Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Spin on the Tour in 2016

I skipped out last year. I saw it was coming up and decided to bail at the last second. This year, though, I couldn't wait to get started again. The Tour de Fleece kicked off, just as it always does, with the opening day of the Tour de France.

Lupine helps in his first ever TdF!
I had big plans. After all, it had been almost a full year since I'd spun anything and over a year since I'd spun on my wheel. I had two bumps of Malabrigo Nube top that I figured I'd begin with. I quickly saw I was going to need to change plans, though, when I opened up the bag of my spinning wheel and saw that I'd completed half of an earlier project:  a braid from Edgewood Garden Studio on Etsy. It was a carded preparation that still had some VM in it as well as a few nubs. I liked the rustic feel of it. I began with spinning the other half of it and then plied it on my Majacraft Rose. I love how it turned out. It was very challenging to match the grist and twist of the yarn. After all, it had been nearly two years since I'd spun the first single, but I think I mostly succeeded.
Here is the end result.
I had a small amount of singles left on one bobbin, so I put it on a plying paddle to ply it back against itself.
Plying paddle with singles
Next up, a small braid from Dragon Faery Dyeworks. I believe I picked this little beauty up when I was in Colorado Springs, CO visiting my sister and her family.

This particular braid is a mix of Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and Silk. It weighs in at only 1.9 ounces. I decided to spin it as a lace weight in order to maximize it, and here is where I'll likely remain for the duration of the Tour, as I am beastly slow at spinning lace. 

There are worse places a person could be stuck. Spinning lace is one of the nicest if you ask me! It is so much fun to see the color changes as I spin the thin thread. I'm spinning in a worsted style to maximize the shine of the silk and BFL, but I'm also focusing on a low twist ratio to have some character imparted to the yarn. If you look at the close-up, you'll see there's almost a bit of haze to it. I don't know how it will translate into the final plied product, but it's an experiment I'm really getting into!

For breaks from the long lace spinning, there's always my perpetual spindle project to break it up.

This particular spindle came from the Trindleman on Etsy. It spins like a dream- long and smooth, and it's making nice work of this Merino!

I don't have nearly as much spinning time as I would like. Despite it being summer, there is still so much I am doing. Tutoring kicks up into high gear in the summer; and with the work I'm doing for IEW and my own homeschool planning, not to mention the basics like laundry and cooking, my spinning time comes in small pockets of time. I am choosing to savor the time and not bemoan the absence of it. After all, life is good!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Life Well Loved

Without trying to sound melodramatic, I have to say a major life event like a health scare really changes you. In just a moment, the picture you've created for yourself, of your life and your future is gone. It disintegrates in front of you, and with the ashes left behind, you are forced to create something new.

My pulmonary embolism in March triggered for me a tumbling of my idealized image of the way I thought my life would go. Here at the end of June, I'm still reshaping myself, learning to adjust to the new me, accepting limitations and yet pushing for more freedom. In the process, I've learned a few things.

I've learned that a life is fullest when I fully love the people around me. No matter how long I live, whether that is another day, a year, or longer, I find significance in the people who I stop to love along the way. That's what gives my life meaning. I have always communicated to my children that love is best experienced in the verb sense, and I am seeing those seeds bear fruit now.

What does a life well loved look like? To me, it looks like this:

  1. Listen to others. What does someone care about? What does someone worry about? Listen to that person share his life.
  2. Don't judge. That's a toughie sometimes. As always, Jesus said it best, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" Matthew 7:1 NIV. Jesus didn't say that I was not to judge unless the person was gay. Jesus didn't say I was not to judge unless the person was Muslim. Jesus didn't say I was not to judge unless the person was of a different political party. And Jesus didn't say that I was not to judge unless the person was different from me. Ever.
  3. Serve others. Serve even if I don't necessarily feel like it. That is the "verb" part of loving. Service, by the way, I believe begins in the home, but it doesn't end there. God gives us many opportunities to serve if we will only observe. Our families, our neighbors, our community, and our church are opportunities. We weren't meant to live in isolation; rather, we were meant to live and love in community.
  4. Accept we can't do it all, and sometimes we need help as well. Beat back pride and allow yourself to be served as well when the time comes. 
  5. Rest in Christ. Read your bible. Pray. By doing so, you will find hope, strength, and encouragement.
I am continuing to mend. Some days are better than others, but I am so thankful to have progressed as well as I have. I pray that I will continue to heal, but if I do not or if things go the other direction in my healing, I pray I will be able to say with all honesty, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

This past weekend, I climbed the St. Augustine Lighthouse. It's one of my husband's and my favorite places to go. It was a challenge. My lungs and legs are not yet fully healed, and they may never fully recover, but I made it up 215 steps and took in the absolutely beautiful view that is St. Augustine. Below me I spied the Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College, and of course, the Atlantic Ocean. It was a beautiful sight. Such is the Christian journey. It is a climb. At times it is tiring. Often it is painful. In the end, though, all the pain and fear slips away in sight of the Perfection that is before us. 

