Friday, August 30, 2013

how not to clean the porch

Before my parents and sister came a few weeks ago, I began the arduous job of cleaning a very nasty back porch. Between spiders and rain residue, it was a mess. I was pleased with the progress I was making:
 Before
 And after.
 
And then the crazy happened. I was outsmarted by my dog. He had been coming up, going side to side, then leaving. Then he came up and just sat down after I petted him. So I kept working, not thinking anything about it, until I reached for the paper towels and they were gone.
 



My own dog paper-towelled my yard.
And that was the end of cleaning off the porch.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

the Pawpaw Festival

A few years ago I discovered the song I loved as a child was actually a harvest song.
Pawpaws are a fruit that grow on a tree. After two attempts at planting the trees, we discovered Winston-Salem has a festival  every year where you can taste products made from pawpaws as well as learn about the trees, the fruit, and purchase seedlings. So this past Saturday we went.

It was crowded. Lines were everywhere, and we headed inside where the lectures would be held. Once inside, we realized we needed to divide and conquer. Bobby claimed a spot to listen to the lecture while I waited in the food line and got us both a plate of samples. After the first lecture, we joined the tour of the garden, though the guide told Bobby where he could get an overview as the orchard was planted on a hillside.


 I liked the concept of boxing in the trees (which I'm sure they did because the first two years and any non-wet summers they need an irrigation system), though with our chickens I'm not sure any mulch or food we placed inside the box would stay there.

 Pawpaws on the tree.
 

 And a close-up.
 
 
So what does a pawpaw taste like? I'm not sure. After the tour we headed back outside to purchase a raw one and possibly buy a seedling, but everything was gone. One of the sellers had even moved her truck!  The few nurserys left were selling their other plants (blueberries, figs, ornamental stuff) and the only person left with pawpaws had tiny ones, about the size of an orange, that they were selling for $5.00 (when we arrived it was $5 per POUND, not per ITEM!). A lady asked him why so much, and he said his manager told him since the demand was so high to up the price. Talk about inflation!
 
They did give us brochures and information, which includes several nurseries that sell healthy breads of pawpaws. I'm still not certain I want to plant two trees only to find out I don't really care for their fruit. Of the samples we tried, the ice cream and ham/pawpaw spread was good. The others were just okay. Personally, I'd rather stick with normal banana bread than pawpaw bread. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't as good.
 
So what do you think? Is it worth a $30 gamble?



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

off my table and out of the chair!

 Project #1: What was SUPPOSED to be a 3D tumbling block quilt quickly morphed into a star pattern as I placed different fabric into various positions before sewing. The only problem? How to connect them. Thanks to youtube videos and learning how to do a "Y seam", this quilt top has been folded and moved from a heap on the table into a "to be quilted" pile.  And yes, that is progress.

 Project #2 comes from out of the chair. Two years ago I started this quilt as a dare and was going to enter it into the State Fair. I quickly realized I didn't have enough time nor the required skills (nor an adequate sewing machine) to complete the quilt. I am happy to say that even though I used this as a "skill builder" project, it is now quilted, folded, and awaiting it's owner.

 Project #3 actually started in June when I took a class at the Sewing Expo in Raleigh. I was determined it was not going to sit in a pile for several years, so I simply sewed fabrics in strips around it until I had a decent quilt size.
And here's a close-up of the center block that started it all. The class was teaching you how to get two squares out of one cutting when doing applique. The block is huge (23x23), and I haven't yet decided how I'm going to finish the second one. I'm trying to complete finish a few other things first.

At some point, I hope to get around to quilting the tops, but my my current mindset is focused on too many other things (like garden stuff and housework and the upcoming kids' Christmas play practices and fall activity, etc).  It's a good thing I enjoy details and organizing. My husband laughs about the organizing part. I have so much going on at one time that our life and house often feels like things are in disarray. I prefer to call it a  perpetual state of motion.

