Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Hubby

I knit this as a birthday present for Jim. Designed by Amalia Samios, it was quick and easy. It consists of a knitted strip, folded in half and seamed. Add a couple stitches to form the ears, buttons for eyes, and a felt beak. Voila! Too cute for words.

We invited friends to share Jim's birthday dinner and cake last night, for Family Home Evening. A couple days early, yes, but less risk of his getting pulled away on Bishop's Business.

Our friend Melissa made the cake (see Triplet Mom Treats), and it was Delicious! As requested by Jim, it was orange cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Incredibly rich and yummy.

(Of course, in yet another failed blogging moment, there is no picture.)

I have to confess, as I was deciding how many candles to put on the cake, I had to do some subtraction to figure out Jim's age. The next step, of course, was to add 1 to that result, to get my age, and to then be astonished; we're both getting a bit long in the tooth...!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

To and From Chicago

Yesterday, I attended the Chicago Temple, with 3 friends from church. It was a day of blue sky and sunshine, and the drive over was uneventful. At the temple, we added a friend from Wisconsin to our group, and we ran into others we knew from the Kalamazoo area. I enjoyed the familiar routines of our worship session, and was glad to renew commitments in the company of friends.

In the temple, I always try to identify something - some idea - to take away and ponder; this time the focus seemed to be on finding joy in all aspects of life. I think I'm generally a pretty positive, happy  person, in whatever situation. I try to see the good around me. But maybe there is something more I need to consider.


Afterwards, we made our usual quick stops at the bookstore and at Trader Joe's, and we enjoyed a late lunch at Boston Market (their Southwest Santa Fe salad is so yummy). Then, armed with Fruit Jellies and Ginger Cats and Banana Chips, we headed home.

Alas, our return trip was not as uneventful as our morning trip had been! As we headed south on I-94, we saw a sign that referred to a 'traffic incident,' and that recommended finding an alternate route. We did that, but not nearly soon enough. We ended up traveling in the express lanes until East Ohio (and that wasn't too painful - at least we were moving, which was more than the folks in the regular lanes appeared to be doing). Then we headed east across town, to Lake Shore Drive, and followed that to Stoney Island Avenue and the Skyway.

That sounds easy enough, but Chicagoans are probably cringing and wondering "you crazy Michiganders, what were you thinking?!?" There was plenty of traffic, and our 'alternate route' probably didn't save us any time, but it was kind of fun to see downtown, and I enjoyed driving past Hyde Park, and remembering all the trips there to visit Dave & Joyce and their young family.

Jess was our expert map reader, but confessed willingly that she was not an expert map folder. That exchange reminded me of this sweet poem, about mapping life.
by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

Reaching back from the front seat while Mom drove,
my dad showed us the series of two lane roads we would travel
from our home up north in Minneapolis,
to Judge and Kiki's house
down south in Jefferson City.
He challenged us to add up the miles
between the pinhead markers on the map
and find the exact spot
where our red station wagon was right at that moment,
loaded with the eight of us, our dog, our food, our suitcases.

I loved the names of the towns we rolled through
Owatonna, Oskaloosa, Ottumwa
and I enjoyed the map games,
but folding that map
utterly mystified me.
I would try every which way before giving up and
handing a bulky square, creased down the middle, up to the front seat
where my father would spread it out in the air in front of him,
deftly pop in and out the folds
until the map collapsed into his hands
of its own accord.

Now forty years later,
he and I wait for my mom to get out of surgery,
and we pore over a map
to find a better way home,
and I trace for him the route I have chosen
from 494 East to 35W North to 11th street
and he studies this for a long time
before he moves his index finger along the thick green line
that bisects Minneapolis and says,
"Now, is this what you call north?"
"Exactly," I say.
Satisfied, he creases the map down the middle
and hands it to me.

I don't re-fold it.
Now 89 years old,
he's been married since he was 30,
practiced pediatrics until he was 80,
raised six daughters,
escaped from the Nazis in his youth
and survived a stroke in his old age.

That map, just as it is,
is accomplishment enough.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bonnie the Hunter-Gatherer

Q:How long does it take a beagle to get into trouble?

A: Not long at all!

I was out of the house for about 30 minutes this evening. When I came back in, I noticed some pieces of bread on the floor. I looked at the counter, where there had been a new bag of hamburger buns, but there was nothing.