Enjoy the journey, for however long it lasts. And remember along the way, to love fully those whom God places in your path.

Beloved, let us love one another:  for love is of God; and everyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.
1 John 4: 7-8

Friday, May 20, 2016

Reflections On a Time Warp In Mothering

I am the pleased and proud mama to three awesome homeschooled kiddos. All of them have followed the homeschool path for the duration, at least until they were able to begin their college courses. Tomorrow my oldest graduates, and I can't help but reflect and wonder where all the time has gone.
Three months old
I can't believe that I was chosen to parent this beautiful, brilliant, and resilient soul. I've been blessed beyond measure. We cut our teeth on each other- he, literally, and me, as a first time mother with precious little babysitting experience to bolster her maternal insecurities.

Early life consisted of singing, stories, and lots of NPR while rocking. Oh, and burp clothes, LOTS of burp clothes (to combat the epic GERD). It was a quiet, gentle beginning, and we both thrived in it. And he grew.

Before I knew it, siblings were added into the mix and excitement built. Our house was no longer quiet, but it was filled with love. Preschool began and we both adjusted to having a couple of hours apart. While I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with his younger siblings, I missed cuddling with my boy. It was always a joy to pick him up and ask him about his morning.

Although at the time the days seemed to slip by slowly, in retrospect they were speeding. Goodnight Moon was replaced by The Boxcar Children, which was replaced by Peter Pan. I caught my breath when I saw he'd moved on to reading independently and fell down the hole that is Rosemary Sutcliff and Brian Jacques. I began to see that I was in a space/time continuum that was misleading. Time was moving too quickly!

Jacob continued to grow, develop, and experience new things. I tried to live in the moment. Too often, my head was spinning and I lost bond, to support, to simply dwell. There were just too many tasks to complete. Jacob moved, seemingly overnight, into teenage years. Astoundingly huge growth spurts, uncomfortable voice changes, and algebra all appeared (and eventually passed). I began to get hints of the future man that he would become, and I smiled then.

Growing up

Tomorrow Jacob graduates from high school. I can honestly say I've enjoyed every bit of the journey- the good, the bad, and the ugly. I've made more mistakes than I would like to admit, and if he ends up in therapy over them, I give him full permission to blame me. I have broad shoulders. I have loved him deeply. I have shared my passion for literature. He has a piece of my soul.
His acceptance letter to Stetson University.
In a very short time he will head to Stetson University where he plans to major in English and either Business or Environmental Science. Whatever he chooses, it will be wonderful. He is heading off to bright horizons. Jacob, I love you, honey. I'm so proud of you, and I will continually pray for you as you make your way in this big and frequently scary world. Make it a better place. Love deeply, serve God, and cultivate friendships. Be blessed. And remember to come home to visit me occasionally!



Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother Love

Mother's Day is a mixed bag for me. After all, my mother is no longer with me and I miss her more than words can express. A part of me bled when she died, and I am forever missing a piece of my heart. I will never get over her loss although the sharp-edged knife pain has smoothed and softened with time. But love lasts forever, and her love is still with me even though she is gone. To celebrate her and the other moms I love in my life, I decided to spend this day, our special day, doing something that she loved best.

Many years ago on Mother's Day, my sweet mother-in-law used to ask for the gift of time from her boys. She called it a "Work Party," and I decided to ask for the same, a work party in my sadly neglected garden. I bravely faced the backyard which nature has been stubbornly and decidedly taking over, but I wasn't alone. The kids and my husband were by my side. We got down to business.

It took several hours, but we gradually uncovered the beauty that was hiding there all along beneath the weeds and detritus of clay pots, broken bird feeders, and forgotten rugs. While it was warm, it wasn't Florida hot, and we had time and comfort to enjoy the process. As we hauled bag after bag of weeds away (it was a big job), I started to really see my surroundings. Looking around, I noticed some gorgeous flowers, and I couldn't help but think of my mother, mother-in-law, and grandmothers. Soon I began to mentally give unique flowers to each of these special ladies who meant (and continue to mean) so much to me. I snapped some photos, and this is my gift to these special ladies. I love you all!