And with that, we're moving on.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

projects update

About two years ago a young lady was going to come live with us until she could financially get back on her feet. I re-arranged one side of the house, pulling all my art supplies and sewing stuff into one room so she would have one complete bedroom to herself and we'd still have a guest bedroom for company. And then she decided not to stay with us.  Since that time frame, I have slowly organized, re-arranged, divided, and sorted that one room that became my studio (or sewing room, since that is primarily what I do there).  I still have several big projects I hope to tackle and then move out, but this year I've really focused on tackling some of the "smaller" projects as a way of creating floor and table space. And here's two of the results:

 Um, well, obviously this picture DIDN'T turn clockwise. Anyway, we bought this rocker at an estate sale several years ago, and it desperately needed refinishing, something I've never done before. I'm not totally satisfied with the bottom pad, but this was the second one I made and it was semi-presentable, so for now this project is classified as "done".  It's nice to actually have this item out of my sewing room (along with all the projects I had stacked up inside it).

 
Several years ago our summer children (we used to host foster children from an orphanage in Belarus) demolished a pillow Bobby had. I had saved the pillowform inside of it, and when his "elevation pillow"  (a paralysis thing, I'll have to explain that later) had seen it's better days, I took the form and make two pillow cases for it. I should have put a zipper or velcro closure on it, but I was in a hurry and didn't, so now I'll have to remove an outer seam whenever I need to wash it. (Although I discovered it's too big for my washing machine; not sure what to do about that one.) But I was pleased with how it looks and was pleasantly surprised how the red matched and popped in our blue & white room (although I do have a yellow summer quilt on the bed).
 
So even though I'm not posting as much this year as previous years, I'm actually getting more stuff done. :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

troubling

The last few days I have been bombarded with links to a news article, most of them from Facebook friends. When today I received this article in a GOP newsletter, I decided it was time for a reality check.

One of the first things students in journalism class are taught is: present the facts, and when it comes to opinions, interview and quote from both parties. This article would have received a "rewrite" or an "incomplete" had it been in my high school journalism class.

I'm also greatly bothered not just because it only presents one party's viewpoint, but also because I've sat on the other side of the fence. While the father may be reacting as any normal father would do, he's making an awful lot of assumptions and unfounded accusations.

No one with a civilized mind likes a child molester. Courts almost always tend to go heavy in a child's favor. And I think that is where we often go astray. America's policy is "innocent until proven guilty", not the other way around. And one person's word against another person's word is not proof of anything. Children do lie. How many rape and assault cases has this nation convicted, only to have the "guilty" set free ten-fifteen years down the road because the child/accuser changed their testimony?  Yes, we have a lot of sick people in this world who do some very sick things. But when such accusations are made, a person's reputation, job, family, friends, and life is on the line. That is a VERY serious accusation.

Twenty years ago, a very godly man I attended church with was accused of the very same thing. No one thought he did it, except the boy and his father. There wasn't enough evidence to go to court, and after two years of wrestling with allegations and mediation and insurance companies, the public school system's lawyer said "settle".  The man didn't want to, but if he didn't, he would have lost his job, his home, and any hope of ever getting another job in the school system. When your boss says "settle" or pay out of pocket, and you have no money, what else are you going to do? I know many people in our church felt he should have kept fighting, but his wife wearily said "We are tired of fighting a losing battle. The courts will not accept our innocent testimony against the testimony of a troubled child."

This last year a young man in our church committed a crime. He did not deny it; he was heartbroken and very penitent. He's willing to take whatever punishment comes his way.  As part of his sentencing for court, he needs character references for the judge. Where else would you go for a charcter reference but to the very people who know you? He's not requesting them to agree with what he did, but simply share how they know him. Why would anyone turn on a friend when they are down and need help the most?

I don't fault the teachers for speaking on their co-worker's behalf. One child's accusation does not change their interactions with him. Even if he did this horrid thing, it does not undo all the good things they knew about him. If he's guilty, then yes, he should be punished. But, punishments are to fit the crime. We have no way of knowing whether or not this child has been a problem student at school, whether or not he's falsely accused other teachers of anything (and trust me, once a child has falsely accused you of targeting them, disliking them because "they're a boy and she only likes girls", you tend to keep your distance and not trust a thing that student says), or if they feel the punishment was over-reaching. For all we know, the "molestation" could simply be a hug to a crying child. (Think back to how many teachers we heard say "I know we're not supposed to hug a kid or tell them "I love you", but..." during the school shooting or deadly tornadoes of the last year. Those policies are in place for a reason.) Rape only elicits 5-10 years. Why should molestation be 15-30? And if the school system tried to fire them for testifying in court, specifically for being character witnesses, then the school system should be sued for wrongful termination. You can't take a person's livelihood just because they testify in court if they themselves have not done anything wrong.

