Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nature's Knitting III

Through interwoven pine needles
and dried, brown leaves,
new leaves, stems, and flowers
knit bits of yellow and green from
a small space of earth in between
the white shingles of our house
and the bricks of the walkway.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

A Child's Lenten Discipline

My daughter surprised me yesterday. She had her Note Speller out and was putting little sticky notes on every page. This is something that her piano teacher usually does to mark pages in her theory book that need to be completed before the next lesson. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I want to finish this Note Speller for my lenten discipline. "

"O.K.," I said, almost speechless.

First, I know how much she hates the theory part of music practice (I did too, by the way). She likes learning piano by ear much more than learning to read the notes on the page. This week's material to practice featured a piece with lots of sharps and flats, and she hated it. She learned it, but she also memorized it so that she doesn't have to read the notes on the page.

Second, I didn't know that she had been contemplating either giving something up or taking something on for lent. Of course, we recognize the season of lent in our house. We live with an Episcopal priest. We sang our "alleluias" at Mardi Gras the night before Ash Wednesday. We wore ash crosses on our foreheads Wednesday evening. She still had hers on her forehead and had to wipe it off before school on Thursday. At the end of lent, Holy week will take over our house and schedule.

Lent is not something we avoid. But, I didn't know that she would use the words "lenten discipline" to describe her own spiritual practices. "Lenten discipline" is something her father would say.

I'm proud of my daughter for identifying something that is truly difficult for her and for committing to tackling it through discipline. After talking with her, there is no doubt in my mind that completing her Note Speller is a spiritual task even if we may not understand exactly why.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nature's Knitting II

Bare branches,
in the Cathedral courtyard,
against a setting-sun sky,
knitting towards the clock tower,
making shadows on the bricks,
in a Mardis Gras mood,
even though it is Lent.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Knitting, Nature's Knitting

On my needles,
Noro Kureyon "Rainbow" Silk Garden Sock Yarn,
from my stash,
many colors,
making this shawl,
suggested by SouleMama.

In my backyard,
these roots,
of a Magnolia tree,
knit in and out of the earth,
in the morning sunlight,
of Ash Wednesday.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Knitting Lesson Photographed

My daughter and I gave a knitting lesson to two dear friends, also a mother daughter duo, yesterday. We had a wonderful time sitting on the sofa three in a row while my daughter acted as the photographer snapping photos from all directions. She has learned a few things from watching me photograph and frame my subjects at various angles above and below, sideways, and close-up. I love these photos which show the essentials of our afternoon: our hands, our yarn, and our needles. Both mother and daughter were excellent students and picked up on the basics very quickly.

I love teaching and sharing knitting because I love knitting. I can't imagine life without it. With it, I knit together far more than fiber and yarn. With it, I knit together disjointed, "multi- tasked" pieces of my day with longer stretches of time intended just for creativity. I knit together quiet moments of solitude with crazy times of community in waiting rooms, meetings, swimming pools, playgrounds, or birthday parties. I knit together introversion and extroversion. I knit together morning, noon, and night. I knit together intensive reflection and mindless TV or radio. I knit prayers into daily life.

At the beginning of their knitting journey, I hope that my dear friends find the same joy and meaning in the craft that I have found.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tending to art

The morning started out gray, windy, humid, and threatening to storm. I wasn't in the best mood, but I went to my daughter's school to hang some art.

These collage portraits in the style of Romare Bearden done by fourth grade students at Casey Elementary made me happy. Seeing the art changed my mood. I sat on the floor in the front hallway outside the library tearing pieces of masking tape, looping, and sticking the loops to the back of each "person." I looked at how each student had taken pieces of magazines and made eyes, mouths, noses, hair, and clothing. One of my favorites featured a magazine picture of a window across the body-- as if it were a window right through the heart of the body-- right through the soul.

I like tending to art -- especially that of children. When I hang up art at Casey, when I pay close attention to what a child has created, when I photograph children "doing" art, it is a "soulful" task. I always leave the interaction changed and enlivened.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Finishing something old, starting something new

I started these gratitude wraps (back in December and January (blogged here and here). I modified the pattern to omit the bias tape binding, and I finger-knitted the tie closures. I had done everything except sew the closures on, so I spent some time yesterday finishing these up. Very gratifying. They are made to hold a small notebook, thank-you notes, a pen, and a package of stamps with the idea of always having the supplies ready to write a note of thanks.

