28 June 2016

Forgiveness


The Sunday school lesson a few weeks ago felt as if it was aimed right at me. So did all the talks (sermons) in Sacrament meeting. For that matter, even the Relief Society (women's class) lesson targeted me.

Everything that day was about forgiveness.

One of the most meaningful tidbits I'd heard that day was, "Why is it easier to forgive strangers and people we work with than members of our own family?"

I'd been chiding myself for a while because I was frustrated with a loved one who wasn't, in my opinion, fulfilling their responsibilities. I wasn't angry, but I was being rather tight-lipped with a specific person for fear of saying something I'd later regret.

This person could tell, too, that I wasn't happy, and had blasted me for "never letting go" and holding a grudge for forever.

I came out of church that day determined to stop judging the thorn in my side and to stop being upset that someone's choices were different than mine.

I worked really hard for four days to show a higher degree of love and acceptance.

And then my world unexpectedly and temporarily came to a complete and grisly standstill. Those Sunday messages may have prodded me to do something I knew I needed to do, but they were not about the person I'd been frustrated with at all. Not even close. Instead, those messages must have been God's warning that I was about to stumble back into the deepest, darkest hornet's nest of my life, and I'd better be ready.

When I got off work that night, I wanted to run a 10K. I knew it would destroy my back, but I didn't care.

When I got home, if I'd had a quart of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food, I'd have downed the whole carton in one sitting, all by myself. To heck with diets and cycling season. Fortunately, we don't keep ice cream in our fridge. There were a few Oreos leftover from my volunteer teaching assignment on Tuesday night, but I managed to stay out of the cookies.

Instead, The Lizard took a walk with me. We walked around the lake while the sky turned crimson red and lightning flashed about five or six miles away. We could see the bolts reflecting in the lake, and I didn't have my camera. I didn't care.

At the time, I kept trying to convince myself I didn't care about anything anywhere. But deep down inside, it was the exact opposite.

That day, I'd been asked to write a victim impact statement (VIS) on behalf of my family. Typically victim advocates try to give families at least 30 days' notice, 90 days if they can. We were given one week.

I collected my family's thoughts, and I researched the heck out of victim impact statements by others. I researched the law in several states. I tried to learn as much as I could so I could write the best VIS possible. I learned some states give more rights to the criminal than the victims. Some states edit what the families of the victims say. My family was lucky, if you could call it that. The state where the crime was committed had passed a Victim's Bill of Rights in 2009, and what we had to say would be heard. The decision would be affected by what we had gone through.

Some parole boards seemed to have grown calloused by and numb from eons of what they must consider whiny victim statements demanding justice decades after the actual crime was committed.

My family had been deeply hurt, not once, but twice. It's been a very bitter pill to swallow for 25 years now. 25 years. A quarter of a century, and yet, that day, talking about it again, it was as if it had happened just minutes before. The wounds were fresh again, and the pain... oh, my gosh, the pain. I thought my own pain had healed. I thought I had forgiven. Rehashing the scene forced everyone in the family, including me, to relive the nightmare. I discovered during my interviews that some members of my family still have very strong feelings about what happened.

Rare is the day when someone in my family isn't sorrowful or despondent because of memories of that fateful day.

My family chose me to write the VIS because I'm the writer. They think I'm the one who can keep my cool under duress. They trusted me to convince the parole board to deny the request.

My family was spared the research and hours of tinkering with VIS words and sentences with a looming deadline and a hyperactive work schedule, trying to make sure everything was just right. They weren't able to put the crime completely out of their heads though – some have never been able to put it completely out of their heads. Some wounds never fully heal. Yet they didn't have to relive it one word at a time via a computer keyboard, so they didn't understand my purpose or my words in my first draft. Not all of my family shares my faith, so they couldn't comprehend the ground upon which I was struggling to stand.

Struggling. I don't know that the word "struggling" even begins to describe what I went through in trying to compose a statement that encompasses the feelings of my family as well as my own and ultimately would become part of an official transcript that will be kept on record until time ends. A statement that would reflect my family's experience forever. A statement I would one day have to explain to God, face to face. Although I was not and am not in favor of parole, I tried to be compassionate, and I wanted to show that we, my family, are not being vengeful in our request.

Suddenly the blame and the anger wasn't aimed at the inmate anymore. It was directed at me.

