not, I rush back to try and get onto the show notes and mark books that I want to read before the bell rings and I have to bring the class back in.  It feels almost like a guilty pleasure and a bit of a reminder of who I am in the midst of the frenzy.

Today, Anne Bogel, the host behind the podcast and the fantastic Modern Mrs. Darcy website (if you are a reader and you haven't visited MMD, you need to NOW) was sharing about the 2017 reading challenge.  Of course, I couldn't resist and I signed up.  There are two different options, a lighter reading option and a more challenging reading option and, me being me, I signed up for both.  I have had a few books burning in my brain that I must read this year and I want to get to those and then, I want to do some exploring as well.  I have been buying books as thought they might be burned if I don't stockpile them (and, given the political climate these days, I'm not sure I should even joke about that) but I have a huge stack waiting to be read.  That's not enough to stop me, though.  I NEED to get through my challenge list.

Here are a few that I am considering for 2017:
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle (a Newberry winner or nominee)  I LOVE M.L'E. but I haven't read any of these because in principle, I don't read sci-fi.  I just finished reading Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait in Many Voices and the book was referenced so much, I have decided that I must read it if I am going to claim to be her admirer.

The Emily series by L.M. Montgomery - I read these when I was young and I remember loving the first, having mixed feelings about the second and loathing the third.  Discovering that Emily was Montgomery's favourite and that so many of my favourite writers refer to these books as being on their favourites list, I must get through them.

The Ragamuffin Gospel - Brennan Manning - I keep hearing how amazing this is.

Louise Penny's Gamache series - I loved these and then, I just fell out of reading them.  I'm not sure how many I have missed but it's time to catch up.

Elena Ferante's Neopolitain Quartet - (a book in translation) - I have listened to one on Audible and LOVED it (I know these aren't for everyone) and I must finish the quartet this year.

Tana French - I keep hearing that these are marvelous and I love mysteries and since these are set in Ireland, how can I go wrong?

I'm also yearning for Scotland - I'm thinking it's time to go back to the Outlander series.  I think I've read 1 - 3, so it's time for another, I think.

What are your reading plans for 2017?  Do you have any suggestions?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I hope that your day yesterday was, in fact, very merry!  I know that Christmas, while it is often our favourite time of year, can often be fraught with emotional baggage and the pain of toxic relationships.  A friend added me to a Facebook group with a more open orientation and people were posting Christmas messages there because they were lonely - many were same sex couples whose Christmas celebrations were tainted by rejection by family members.  I can't believe how painful that must be and it makes me want to open my table to EVERYONE,  it so pains my heart to think of anyone, regardless of life choices, identity or mistakes (and please note, I am not saying that being gay is a mistake, only that many people have made mistakes of various kinds!) that families are unable to forgive.  Christmas should not be a time of exclusion or loneliness.

Anyway, back from that tangent.  Our Christmas was lovely overall, a few bumps along the road but nothing that was entirely unexpected and nothing that I would say ruined Christmas for us.  Extended family always has its challenges, especially when said family doesn't have young children and forgets that Christmas is a time of joy and excitement (or when relatives related to our in-laws arrive unexpectedly and while we enjoy their company, clearly not everyone feels the same way that we do and things get TENSE).  Anyway, I thought I would share a few of my very favourite moments and reflections of Christmas.

If you've been around here much, you know that I have been frantically knitting blankets for each of my children's favourite stuffies (and we are most certainly a stuffy family).  Rabbity and Foxy are now cozily wrapped up in their blankets of love and everyone was very excited by these very simple gifts.  It really warms my heart.

Age seems to be irrelevant in our circle of friends and one of our dearest visits each Christmas morning, dressed as Father Christmas, and brings a sack full of the toys for the kidlets and then, we overeat bacon and eggs.  Her husband died five years ago and Christmas suddenly became very lonely for her.  She had extended family that would welcome her but she felt lost.  She decided that Christmas is for children and she was going to use mine as her "rent-a-grandkids."  We LOVE this tradition (other than that it became clear, through a very confusing conversation, that LB thinks that she is the real Santa and is very perplexed by it all - Dh says we are just giving him a strong need for therapy later in life).  Anyway, it is a beautiful way to start the day and a tradition that we all look forward to very much!

As you can see, bacon, egg and toast is Lb's favourite breakfast and was a perfect way to celebrate.

Church on Christmas morning was also something that we really enjoyed.  In the past, our church didn't do a service on Christmas and this is the first time that we have been at a church that did.  It seemed like a perfect way to honour the birth of Jesus and it worked out beautifully.  After our friend left, we got dressed and headed to church in jeans and cozy boots and bearing stuffies.  It was a "cinnamon bun and coffee" service and everyone was invited to bring their munchies and drinks right into the sanctuary and enjoy as we sang favourite carols, praised the birth of our Lord and listened to the importance of the "indescribable gift" (2 Cor 9:15) and how to be gifts ourselves.  It was absolutely lovely and I couldn't have asked for me.

LB is in a very large fox stage and as part of his gifts, "Foxy" gained several new friends (who have been named Toxy, Poxy and Soxy).  LB felt that they needed to visit the baby, too, and since it was a barn and there are animals there, they would be welcome.

Most of all, I have just been overcome by a feeling of gratitude.  Our Christmas is not the most elaborate and I have always been envious of big families and crazy but filled-with-love gatherings that some families have.  We don't have an overabundance of gifts (although we all do very well, thank you).  We don't do expensive trips and it's always a tight squeeze since none of us live in huge homes with professionally arranged decor.  All that being said, though, I am so blessed to have loving family, really, really, really kind and generous friends (and a few very, very thoughtful gifts that reflected that the giver knew me well meant a great deal to me) and cozy traditions the treasure made it a Christmas filled with joy and awe for me.  I am such a lucky woman and I hope that your celebration has reminded you of the many blessings in your life, as well!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

I couldn't ask for more from Christmas Eve.  We had a wonderful early service at our church (and this is the non-traditional but beautiful Advent wreath for this year) and as always, our minister did a terrific job making it a family friendly service that was also meaningful for we grown ups.  They thought of everything, including battery candles and glow sticks for the kids rather than worrying about the kids setting each other or the church on fire!

We had a really lovely dinner with friends.  They have very little family and we make it a point of doing Christmas Eve together as a kind of friends/family tradition.  As always, I made a meat pie (and I have to say, I do make a FANTASTIC meat pie) and we exchanged gifts.  It was really touching because there was so much thought put into the gifts by everyone and it was clear that people were happy and touched.

We came home and did our usual Christmas jammies and photos with animals and kids (which is always good for a laugh - we are a bit concerned that the cat may seek revenge tonight, though).

 Now, the grown-ups are helping Santa put the finishing touches on the gifts and then, it's off to bed.  It's funny, by Christmas morning, I already feel like Christmas is done.  I think of everything as happening in the dark and the light of morning seems less magical.

For all who are celebrating, I wish you a day of love, laughter and gratitude, the kind that takes your breath away as your come to appreciate just how many blessings you enjoy.  I had that moment this morning, when I reflected on the generosity and kindness of a few friends over that last couple of days.  I may be an introvert but I have been gifted with some amazing people in my life.  I hope you are awed by your blessings today and always.

Our Saviour is born!