Saturday, November 10, 2018

My Red Mittens

These are my red mittens

I love my red mittens, because I love their story. It starts with red yarn, received nearly nine years ago, part of a Christmas gift from a sweet friend that I love dearly. It continues as the yarn helps me write one of my first knitting patterns, Mittens With a Flap, and I knit it into those mittens. When I first received the skein, I knew almost immediately that it was destined to be mittens. And it did become mittens, and I love my red mittens! I love them so much that I take them outside in the cold, gray rain to take their photo. Then I post the pictures on all manner of social media. I want everyone to have a pair of red mittens to love!

My red mittens, though I love them, they are not perfect. They have seen some life, some wear and tear, and they have been repaired a time or two. I have even re-knit the thumbs into a turtle-neck style, so I can have my opposable digits free for texting if I like. Truth be told, the thumbs have sustained the majority of the repetitive stress injuries, and I keep wearing through them as the steering wheel slips through my hands at every turn. Each winter, I go in search of the last bits of this yarn to repair the thumbs. Usually I find it.

A couple of years ago, I could not find the yarn. My thumbs were actually in good shape, but there was a place on the right palm that was nearly worn through. I did the only thing I could do. I repaired it with the first yarn I found, and made plans to re-do the repair when I located the red yarn. 

Eventually, I did find the yarn again, but I never have redone the repair. Could be lazy-knitter syndrome...but as I pulled out my red mittens yesterday for their first drive of the year, I once again looked at that repair, and I don't think lazy is a factor. I actually think that I prefer them just as they are, even with this very visible flaw. My mittens, you know, are not the only part of me that is flawed...and I like me pretty well, flaws and all.

I am squishy in places that should not be squishy. My hair does not dance in the wind, shining with the vibrance of youth. One of my front teeth was chipped pretty good, and it has a visible repair that is just "out there" every time I smile. There is a sizeable scar at my left hip, where another repair was made, and the fingers of my left hand are not as straight as they should be. Like my mittens, my patience wears thin from time to time, as I let this life full of imperfect people slip through my fingers. As it turns out, I am not the only one who is flawed. Still, there is something to be loved in each of us, just like my red mittens.

When I wear my red mittens, I remember that I am a smart and talented woman who can knit and write knitting patterns for other knitters to enjoy. I remember that I am loved by my friends and family, and I am liked by knitters I have never met in person. When I wear my red mittens, I remember that I am vibrant and I have a lot of life left in me. I look forward to the warmth I receive and offer to those around me. I remember, and I am thankful for all of those things. My life is good, and my red mittens are just one tiny reminder, especially on the cold, wet, yucky days that come around.

When frost chills me to the bone, physically or emotionally, I can always reach for my red mittens and what they represent to me - love, kindness, joy and comfort. I'll say it again here: Everyone should have a pair of red mittens.

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Three Stages of Bacon

This morning, after preparing a pomegranate for my sweet hubby, I decided to also make the bacon that has been in the fridge for a couple weeks. You see, I have had a rough week, and I am sure that he has put up with more bad attitude than normal. I feel really bad about that, and I wanted to make it up to him a, today is a bacon day.

As the bacon was sizzling, and I was doing my best to not let it burn (no judgement, please...bacon is tricky), I started to think about the three stages of bacon. 

Bacon in the package does not do anything for me. I see the bacon, but cannot smell it. I think about the mess it will make if I cook it, and I move on. Cold bacon is slimy and a little bit icky even. Bacon in the package is inert to me.

Bacon in the pan, however, affects me. The smell, the sizzle, the sight of the fat browning slowly...bacon in the pan gives me a shiver. Bacon in the pan is just a little bit dangerous. Not too scary, but it will burn you if you are not careful. Bacon in the pan makes me stand up and take notice of life as I look forward to its salty goodness!

Bacon on the plate is comforting. Still a little bit dangerous (if you eat all the bacon, every time...well, heart attack!) but definitely not as dangerous as the bacon in the pan. You know it is going to be good, even if it is a little bit overcooked! Bacon on the plate will not make anything catch fire, in the literal sense, but it lights a fire under Sweetie on a Saturday morning!

In the end, leftover bacon on the plate goes back to the fridge, where I often forget about it. Chilled bacon is just as yummy as hot bacon, especially in a good salad. Even so, for me bacon in the fridge is once again inert and forgettable.

All this thinking about bacon got me to thinking about life. It's like that for everyone, right? (Lie to me. I need to not be alone in this. Bacon is pretty big in my life.)

So right, bacon is like life. Where am I in my bacon life? Am I bacon in the package? in the pan? on the plate? Well, I know where I would like to be.

I want to be a little bit dangerous while affecting the people around me in a good way...not by burning them. I want to sizzle and smell good and brown evenly. I hope my friendships carry the aroma of encouraging words and acts of kindness. When I am really cooking in a room, I would like people to look forward to spending time with me, without worrying about the fat splatters. Someday I will be safely on the plate, or in the fridge, where the mess will not matter that much anyway.