I've long understood people grieve at their own pace and must climb their own stairway to healing. I've known for many years some members of my family have suffered far more than I have. I was somewhat insulated. I didn't live in the town or even the state where the crime was committed. I wasn't surrounded with the daily newscasts during the trial. I was able to keep living, even though something inside of me had died that day. I was far from pain-free, but the distance in miles served as a shield, protecting me from daily salt in the wound.

As I walked around the lake with the person I love the most, I felt the love I needed. He listened to everything I said. He held me when I cried. He tried not to tell me what to do. He was angry with my family for putting me in this position, but he also knew I had initially felt honored to be the one to represent my family. He knew he couldn't make the pain go away, so he just listened and tried to be my friend.

He continually reminds me of Someone Else who also loves me unconditionally and who also walks with me through my deepest sorrows and my exuberant joy. The One who would expect me to forgive... not only the person who committed the crime, but my family for misdirecting their anger. He expects me to be an example to my family and to help them progress in their own individual journeys.

When The Lizard and I got back home, I did an internet search for songs about forgiveness, and the one above is the one that helped me most in the coming days as I rewrote, resubmitted and reconnected with my family. My family was much more comfortable with my second (and final) draft. After the ordeal, my beloved husband and I took a ride up Waterton Canyon, a most healing ride. Photos will be featured tomorrow.

Now that this ugly experience is behind me, I intend to keep forgiving. The final line of the last verse of Matthew West's song is something I'm hoping I can embrace and live for the rest of my life.

The prisoner I free may be me.

27 June 2016

Mandala Monday


Blocked Free to Be Mandala

I'd finished crocheting a couple of snowflake rocks aboard the commuter train when I started what I thought would be a red, white and blue snowflake. It turned into a mandala instead, and I really like it!

You may do whatever you'd like with mandalas you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!


Unblocked Free to Be Mandala

Finished Size: 4 inches across
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread in three colors, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Here are the colors I used for the patriotic version:

Color A: blue
Color B: red
Main Color: white

Free to Be Mandala Instructions

With Color A, make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 11 dc in ring, sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2; bind off. Weave in ends. Pull magic circle tight.

Round 2: With Main Color, 2 sc in each dc around for a total of 24 sc; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 3: With Color B, 1 dc in each sc around; sl st in starting dc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 4: With Main Color, 2 sc in each dc around for a total of 48 dc; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 5: With Color A, * 1 dc in any sc (or next sc on repeats), ch 2, sk next sc; repeat from * around 23 times for a total of 24 dc; slip st in starting dc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 6: With Main Color, 2 sc in each ch 2 sp around for a total of 48 sc; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 7: With Color B, * 1 dc over Round 6 sc into top of any Color A dc (or next Color A dc on repeats), ch 3; repeat from * around 23 times for a total of 24 dc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 8: With Main Color, 3 sc in each ch 3 sp around for a total of 72 sc; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 9: With Color A, * 5 dc over Round 8 sc into any Color B dc (or next Color B dc on repeats), remove hook from loop and insert in 1st dc of 5/dc group, insert hook back through loop of 5th dc and pull through 1st dc (popcorn stitch made), 1 dc in each of the next 6 sc; repeat from * around 11 times; st st in top of starting popcorn st; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 10: With Main Color, 1 sc in each dc and popcorn stitch around; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 11: With Color B, * 5 dc over Round 10 sc into top of any Color A popcorn (or next Color A popcorn on repeats), remove hook from loop and insert in 1st dc of 5/dc group, insert hook back through loop of 5th dc and pull through 1st dc (popcorn stitch made), 1 dc in same sc, 1 dc in each of the next 7 sc; repeat from * around 11 times; st st in top of starting popcorn st; bind off. Weave in ends.

Round 12: With Main Color, * 1 sc in 2nd dc immediately left of any popcorn st, 1 sc in each of next 2 dc, in next dc work 1 hdc, 1 sc and 1 hdc, 1 sc in each of next 3 sc, sk next 2 dc; 1 sc in next sc; repeat from * around 11 times, omitting last sc of final repeat; sl st in starting sc; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: To stiffen or shape mandala without stiffening, tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin mandala to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

To shape mandala without stiffening, spray lightly with water and allow to dry thoroughly.

To stiffen mandala, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint mandala with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow mandala to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel mandala from wax paper or plastic wrap.

