Time for Socks

It’s Tour-de-Sock time again, so I’m taking a break from music to knit socks.  Every 10 days or so, I get a new sock pattern to knit as quickly as possible.  I compete against knitters from all over the world, and my goal is to finish in the top 25.  The first stage I placed 33, but that was including babysitting my adorable toddler granddaughter.

The socks have to be knit to competition minimums, which generally are too large for my feet. They become really good gifts, if the husband doesn’t abscond with them first.

My yarn is all (er–almost all) wound into usable cakes, and my carbon-fiber needles are polished.  I’ll make a cup of tea and make sure that snacks are handy. I won’t be cooking dinner this afternoon, so I’d best get that slow cooker ready.  Alexa is ready to play music or audiobooks.  Stage 1 looked like this:fullsizeoutput_1a56

See y’all in a couple of days!

Tangled–and Not the Disney Kind

It is summer, and that means my competitive streak comes out—in knitting.  Every year I participate in the Tour-de-Sock.  Think Tour de France, but we knit socks instead of ride bicycles.  Every 10 days or so, we can download a new sock pattern and knit furiously, trying to be the fastest to complete a pair of socks.  The patterns are not for beginners, so what initially looks like an easy pattern generally has a twist in it that forces you to look IMG_0507up a new technique on the internet.  The competition is worldwide, and I’ve learned that no matter how much I practice, I won’t beat the knitters in Finland.  I will, however, place in the top 5 (usually the top 1 or 2) in the United States, if I can clear my schedule.

The Tour means that I need to visit the yarn store to buy more yarn.  IMG_0511Sock yarn usually is sold in skeins wound like small, heavy ropes. Before you can use the yarn, you need to wind the skein into a ball-like structure, which we call a cake.  If you do this by hand, you can use the back of a chair or a helpful friend to help with the process.  The best way to wind a cake, however, is to have a swift and a ball winder.  The skein fits neatly around the swift, and the ball winder makes short work of winding. A 440-yard skein takes 5 minutes or so to wind, and you’re good to go.

Occasionally, though, the skein tangles on the swift.  Sometimes it’s operator error, but g07JEu%6RZOOpiHPN7i6fAI’ve done this long enough to realize that some companies just don’t tie the skeins properly; their yarn has built-in tangles. The yarn won’t come off the swift smoothly, and the only way to get the yarn into a usable form is to hand-wind it. Sock yarn is expensive.  No matter how tempting it might be to just cut out the tangled part (or toss the whole skein), it’s worth the trouble to take the time to wind it properly, turning a mess into a nice ball that soon become a beautiful pair of socks for some lucky person.

The untangling process goes a little quicker if you leave the tangled skein on the support of the swift. Winding won’t be quick, but skeins taken off the swift and laid on a table quickly become hopelessly tangled, and winding is a frustrating process indeed.  If the yarn is on the swift, winding won’t be quick, but it’s not likely to induce cursing either.

Lots of things in life get tangled.  Maybe it’s a personal problem, a clogged sink, a piece of music you can’t play correctly—doesn’t matter.  Tangles happen.  But no matter what the tangle, a little support can go a long way toward putting things right.  In music, you have the support of technique or perhaps a teacher.  Sinks get unclogged with the support of YouTube or a plumber.  Personal problems?  Sometimes you need the support of a friend.

My friend to call on is Jesus. His Word generally has the correct advice to untangle the knot. Jesus is the one support I can count on to always point to the right way. I might be able to solve the problem on my own, but chances are the situation will get worse before it gets better. Relying on Jesus may still require patience and humility, but the tangle will be smoothed out before you know it.

Here’s to untangled yarn—and lives!

Summer Break

It’s an old joke that educators teach because of June, July, and August. Like any good joke, there’s a grain of truth contained in the punch line. The months from September through May are emotionally, intellectually, and yes, physically grueling. The body wears out, and the mind yearns for pleasure reading. Even daytime TV becomes, at least for an hour, irresistible.

This year, though, summer has been busy.  After some vacation time in southern Missouri, I spent a week at church camp—not far from our vacation spot.  However, church camp with teenagers is most definitely not a vacation. It is, however, a welcome change from the normal school year. Somehow, the transition from the normal school attire to shorts and T-shirts makes grandmotherly professors a little more approachable. I made friends with younger teenagers, met faculty from other colleges, and practiced my dining room sweeping skills.  Maybe the teenagers will attend my college; maybe they won’t, but I hope they came away with the realization that they are loved and valued by Christian grandmothers.

Memories:

  • Hours in a school van, including lunch at a gas station
  • Looking up at campfire and realizing that you really can see stars—lots of them
  • Listening as teenagers open up about their faith
  • Helping my family group memorize scripture
  • Watching younger people play Bonkers (you really have to see it)
  • Morning shows with stupid songs and videos
  • Watching 60 teenagers vow to follow Jesus and embrace the cross

Have I done pleasure reading? Absolutely, but I haven’t been able to keep up with my normal book-a-day pace. Have I watched daytime TV? Not unless you count the morning news show (I do have some standards). Have I made progress on my next recording? Not much, other than selecting the music.

Was camp worth the time spent (and the chiropractor bills from bad bunks)? You betcha.  Today’s teenagers need the influence of Christian adults who are not their parents. Today’s grandparents need the influence of teenagers.

Next summer, volunteer for church camp or VBS duty. You’ll be glad you did.