And last but not least, the father doesn't know whether it was the church or a group of members in the church that paid the bail. I assume the man was a member of that church, but the reporter didn't even verify that information. He simply quoted unsubstantiated claims from the accuser's family.

There are no winners in situations like this. If the child was truly molested, then he has to be feeling doubly wronged. Either way, he'll always question whether or not a teacher has it in for him, even if he has a bad attitude in the classroom.  The faith in the school system for that community is gone. Even if the boy turns out to be a liar who was desperately wanting and needing some attention, there will always be a question mark in people's minds now.

Things like this make me appreciate all the more the Old Testament laws that an accuser had to present two witnesses whenever a person was accused of anything. There's wisdom in that. I agree it would make it very hard to prosecute cases with those requirements, but it would easily eliminate many cases that divide communities. Defenders would truly be innocent, unless proven guilty. Mob accusations, even on the internet, never justly settle anything.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Kisses from Katie

Last night I finished reading a book that many people have probably already read. Of all the books I've read the last year (and that's quite a few!), this has probably been one of the best, and one that I'll keep.

Some of her reasonings/rationales reminded me so much of GO Conferences and prayer meetings with missions students while I was in college. (Why should dogs in America have better food and health care than people in other countries?, etc)  I was challenged by her constant use of Scripture and depth in the Word for not just her theology but also her day-to-day problems. And I was very thankful when she finally mentioned the hardness of it all. I was starting to think she was either very idealistic or was blissfully ignoring the reality of life.

There are two passages that I actually wrote down the page numbers so I could go back and re-read later. The last one dealt with one of her younger girls who suddenly decided she didn't like to take a bath. (It reminded me very much of another young girl that I adore.) Here's the excerpt:

The bath time struggle never is about the bath at all. It is about obedience. Grace is three years old and she simply does not want to obey. She thinks she should be the one to decide whether she gets in the tub or not...I shudder to think what I could have missed in life because o fmy disobedience. I am so thankful God in His grace does not allow me to win. It is not about the bathtub. It is about me, trying to figure out just how much control I have over my little life...So God picks me up, exhausted from struggling, and plops me in the center of His will fo rmy life. And then a funny thing happens. As I kick and scream and struggle, I remember: I like being in the center of God's will for my life. God's plan is usually pretty great. It is a whole lot better than mine, anyway. I am so glad that He does not allow me to win.

Just the very parallel: a child not wanting to take a bath even though in a dirty place it's a necessity for staying healthy, fighting her Mom every step of the way, and then ultimately crying when she's taken out of the water...that is such a perfect portrait of my walk with Christ.

There aren't many "preachy" books that keep my interest very long. This one did. It was good enough that I interrupted Bobby several times to read excerpt to him. I will admit that reading parts of this book were very difficult. It's not exactly easy to read about suffering children and adoption when God has so clearly closed the door in that area.  But as I've been reminded over and over and over this last month (from so many different directions!): God is sovereign.

There's not a whole lot of books I'll read more than once. This book will definitely make the list.

Monday, August 19, 2013

fittings

The few times Bobby and I have been to a Civil War Reenactment, he's always laughed a little and commented that most of the soldiers didn't exactly fulfill the role of starving soldiers. And when we read the history books and see the photos, I understand his comments. The average southern male during the civil war would not have weighed over 125 pounds.  Many of them weighed much less.  And yet today's reenactors weigh well over 225. Yes, things have definitely changed during the last 150 years.

This past few weeks we've been reading from Leviticus, and as we've read about the exemptions made for the poor (if they can't afford animals to sacrifice, they can use flour, etc) it makes me appreciate God even more for how much he pays attention to the tiniest detail. Working in the garden as a child, we were taught to check and double-check a plant before moving to the next one to make sure we didn't leave anything to waste. Yet during Biblical times, the Hebrews were commanded the exact opposite: leave fruit on the trees and vegetables or grain in the garden...so the hungry can pick what they need.

