Tuesday, January 28, 2014

subtle changes

When I first moved "up north" as folks back home in Alabama called it, I wondered why on earth North Carolinians complained about Yankees so much. The war was a very long time ago. (150 years, to be exact.)  Then after five years of living here, I attended Wake Tech (a local community college) and learned the saying that there's two types of Yankees: a Yank, and a Yankee (with an expletive in front of it). And I sadly must admit, within 8 years of living here, I too had learned the difference.


Having lived in different places, including one overseas stint that involved learning a whole new culture, I understand what it's like to long for something familiar, to feel out of place, and to be totally baffled by everyone around you. It's not a pleasant feeling.  I've always tried to gently rebuke those who have never ever had the privilege of living somewhere else and are totally ignorant of what that's like when they criticize others for being totally "normal".


So I was more than a bit surprised today to find myself biting my tongue in Target while waiting in line at the register behind a girl from Massachusetts and the cashier who was from New York. After 24 hours of reading comments from all my Yankee friends on Facebook, making fun of southerners and our "snow phobias", it was a bit much to listen to the two go on and on about how "it'd have to be knee deep at least before they'd even consider dismissing school for snow" (while customers are looking for anything that resembles a boot in the store and not being successful at all; and snow shovels? Who on earth sells those?  What do they look like?)


For the first time ever, I found myself wanting to say/ask "Then why did you move here?  Why don't you go home? No one is making you stay."  I understand.  It's so foreign from what they knew. It's a different way of life, a different way of thinking, a different climate that presents different challenges. I get that. I really and truly do. I also understand the frustrations, the emotions, and that stark realization that just when they thought they were meshing quite well, suddenly they realize they aren't. It's unsettling. But at times like this, when everyone around me is all excited, I get a little sick and tired of hearing the arrogant recitations of how much better and superior their lives were back home.


So now I'm at home, in my warm house, reading reports from AL, TN, and MS of snow, skipping Facebook posts from the complaining Yanks, and knowing that when they show the news tomorrow with wrecked cars on the roads, at least half of the wrecked drivers will have northern accents. You know, the ones who know how to drive in the snow. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

speed bumps

It is an unwritten rule in my life: whenever fast progress is being made on projects of any kind (even if its laundry or housework) a speed bump of some sort will occur.  It's just a fact of life that I can now sometimes laugh about. :)

I'm well over half-way through quilting the 2013 Bernina Saturday Sampler quilt, when reality dawned on me that the fabric we picked out the first of January for a baby quilt needed to be cut and pieced and quilted by next week. Even though it says February on my calendar for the shower date, it means the actual work has to be done in January. It's those little details that always seem to throw me for a loop.

And my much needed hiatus that I've taken at church since the children's Christmas play is now officially over and we are back in full swing of planning and organizing. Today I've already been on-line and had a trip to Michaels this morning to start preparations for the kids Valentine's party (and upon hearing one game idea my husband thinks I've totally lost my mind).

I hope to share some of it next week, but for now, it's safe to say my brain is in motion. And to use an expression I hate, my niece would say I've gone "cra-cra."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

courtrooms

A few years ago I sat in on a court session (they were handling eviction cases). Everyone was super quiet, the cases moved very quickly, and I was a bit intimidated at how austerely the judge ruled the courtroom. Every time the doors opened, he briefly stopped and stared at the person coming inside.

Yesterday Bobby needed to be at a courtroom in another county, and since his wheelchair is still not repaired I needed to drive him. I was also curious to see how this type of court (superior court, as opposed to magistrate court) would be handled. I expected it to be even more somber and serious.

The courthouse was relatively new, meaning very nice and very clean, the guards at the metal detectors were very nice (and Bobby left his fork in the van instead of in his pouch since the Wake County Courthouse officials are not ADA friendly and were going to confiscate it because it "could be a weapon"), they didn't ask Bobby to take his pouch off the side of his wheelchair or treat him like a suicide bomber, but the courtroom itself was very informal.

After the judge came in, all the different lawyers for the different lawyers were whispering among themselves and in no particular oder addressed issues with upcoming cases (clients currently in custody and not able to attend, in session in a court downstairs, etc). The lack of organization was bothering me more than a little.

