Showing posts with label crazy life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crazy life. Show all posts

Friday, March 17, 2017

rejection


Yesterday, Facebook reminded me that eight years ago, the University of Oregon declined my proposal.
Which reminded me that eight years ago I was in the throes of a mild existential crisis. Before the four programs I applied to that year declined, I had never experienced that much rejection. It was quite a reversal from the experience of my senior year in high school when all five of the schools to which I applied accepted me and offered me money. 

The following year, my successful application to the program from which I earned my PhD in 2015, was a humbling lesson in How Things Work. Never before had I really understood the maxim that who you know is more important than what you know. It was absolutely my network connections that   pushed my submission to the top of the stack of applications from other eminently qualified people. 

In the last couple of years the realities of the academic job market have brought this experience of rejection back to my life. It's not unusual for job seekers in the humanities to submit upwards of 70 dossiers, each customized to the recipient institution, for 1-2 interviews and maybe 0-1 job offers each year.

I am, however, responding to rejection differently.

In her blog post "Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year" Kim Liao talks about flipping the way we regard the rejection slip. It is not evidence of unworthiness, but rather evidence of bravery. Evidence of the audacity to take a chance.

It's also evidence of productivity. In order to put oneself out there, a writer or an academic has to be producing the work to put in the envelope (read: e-mail attachment) in the first place. Aiming for one acceptance would mean slaving over a single document long beyond the point at which real improvement ceases to happen. Accepting the inevitability of, and *gasp* even celebrating, rejection means sending things out as soon as they are polished enough. And sometimes rejection comes with the advice needed to improve to the next level.

I'm not the same sort of writer that Liao is, and 100 rejections a year is beyond the scope of what I need to be aiming for as a writer of scholarly journal articles. But if I add up all the ways I want to be putting myself out there in the next year, I should be able to garner a healthy number of rejections from academic journals and presses, job postings, fellowships and grants, and potential friends and partners. I think I'll aim for 40.

Monday, October 24, 2016

generosity

This interview was conducted in lieu of a sermon on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church (Arlington District, Virginia Conference) during their Let Your Light Shine Stewardship campaign. This interview has been lightly edited to remove verbal ticks and to firm up sentence structure and add clarity as needed. An audio recording is available on Mt. Olivet's website.

Kathleen: We are in the middle of our fall stewardship campaign "Let Your Light Shine," and we thought it might be a good thing to share stories of generosity with each other and for all of the congregation to overhear these stories. So this week and next week we'll be interviewing members of the congregation instead of a more traditional sermon. And this morning it's a joy to welcome Kate.

Kathleen: So, Kate, what brought you to Mt. Olivet?
Kate: Friends brought me to Mt. Olivet. When I moved back to the area with my teenagers about a year and a half ago, I reconnected with some college friends who are long-term members here at Mt. Olivet. It's been a joy to go to church with them, and I've met more friends like you and Amanda and decided that this was a good place to be.

Kathleen: So what makes you stay, besides me being fabulous?
Kate: Well, you're pretty fabulous, so..... One of the big things that makes me stay, actually, is the multigenerational ministry that happens here. We lived in rural Michigan for a long time, and there were a lot of years and more than one church where my kids were the Sunday school. There were no other children, there were no youth for them to look up to. The congregations were aging, so it's nice to be here where there are families and people at lots of points along the spectrum of age, and a robust Sunday school, and confirmation class, and youth group.

Kathleen: So our theme for stewardship is Let Your Light Shine, and when we talked about this question before, we couldn't settle on one ministry or mission of the church that really stands out for you, so what are the missions and ministries of this church that stand out for you, and how do you let your light shine through them.
Kate: The mission of the church that I'm the most excited about is La Cucina, downstairs, the activity that we host in our kitchen. When I first learned about that ministry, I asked some questions and tried to see if there's a way I could get involved, and the answer is really no, so I support La Cucina by staying out of the way: respecting their space in the refrigerator, not messing with their stuff, putting their kitchen things back where they belong when I'm done using them. And also, the funds that I give to Mt. Olivet are undirected, so if La Cucina needs money, then hopefully some of the money I give to Mt. Olivet can go there.
     In terms of the ministry of the church, I really enjoy worshipping with the way. There is a lot about that service that I like, and I let my light shine there through participating. I help with hospitality--in fact before I came up here for this service today, I helped Marsha with the snacks downstairs--and I have preached and offered children's sermons in the way.

Kathleen: We're talking about generosity, and I'm curious: where did you learn generosity?
Kate: I think I learned generosity in the church, particularly in confirmation class when I was thirteen. We talked about the vows we were going to take, that we were pledging to support the United Methodist Church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service. And now we've added our witness to that pledge.
     And the church that I grew up in was a rural church in Pennsylvania the size of a one-room school house. While I was a teenager, we were raising the money to build a new building, which was a big stretch. And we started to raise that money three dollars at a time buying cinderblocks for the foundation. Every time we raised another three dollars, one of the women in the church would glue a sugar cube to a model of the foundation of the new building until we had enough money for all the necessary sugar cubes. And then we moved on to studs--they were more expensive than three dollars apiece--but the studs were popsicle sticks. It took years for us to build this sugar cube and popsicle stick model of the church, but at the end of the process, we had the money we needed to actually build the building. And so it was watching the members of this congregation be generous with each other and give beyond their normal giving to do this next thing that taught me a lesson in generosity.
    I also think that generosity begets generosity. When you commit to give and then you practice that commitment, you're like, 'Oh, hey! I can do this! Maybe I can do more.' Giving becomes self-reinforcing.

