#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things F

Fabric

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repurposed dresses from the 80’s and scraps from other projects – now a tablecloth

 

Defined: 1)A cloth produced especially by knitting, weaving, or felting fibers. 2) A complex underlying structure: “the fabric of society”.

I hardly ever meet fabric I don’t like. I like to look at it, feel it for smoothness and thickness, see how it lies and bends. I love to make things with it, which is why I have accumulated what we call a “stash”. It’s fabric that is waiting to be used for something. It might have been bought for a specific project which never got off the drawing board, or it may have just been too good a price to pass up, but of course, I’ll figure out how to use it later. From every project that does get done, there are scraps of fabric and even these have a charm all their own when combined with each other in various colors and designs. That’s what I love about fabric – the endless variety, beauty and usefulness that it’s capable of.

From years of sewing everything from clothing for my own family, wedding dresses for friends, and home decorating with curtains and coverings,  to clothing for horses, and dogs, I have gained a respect for cloth. It has to be chosen correctly for its purpose, positioned to drape correctly, handled and fashioned “just so” or it will not behave. Watch a couple episodes of “Project Runway” and you’ll see what I mean.

I have often thought while sewing (really, I have) that there are so many parallels between fabric and society. That second definition really says it all. The fabric of society that is us, is complex and it underlies everything that is important and dear to us. We all have our part in making that fabric look and act the way it does. We are those fibers that get woven together in actions and dependencies over a lifetime. We are stronger together, but we are only as strong as the weakest fiber and there are many things that can stress and weaken us.

There are some fabrics that are woven with the expectation that the fibers will be smoothly aligned and uniform. Others show the beautiful twists, turns and flaws that make them unique and priceless.  I get kind of excited just thinking about it. It always sets me thinking about whether I make the fabric of society weaker or stronger.  Do you see what I mean?

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This stack of fabric is an art exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.
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Part of my own “art exhibit”, my stash

 

 

What is a Church?

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I could also call these thoughts “My Struggle with the Bride of Christ”.

I would like to say that the church is a group of believers that show the world around them what God’s love is like. It’s a group of people doing loving things that people shouldn’t be able to do, in fact can’t do, without God doing those things through them. God’s true church is loved by each individual in it, and in turn, the church has a selfless love for each individual belonging to it. I’m wondering if that’s possible this side of heaven…

I’ve been thinking about heaven, and about the church, a lot lately. Tonight I couldn’t get to sleep for the thoughts that kept troubling me.  Heaven, I thought, will be a place where I won’t have to wonder if I’m in the right place.  All around me will be a community of believers with no doubt who they’re worshiping and no disconnect with those they’ve come to know and love.

I have been blessed with a pretty close family all my life. We have significant differences but we are bonded together, having the same parents, the same close proximity to each other during our formative years. We sat alongside each other at the table, in the car, at church. We did life together. It wasn’t necessarily our choice, but it made sense and it was good. We’re grown now and our lives are less connected, but in our heads and hearts, we are still family. We make efforts to spend time together. We have grown to love each other. Where else can we go for that sense of who we are and how we came to be?

I think I want my church to be like my family. I want my church to be the place I belong because people know me there.

I try to imagine the first Christian churches, like the one in Philippi. We’ve been hearing sermons about those people, the Philippians, in the church I attend. In Philippi, a city in biblical times, some very unlikely first converts were drawn together by a God, actually a spiritual parent, who suddenly gave them a chance to know their life’s purpose. A wealthy business woman (with a house big enough to share with other believers), a Roman policeman and his family, and a formerly demon possessed slave girl were suddenly bonded by love for that spiritual parent. They started spending time together as they learned. They probably ate together, went places together and came to know each other’s stories as they talked. They had to have had some pretty divergent viewpoints, but there wasn’t another church just a few miles away that was more “their kind of church”.  They were the only church, until such a time when church growth separated them into communities based on locale. Even then, they probably kept in touch.

So that’s what a community is really – people who live next to each other, doing and sharing life. I wonder if the reason Christian believers don’t always do church well is because they don’t do community well either. That’s what I’m struggling with. I don’t do community well, not even in my own physical community. I share a driveway with people living in five other houses and rarely do we connect over anything. I know their names, but I guarantee, if they moved away I wouldn’t know where or why, or even care. We haven’t spent time together and are only bonded by… a driveway, I guess. Our cars and our preferences allow us to shop in different places, work in different places, be entertained by different things.

