Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's A Boy!

We have a new addition to our four-legged menagerie. Meet Cory, our five month old miniature donkey.
Cory came to us because our llama needed a friend with whom to share the pasture. I'm not sure a donkey is what she had in mind. She seems to be ignoring him right now. The rest of us are doing quite the opposite. Cory is an incredible animal - beautiful, sweet and loving. He wants to be right by our sides. He will let you hug on him and he will give you a donkey hug right back. (A donkey hug involves a huge equine head with its baby soft facial hair resting firmly on your shoulder.) It is an awesome experience. Animals have so much to teach humans about trust and love.

Right now, Cory is the size of a large dog, barely reaching my waist with his head. And, as has been pointed out to me recently by my assignment to the front row in choir, I am not a particularly tall person.
This morning when I went to the pasture to check on him, I called his name from the gate and he responded with a loud "Hee-haw" (Yes, it really does sound like that.) and came running. He behaves better than my dogs!
We did a little work this afternoon with the halter. Though he has not spent much time with the halter, he was perfectly happy to have me put it on him and then walk him around the pasture. I think as long as he is close to people, he will cooperate. And, as long as there are of plenty of hugs, we will all be happy!



Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Man And His Hat

Like most knitters, at least the ones I know and like, I have several unfinished projects on the needles. This fact is both exciting, because it means that there is a lot of creativity going on, and frustrating because I don’t like to have unfinished talks staring me in the face. The unfinished project that is most upsetting to me at the moment is the fairisle scarf that I am teaching a class on at our local shop. Tomorrow is our last class and I am not anywhere near done. In my defense, there have been several more pressing things in the last few weeks that I have needed to finish – the current issue of Spirit of Knitting, posters for Fig Theatre, and then there is school, the one thing I do that I actually get paid for. Though I feel bad about my scarf class sample not being done, I have finished a project lately that makes me happy.

I completed a watch cap yesterday. It is nothing fancy – navy blue with a whit stripe in the middle. It contains no snazzy stitch patterns; it is simply a 2x2 rib for a couple of inches and a stockinette body. So what is the big deal?

Several weeks ago the Dallas Handknitters Guild had a booth at a health expo sponsored by a local TV station. The purpose of the event was to educate the public on health issues such as diet and exercise, blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and other things that contribute to our well being. Knitting happened to fall in to that latter category. As guild representatives, our task was simple, sit for a few hours, knit, answer questions about the craft and the guild, and share our thoughts on the health benefits of knitting.

Much of the population attending the event was Hispanic. I was surprised at the number of Hispanic men who were genuinely interested in knitting though we could not convince any of them to actually pick up the needles and try it for themselves. They offered to bring their wives or daughters back to learn. One man seemed sad when he said that in his culture a man knitting would not be looked upon kindly. What made this even more saddening is that this particular gentleman really wanted and handknit hat. But, he had no one to make it for him.

We had several sample items in the booth that had been made by various guild members. There were a couple of simple watch caps – one was maroon and one was black. The man asked if he could buy one. They were not for sale. He responded by saying that was OK because the ones we had were not really the color he wanted. He wanted navy blue with a white stripe around the middle. I don’t know why I was so taken by this man, but I was. I offered to make him the hat and mail it to him. I figured that he would not give me his information if he were not serious. He was definitely serious. Without hesitation, he gave me his full name, address, and several phone numbers.

Like I said, I finished the hat yesterday and put it in the mail today. He will probably receive it tomorrow, just in time to do him some good during our current brief cold snap. I suspect that he will be surprised to actually get the hat in the mail. Why would someone knit a hat for a stranger just because he wanted one?

It seems funny to me that we will make hats and blankets and booties for “charity”, but most people will not make or give something to a stranger on the street who asks. In the case of the stranger on the street, we have a human face to go with our gift. Most often when we give to charity we have only a face created in our own imaginations through the description of some agency whose job it is to appeal to our pathetic side. Is not the man who feels compelled to ask a perfect stranger to make him a hat, for whatever reason, equally as deserving of our charity?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not so na├»ve as to hand out money to every panhandler on the street. But, I am fairly certain that you can’t get much in the way of drugs or booze with a blue watch cap. I have to believe that he wanted the cap because he wanted a hat. I hope his head is warmed and maybe his heart a little as well. Making the cap was a simple but pleasurable task for me. Now, back to the fairisle scarf, the socks, Brooke’s sweater, the bear . . .