For my mother, a single magnolia bloom. As big as a dinner plate, these blooms always delighted her.

I couldn't resist getting a close-up!
For my sweet mother-in-law, Linda. This flower reminds me of how
elegant you always look. You are beautiful both inside and out!

For my grandmother, Charlotte. An old-fashioned rose for an old-fashioned
lady. I love you always, Grandma!
For my other beautiful grandmother, Helen. You would have loved these
colors, and they would look so beautiful with your lovely, dark hair! 
These day lillies came from Nana's yard. When they bloom each spring, I am
reminded of Nana and her sweet Southern charm.
And a flower for me. Gardenias are my personal favorite. They starred in my bridal bouquet and their fragrance
never fails to draw me back to that wonderful day when I said, I do.
Taking a page from Mom, I found this blossom for my sister, who reminds me so much of Mother.
A fully opened magnolia blossom.

Finally, I found a flower for my daughter...

While she isn't a mother, she is part of who has crafted me into the mother I am today. I am grateful to her and my sons. Because of them, I can claim sisterhood with the greatest profession in the world... Mother.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ravine Revisited

My middle guy had a second round of ACT test prep in Palatka yesterday, so I drove him down along with his older brother for the day. We started the drive in a heavy rain. My oldest son and I had originally planned on waiting out the time at Ravine Gardens State Park, but it looked like it wouldn't work out with all the rain we were in.

I dropped my middle guy off at the college, bless his heart. It was still pouring. Hoping to wait out the rain a little bit, I found a sweet little breakfast spot in the quaint downtown area of Palatka called The Magnolia Cafe. As my son sipped his coffee and ate his Belgian waffle, I gradually saw the rain start to diminish. Eventually it stopped altogether. The park was back on!

One of the first places I wanted to check out was the nest in the park that I'd spotted the prior week.
Four eggs still waiting to hatch!
We were in for a treat! Mama was with the nest this time. Can you spot her?

She doesn't look like a red eyed vireo to me!
Since mama was in house, it was clear to see she wasn't a red-eyed vireo after all. She is, instead, a white-eyed vireo!

Our vireos weren't the only glimpses of wildlife we managed to see, however. I actually did spot an alligator, although he was too shy to get his photo taken. Additionally, my son spotted a turtle in the water.
Swimming along...
Still, the plant life was stunning, too.

We enjoyed our time so much. We walked around, snapped photos, and eventually secured our own little gazebo from which to enjoy the surroundings. My boy read his book.. I graded papers. 

Soon enough it was time to leave to pick up my other boy. He'd had a solid session and now feels quite ready to tackle that big test next week. I'm sad I won't be returning next week. I hope the babies have a happy and healthy life and return to build their own nests in their own time. For me it was a special moment that I will always treasure.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ravine Gardens

A red azalea- such a beauty!

It was a treat. Well, maybe not for my son, who was destined to spend four hours in a small classroom reviewing math in preparation for the upcoming ACT exam, but for me it was definitely a treat. My friend Michelle, author of the popular blog Applie's Place, also had a daughter doing the review, so she drove all four of us over to the Palatka location of St. Johns River State College.

After we dropped the kids off, the two of us headed over to Ravine Gardens State Park. It was my first time there, and I had hopes that I would be able to see the ravine wreathed in color from the resident azaleas. Unfortunately, due to the rains the prior day, the park was only about 20% for the azaleas. Nevertheless, I wasn't disappointed. It turns out that, whether it is azalea season or not, Ravine Gardens State Park is well worth the visit!
Steps going down convert to steps going up afterwards. I had to choose my steps carefully!

Where we spent the majority of our time.

We had four hours to explore, but I had to be mindful of myself as well. The climb down into the ravine is easy, but it is no easy matter to hoist oneself back up with compromised lungs. We meandered a little bit (not nearly enough, but it was all I could manage) and eventually made our way over to the suspension bridge where we happily spent the bulk of the time snapping photos and spinning or knitting. There were so many lovely things to photograph, too! First up:  the azaleas. I'm thankful there were still several beauties to enjoy.

But azaleas weren't the only things in bloom...
Water iris

And fiddlehead ferns...

