Becoming Unstuck, Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about being stuck on a quilting project I had begun way back in January. I’m happy to announce that I’ve finished the quilt!

Whew! This quilt ended up being a much bigger project than I had intended in more ways than one.  Not only did I have to put it aside a time or two while I thought about what to do next, the sheer size of the quilt caused me to have to take many breaks. I began to refer to it as a behemoth. Lugging it around and pushing it through the sewing machine was physically taxing.

Finishing a quilt is something like finishing a good book. I have many “next quilt” ideas in my head, but I need to enjoy this one for a while before beginning another.

Taking a break from quilting gives me a good excuse to begin reading the next book. Happy Free-Reading Friday!bedspsread quilt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Taking a Break

Is it possible to get PTSD from the news? I am beginning to think it might just be so. It  would be hard to argue that the current news climate is anything but stressful and depressing. It seems as though every day we are bombarded with nothing but bad news.

A healthcare bill that threatens to devastate the many who depend on Medicaid.

Syria.

Yet another child left to die in a hot car.

Russia’s tampering with our election process.

One more outrageous “Presidential” tweet.

STOP!

I needed a break today, so I spent an inordinate amount of time watching  cute pet videos.

I went to the sewing room and lost myself in my current quilt project.

I spent some Friday Free-Reading time and finished a book.

Finally, I went in search of some good news stories.  I found several. (Thanks, Google.)  Here are a few.

In Florida, dozens of strangers formed a human chain in the Gulf of Mexico to save people caught in a riptide.

Closer to home, an Idaho couple was reunited with their dog that had been lost in the wilderness for months.

Preschool sweethearts, who had lost touch with one another, have been reunited and married. (He proposed in front of their old preschool.)

Malala Yousafsai has graduated from secondary school and continues to advocate for women’s education.

President Jimmy Carter has been released from the hospital after having been treated for dehydration. He’s 92. He still builds houses for Habitat for Humanity.

Robinson Cano just hit another home run.

Good news is all around us. Sometimes you just have to go in search of it. I’m glad I did. I can’t make the bad news go away, but I feel better.

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Summer Reading

booksHot summer days mean extra reading time as I stay indoors to escape the 100+ degree heat. I’ve just started reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I loved the movie, but I’m told the book goes into greater depth over a longer period of time. It’s what books do.

It’s been a while since I’ve offered up some suggestions for your reading pleasure. The titles I’m suggesting today are not thematically related, or even the same genre. They’re simply good books.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom tells the story of Lavinia, a little girl from Ireland who is orphaned while on the ship bringing her family to America. The ship’s captain, who also owns a plantation, indentures her and places her in the care of his slaves who raise her. Because she is white, Lavinia never quite belongs in either the slaves’ world or the plantation owner’s world. Her situation makes for an interesting, thought-provoking, sometimes harrowing read.

Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie is a page turner about a serial killer in Seattle, Washington. Alexie addresses a number of themes, including cultural identity, Native Americans, racism and mental illness. This is not a story for the faint of heart; if you live in Seattle, I do not recommend you read alone at night.

If you’re looking for a lighter read, Still Life by Louise Penny might fit the bill. Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the quaint village of Three Pines, south of Montreal, to solve the murder of a longtime resident The first in a series of mystery novels featuring Inspector Gamache, Still Life is reminiscent of Murder She Wrote.

I hope at least one of these books suits your taste as you escape the summer heat. Stay cool and enjoy a happy Free-Reading Friday!

 

 

Bumper Stickers, T-shirts, and Mean Tweets

It comes as no surprise to me, but Donald Trump has once again gone too far with nasty tweets, this time about the co-hosts of Morning Joe. His comments, which would have earned a third grader a week of detention, went far beneath the dignity of the office of President of the United States. To say I am disturbed and disgusted would be an understatement.

What disturbs me more is that Trump’s staff defended him.

A number of politicians have called him to task for his comments, but Trump will not likely face any consequence of note.

Whatever happened to the return to civility that was promised just two weeks ago after the shooting of people practicing for an upcoming baseball game among Congressmen? It lasted about a day before both sides were once again sniping at each other.

The bigger question is where did all this meanness come from? It’s been around for a long time. (Just ask any woman who survived 8th grade, and she will tell you all about the mean girl culture at her school. I remember it, and I was in the 8th grade way back in the 1960s.)

A few years ago, I was sitting in my car at a stoplight downtown in our very conservative, Republican town. I had just pasted an “Obama-Biden” bumper sticker on my car. Someone behind me honked. I looked in the rear view mirror, expecting to see a negative look or impolite gesture. To my surprise and delight, I saw a good friend giving me the thumbs up sign. We have laughed about that from time to time. It’s hard to live in a community whose politics don’t match your own. You have to laugh about it now and again.

For years, people have worn their politics, religion, and world outlook on their cars and  T-shirts. While some of the slogans they display are cute or inane, they often point to a latent meanness; the printed words often relay things the wearer or driver might not say to your face, but the sentiment is hard to miss.

On an evening walk through my neighborhood one day, I passed a pickup with a tailgate full of hateful, chilling slogans that announced the owner carried weapons and would not hesitate to use them at the slightest provocation. I shivered as I walked by. I cannot bring myself to repeat those slogans here.

Conservatives are not alone in their meanness. Progressives and liberals say their share of things that are none too nice.

Bullying and incivility have always been with us. It seems more prominent in this age of social media and instant news. I wish I knew how to make it go away. I want people to be nice to each other.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to “do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12)  We would do well to remember and act upon His instruction. It would solve a lot of the world’s problems.

