Monday, December 31, 2012

So long, year

If you remember, last January I set some goals--both crafty and otherwise--that I wanted to accomplish this year. I didn't finish all of them, but I'm satisfied nonetheless.

Crafty

-baby sweaters (plus a vest.)
-a baby blanket (here)
-a sweater for myself (I just realized I never posted pictures of the finished product. Will have to do so.)
-a shawl for Nicole (here)
-lots of hexipuffs (well, it depends on your definition of "lots," but I'd say this is probably a no.)
-an afghan (see previous post)
-learn to crochet (yay!)
-learn to sew (two people used my sewing machine this year, but sadly neither of them was me.)


Non-Crafty

-graduate
-have a baby
-sign up for an hour of adoration (I don't think this is a realistic goal for me at this time ... but it is one I am continually reevaluating, and I hope I can commit to a regular holy hour sometime in the near future.)
-read 50 books (final count is 57!)

It's still Christmastide ...

... but things are winding down here. Keith's mom left very early yesterday morning, and we are likely just hanging out at home for a quiet New Year's.

Christmas morning, complete with snowman pjs

Amidst the happy busyness of visiting friends and family during the past week, I've really treasured the moments when I've slipped away to nurse Michael. (He needs a quiet room or he gets very distracted.) Especially since during that time Mama often had to be the bad guy (at least in baby's eyes) who enforced naps and so forth, that space of calm one-on-one time felt so necessary and peaceful, and Michael's smiles very special.

This Christmas I've been thinking a lot about humility and what it really means. I think it's one of those virtues that gets stereotyped quite a bit. I had wanted to cook my mother-in-law a meal while she is here. She always cooks amazing meals for us when she visits, but I have never cooked for her. For various reasons it didn't happen, and I was lamenting it as I did the dishes one night, because cooking someone a meal is, to me, one of the best ways to show hospitality and service. And then I realized--anyone can do the dishes. You might get thanked for it, but you probably won't get complimented on what a great dishwasher you are or how spotless you left the glasses. It is a very necessary task, but not very visible.

And that is an act (or rather an attitude) of humility: recognizing and generously responding to whatever needs must be met, whether it's cooking a delicious meal you will be recognized for or doing some small task that anyone else could do.

Right now chicken soup is simmering on the stove, and Keith is picking up bread from Giant Eagle on his way home, and the baby is napping. I will probably spend most of my evening knitting; I've decided I am DONE with this blanket by 2013, no matter what. I have one more ball of this fuzzy green yarn left, but we'll see if I manage to break into it before midnight. :-P

not my favorite shade of green ... 
I mean, the yarn is very soft and VERY warm, but I've been working on this blanket for ages. There are pictures of me knitting it from Thanksgiving of last year. 

Knitting and chicken soup on New Year's Eve ... we're an exciting bunch around here. ;)

Friday, December 21, 2012

From one knitter to another


I consider myself very blessed to have a large number of friends who knit. Knitting is what brought some of us together; others have learned along the way. (It's pretty contagious, apparently.) One of the things I love about knitting is that it's both a solitary and a social activity, and it really does bring people together in awesome ways. (One could say it knits them together ... hahaha. Er, sorry.) 


My lovely friend Evangeline is one of those who didn't knit initially but soon got sucked in. (After she moved back to Pittsburgh, she walked into a circle of friends who can gabble on about Tosh and Malabrigo for hours and walk up to each other and exclaim in joyful recognition, "Oh, I love your Fetchings! Oh, you're wearing Echo Flowers!" So she didn't stand much of a chance.)

Now Evangeline lives in LA, but she stopped by Pittsburgh for a few days on her way home for Christmas. The day before she left she and another friend surprised me with a generous and incredibly sweet Christmas gift. 


They drew the design on the cup and saucer themselves with ceramic pens. Yes--those rows of stockinette are all hand drawn


And as if that wasn't enough, to top it off they also gave me a skein of Tosh Sock in the colorway Oxblood.
(The only downside of having such a wonderful skein of yarn? Deciding what pattern to knit with it! So hard!)

I was so touched. What wonderful and generous friends. :) 

Christmas Decorations

Yesterday as we packed up to visit my parents, I snapped some pictures of the Christmas decorations in our apartment. Unfortunately, it was pretty grey out, and I couldn't tell from the camera screen how blurry these were.

My Fontanini nativity set:

It was getting a little crowded on the table, so the shepherds are on the mantle above. Maybe they'll come down and see Baby Jesus on Christmas Day? 


(I like to think that they're keeping their sheep on a cliff overlooking Bethlehem ... ;) )


Here is the garland I crocheted! :) I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. 