I love the two-fold principles here. One, we have a responsibility to share what we have. But two, (and the point my parents always emphasized), was that people had to do their part. Picking vegetables or fruit is not always a pleasant or enjoyable task. There's bugs; it's sweaty; it makes your muscles and joints ache. The command was not to simply give your extra food to the poor, but to make it available to them to pick themselves.

We're not an agrarian society anymore. Few people have gardens, and even the ones who do don't use it as a means to supply the majority of their food source. We have food banks and rescue missions, but how do we give to the poor without robbing them of their dignity? A handout doesn't give them the satisfaction and self-worth of earning their food, even if it is from someone else's garden. Recently a friend and I were discussing the number of people who truly struggle after serving time or overcoming addictions in finding work. No one wants to hire them. They are willing to work and desirous of living a good or godly life, but no one gives them a chance. My friend commented that we really needed a network of Christian businessmen who would step up to the plate and open positions for such people.

And I've thought about that quite a bit lately. Realistically, would I sacrifice my business or company's well-being by taking a risk on an unstable employee? Is that today's equivalent of leaving food in the field? Since I'm not a business person, it really doesn't matter, but I do wonder about these things. How do some of the good commands from the past fit into today's society? God clearly cares about those details, but how to translate them over into modern times is about as difficult as making a reenactor fit into a true uniform from 150 years ago.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My brain says "fall"

I know the calendars do not say that summer has ended yet.
I know that.
But my brain disagrees.
Violently.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Know It's Fall:
1. Football.  (Do I really need to say more?)
2. Okra plants are as tall as me.
3. The fruit is gone from the trees.
4. Cooler weather (which I LOVE!)
5. Decreased daylight time (which means fewer eggs).
6. Pecans are becoming more pronounced in the trees.
7. Back to school sales everywhere.
8. Massive decrease in friends on Facebook (comes with being friends with too many teachers/parents/homeschoolers).
9. Bobby's already requesting t-shirts under his shirts.
10. Tree leaves are starting to fall.

So say what you want.
Follow your calendar.
But in my heart of hearts and deep inside my brain, I know the truth.
Fall is here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

squirrels won again

The last few summers I've told you about my shock in going out to the fruit trees which were loaded, and finding next to nothing there. This summer we thought we were on top of things. My Dad picked pears twice for me while he was here (as opposed to waiting until the end of August, first of September), and I went out this morning to get one last batch before offering them to friends. We had decided we'd focus on the pears this year and tackle apples last.

Well, turns out, we won't focus on either. I went out this morning to pick, only to find ONE apple left on the tree and about SEVEN pears, all small.  Bobby laughed when I showed him, shook his head and said "That's amazing!"  Three days ago those trees were LOADED!

So I'm a little thankful to have less work, but it's also a bit of a disappointment. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

neglect

For the fourth time this summer, a friend on Facebook posted an article about the number of infants in America who have died (24) because their parents forgot them and left them in a carseat.  Invariably, a lot of opinions came out, many of them throwing out the neglect charge.  I will say this last friend has worked with foster children quite a bit, and has seen a large amount of neglect the last twenty years and knows all too well the horrors it reaks on a child's life.

And yet, I'm not ready to hurl that charge someone's direction just because they forgot a child.

Parents do forget children, especially young ones. I've seen it happen a number of times at many churches and schools. The first two times friends ranted about undisciplined partents forgetting their kids on Facebook, many of their friends immediately started sharing stories of times when they had forgotten their own children.  By the time person number six shared their story, the poster had to re-consider a lot of her condemnation.

I think it was last year (time seems to run together for me) when North Carolina started requiring car seats to be turned backwards for infants under a year old and first responders had very mixed reactions. They all agreed it was safer for a child EXCEPT the mother would not be able to see her child while driving AND would be more likely to NOT see her child when she exited the car in a hurry. They feared more cases of children being locked in cars and being forgotten would happen.