And although some people try to make it different, our churches are very similar to our poorly connected communities. When I live half an hour’s drive from the church I attend, it’s pretty safe to say I’m not doing life next to anyone else from church.

It’s a struggle to know and be known. And I think God is going to get tired of me not doing it.

God can arrange times when transportation isn’t easy, when choices are few, when knowing and working with the neighbor next door is a matter of life or death for me. He will do that if that’s what it takes to teach me to love my neighbor.  It’s probably so important to learn to love and get along because I will have to do it, like forever.  “Like forever” is my description of eternity. And although, I’m not going to attempt to give a description of heaven, I think it will be a place where I don’t have to wonder if I belong and I probably won’t be driving 20 miles to church either.  Just sayin’…

 

Thanksgiving Chronicle: Ordinary Times and Travels post 6

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We all love a road trip in the rain, right? Yeah.

We met at the coffee house for a quick group goodbye and whatever breakfast we could handle. Bob and Elizabeth had already left for their drive, and ours was about to start. We were headed to Pennsylvania.

The husband grew up in the row mountains of central PA and over the years we have made some pilgrimages back to visit, but not as often as we should have. We’d been trying to arrange it all summer but there was one disruption after another. With winter setting in we knew the time was short before safe travel would be uncertain and Mom had graciously offered us the chance to go there on the way to Florida, in her car. Upon hearing this, both daughters, who also had not been there in quite a while wanted to come also. And because we didn’t all fit in Mom’s car, poor Ryan, Esther’s friend, (who perhaps did not have much of a choice) decided to share his rental car and go visiting with us.

Who calls up relatives they haven’t seen in years and tells them six people, some of whom are not even related to them, are “dropping by” for three days, and, by the way, do you have a place for us to sleep? Me. I do.

Visualizing the trip in my imagination, we would swap around at each stop and share time between the two cars. We were going to read to each other and have meaningful conversation, especially between us women – you know how valuable “car time” can be.  That didn’t happen. As it was, we started out divided into elders and youngers and that’s the way it stayed the entire time. We just couldn’t seem to end up at the same place in spite of frantic texting at 70 mph.

“We are at service plaza at mile 169 for gas and likely Burger King (one of Gram’s favs) 12:46 PM”

“We will probably miss you unless you linger but I think we’re closing the gap. 12:47 PM”

“There’s a Panera here! We’ll take our time if you want to stop. 12:58 PM”

“We are at 162. We’ll stop if you are still there. 1:15 PM”

“Still here eating soup. 1:22 PM”

“Sorry. We thought you’d have left and went past it :/ 1:22 PM”

Our trip planner, Julia, who blanched at the thought of never getting beyond Interstate fast food, had picked out a mid morning coffee stop for us, and a dinner stop, both designed to give us some local culture and a significant memory of some kind.  The coffee stop got scrapped before we were past Detroit, however, we elders did not hear of it until quite a bit later. We stopped at an Interstate fast food place, ho hum.  The youngers went downtown Detroit to some more trendy place as I recall.(Great Lakes Coffee)

This trip was purported to be around 8-9 hours. I think for us it was about 12 as we leap-frogged past each other on I-80, taking different lunch stops and fuel stops at different times. We did finally get together for dinner in Danville, PA. This time our trip planner hit a home run and we all had a good meal and an interesting time at the Old Forge Brewery. Spacious and rustic it was, and the food was good. These days the young crowd puts a lot of stock in craft beers and exotic coffees, which is okay – everyone has something they care about.  Someone has to keep all these brew pubs and coffee houses in business (although they didn’t do it for my brother in Michigan, did they?)

Our last most scenic miles were in the dark so we had no views except for the twisty, turning, hilly road in our headlights and the farmhouses and villages built, literally, right next to the road. We arrived at Ron (the husband’s brother) and Deanna’s house and sorted out our sleeping spots, visited a little, and went to bed. But, there were some plans, and we had three days….

