• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Monday, May 23, 2011


May is a month when we traditionally take a day to remember the importance of mothers.  My career of choice has been wife and mother. Some women desire and choose motherhood - others find being a mother a sudden surprise they are unsure of welcoming. Mine loved and wanted children.

My mother with 4 sons and (finally) a daughter
My mother is an excellent support and example.

I have often not appreciated or even liked her -
especially when I was growing up -
I had a rather large 'mote' in my eye.
I now apologize to her for those years.
I have learned to respect and honor her.

She inspires me.

One day, many years ago,
I realized how amazing and choice she is.

My feelings at such times cluster into groups of words that some might call poetry (but I know little of meter or rhyme).

At that time I tried to express the positive influence she had in my life and the lives of all around her.  I began to write:

My mother was a diplomat -
Oh not in silly ways
With kings of countries
Or queens of nations
Uttering her praise,
The kings and queens
My mom knew best
Were me and Sister Sue*
She never told us no
If a type of yes would do.
Yes, you may clean your bedroom,
Yes, you may come in from play,
And yes you're coming with me
Although you'd like to stay.
If no could be the answer
Then just as sure as you please
She'd turn around the sentence
And put you in a squeeze.
She'd reel off all the yes's
And much to our chagrin
Some where before she'd finish
All the outs became quite thin.
She never let us dangle
Or stay long in a spat,
We came along quite nicely
With 'just a bit of chat'.

* Sister Sue was a nickname any of us might be called.

Expecting 10th Child
My mother speaks 'encouraging words' that lift and sustain long after they are spoken.  When I talk with her, at times, I discover firmly held opinions of 'black' may change suddenly to 'white' as understanding and direction come like dawn breaking over the horizon. And other times I discover some opinion or thought validated to a meaningful form that becomes a solid foundation for action, belief and sustaining faith.

Mother seldom voices disapproval and almost never criticism. She often tells me ways I am succeeding - even in the smallest of ways - she sees and notes every increment of good.  I want to be the competent and genuinely nice person she believes I am and can be.  I want to please her and validate her kind and lovingly gentle (yet firm - there is nothing wishy washy about her and never has been) words.

I honor her strength and her power to influence -
to give not take, and to build and lift
not tear down.

She is 'just' a mother.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ESSAY: Issues of Technology

In 2001 I took a test to prove I can read and write English in a coherent literate way to allow me to work in the schools or take college level classes.  The test consisted of a few questions regarding grammar, some questions regarding several written passages I was required to read (on a computer), and writing an essay (from a selection of random topics) of at least one page in less than 90 minutes that would ideally have 5 or 6 paragraphs.  I asked and was given permission to write it on paper. I was required to write it and submit it as written without making a rough draft or outline prior to composing it.  I scored as high as was possible to score on the test.

The testing center mailed a copy of the essay to me and suggested I keep it for my personal records.  I found that copy this past week. The topic I picked was Issues of Technology: A Changing World. An interesting aside is that the lab technician had to show me how to use the computer in the testing center.  I was not familiar with Word. We used Corel Word Perfect at home (a much nicer program I must state) and I avoided computer use altogether if possible.

Only 10 years have passed. For 5 of those years I worked as a tutor for students age 12 - 18 in English, Math and Business.  The teacher in the Business lab liked how I worked with a student that was a Senior (in her English class) and requested me for her business classes.  I became proficient in computer use as I heard her courses for several years and assisted teenagers to understand and do what the teacher expected.

The following year I began supervising other tutors and programs full-time.  Part of my job included publishing a monthly newsletter on the web for the Grant program funding my position and as a piece of mail for parents. I was also expected to prepare organized, on line photo albums with appropriate titles and captions and administer several aspects of the program using the computer programs (and several more applications) I had learned from those business classes. Basically I used the computer and the Internet a lot.

In 10 years my world completely changed! In my essay I explained how my granny's world had changed.  She lived 105 years. I did not know her real age when I wrote about 1967, and felt at ease taking license with data to make it fit my topic. Remember this was written without a computer or any chance to edit or rework the order of sentences or paragraphs.
The essay follows:

One hundred years old - both my country and my great grandmother, who lived with our family.