To hang mandala, attach 10-inch clear thread loop to one point, weaving in ends. Use loop to hang. Note that extended exposure to direct sunlight will fade thread colors.

24 June 2016

Friday Fun

Just what we need when the mercury climbs up near the triple-digit zone...

23 June 2016

Scribbles


Lizard Doodles

I recently read a humorous commentary on the youthful art exploits of someone not quite as old as me. The author was poking fun at one of the first computerized drawing programs available to the public. At a young age, the artist in training scribbled in Microsoft Paint, then used the paint bucket to fill in the scribbles with color.

"We all did it!" the author proclaimed.

My kids did it on a Mac. I never did. Not as a child, anyway.

I chuckled when I read that commentary because the first time I was allowed to scribble and fill in the scribbles with color, there were no computers! I did it with crayons on paper. I sometimes even did it on the wall or on the furniture. Yes, in fact, I did. I even color-coded Grandma's ivory piano keys with felt tip pens so I could remember where to put my fingers when playing my favorite song, "Bibbity Bobbity Boo" from Cinderella, or some such catchy little age-appropriate ditty.

Oh, how I loved the brilliant colors of felt tip pens. And this was back when felt tip pens rarely came in packages of more than six or twelve. I'd have been in heaven with the awesome 48-color sets available now!


The Lizard doodles just like I used to!

As a teen, I loved to doodle with felt tip pens. The pens moved so smoothly. I would draw a little scribble with one color, then change to another color and outline my little scribble, then change to another color and outline the outline... I'd keep going until I filled the paper with a rainbow of pen lines.

Maybe that's why I am so attracted to Hawaiian quilting.

Hawaiian Quilting

I also liked to draw thick and hard on top of the clear plastic crayon box (I don't remember seeing gigantic boxes of 64 dreamy colors until I was a teenager, and I likely would have gone into color overload if the monster boxes had been available way back then, too), then cover my drawing with glue, which I would peel from the plastic after it dried and hang in the window to let the sun come through the pretty pastel colors.

And that's how a future snowflake designer became hopelessly addicted to prismatic danglies.

rainbow generators


Now I've taken to drawing with my sewing machine. In some ways, free-motion quilting feels a bit like the scribbles I used to do as a child. Reminiscing of my youthful art exploits brings back warm memories. Today's scribbling literally has the power to warm!

my first attempt at free-motion quilting

21 June 2016

Things


I recently read an article about how awesome it was to not own anything and move around every couple of days, never doing laundry, just buying a new T-shirt when the old one becomes too icky to wear.

The whole point, according to the author, was "experiences are more important than things."

I unleashed an entire spectrum of emotions during the next 24 hours or so, from shock to disgust to pity.

I was very, very angry the author put himself so far above everyone else because everyone else owns things, and his life proves things are not necessary.

I also was pretty disgruntled because I've volunteered on behalf of the homeless, and most of them have no such superiority complex. (I don't mean to be judgmental.)

When I finally began to settle down, I realized I don't want to stoop to the author's level (which I just did again) and put anyone down. However, I do see great value in my experiences and in experiences I've encountered because of or thanks to things I own.


the garden we wouldn't have without a house of our own

I'll be the first to admit I don't really need any more "things" - well, except for fabric, yarn, camera batteries, memory cards, external hard drives and replacement bike, sewing machine and car should the existing ones ever go away in any way, shape or form. Aw, what the heck. I need lots of things. But I don't need to buy new things every few days or weeks or months. I'm perfectly happy using my 34-year-old sewing machine, my 17-year-old car, my 13-year-old bike, my 8-year-old camera and my one-generation-back iPhone. I'll keep using the laptop we bought in 2013 until the motherboard can no longer be repaired. Which is exactly what we did with the 2005 laptop we used until it could not longer be repaired.

I intend to keep living in the house we bought seven years ago but won't actually own for 22 more years until such time we decide to relocate to a state where the grass is not greener, if you catch my Colorado drift. And I'm not talking snow. But that's a different rant for another day.


scraps I couldn't make into something useful without a sewing machine

Without my sewing machine, I wouldn't be creating my own clothing, clothing for others and quilts for charity, friends, relatives, gifts, business, you name it. Creating is an experience I wouldn't trade for much of anything. It is absolutely an experience, and not just ownership. However, ownership is a grand piece of the experience, too.

I had to work for a long time to save up money to buy my sewing machine when I was still fairly young, and I made payments on it for about two years. That meant I had to keep working. My sewing machine didn't teach me to be responsible, however. My parents did.