But I will say this: I was impressed with the judge, even if he didn't run an austere courtroom. When he talked to the defendant, he was clear, asked some very good questions, asked for clarifications when he needed it, and lectured the defendant with some history about how he would have been sentenced in the past in NC, as well as reviewing the potential sentencing he could receive before handing down the sentence.

When I was in college, a group of boys would go downtown Nashville on weekends to watch "night court". They described it as Judge Judy with a lot more action. For some reason that never instilled any desire in me to go. Yesterday, I was impressed with some of the lawyers, how they defended people who were wrong without attempting to sugarcoat the crimes, how they saw their clients as humans who had made mistakes, but still needed to be treated as humans. I was also a tad appalled as lawyers from both sides discussed a case on the docket (the client who was supposed to be present was in jail), and were postponing a hearing until next April (so much for swift justice) and the Assistant DA shrugged and said "I doubt he'll make it until then." (the guy had coded in prison and was transferred to a prison hospital).  I think like the medical field, the court system is very complex with a lot of ethical situations people don't consider until they've actually had to deal with all the details of a case. It's a bit scary how people's lives are impacted by a few short minutes.

Courtroom watching is not my thing. I can't say I'll never go again, but it's not something I hope to do in what little spare time I have, either.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

the dusting

Yes, we are southerners.
Yesterday was my planned day to go to the grocery store for the week. When they announced on the news at lunch that Wake County was cancelling afterschool activities, Bobby looked at me and said "You better get on to the store now."  And he was right.
I parked at the very end of the parking lot (think malls at Christmas time), and was expecting the bread and milk to be almost gone (which they weren't, thanks to the bread and milk men making a new delivery). That evening I was telling my mother-in-law about it, and she said, "Oh, you know Tuesday is senior citizen day. That's why everyone was there, for there discount."  So now Bobby wants to go grocery shopping on Tuesdays. Sorry buddy-o, but I'm not there yet. I'm not fighting a huge crowd for a discount they won't give me anyway. I'll stick to my shop on the day I need to go plan.

And at 6:30pm, we turned on our floodlights so we could see the snow when it began to fall. And when it had changed over from rain to snow enough to officially call it "snowing", he sent e-mails to all the kids who've been talking to him the last month about their prayers for snow. :)

I've enjoyed seeing pics on Facebook this morning, and we're laughing a little that the snow was so light that Bobby was actually able to go out in his wheelchair and get the newspaper without any problems whatsoever (which would be impossible in anything more than a dusting), and vehicles are flying by on our dirt road (which would be frozen mud if we'd had a true snow). In a few hours, we'll head out for our day's appointment, get home this evening, and then venture back out to church.

Shakespeare could have written his play "Much Ado About Nothing" about snow in the south, but I'd much prefer a title like "When Hope Springs Eternal".  There's something about that childhood fervor of desperately desiring this thing called snow and being amazed once you finally see it. It is mesmerizing, and I wouldn't trade our southern snow for anything.

And after being stuck in the horrendous icing that happened in 15 minutes around 2pm a few years back, I now understand the panic behind the prediction of snow or precipitation and freezing weather. Gridlock and on the interstate and wrecked police and tow trucks? No thank you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

chicks

We received an advertising e-mail from one of the three places where we've bought chicks in the past (Carolina Town & Country in Sanford), saying they'll begin having chicks from the hatchery the first weekend in February. That seems awfully soon to me. I know they'll need 4-6 weeks under a heat lamp, but with it still being winter, they'll actually need the heat lamp much longer than that. In the spring it's so warm during the daytime after 4 weeks you can cut the lamp off during the day and just have it on at night, but with the day time temps being in the 40s and 50s, that's really not an option.

And as nice as it would be to rebuild our flock and have a wider range of egg colors, the breeds we'd need/want are not all brought in on the same week. I'm not driving to Sanford every weekend to get the various breeds. There's also the timing factor, and Bobby wants us to hatch some of our eggs as well.  To do that means we have to make a decision so we know when to start the incubator (so we won't have different age chicks which require different schedules at the same time).

A part of me says yes to new birds. We lost half our flock this fall. While egg production always slows down when the daylight hours are short, we are getting by on the eggs we have (though I did have to buy eggs last week), and we've not been able to give any away this fall/winter. I also miss the variety in colorings and personalities that comes with having various breed.