Mary Bohne, born in England, crossed Canada the first time from east to west in a horse drawn buggy. I sat enthralled at her knee as she compared that first adventure with the wonder of jet airplane travel she experienced on her 100th birthday traveling west to east.  "Three hours not three months," I remember her exclaiming again and again.  "Three hours." What a marvelous change Canada had undergone between 1867 and 1967. Technology of many kinds had altered quality of life and manner of living dramatically and drastically.

Jet travel was not the only change my young mind accepted as normal. Although many remnants of the past clung like cobwebs to the corners our parents occupied in what was familiar to the new generation, little remained except stories and museum relegated icons for the 2nd generation following. I still knew, understood, and accepted as part of normalcy horses, telegraphs, outhouses and a much slower lifestyle of family cohesiveness largely uninterrupted by radio, TV, multiple automobiles, telephones and the ever expanding world modern telecommunications presents and unifies and/or divides. I remember when our family got hot and cold running water indoors, electricity, and our first radio. My parents marveled a very few years later when that radio was changed to a transistorized, battery operated, go anywhere set.  Life was indeed simple. Affording luxuries like a telephone, various electric appliances, and a car not exclusively for transport to work rapidly affected that very simplicity. The speed of the auto and the additional time freed by instant voice communication, and labor and time saving appliances such a refrigerators, electric stoves, and washers and dryers (along with a multitude of other helpful devices), allowed for time to do more things with the consequence of less overall time and more pressure to accomplish more things. Nonetheless we always somewhat feared and wondered at all the gadgets, buttons, planes, motors and wires.

Technology has also changed expectations and even the ability to accomplish many tasks as, for example, mechanical and other assistive devices permit smaller and weaker personnel to complete jobs previously only the strongest or tallest or fastest could perform. My children welcome a host of new devices; computers, color televisions, VCRs, compact discs, space shuttles and stations, and other technology I can only guess at.  Buttons and wires have no fear or wonder for them. When I have a question I ask my children for help. They often can answer or with their knowledge and my experience we can figure it out. Experience and wisdom of a  previous generation may often apply in surprising ways. At my parents insistence I learned to type - badly! I hated it. I was lousy at it.  It was, however, a skill a girl could utilize in a male dominated work world.  Now, typing is vital for computer use. Weekly I spend many hours coaxing my parents generation to try button pushing - to mimic us, their children and grandchildren. We need them.

My grandchildren are afraid of horses.  They see them so seldom and at such distances that a horse is a large and frightening animal. My grandmother could harness 8 Perchons to a double bladed plow at age 8. Each generation learns routines and familiar patterns. Amidst change there remain some constants. New technology currently is changing the buttons and wires: radio waves, fiber optics, lasers, genetics - the list can lengthen endlessly. We begin to speak to our machines and guide them by voice. We scan and transmit documents and digitize and create in the very air, and war in space.  I am in awe.  What has changed? My visiting grandchildren sit at my knee and think I am a bit funny - enthralled.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Imagine you own/have nothing.

No land.

No machines.

No house, no car/truck ...

No appliances or furniture ...

No pictures or books/magazines ...

No clocks, cameras, phones or gadgets.

No video or audio equipment, no computers or peripherals.

No clothes/shoes - if you are wearing something it is borrowed.

No cloth or clay, metal or wood, glass or plastic things -
or soap, and other manufactured or simple resources.

No dishes, pots/pans, utensils, tools ...

No toys, no games ...

No blankets ...

No food ...

(You can't have a job,
or any money either.)


What is left?

The resources of the earth?

What do I need?

How about water,
the warmth of the sun
or even dirt?

What am I taking for granted?
(Plumbing - I know I take plumbing for granted!)

knowledge - skills,
health (or lack thereof).

 And time - always time ...

Perhaps the thing I need most is gratitude.
Especially gratitude for the short list of important things I never seem to think about, that I always expect to have and often neglect. Perhaps I need to put such things that I take for granted, at the top of the priority list that occupies my thoughts.