Kathleen: And how do you personally practice generosity?
Kate: In terms of giving my gifts to the church?
Kathleen: Sure! Or just in your life.
Kate: So a lot of times in a campaign like this and in the church at stewardship time what we're focused on most is the money, which is important, but it's not the only way to practice generosity. There have been times in my adult life where I didn't have a tithe to give to the church. But I was able to sit down with my checkbook and the pile of bills and make decisions about money prayerfully: how am I going to honor my commitments? am I going to have anything left to give financially to the church?
     I also think bigger about the idea of our gifts. The oath we make to the church is not only our money. It's our prayers and our presence. Just showing up is keeping your oath. And our gifts are not just the monetary ones. We can give our time, our talents, all of those things, too.
[I wish I had thought to talk about my support of American University's United Methodist Chaplaincy, the Kay Spiritual Life Center, and Friendly Planet Missiology here.]
Kathleen: Can you tell the offering basket story?
Kate: Oh! The offering basket story.... For a couple of reasons, sometimes in my life, like I said, I haven't always had financial things to give to the church. Sometimes in my life [even when I do have a tithe to give] I just always forget to bring the offering. And now, I give to Mt. Olivet electronically, so I don't have anything to physically put in the basket. The habit that I've gotten into in the past when I didn't have anything to put in the basket was to still touch the offering plate. So, even if I don't have anything to put in it, I hold the offering plate in my hands, and I think about what I'm giving that week. Sometimes it's just I remember that I've given online, and sometimes its that this week I'm giving my time, or this week I'm praying for a congregant, or this week I'm doing some work for the church. Right, so using that moment of the offering plate moving before me to concentrate and think, 'What am I giving this week?'

Kathleen: Do you find that practicing generosity brings wholeness to your life?
Kate: What do you mean by wholeness?
Kathleen: Does practicing generosity make you feel like the person God created you to be?
Kate: Yes. Yeah, I think so. I think generosity isn't wholeness all by itself, but it definitely is an important component--that idea that we are created and called to give as well as receive.

Kathleen: And now the six million dollar question that you and I have spent a lot of time talking about, and I'm really excited for you to share your thoughts with the congregation: What goes through your mind when you look at that pledge card?
Kate: I do not like the pledge cards. Having been the lay leader of a small church, I understand the desire on the part of the church leadership to know. I understand the desire to have numbers, to be able to say, 'In the next year, our congregants are going to give us X amount of dollars.' At the same time, one of the small churches I was involved with in rural Michigan did not do pledge cards because at some time in their past, pledge cards--and arguments about pledge cards--had caused a schism in the church. We didn't have that as a tool, so we looked at our patterns of income and our patterns of expenses over the last year, five years, ten years, and those were the numbers that we used to plan our budget. We were pretty successful at that. Using those numbers worked for us and allowed us to not bring up the hard feelings associated with pledge cards in that congregation.
     As a congregant myself, when I'm faced with a pledge card, I do one of two things: Either I just avoid it, and I never turn it in, and I feel kind of bad because the church asked me to do something, and I didn't. Or, I write down a very low number. That's in part because the pledge card presumes a constancy of income that I haven't experienced in my adult life. Although I know that no one in this church, no one in the office is ever going to chase me down and say, 'You pledged us three hundred dollars this year and you've only given us ten'--that's not going to happen--at the same time if I write something on the pledge card and I sign it and I put it in the offering basket, that feels like a covenant now. It feels like something that I have to do. I am more able to give with a joyful heart if I don't feel that sort of weight associated with the giving. So I would rather not participate in pledge cards.

Behold the pledge card I will not be filling out.
Ironic that it appeared in my mailbox the day after this interview. ;-)
Kathleen: But not participating in the pledge cards doesn't mean that you don't practice generosity.
Kate: Right. Right, I absolutely give. Not using the pledge card doesn't mean not giving. It just means giving consciously and adjusting the gift as the circumstances of my finances and my family's situation change.

Kathleen: I think when we talk about money in the church, sometimes we forget that it's a communal thing. There are those among us who are definitely in the situation to sit down and fill out the pledge card with our graphs and our pie charts and our Excel spreadsheets. Some of us lead different kinds of lives, and it's something that we do together as a community.
Kate: Yeah, it is something that we do together as a community, and I think that the continuation of the use of pledge cards in the Methodist church as a whole is tradition-based. We've done it for a long time, and so we keep doing it, but it doesn't work for all of us.

Kathleen: Is there anything else you would like to share about Mt. Olivet and your time at Mt. Olivet or generosity?
Kate: I'm just really happy to be in a church that has as much variety as Mt. Olivet does. There's a lot that Mt. Olivet has to offer because all of us bring our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness together to the community.

Kathleen: Thank you. Amen and amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

ease

In fashion, ease is a technical term that refers to the relationship between the dimensions of the clothes and the dimensions of the wearer. A garment whose dimensions are designed to be larger than the wearer's dimensions has positive ease, and a garment with dimensions smaller than the wearer's has negative ease. In today's ready-to-wear fashion industry, neutral ease, garment dimensions that exactly match the wearer's is difficult to achieve.