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Year Ago Today

Around here, Friday night is soccer game night. All week they have been forecasting cold temperatures (for Texas, that is) and rain. As long as there is no lightening, the game will go on. As we left for the field, the temperature was about 37, but the rain had not yet arrived. Thank goodness! I bundled up in my heaviest coat, scarf, hat, gloves, and carried a polar fleece blanket in case the previous was not enough to chase the winter chill away. As I sat in the stands cold but not too cold, I was reminded of this day last year.

On the morning of February 15th in 2007, the temperatures were in the teens. It was frigid. Why do I remember this? Because, it was a year ago today that Harley came to live with us. This time last year, she was a four pound, very cold, 8 week old puppy who found herself in a back alley of a Dallas strip mall. Through a series of phone calls and a moment of weakness on my part, she came to live with us permanently. At that time, she was so cold and so tiny that she rode the 45 miles home curled up down the front of my shirt. Though she now weights 16 pounds, she is still the happiest as close to me as she can get.


I have never had a dog this small. And frankly, never really wanted one. If I had gone to a shelter looking for a dog to adopt, chances are I would have skipped right over this probable terrier mix. I am so thankful for the powers that are much stronger than me who were at work that day. Had I been in charge, I would have missed out on one of the most loving dogs I have ever known.

Don’t get me wrong, Harley is quite a pistol. She can hold her own and then some with our 70 pound Labrador Retriever. Granted he is one of the most docile and loving dogs in the world. He is also the consummate big brother. Though Harley does not realize that she is less than a quarter Adidas’ size, he does. She crawls over him, chews his ears, steals his bone and his beloved Frisbee, and firmly believes that she has first (and possibly only) dibs at my lap and he obliges her. From the moment he saw her wiggle across the floor, he has cared for and protected her. They really don’t like to be separated. And I don’t like to be separated from the two of them. This became patently obvious to me last week when Harley had a stomach virus and spent three days and two nights at the vet so that she could be rehydrated via IV fluids.

Harley is such a little dog that dehydration happens quickly. I was glad that the vet kept her and cared for her but both Adidas and I really missed her. He was slightly more pathetic than I was; he lay on the bed and whined all night the first night she was gone. I thought about it, but I decided it was best to hold myself together. My crying would have upset Adidas even more.

On her second day at the vet, I went to see her. We spent about 45 minutes together though she was still not hydrated enough to come home. Thankfully she was keeping food and water down at this point. She seemed back to herself at this point. She played and barked and chewed while we visited. I felt terrible when I handed her back to the vet tech and left her for a second night. I did not even want to try to imagine what she was thinking and feeling. I was convinced she would hate me forever. Fortunately for all of us, dogs are much more forgiving than we humans. Though I felt pretty miserable when I got home, Adidas was happy to smell her on my clothes. He gave me a good sniffing and then went outside hoping to find her. He seemed a bit puzzled that she still was not at home, but he must have sensed something that let him know that everything was going to be OK. He slept much better on Harley’s second night away.

These forty eight hours of not having her around made me realize what a big presence 16 pounds can have. I missed her warm body cuddled up against me during the night; I missed the exuberant kisses when I got home from school; I missed the growling over the rawhide bones; I missed her little face peeking around the shower door in the morning. Because she is like a little shadow, I missed her at every turn.

Whoever it was that said that it is the smallest things in life that bring us the greatest joy must have known Harley.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 14th . . .so what.

Valentine’s Day . . .who’s lousy idea was this anyway? This has to be one of the most ridiculous holidays on the calendar. Why do we need one special day to acknowledge those special people in our lives? Shouldn’t we do that every day? Things like paying your taxes, having a mammogram, taking down the Christmas lights, getting your car inspected, and flu shots should happen only once every 365 days, not telling those closest to you how much you love them.

