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Ann's Attempt at a Blog

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Another year over, a new one just begun

Looking back at all this year has held for me, I’ve had a pretty good run. There have been some troubles, but far more highlights. My Facebook feed this morning reminded me of a post I had four years ago, looking back at my knitting productivity. I’ve continued to make strides in that arena. In 2016, I finished 83 projects including 21 shawls, 11 cowls, 19 pairs of socks, three sweaters and three afghans – only one of which was baby-sized. I’m quite proud of what I accomplished here – 36,725 yards used up in knitting projects!

But that’s not the only craft I put my time and talents behind. I was cast in three different musical productions and managed to land my first lead role. Performing as a Narrator in the King Avenue Players’ production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was certainly a highlight of my acting career thus far. And 2017 promises to have some similar opportunities. I’ve been cast in the ensemble for the Lancaster Playhouse production of Godspell, running over two weekends toward the end of winter, and I’m also appearing in another Columbus Entertainment Productions show in early Spring.

My travel adventures were few and far between, but I managed to visit both coasts of the U.S. In July, I flew out to Seattle to set sail to Alaska – visiting my 40th state in the country. Physical limitations made things challenging on that trip, as did weather. Still, it was an adventure with a few unique experiences. I’d say the highlight was witnessing several humpback whale breeches as well as a group of humpbacks bubble-net feeding.

In September, the company flew me to Boston to attend a training seminar on project management. My schedule didn’t allow for much sightseeing, but I was blessed to get to spend an evening with my niece. She cooked a delicious dinner, and we had a pleasant time catching up.

My last photographic adventure came on Christmas Day when I headed to the Ohio State fairgrounds to check out the Chinese Lantern Festival there. This was quite an extraordinary event with beautiful exhibits throughout the venue. They also had some very entertaining performers – jugglers, acrobats and more. The most impressive was the face mask changing act. Hopefully that festival becomes a regular event – it’s never been held in Columbus before.

I would say there were two lowest point for the year. First, I spent many hours at the hospital with my mother. Spending time with her wasn’t the low point, mind you. Rather, I took her to the emergency room after she hurt her neck. The eventual diagnosis was that she had fractured two of her vertebra. Talk about a scary situation! But, she was treated with great care both at Mount Carmel – St. Ann’s Hospital and the Ohio State University Medical Center. After she was transported to OSU, I was able to meet up with my son who works at the medical center and had concluded his shift just as we arrived. He was able to give me some insight into the nature of the injury. Thankfully, Mom made a full recovery, following a brief stay in a facility for physical rehab. That brought tremendous relief.

The other low point, though, did not have a happy ending. My aunt passed away in May following a couple years of declining health. The world lost a beautiful soul with her death. I had visited my aunt and uncle in their beautiful home in southern Oregon, and she was always so warm and hospitable. I’ll remember her quite fondly.

I don’t want to close out this post on a down note – though my Ohio State Buckeyes are not bringing a celebratory mood to this New Year’s Eve! I have plenty of plans to achieve goals, enjoy adventures and improve on things in the coming year. I’ll be celebrating my 50th birthday on Easter Sunday, and I would really like to be in better physical shape than I was on my 40th birthday. Given the challenges that a back injury has caused over the years, it’s been a rough road. But I need to reverse that trend.

So here’s to a better year in 2017. May you enjoy the adventure along with me!

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What I’m Learning These Days

When my son studied Tae Kwon Do, all through his grade school years, the grand master who owned and operated the school he attended had a favorite statement: “When you stop learning, you die.” I wholeheartedly agree with this belief, and it also fairly accurately defines my life and many of the choices I have made.

I enjoyed most of my academic years, though as my college days seemed to drag on and on, there was a period there where I wanted to expand my horizon in different directions. It didn’t take long to get past that hurdle, earning my bachelor’s degree, and stepping out into new stages of learning.