Small differences in ease, on the order of an inch or two can make large differences in the fit and comfort of a garment. Wearing a garment with positive ease when it was designed for negative ease can yield unflattering results. For example, if a person with a petite frame wants an oversized comfy sweater, she can't just buy an extra large size of a sweater that is designed to be form fitting. The shoulders would be too wide, and the waist shaping would fall in the wrong place on her body. If she wants an oversized sweater, she needs to find one that was designed to be oversized on her frame.

Ease is especially important when knitting fitted garments like socks. A sock with positive ease through the instep will slide around on the foot or bunch up and create the potential for blisters. A sock with positive ease through the calf will fall down and look silly.



Knee socks that stay up are a challenge for handknitters precisely because of the issue of ease. The rainbow socks in the picture above are my second attempt at knee socks, and the first successful ones. 



The black and grey striped socks at the right are SmartWool knee socks, which do stay up but unfortunately are really too snug, which is part of what drove me to attempt the craziness of knitting my own. 

My first pair of hand-knit knee socks is the purple and grey ones in the middle of the line-up above. The general guideline for handknitters is to knit socks with 10% negative ease, so the dimensions of the sock are 90% of the dimensions of the wearer's foot. When planning that first pair, I carried this 10% idea all the way up the calf, measuring the circumference of my leg at 1" intervals from ankle to knee, then multiplying each measurement by .90, then knitting to those dimension. When finished knitting, I pulled the socks on and stood up, ready to be proud, and was instead dismayed that they promptly fell down. They would only stay up if held in place by my tall dress boots.

I turned to the forums on Ravelry for research and learned that knee socks need a much greater degree of negative ease to stay up, but not nearly as much custom shaping as I had done. One knitter whose other suggestions about socks had been helpful, suggested at least 3" negative ease for knee socks. Figuring that for an average calf, three inches would be 20-25% negative ease, I decided to try a sock that was 9.5" at its fullest circumference when unstretched. (I should note that my calves are quite large. My feet are hollowed by high arches, my heels are narrow, and my ankles are fine, but my calves are muscular and wide, 16" in circumference at the fullest point.) The rainbow socks were a success! I eventually ripped the purple ones back to the ankle and reknit the calf to look more like the rainbow socks, and they stay up now, too.

The blue socks at the left of the lineup provide a lesson in too much negative ease. They are ribbing through the foot and the lower leg, so they are not nearly as tiny as they appear to be in this picture, and they fit my foot and lower leg. The top cuff, however, has cables, a knitting technique that involves crossing stitches over each other to create texture in the finished fabric. I fell in love with this pattern because of the cables. But while crossing stitches over each other creates fetching designs, it also reduces the elasticity of the knitted fabric, and these cables draw the fabric in so much that they will not go over my calves at all. The socks are in deep time out right now, while they contemplate this offensive behavior on the part of their stitches, and I decide how to modify the pattern. 

Other knitters remark on my knee socks frequently, often because they notice that mine are staying up and their only experience has been as disappointing as my purple and grey ones. So here's how I do it:

I start socks at the toes. This allows the toes and instep to be a swatch, and I can correct any issues of gauge (8-9 sts/in is ideal for socks) and fabric density in this part of the sock before turning the heel, especially if I'm working with a yarn that's new to me. 

To create room for the calf, I work paired increases at the back of the leg every other round for several rounds. Then, at the top of the calf, I work paired decreases to remove one-inch's worth of stitches before switching to smaller needles for the ribbing. 

The whole reason I learned to knit was to make my own socks, and I'm happy with what I've accomplished so far, but I'm continuing to experiment with ease and pattern and shape. An unexpected side effect of this process has been a greater understanding of how garments interact with bodies generally. Ease is not a concept most of us think about when we shop for garments off the rack, but we should.






Thursday, September 15, 2016

shade

The first time Lou visited Lovely Apartment we realized that we have very different relationships with the sun.

Lou: This balcony would be great for sitting with coffee and the newspaper. You should put a small table and chair out here.  

me: 0.o It faces directly east. 

Lou: Yes! Isn't that wonderful? You can just soak up the sun!

me: No! It's horrible. I would burn to a crisp. I will never sit on that balcony in the morning. 

And I haven't. I often go out in the morning to water the plants or to put laundry on the drying racks, but never for more than a couple of minutes. I do, however, enjoy the balcony with a cup of tea in the afternoon or a glass of wine in the evening, when the light is diffuse and the whole of my garden is in shade.

More and more I find myself seeking shade wherever I go, which is not easy when I accomplish a significant portion of my commute with my feet. 

I walk because walking means not driving and not driving means not parking. I walk because it brings physical movement into my sedentary life organically. I walk because it reveals my community to me in greater detail. 

The greatest challenge in my walking life is the sun. Without a hat or a headscarf, my scalp will burn through my hair. Even with sunscreen, my exposed skin crisps quickly. 

So, I've developed an odd habit of standing in scraps of shade. 

The fact that my shadow isn't visible in the picture above means that I have successfully placed myself in the shaodow of the diminutive, ivy-covered treeling in the picture below.