And then there are the idiotic ways in which we express this one day a year love. I was at the grocery store this morning for yogurt, toilet paper, and green beans, none of these having anything to do with Valentine’s Day. Not only were there many aisles slathered with items adorned in pink and red hearts, but there was a huge tent, like where a revival might be held, erected in the parking lot. It was filled with flowers. Buying flowers in the grocery store revival tent is a pathetic picture of a holiday. As I made my way through the store, I heard several employees talking about how the Valentines items still remaining in the store needed to be moved to the tent. There go the Hershey kisses . . .but there are always the ones in the plain old silver wrappers rather than the red ones. Chocolate is not just a one day a year thing either.

About 4;30 this afternoon, Erin and I went to Target. Immediately inside the door was the rack holding the Valentine’s Day cards. There was a mob of people three deep in front of it. These are the people for whom expression of love is hard even only one day a year. Come on guys (and gals), you should gave thought of this before now! And, if you are smart, you will ditch the card and go get the very last bouquet of roses over there next to the broccoli and artichokes. You have to know that the cards that are left at this point are so stupid. Real people would never even think those things, not to mention sign their name to a card and give it to someone knowing that they might actually read it! How humiliating is that. Surely you can think of something to say all by yourself!

I got a card that did just that. Erin made me a card. It looks just like you expect – red construction paper, cutout hearts in pink and white and, for a personal touch, accents of black hearts. Around all the hearts are words written in her hand. Okay, they are song lyrics, but she had to think about which lyrics to use. It is like a handwritten mix tape. Because her creative energies were flowing yesterday at school, much of the text is in French. This too is OK. Erin and I often carry on conversations in French. It is the one language that no one else at our house speaks. Though I love reading all the sentiments that she chose to include, I don’t see this as a once a year thing. The things she wrote are the same songs she sings to me nearly every day.

Did I give Valentine’s Day gifts? Yes, but around here, we are always giving each other little tokens of love. Erin often leaves me notes on my computer or on my night stand. I send her notes in her lunch sack. In celebration of today, I gave her a Brian Andreas print that says, “The secret is not in your eye or in your voice, my aunt told me once. The secret is in your heart. Of course she said, that doesn’t make it any easier.”

Brooke is even more cynical than me about the celebration of holidays such as this. I sent her heart shaped pasta purely for the annoyance factor and soap and handknit washcloths. To which she responded, “Why do I need these? I don’t smell bad.” Spoken as a true college student. To celebrate the day, she and some friends were going to see The Vagina Monologues on campus. That is a cool way to spend Valentine’s Day. This is a show that when produced on February 14th is royalty free. Just to keep me from feeling too good about her cultural endeavor, she allowed as to how they are giving away a door prize at the performance, a vibrator from Early To Bed, a feminist sex shop in Chicago. Isn’t education grand!

Since Mike was out of town today, I was spared from the obligatory box of candy and the revival tent flowers. If he really loved me he would put his clothes in the laundry basket and throw away the junk mail. Oh, and these things would happen every day. Though come to think about it, one day a year is a start.

Remember that love does not stop at 11:59 tonight. It will be even better tomorrow when all of the candy is 50% off!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Finally, The Prizes

Again, thank you to all of you who sent questions back at the first of the year. I did not think that it would take me this long to tie up all of the loose ends, but there you have it. It did. Originally, I said that I would choose "a winner". The winner was to be the person whose question I liked best - not objective and really not fair; but again, there you have it.

As I tried to determine which question I liked best, I realized that, even though there were only a few in the running, it was a difficult task. I could not decide. They all were a favorite for one reason or another. So, everyone wins! The prizes are as follows:

Anonymous and Weber: You each will receive a Barnes and Nobel gift card. This is to allow you to find answers to those burning questions from a reputable source, which I am not. I hope the fact that you will very likely purchase something with literary merit will not keep you from continuing to visit here. Enjoy!

Lynn: Thanks for your question on creativity. It really made me think and it allowed me to relive some moments that I had not visited in a long time. You will receive Sark's New Creative Companion: Ways To Free Your Creative Spirit. If you already have this book let me know.