More Good News

This is more about my recent excitement after watching a PBS presentation by Dr. Daniel Amen. I don’t know why I had never heard of his research before, since it is not new or hidden. First, look at all these acronyms and think of how many of them have affected you or people you love:

OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder

ADD – attention deficit disorder

PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder

TBI – traumatic brain injury

and then there’s also depression, anxiety, epilepsy, dementia, Alzheimer’s and a whole range of behaviors that we call mental illness and that are becoming common words in our society. The science of mental health was always kind of mysterious to me in nursing school, and since then as well. Sometimes therapies worked, sometimes worked for a short while, sometimes not at all. Medications were so “trial and error” oriented that they were discouraging. Many of them produced side effects worse than the condition they were treating. What I saw had me thinking that having a brain problem was a sad and permanent downhill course. And that is why I am so thankful for this research that shows otherwise.

Dr. Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, a psychiatrist and a brain imaging expert. His research includes over 83,000 of a particular kind of nuclear medicine images called SPECT or (get ready for big words) single photon emission computerized tomography. What this is, according to WebMD, a gamma camera that rotates around the patient taking pictures from many angles which a computer then uses to form a cross sectional image.

When I saw the before and after images of brains having some of the above listed mental health diagnoses and saw visible improvement that correlated with behavior improvement, I became a believer in what he was saying. You need to go look at these images, seriously. He explains it very well in some of his TEDx talks (like this one, click here). A couple of his most important and revolutionizing statements are “When your brain is not right, your relationships won’t be right” and “Change your brain – change your life, and here’s proof”.

I’ve not been diagnosed with a mental health issue. I’ve never been in therapy (although I’ve wished many times to have been) but I’ve had mild concussions, PMS, headaches, periods of anxiety, deep sadness. Who hasn’t? I’ve watched patients with dementia and worried that I would someday struggle with that. I’ve watched friends go through the stages of Alzheimer’s dementia and cried with their families. This is the first time I’ve heard that we can see even these things before they happen and do something about them. We can understand  what’s going on and counter with proven strategies instead of “shooting in the dark”, as Dr. Amen puts it.

(Btw, if you are a parent with a child who plays football, you need to hear about his treatment of professional football players with brain injuries. Even supposedly mild blows to the head create some images that show amazing amounts of damage, but the improvement that can be made is equally amazing.)

So that’s what has me excited. I’m going to watch more of his presentations. A lot of his treatments are related to exercise, good nutrition, good sleep, and good thoughts. In other words, it’s do-able and we should be doing it. Again, just sayin’.

Lake a Day Challenge: Spider Lake

A spider is probably not anyone’s favorite image to attach to a memory or a place, but when you grow up calling a place Spider Lake, you eventually quit thinking about real spiders and just think about the lake.  This lake is really a chain of lakes, four to be exact, connected by short rivers.  For many years one of my cousins has owned the Spider Lake Golf Club and Resort and it was only recently I learned that it is actually located on Clear Lake in the Spider Lake chain.  Big Spider (ugh!), Little Spider and North Lake make up the other three.

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Me and Spider Lake in rustic setting

My visit this summer was prompted in part by a reunion of my cousin’s family, as well as my own. This was the day we met at Spider Lake Golf Club for a wonderful dinner cooked on the grill and lots of family fellowship.  Cousins from as far away as Alaska and Florida (me) got reacquainted with each other, and fed mosquitoes. It seems the mosquitoes are a force to be reckoned with everywhere near the water or woods in Wisconsin. The young people hunted frogs, played catch and got underfoot. The rest of us visited and ate.  It’s kind of a standard theme among us. Always have food.

One of the most interesting activities at our gathering was making an African Praise Poem about mom.  Mom is one of three surviving siblings in her family of seven and a favorite among all the cousins.  After dinner we “poets” and mom talked together about the important events of mom’s life and the memories we had surrounding those times. There were tears. All these recollections were recorded and will be arranged, poetically and mysteriously, in the form of the African Praise Poem. We’ll all get to see it when daughter Esther puts the finishing touches on it. We asked mom how it felt to be the subject of an interactive poem like this and she admitted that it felt a little like being at her own memorial service, but not a bad thing overall.

I think Spider Lake is known for being a good fishing lake, and there are resorts and cabins available there still. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful lake.