And ... drumroll please ... our Christmas tree. My mother-in-law gave us the tree skirt last year. 


Like last year, I feel a little sad that we decorate our apartment and then leave it all behind. But we will be home after Christmas, and it will be nice to have them up while Keith's mother is here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Preparing, II

Yesterday, Gaudete Sunday, we bought our tree and Keith bedecked it with lights. We will probably decorate it tonight. And light the rose candle on our Advent wreath, which I just noticed we forgot to do.

This morning I set up the rest of the nativity to await Baby Jesus' arrival, as well as setting up a few other decorations.

Saturday we went to Ikea to get a few things, and had an argument in the entrance of the store, which was kind of embarrassing.

I am feeling a little stressed. In my head I had an entire week (this one) to accomplish the rest of what needs to be done--cleaning, Christmas shopping, the rest of the cards, etc--but then Keith started talking about going up to visit our parents on Thursday, and I realized/remembered how short Advent is this year since Christmas is on a Wednesday ... which cuts my time short by several very important days.

My reaction was ... not peaceful. Ahem.

So I sat down, made yet another list, organized it according to day, prioritized (ie I may not get the corners of my kitchen floor scrubbed with a toothbrush before my mother-in-law comes), made significant progress knitting a gift last night, etc.

But today my hand hurts. It had been doing so for the past week or two whenever I put pressure on it getting up from the bed or the floor or put my body weight on it for whatever reason--a pain sort of at the base of my thumb. This happens to both me and my mother sometimes, and I figured it was from crocheting stars to send along with Christmas cards. So I stopped doing that. (Some of you are getting stars, some of you aren't. Sorry. :( ) And it did, in fact, get better. I guess maybe the knitting last night brought it back ... except it's worse now. It hurts when I do almost anything, including cleaning the dishes or picking up Michael.

So we'll see what gets done before we leave on Thursday. As long as I can straighten up a bit and finish Christmas shopping/wrapping ... everything else will be okay. I am peaceful now, turning any stress I feel (mostly over Christmas shopping) to Our Lady, and trying to learn from her what it means to wait for Christ with patience and eagerness and hope.

And I'm really grateful that I already scrubbed the bathroom floor.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe has a special place in my heart. My relationship with the Blessed Mother waxes and wanes, but any devotion I have is always a gift from her, and I feel from Our Lady of Guadalupe in particular. There was a missionary image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at a Catholic women's conference my mom and I went to when I was a teenager. People lined up to see it in between presentations because it was a miraculous image. When I found this out, I dragged my mother away from dinner early so that we could get in line before the last talk of the evening.

There was a woman standing by the image with a stethoscope. She placed the stethoscope over Mary's heart, and some people heard her heartbeat--and then she'd place it over her womb, and some people also heard Jesus' heart. As I came up in line she was wiping the ears of the stethoscope with her last alcohol swab, so I was one of the last people she let listen. She looked at me and told me cheerfully, "Children always hear the Baby Jesus' heartbeat."

I remember feeling kind of insulted, because it was literally the day before my sixteenth (or fifteenth?) birthday. Ha. She helped me put the stethoscope in my ears, held it over Our Lady's heart ...

... and there it was. Clear and slow and deep, the slowest and most even heartbeat I have ever heard. Like when I was little and curled up in my mother's lap listening to her heart.

And before I had a chance to take it in, she moved the stethoscope down to Our Lady's belly--I could point out to you the exact flower on her dress--and I heard Him. A much smaller, faster heartbeat, but just as clear. And as I listened to it, it moved. And as it moved, I heard splashing--the liquid inside Our Lady's womb moving as her Son swam inside her.

I couldn't fathom it. I had hoped to hear His heartbeat, but this? And as I tried to wrap my mind around that, then ... I heard His voice. A cooing, happy sound. The kind I am blessed to hear every day when Michael is occupied in examining a piece of string or a toy and suddenly looks up at me and says something, just because he is content and I am there.

I heard Jesus' voice.

It was a gift from my Mother, to whom I'd had little devotion up until that point, even though I knew I was "supposed" to--a generous and completely unmerited gift.



Before I had a baby, and even while I was pregnant, I could pretend to "get" the Incarnation. As in, God becoming man--big and mind-boggling and mysterious as it was--was something I could picture and imagine. But since having a baby? That poops and laughs and looks at me and screams in the middle of the night for reasons I don't always understand?

God did all that?

I can't even pretend to "get" it anymore. It's almost ridiculous. I can imagine God as Man, but God as a baby?

And yet, I've heard that Baby's voice.



