Friday, May 31, 2013

End-of-May Knitting Update

Hi. My name is Robin, and I just started another knitting project.

I now have five projects on the needles (six if you count the wrap kit that Katie gave me, but I'm not counting that yet...).
The Sky Scarf is progressing nicely, one sky at a time. The baby blanket's baby is due soon, so I'm knitting that project with some urgency. The Teal Diamonds sweater, for afghans for Afghans, is due by "early summer," so there is some urgency there as well. As a result, the Woodland Shawl has been languishing in what I hope is a brief hibernation.

So of course, the last thing I need is a new project. And yet:

I bought this yarn at Stitches Midwest two years ago. Then, last year, at Vogue Knitting Live Chicago, I saw a woman wearing a Bermuda shawl, and fell in love. The yarn and pattern were made for each other. The yarn is Kauni, in the rainbow (EQ) color - it runs from this yellow-orange through a variety of color changes, including the blue & green that you see in that bit of skein. Those color changes are ideal for this shawl!

The final bit of star aligning that led to my casting on this project is that Ann happens to be leading a class, at Stitching Memories, to knit this shawl. So what was I supposed to do?

Cast it on. Of course!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Prepare, Then Partake

I gave a talk in our Stake Conference at the beginning of May. I spoke at the Saturday night session, which generally doesn't have a big crowd. It was even smaller this time, since the session was broadcast, via the internet, to the other buildings in the stake - folks watched in their home units, instead of traveling to the stake center. The result was that I spoke to a crowd about the size of a sacrament meeting congregation - not quite as scary as seeing a stake-sized  group!

In general conference this past April, Elder Erich W. Kopischke spoke on being accepted of God. He said that we need to make a “conscious decision” to honor our covenants through sacrifice. And then he remarked,
Too often we think that the word sacrifice refers to something big or hard for us to do. In certain situations this may be true, but mostly it refers to living day-to-day as a true disciple of Christ.

One way we observe our covenants by sacrifice is worthily partaking of the sacrament each week. We consciously prepare ourselves for the sacred ordinance. We renew and confirm our sacred promises to the Lord. In this way we feel His acceptance and receive His assurance that our efforts are recognized and our sins are forgiven through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. During this ordinance, the Lord promises us that as we are willing to take upon us the name of His Son and always remember Him and keep His commandments, we will always have His Spirit to be with us. Having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion is the ultimate indicator of being accepted of God.
Back in September 2001, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone  also taught of our need to prepare before partaking of the sacrament:
It is essential that we renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. When we do this with a sincere heart, with real intent, forsaking our sins, and renewing our commitment to God, the Lord provides a way whereby sins can be forgiven from week to week. Simply eating the bread and drinking the water will not bring that forgiveness. We must prepare and then partake with a broken heart and contrite spirit. The spiritual preparation we make to partake of the sacrament is essential to receiving a remission of our sins.
Basically, my talk focused on this preparation. Here's the very abridged version of my remarks: We prepare by regularly taking a personal inventory, considering our state before God. As we do this, we acknowledge our sins, we repent, and we make restitution.We do this during the week, again and again.

Then, on Sunday, the ordinance of the sacrament becomes the culmination of these regular, consistent, preparatory efforts. It becomes an opportunity for introspection and rededication, and for the renewal of our covenants.

I suppose others benefited from my remarks, but I am really grateful for my own increased understanding of this principle, and the opportunity now to increase its practice in my own life.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tattoos on the Heart

Gregory Boyle was interviewed a few months ago, on an episode of On Being. Here is Krista Tippett's introduction from that show:  "A Jesuit priest famous for his gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, Fr. Greg Boyle makes winsome connections between service and delight, and compassion and awe. He heads Homeboy Industries, which employs former gang members in a constellation of businesses. This is not work of helping, he says, but of finding kinship. The point of Christian service, as he lives it, is about 'our common calling to delight in one another.'

(By the way - net proceeds from this book are donated to Homeboy Industries.)

Intrigued by the interview, I read Boyle's memoir, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. He shares stories and experiences, and again and again shares his belief in God's compassion, encouraging us to develop that same compassion. He writes in a comfortable, sitting-and-chatting style, encouraging the reader to consider Jesus' approach:
Jesus says if you love those who love you, big wow (which I believe is the original Greek). He doesn't suggest that we cease to love those who love us when he nudges us to love our enemies. Nor does Jesus think the harder thing is the better thing. He knows it's just the harder thing. But to love the enemy and to find some spaciousness for the victimizer, as well as the victim, resembles more the expansive compassion of God. That's why you do it.