On the flip side, both hen houses are in need of work. The small one, where the chicks would go at 2-3 months until fully feathered, has a top door that is broken, and the attached coop needs some minor repairs to keep animals out.  The big hen house has three doors that are rotting, and the door to the coop is off.  I've been making do by leaning it against the entrance at night and placing cinder blocks in front of it (which a raccoon could move if it really wanted to).

So I have to decide: give myself extra work now when I'm trying to get some projects completed, or wait until the spring when there's more daylight hours in the day. It seems like a no-brainer.

Monday, January 20, 2014

commandments

We listened to about ten minutes of the Martin Luther King Interfaith service broadcast on the wral this morning.

We learned that the last five commandments: Don't steal; Don't kill; Don't commit adultery; Don't covet; and Don't slander actually mean this: Don't take money away from Medicaid/Medicare; Don't cut anything from the educational budget; Don't tell the poor they need to work to receive anything; and don't cut a teacher's salary (ie, I guess that does fall under coveting as other state employees DO somewhat resent going years without any raise at all, EXCEPT for the protected sub-category called teachers).  Sorry Ms. Rabbi, but after your political rant you called a prayer, we watched two more speakers and then turned it off.

I think racism falls under the same category as equality: it means a lot more when people practice and live right than when they just rant and rave about it.  It's a lot like the Good Morning America Show. They talk about women's rights SO much, and yet when they interview a woman who is holding a position in a new field, they don't ask her how she entered that career, what she likes about it, what she hopes to do....they ask her how it feels to hold the power of being the first woman there. How is that equality? We like your gender so much that we won't actually focus on your talents and capabilities and who you are as a person?

Days like today make me want to be a hermit.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

opinions and placement

The more I learn about quilting, the more I learn there is to know.
Along this quilting journey, I've learned that there are many opinions.
Early on, I quilted what I knew (ie, the way my Grandma did).
One lady snobbishly informed that was NOT the way to quilt.
Since then, I've learned the phrase "stitch in the ditch" and what the experts consider to be quilting.
Stitch in the ditch is where the quilting seam is found in seams (not outside the seams) of  the top layer.
Photo from www.tqn.com

And then yesterday, I saw photos of quilts made 150 years ago. They can be seen here.
Of the thirty quilts in the exhibit, NOT ONE used stitch-in-the-ditch with straight stitches.
A few had decorative stitch-in-the-ditch quilting, but most used a 1/4" straight stitch inside the pieced material, just like my Grandma did.


This photo does NOT use stitch-in-the-ditch, but places the stitches inside the square and not on the seams.


I suppose it really comes down to preference: what one likes, the amount of time you have, what look you want the quilt to have, and whether you view the quilt as a piece of artwork or a household item to be used.I would have never guessed that quilting would be an area where women would impose their arrogance and snobbery, but like any other hobby or craft area, it is. And I'm coming to grips with the fact that it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks (other than my husband and the person I'm quilting for). As long as I enjoy the process and make a quilt that won't come apart when washed, I'll be happy.

And in case you're wondering, I prefer my Grandma's method for puffy looks, when short on time, or when wanting to emphasize a certain color or design. If I want something to look seamless on top, have a modern look, or place the emphasis on the piecing and not the quilting, then stitch-in-the ditch is the way to go.  But I recognize that's my opinion and preference, and if you disagree, I'll still think your quilt and quilting is something to ooh and aah over.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

old school

My nephew is often curious about the old things we don't have. He's also very kind to show me games on his Mom's ipad that he thinks I will like, and will sometimes play them with me. (He also thinks I should ask for an ipad for Christmas so I can play that stupid rock game and word jewels...as if I need anything else to usurp my time).

A year and a half ago I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo...same thing as the official NaNoWriMo, except it's NOT in the month of November, which is an absolutely crazy month for us.  This past week I pulled out my rough draft to start critiquing, and quit on page 67. I do have a post-it note FULL of page numbers that need work, but I was boring myself.  I also found I don't critique myself very well on a laptop. So today, I purchased a ream of paper and two things of black ink (one should be sufficient, but it's cheaper to buy two....that's my Dad's shopping skills coming out in me) so I can print the thing out and start modifying/marking it up to hopefully rewrite sometime this year.