These days, I tend to dabble a bit, having a vast breadth of interests. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of friends in many walks of life who have graciously shared some of their knowledge with me, enriching my life in surprising ways. The years I spent participating in Shadowbox Live’s Patron Talent Shows stick out in my mind as I consider this. Stacey, Carrie, Jen and Stephanie gave me a number of vocal lessons, each year seeming to refine one aspect of my singing ability. Then, being able to step out onto the comedy stage in a lead role for a couple sketches (okay, the same sketch but on two different stages), this gave me the courage to audition for acting roles that would stretch my skills even further.

These days, I’ve been putting a lot more time into broadening my skills in the arena of fiber arts. No, this has nothing to do with food or Metamucil or some such products. I’m referring to crafts that use fiber. Specifically, I’m a rabid knitter – which you probably already realize – and an occasional crocheter. I’ve been known to dye yarn as well, to customize colors to my personal preferences. A couple weeks ago, I took a class that expanded my dyeing skills, learning how to dye self-striping yarn using a tool designed for this purpose. My first project was completed quickly, but since it’s intended to be used to knit up a gift, I can’t disclose the finished product at this point. Suffice it to say – it’s really cool!

At the same festival where I learned this dyeing technique, I also took my first class on spinning. This is the art of creating yarn using the raw material, called roving. I own a spinning wheel, though I have yet to confirm that it has all the necessary parts to work. And since I don’t know how to actually work the wheel, it has remained a decorative piece of furniture since it was given to me a couple years ago. The spinning class I took addressed the process of spinning using a drop spindle, which is a very portable tool (it fits in my purse). This is a work in progress, and I’ll have to put a LOT of time into working with the spindle to become even remotely proficient with it. But with each attempt, I approach my goal step by step.

This past weekend I attended another festival and took a couple more classes to further my education specifically in the area of knitting. The first class had to do with a technique called Short Rows which can be used in the knitting process to shape a garment nicely. The instructor provided reference instructions for several different methods of working short rows, too, which was a delightful eye-opener for me, helping me to understand the differences in the methods and to see which ones work most easily for me. This is bringing me one step closer to designing my own knitwear!

The second class I took in Pittsburgh provided guidance as well as an overwhelming sense of freedom. This class taught us how to fix mistakes in our knitting without having to simply rip out all the work (commonly known as frogging, since you rip-it! rip-it!). Fixing a mis-crossed cable or some glaring lacework error needn’t invoke a panic attack. This doesn’t mean the problem project won’t be hurled across the room in a flurry of frustration, but it can be addressed rather easily, once the rage wears off (minutes, hours, months later, if necessary).

And the last bit of news on my educational forays of late… I am taking a college course that is just-for-fun, something to do in snippets of down time this Spring. The class I am taking is also FREE. Harvard University, along with MIT and Berkeley are offering courses through the edX platform, and more schools will be coming on-board later this year. The class I am taking is called The Ancient Greek Hero, which presents a number of literary works, studied in the context of the setting of ancient Greece. I have already learned quite a bit from an historical perspective, which has me all-the-more intrigued given that I will be visiting several sites of ancient Greek city-states during my cruise in the Fall.

If you are interested in learning more about this online coursework, check out http://www.edx.org. There are several other courses that intrigue me, so I’ll be investigating them down the road. I learn so much on my job at work, so it’s nice that I can find ways to stretch my mind in new directions when I’m not working, too.

Knit on.

Giving Thanks

Well, I had a heck of a time this past week, with a wild battle of priorities and juggling. Work has been extremely busy, and as we’re getting to year-end, I’m starting to use up my vacation days. I had a four-day weekend this past weekend, which meant I had to work late a few nights last week. The first night I missed my posting goal, I scrambled after working late to make it to choir practice. Having the day off on Friday was a huge blessing, as I was exhausted from the work week. The rest of the weekend, I did my best to cope with back pain – as I apparently wrenched it somehow. I managed to get the situation under control in time to return to work on Tuesday.

Tuesday also began my dog sitting stint for the week, and that was not as easy as I’d hoped. Dear, sweet Sammi spent the first eight hours after my arrival cowering under the master bed. I finally managed to coax her out, and we’ve been good buddies ever since. Which is good, as I have needed a buddy, since there’s no one else about.