Sure, some days I will be icky, raw bacon in the package. That is where I have been most of this week. Cranky Pretty has tried to keep it to herself, for the most part, and be inert. It has been difficult, and she has not always succeeded, which is why we had a bacon day. There was so much napping in the package!

One day, I will be bacon on the plate, or in the fridge. I will be silenced, either figuratively or literally, because nobody lives forever on this earth. What will my legacy be? Will people continue to go on, changed by the bacon stages of our lives and how they intertwined, or will they forget all about me?

I suppose it does not really matter...ashes to ashes, bacon to bacon bits, and all that jazz. But while I am here, I will keep trying to sizzle and shake things up a little, looking forward to life. How about you?

Oh, and I will knit. Mental note: keep the yarn away from the bacon...unless you want bacon-scented knits...not necessarily a bad!

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Change of Plans

"Chaaarge it!," said Betty Rubble and Wilma Flintstone with reckless abandon when they were shopping! Despite my own credit card skills, I do very little with reckless abandon, including shopping. Most of what I do is planned out until my stomach hurts from the stress of doing it just right. From my budget (a 12-page excel workbook with all the income allocated to each area by a percentage system and some super-fun formula cells) to the way I wash the laundry (sheets on Tuesday, towels on Wednesday, clothes on Saturday) to putting together a vacation, all tasks are approached with a plan. No matter how hard I try, however, nothing in my life is perfect...or even close. 

Sure, all my planning and doing photos on Instagram and Facebook are the smiley ones (or cats...or yarn...), and I know that many of my friends believe that I lead a charmed life...but really I am just getting by on many days. I plan, and when my plans (frequently) do not work out, I feel my feelings...and I eat my feelings...and they are not good feelings. 

I struggle with planning and making good choices and living with less than good choices, but that's life for all of us, right? Right. So I slap on a smile, even though I occasionally live on the edge of sadness, notsomuch to convince you that I am happy...but to convince ME that I am going to be ok. 

One of the tools that keeps me from jumping off a cliff when I have the sadz, besides not living close to any cliffs, is remembering three truths: 
  1. No matter what is going on, God is still good.* 
  2. No matter who else has let me down (or who I may be letting down), God keeps his promises.** 
  3. No matter how disappointed I may be in any given situation, even when God is not doing what I want Him to do, God is doing what needs to be done. He has a plan.***
So, if God has a plan, plans are good, and I  keep planning. Well, God's plans are good, for sure. My plans may be good, but they are not His plans, so sometimes I have to back the heck up and change my plan. This is really hard for me, and it makes my face look not-smiley...I do not take or post pictures of my "why is this not working?" face. 

When I make that face, I try to stop and breathe and let myself feel it, then remind myself of the three truths that help me to go on. God is good, He keeps his promises and He has a plan. Praise God! Because In the "this is not working" places, I am uber-aware of the fact that I am not good, I break promises and my plans are often foiled. Then what?

My mom used to say, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again." Good advice. Keep calm and carry on-ish advice. I am very thankful for good advice, and that God is working good things, even in my failure. So I will keep planning, my plans will keep failing and I will make adjustments. Life goes on, with or without me and my face. 

Thankfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:18) gets me through the rough stuff and helps me to slap on that smile. I am thankful for a place to live and sleep in comfort, for food in my belly (often more than I need) and clothes on my back. I am even thankful for a good parking space, when I happen to find one. Most of all, I am thankful that God provides a way for me, even when my plans fail. I am thankful to have his plans.

What are you thankful for? I know you can find something, if you look long and hard enough. So breathe, feel the feelings, then slap on a smile and come knit with me. You will likely find more things to be thankful for each time you look...keep looking.

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by. I hope that you will Knit in Good Health and Thankfulness, today and always.

*God is still good. (1 John 1:5; Psalm 145:9)
**God keeps his promises. (Joshua 21:45; Hebrews 6:13-18)
***God has a plan. (Romans 8:28 & 12:2)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

What's Your Sign?

Signs are good. Signs tell us where to go, and sometimes when to go there. Signs tell us to stop and turn or keep on keepin' on. We are all looking for a sign at some point. 

Working in a church, I notice church signs. Some are clever and some are tired. Some are both at the same time. Have you seen this one?

C H _ _ C H
What's missing?

At one time, that was fresh, new and innovative, and in some communities, it may still be. In the suburbs of Cleveland, it is a little tired. Still, I get the sentiment, and I appreciate the effort of the local church, trying to reach out to share the message that Jesus is for everyone. It is sometimes a difficult message to share in 21st century America.

There is a church that I pass 5 days a week, on my way to and from work. They are an older church (I once attended a service there) with a shiny, new, electronic sign. They have two messages on their sign this October:

Satan is a sick trick! 
Jesus is the real treat!