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My Reading Journal

Greetings! This Free-Reading Friday, I have just finished reading My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul. It is a memoir inspired by the reading journal the author has kept since she was in high school. If you like books about reading, you may find this one interesting.

I, too, keep a reading journal.  I am a life-long reader, but I did not begin to keep track of my reading until I was well into my 40s. My journal began as a simple list of titles and authors in the back of my personal journal, and has evolved since then.

Around 1997, I added the number of pages each book held. I had an ulterior motive. The staff at the elementary school where I taught at the time wanted to teach the students what one million looked like. The school began a massive reading campaign. In exchange for so many pages read, students and teachers alike received “Washington Bucks” which were then posted onto the walls of the school. We never reached $1,000,000. The fire department deemed the paper-plastered walls a fire hazard in the 19th century school building. Nevertheless, we all kept reading.

In 2013, I decided I wanted to keep my reading list all in one place, so I began a separate notebook. The format allows me space in which to write responses to my reading as I desire.

Four years later, my notebook is nearly full. From the front of the notebook, I’ve listed books I’ve read. From the back, I’ve listed interesting titles I’d like to read. The two lists are about to meet. It seems there are always more books on the “want to read” list than on the “have read” list.

It’s always exciting to begin a fresh notebook for any reason. As I begin my new reading journal, I am eager to see what worlds I will visit via the written word.

Happy Free-Reading Friday!

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New Toy

I bought a new computer today. Needless to say, the afternoon and evening have been spent familiarizing myself with it. My husband bought a new tablet at the same time, so he’s been busy with his own new toy.

I remember life without computers. (Actually, I remember life without television, but that’s another post for another day.) My husband and I bought our first computer in 1989. It seemed like a bigger deal in those days. We pored over magazine reviews, asked questions of our friends and colleagues, shopped, shopped and shopped some more before we committed to a “24 months-same-as-cash” agreement on a Macintosh Classic. I think the cost was around $2000, a pretty good chunk of change for a young family.

Neither of us was particularly savvy about technology. I was paranoid that I would push a wrong button and break the computer. One afternoon, the house became very quiet. Any parent knows it’s time to check on the kids when it gets quiet. Imagine my panic when I found my then three-year-old in the spare bedroom, ejecting a diskette from the computer. She seemed to know exactly what she was doing. Of course, nothing was broken. My daughter had acted upon her natural curiosity. The computer was more foolproof than I had thought.

Here I am, several computers later. I decided to replace the laptop I’ve used for the past nine or ten years. This time around it seemed like less of a big deal. After asking a few knowledgeable people their opinions and checking a few websites for reviews, I took a quick shopping trip. By then, all I wanted to do was type on the keyboards of the laptops that had made their way to my “maybe” list. I type a lot. I wanted something comfortable.

The laptop I bought today cost about one-fourth what that Macintosh Classic cost in 1989, and will do much more. Heck, my smart phone will do more. The things a computer can do continue to amaze me.

Of course, I need to tear myself away from the novelty so I can transfer things and get the old laptop ready to donate to Computers for Kids; but I am enjoying my new toy. While I’m still a bit leery of new electronic devices, I’ve become more comfortable with messing around and trying new features. I may remember life without computers, but I don’t think I would want to do without.

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What Did Jesus Say?

Now and then I will see a  Facebook post by a modern-day Pharisee who claims “Jesus said this,” or “Jesus said that”, without including the Scripture reference. I’ve been a student of the Bible for forty years, but my response is often, “Really? I don’t remember Him saying that.”

I’ll search the Gospels for the reference. Sometimes the quotation has been cherry-picked out of context, sometimes misquoted. Other times, the quote is just plain revisionist scripture.

These occasions led me to want to better educate myself about what Jesus actually said. Thinking a red-letter edition of the Bible would be helpful, I looked through the several translations and editions we had at home. I found no suitable Bible to use. The only red-letter edition on hand was a small, King James gift Bible I had received as a child. The print was way too small for my 67-year-old eyes. Besides, King James language, although poetic and beautiful, can no longer be considered the vernacular. I needed something I could read and understand.

I went Bible shopping. I was overwhelmed by the wide range of choices, none of which was within my budget. There were large tomes with large print and space for taking notes, small Bibles with too-small print, myriad translations, even a few with the words of Jesus in red.

I also found something called journaling Bibles. These are intended for those who do art work in their Bibles in response to Scripture. Margins are ample, paper is sturdy; some even include drawings to be colored. (I consulted Pinterest. Apparently Bible journaling is quite a fad. It is telling that I found a greater variety of these in the craft store than in the book store, artfully displayed next to specialty “Bible journaling markers” and lettering templates. Someone is making a green killing on these.)

I threw up my hands in frustration and did not buy a new Bible that day. Instead, I bought a pink Bible highlighter–the kind that is erasable and will not bleed through thin paper. I would make my own red-letter edition.

The plan? Using my favorite study Bible, I would read the Gospels as an Advent discipline. As I read, I would highlight Jesus’ words with pink. I am not the most consistent, disciplined student. I have made progress, but Advent was over months ago. Here it is June, and I’ve reached the 16th chapter of Luke. That speaks to my humanness, I suppose.

Not having a deadline to finish has its advantages. I’ve been able to go at my own pace, thinking about what I read. Reading the Christmas story right after Easter gave me a new perspective. I read it not as a routine ritual, but as something to consider in relation to the Resurrection.

The highlighter has also slowed me down. I have focused on Jesus’ words. Even His shortest utterances have a power I had not before realized.

I’m glad I undertook this red-letter project. It continues to teach me much.

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