I know it would have made a lot more sense to have simply written it every other line on paper so the first round of editing would have been easier, but I find it so much easier to type and write, and actually prefer typing to writing by hand. And I'll confess, I was a bit horrified this past week when we strolled through the computer section at Best Buy and I saw these super tiny keyboards.  I can't even begin to imagine the cramped hands from attempting to type/write with those.The average size keyboard has the keys spaced out for a reason (it's the natural spacing on the hand) - to be type friendly. Maybe the designers thought all these text-crazy kids would prefer the smaller keyboard, maybe there truly is a conspiracy to make everything even more challenging for disabled people, but whatever the reason, those tiny keyboards are not realistic for the average person over 40.

I'm realizing how much I am old school this week.  So yes, I'll be doing my editing on PAPER. And I'll be much happier doing an agonizing task that way,  I'm sure.

Monday, January 13, 2014

three steps forward...and 20 jumps back

This weekend I updated some of the Quilting Page on this blog so my aunt could see a few of the things I've done. (We've not seen each other in a LONG time.)  I even entered the text for 2014, as I have two quilts that I need to finish/do ASAP. And since I was within a week of finishing one, it made sense to go ahead and enter the text so I could post pictures next week. Right?


So here we are, Monday night, and I have 3/4 of the quilt filled with basting pins, only to realize that the backing isn't straight. So now I have two options: unpin everything (which means undoing about 4 hours worth of work), or leave it the way it is. Actually, I have a third option: flip it over and see how bad it truly looks on the back before making a decision (and then hoping if it's livable looking at that I can straighten all three layers out on the unpinned section). 


I enjoy quilting. But it's these make or break moments, when I'm tired, when I just want to finish, when I know this is the crossroads of correcting a mistake and adding even more time to a long job or finishing the project and living with a mistake forever, that make me want to take up another hobby (or actually clean house)!


And while I was update the page, I kept thinking "I KNOW I did more quilting than this in 2013."  So as I start thinking back through projects, I realized why there's not as much to show: I post the finished project.  A finished quilt top is just one part of a quilt; it's not a completed project. So I have several quilt tops folded/hanging awaiting quilting time (and four other quilt tops from both this and previous years awaiting piecing), but since there not finished projects, they don't make it onto the quilt page.


Hopefully, by the end of this month, you will see a post reading: For today's post, see the Quilt Page.  But unfortunately, today is not that day.



Friday, January 10, 2014

Hard to Believe

It's hard to believe that it's been ten years.

Ten years ago this week, a dear friend planned a party on Saturday for Bobby's 49th birthday (which was the Saturday before his birthday). Why he wanted to celebrate 49 instead of 50 I will never know, but Bobby had never had a surprise party, he was really struggling with some things, so I quit arguing with this dear friend who so desperately wanted to do this for him.
And then my Grandma died. Her prayers were answered. She died at home, in her sleep, and did not have to go live with anyone else like she feared and knew was about to happen. My little sis was out of school (she teaches first grade), was very pregnant, and stopped by her house so my nephew, who was 4 and dearly loved his great-grandma, could get a hug. No one answered the door, the blinds and windows were closed, and the back door wasn't open...all screaming signs to anyone who knew her that something was wrong. She called my uncle who was living nearby, and he came and went inside. I hate he had to be the one, and yet I'm thankful he was the one to see her peaceful in death after all the years he had to witness horrible deaths. He said it was as if she were still sleeping, but with a small smile on her face.
We were cell phone shopping that day.  The pager I carried for Bobby to alert me when he needed me didn't work half the time, that perhaps I should get a cell phone too. We had some ongoing issues with the cell phone company, and what should have been a simple procedure ended up taking several hours. We were on our way home, near Crabtree (cell phone stores weren't on every corner in every town then), when I got the call on his phone from my sister. My family was a little irate that I was not "reachable" and after having dealt with incompetence and issues all morning just so I could have a cell phone, I was more than a tad aggravated with the whole "in touch all the time" nonsense.
My husband who never ever goes over the speed limit got me home in 8 hours...a normal 12-13 hour drive. I remember very little of that drive, but I do remember the hurt in heading back home, crying almost all the way to Atlanta on the way back, not ready to head back, but knowing we needed to be home for the party Bobby still didn't know about, and him being very kind about missing several days of work during the busiest time of his work year. We got home to bad weather, and my husband shocked me Friday night when we got home by telling me despite the freezing rain, he HAD to go to work the next morning. I tried everything I could think of, and finally had to tell him about the party. He was absolutely flabbergasted.  He did go into work for a few hours before the party, and I think may have had to go back after the party (that part is a little fuzzy).