I looked at Bonnie, who was happily wagging her tail, and marveled: "You ate the whole package?" And then I paused - where was the bag? Surely she didn't eat the bag...?

I let her outside, and then did some investigating. In the bedroom, I found more pieces of bread on the rug. And then I laughed:

This isn't the best picture, but you can see that Bonnie hid the bag, and the remaining buns, under our pillows on the bed. (Note to Bonnie: you should find a better hiding place.)

I cleaned everything up and let Bonnie back in. I was working in the kitchen, and in she wandered with another bun - apparently she had multiple caches for her bounty!

On another front, our toads now have their own tree, a volunteer that has started in the window well:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Daisy Time

Blow, O blow, you happy winds,
Singing summer's praises,
Up the field and down the field
A-dancing with the daisies.
from  "Daisy Time," by Marjorie Pickthall

Don't you love daisies? Bonnie took a break from smelling and sniffing, long enough for me to take this picture, a couple of weeks ago. (Bonnie, who is now shedding constantly; I am brushing her several times a day in an unsuccessful effort to keep up.)

A happy note: my prayer shawl is no longer in time out. It turns out that I had made a classic new-knitter mistake: I stopped knitting in the middle of a row, and when I picked it up again, I knit in the wrong direction. Oops. Happily, I didn't have much at all to rip out, and now we are making forward progress again.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

WIPs and Other Pretty Things

I currently have four 'works in progress' (WIPs), and have some relatively current photos to share.

This prayer shawl is perfect to knit during meetings. The pattern is a simple two-row repeat, keeping my hands busy while my brain focuses on the discussion. Unfortunately, I discovered a strange hole yesterday; it seems that a couple stitches have gone awry. I tried sorting it out, but can't figure out what happened, so this project is in time-out, until I can rip back a couple rows and get it back on track.

This scarf is for the Seita Scholars. It's my travel project, since it fits in a small bag, and the short rows lend themselves to short spurts of knitting.

Of course I've started another elephant. This is one of my 'evening' projects, good for TV knitting. (He'll look much more like an elephant, once his body shows up!)

And finally, here is another scarf, also good TV knitting. This yarn is yummy - a merino / silk blend - and is very nice to work with. The yarn is a heavier gauge than the pattern calls for, but I'm confident that, once blocked, it will show off the pattern properly.

This yarn is in my stash, and will eventually become a sweater (though I have no idea when...) I love its blend of green and yellow; it reminds me of this plant, which Bonnie and I see often on our walks:

Here are just a couple more pretty flower shots from our recent walks; enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ten Years

Dad & Mom,, in Southern Pines NC
Ten years ago today, my mother, Lillian Joyce Childress Beer, passed away. I know it's a cliche, but it is hard for me to believe it has been that long.

Her death was not unexpected; she'd been fighting lung cancer for a year, and it really was astonishing that she had held on for so long. Maybe I wanted to ignore reality, but her death still seemed surprising to me.

I don't remember when I heard this poem, but it immediately touched a chord with me:
Up and Down
by Beverly Rollwagen

I don't know anything
for sure unless I look it up,
but sometimes I can figure
things out if I write them
down. So it's up and down
all day long. It's a good life.
Better than back and forth
or in and out which I find
constraining. I have up
and down in balance and
with my mother's death
have discovered the true
meaning of before and after.
I like the poem's bemused discussion of up-and-down, back-and-forth, in-and-out. The sudden explanation of before-and-after, with its abruptness, is much as I perceived my mother's death. One day she was still alive; and then she wasn't.

Years ago, when I was a freshman at MSU, I read a conference talk by Thomas Monson (in those days, conference wasn't generally available on TV, and the internet didn't exist yet, so we had to wait for talks to be printed in the Ensign magazine). The talk was Behold Thy Mother, and through the years, I have periodically reread it, to remind me that mothers should be remembered, blessed, and loved. I think that between us, we kids did a good job in that respect.

And now, during the 'after' of Rollwagen's poem, I go on with my life, and think of mom now and then, and wonder what she's up to, and express surprise that I've lived ten years without her. And, I look forward to our next meeting, sometime in the future.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

To The Rescue

For Christmas, my brother gave us a copy of Heidi S. Swinton's biography of Thomas S. Monson, "To The Rescue." It is both informative and interesting, and I highly recommend it.

President Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, the current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is not a position he chose for himself. He did not apply for it. He did not attend school to learn how to be a prophet.