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Poet and photographerfor this shoot, my daughter Esther
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Possibly the oldest, my Uncle Wendell (with two l’s) and the youngest, Hazel Erikson.
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Frog hunting
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Family, food, fun.

Cleaning Your Room

 

I helped you clean your room

Not because it was a toxic death trap

But because I knew we might find something,

Something you’d been looking for.

And we would laugh at the candy wrappers, the moldy apple,

The discarded clothing, the random bits of paper with

Life scribbled on them, anguished life, raw life, devotion, angst

And dreams, scribbled on bits of paper.

 

I helped you clean your room

Because the hours spent with you were precious.

We talked and small traces of order would appear,

small traces of calm and pleasure, even though we knew

they were temporary. Your room, your life was meant

to be lived in, sometimes messy,  sometimes organized but

always uniquely your room,  your life.  And I was

always happy when you let me sit there with you. Always.

 

I helped you clean your room

And it was with the same strategy used in cleaning

My own room with its messes and secrets and disorganization.

My room never stayed clean either, but I always enjoyed making

It different.  I could always make a difference,  move the furniture,  clear the floor,

And feel fresh and renewed.   A messy room was just an opportunity, not an indictment.

I perhaps never told you these things, but I want you to know why

I helped you clean your room.

(A reflection on possible messages of shame, unwittingly communicated, deeply regretted)

 

Family Wedding Post 3

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The wedding is over. The marriage has just begun.

It’s over and I am the first one back to the quiet house. The others are still at the wedding site helping put things back together. It was definitely an interactive wedding.  My nephew, who hosted the event in his beautiful back yard, went above and beyond the call of family duty. He even had his hired workers over to help string up the lights. His patio and pool area was transformed with a serving area, a bar, numerous tables and the seating area for the ceremony. The pool, waterfalls and palms were gorgeously tropical and the weather was near perfect (maybe a little warm, but definitely could have been worse.).

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They are haning lights for later – the whole crew pitched in.
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Simplicity, this is it.
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The lights, the water, the festive occasion…

 

I’m trying to think of the traditional elements of this wedding. It’s a bit difficult because many of them were dispensed with.  It was a simple ceremony.  There was no music to worry about, no singing, no parades of girls in poufy gowns, no children wandering off to find mommy, or running away with the rings.  The groom escorted his parents in, kissed them and seated them.  The bride, escorted by her parents, did the same. The bride’s father gave a short message. The couple read their promises out loud to each other and exchanged rings. They were pronounced husband and wife and kissed.  We all waited for them to go happily down the aisle but that didn’t happen. They stayed by themselves in front of the audience and acknowledged and thanked everyone for coming. The groom prayed for God’s blessing on the crowd. To be honest, I thought it was a nice departure from the long receiving line where you have to hug and kiss people you don’t know very well and… I just am in favor of getting rid of lines of all kinds, whenever possible. Good job.

This part of the ceremony did finally end when the bride grabbed the groom’s hand and took off with a loud “Let’s party!” That was a bit untraditional as well, but then, that’s my niece. She’s not afraid to be herself.

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“Let’s party!”

And party we did. I am so NOT a party person. I go to occasions like this for love of family, not love of party. But I do like to see other people having a good time. George the chef had done a bang up job with the food, which took the spotlight next.  It was hot, so the bar was busy serving up nice icy cold drinks, and the music started.  People began to get their food and take it to the traditional sit down tables, or the untraditional stand up tables.

Then it began to be apparent that the one part of the planning no one had focused on was clean-up. The bar began to run out of clean glasses. Plates began to clutter tables and counters. But be aware that in every crowd there will be a few people who are clean-up ninjas, and they can’t resist the challenge.  I am one. I love nothing better than to stay inside where there is AC going strong and scrape dirty plates.  I get to see lots of people as they drop off their stuff. I get to be useful and oddly, I really do like washing dishes. It’s like making a difference in the world, one dirty plate at a time.

And when I was done I got to sit down with a cup of coffee and one of the bestest ever cupcakes. I will never recommend traditional wedding cake to anyone again. Really, cupcakes are a great idea and they can be unusual, fancy and delicious.