Today’s Scenic Beauty

It’s been a long time between vacations. This year, I booked 5 days at Echo Bluff State Park in southern Missouri to get some peace and quiet to read, knit, and to see some of a God’s handiwork. So far, we are very pleased. The accommodations are comfy, and the scenery is outstanding. There’s not much choice in restaurants, it the one in the lodge is very good and overlooks the bluff.

We went to Alley Spring this morning, where my family spent lots of happy times. Stuff changes in 50 years, so most of the landmarks have changed. It still smells the same, though–like summer vacation.

Miss you all, but for the moment, glad you’re not here. See you next week.

Teacher Appreciation Day

Facebook tells me that today is Teacher Appreciation Day.  I’m old enough now that nearly all my teachers have passed away, but I’d like to give credit to some of them.

My 2ndgrade teacher, Miss Fourt, always began the school day by singing and Bible reading. (I am betraying my age here; prayer was still permitted in the public schools.) After nearly 60 years, I remember some of the songs we learned. I was not the best reader at the beginning of the 2ndgrade, but she nourished my love of books and stories. She might have saved my academic career, and she was the teacher I always wanted to be.

My elementary school music teacher, Miss Sloan, fed my soul and my mind by introducing classical music and music history.  I may have been the only person in the room who thought classical music was fun, but I know that as a teacher, it only takes one interested kid to keep you going. She was the teacher who encouraged me to perform, giving me my first chance to play in front of lots of people. (And, if you’re in music class, you’re not in gym!)

In college, I was privileged to accompany the University Singers and some private voice students of Tom Mills.  A fine Christian man with one of the best voices I ever heard, he patiently taught me to express the words of a song, even if it all you had was just the accompaniment. When I get to heaven, I hope he asks me to play for him again—there is no doubt that he’ll lead the heavenly choir.

Write a note of appreciation to your teachers.  I can tell you—we keep a file, and one good note can make our week!

 

Updates

Public Service Announcement:  If you are expecting uplifting content out of this edition of Songs from the Living Room, it’s not here. Just go on about your business and wish me well unless you want to know what’s happening in the rest of the house.

Well, the washer died.  It’s not exactly dead, but it is throwing codes in spite of The Very Handy Husband’s rubber bands and my threats to send it to the crusher. Since I am a woman of my word, I bought a new set yesterday–only the 3rd set in 43 years of marriage.  Shiny new appliances will be delivered next week, and the old ones will be carted off. I am under no illusions that laundry will be any more fun.

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The new faucet is working well, and so is the sink.  We have clean dishes–at least when we remember to turn on the dishwasher.  I live a charmed life–look at the clearance between the faucet and the upper cabinet.  Couldn’t have done better if I’d measured!

The Very Handy Husband is quite happy to have no home repair projects on his to-do list for a while, since the lawn is growing an inch a day.

CreateSpace is taking its own sweet time in approving the artwork for Streams for the Soul. My response to inquiries about when the physical CDs will be ready is a standard “couple of weeks.” It’s been a couple of weeks for the last month. Sigh.

We have taken custody of the Granddog for a couple of weeks, so daily afternoon walks–and probably morning ones as well–will be on my agenda.  She will attempt to crawl into bed with us.  Sometimes we’ll let her stay there.

And the big news:  I have applied for licensing for a whole bunch of love songs for a new album.  I have new songs to practice, so I have a Project to Accomplish. Projects keep me from getting bored and trying to do dumb stuff like cover the deck railings in crocheted slipcovers. Recording this album will probably take place after dark, after the neighbors have finished their construction projects for the day.  Love songs and irregular hammer-and-nails percussion just don’t mix. I might not be opposed to a good thunderstorm, though–I had a record in high school which had thunder in the background.

May your living room have good things to look forward to.

The End–and a Beginning

It is the last week of school.  By now, papers are just about done, and most assignments have been turned in.  While some students are pulling all-nighters trying to cram every last bit of knowledge into brains that seem too full already, most are quietly enduring that last final while they dream of the joys of summer.  Several couples will start the new school year this coming August with new wedding rings and new responsibilities; others will move out of the dorm to their first apartment; still others will be adulting in their brand-new jobs. My colleagues and I are reclusive in our offices, finishing up grades and end-of-semester paperwork. After meetings finish next week, the Great Silence will begin as the campus will lack the voices of young adults. We will miss the new graduates and gear up for new freshmen. We say farewell to a beloved professor and look forward to greeting two new ones. This is a bittersweet time.  We’ll say good-bye, but the time for hellos is still in the future.

Usually we can’t wait for summer break.  If you work in academia as long as I have, even your body develops a rhythm that mimics a school schedule. April is the month of pressing on, waiting for the rest you know is coming.  This year, though, we have been overtaken by the White Witch of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “It’s always winter, but never Christmas.” The trees are still bare, and the furnace is still necessary. The Brave Little Tulip in the college flower bed has not yet developed the courage to open its bud. It just doesn’t feel like summer vacation begins a week from Friday.

But whether I feel like summer or not, it is here.  And with summer, I am planning new projects. I want to get some more reading done, but in the summer, it’s mostly novels.  I’d like to clean my closet (this one has been on my to-do list as long as I can remember). I’m going to spend a week at summer camp with a friend, and another several days at a convention.  I’m going to visit the grandchildren. The Very Tired Husband and I will get away for a week, maybe two. And I think I may record another album—love songs this time. I have a list of songs in my head, but it’s not complete.  What would you like to hear on a romantic album?  Comment and let me know!

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