And I thought about all of that last night because he turns 59 today. It's so hard to believe that this is the last year before he enters another decade. I had thought about throwing him another surprise party I mean, who gets a party for turning 59? (That was his comment when he turned 49 and found out about the party.)  But with the craziness of this last AL trip and me still not being totally well, I decided we'd go with just us. But despite his yearly insistence that a birthday is just another day, I think he's been pleased so far with phone calls from his family, and he did actually choose which dessert he wanted tonight (from a man who says "I don't need it" to dessert or "I only want one bite"...that's a big deal).

It seems unreal that my Rea-Rea as we called her has been gone ten years. It seems unreal that my husband is 59.  That number sounds so old, and yet he's not.

Happy 59th Babe!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

little things

I forget how "routine" our life is, until someone says or does something. And it's never big things; it's always the small things that make me realize how different our life truly is. Here's some examples:

1. Kitchen utensils - Bobby has an adapted spoon and fork. They almost always stay on the kitchen table. I do wash them, but if I don't put them back on the table, then it's a scramble at meal time trying to find where they are. I have to be on guard when we have adult guests who help clean off the table that they don't get dropped into dishwater or the sink (the holders aren't washable) or the dishwasher (or heaven forbid some obscure drawer). My Mom, who is a fanatic about cleaning, once took his spoon and holder totally apart so she could wash the entire spoon and not just the part that was used. We had quite a time figuring out how to put it back together. And I have had one person toss it in the trash (thankfully there was nothing icky on top!).  Kids always notice that his "tensils" are on the table (and are often tempted to play with them or at least try them on and see how they work).

2. Empty spots - It's funny. This is one that only seems to bother adults.  For obvious reasons, we don't have a chair in Bobby's spot at either table. On at least two occasions a friend has repetitively tried to put a chair in that spot while we were cleaning up the kitchen. I had never thought about the fact the table looks unbalanced with all the chairs to one side. I simply have no desire to move furniture around every single time we eat or sit down to do paperwork. This is our home where we live and is not a showroom. Less obvious, we have a gap in the living room furniture so Bobby can see the television from the kitchen table. I think we (at least I did) often take for granted how much we use our laps or do other things while watching tv, and since that is not an option for him, being able to use the table is very helpful. I will admit this is an area I often forget to check (to make sure chairs haven't been moved in the way). It's not a necessity in our life, but it is one of those things we do that make life a little easier.

3. Floor space - I learned early on in our relationship NOT to kick my shoes off at the door. That's an almost guarantee to have a pair of shoes destroyed. Opening and closing a door in a wheelchair is not an easy task and requires having ample room to move. Shoes beside an entryway are in the way. It doesn't matter how many times I tell guests not to leave their shoes at the door, they think they're being polite by doing so. We have a very open floor plan in our house, and people also leave things in the floor thinking there's plenty of room (guilty of this one myself) without realizing they've essentially blocked Bobby into one room. (and this one happens a lot with young great-nephews and nieces who drop toys and then don't understand why Uncle Bobby can't "come on!")

4. Driving - while Bobby's chair is waiting on repair parts, I'm driving his van. For the most part, it drives like a normal vehicle, but there are gadgets and adaptors that can't be removed that modify how I sit and hold the wheel when I drive. People don't think about those things (the turn signal switch that I use is in its normal place; there's a toggle switch near his shoulder for him to use and I've bumped that and turned signals on while driving) but they do make life a little bit different.

I don't think about these things very often, but yesterday we had a young guest in our house who casually observed "You didn't move Mr. Bobby's fork off the table." that reminded me of how different the little things in our life are. There not bad differences, just simply different.  But I'm thankful for them, for it helps me realize just how well we've adapted.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

the global colding :)