                                         

I'm not a skinny person, and even I fit in the shade of a lamppost or small tree trunk. Since I started looking for them, I find these bands of shade everywhere. Like narrow fragments of oasis.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

audacity

A little over three years ago, people started telling me I was brave. For a long time, this label made me deeply uncomfortable. But people just. kept. saying it, and I got tired of debating my (lack of) bravery.

First I practiced not arguing with the people who told me I was brave. When I had mastered that, I practiced not physically recoiling from the word. And when I had finally mastered that, I started thinking about what they might see that I did not.

Because, really, from my perspective, I have not done anything brave or, for that matter, anything strong. First I did the next necessary things. Then I did the next logical things. Then I did the next possible things.

In a fit of nostalgia this evening, I was watching the 2001 romantic comedy Kate and Leopold, and Hugh Jackman's character told Meg Ryan's character that
The brave are simply those with the clearest vision of what is before them--glory and danger alike--and notwithstanding go out to meet it.
It's a beautiful definition, but it certainly doesn't apply to me. While I have continued to act despite fear, I wouldn't say that I've ever had a clear vision.

Recently accepting a postdoctoral teaching fellowship, a full-time contract position with salary and benefits, was such a joy. I was walking down the sidewalk that afternoon, grinning like a fool, and feeling validated, not only by the job offer but also by recent progress in academic publication.

A little over a year ago I was an unemployed graduate student whose life was in boxes, and now I'm a post-doctoral teaching fellow with one article forthcoming and another under review.

A little over a year ago I was an unemployed graduate student whose life was in boxes...and I moved my family halfway across the country? Without a job? What the fuck was I thinking?

This last year could have gone much, much differently. All along, I had had a vague sense that things might not work out, and I made sure that there was enough cash in my emergency fund to drag my life back to Kalamazoo if necessary, but I did not have a clear vision of the dangers until this moment in which I finally feel safe.

I only ever see my own audacity in hindsight.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

sit-com life

I spent this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday smiling. My friends Taylor and Stuart, who currently live in Algiers, were staying with our friends Chris and Kendra whose house is across the street from Lovely Apartment. Chris, Taylor, and I were close in college thanks to the United Methodist campus ministry at our alma mater, and I've stayed close with each of them in the intervening years, but it's been more than a decade since I've hung out with both of them at the same time.

Thursday evening, Chris and I were cooking (mushroom pasta and peach crisp, respectively), Taylor was hanging out with us in the kitchen, Chris's kids and Taylor's daughter were playing on the patio, Kendra was at work, and Stuart had gone to his agency's DC headquarters.

Taylor: Kate! Where are the girls?
me: Well, Sofia went to a friend's house after school. We should see her soon. And I just ran into Anna on the sidewalk on my way back from the grocery store. She's taking the bus to ballet, and she'll take the bus home later.
Chris: Running into your kids randomly on the sidewalk is one of the coolest things about having you in the neighborhood.
me: I know, right? They love running into you guys, too. I love our pedestrian life. You know, this is the life I imagined all of you living when I was in Michigan and the rest of you were here, and I was sad when I learned that it didn't exist. I'm so happy to be a part of it now.
Taylor: You're living the sit-com life.
me: 0.o
Chris: o.0
Taylor: Friends close by, babysitting, shared meals. Someone just opens up the front door and walks in. It's like a sit-com.

Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, all of these shows hold up the model of a friend group who don't all live together, but are together all the time anyway. Most of us, I think, experience that kind of living in each other's back pockets in our college dormitory years, if we're lucky, but it's more rare after graduation for a variety of reasons. There were, for example, friends who would open the kitchen door and walk into Rambling Farmhouse, but physical distance and the necessity of driving made those moments rare.

I'd never thought about my current life in these terms, but Taylor is right. Chris and Kendra's kitchen is like the main set of a sit-com where friends gather to live life, to celebrate, and to solve problems. I'm privileged to be a part of the cast in this moment.

There's one way we've surpassed the sitcoms: We've got a next generation. And they already love each other.
Here we come...walking down the street...
we get the funniest looks from...
everyone we meet...


Friday, November 27, 2015

begin again

Over the course of the last two-and-half years, I've talked a lot about inhabiting the liminal space between end and beginning, and recently a beautiful drawing captured this so well:

I can hardly believe I'm putting a Mitch Albom quote on this blog,
but I couldn't resist the artwork by Mike Medaglia at http://mikemedaglia.com

The King James translation of Psalm 90 tells us that the alotted time of a human life is threescore years and ten. I feel like in half that time, I have lived an entire life.

My thirty-six years have arguably checked all the major boxes: childhood, youth, college, marriage, homeownership, babies, graduate school, widowhood. I have loved and birthed and buried and mourned.

The vision that I had for what my threescore and ten would look like died with Adam. That was a frightening, almost paralyzing, realization.

But as I learned to make my way through the dark wilderness, I realized that it was also liberating.

I get to choose a new life.

I get to make all the decisions of early adulthood over again: Where do I want to live? City or country? What kind of partner do I want? Do I even want a partner?  Do I want more children? Do I want to stay in academia? Is it the right place for me? Is it the best way to support my family? What other job would feed my soul?

I can choose differently than the last time I answered those questions. I get to reimagine the second half of my threescore and ten.

Some of those decisions are still under consideration; others have been made; some of the latter may yet change.