Let me start by saying that these two statements are not false. However, every time I drive past, I kind of want to stop in and ask the pastor how that is an effective use of signage resources. How does it really affect our community? Do people come in from the street and ask, "What does your sign mean?," and then stick around to learn about Jesus, or do they just keep driving? Are new people coming in at all?

There is an electronic sign at my church, and I change the messages as necessary. I will not be putting any kitsch-y, quirky messages on that sign. I stick to service times, event details, and thinking questions, like "What are you reading?" Our sign should reflect that we care about our community, and would like to invite everyone inside, that we want to meet you and learn more about you. Just like Jesus, we want to share with you the love that has the power to change the outlook of any life. Our church's message is that Jesus is for everyone, like most Christian churches...but if people never come inside (whether they attend a church service or a rummage sale, craft fair or community event) how will they ever know that? 

As a follower of Jesus, and an active member of my local Christian church, I sometimes struggle with the signs that I see my brothers and sisters in Christ holding. I struggle with the signs I hold up in my day-to-day life...not physical signs, with boldly lettered messages, but the signs people see when they watch how I live. How often do I hold up signs that say I am too tired or busy to care? Too unreliable to help? Too full of my own drama to welcome and comfort a friend? 

I am embarrassed to say that I do hold up those signs, and I know it. I want to hold up the signs that say, " I have hope that I can share with you. Can I help make your day better? I want to be your friend. I have found a really good thing, and I want to show you," but I too often let the circumstances of my life dictate signs that say, "I am stressed. I am tired. I can not take one more thing." I confess this daily, and accept God's forgiveness, and then I try to do better. Hopefully I do better today than I did yesterday, and hopefully my signs are not so cheesy that potential friends are just driving past without a second glance.

JOHN 3:16

Again, true and concise, the gospel message in just a few words.* But how many  friends who have zero church experience look that up after the game?  

What kind of signs catch your attention? What kind of signs are you holding up? Who is affected by your message, whatever it might be, and is there anything you would like to change about that? If yes, you can. It is not easy to change direction, and it will not be quick, but you can do it. I did, and I continue to tweak my direction daily. With Jesus as the focus of my life, and a little help from my friends, I get by pretty well. 

I hope you are getting by pretty well today, friends, and that you have found the signs that give you positive direction in your life. 

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health.

*John 3:16 - For God so loved the world [that's you and me and everyone, for all time] that he gave his one and only Son [God had one kid, who was also God, and the Father gave that kid up] so that whoever believes in him [Jesus] would never die [die=be separated from God] but have eternal life [with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Heaven]. (All the words in brackets are mine. There is so much more to this message, even when life is hard...especially when life is hard. Ask me.)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

It's a Life...

It's a Wonderful Life is one of my very favorite movies. I identify with George Bailey, a rule follower who does what needs to be done because somebody has to...even when he would rather somebody else do it. I have seen it so often that I sometimes skim past the opening scenes, when the Clarence the clock-maker is called in to get the rundown on who this George Bailey fellow is. But this morning, as I was going through photos to blog, I got to wondering what that conversation might be if Joseph were telling Clarence about Pretty.

Clarence: If I do well, will I get my wings?
Joseph: I suppose so, but this one could be a challenge.
Clarence: What do you mean? Is there something wrong with this gal?
Joseph: She is Pretty.
Clarence: Ummm, would you like me to clean your spectacles, Joseph? I am very good at cleaning spectacles. Perhaps I could earn my wings if I clean enough spectacles?
Joseph: No! She is called attention to what happens here...

Clarence: Wait. Is she taking photos of her front porch?
Joseph: Not the porch, what's on the porch?
Clarence: A pumpkin...?
Joseph (slaps head in frustration): Okayyyy...there is a pumpkin, but what else do you see?

Clarence: Why is there winter-wear up against the pumpkin?
Joseph: Not just winter-wear...there are socks, too...she knits.

Clarence: Wait. She is taking pictures of knitwear...on the porch...who does that?
Joseph: Pretty does that. The neighbors have started to notice...
Clarence: Can I go back to the George guy?
Joseph (with a heavy sigh): You can do this. Here...let's look at something else.

Clarence: You mean she's a cat lady, too? A cat lady who knits? It really doesn't get more stereotypical than that...
Joseph: She only has two cats...
Clarence: Two is halfway to four, and four is halfway to eight. 

Joseph: Yes, but it's not about the cats. We just need an intervention with the knitting! She knits all the time! Her neighbors are talking. Her friends are talking. She is knitting at work! You have to get down there and save her from her obsession with the knitting!

So Clarence comes down, he talks to me about the yarn, and I knit him a hat while we sip hot, buttered rum by the fireplace. In the end, he returns to heaven with hats for Joseph and God, and they all decide that these are the best hats they have ever worn. The bells do not ring, and Clarence does not get his wings, but he does thank Pretty warmly for the hat...and he decides that perhaps wings are overrated. 

It would be a different movie, for sure. I would likely still watch it, with the cats...and maybe some knitting. 

Thanks for stopping by, and Knit in Good Health!