Friday, February 12, 2016

The Mystery in the Cemetery

My sister texted me this afternoon and instructed me to go to the local cemetery at 3:30 and await further instructions.  Whaaaat?  Has she been reading too many Nancy Drew novels?  But - Big Sis said go, so I went.

That's my car, parked at the cemetery gate.  Beautiful day for sitting in a graveyard!

I received further instructions via text:  my contact would arrive in a gold Pontiac within ten minutes.  A clandestine meeting with a stranger in a cemetery?  I questioned if I needed to flash my lights or otherwise signal the mysterious Pontiac, so they would know "it's on".  (Maybe I've seen The Hangover too many times.)  Surely he/she would need a way to identify me among all the other cars parked in the cemetery at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon.  Sis thought a cheerful smile and wave would be the perfect signal.

So I waited . . . I assessed all the entrances and exits, in case I needed to make a quick escape . . . I synchronized my watch with the car clock . . . I checked the reception on my shoe phone (if you are too young to recognized the reference, check NetFlix for Get Smart reruns) . . . I read some headstones . . . until a gold van turned into the drive.  "The Pontiac has landed", I texted Sis.  The van door slid open and out came . . .

. . . an undercover florist! 
Well, maybe not so undercover, since I knew her, but she did step out holding these beautiful roses -- for me!  

So why is the florist delivering my flowers in a cemetery?  Because I live in the boonies.  The florist is located in a town about 10 miles from my house and they don't normally make deliveries to rural addresses.  But, she had promised a distant customer she would deliver a Valentine wreath to their loved-one's grave in the cemetery near my house, so she agreed to deliver my arrangement at the same time.  Only in a small town!

Thank you, Sis, for setting up a little intrigue for your mystery-loving sister and cheering up my afternoon. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Knit On . . .

My fascination with knitting continues.  I am sticking to beginner level stuff until I am more confident, but that fits well with my short attention-span and ensuing love for small projects.  This week, I tried a couple new dishcloth patterns.

First is the "Almost Lost Washcloth".  I'm sure it has another name, but that's what the lovely ladies at Simply Notable call their version. I enjoy this pattern because it is nothing but basic knitting, but produces a finished project that looks much more complicated. You can find a link to the pattern for the smaller version on the same site.


Next was the "Rudy Cloth" from Down Cloverlaine.  I think the pattern is adorable, but the design is actually kind of hard to see in reality.  Even though it's just knit and purl, it's a confusing pattern to follow because each row is different.  Since the pattern doesn't show up well (or at all) while you're working, it's easy to get off.  Not conducive to TV watching while knitting.  There are dozens of other picture designs out there, so I may give this idea another try, but it's not at the top of my list.


What are you knitting, sewing or crafting this week?  Visit our host, Heather @ Books & Quilts, to link to Needlework Tuesday and see what others are creating.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Though She Be But Little . . .


Image courtesy of balmtomysoul.com


"Top Ten Tips for bringing out the best in a strong-willed child"

"The tools you need to successfully manage your child’s behavior"

"Time-proven methods for dealing with misbehavior"

These are just a sampling of the promises made by books for parents raising a strong-willed child.  Twenty-some years ago, we read them all - and laughed.  These people did not have a clue what "strong-willed" meant.  We were raising a daughter that took "power struggles" to a level these authors couldn't conceive.  

I don't mean to give you a picture of a demon-child with glowing eyes and her head spinning around backwards.  She was (and still is) a beautiful girl who was loving, compassionate and just plain adorable.  But when she made up her mind to do (or not do) something, her will became an impenetrable wall, and I spent hours, days, weeks pounding my head against that wall.  

In spite of our frustration, we understood that her strength and determination were part of how God created her; and since He does not do things randomly, He had a reason beyond what we could see.  About age 17, she began to mature into her iron will, and emerged from college as a woman who can focus that resolve.  Along the way, I learned to avoid the self-inflicted headaches and marvel at the things she can accomplish.


Amanda now works for a treatment foster care agency.  Her clients are the children who have been so severely abused and neglected that they require therapy and more specialized care than standard foster care can provide.  There are no words for the level of depravity and torture these little ones have endured.  Advocating for these children is a stressful and painful job, and I fear for the physical and mental effects it has on Amanda, but I also stand in awe.  