Ikanlala: Despite the fact that skiing is not an everyday word in Texas, we do knit socks here like our feet really might get cold. I am sending you a skein of sock yarn dyed right here in the heart of Texas, where at this very moment it is 70 degrees and I am wearing handknit wool socks.

Offspring No. 2: Like Anonymous and Weber, you need to find a reliable source for answers to your questions. Remember, I am the one who told you that Thanksgiving was always on Thursday because they both began with "TH". There actually is a book that speaks to your question, Did Adam & Eve Have Belly Buttons? and 199 other questions from Catholic teenagers, by Matthew J. Pinto. Because you are a good little Episcopalian, you can take with a grain of salt all the stuff on the pope and the dogma of the Catholic Church. Altough, as you are about to be confirmed, you might be thankful to be an Episcopalian rather than a Catholic.

If all of you would send an email with your mailing information to me at kriselliott@starband.net, I will get your goodies in the mail.

Thanks again for playing!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Real Vacation

I loved our trip to New York. The company was great, the entertainment spectacular, the food filling, and the weather, we'll not talk of the weather. Anyway, I had a wonderful time but those four days were not restful, not that they were intended to be. Once I returned, I jumped head first into this semester's classes and was faced with the next publication deadline for Spirit of Knitting. Overwhelmed is the best way to describe my state of being over the past few weeks.

This weekend, the second weekend of the month, is our regularly scheduled Franciscan fellowship meeting in Austin. Though Austin is only a leisurely four hour drive from my house, going down and back in the same day is a little more hectic than I like so BK and I usually travel down on Friday night. The ulterior motive here is that Austin has some great knit shops and independent bookstores. It is easy to amuse oneself for an extra evening in Austin. And then there is the food . . .I think that Austin has the best selection of restaurants of any city I have visited in a long time. I hate chain restaurants. Though they have consistency going for them, they also have consistency working against them. Everything tastes the same.

This weekend's trip was a little different than usual. The typical routine is to stay in a relatively nice hotel close to our meeting location. We check in on Friday afternoon and then spend the rest of the afternoon, evening, and well into the night most trips visiting all our favorite places. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with this agenda, but, like the trip to NY, it does not afford any down time. I think that the powers that be knew that I needed down time more than I needed any more books or any more yarn.

One of my Franciscan brothers has recently moved into a new home that has a guest room, actually two. He invited us to spend the night with him. While he was at my house for last month's meeting, we had a discussion about a Chinese restaurant in Austin that he said has the world's best pot stickers. Back in January, we made a dinner date for Fiery Wok. BK and I got to Austin mid afternoon and went straight to Book People. I enjoyed looking but was able to restrain myself such that I only bought two books and a magazine for Brooke. This took an amazing amount of self control. Though MasterCard may be disappointed in me, I am impressed with myself. This was the only place we stopped before meeting our friends for dinner.

The advertisement was right on. Fiery Wok does indeed have the best pot stickers and pretty darn good everything else. We enjoyed an awesome meal of food and fellowship. Much of our conversation centered around movies, a topic about which I am grossly illiterate at best. In an attempt to educate me, we decided to watch a movie once we got back to the house. Mother was selected for our viewing enjoyment. It is both a hilarious and touching comedy. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And, I stayed awake for the whole thing! Those of you that know me well will realize what a major accomplishment this was. At about ten o'clock, we all went to bed. I have not been in bed this early since . . .I was six. Seriously, when I am at home, I can always find one more thing to do. These "one more things" often carry me into the wee hours of the night. As a guest in someone else’s home, none of these things are there to distract me. I suppose I could have read one of the books I bought, but they were in the car and I was already in my jammies. Nope. No distraction tonight. I was able to crawl under the covers and settle in knowing that there really was nothing that I had to do except set an alarm for the next morning. Though I had a few little things to do to prepare for the next day's meeting, I could sleep until 9 and have plenty of time to accomplish these minor tasks. 11 hours of consecutive sleep-my body won't know what to do. It is likely to think that I have died or something.

