Sunday, September 4, 2016

That's Progress!

When I was a child, one of my favorite things was to visit the "Variety Store" while my mom was at the grocery store down the street.  Mom handed out three nickels to three little girls and we slowly perused the candy choices in the glass cabinet.  Snickers, Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, Milky Way, maybe a chewy Bit-O-Honey, or M&M's.  Or how about licorice sticks, Tootsie Rolls and Bazooka Bubblegum - two for a penny.  The choices seemed infinite.

A few days ago, I browsed a convenience store candy aisle for a little treat with my gas fill-up.  The choices weren't infinite, they were overwhelming!  Snickers, Snickers Bites, Snickers Almond, Snickers Peanut Butter Squares, Snicker's Ice Cream Bars, Snickers Eggs, Snickers 2 Go, Snickers Fun Size, Snickers Miniatures, Snickers King Size.  And that was just one brand.

The same comparison can be made with television channels.  In the 60's and 70's we had four channels (if the weather was clear) - ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS.  When we got married in the early 80's, we got cable and expanded our lineup to about twenty channels.  Today we have hundreds of channels.  The time required to sift through them all uses up all of our viewing time, so we usually just watch the same four or five channels.

Eating out used to mean visiting a locally-owned restaurant.  Today, every city has block after block of franchised eating choices - from burgers to steak to pizza to sushi.  Children no longer go home from school to play with the other kids in their neighborhood.  They choose from sports, martial arts, music,  gymnastics, dance and dozens of other activities.  The expansion of options also applies to gas stations, car manufacturers, and even beer.

I didn't need shelf after shelf of sweets at the convenience store.  To me, it was "noise".   The volume and pace of life has increased a hundred-fold in the last fifty years.  And so has the accompanying  exhaustion.  Stress relief has become a mammoth business. 

Ironically, one of the newest trends in stress management is to simplify - downsize, live smaller, have fewer choices.  Maybe progress isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Whole Picture

I have posted dozens of times about my quilting and sewing projects.  Even though the things I sew aren't elaborate, I know there are a lot of other beginning sewers out there looking for similar projects, so I have no problem posting what I've made.  I have even shown pictures of some not-so-successful items.  So why is it difficult for me to post pictures of my paintings?  I've been painting, off and on, for almost two years but, other than my long-suffering husband and sister, most of my work has been for my eyes only.

Last week I was visiting with a lady from church who I heard, through the grapevine, had done some painting and even won an award in a competition.  She admitted that, yes, she had won an award but she quit painting after only four pictures  "There was no joy in it."  The next year, she started making ceramics, and entered her creations in the same competition.  Because there weren't enough entries in that category, they got lumped into a broad "crafts" category.  In her words, "I didn't stand a chance against the elaborate entries because the judges couldn't see my joy in my ceramics."  Cue the bells, whistles and flashing lights -- this was an "aha" moment for me!

I don't paint to make money or win awards - although I wouldn't mind those things.  I paint for fun, for the challenge of creating something without instructions or a pattern, for making something unique.  I admit up front that my paintings so far are not totally unique - they are my take on photos or images I've seen elsewhere - but I'm working on a couple pictures that, as yet, exist only in my head.

In the mean time, I'm going to display a few of my paintings at home and post them here.  What if everyone who sees them thinks they are amateurish, or ugly, or just plain bad?  It's ok!  It really is ok, because no matter who is viewing and judging my paintings, they can not see the joy I feel while painting them.  They aren't seeing the whole picture!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Now What?

Over the winter, I spent more time in book stores than fabric stores.  Cold weather found me curled up with a book, or knitting in front of the TV.  But warmer weather - and a good bargain - have lured me back to the sewing room.  

A local lady advertised a huge lot of quilt kits for sale.  I have no idea where or how she came to own so many kits, but I went to check them out.  Most were wall-hanging size with  "primitive" applique or embroidery - not really my thing - but I did find two Moda charm packs.  I had no plan in mind, and to be honest, they aren't even colors/patterns that grabbed my attention, but I'm a huge fan of pre-cuts (because  I don't care for cutting) and they were less than half the sticker price, so I hoped that they would inspire me.  Not so far!  That's where you come in.