Amanda called a few weeks ago to tell us that she had been offered a promotion.   Her boss praised her as "a natural" at this job - for not being afraid to stand up and have a voice.  And there it was - the reason God created our strong-willed child. The "impenetrable wall" that wore me out now stands between innocent children and the people who have irrevocably harmed them.  It stands against a system that is so overloaded that what is best for the children often gets drown out by what is expedient.

Would I prefer that she had a different career?  Yes and no.  Of course I would prefer that my beautiful, petite girl have days filled with sunshine and butterflies - that she never even know that this evil exists.  But I wouldn't deny the strong, determined woman the chance to use the compassion and fire that God placed in her.


"Though she be but little, she is fierce" 
- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Old Dogs and New Tricks

Who says an old dog can't learn a new trick?  I have been whining for years that I wish I could knit.  I learned the very basics as a teenager, but never pursued it.  I picked it up again a couple years ago, but got frustrated and quit.  I guess the third time really is a charm.   After hours and hours of knitting and "un-knitting" the same yarn just for practice, I am finally able to do four basic stitches . . . and I am OBCESSED!

Dish cloths/wash cloths seemed like a simple and usable way to practice, so I've tried several patterns.  The first few had some pattern issues.  Actually, they had some issues with my ability to follow the pattern.


Eventually I struck on this diagonal pattern that is so easy to do, even I can't mess it up (at least not much).  


My favorite design so far is this lattice pattern.  It makes a thicker, textured cloth that is better for scrubbing. 


The original pattern includes a crocheted picot edge that gives the cloths a fancier look, but this old dog can only handle one new trick at a time. 

This post is part of "Needlework Tuesday" hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Blooming with Grace


Recently, I told God my plan and He said "I don't think so, Tam!  I want you to stay where you are a little longer and learn to bloom where I have planted you."  What's a girl to do?  Can't very well ask for guidance then argue with His directions, so I'm blooming right here - at least I'm working on it. 

            

A few weeks later, my sister challenged me to find a word to act as a "theme" for the coming year.  I have sort of done this in previous years - 2014 focused on change (graduations, weddings, etc); 2015 was supposed to be focused on "growth" (mine) from stagnant mom to intentionally, moving forward and re-discovering me.  But, I didn't really have a vision for what I want or expect in 2016.  Stay with me - this is going to connect in a minute.



Next, I was browsing Pinterest for a picture or graphic with the words "Bloom where you're planted" to use as a background on my cell phone - kind of a reminder.  I ran across the beautiful image above.  Because it's landscape rather than portrait format, it didn't work for my phone, but it is just so pretty!  It made me curious about the "The Life of Faith" website that is imprinted on it.  I was surprised to find that the title refers to the actual life of a woman named Faith.  

Specifically, the link took me to a post from 2012 in which Ms. Faith was receiving her own "bloom where you're planted" message from God.  She quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12: 
"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.  You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and you will not be dependent on anybody."
How did that verse speak to me?  Let me count the ways:  
  1. A quiet life - This has been my ambition for several years - in several forms:
    •  To live quietly in a "non-flashy, non-attention grabbing" way;
    •  a more literal choice to turn off the TV  and other background noise of life;
    •  and in a "shut your yap" kind of way - "Be quick to listen, slow to speak" (James 1:19)
  2. Work with your hands -  sewing, gardening, crafts, cooking, housework
  3. Win the respect of outsiders - Let Christ's light shine through me and around me as an example to our children, friends, employees . . .
  4. Not be dependent on anybody - Another goal since we purchased our own business at the beginning of 2015.  Dave is gone long hours and I have taken on not only the bookkeeping and cooking for the business, but responsibilities at home that were formerly his.  This verse seemed to be telling me that I could handle it.
Still with me?  I promise it all comes together in the end like an A-Team plan.