Perhaps I need to scrutinize what things are first.

I just looked around myself.
All the things I see mean nothing without you.

Hmmmm  - * think, think, thinking * -
what have I said/done lately so that you know?

For example: does my spouse know he is more important than the frig? do my children know they are more important than my car? do my friends know I appreciate their companionship more than television, sport or movie stars? do I value my health more than chocolate?

And have I learned anything new today?

And finally and yet always first and most important and precious - God. What place do I give the great eternal being that created and blesses my existence?

Am I grateful I can breathe,
and think, and feel?

What thanks can I give to you?
or to anyone?
for anything?

Monday, May 9, 2011


Twist yarn (or string) in a loop around pointy plastic or wooden sticks about 14 inches long.   Do the same repetitive movements until you a lot of loops around the stick.  Now turn it over and using another similar pointy stick (sorry no hook on the end - just a slippery point) transfer each loop off the 1st stick and onto the second one by pulling the yarn through each first loop to make another loop.

Leave the new loops on the second stick and since they are through the first original loops let the first stick slide out of each first original loop as each new loop stays on the second stick. The first original loops will hang below each new loop.

 google image
The original loops make one row, the new loops make a second row and each time you turn it over and make loops again another time you get another row.  Eventually you get lots of loops and rows (hundreds and thousands of them) and they look nice and neat and make a stretchy fabric - IN THEORY!

In fact, the loops must never be twisted (unless you do them all the same or in a pattern on purpose) and if they 'accidentally' slide off a stick a nasty hole ruins not only the row you are working on but all the rows below it.

In a perfect world it can be 'fixed' by sliding it back on the stick at the right place. In an even more perfect world the loop can be looped back into the rows below it all the way to the top and no one ever knows of the accident. 

In my world I don't see the missing loop until many rows later.  
In my world all the rows have to be un-looped
and looped over again - sometimes hundreds of them.

And in my world the loops never look the same again.  

I have persisted at this challenging activity for most of my life, learned many things, managed to make a few baby blankets and fixed some clothing, and STILL find it at times, very difficult. 

Knitting is not one of my strong talents.

I first learned to tangle yarn into a semblance of a slipper when I was about 10 years old. All the girls at church had to learn - to make at least one knitted thing.  It was VERY difficult for me. 'Simple' slippers (that to me looked ridiculous) were the suggested project for a beginner.

 My mother does not knit. My father knew how but he was often not home from work when I was awake (and not doing chores - chores came first). He reassured me that, with persistence and patience, I could learn to do it. His mother could knit beautifully and made exquisite patterned, wool sweaters. His had a border of deer encircling the lower edge. Of course she passed away when I was only 6.

I learned the terminology too.  The pointy sticks are called needles and have gauges or sizes. The yarn has sizes (gauge) and plys - how many threads twisted together to make it and what weight those threads are. The loops are called stitches and stitches have names. The names even have meanings. 

I learned to sew and embroider as a child. As an adult I taught myself to crotchet but knitting just did not make sense.  I just couldn't understand the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch.

A slipper I made for Christmas the year I started knitting again -
I really didn't care if there were rows (like the needle points at)
where a stitch or two is knit instead of purl -
at least not enough to rip it out and redo it. 

I was about 30 and trying to remember and relearn how to make slippers when I met Aunt Bunny. We were on our way to a family reunion and would be in the car together for about 18 hours. She had knitting. She said it is easy.  And it IS!!!

Knitting is just a bunch of loops that you could make with your fingers if you wanted to but needles let you hold them all a bit more conveniently. And a knit stitch and a purl stitch are exactly the same thing but when you look at the 'front' it makes a 'v' that is called a knit stitch and when you look at the other side or 'back' where you can only see the very top of the stitch (as it loops around the next one that is pulled through it) then it is called a purl stitch.

google image
WHAT? . . . Did
someone ever tell me this?
or try to?

I don't think so - they only said that there ARE knit and purl stitches.

Nancy the skilled knitter of lovely lace may have tried.

