Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hope and Possibility

Last Sunday, a sister in our ward spoke about avoiding sin. (Her topic was taken from Elder Mazzagardi's conference talk, "Avoiding the Trap of Sin." Many of our ward's Sacrament Meeting talks are based on recent conference talks - a good way to keep us in tune with recent counsel from our leaders.)

She spoke of the things that seem of little importance, and yet can have serious consequences for us. She identified 3 categories of "little things:"
1. Things we don't do, but should do
2. Things we do, but should not do
3. Small things we ought to quickly repent of
I thought of the many many "things I don't do," and made a mental note of one that I could start doing. Surely one wouldn't be such an overwhelming challenge!

Then, at the temple last week, while waiting for our session, I was reading chapter 9 of 3 Nephi. Nephi describes, in great detail, the destruction that occurred at the time of Christ's crucifixion: Zarahemla was destroyed by fire; Moroni sank in the depths of the sea; Moronihah was buried; Gilgal sank into the earth; Onihah and Mocum were buried in water; Gadiandi and Gadiomnah and Jacob and Gimgimno were buried under hills and valleys; Jacobugath and Laman and Josh and Gad and Kishkumen were destroyed by fire.

I felt overwhelmed by this long list of cities and peoples that were destroyed, because of their wickedness.

And then I read verse 13:
O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? 
It was a light-bulb moment, and a comfort, to me. I'd always thought of this experience as dividing the people into two groups: one group of "really righteous" people, and another group of everyone else.  I don't think of myself as "really righteous" - after all, look at all the things I "don't do, but should" - so where would I be in this story?

But as I read this verse, I realized that my perspective was totally skewed. The groups in this story are the group of "really wicked" people, who were destroyed, and another group of everyone else: the "more righteous" who were not destroyed, but who still need to repent, and to turn to Christ.

It really was a relief to realize that I do belong to this group of "more righteous," and to recognize Christ's invitation to "return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you."

I can start wherever I am today. I can start with just one of the "things I don't do," and move forward from there.

That's entirely in the realm of hope and possibility.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I did during the ice storm

Another day, another winter storm here in Michigan. This one did not dump snow on us (as it did for others in the state - such as my brother's family in Plymouth), but we got some serious ice.
In our front yard

A friend and I had planned to travel on Monday to the Chicago Temple (it's open on some Monday holidays, e.g. Presidents Day). We discussed the wisdom of this, given the weather, but decided that we wouldn't let a little ice stop us. After all, we're Michiganders!

Besides, if it turned out to be bad, we would admit defeat, turn around, and come home. (We did this when my older brother turned 50. Jim & I, and Paul & his family, got as far as Paw Paw, I think, before we turned around and came home. The snow that day was awesome.)

So I picked up my friend at 7, and just as she was saying good-bye to hubby & kids, their power went out. Hmmm. They assured us they'd be fine (and really, what could we do? Generate hot air by talking?), so we left.

A few minutes later, we were back: my friend had her expired recommend with her, and not her newer one. (Anyone can enter our regular church buildings, but attendance at a temple requires that you meet a standard of worthiness. Your recommend demonstrates your adherence to that standard. It's kind of important.)

Looking for something is never fun, but in the dark? with flashlights?

At 8, we decided we needed to leave - the last session started at noon our time, and it's a three hour trip when all goes well, and we didn't know what to expect weatherwise - so we gave up looking and got back in the car. I drove, while my friend contacted various parties to work out the logistics of getting permission to enter, sans recommend. (What would we do, really, without cell phones?)

It was a gorgeous drive. The roads were dry (once we got out of Kalamazoo), the sky was grey, the trees were beautiful. We easily made the trip in 3 hours, my friend's emergency arrangements all worked out, and we had an excellent session at the temple.

We made some quick local stops (including Trader Joe's, of course), and were back on the road by 3 pm. Unfortunately, our trip home was not as smooth as our morning's drive.

There was a truck-car accident on the Dan Ryan, and when we realized there was a traffic issue, we tried to guess which lane to get in. We did not choose wisely - unless, of course, our goal was to have more knitting time. We both got some serious knitting done while we sat in that traffic. (What would we do, really, without knitting in our bags?)

We finally got past the accident, and again moved towards home. (Why does it always seem to take longer going home than it takes going to Chicago in the morning?) As we got closer to Kalamazoo, we encountered light snow. We discovered there'd been an accident on the ramp we needed to take to 131, so we continued on to the Oakland exit, where we found ourselves in a neighborhood with no power. It was really eerie, but everyone was driving carefully, treating the non-functioning lights as four-way stop signs, etc., so we had no problems there.

Even where there was power, the roads were sloppy with snow, so we drove cautiously. We finally got to my friend's neighborhood, where we reconnoitered a bit, to see where there were lights; her street seemed to be the only one with no power.

Later that night, our friends came over to dry diapers, charge phones & laptops, and bathe a baby. Then back home, to continue their 'adventure.' The next day, they dropped their dog off here, and went to stay with other friends until their power came back on. (What would we do, really, without friends?)