Eighteen degrees outside, with the sun shining, at 10:30am.  And yes, I am in the South.  I've tried hard not to laugh the last few days as people everywhere are taking precautions (which is wise) and over-reacting a bit (which is crazy) to the thermometer.  About 15 years ago I lived in an area where the temp never reached above freezing from October-April. We walked a mile to the market at least twice a week to buy food, we walked to the post office, and we rejoiced that unlike the Chinese graduate students,  our classes were held in our building so we didn't have to walk half a mile to our classroom across campus. (And I learned that when the temp hits 0, your nose hairs freeze...a fun but disgusting fact.) And now I watch and listen to people cancel doctor's appointments and refuse to leave their adequately heated houses because of the cold weather...when we have heated cars and heated everything else.  Granted, we southerners do not have clothes appropriate for such weather because a)it's not sold here and b)no one in their right mind would spend a fortune on clothes that can be worn once every 5-10 years. But when I saw posts on Facebook last night from HOMESCHOOLERS that they were going to have a cold weather day, I couldn't help but wonder if my fellow Americans have not lost their minds.

And everyone is hyping about "taking care of the poor animals". I can't help but wonder, for every post a friend has posted about caring for animals, how many of them have actually called an elderly person or a neighbor to check on them, to make sure they have adequate heat and have taken precautions to ensure their pipes don't freeze?

And lest you think all my friends are wimps, I had two friends laughing this morning about how crazy they looked all bundled up while walking their dog...while it's 10 degrees outside. So I guess all my friends fall into two categories: wimps or crazy. And I can hear my grandmother's voice saying "Birds of a feather flock together!" :)

And with that, I'm heading out to make sure my birds still can get to their water and have plenty of food.

Monday, January 6, 2014

guarding

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.
~Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
 
 

Sunday morning as we read through the ending of Proverbs 4 and listened to how the Hebrew root word in verse 23 is actually the same word for guarding, as in on watch or guard duty (some translations use the words "keep" or "preserve" here).  I couldn't help but think about a story my Uncle told from his time during Vietnam.  His group had lost members during the night as the person on guard duty would fall asleep and the enemy would slip into camp and slice the throats of one or two soldiers, then leave. (I've heard other soldiers say they'd also decapitate or do other such atrocities.)  The position of night guard was one of the most critical jobs they had. It was serious enough that any time a group of fresh recruits arrived, they didn't want them to have the assignment. One night a newbie had the job, and my uncle and one other solider hid nearby and watched to see if he'd stay awake. Within an hour, the boy fell asleep. My uncle was livid, but his fellow soldier laughed and said "I got this."  They woke the boy, and the other solider popped the pin on a grenade and handed it to him (so if he let go of it, it would explode). Then they both went to their bunks and slept. I was horrified when I heard the story. How did they know the boy wouldn't fall asleep and again and they all might die? My uncle just laughed and said "Nah. If your life is in your hands, you stay awake.  We never had trouble with any of those recruits sleeping on guard duty after that."

I thought it was mean at the time I heard the story, but as I reflected on the fact that the boy held the lives of each of those men in his hands, I understand the seriousness of the situation and their desperation to make him stay awake during his shift.

And it makes me think about that verse in a whole new light. Do I guard my heart as if my very life depends on it?  Because in reality, it does.

And on a slightly different note, immediately after that sermon we met family at a restaurant. As I'm getting the food from the counter, I take a step back and immediately stepped into someone hard....so hard that the tray tilted and my head jerked back. The woman who had cut line and was jogging behind me didn't even apologize. I was NOT a happy camper, and I have never been so tempted to call someone a bad name in all my life. I think it would be sufficient to say I had a very bad attitude about the whole situation, even with the sermon running through my mind rebuking me for my selfishness, willingness/desire to call someone a bad name, and the temptation to call someone out for her rudeness (as if that wouldn't be rude itself). 

So yeah. I have a lot of work to do in guarding my heart from wickedness. There's a whole lot of mess I've allowed in there, and it needs some spring cleaning even more than my kitchen cabinets.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

critiques

In one of my art classes at Wake Tech, every Friday we had to place our work on the board in a line, and go through each piece as a class and offer a critique. In the beginning, I was terrified, both of offering anything as well as hearing what anyone had to say about my work that I knew was seriously in need of improvement. And yet, with each passing week the process became easier for those of us who participated in class (we actually brought our notebooks and pencils and stayed for the lectures) because of one simple reason: our teacher taught us the basics of a critique.