To be in the world who God is.

Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.
He encourages us to not merely serve others, but to develop a oneness with them. This reminds me of a blog post that talked about the divisiveness that occurs when we separate ourselves into the 'in-group' and the 'out-group.'
Jesus and Petra [a woman who welcomed 'wetbacks' in their community] are on the same page here. They chose a oneness in kinship and a willingness to live in others' hearts. Jesus was not a man for others. He was one with others. There is a world of difference in that. Jesus didn't seek the rights of lepers. He touched the leper even before he got around to curing him. He didn't champion the cause of the outcast. He was the outcast. He didn't fight for improved conditions for the prisoner. He simply said, "I was in prison."
Continuing the idea of inclusion versus exclusion, Boyle writes,
Scripture scholars contend that the original language of the Beatitudes should not be rendered as "Blessed are the single-hearted" or "Blessed are the peacemakers" or "Blessed are those who struggle for justice." Greater precision in translation would say, "You're in the right place if . . . you are single-hearted or work for peace." The Beatitudes is not a spirituality, after all. It's a geography. It tells us where to stand.

Compassion isn't just about feeling the pain of others; it's about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. "Be compassionate as God is compassionate," means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.
In his interview with Krista Tippett, Boyle spoke of our duty to delight. In his memoir he writes,
Dorothy Day loved to quote Ruskin, who urged us all to the "Duty to Delight." It was an admonition, really, to be watchful for the hilarious and the heartwarming, the silly and the sublime. This way will not pass again, and so there is a duty to be mindful of that which delights and keeps joy at the center, distilled from all that happens to us in a day.
Boyle's ideas are lofty, and I'm not sure how to apply them in my daily life, where I talk to co-workers on the phone, and care for our beagle, and hang out with my husband. I'm not immersed in the needs of gang members, as Boyle is, and yet somehow, I need to find a way to connect and serve in the community, and to share in the delight as well.

This is a terrific book; I recommend it without reservation.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Asylum Lake Preserve

Last Saturday (the 18th), Jess and I took a guided walk at Asylum Lake Preserve. At one time, the property was owned by the Michigan Asylum for the Insane, and some patients lived on this property and farmed it. In 1975, ownership was transferred from the State of Michigan to Western Michigan University, and it is now maintained as a preserve (although this use has been threatened from time to time).

Here are a handful of photos from that day:

Eastern edge of Asylum Lake

Looking northeast across the lake
(toward Winchell Ave)

The fence is from when the land belonged to the hospital

Lilies of the valley - everywhere!

This was a cornfield; now WMU is restoring
native prairie plants

I've been wearing a pedometer for a couple months, but have yet to hit 10,000 steps in a day. I might have done it on this particular Saturday, after cleaning our church and then walking for an hour-and-a-half at the preserve. Alas, that was also a day when the pedometer's dead battery hadn't yet been replaced...

A Few Good Dogs

Seems like I haven't shared any Bonnie photos lately. Here is one from early May:

I took this on one of our walks, by Kinnearing her (a word coined by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee). I just held my camera at general Bonnie height, and took pictures, hoping for the best. This one isn't too bad (I took quite a few).

Alas, poor Bonnie has been walk-less for a while. On the 9th, she was behaving oddly in the morning. Instead of her usual waking-up routine of stretching one way and then the other, she stretched one way and then lay down. She seemed fine at lunch, so we walked through the Friendship Village woods, but when we got back to Frey's Park, she held up one paw and refused to walk any further; in the end, I carried her home.

I was able to take her to the vet later that afternoon. Dr Marion determined that the problem was not in her paw, but in her neck and back. She got a shot of Azium, and a bottle of pills to take home. She's been on rest since then, which means no walks at all, and we try to limit her wild leaping on and off furniture. (Her wildest leaping is between the couch and the easy chair...). She has been slowly improving, and we've taken a couple very short walks, around the south end of the park. Today she's been sleeping all day, so I'm thinking we'll forgo even a short walk. Plus, it's rainy and cold, which probably wouldn't help her back; better she should continue napping...