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The cupcake table was a big hit. The bridal couple got to cut their small tiered cake as usual, but everyone else got to choose from an assortment of ridiculously GOOD personal cakes. How cool is that!?

As I said, I am back at the quiet house, and it is still quiet. I love quiet. There were also a lot of really dirty pans left over from George’s labors. I washed them and cleaned up. I love cleaning up. Two nice things that I like, to finish up a very nice family wedding. I’m just sayin’ – it was good and I think we all had fun.

Family Wedding Post 2

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If you were the missing wedding band, where would you be?

“His ring has disappeared. We can’t figure it out.” This was said by the bride to be as she sat in the kitchen talking with a few family members.

The explanation went on. They had purchased rings months ago, including the engagement ring, with his and hers bands – three boxes in a bag, put in a high place for secure, safe keeping.  The boxes were all there when he went for the engagement ring. That was the most recent time anyone had made note. They became engaged in October and now it was May. The box was gone and no one who knew where it had been recalled doing anything with it.  It was a mystery.

Searching had been extensive. So many suggestions and she had followed up on them with no results.  If a thief had struck, would he not also have taken her wedding band?

With no time to solve the mystery, they went to the jewelry store and bought another band. Will it ever be found? Where do you think it is?

Family Wedding Post 1

My niece is getting married this afternoon, outdoors in her brother’s back yard. I have traveled the three hours to my brother’s city where all this is taking place, to represent my family at the occasion.  It’s been years since I’ve been at a family wedding and I’m aware that my status has changed. Instead of being involved in the necessary prep, I am an elder watching the busy-ness of the younger generation.  I hadn’t thought of this as being the case before, and it’s kind of a nice surprise.

Even as I sit down to write in a quiet room, the mother of the bride comes in to take a few deep breaths and we talk for an hour, then the father of the bride also joins us and we talk. The bride comes in and needs to sit for a few minutes even though she has nothing to say.  In the managing of a thousand details, people still have the need to step back and evaluate, to hear their thoughts articulated and validated. I get to listen and hear my family.

In the kitchen the groom’s cousin, a chef, is making sauces and marinades for the food.  There has been much cooking, baking and tasting going on the past couple of days.  It is a hands on wedding with the food being prepared by friends and family. It is also inclusive of a different culinary culture, the Hispanic Miami vibe being present in the background music, the exotic smells, the names of dishes being prepared.

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A wedding story in the making.

Yesterday afternoon the decibel level went high in the kitchen and dining room as the friends of the bride gathered to do table decorations. Laughter, loud discussions, and the occasional episode of dog barking sent me looking for a place apart where I could observe and listen without being overwhelmed.  Problems with the candles were solved, people were dispatched to pick up needed items. Everyone had a job or was given one.

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A wedding story in the making.

When I did venture out I was assigned to watch the frosting on the stove top, which, according to the recipe was supposed to get thick and fluff. Counters were laden with food items and dishes. The sister of the bride was making the cake and stirring up generous amounts of butter, eggs, and flour. Nuts, pineapple, cherries, brown sugar – all this and more adding to the smells to be smelled and the flavors to be tasted. It seemed like each new person who appeared at the door had more food in hand. Throw in a small fire as parchment paper in the toaster oven burst into flames and you have an exciting kitchen.

I finally saw the place where I was comfortable making a difference – the sink full of dirty dishes. I know how to wash dishes.  I am a part of this wild, family adventure. It is good.

 

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Oh yeah, a place for someone who likes to wash dishes – me!

One Last Place

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Rather than gliding smoothly

It won’t budge even though it’s pulled

Forward, backward until fingers ache from the effortl

It doesn’t look that bad

From the outside where the teeth

Are shiny and black and only a small bit of paint –

It flakes off with the wiggling, a sign of the greater problem.

 

It was in a bad place

Where the humidity and who knows what else

Sat on it for too long a time and it began to change inside

Looking closely, there

There it is along the edges…

Dusty, irregular, misshapen line of gray

The metal of one

Grows into the metal of the other

In a weld of fusion and confusion that renders it immobile, stuck.

 

Scraping it away

Looking for true strength beneath

There are so many places where the corrosion sits

But, there has to be

One last place, that when it is freed

It moves and becomes, once again, what it was meant to be.

 

 

S. Dietz 2016