It was really important to me to get to Mass on her feast today. So yesterday I asked St. Juan Diego to please help me get there (the guy walked a good fifteen miles to get to Mass on Sunday!), and he came through. Somehow I made dinner early in the day, packed up the baby, and went. I don't think I've been to daily Mass since Michael was born (although I really can't remember). I've only been to adoration once. In addition to things like preparing dinner and making sure that Michael gets his naps, it's hard for me psychologically to get out and do these things. I know that I need to place myself more often in the presence of God; I need to learn what this looks like in my life as it is now, as a wife and mother, rather than a single person whose time is her own to do with as she pleases.

I read this in The Way yesterday: "If  you accustom yourself, at least once a week, to seek union with Mary in order to go to Jesus, you will have more presence of God." So simple, and yet such an important reminder.



Other good things today: going to Wendy's with my dear friend Stephanie after Bible study; visiting with my mom; inviting two young women to our apartment after Mass for homemade chicken noodle soup, salad, and olive oil bread; pureeing some soup for Michael (he is becoming quite the carnivore! and he gets mad now if we take too long giving him his own food at dinnertime, hehe); singing O Come Emmanuel after lighting the Advent wreath with two extra voices.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Preparing


That was this morning's breakfast. It was leftover berry cobbler. I am not ashamed.


That is a little pile of stars. Four, so far. For those who don't know, that is not knitting but crochet. Yes, dear friends, I present you with my first ever crochet project! (As opposed to random granny squares.) The gold thread was given to me by my mother, and while it makes pretty stars the metallic running through it is kind of scratchy to work with. But that's okay. I plan on making a garland (not sure how long yet), and possibly ornaments to slip inside Christmas cards ...? We'll see how ambitious I feel.

I admire my friends who have gotten all their Christmas preparations done early so that they can have a peaceful Advent; stress is the worst when it comes to distracting us from the things we should be focused on. For me, though, shopping for gifts and writing Christmas cards and so on has always been a tangible way to enter into the spirit of preparation that looks forward to Christmas, to Christ. Which is why I'm enjoying crocheting these stars. :)

Last night we lit the advent wreath for the first time (we forgot it on Sunday) and sang the first verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," which is a tradition from my family. We don't have any greenery yet, so it's just a metal ring with the candles, hehe. That's okay for now.

I have no idea where we're going to fit the tree this year, as we now have a computer desk in the living room, not to mention baby things. (Babies are so little; why does their stuff take up so much room?) But I've set up the creche with Mary and Joseph and the as-yet-empty manger. I will start adding the animals today.

I know that this year Michael isn't going to "get" anything, but it's still so exciting to enter his first Advent! And for myself as a wife and mother, this season holds so much promise. I want to learn what it means to wait upon Christ, to watch for Him; I want that watching to suffuse every moment.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sad Thoughts

I came home on Sunday to find an old-now-awkwardly-distant-but-still--very-dear-to-me friend had removed me from her Facebook. I was angry (I can't help it) and hurt and sad. We used to have the same values, but we don't anymore. We don't really talk anymore either, so our personal connection sort of evaporated. And if I put myself in her shoes, I can imagine her taking certain things I posted personally, perhaps even feeling attacked by them--which can happen so easily when you stop talking and only stalk one another's Facebook profile now and then. So I understand. But I wish ... I wish.

It's funny, because a month or so ago I felt that disconnection acutely, and I sent her a message saying hi, and she answered. And you know, I remembered writing in that message, "I love you." But in fact, when I went back to check, I didn't.

But I do. That is where the message came from. She had no way of knowing that I jolted out of bed at 1am thinking of her, praying for her, rushing to the computer to initiate some sort of connection.

Oh Facebook. The fact of the matter is she would have been long gone without this silly social networking site. But it would have been a drifting, rather than a conscious choice.

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Someone from my MFA program just posted about some amazing news relating to their novel, and I am pretty excited for them. And it made me think about my own writing, which I haven't been doing much of. Which is the problem. The not-thinking, and the not-writing.

And it left a sinking feeling in my stomach. Not a diminishment of happiness for my fellow-writer, because I am so happy for her and she is incredibly talented, and I knew and hoped she would be published soon. But I found myself thinking, that will never be me. It won't be me because I've barely written in eight months and even if I felt motivated enough to try I know the words are all stopped up and awkward because they have been for two years or more.

But typing that is like a wrench to my insides, so I know I am not resigned to "that will never be me." Not yet. It's a weird sort of hope, knowing that you won't ever be able to completely let go of something. Because if you don't turn it into hope then it's pretty depressing in its own right.

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And now the ol' navel is cleared of lint, so I shall stop examining it in public.