I plan to re-purpose the design to make little book-writing kits and other Montessori type activities for my library. Not long ago, I ran across this beautiful blog by Meg McElwee which documents some of her hand-made projects for the Montessori classroom. Her new blog seems to be focused more on crafting and sewing in general, and it is just as beautiful and inspiring. It has me thinking about and designing handmade materials that I can use in my elementary school library. Now, I just need some time.

This new yarn is my daughter's project. She first learned to knit as a Kindergartner, but I don't think she has ever finished a project except a small scarf for her favorite stuffed panda bear. We were supposed to have her friend and my friend (her friend's mom) over to learn how to knit yesterday, but a stomach virus claimed their immediate attention. Today, I am claimed by the same illness, but I am feeling well enough to sit at the computer for some writing and catching up on some Internet research and reading.

I'm also starting a new blogging project for children. Check out its beginning here. Yes, I'm crazy. I am thankful for this bit of slowed-down time today which has allowed me to start this new venture.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

All the love

Handmade and store-bought valentines. . .
Nellie curling up and sleeping all the time, Bailey peeking around the corner to see if there are crumbs that need eating, and Finn swimming with sapphire scales and crimson, feathery tail

Checking on my son after he has already been put to bed once, and reading in bed with my daughter

Watching Charlie playing, sleeping, and bathing

Showering each other with love

Drawings by my children

Little feet and hands and music

Making progress on new squares, chasing light and shadows, and then writing about it.

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Friday, February 13, 2009


If my mind could look like a photo, it would look like the one above. I'm all in a muddle (or puddle) of thoughts. This was taken from inside the van while I sandwiched in about 5 minutes of knitting before heading into an elementary school to help with a Valentine's Day party. It has been raining since I had to load and unload groceries from the store today. I love rain. Really, I do.

But, I'm out of sorts today with too many questions and not enough answers. And so, everything seems gray and puddly.

My main question of the day is this: why do people who do not love children choose jobs that require them to work with children?

Earlier in the week, I was standing in a hallway talking to another teacher when I suddenly felt someone else's cheek up against mine. Turning to look, I was thrilled to to see a fifth grade boy who had been a student of mine at another school. Today, I saw him twice in the hallway-- always sporting a humongous smile. Seeing him made me so happy-- it truly made my day. Absolute JOY.

I feel this way about students even when they are difficult to manage in class or about my own two children even when they are driving me crazy-- I still love them all. I see them as individuals with different gifts-- as people who possess the potential to become what they are called to be. Not that I am a saint (far from it) or a perfect mother (my children will tell you the truth) or a model teacher (I'm not) or that I have all the answers (I don't).

Still, I want all people who work with children to feel JOY. I want our city, our state, our society-- our democracy-- to stand up for children. Never, ever, should someone be hired to work with children who does not like it. Never, ever, should someone be allowed to work with children who can't be bothered. Never, ever, should someone be hired to work with children who can't find another job and is just looking for some cash. Never, ever, should someone be allowed be work with children who doesn't have the necessary complex skills to respond to the curve balls that children throw to adults.

(By omission, you may be able to infer that I have lately witnessed interactions between adults and children that were less than desirable).

Mutual respect and common courtesy are just the starting points, but I want more. Our children deserve more. Both teaching and learning should be joyful pursuits even when the going gets tough.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Learning on the street

All of these photos were taken by my daughter on Monday while on a field trip to Farish Street in downtown Jackson. You can read more about the field trip here.

I let her take our old digital camera-- a Nikon Coolpix. While I was not able to go on the trip, I learned so much about it from her. She is so excited about the project that she wants to write her own book about Farish Street. Way to go arts education! This is what it is all about.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2 pictures worth 2000 words

Just a few words more for this milestone . . .

How many of us have received a tiny tooth home in a Ziploc bag at the end of a school day? Many, I suspect.

This one was pulled out in the carpool pick-up line. "Malcolm told me to pull it out, so I did!"

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekend away and within

For the weekend away, I gathered yarn for a new project. When people asked me what I was making, I didn't have an answer. This is often the case when I am making some assortment of squares using the log cabin technique. So, I am sorry to say even now that I don't know what this will become. I enjoyed assembling the colors and choosing the way the strips of yarn would form a design. Coincidentally, the colors of the hotel room perfectly coordinated. The table top boasted a similar design. There were squares on the sofa pillows and hanging on the walls.