I began searching for scripture references to "blooming" and ran across this sermon from Deer Park United Methodist Church, in which the writer looks deeper into "bloom where you're planted" by examining it's parts:

bloom -  An action - participation is required - involving your abilities, your will to grow.

where you are - Not just your house or your job or your city, but everywhere your life takes place. Where you exist. All of the things which surround us, each day---the good and the bad, some that we had no part in choosing.

planted - It implies Someone, outside of ourselves, purposely placing us exactly where we are.  An act that requires a lot of care; a lot of thought; and a lot of hope.  He chose this place as the perfect place for this hidden, non-descript, little capsule of life to blossom into the world as something bigger and more beautiful.

The author referenced the words of Jeremiah, spoken to those who had been exiled into slavery. In this moment, God’s people are stranded in a foreign place. Their temple destroyed. Their sacred space in ruins. Their lives in a place they’d never expected.  And Jeremiah tells them to bloom where they are planted - build houses, plant gardens, get married and have children.
 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on it - Jeremiah 29:7
He told them to live fruitfully in that seemingly barren place, and spread the goodness they can make of their lives, into the life around them.



I returned to Pinterest and continued my search for a picture for my phone.  This time I found a slight variation which, evidently, is a French proverb:  "Wherever life plants you, bloom with grace."  Don't just bloom - bloom with grace.  Isn't that pretty?  It conjures images of Grace Kelly in that breath-taking black and white gown from the movie "Rear Window" - The picture of elegance and . . . well. .  .Grace.  I have always wanted to be like Grace Kelly - I want to bloom with grace.



Here's the big finale - the part where all the parts fall into place to reveal one coherent picture.  

              • God's response to my plan
              • My sister's challenge
              • A 3-year-old blog post by a total stranger.
              • A sermon from an unknown pastor in an unknown church.
              • A French proverb
These five random things brought me to my "word" for the upcoming year - grace.   I will never have the beauty of Grace Kelly. I will never have the graceful movement of Fred Astaire.  But grace comes with a variety of definitions:
  • Poise, dignity - "She is clothed with strength and dignity" - Proverbs 31:25
  • To do honor or credit to (grace with your presence) - "Her husband has full confidence in her . . . her children arise and call her blessed." - Proverbs 31:11, 28
  • Courteous good will, decency, respect (have the grace to...) - "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." - Matthew 7:12
  • The condition of being favored (in good graces) - "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart; then you will win favor and a good name with God and in the sight of man." - Proverbs 3:3-4
  • A period of rest or relief from something difficult; respite (grace period) - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28
  • A prayer of thanksgiving and/or blessing - "And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it..." - Luke 22:19
  • A form of address for royalty (Your Grace) - "And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6  "Since we are his children, we are his heirs" - Romans 8:17  If I am a fellow heir with the Prince of Peace, I am also royalty.
  • To be attractive, adorn (grace the cover of a magazine) - "The unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" - 1 Peter 3:4
To be graceful and gracious, as defined by these scriptures, is my desire; and is only possible through the God's amazing grace:
  • The free, unmerited favor of God - "For it is by grace you are saved" - Ephesians 2:8
Wishing you all a grace-filled new year!



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Needlework Tuesday

These Christmas ornaments are not technically "needlework", since there is no sewing involved.  But, since they involve cutting, folding and pressing - close enough.  Fabric squares are folded in half, then into triangles, and pinned into place on styrofoam balls, then the raw edges are covered with ribbon.  Specific instructions are easy to find on Pinterest.


Most of my real stitching this week has been dedicated to making pot holders.  I donated these potholders to a benefit auction at church and one of the ladies there asked me to make sixteen more for her to give as Christmas gifts.  I have 10 left to top-stitch and they are complete. They would have been done sooner, but I got sidetracked by the idea of a "10 Minute Quilt Block".  I saw a video that showed a short-cut method to producing a 20-inch quilt block in 10 minutes.  Theoretically, you could make an entire throw-size quilt top (9 blocks = 60" x 60") in 90 minutes.  In reality, it's possible if you were starting with pre-cut 10" squares and are familiar with the method.  Add in the time it took me to find enough scrap pieces 10x10" or larger, cut them, watch the tutorial again, rip out a few mistakes . . . I still had a 60x60" quilt top assembled in an afternoon.  