Their dog adores Bonnie; Bonnie tolerates their dog. Mostly they get along fine, and it's pretty funny to watch their interactions. Their dog isn't as tolerant of walking in the cold as Bonnie; we took a short walk, but even so, she started this cough / bark / whine thing, that I think was her way of saying "WHAT are we doing out here?!?"

Jim's office was also without power, so he spent some time there, and more time here at home. (I'm so happy we never lost power!)

Things are back to normal now - everyone is in their own home, warm and dry. (Well, everyone in this story - there are still areas without power.)

I recently finished knitting my Nutmeg Bear, and during the storm on Sunday, I knit a scarf for him. And yesterday, although it was cold and icy, it was also a good day for taking pictures of bears:
He really has two eyes, although you can't see both...
This was a fun pattern to knit - not too fussy, and fairly easy to assemble - and I loved the yarn. I think maybe I stuffed the head too much, but I expect it will settle over time, so I'm not going to lose sleep over it. And I'm sure my grandniece will be happy with him as he is. :)

Finally, here are a few more weather photos:
In the park, looking south

Looking north, in the park

A cold bit of greenery, in our back yard

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Changing Face of Winter

I had to leave for a bit today, and when I returned, I found Bonnie guarding our socks:
She usually is a light sleeper, and wakes up as soon as the door opens. Not so today - I took several photos, and was back at work before she climbed out of her slumber.

Recently, Old Man Winter has offered up a variety of weather. Last week, we had several days of bitter bitter cold. Bonnie and I still ventured out (though I certainly wore more layers of clothing). Then, on Thursday, the wind stopped, the sun came out, and the thermometer reached 18 degrees. Who would have thought that 18 could feel so wonderful?!?

Saturday's walk was better still, with the temperature around 37 or 38 degrees. And then Sunday even topped that, with temps around 48 degrees. Makes one think that spring really will come one day.

Today, it was really windy (I can hear it whipping around outside) but sunny and pleasant (around 43). I even managed to snap some photos on our walk - it's even starting to look like spring, isn't it?

But don't be deceived! We have a Winter Storm Watch in effect from Sunday morning through Monday morning - snow and freezing rain, with the possibility of ice and snow accumulations (1/4 inch and 6 inches, respectively).

Til then, I'll just enjoy these photos, and hope for the best!

Pictures of our girl: 
So many smells!

And pictures of the day:
That's our house, in the lower left corner
In the park, looking north

These photos were both taken in the Friendship Village Woods:

A Memoir of Love and Loss and Life

I was listening to NPR recently, and heard a reference to Elizabeth McCracken's book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. As is my wont, I immediately requested the book from our library, and soon thereafter, picked it up and began to read.

This is the memoir of a pregnancy that, instead of leading to happily-ever-after, ends with a stillborn baby. As McCracken writes, "this is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending." She conveys both the joy of her pregnancy, while living in France, and their grief and sadness, after the baby's death. When I had finished reading, I felt she had let me share that part of their life, had let me meet their boy "Pudding."

McCracken wrote,
After the baby died, I told Edward over and over again that I didn't want to forget any of it: the happiness was real, as real as the baby himself, and it would be terrible, unforgiveable, to forget it. His entire life had turned out to be the forty-one weeks and one day of his gestation, and those days were happy. We couldn't pretend that they weren't. It would be like pretending that he himself was a bad thing, something to be regretted, and I didn't. I would have done the whole thing over again even knowing how it would end.
There were moments of wry humor, such as when the midwife asked "Would you like to speak to a nun," but Edward misunderstood her French, and thought she asked "Would you like to speak to a dwarf?" He said later, "I thought I'd really like to speak to a dwarf about then. I thought it might cheer me up." And as they struggled through the days, they sometimes said to each other, "Where are they when we need them, the Dwarfs of Grief."

There are small sadnesses that surface. McCracken wrote, "My friend Lib has a French friend who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who lost a baby to sudden infant death syndrome. When she found out about Pudding, she said, sadly, "Now France will be ruined for them." And then McCracken confirmed: "It's a part of the world I will never, ever, ever go back to."

I remember listening to an interview once. A father had lost a child, in some horrible incident, and was talking about the grieving process. He said, "You never get over it. But one day, you wake up, and realize it's no longer the first thing you think of."

That is how I view McCracken's story. She doesn't "get over" Pudding's death. She sifts through feelings of grief and sadness, remorse and guilt and loss. She connects with others who have experienced loss. She moves forward with life, and remembers her son with love. She concludes, "It's a happy life, and someone is missing."

When I finished this memoir, I had one regret. My mother had two stillborn children - one before my older brother, and one between his birth and mine. She never said much about it - Mom was not much for talking of such things - but she must have thought about her two missing children. I wonder, did she remember the love as well as the sadness?

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Bit of a Knitting Update

I finally finished the baby blanket (for the newest grandnephew). I've been working on it for ages - mainly because other projects kept taking priority. I started it last July, and finally gave it top billing in January. Somewhere in January, I made a horrible discovery: an ink pen in my knitting bag had leaked, and there was a dark ink stain on the blanket. I spent some time trying to deal with the stain - soaking, blotting, using Shout, washing that part of the blanket in the sink. I finally just decided to ignore the stain for the time being, and finished the knitting.