The holiday weekend is nice, affording me plenty of knitting time. There hasn’t really been much else to do, either. My son will come over to visit for a bit this evening, so I’m looking forward to that.  I’m not really keen on the whole Black Friday shopping frenzy, so tomorrow will probably be more of the same – knitting & TV. On the bright side, I have finished a pair of socks for a friend and have made great progress on my Christmas skirt as well as a couple other projects I’ve been working on.  I’ve also loved catching up on the BBC series Merlin, though I’d really like to see a few more episodes involving Lancelot…perhaps I’ll go back and review some of the earlier shows. 🙂

Sir Lancelot — Yum!

Knit on.

Sorry for the Delay…God Bless Our Veterans!

It’s cold, and I’m tired. I’ll be heading to bed shortly. But before I do that, I wanted to share one of the topics I’ve been mulling since last week. Veterans’ Day seemed to be more celebrated this year than I’ve noticed in prior years. A whole slew of restaurants offered free meals throughout the weekend, and I heard there were other perks being offered at establishments around town. I think our military veterans deserve more than one day a year in recognition for their service and sacrifice.

As the true holiday (November 11) fell on a Sunday, our church choir sang “America the Beautiful” as our closing hymn at the conclusion of the Mass. How many people know more than the first verse of this song? We highlighted the third verse to call attention to its lyrics:

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

It’s becoming less common in today’s society for people to love anything or anyone more than self – tragic, but true. And yet, we still have a strong contingent of patriots serving in our armed forces. Praise God!

As I close to go crawl into bed, I’ll share one last quote,  “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Knit on.

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off…

Last night, as I lay in bed drifting off to sleep I realized…dang it! I forgot to write a blog post! This morning when I woke up, I then started to wonder what approach to take. Should I treat it like a dose of medication, and write the next post as soon as I can, then get back in sync with an evening post? (This work thing can get in the way from time to time…) OR, should I treat it like a diet – blown one day, so you just start fresh the next day. I opted for the latter. Writing a new post is much easier than dieting, by the way.

Monday was a rugged day. I spent most of the day recovering from the busy weekend. Seriously, it was very difficult for me to get out of bed on Monday morning. And I ended up crawling back in after I took my shower. Finally, I knew I had to bite the bullet and get dressed so as to get in to the office at a reasonable time. I was comforted with the knowledge that it was a governmental holiday (and rightly so, as Veterans’ Day should be revered as much as Independence Day!!), which meant traffic would be lighter than usual. In an instant, my day became markedly brighter though, when I remembered that we get to wear jeans this week! In recognition of contributions to the Red Cross, supporting their efforts on the East Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, our office’s social committee obtained permission to bestow this privilege on those who contributed through the corporate office’s designated link. Woo-hoo! Everything’s brighter when I can wear jeans instead of having to dress up!

Still, by the time I got in to work, that surge of energy was waning. I dumped my things at my desk, then shuffled to the kitchen to make some coffee. It didn’t really help. Seriously, I don’t think I felt fully awake until at least 3 p.m. But, I muddled through. Through it all, in the back of my mind was the seed of worry, knowing I had an audition that evening. Granted, the initial audition isn’t something that I need to worry about a whole lot, as it’s the first hurdle toward casting, and it’s kind of a low hurdle. There’s always the chance I could screw it up though, somehow. I said a few prayers on my way to the location. A surprise blessing was being greeted by Johnny, as cast member I got to know in this past year’s production. The last time I saw him was at the going-away party for him and his wife, as they moved to Georgia to be close to their kids. He happened to be in town, so it was nice of him to pitch in and assist.

Those auditions went fine, but tonight was the call-back. This is the big challenge, face to face with all the competition. I won’t write much about it, as I’m way too nervous about the outcome. In my mind, I’m perfect for the role I want. But who’s to say the director sees it that way, or the other folks involved in the casting decisions? And the competition was pretty fierce…in a perky and talented way. Tomorrow all will be revealed, and I’ll learn what my winter will hold in the way of non-knitting entertainment.