The first pack is "Plum Sweet" by Blackbird Designs.  I actually had a few fat quarters of the darkest florals at some point.  I have no memory of how I used them, but I remember having them in my stash.  The shades of purple are pretty and I like the variety from large flowers to simple polka-dots.  I would probably leave out the center row.   It seems to have too much yellow/gold to blend with the others.  

The second pack is "KT Favorites" by Kansas Troubles Quilters.  When I laid them out, the colors struck me as odd - for lack of a better word.  There are dark blues, greens, browns, reds, neutrals that run from barely-off-white to an orange-beige, and four purple/blues straggling along at the end.  The whole thing is a bit boring.  It needs either a fun application where the individual fabrics blend into a neutral background, or it needs to be mixed with other, more interesting, fabrics.  

So, ideas?  They can always become doll quilts for the kids in foster care, but neither pack screams "little girl".  I found ideas on Pinterest for charm pack tote bags and table runners - neither of which I need.  For the moment, they will go into the stash, but I am trying to use what I buy, so someone help me with this impulse purchase.  What would you make? 

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Spacious Place

from Grace Notes *
I'm going to use the blog as a bit of a therapy journal, so if you have your life completely together and don't understand those of us who don't, this post probably isn't for you.  If you are stumbling along, like me, this post still may not interest you.  In fact, this post may be entirely for my own benefit - but it's my blog, so I can do that.

"He brought me out into a spacious place." - Psalm 18:19

I've spent my life hemmed in by expectations - expectations for being a wife, expectations for being a stay-at-home mom, expectations for being a mother of teens, expectations for being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a church member . . .

When I was working outside our home, the job carried expectations, but someone was paying me for those hours and they had the right to expect specific skills, tasks and duties in exchange for their money.

Some of the expectations are self-inflicted.  Some are societal.  Some - usually the strongest - are intentionally imposed by others.  And some are the random result of life circumstances.  

Picture life as a room - a generous-sized room.  At first the room was occupied by me, my parents and my sister.  Then grandparents came to visit, followed by another sister, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We all fit comfortably.  Soon there were neighbors, schoolmates, teachers, pastors, and friends.  There was still plenty of room for the people, but now they each carried some expectations for me.  How they expected me to behave, how they expected me to perform at school, how they expected me to interact. These expectations gave me security.  After all I was a child, unable to navigate alone - I needed their guidelines.

As time passed, my world expanded and more people pressed into the room, bringing more expectations, and things started to get a bit crowded.  Expectations had to shift and some got shoved into the corners because I needed space for my own developing expectations.  However, since they all remained in the room, my expectations for myself had to form around them.

Some expectations naturally left when their period of life was over, but newer, bigger, less flexible ones always took their place.  The bar set for third-grade math scores was replaced by the rules of safe driving, a much more rigid bar.  Much-awaited adulthood came with a surprising mound of expectations that demanded top billing.  The room of life was bulging.  There was no space for me to stretch out and be completely comfortable any more. No matter which way I stretched, I bumped, dented or hid someone's expectations, and they began to complain.

I've made attempts, some successful and some not, to "spring clean" and purge my life of unwanted expectations.  My grandparents have been gone for many years and, while their expectations are forever engraved in me, they no longer require their own floor-space in the room.  My parents' expectations have been fulfilled and shrunk as we begin the inevitable shift of aging.  And I have come to realize that some of the societal expectations were only in the room because I was too scared to let them out.

As I approach another birthday in a couple weeks, I have been feeling suffocated by fifty-five years of expectational baggage crammed into every nook, cranny and closet of life.  I have heard two voices in the last week telling me that it's time to "Let it go".  First my daughter, - half my age but, so often, twice my wisdom - said "My dream for you, Mom, is confidence."  I used to have confidence; I know I did.  I think that in one of our frequent moves, it got misplaced between the never-ending community expectations for the "new girl", my children's reasonable expectation of a solid foundation on which to build their own "room of life", and squeezing myself in to make way as my husband expanded his expectations for our new chapter of life.  