Selling Rambling Farmhouse and Rustic Lakehouse and moving several hundred miles to Lovely Apartment felt like the beginning of beginning. Having said good-bye to our cat Jack feels like the end of ending, the end of the season of leave-taking that began with #1 Cat's death just a month before Adam's. Although I know that there will always be periods of loss and grief in my life as long as there is love, at the moment, the light of hope is gaining on the darkness.

This is a good place to be at the beginning of Advent.

Friday, November 6, 2015

deliciousness in dough

So there we were, Chris and I, drinking beer on a Sunday evening, as happens not infrequently, and we started talking about how delicious food is.

Especially how delicious food is when wrapped in dough.

Especially how American cuisine does not have enough savory deliciousness wrapped in dough.

Especially how much we envy other cuisines their dough-wrapped deliciousness: Salvadoran pupusas, Bolivian salteñas, Mexican empanadas, Russian pirožki, Chinese dumplings, Indian samosas, Italian stromboli, Korean mandu, French crêpes.

So we hatched a plan to ride our bikes from one local ethnic restaurant to another sampling all the deliciousness wrapped in dough.

At its grandest, the plan has included a dozen restaurants and as many miles, but we're running out of biking weather and free weekends, so when the meteorologists told us today promised record-breaking high temps, we decided to do what we could in an evening: three South American restaurants outbound along Columbia Pike and two Asian restaurants inbound toward home.

And it was delicious.

I think the pupusas from Abi Azteca were the oddest. They looked like pita on the plate, but were more like thin pancakes (but not crêpes) with beans and cheese or pork and cheese contained by the sealed edges. The cabbage garnish was quite delicious.


The sulteñas from Pan American Bakery are a strong contender for my favorite. We got one with chicken and one with beef.


I brought one home for Anna. 

All in all, it was a delightful evening of cycling, fellowship, and deliciousness wrapped in dough. There are more picture in Chris's version of the story: "3.5 hours, 4 bellies, 5 restaurants, 2 bikes, and a whole lot of deliciousness wrapped in dough."

What better way to spend this day, the warmth of which we won't see again until after winter?



I'm looking forward to our northward swing on a tour of European restaurants when next the weather cooperates. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Paris, je t'aime?

Today I came closer to using my epi-pen than I ever have before.

I expected to be in Michigan by now, but I'm still in Paris, because I was careless enough to eat a sandwich whose bread included walnuts.

On the one hand, why are there ground up walnuts in sandwich bread?!?!?! Really, why?

Dear international healthful food movement,
Please stop putting nuts everywhere just because you can. Baked goods, yes. Granola, yes. Sandwich bread, please can we not?
Itchily yours,
me

On the other hand, what food-allergic person reads just the placard and not the sticker on the sandwich, eh? I grabbed a sandwich and a salad from a lovely fresh bakery after having read the placards detailing the contents, but I didn't notice that the sandwich's placard didn't say anything about the bread or that the sticker holding the wrapper closed listed WALNUTS, just like that, all caps in English even. How could I be so inattentive? I should know better.

Boarding was just getting started when I realized that I couldn't get on the plane. My ears hurt, the front of my neck felt thick, and my chest was tight. I could still breathe and talk, but I wasn't confident that would continue.

First aid came, took my vitals, and tried to convince me to just get on the plane because the symptoms would have gotten more serious faster if they were going to. Except, that's not always the case with anaphylaxis, and Paris to Detroit is a really long flight.

When first aid called for a consult, the airport doctor counseled coming in to the med center, and I went despite the first responder's skepticism. Vitals, examination, a dose of prednisone, a dose of Zyrtec, and observation time later, I had, as predicted, missed my plane, the last direct flight for the day. The good news is that, although my face and chest felt awful, I was still breathing effectively as evidenced by my stellar pulse oximeter and blood pressure cuff readings.

Air France's customer service was amazing, though. Someone met me at the clinic to walk me through the process of rebooking the flight, picking up a prescription, and finding a place to spend the night. I have a boarding pass for a flight tomorrow, a room at the Citizen M, and more doses of steroids and antihistamines.

I also have a renewed awareness of my own vulnerability.

Friday, April 24, 2015

further in and further up

I've been thinking a lot about perspective since I arrived. Algiers is one of those cities in which private life happens behind layers of walls: rooms inside apartments inside buidings inside courtyards. From the street, the city looks plain, forbidding even.

the street from my friends' apartment

entering the casbah, or the old city

Upkeep on the casbah's buildings is a constant need.

a mosque in the casbah

The courtyards offer beautiful tile-work and gardens as well as the privacy in which to enjoy them. We had a lovely lunch here yesterday while the birds punctuated the calls to prayer from the neighborhood mosques.


The greatest creativity appears in the interior, private spaces. Today we walked through a historic palace in the casbah which now houses art exhibits, and we joked that one could enjoy the visit even if only looking at the floors and ceilings. 

inside a palace in the casbah

a wooden door inset in a marble doorway


fountain inside the palace in the casbah
My friends' apartment is, of course, not as ornate as this palace, but it shares the openness of design with high ceilings and large doors as well as marble floors, which are pleasantly cool underfoot.

While in the casbah, we also climbed to the top of a house, which offered another shift in perspective. the confusing warren of streets have a sort of beauty from above.
the casbah from one of its rooftops

the port and admiralty


a mosque complex near the port

the most inland sweep of the bay

The day's sights were punctuated with surprises, too.