I've been lucky and have liked or loved all my jobs, so working has never been an issue for me. Nevertheless, the responsibility of keeping up payments and the enjoyment of using something I paid for myself is an experience. My paid-off (and recently re-warrantied) sewing machine has brought many wonderful experiences, learning opportunities, charitable projects and teaching activities. It has built many friendships. It provides an outlet for my overflowing bottomless chasm of ideas. I expect it will continue to do so for as long as it lives. (I don't know which of us will last longer, me or the sewing machine, but that is part of the experience.)


still smiling, even with a flat

My 4Runner is another thing I had to save for and sacrifice on behalf of for many years. I would say I actually do love my car, even though I probably shouldn't love things. This car has taken me places I have enjoyed. It has taken friends and family places they have enjoyed. It has allowed me to volunteer in places I would not have been able to reach without it, and it provides a way to get the equipment I need to volunteer sites. I could not/would not pack all my camera equipment and lights to a rehab center aboard public transportation.

My car periodically has served as sleeping quarters, a dining room, a writing cave and the parent of countless photographic adventures. In the event of a flood or other natural disaster, it will provide a means of escape. It will transport and keep safe much of what we and others need in order to survive unforseen disasters. It has been paid off for a number of years now, but it requires continual upkeep, which requires continual commitment and hard work. I have to take care of it if I want it to last as long as me. That's an experience. A valuable one, too, as far as I'm concerned.


My bike... need I say more!!! Try doing Ride the Rockies without a bike! I'm afraid that won't quite work. Riding my bike from point A to point B is an experience, and sometimes it's even an experience with someone else. Getting up a mountain without an engine is a cherished experience, and it's good for my health and body, too. When I'm on my bike, I see and hear and smell animals, rivers, trees, flowers, storms in a way I can't possibly experience them from inside a vehicle. I'll bet I get more experiences in one week on my bike than the author of the aforesaid article gets in an entire year of moving into new rental quarters every two days and opting not to own anything but two pairs of pants, two dress shirts, two pairs of underwear and two T-shirts (which he presumably discards instead of laundering because he says that's all he buys... two more T-shirts every once in a while).

Am I missing out on the experience of traveling the world by being grounded into the place where I've set roots? Yes, but I can enjoy the photography and stories of others. I can't travel internationally right now anyway because too many people are depending upon my blood donations every six or eight weeks.

Oh, and blood donation... Isn't that an experience? Isn't that something special and needed? Blood donation would not be so easy if I were homeless and rootless.


My camera is no doubt a luxury. But I try every day to make good use of it, to share with others things they may have missed or may not ever get the chance to see. In many ways, it is my means of communication. I would not trade this communication for any other form of communication except face-to-face human contact. Even then, I don't want to trade it. I want both. But that's an experience too, right? Working to achieve both? Maintaining relationships with co-workers on a day-to-day basis in an effort to stay happy and make sure co-workers stay happy so no one dreads coming to work, even if we make jokes about the return to work after Christmas and New Year's holidays.


our fresh canvas

My husband and I spent two years looking for a home while living in an apartment that wasn't in the safest neighborhood. It took two years to find our home. Each Saturday morning, we'd go out hopeful it would be our last home shopping trip. And each Saturday afternoon we'd return home discouraged, not sure we'd ever get to experience the dream. Experience. There's that magic word again. The ups and downs, together, learning to keep trying, not to give up, to get along even when the chips were down, to make do with what we had, to budget, to be patient. Finding ways to experience joy even though it seemed our dream would never be fulfilled.

Then the economy tanked. Over-extended homeowners began walking away from their homes. Short sales and foreclosures were in abundant supply. We finally found a home we could afford in a neighborhood we liked. Neighbors with whom we could develop awesome relationships and experience wonderful things if we but invested in real estate and kept working and saving. We made an offer. We waited. The pins and needles alongside my sewing machine never had such meaning or impact. Short sales are not short by any means. Our wait dragged on for weeks.

And then the unimaginable happened. Layoffs in our own little world. Twenty percent of the workforce was gone overnight. The pins and needles morphed overnight into frigid shafts of sharp fear. What if one of us lost our job? What if we got the house, and we could no longer meet the required payments? What would we do?