Then, to prod me along in my quilting journey, the backdrop for the altar/speaking platform for council (an annual meeting for Episcopal clergy and lay persons in a diocese), was comprised of 40 hanging strips of improvisational piecing. One woman from Hattiesburg worked on the bulk of it. It was beautiful. It featured 30 words taken from The Book of Common Prayer.

Lately, inspiration surrounds me in the most unexpected places. Getting out of town, I was not enthusiastic. Leaving the meeting, I was very glad that I had been there.

Two highlights from the weekend away:
  • Meeting Rebecca Ding, the wife of the Bishop from a new diocese in southern Sudan. She radiated hopefulness and gave me a new perspective.
  • Listening to Bishop Gray's annual address on Friday night. Hearing his passionate words about reconciliation, I could have become a pentecostal. I look forward to doing my part--especially in the area of education.
Two blog posts that describe the meeting in greater detail and offer thoughtful theological perspectives are here and here. Currently, I have too many questions, hopes, fears, and ideas swirling in my mind and heart to be as coherent as my clergy friends, but I am grateful for their words and insights.

It was a weekend away, but it was also a weekend within. And, like my knitting project above, it remains to be seen what this talk of reconciliation will become. We can get started, though, even if we don't know how the various threads will knit together.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Creative spelling again

More work from my son. . .


Barack Obama
My parents voted for him.
I hope he will be good.
He has 2 children.
He is the 44th president.
He is going to live in Washington D.C.
He is the first African American president.

And I say, AMEN.

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French horn

I started thinking about this post because I am in the midst of drafting my "25 Random Things" for Facebook. It has been fun, inspiring, and thought-provoking to read what people have written-- especially people that were once a part of my life, drifted away, and are recently reconnected through social technology. What amazing people my friends are!

The first random thing I thought of writing about is my past as a French hornist. It is a fact that people in my first 20 years knew a lot about. It is something that almost no one from my latest 20 years knows anything about. Playing the French horn was once a major part of my life. I started in the sixth grade and played all the way through college. I played in marching bands (hated that), concert bands at school and in the community (loved that), and in orchestras (those string players were a different breed from us band geeks). I played in woodwind quintets, brass ensembles, and wind ensembles. I played special music at church and accompanied musical productions in "the pit." I practiced regularly at home, and I loved sitting in rehearsals. I even declared myself a music major for about six months before I got swept away by studying religion and theology. How I ended up as an elementary school librarian now is even a mystery to me!

These days, I couldn't play anything without significant re-development of my embouchure (lip muscles) requiring lots of practice time (and you know that I don't need another interest or hobby). My French horn would need major rehabilitation probably costing a few hundred dollars. But, I do keep lugging it from place to place-- Tennessee, Mississippi, Tennessee again, Mississippi again. I'm holding onto it for some reason-- perhaps as a tangible reminder of what was once so central to my life and of all that the endeavor taught me.

Playing the French horn was my creative outlet for a large portion of my life. Now, it is teaching, raising children, and all of the other things this blog is supposed to be about (knitting, sewing, quilting). What is common to all of these activities? Problem solving, making mistakes, trying again, working with others, reflecting, celebrating life by adding something more to it. It is incarnating what is first a thought, a dream, an echo, or an image.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reading and writing

Last week, my husband had "the cough." He wasn't feeling very well. My son made this little card for him. It warms my heart every time I look at it. It's current home is on my bedside table. It deserves a blog post.

H. wrote: We HWPU git Betr

Translation: We hope you get better

H. had a run of hard days at school last week. He fretted (and shed tears) because his handwriting is sloppy. His teacher told him this-- and another girl in his class-- very serious. (Sometimes, I disagree with teachers and their philosophies/methods. I try to get beyond my disagreements. I pray about it. I wake up at 2 in the morning and ponder for hours).

My son also worried because other 6-year-olds are reading independently better than he is. Yes, that may also be true.

I like my son's handwriting, and I relish his creative spelling. He writes like he draws-- in great swoops and long lines.

I remind my son: we read when we read. The gift comes when it comes. What matters is what we do with it once we have it.


So, I'll be at an Episcopal church meeting with my husband all weekend. It is a lot of work to get out of town. I hope to have wireless and be able to do some blogging (and knitting) while away. Here is a hint of the next post if I can upload it.

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