Sorry for the poorly lit picture, but you get the idea.
The fabrics are all remnants from favorite projects.  I was hoping for thirty-six different fabrics, not including the black and white center squares, but came up a bit short.   I think there are two fabrics that are repeated.  After I took the picture, I added a border from the same black fabric used for the centers.  It's going to get backed with flannel and tied for a cuddly, TV-watching blanket.  

If you want to try the 10-Minute Block, just search for it on You-Tube.  The same lady also came up with a 5-Minute Block.  This time I purchased a "layer cake" of pre-cut squares.  I only have four squares completed so far.  Hopefully I'll have a finished quilt top to show you next week.

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts.  Visit her to see what she and other participants are stitching this week.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Reviews

2015 has been a disappointing book year for me, but at least I'm ending strong.  Three of my four most recent reads garnered five stars on my reading scale.

This double-header from Michael Connelly was a double-hit.  Dave introduced me to the Harry Bosch series several years ago, but I have only read a few. I'm not sure why that is. Every one I've read has been a winner - fast paced, gripping, and always a surprise at the end.  I need to go back and catch up on early volumes.

In the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die almost a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet nine years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but all other evidence is virtually nonexistent.  Now Bosh and rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with solving what turns out to be a highly charged, politically sensitive case.  Beginning with the bullet that's been lodged for years in the victim's spine, they must pull new leads from years-old information, which soon reveal that this shooting may have been anything but random.

I don't want to give away too much, but when The Burning Room ended, I was convinced that the series had also ended, so I was thrilled when The Crossing was released.  Turn about being fair play, I introduced Dave to Connelly's Mickey Haller series.  What better book for us to share than one combining both series.  We took it along on our Thanksgiving trip to see the kids.  I read while Dave fought the freezing rain and icy roads.

Detective Harry Bosch has retired from the LAPD, but his half-brother, defense attorney Mickey Haller, needs his help.  The murder rap against his client seems ironclad, but Mickey is sure it's a setup.  Thought it goes against all his instincts, Bosch takes the case.  With the secret help of his former LAPD partner, Lucia Soto, he turns the investigation inside the police department.  But as Bosch gets closer to discovering the truth, he makes himself a target.

Dave and I agreed that this was one of Connelly's best.  I hope the Bosch/Haller team will continue.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my previous reviews that I love, love, love the newest Mitford story by Jan Karon.  
  
Mitford fans have kept a special place in their hearts for Dooley Kavanagh, first seen in "At Home in Mitford" as a barefoot, freckle-faced boy in filthy overalls.  Now, Father Tim's adopted son has graduated from vet school, opened his own animal clinic, and is about to marry Lace Harper.  Jan Karon delivers the wedding that millions of Mitford fans have waited for.  It's a June day in the mountains, with more than a few creatures great and small, and you're invited -- because you're family.

This is one of my top 3 series, mostly due to that "family" feeling.  Not only do I anticipate the next installment, but I frequently revisit earlier volumes.  They have tremendous re-readability.

The disappointment in my recent reads was sit! stay! speak!  I picked it up in the airport with visions of a "Marley and Me-esque story. It turned out to be standard romance, mixed with a predictable mystery, with a puppy in a supporting role.   It's not a bad book, just not what I expected given the title and cover photo.

Tragedy sent Addie Andrews fleeing from Chicago to the shelter of an unexpected inheritance - her beloved aunt's somewhat dilapidated home in Eunice, Arkansas.  There,

she reconnects with some of her most cherished childhood memories.  People say nothing happens in a small towns, but Addie quickly learns better.  She's got an elderly next-door-neighbor who dances outside in his underwear, a house needing more work than she has money, and a local drug dealer holding a massive grudge against her.

Most surprising of all, she's got a dog - a bedraggled puppy she discovered abandoned, lost and in desperate need of love.  Kind of like Addie herself.  She'd come to Eunice hoping to hide from the world, but soon discovers that perhaps she's finding her way back to living, laughing and loving once more.


I may be admitting my own stupidity here - or at least my delusion - but does anyone else have higher expectations from a book printed in trade paperback size rather than mass market size?  For some reason I always assume that publishers wouldn't give those extra inches to an average story.