The second voice telling me to "Let it go" was God's.  "I have brought you out into a spacious place.  The only expectations here are Mine, and they are surprisingly light.  In this place, there is room for more than expectations.  There is space to dance, to create, to relax, to give with no expectations of return, to allow others to live without carrying the burden of your expectations.  There is space to focus on Me.  There is room to bloom in grace."

*Picture from Kelly @ Grace Notes.  I encourage you to visit her page and read her more elequent thoughts on Psalm 18:19.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Road Trip Challenge

During this hour of the readathon, the lovely ladies at In the Forest of Stories are sending us on a road trip - an imaginary road trip with one of the characters of the book we are currently reading, and to find the song to accompany our journey.  That's easy for me - considering the characters of "The Charm Bracelet" by Viola Shipman are on a road trip to the beach.

Lolly, Arden and Lauren - grandmother, mother and daughter - are traveling in a 1950 Buick Roadmaster "Woody".

And listening to Lolly's favorite - Dean Martin, singing "Ain't That a Kick in the Head".  Coincidentally, Dean Martin is one of my favorites, too.  Here's a clip of Dean performing that song in the original "Ocean's Eleven"

Readathon 2016

It's readathon day again.  One of my favorite days of the year - a day focused on reading, talking about reading, entering contests about reading, blogging about reading and more reading.  If you want to join, go here to sign up.  

As always, the readathon begins with the standard "get to know you" questions:

1.  Where are you? - Southeast Nebraska, USA
2.  Who are you? - Check the "About me" tab above for all the details.
3.  What are you reading? - see picture below
4.  What are you eating? - Slightly stale cheese puffs are a readathon tradition.
5. Have you done this before? - Many times.  And I embrace the readathon motto: No rules, just read.

My Readathon choices.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Servant Queen

Today is Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday.  I am a great fan of Her Majesty.  She is a model of decorum, devotion, and duty.  What you may not know is that she is also a model of faith.  I am so impressed by her, that I gave away twenty copies of "The Servant Queen and the King She Serves" to church members and family.  I thought I would share a few of my favorite quotes.

"The Queen's work is an expression of her desire to serve others.  She is not a hired servant who is required to do lots of tasks; she is a Queen who chooses to serve her people through doing the work that will best contribute to the nation's health."

"In an age when we are besieged by armies of celebrities telling us about almost every aspect of their lives in a variety of media, the Queen has kept most of her thoughts to herself... Curiously, that is not the case about her faith in Jesus.  About Jesus, she has been remarkably, one might say, uncharacteristically open about what she believes."

"Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about the Queen is her consistency of character.  Despite unprecedented levels of relentless media scrutiny for her entire life, there has never been a whiff of scandal about the Queen herself... She has a strong and happy marriage to a man she clearly respects and whose company she enjoys."

"She has had a gruelling travel and work schedule for over 60 years, but... there are no reliable recorded incidents of the Queen losing her temper, using bad language, or refusing to carry out a duty expected of her."

During her Coronation in 1953, the Archbishop annointed the Queen by pouring holy oil onto her hands, her chest and her head - "to show she is being set apart to serve and love her people in all her actions, with all her heart and with all her mind. . . She follows the example of Christ who was also...set apart, not to be served, but to serve."

I know the Queen is not, technically, a political figure.  She has no power to make or enforce laws.  But can you image if we had political leaders who shared her attitude toward duty and service?  

How has Queen Elizabeth II continued to display that attitude day after day in the face of wars, family scandals, age and everything else she has faced?  Here is the answer in her own words:

"Each day is a new beginning.  I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God."

You can purchase a copy of The Servant Queen and the King She Serves here.  They are considerably cheaper in lots of ten.  The prices are given in British Pounds.  I'm not entirely sure of the exchange rate, but they came out to be around $1.25/copy when I ordered twenty.