In the beginning I thought a critique was negative criticism. But I quickly learned that it was so much more. A true critique is more like a book report. While there is opinion, it MUST be centered on facts to have any merit.  When we studied light placement in paintings, then that week's critiques included viewpoints on how the artist used light and shadows in their drawing. It's one thing to say "That painting makes me feel sad."  That's an opinion based on feeling. It's a totally different thing to say "The lack of light and use of extreme shadows gives the painting a dark or sad feeling."  It's an art principle that the usage of light highlights elements of a painting, and the absence of light or highlights is used to create something dark or serious. Once you've studied that, then leaving out light or highlights in painting is a way of making a statement or a point. In the same way, when teaching students how to write a book report, I always required them to back up their statements about the book with examples from the book itself (otherwise it's not a report but a review of feelings). I had never thought about book reports in essence being critiques, but they are.

Today in church both of our sermons centered on Proverbs 4, about guarding our hearts. Tonight's sermon, which was more practical in principle, took a look at Hebrews 4:12,13. I've heard that verse all my life, have studied it in depth in different classes and studies, but I don't recall ever hearing that the phrase "to judge" (in reference to God's word judging or revealing the contents of our heart) is the same Greek root as the word "critique" and is similar to our English word for criticism.

That put a whole new spin on the passage for me.  It's not just a matter of how we feel or react, but that God's Word/Spirit is discerning/critiquing our lives and thoughts based on what is actually there in every aspect of our being. The meaning of the passage hasn't changed, but it does shed a somewhat different light on the subject matter for me. It makes the passage seem less harsh and austere, and more of what it's meant to be: an evaluation based on what is there, based on the facts/principles we know to be true, and meant as a basis for improvement and building.  And I find that very refreshing. It almost makes me laugh to think back to that first week in class when I heard the week "critique" and panicked inside, and now I look back on that semester as one of the more rewarding classes I ever took. I think my teacher would be shocked to find out the applications I'm using today, but I also think she would not only understand, but would also be pleasantly startled. Somehow I don't think Fundamentals of Drawing 101 was designed for the purpose of understanding the Christian faith better, but it's wonderful and amazing how things we learn in one area of life are applicable to other areas as well.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

plodding/plotting/plopping

The Chinese, while an atheistic society shunning foolish beliefs, are very superstitious. One of their many superstitions that they dare not break involves cleaning and the New Year. Prior to the New Year, you are supposed to clean every nook and crany of your residence, so you won't carry any old germs/dirt/baggage into the new year. Considering the lack of great cleaning supplies and the fact the area I lived in was desert with frequent dust storms that piled an inch of dust up under the door and window frames, I found that idea crazy, futile and pointless.

But for some reason I found myself thinking about that this holiday season. I normally push myself beyond exhaustion right before we leave on a trip trying to clean the house (don't ask me why). This year I made sure the laundry was done, and that was it. Yep. I left my house with wheelchair dirt tracks and dust. And no one cared at all (well, except for maybe me...a little). 

I began jotting out a list of housework items that I need/want to do. It's title "January", and my goal is to actually finish those items before the month is out. One of them was actually putting up Christmas decorations, and thankfully that was done as of last night. I don't know how many things are on my list, but I do know that I had to cut myself off or the list would never ever be completed.

One of the things I've been working on in stages (cleaning out the pantry), and have made it down to the topmost and bottommost shelves. This morning I had a few errands to run in North Raleigh, so I made a brief stop at The Container Store to get two shelves to help arrange the rest of the mess.

The Container Store has to be one of the most wonderful places in Raleigh. I think it might even rank higher than a bookstore and a quilt store, both of which are very high on my list of fantastic places. I was thankful I had very limited amount of time, a budget, and a very specified need or I might not have ever gotten out of there.

A few years ago I made out a list for each month of projects that I wanted to do for the year. It stressed me out a little (because I actually published it on the blog as a sidebar), but I found at the end of the year I actually got quite a few things done. I don't think I'm going to publish the list this year, but I do think listing my projects helps me get them done a little faster. If nothing else, it may actually help me FINISH a project (as opposed to cleaning half of the pantry and then half of the medicine cabinet and taking down part of the Christmas decorations) just so I can cross it off my list.

I plan to plod through my list of projects that I've plotted out for this year. I don't plan to break any records for speed, but I do hope to feel a tad bit more organized in life, even if that means cutting back/out some activities. 2014 may not have gotten off with the start I had hoped for, but I am pleased that I finally feel well enough to get something done!