But by far the best find of all was this:

It doesn't look like much, but just take a peek inside...

and you'll see this...

Four tiny eggs in a neat little nest!

Here's a close-up:

The eggs are perhaps 3/4 inch long

We took a few minutes to figure out which feathered creature constructed such an ingenious nest and found it to be the red-eyed vireo. We never caught sight of the mother, but we didn't linger long. Soon enough, we headed back up the steps to find some shelter from a few stray raindrops.
Catch my breath, it's a bit of a climb!
At the top, we found the shelter, laid out the picnic blanket, and pulled out some special projects. I brought along a sweet little spindle that was 3-D printed by Akerworks. It is a mini-spindle with a 6.5 inch shaft, and this little fellow is a long, stable, and fast spinner. It's a delight to handle!

All too soon it was time to go. The kids were nearly done with their class, and we knew they would be hungry. Truthfully, I could have stayed there all day. I'll have to return again, hopefully physically strengthened so that I can better explore it. Until then, I'll have sweet memories to savor of this special day.

Easter Wishes

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?" John 11:25-26 NLT

Thursday, March 17, 2016


I had the week all planned out. Despite feeling poorly (after all, it seems to have been the rule rather than the exception as of late) I knew how my week was going to roll. It included all the normal activities: homeschooling, co-op classes, tutoring, church, chauffeuring kids, etc. as well as a few special activities like a much anticipated breakfast with a friend and a dyslexia evaluation. Yes, I'd been diagnosed with pre-pneumonia that just didn't seem to be improving, no matter what we threw at it. Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I wasn't quite certain how I was going to pull it all off. But, I had IMPORTANT STUFF to do.

That all changed Monday night.

I had self-diagnosed that in addition to dealing with the remnants of pneumonia, I was also fighting every Longleaf Pine in Northeast Florida which had callously decided to release its pollen into the air and into my allergy sensitive lungs. I called the doctor on Monday, but she didn't have time to see me in the schedule, so I scheduled the appointment for Tuesday after co-op. I never went, however.

I prepared to go to sleep Monday night. I was struggling in my breathing but I brushed my teeth like all was fine in the world. Then I went to bed and found out breathing just didn't work at all lying down. It finally officially scared me.

Minutes later my husband and I were in the van and headed to the hospital. As we drove, my breathing became more and more difficult. I grew more and more scared. Could I be wrong? Could it be a heart attack? Suddenly, all my weekly plans didn't seem so important any more.

The staff at the hospital were obviously better trained at spotting a true emergency than I was as they quickly whisked me back into a room. Drawing a breath in became more and more my intense focus rather than an automatic activity. Concentrate. Inspiration. Expiration. A blood draw was accomplished before I even realized it, and then the questions began:  Did I smoke? (no), Had I had a recent surgery? (no), Had I been on a long car trip or flight? (no). Don't these people understand I'm in the midst of a major allergic reaction? I agonized.

Turns out, my allergies were the last thing I needed to worry about. At some point I had suffered a bilateral pulmonary embolism and could easily have died. This had happened despite having no known risk factors at all. As my head spun and my heart feared, the staff quickly started me on blood thinners and began the detective process. I was incredibly blessed I didn't die.

Alone in the hospital room surrounded with my thoughts, I realized my to-do list wasn't as important as I had originally thought. Instead I turned my thoughts to gratitude- to God for saving my life through the skill of the hospital staff, to my husband who bravely stood beside me and a terrifying diagnosis, and to my friends and family who were supporting me with prayer and fervent well wishes from far away. To love.

I'm so thankful I am still here. I like to think that I would be okay if had returned to God, but I'd be lying if I said that, I embarrassed to admit. The fact is, I feel like I still have so much to do. Maybe God agrees. Earlier in the week I'd been enjoying a rare one-on-one conversation with one of my children as we drove along the highway. "Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone," I reminded him. "Love the people you encounter in your day, every day, despite how you feel. They are God's gift to you." He had been feeling especially challenged by one person in his life, and I understood his struggles. I've been there as well. My brush with death formed that conversation into a crystalline gem for me to keep and remember. My admonition stood for me, too.

I'm grateful I'm still here, wrestling with the massive and mundane questions of life and the universe. I'm thankful to still be a daily presence in my family's lives. I'm mindful things could be different. Love God, love others. That's the way of it. By doing so, we will experience a life well lived, no matter how long.

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind', and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Luke 10:27, NIV