Pack donkeys collect the trash in the casbah.

A mama cares for seven (we think) kittens. 

A glance down a side street reveals a mosque.
Further anon.





Sunday, March 22, 2015

a glimpse of certainty

Every time I come to Washington, I try to be on campus for a worship service. When I come to this city, but not to this space, I go home feeling like I have missed something.

This time, though, even as I was happy to be here, I was asking myself why I do this. United Methodist worship services happen on Thursdays at 11:00 PM and Sundays at 7:00 PM, neither of which is particularly convenient for travel.

Photo credit: AU Ambassadors
https://auambassadors.wordpress.com/tag/kay-spiritual-life-center/


As I was standing on the quad on this most recent trip, I realized why.

When this was my home, I was happy, I felt safe, and I knew where I was going, and when I come back here my self remembers that identity. It's comfortable, like favorite clothes long lost in the back of the closet.

Putting that identity back on is, of course, impossible. When I leave, I’m still the same nervous, fearful person who has little idea where she’s going, but I have a renewed sense of what that old certainty felt like.

Somehow, having that memory like a token in my pocket makes the uncertainty of my present world more bearable. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

perspective

I've been thinking a lot about perspective lately, about how the position (physical or mental) from which we view something influences not only the way we see it, but the way we understand it and the way we talk about it.

For example, I've wanted to knit an Umaro blanket since Jared Flood first published the pattern years ago.
Photo Credi: Original pattern image ©Jared Flood
http://brooklyntweed.net/blog/?p=471

I've been waiting for the right time to cast on a project of this size (blankets are big, yo) but also waiting for the right yarn to cross my path. Some of this yarn was an impulse purchase when one of the yarn shops in Lafayette was closing. It's the right weight for the blanket, but I bought small amounts of three colors rather than enough of one color for the whole blanket.

For more than a year, I pondered how to introduce color work into this pattern. Horizontal or vertical stripes would be at odds with the lines created by the motifs. I like the idea of diagonal stripes of color, and over the holidays I pulled out the pattern chart to decide where it would be feasible to change colors.

None of the possibilities I came up with excited me because I was seeing this as a variant of tumbling blocks. One day while staring at the pattern, my focus shifted and I saw it in a new way: as cables on a seed stitch ground rather than a field of cubes.  I have a much better plan now, and all I had to do was look long enough and let my eyes relax.

Shifting perspective can be hard, though.

My grief counselor and I have a recurring conversation that goes something like this:

Kitty: So, how was your week?
me: I did a hard thing this week. I submitted the final stuff for estate task of the week.
Kitty: That must feel good. What did you do to celebrate?
me: Well, I checked it off on my list. ...hmmm... Then I did some knitting with Netflix. But now I'm thinking about next estate task. I'm really not looking forward to that one because reasons.
Kitty: Kate, you've accomplished so much, you need to pause and celebrate. You deserve the rest.
me: Yeah, I guess, but there's so much more to do. The list is still so long!

Kitty wants me to see the accomplishments behind me, but all I can see are the things ahead, the obstacles between me and beginning.

On the one hand, the fact that I see all the tasks ahead keeps me moving forward.

On the other hand, sometimes their sheer quantity and complexity is paralyzing. At those times, I remember Anne Lamott's advice to take it bird by bird.

On the one hand, pausing my relentless march forward to look back and celebrate accomplishments reinforces confidence in my ability to do things myself and to gather the right help.

On the other hand, inertia. (A well-intentioned pause is still a pause.)

So, although I am usually the sort of person who sits on the fence seeing both sides of any given question  (blessed are the peacemakers!), in the case of my own life this last year, I have kept my face  firmly pointed forward, focusing on the story of the tasks ahead.  Although this discipline has been useful, I am beginning to remember the danger of a single story, and I am beginning to really hear Kitty's call to pause and celebrate.

When I've settled in to this new perspective, I'll let you know what I see.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

and now, for a brief commercial break

Many blogs contribute to the livelihoods of their writers through sponsors who pay to be mentioned in blog entries. Some writers do this really well, and I actually look forward to their sponsor posts; other writers annoy me so much at sponsorship time that I stop reading their blogs altogether.

This blog contributes to my sanity rather than my livelihood, so there are no sponsors to whom I am beholden for support. However, in keeping with the generic convention that blog posts sometimes tell you where your money can go, I'm going to use this space to tell you about the causes that I sponsor in hopes that you, dear reader, might be inspired to contribute, too.

I promise not to do this often, definitely not more than once a year. To be honest, I'm not sure why I'm doing it now, except that I'm really excited about what Stephanie and Mark and Bob & Taylor and Rob & Kirsten are doing, and I'm proud of what my modest contributions help to accomplish.

1. I support Stephanie Pearl McPhee because she makes me laugh. Her blog Yarn Harlot offers up a constant supply of the spice of life.
I had to buy a new [air mattress] on account of the fact that last year I took my knitting into the tent with me, and my dpn poked a hole in the air mattress. The only reason Jen didn’t kill me that night was because she’s a knitter too. This year we have a “no needles in the tent” rule that seems reasonable to both of us.  There’s not much that can make the rally harder, but sleeping (or not sleeping) on rocks is right up there.
Stephanie, her best friend Jen, and her daughters are riding with team Psychlopaths in PWA's Friends for Life bike rally from Toronto to Montreal (7/27 - 8/1) to raise funds for AIDS support.