I have a few other dog pictures to share. This fellow was waiting in the parking lot at Pet Supplies Plus:

He looks quite capable of driving that car

Paul and Rachelle were taking care of Gary and Tanya's dog, Owen. Isn't he a sweetheart? His coat is beautiful; I'd never seen a Corgi with that blue color:

And here is their sweet Molly, wishing someone would play tug-of-war with her:

East and West

We've had a couple visits with family the past two weekends.

On the 17th, Jim and I drove to Chicago, for Jon's graduation from Northwestern Law School:

Jon earned his law degree from BYU Law School, and his LLM (Master of Laws) in taxation from Northwestern.

Old and new lawyers - Jim and Jon

Now, if one of Jon's interviews will pan out, they'll be doubly happy. (And if he lands on this side of the country, we'll be doubly happy!)

The graduation was held at the Chase Theatre, an impressive facility. We managed to find Laura and the boys, and were soon joined by Dave & Joyce. Alas, there was not really time nor opportunity to admire the theater - although we arrived early, the house lights were down, so we couldn't see much. (Well, Laura and Joyce spent time in the halls with M & C - I'm betting they saw a bit more!)

I realized that I haven't attend many graduations in my life. I can think of just four: my own graduation from Moon High School (back in the dark ages of 1973); my graduation from Michigan State University (1977); Lori's graduation from Brigham Young University (1978); and now Jon's law school graduation. It seemed to be fairly typical, with various remarks and awards and such, followed by the parade of students making their way across the stage. Many of the graduates (including Jon) had family walking with them - babes in arms, toddlers, small children. To me, it represented the contribution (and sacrifices) families had made toward this accomplishment, as well as a message that family ranked up there with the degree - a nice sentiment!

After the ceremony, we walked down to Macy's and enjoyed a meal (lunch? dinner?) at the Walnut Room. Previously, I'd only eaten there during the Christmas chaos season, when it was absolutely packed and we had to wait 30-60 minutes for a table. On this occasion, it was calm and uncrowded, much better suited to the whims and antics of little boys. We enjoyed eating and chatting; C laughed delightfully (crowed, really); M just talked and talked.

This past Saturday, I drove the other direction, to visit Paul and Rachelle in Plymouth. No major happenings going on (N will graduate from high school next year; Jim & I are hoping he will decide to attend the True University).

I only got one good people picture (I should not try for candid shots; they seldom result in anything worth sharing...):

Paul (and Molly)

I enjoyed going with them to Plymouth's Farmers' Market. Lots of plants (bedding plants, tomatoes, etc), lots of hand soap (!), lots of good-looking sweets (especially the cheesecake). We limited ourselves to bedding plants and a couple tomato plants.

Back to Paul & Rachelle's for lunch and conversation, followed by another trip downtown, this time to Yogurt Palooza. The challenge there was to dish ourselves reasonably sized servings, rather than completely filling up the rather large cups they provided. We walked around downtown a bit afterwards - it was a beautiful day, perfect for a stroll. As we crossed the green space in the center of town, we reflected on the time we attended the ice festival there a few years ago - wonderful ice sculptures, but bitterly cold (thank heavens for hot chocolate).

Much too short a visit - but good to see that everyone is alive and well!

Here are a few more graduation photos:

Laura and Jon

Jon and Joyce

Jon and Dave

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sky Scarf Update

A couple days ago, I reached the three-month mark on my sky scarf. Here's how it looks so far:

Look at all that blue sky we've had recently (the most recent days are nearest the needle, in the lower right corner). Lots of white clouds, some grey clouds, with a couple days of rain mixed in.

Here are some photos of those recent glorious skies:

May 3, walking Bonnie at Friendship Village

May 3, in Frey's Park (looking north)

May 5, walking Bonnie, Friendship Village

May 7, evening, looking north (West Main / Drake)

On Wednesday, Jim and I were out buying a new mattress (We've needed one for ages. It will be delivered on Tuesday, and I think Jim's looking forward to finally getting a good night's sleep.) There was a storm threatening; to the west of us, there was sunshine and blue sky, but this is what we saw to the east:

May 8, looking east across Drake

We didn't get much rain at all, in spite of that glowering sky, and by the time we got home, it was already starting to lighten. Still, I was able to catch some contrast between the sunlit trees and that dark sky:

May 8, Frey's Park, looking southeast

I stopped by the cemetery earlier today, and couldn't resist yet another sky shot:

May 12, Mt Everest North Cemetery, looking south
I've got to do some serious blog-catching-up, but I'll try to avoid further sky shots - at least for a few days!