And I'm always amazed by the number of people who talk about how people are so distracted today and not focusing on what's important and that's why parents can forget their children. In my mother's infancy, car seats did not exist. A baby wouldn't be left in a car because it was behing held by someone or resting in the floor/seat beside the mother.  Then my generation comes along and there are carseats, not required, that can be placed where the mother can view the child. When something is in plain view, it makes it a little more difficult to forget about it. (We won't talk about getting to the bank and realizing you've left the check at home, etc).

For those of us who long for children but have not found that chapter written into our lives, there are many scenarios such as this one that are very hard to comprehend or fathom. And I find that what I consider neglect is not the same thing that others consider as neglect. Granted, almost everyone agrees not feeding a child, etc constitutes neglect, but there are many grey areas to this issue as well.

Chris Fitzsimon, who speaks on NC Spin about policies of the day has remarked on more than occasion that parents/teachers who teach their children dinosaurs roamed the earth 2,000 years ago are depriving their children of a good education.  I know thousands of children who are taught this by their teachers, and I would never charge them with neglect. Yet he and many others would.

I've known countless children who struggle with bedwetting. Most eventually outgrow it. One or two parents who've found themselves in that situation refuse to wash sheets every single day. To me, that borders on neglect. To a very tired, overworked Mom, it's a time-saving measure. And in those cases, I bite my tongue. I don't walk in their shoes day in, day out. And I also know how many times people have criticized my housekeeping, when they've never had to be a caregiver or keep my schedule.

So I cringe when someone lambasts another person who is facing one of the most heart-wrenching and desperate situations a person can face. I can be just as judgmental and haughty as the next person. To see such posts on Facebook forces me to look into the mirror at my own self, and it's not always a loving and compassionate portrait looking back at me. Charges of neglect are usually reflections of our neglect to see others with the love and compassion Christ has shown us.

Monday, August 12, 2013

moving right along

It is Monday and the day is almost gone (at least my free time part of it is) and my to do list has not shrunk much at all.

And for some strange reason, that actually doesn't bother me.

It's been a bit of busy yet slow kind of day.  I took a friend to the doctor this morning, and while waiting I was able to finish looking at a quilting magazine that's been on my dresser for a few weeks.

I was able to peacefully browse at two of my favorite stores after I took her home, which was nice.

We've picked produce out of the garden, and thankfully I bought cheesecloth while in one of those stores so I can start a batch of sweet pickles tonight.

It was nice to break our routine and be out of the house and not super aware of the quietness (my family was here for a few days last week, so the house has seemed exceptionally quiet since then). And I avoided the back to school section at Target when I went to pick up meds this afternoon. So I'm surviving, in my own way, the insanity of mind that August always brings as Facebook and Twitter bombards me with reminders that my life is very different from everyone else's.

Somewhat along the same lines, I lost some of my "aunt status" with my youngest niece last week. I cooked rabbit like I would cook barbeque chicken the first night they were here, and didn't tell anyone but Bobby. As everyone was finishing dessert, I asked them how they liked the meat. Suddenly everyone had wide eyes and startled expressions (which we found funny considering everyone thought it was chicken). My 9 year old niece immediately started, "That better not have been deer! Please tell me I didn't eat a deer!"  To which Bobby and I both laughed and said "No, it wasn't deer."  This started alarming everyone as they couldn't figure out what it was. When I said "rabbit", my nephew grinned real big, as did my sister (though with wide eyes) and as she turned to my nephew and said "Well, you've been wanting to know what rabbit tastes like. You can mark that off your hunting list" my niece immediately started crying. "I didn't want to eat a bunny!" and she ran from the room. While I was cleaning up the kitchen and deboning the rest of the meat, my nephew came in to take a picture so he could text his friends back home. Yes. Everything is perspective, and in my niece's eyes, I am no longer a cool aunt.

Hopefully the next time I post I'll actually have project photos to post. Meanwhile, I have several projects I'm tackling that I need to get busy on. I've not forgotten about my blog. I think about things to post and put up, but I've either been too busy or the computer has been occupied. I guess Bobby's retirement has been good in that way: I have less time on the computer and more time to do things.