2. I support the American University's United Methodist Community because it was my spiritual home on campus, and because the Reverend Mark Schaefer's sermons continue to inspire me to question and to think about my faith. My experiences there helped to create the person that I am, and many of the relationships that sustain me now started there because
We aim not to be simply a place of worship, or a place to study faith, or even a place to serve, but to be a community in which all the elements of faith are lived out fully. And part of building community is building real and authentic relationships with one another. So whether we’re spending time in worship or prayer, or lending a sympathetic ear, or grabbing a bite to eat or going out to see a movie, we are intent on building real relationships that will be a source of strength and comfort.
Mark is raising funds for the ministry this summer by riding his bike around Lake Ontario.

3. I support Friendly Planet Missiology because they give me hope for peace and community in the aftermath of war. Bob, Taylor, and their Congolese counterparts
work alongside local community leaders as they create unique solutions to local problems. Each village is different in personality and assets, and yet, all have the kind of creative wisdom it takes to turn their lives around. 
While their work is now in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I hope that their methodology can spread to other conflict zones. Contributions can be made on their website.

4. I support the Huss Project because it makes my city a better place. By repurposing an abandoned school lacking heat, air conditioning, and running water and located in a difficult neighborhood, Rob and Kirsten and their team are building a space for community to flourish.
We hope that the Huss Project can become a space that illuminates imaginative possibilities for people of faith living into God’s Kingdom in a particular time and place.  We hope that people from throughout North America will converge there with their stories and questions about Christianity as a way of life to inspire and learn from one another.  We hope that the neighborhood around the Huss Project will experience God’s goodness through all five senses as they participate in activities that engage the body, mind and soul.  We hope that a community kitchen and garden, arts programming, off-campus opportunities for college students and other projects will exist in playful synergy and that such synergy will provide rich soil for experiential, connected, imaginative learning by people of all abilities and backgrounds.
Saturday, July 19th is their fifth annual Future Fest, and I'm looking forward to seeing the progress that has been made so far and to glimpsing the dreams that are to come. Contributions can be made here.

So, dear reader, thanks for letting me share these causes and organizations with you. I hope that I haven't annoyed you so much that you stop reading altogether. Please consider contributing your prayers and gifts, or even your service, if you're in one of the right places. If there is a cause that is close to your heart, put a link in the comments.

P.S. I apologize for the mixed bag of fonts in the block quotes. I tried to make them all conform, but the HTML defeated me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

a glimpse of midlife

It used to be that the yellowed paperbacks in my life had come into my hands with their own history, having been read and loved and given up by someone else first.


This was new when I bought it.



Monday, June 16, 2014

in the joy of fullness

There were eight extra people at Rambling Farmhouse this weekend, and it was glorious.

My friends being my friends, much of the long visit centered on the many meals we prepared and shared together. Even in the work of feeding five adults and six children, there was joy. The quotidian mysteries of prepping, cooking, and cleaning are a solid foundation for deepening friendships.


Today, we are back to three at Rambling Farmhouse, and I am tidying up, still so happy to have shared this time with Chris & Kendra and Erin & David.  These table linens on the line are a testament to friendships newly made and further deepened.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

turning chickens into quilts


I recently rehomed our flock of chickens, who are now happily clucking away at Bluebird Farm. They are also laying prodigiously, so we know they've settled in and are happy.

Back in March when Rachel and David took the chickens, I couldn't come up with a cash value number. I really had no idea what they were worth, on the market generally or to me personally, so Rachel offered me three Romney fleeces from the spring shearing. Sold!

Shearing happened last Saturday, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours this afternoon picking over the fleeces with Rachel, removing balls of lanolin and bits of hay. (Also poop. These are sheep, after all).

Thank you, Lady Baa Baa.

These three fleeces are destined to become quilt batts, the innards between the pieced top and the counterpane bottom, the innards that make the quilt warm. Adam's friend Jen offered to make quilts from his prodigious collection of interesting t-shirts for the girls and a quilt from his button shirts and some of my old clothes for me. There is enough fleece to make batts for these three quilts and also batts for Jen to keep for her own use.

I will have to pay the mill actual cash for processing, but the other exchanges in this chain are forged by friendship, trust, and the barter economy. Each trade is equitable because each party has a surplus of the other's need, and each is satisfied at the end. It's a pretty great way to turn chickens into quilts.


Monday, April 21, 2014

soapbox: bats & rabies & shots (oh, my!)

Pardon me while I turn this blog into a soapbox for a moment.

ahem

Rabies is one hundred percent deadly in humans once symptoms appear. This fact is key, and you should keep it in mind as I tell you the rest of this story.

The Adventure:

When I went to bed Friday night (Saturday morning, really), Sofia was already in my bed, so I pushed her over to make room for me, and then Buttercup and Jack stood on me until I made room for cats. All in all, a normal night.

I hadn't been asleep for long when I woke up to the sounds of thumping and chittering. Buttercup was hunting something underneath the old sewing machine table that I use as a nightstand, and I had no idea what it was, but it didn't sound like a mouse.  By the time I woke Sofia up and got her moving toward the door, Buttercup had chased whatever to the coat tree. When I followed her intense gaze upward, I saw a little brown bat hanging from my dress.