It just wasn't my time to try again -
but I must credit her for making knitting sound possible -
and I filed it into my brain's "someday" category.

She reassured me that if I had made those slippers I KNEW how, and like riding a bicycle, could do it again.

Aunt Bunny also showed me that knitted fabrics have names.  
The names just are labels for groups of stitches. The stitches and rows can be cleverly stretched or compressed, have extra loops or be looped together (be added to or taken away from), twisted or turned in marvelous patterns to make lace, utilitarian objects, and even art. I think she had a book with pictures too - possibilities. I even learned to knit in the round and made some finger puppets. 

Aunt Bunny, bless you - or curse you -
depending on how my knitting is going ... 

And Elizabeth Campagnola - she gave me a 'real' pattern and taught me to read it. She also asked me why I twist my stitches - I asked her to show me what she meant.  She did - I couldn't tell the difference.  Last year I learned to knit Continental style. It is faster and lo and behold - my stitches are not twisted! I can see the difference this year. I wish I had her book - I would try some of the other pretty stitches and things in it. Sadly she passed away many years ago.

The pattern she gave me is for the baby blanket I still make. A simple but pretty fan stitch - why make slippers if you can make lace? I hate slippers - they are useless, and I hate knitted slippers even more - they are just plain ugly! and after all that work they wear out in the snap of your fingers - if anyone bothers to wear them at all. 

Baby blanket auctioned at the 2007 Forsyth Reunion.  

Knitting makes me feel foolish, 
completely clumsy, 
and totally incompetent.
Hopelessly so.  

It almost seems like a metaphor of my life. 
I mostly feel that way about everything. 

BUT knitting is a good metaphor.

I can always start over.  
A fresh start is a wonderful opportunity to do things correctly.
All the yarn can be un-looped, pulled out and wound into neat, tidy balls again - true its nature may be changed a bit and it may have stretched places and snags or breaks but it can be repaired and it is still useful. I may use the worst pieces as string for such things as to mark garden rows but it still has purpose. 

I too have purpose - even on my worst days. 

I can choose what I am making -
possibilities are almost endless - 
and I can modify my choices as I knit.

I can even change my mind when I start over, 
or when I learn something new. 

The sooner I fix a mistake the less noticeable it is 
AND the less time consuming - 
AND frustrating -
AND damaging. 

The more diligent I am in counting, and counting, and counting, and counting, and counting, and counting, and counting,
[in life counting my blessings] the sooner I notice my mistakes.  I need to count every row and on larger projects use stitch markers to count every 10-20 stitches.  Diligence means ALWAYS doing the simple basics, like counting and moving (or placing) stitch markers - ALWAYS, every single time.  An old saying (quoted by Ezra Taft Benson) states that "it is easier to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent" . 

I can give up if I want to - 
but I never do - I just take 'rests' - 
and then I finish the project 
EVEN when I don't really feel like it. 

There is something very satisfying about sticking to something and seeing it all the way through, enduring and persisting through discouragement in spite of hopeless incompetency. And surely my patience and love are refined as I let others endure and encourage them to try.  It is so nice when someone encourages me to keep on keeping on in spite of myself. 

I can get help.
There is always someone willing to teach me a new trick, give me advice (and yarn), loan me patterns, give me advice, tell me where expensive things can be purchased, and did I mention  - 
give me advice? My advice now is to do a search on the web - you can find tutorials, patterns, instructions, tips, tricks and gadgets - lots of gadgets - and then forget about it all and find a real living breathing person that knows you can learn and may even like you (or at least you may like them or something about them).

I can be mocked. 
My knitting is not perfect.
Knitting takes me huge amounts of time. Most other knitters can spot my errors - or wonder if that is really knitting. That stretches my soul like an overworked piece of yarn until sometimes the fraying worn spot breaks. When it is mended back together there is a bit of a thicker spot there where the yarns are spliced.

It is something I CAN do.
We all can do something.
And it doesn't have to be perfect - 
or even as good as yours - 
and your something doesn't have to be like mine.

Thank you Aunt Bunny -
I have a hobby I love to hate ...
or is that 'hate to love'!