Speaking of knitting…yes, I was! I’ve still got a bunch of projects on the needles, but I’m making decent progress on a bunch of them. Between my segments on stage, I managed to complete 75% of a hat, and several rows on the baby cardigan. The former I had to set down when I realized there was an error in the pattern. The latter only lasted as long as the skein of yarn did, which ran out after six rows. Now that I’m at home, I have wound the next skein to continue on the sweater, and once I post this, I’ll check the hat pattern!

I’ve got a few ideas of things to write about still rattling around in my brain. And there’s nearly half a month remaining in this challenge. So stay tuned. I should have something at least mildly entertaining to share real soon…

Knit on.

Tomato, Tomato…Potato, Potato…

I remember a Saturday Night Live fake commercial, circa 1983/84, for a Ronco-esque music collection that included a song with the lyrics: “You say ‘grah-NAY-dah’, I say ‘grah-NAH-dah. You say invaders, I say advisers…” The song was poking fun (as only SNL can) at the controversial situation surrounding the U.S. invading Grenada, a Caribbean island nation. The bit about invaders vs. advisers is similar to a reference made by The Wizard in the stage musical Wicked:

A man’s called a traitor – or liberator
A rich man’s a thief – or philanthropist
Is one a crusader – or ruthless invader?
It’s all in which label
Is able to persist

Labels can hold a great deal of meaning, and I was raised in a family where precise language was highly valued. So when the language used in the Catholic Mass was changed with the release of the new Roman Missal nearly a year ago, I found some of the changes to be of little consequence from the interpretation/ translation aspect. But one of the word changes has really got my attention, and kinda bugged me. Hopefully I’m not ruffling too many feathers out there, as that is certainly not my intent. But I have had a couple conversations about this with others, so I know I’m not the only one that finds this odd.

In the Eucharistic Prayer, the word “cup,” used in reference to the vessel (not the one with the pestle, mind you) that Christ uses at the Last Supper to transform wine to His blood, has been changed to the word “chalice.” Yes, I am making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill. But this is just one of those little things that bugs me. The priest at Mass uses a chalice within the Liturgy of the Eucharist, however, since he is reiterating the events that transpired at the Last Supper, the use of the word “chalice” doesn’t seem appropriate to me. Jesus was celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover with his apostles. The traditional Passover seder meal includes a Rabbinic requirement involving “four cups of wine.” That’s not four chalices of wine.

I think part of my hang-up involves my interpretation of the word “chalice,” to mean an ornate footed drinking vessel. In my world, it’s a very fancy treasure, along the lines of the chalice that is used during Mass. Granted, not all priests have an ornate chalice, but this is just the concept that the word draws to mind. And at that point I immediately think of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which the last Crusader advises Indy to “choose wisely” in selecting the cup from among the collection that truly is the Holy Grail. Indy does choose wisely in selecting a simple “cup of a carpenter.”

One of my tangents in my internal debate over this word change speaks to the idea of something (or someone) that appears ordinary turning out to be extraordinary. Jesus was, to the general public, an ordinary carpenter, though Christians recognize him as being so much more. The Son of God, though divine, took the role of a servant in order to model for us the behavior He cherishes. While we can never consider ourselves to be as extraordinary as Christ, this doesn’t mean we can’t be extraordinary in our own right. As Christians, we are called to serve God and our neighbor, and as long as we surrender ourselves to God’s will, we can live the extraordinary life to which we are called.

Wow…how is it that I always run out of time and energy before I’ve completed my post. Sigh. Well, I should be able to pick up this topic at a later date. But now, I must head to bed to get some sleep. Monday will be here all too soon, and time just keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future!

Knit on.