This weekend, I used Shout again, let it sit for awhile, and washed it in the machine. I repeated this several times, and it seemed to reduce the stain. Then, I used the same yarn and duplicate stitched several of the stained stitches, which also helped make the stain less obvious.

The above picture was taken after all these stain-ameliorating efforts. I know where the stain is, but hopefully it is less obvious to others.

Here's a 'before' photo. All things considered, I think the blanket ended up looking okay. And, if nothing else, I'm comparing it to the first dent of a new car; now baby J can feel free to spit up on the blanket, without any qualms!

This pattern is the Cradle Me blanket, by Anne Hanson.

With that project wrapped up, I've begun work on the Nutmeg Bear, by Amanda Berry. I think this is a delightful little guy.

This is the photo from Amanda's pattern.

This is pretty much what my bear looks like right now. The yarn is Hillside Linen, by Plymouth Earth, a blend of alpaca and linen. I like the 'scruffy' look of the yarn. I started knitting the bear while watching the Super Bowl; I hope that isn't bad karma! (He has one paw so far.)

Save the Children and the Warm Up America! Foundation are collecting caps for newborn babies. I finished this cap in an evening (they are very simple to knit), and last Saturday helped several other women learn to knit them. The project is part of an effort to improve infant care in Africa, Asia, and South America. In addition to collecting caps, they also advocate and fundraise to provide newborn care in these developing countries. For more info, see

Bonnie & I had a delightful walk today - it was a sunny 33 degrees, and except for the sidewalk's hiding ice under a thin coat of snow, we enjoyed ourselves.

Bonnie doing what Bonnie does best: checking out smells.

Looking north, as we cross through the park.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Groundhog Day Blizzard

Here is a photo taken in our neighborhood, the day after the "Groundhog Day Blizzard." Kalamazoo received about 12 inches of snow, but the city seems to have done a good job clearing the snow - at least in our neighborhood!

Tuesday night, we could see the storm kicking in: it had snowed all evening, and the wind was fierce. When we got up yesterday morning, it had pretty much blown itself out. Dutch had already plowed out our driveway, so the biggest evidence of the storm, for us, were the drifts near our front porch, and in the back. I shoveled a path across the patio for Bonnie, and had a fairly normal work day. Jim had closed his office, and stayed home and puttered.

Schools, and many businesses, were closed. People's staying home helped, no doubt, with the general clean-up, and Jim had no trouble getting to his office today. Yesterday, when Bonnie and I walked at lunch (unfortunately sans camera) the roads were pretty sloppy - we walked, carefully, in the few paths that were left by car tires. Today, we saw that the city had plowed a path across the park, so we were able to take our more typical route through the neighborhood east of here. Roads had been plowed, most folks had cleared their sidewalks, the sun was shining, it wasn't too cold (20 degrees) - so all in all, a nice walk!

I did have to laugh when I went out back to clean up after Bonnie - instead of the normal chaos of dog trails all over the yard, there were just several small excursions beyond the patio boundaries - I guess the depth of the snow was a bit daunting for our girl.

I've been trying to remember other winter storms. When I was at MSU, we had 13 inches of snow one April day (April 4, 1975), and the university was shut down. At the time, I was driving with friends to Utah, for General Conference, and so missed that storm. (I was around for the subsequent flooding, when all that snow melted!)

I remember another storm, in January 1978. I was living in Taylor, Michigan, at the time, and working for Burroughs in Detroit. I remember leaving work early, and trying to figure out the best route to my friend's house (her family was away, so I was keeping her company). I did not choose wisely, and got stuck. Happily, some other travelers helped get my car going again, and I almost made it to my friend's house, but got stuck again, this time in her neighborhood, a block from her house. Apparently, we only got some 8 inches during that storm; I guess getting stuck made it seem like more. (I suppose I shouldn't say "only 8 inches," but in my memory, it seemed like so much more.)

There was another memorable Kalamazoo storm, but I can't find any record of it. It seems to me that it was February 14, but I may be wrong on that, and I can't remember the year at all. It snowed all day, and by the time I left work, the snow was deep and the traffic a mess, and snow was still falling. In fact, the falling snow was so heavy that I mistakenly took an early exit from I-131, and got the added bonus of driving up Drake hill in the storm. Jim faced similar challenges, and when we finally got home, there were many phone messages. The earlier calls asked if youth activities at church were being canceled that night; later callers simply assumed (rightly so!) that would be the case. I'm pretty sure it was February 14, because I remember how nice it was to be snowed in with Jim on the evening of Valentine's Day.

Here are more pictures of our girl, after this latest storm.

I gave Jim a sculpture of a beagle for Christmas; this is very like the pose of that sculpture.

After our walks, Bonnie often likes to check out the back yard before going inside. Here she is declaring, as clearly as she can, that it is Time To Go Inside!