This is not an experience I care to repeat ever in my life, but we had to prepare. We had to plan. We had to be able to find a way to survive and thrive if we lost even one paycheck. Thank heavens we didn't have to work through that plan then, but we did figure out ways to accomplish what needed to be done if things had gone differently. It made us stronger. It made us closer. It made us more committed to holding onto our dream and finding a way to be happy, no matter what. It helped us prepare for the current experience of living off one paycheck.


Our house is a fixer-upper. We are experiencing the joys of fixing things we didn't break. Yes, there is joy in that! Overcoming hardship, saving photos and journals from a backed-up sewer, replacing appliances and toilets as they wear out, trying to keep pipes from freezing, removing floorboards and carpet with pet odors from previous occupants, renewing, replacing, repairing, refreshing... Every little thing we do to our home makes it more ours and less the former occupants'. There is joy in doing the work ourselves. (Well, we had to call in a plumber for the sewer back-up and roofers when we lost tiles to a vicious windstorm, but most of the rest of the stuff we can we're fixing ourselves, and sometimes learning new skills in the process.)


impossible clove trees

Oh, and gardening! Trying to get tropical plants to grow indoors at 6,000-plus feet and 37 degrees north of the equator? Yes, I could try to do that in an apartment, too, but I wouldn't be able to do it if I was constantly on the move, new place to sleep every week. Plants don't count as inessential things to me because some of them provide our food, and most of them provide happiness. Our indoor plants help minimize the affects of seasonal affected disorder in winter.


We enjoy our home! Evenings together watching a movie, sewing, teaching our little 6-year-old neighbor to sew, crafting, playing chess, exercising, gardening, baking, reading, talking, editing photos, learning a new computer program, listening to music, remembering, writing, even the dreaded riding of the trainer in winter... Our home is a place of comfort, learning, love, joy, warmth, shelter, and slowly, month by month, a tiny bit more of it is ours each and every month and less the bank's. We even do repairs and new construction together. I wouldn't trade the experience of home ownership with my husband for any apartment anywhere. Period.


the best dining room in the entire country

Yes, I could rent most of the stuff I own instead of buy, but I'm happy with what I experience with the stuff I own and the house we are buying. Aside from the joy of ownership (complete with all the struggles and sacrifice required), a degree of familiarity enhances the experience, in my opinion. I know what my camera, my car and my bike can do. I don't necessarily know the ability and/or shortcomings of something I haven't worked with for years or even decades.


When I read that article in question, I hated that someone would put down all people who own. Initially I thought the author in question perhaps has a little too much and perhaps needs to have less in order to appreciate the good in the world and to experience gratitude. But then, upon deeper and lengthy contemplation, I realized this person is on a journey of their own and may need to experience the footloose and fancy-free life in order to understand some things - yes, THINGS - are more valuable than freedom from commitment and investment.

Yes, things. Things that teach. Things that enable. Things that protect. Things worth investment and effort.

Things that, when combined with people, make life more worth sharing.

20 June 2016

Snowflake Monday


This snowflake was designed as we headed home after a wonderful weekend of cross-country skiing atop the Grand Mesa at Skyway last winter. It was inspired by the gorgeous flakes falling as we skied.

I had to pose my Skyway Snowflake Rock with my snow in summer flowers before they all wilted. They sure don't last long in the summer heat. Perhaps that's how the tiny white flowers got their name?

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!


Finished Size: 2.75 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Skyway Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 11 dc in ring; sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2. Pull magic ring tight.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 2: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc in same ch as sl st, * sk next dc, 2 dc in next dc, ch 3, 2 dc in same dc; repeat from * around 4 times; sk next dc, 2 dc in same ch as starting dc, ch 1, 1 dc in 2nd ch of starting ch 2 to form 6th ch 3 tip of Round.

Round 3: Ch 5 (counts as 1 dc and ch 3), 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook (dc picot made)1 dc over post of dc directly below, * 1 dc in next ch 3 tip, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, 1 dc in same ch 3 tip, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, ch 3, 1 sc in 3rd ch from hook (sc picot made), ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook (tri-picot point made), 1 dc in same ch 3 tip, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, 1 dc in same ch 3 tip; repeat from * around 5 times; 1 dc in next ch 3 tip, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, 1 dc in same ch 3 tip, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, ch 3, 1 sc in 3rd ch from hook (sc picot made), ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook (tri-picot point made), sl st in 2nd ch of starting ch 2; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

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