I woke this morning at 8:30 rested and ready to face the day. I have not felt this good in a long time. For some reason, I am always amazed by the powerful effects of a good night's sleep. I am also grateful for the two hours that I sat still and did nothing but watch the movie. I need to do this more often but I just can't make myself sit still when there are dishes to wash, laundry to fold, articles to edit, papers to grade, litter boxes to change . . .and the list goes on. Or, I am so exhausted when I finally sit down to watch TV or a movie that I am asleep before rating has flashed before me. Pathetic but true.

The upshot of all this is that I had a great weekend and I learned that calm weekends are necessary and enjoyable. This is what a real vacation should be. Thanks Mark and Mike!

It is 10:15 and I am off to bed though for tomorrow, the alarm gets set for 6:15. Still that is eight hours of sleep. What a luxury!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Last Two Questions

Finally, here are the answers to the last two questions posed back at the beginning of the year. These last two have several things in common. First, they are theological or biblical in nature; they deserve a serious answer; I sought the wisdom of others to ensure accurate answers.

Question #1 from Offspring #2
Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?
(I happen to know that this question has plaqued Offspring #2 for quite a while. Hopefully this will put all suspicions to rest.)

“No - Adam didn't. Neither did Eve.”

Why? Because your belly-button is a sign that you were once attached to your mother. You depended on that life-line—the umbilical cord—for your nourishment from her body as you developed inside her.

But our first parents, Adam and Eve, didn't develop that way. God would not have planted on them a false indication that they had developed in a mother's womb.

When God created Adam and Eve in mature form, the day they were created they might have appeared to be, say, 30 years old. But God wouldn't want or need to create the appearance of a false history, any more than the mature trees created by God would have had growth rings initially. Those are things which would develop in their offspring as a result of processes later on.

What's more, this would be a tremendous testimony to God's creativity. Ken Ham once put it this way: Lack of a belly-button on Adam and Eve would be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the pre-Flood world, as the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren would come up and say, “Why don't you have a belly-button?” And they could recount again and again, to generation after generation, how God had created them special by completed supernatural acts, and yet had designed them to multiply and fill the Earth in natural ways that are equally a part of God's continuing care for what He created.

“…the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground… And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”
-Genesis 2:7,21-22


Question #2 from Weber
Please engage in a little time travel as we are now approaching Lent!

Since we are approaching Epiphany, here is a Magi question. Legend says that there were three of these gentlemen named Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar. However, the Bible does not mention them by name. In fact it does not mention there were three of them; just that there were three gifts. So where did the names Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar come from?

"Most of what we associate with the "Magi" is from early church traditions. Most have assumed there were three of them, since they brought three specific gifts (but the Biblical text doesn't number them). They are called "Magi" from the Latinized form of the Greek word magoi, transliterated from the Persian, for a select sect of priests. (Our word "magic" comes from the same root.)

As the years passed, the traditions became increasingly embellished. By the 3rd century they were viewed as kings. By the 6th century they had names: Bithisarea, Melichior, and Gathaspa. Some even associated them with Shem, Ham and Japheth--the three sons of Noah--and thus with Asia, Africa, and Europe. A 141h century Armenian tradition identifies them as Balthasar, King of Arabia; Melchior, King of Persia; and Gasper, King of India.

(Relics attributed to them emerged in the 4th century and were transferred from Constantinople to Milan in the 5th century, and then to Cologne in 1162 where they remain enshrined.) "

I did have to research the answer to this question. After reading several different sources, I decided that the explanation in wikipedia did the best job of a concise presentation so I stole this from them.

I have indeed been to the cathedral in Cologne where the relics of the Magi are enshrined. Unfortunately, the pictures I took were before I had a digital camera and I have no idea where the prints are. Obviously I am not an advocate of scrapbooking.

As an aside, when we were visiting many of the cathedals of Europe and seeing the relics of various saints, etc., the same child who wanted to know about Adam and Eve's belly buttons chimed in with, "Don't they keep a whole person any where?" She was six at the time.

Thanks again to all of you who played along with me. Now I must award the winners and their prizes. Winners will be announced soon. You must be present to win.