He did, however, prepare for this position, by the life he led. Swinton carefully describes this preparation. She provides details of his family, his childhood, his youth. She describes his hobbies (how did I not know about his Birmingham roller pigeons?), his education, his work.

The bulk of her book, however, focuses on President Monson's service - to the church, and to individuals. He served as a bishop; as a mission president; and then, beginning in 1963, as an apostle. In 1985, he became a counselor to the president of the church, and he continued in that role, for several presidents, until being sustained himself as president, in 2008. His assignments during those many years were varied, took him throughout the world, and gave him the background in church administration and organization that serves him so well today.

I appreciated this history. I enjoyed reading about his courtship with Frances; their time in the Canadian mission; his amazing experiences in East Germany (before the Berlin wall fell); his varied assignments as an Apostle. But I enjoyed even more the stories that show his care and concern for individuals, and the insights offered by those around him.

Typical is this comment by Elder David A Bednar:
In a message he gave to all of the General and Area Authorities, he said that one of our responsibilities is to help the members feel the Savior's love. That's who he is. His whole ministry is focused on discerning the needs of an individual and offering a smile or a pat on the back - doing some simple, very gracious thing that you never would really expect the President of the Church to do. (p 149)
When the president of our church dies, and a new president is chosen, the general membership has the opportunity to sustain that new president at the next General Conference. When President Monson was sustained, I attended the Saturday morning broadcast and joined others in pledging my support for our new president and prophet.

Reading this book rekindled my desire not only to sustain him, but also to follow his counsel. As this book so clearly illustrates, he has dedicated his life both to serving God, and to serving his fellows here on earth. That's a pretty good role model.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FOs and Toads

I have a few FOs (Finished Objects) to show off. These are projects I've finished since mid-April.

To start off, here's another scarf for OFA's Red Scarf Project. Nothing fancy - just seed stitch. Very pleasant knitting! The yarn is Patons Classic Wool, in the color Cognac Heather.

I bought this yarn (Mountain Colors Weaver's Wool Quarters, in the color Clearwater) several years ago, when I stumbled across a yarn store in Toledo, going out of business and selling everything at 40% off. The skein sat in my stash for a while, but I finally knit it up into Susan Lawrence's Forest Canopy Shawl. It is a small shawl, but should serve to ward off air conditioning chill. (I gave it away, so of course it will ward off someone else's AC chill.) It was my first "real" lace project, and I confess that I'm pretty happy with how it turned out (and it was great fun to knit).

Here is another of Ysolda Teague's Elijah the Elephant, knit with Misti Alpaca Pima Cotton & Silk Hand Paint. I use about 1/2 skein for each elephant; this finished my skein in the color Four Elements.

This Elijah is made with the same yarn, but in the color Apple Tree green (I love the names of these colorways!)

Mittens without thumbs...

And with thumbs
This hat and mittens will be donated to Seita Scholars (there's a scarf in the works also). You can read about the Seita Scholars here. The hat is pretty basic stockinette, with standard decreases at the top. I  knit a facing, so, if the brim is rolled up, there are four thicknesses of yarn; the ears should be toasty warm! The mittens are from Ann Budd's book, The Knitter's Handy Book of  Patterns.

No, I didn't knit this fellow. He's just one of the many toads that live in our window well. Last year, I counted 10 toads one day.

I really would like to bid adieu to these fellows, but I'm not sure how to go about it! I'd like to clean the leaves out of those wells, but I confess to an irrational fear of being startled by toads suddenly leaping about...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


A few weeks ago, I was listening to poetry podcasts while walking Bonnie. There were several poems I liked, so when I got home, I quickly jotted down some notes, to help me when I had time to look up the poems:
Mar 18 - Updike - Moroni
Billy Collins - Remembering?
Then I lost the note. Of course.

I discovered the note again this morning (exactly where I had already looked for it twice), and immediately looked for the poems on the Writer's Almanac (before the note could disappear again). I found them all, but laughed when I located the Billy Collins poem - the title was not "Remembering," but instead was pretty much its exact opposite. (So much for my memory!)

I enjoy the humorous images Collins calls up while describing this annoying malady of forgetfulness: Memories retire to "a little fishing village where there are no phones."  What you try to remember is "not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen." What we can't change, we may as well laugh at!
by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
And - just so you know - I still know how to ride a bicycle. I think. Meanwhile, these days I'm laughing more and more, just on principle.

A gratuitous picture of Bonnie.
Yes, I usually remember her name.