Even not very awake, I knew I wanted to isolate the bat, so I got Sofia to her room and closed the girls' bedroom doors. Then, I crawled back into my room, got both cats out, closed the door. So far, so good.

I sat down in the hall to wake up and think:
Fact: my bedroom door doesn't latch closed (we never got to the doorknob installation part of that remodel)
Fact: bats can fly through spaces as narrow as half an inch (like the gap around my door)
Fact: Buttercup was pretty determined to get back in
Fact: bats are challenging for cats to kill because they can wrap themselves in the leather armor of their wings

Buttercup's been fully vaccinated, so it was tempting to let her have at, but she's not actually very good at killing things. (Hunting and maiming, yes; killing, not so much.)

I peeked in and saw the unmistakable shape of bat swooping near the ceiling.

New plan: I woke the kids up, and took them and the cats downstairs and closed the stairs door. Then I army-crawled across my room to open the window that doesn't have a screen, grabbed my blanket, crawled back out, and went to sleep downstairs on the couch.

That open window was a critical tactical error, friends. Critical.

When I talked about this adventure online, a field scientist friend pointed out that I should have caught the bat and turned it over to appropriate authorities for testing, and that since I hadn't, I should probably consider rabies prophylaxis for Sofia and for me. I was skeptical, so I did some research.

The nurse on call at my doctor's office on Saturday morning said no shots unless I could find bites or scratches on myself or Sofia, but she couldn't really tell me what to look for. I looked but couldn't find anything suspicious.

But then I read The Washington Post's article about a woman who had an experience very similar to mine and opted for the rabies prophylaxis series despite the lack of visible wound. The CDC guidelines suggest the shot sequence even if there is no apparent wound when a bat is found in a room where someone has been asleep.

I went to bed Saturday night resolved to make a decision on Monday when animal control and the doctor's office would be open.

And it happened again. 

Same time of night, same thumping and chittering in the corner. I made sure the kids' bedroom doors were closed, got the cats downstairs, and closed my latchless bedroom door, hoping to trap the bat so I could have it tested this time.

The county animal control voicemail message directed me to call county dispatch after hours, but county dispatch was no help and little comfort. The officer I spoke to said that animal control won't come out "for just a bat," and he didn't know who would test it for rabies if I caught it. He suggested an exterminator and a local vet. I thought, Um, thanks a lot. Don't you know that rabies is nearly always fatal in humans?

So I called my sister (who lives next door and works second shift and was still awake).  My awesome sister and brother-in-law and I thoroughly and carefully checked the room for a roosting bat, but saw no signs. I slept on the couch, and we checked the room again during the day Sunday, but still found nothing.

Today I called the county health department whose rabies expert said that Sofia and I were definitely candidates for post-exposure rabies prophylaxis and then helped me make arrangements with the local emergency room to get the shots. Three cheers for Julie at the health department. She is awesome!

Dear heaven, the shots! Though, it's not as bad as it used to be (many injections through the abdominal wall), it's still a lot of painful (and expensive) pricks. The standard of care is now immunoglobulin at the wound site on day 0 and vaccine in the arm on days 0, 3, 7, 14, and 21. Since we had no apparent wounds, Sofia and I got the immunoglobulin in the glutes. Being small, Sofia got one on each side. At 155 lbs., I got two on each side. Immunoglobulin is thick, and there is a lot of it.

The Lesson:

It is highly unlikely that bats will bite humans without provocation. It is highly unlikely that bats actually have rabies (less than 1% of the population in general, 6% of those tested in Michigan). The bat (or bats) that were in my bedroom probably live in my attic and were trying to find their way out, having just woken up from hibernation. There is a strong impulse to live and let live; nevertheless, as the CDC notes,
Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive.
There is no possibility to wait and see.

Unless you are one hundred percent sure that no one was bitten or one hundred percent sure that the bat does not have rabies, get the shots. Someone who was asleep can not be one hundred percent sure. It is possible to not notice being bitten during sleep, and the bites look like small cuts that could be mistaken for other things.

The first people I talked to, my family doctor's nurse and the county dispatcher, did not see this situation as critical at all. These two people made me think perhaps I was overreacting. However, once I spoke to people who were knowledgeable about rabies and the CDC guidelines, Julie at the health department and the ER nurse and nurse practitioner, the tenor of the conversation shifted to one of urgency. Shots. Definitely. Today.

Even people who work with and respect bats agree that bats found in rooms where people are sleeping should be caught, euthanized, and tested for rabies. I'm frustrated that the health care worker and the first responder I spoke to first did not know this information. They should know.

We should all know, because when you're woken from a sound sleep at two A.M. by a bat in the bedroom, you're operating on instinct, not on Google, and my instinct was to get the intruder as far away from my family as possible. When this happens again (as I'm sure it will), I'll know better.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

a glimpse of community in winter

Someday, when I have sold Rambling Farmhouse and Rustic Lakehouse and begun my life over again,  these are the days I will miss the most.











Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and a New Year filled with hope and joy.

This photo set is our year in review.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

zweifelt (reprise)

Today, I went to the ballet and to the abattoir. Neither is particularly unusual; both were necessary.

My life is strange. Mostly I like it that way.