Benefits of a Bye Week

Today was a really busy day for me, and very musical in nature. It’s very late, though, so I’ll just share a little bit about it. This morning I attended a workshop for choir members and cantors, and it was helpful to get a review on some of the fundamentals of singing. I got to exercise some of those refreshed skills in the afternoon, as I prepared for Monday night’s audition (fingers crossed…). I made it home from that adventure with just a little time to get ready for church. This evening I was part of a lovely intimate choral group, leading the music at our 5:00 p.m. Mass. We rocked, if I do say so myself! My parents were in attendance for Mass, and we went out to dinner afterward. Then I rounded out the evening with another faith community musical celebration. Now I must get to bed, for I’ll be back at church in the morning for a repeat “performance” but on a larger scale – many more voices, five-part harmonies, and all that jazz.

I didn’t get much knitting done, but I have made a bit of progress on a friend’s socks. G’night all, and knit on.

If All GOOD Things Must Come to an End…

…shouldn’t the same also be true that all bad things must come to and end? And yet, the hits just keep on coming. Still, I’m doing my best to remain an upbeat optimist. And so I shall list some happy things:

  1. It’s Friday, and work is done. The weekend did finally arrive!
  2. My older brother has celebrated another birthday – so now he’s even older than me. 😉
  3. I don’t have to work this weekend!
  4. Got to see a bunch of veterans as they assembled for our Veterans’ Day parade today! We live in the land of the free thanks to the brave.
  5. Got the latest Signals catalog in the mail today. I now have a new tag line…“Incorrigible. Please do not incorrige.”
  6. Thanks to vacation planning, I have no more five-day work weeks until 2013!
  7. I am blessed to have dinner plans tomorrow night with my parents.
  8. I’ve just finished my second scarf project this fall.
  9. I have watermelon socks!

Let the fun begin, and knit on!

I Whistle A Happy Tune

Music is most definitely a part of my soul, one of those integral elements in my person that makes me tick. And happy music can certainly be a spirit booster when I’m feeling down. Sacred happy music generally has a doubly-good impact. As much as I had been dreading tonight’s choir rehearsal, it was exactly what I needed to boost my heart & soul. I learned today that a good friend’s father passed away this week. And this coming Monday marks the anniversary of another friend’s death. Though the deceased are in a much better place, being at peace and without pain, my heart aches for all who have been left behind in the wake, having to deal with that hole in their lives.

Every Sunday, I miss my friend, as he stood near me to play bass, and always greeted me with a cheerful smile and warm hug, and he called me “Beautiful.” Our current bass player is more than welcome, and I’m thrilled to share a music stand with him; but it’s just not the same. This weekend will be challenging, as I relive the loss. But every day it gets a little easier, a little less painful. It also helps that our choir is singing some very beautiful songs, and our closing song will certainly rock the house – bass and all.

During rehearsal tonight, I was rather distracted, my heart aching for my friend in her grief. Plus, it’s been a very long week at work, and I’d had to put more time in this evening than I’d anticipated, which meant I was late for rehearsal. But I persevered, stumbling through the chords of the first couple songs on my guitar. Then it was time to sing the psalm, which I am cantoring at the Masses this weekend. I did fine until I got to the last verse to sing of “the fatherless and the widow,” and it was about all I could do to finish. But I did finish, and we moved on, and each song got a little bit easier. Our communion song is a rendition about The Beatitudes (Blest Are They), which often makes me cry anyway. But tonight, it gave me a little bit of peace. When we finally got to our closing song, Blest Be the Lord, I was smiling again, and not faking it either.

The rehearsal continued with some songs we’ll be including in upcoming liturgies, particularly as we’re preparing for the Advent and Christmas seasons that will be here all too soon. Every song we sang is beautiful in and of itself, as anthems of our faith. But when you put it all together, with our voices (often in four-part harmony) and the guitars (as many as seven when everyone plated) and the flute and oboe, it’s truly a joyful chorus, which was exactly the balm I needed to settle my spirit.

Yes, the Masses will be challenging, but “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And I’ve been really touched by a few songs I’ve heard on The River lately, ones that are speaking to my heart in a way I don’t recall ever experiencing before. Today I heard a couple: “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns opens with words of harsh truth…

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

And if that didn’t get me crying quickly enough, there’s “Live Like That” by Sidewalk Prophets…

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that

And so I will do what I can to live like that, to be the light I was made to be. Knit On.

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