Thursday, November 26, 2009

Crocheting Through the Darkness

My church is having its annual December craft fair and I've decided to make flower pins. This has been a great reason for me to go through the many flower patterns I've been collecting for years but have made only once or twice, because, really, what are you going to do with flowers? I've made a flower here and there and it seems that I've given most of them away. The few I have at home, I just don't seem to know what to do with. Guess I'm one of those pragmatic people who sort of need a reason for doing something (I'm a Taurus); creativity alone is not reason enough for me.

As I work through the various patterns and post my projects to Ravelry (I'm MissMookus over there), I have been thinking about what I like and don't like about various patterns. I think I'll do another post with links to those patterns, but this post is about what I've come up with as a result of my deep ruminations on the subject of yarn flowers.

First of all, I should thank Ska Mama, because it's her 5 Petal Flower on which my creation is most closely based. She generously shared her pattern on her blog and I've been having fun trying to make it, failing, trying again, succeeding, trying again, and getting it wrong in new and exciting ways.

So here is my own version of a 5 Petal Flower, which I need to rename because it sounds too derivative. How about....

"I Dream of the Number 5, in yarn"
Yarn: Lambs Pride Worsted, Victorian Pink
Hook: H (5.0 mm)
My flower was 3.25" in diameter

Chain 2

Round 1: 5 sc in 1st ch; sl front loop only (flo) to join. Mark the blo of this stitch, you'll need it later and it may be hard to find. Guess how I know.

Round 2: ch 1, sc in same st (flo); *(sc, ch1 or 2, sc) in flo, repeat from * around. Join in marked blo of Round 1 stitch. Sorry, don't know the stitch count on it, but it will resemble a pentagon.

Round 3: (same as ska mama's) *ch 2, sl st blo of next sc (again, you may want to mark this, things get confusing); repeat from * around ending with sl st in first ch-2 space

Round 4: *ch 3, 3 dc, sl to next ch-2 sp; repeat from * around. Join with sl st into base of first petal of round

Round 5: ch1, sl to back of 3rd st in petal; *ch 3, sl to back of 3rd st in petal; repeat from * around. Join with slip st to base of first petal

Round 6: *ch 3, 8 dc, sl to next petal around. Slip to base of first petal. Finish off. OR (sl, hdc, 6 dc, hdc) around.

Add a pin to the back or add to a barrette or headband and enjoy!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

UMW Feminist Survey Feedback


The survey did not have a place to leave feedback, which is why I'm sending you this e-mail. I appreciated the opportunity to participate in your survey. I found it very interesting. I'm a married, homeschooling mother of two young girls and I have a JD. I left my work as an attorney for the federal government with the birth of my first and have not returned. In a completely unanticipated turn of events, I have become a homeschooling mother. I have always considered myself a feminist -- I was very active in feminist issues while in law school, volunteering with a battered women's shelter and serving on the staff of the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law. The unpublished note I wrote was about battered women's syndrome and a proposed answer to that in the form of an abuser's profile.

While I consider myself a feminist, I realize that others may not consider me to be a feminist. In talking to one friend, she labelled me as post-feminist, I believe. My take on feminism is that it seeks equality for women in all aspects of life so that the individual woman may have the same choices are men. I strongly believe that feminism does not dictate what choices a woman should make and I have written on this subject, as least within the tiny confines of my blog.

Now, for the feedback on your survey. I skipped many of the questions that asked about what I thought a "typical" feminist might think. I don't believe in a typical feminist, in some ways, I suppose this approaches essentialism. My view is that feminism is about women as individuals, not as a group that should be told what to do. I am not interested in trading oppressive systems of male-dominance for oppressive systems of female-dominance. The survey seemed to suggest a rather narrow-minded way of thinking of feminism and that feminism is an authoritative dogma as to the thoughts and behaviors of it's adherents. The idea of feminism as consisting of a group of controlled individuals indoctrinated into group-think is disturbing and your survey's questions about what a typical feminist might think contribute to that. I realize it's part of research only but wonder if perhaps your survey if influential to the thinking of young feminists in college who are taking this survey.

Frankly, I don't see what breast-feeding, home birth, or c-sections have to do with feminism. Having the choice for any of those things is a feminist issue, but the choosing of them should not be.

The tone of the questions in the survey suggested to me that feminism is about living life in a certain way and I certainly hope young feminist college students are not internalizing that message and stand ready to accuse other women of anti-feminist activities if they don't make certain decisions deemed to be feminist choices. I'm not sure the survey questions on having and raising children aren't poised to stoke the Mommy Wars. What I want to know is where are the Daddy Wars?

I also found the questions about the roles of men very interesting and tended to answer neutrally on them. Just as a woman is an individual who should not have her life path dictated for her by dogma, so should a man be treated as an individual. I believe men are vastly different in their approaches to gender roles, house-keeping and child-rearing. Ultimately, if a woman is so timid as to be unable to approach her husband about the division of household labor and other marital issues then I fear that feminism (or something) failed her long before she got married.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Exercise Tapes and Raising Girls - I just don't need a 'sexy' workout

As I get bored of (and adapt to) the exercise tapes I own, I find myself exploring the offerings at the local library. I've written about my samplings before and I often find something I like.

One thing that I've noticed is how many have themes I don't necessarily want to expose my daughters to. Because I homeschool my kids, they are home when I am doing my exercise tape. Sometimes they are elsewhere around the house, engaged in scholastic, academic, challenging work, or downstairs in the basement lab exploring cures for the most dangerous pathogens known to man, but other times they want some downtime and hang out in the family room while I do my exercises. I've always been pretty aware that body image can be a problem for young girls and I want to do everything I can to show my girls that I exercise because it makes me feel good and healthy and it also helps me from injuring myself if I keep in shape (and I do my best to shuttle them out of the room when their father starts comparing his waistband to that of his brothers. Seriously, he is such a problem).

I have to say, I love my Reebox Versa Training Hi-Lo Aerobics video from 1995. Not only does it include a man in the workout trio, but the outfits and people look normal and all the messages are new-agey and not body oriented at all. I like the workout, too, but I get tired of it after awhile.

More recently, I have bought the 10 Minute Solution Fat Blasting Dance Mix. I like the tape and the workout girls look normal. I'm not too jazzed about the title segments - Simple Slimmer, Calorie Meltdown, Fat Burning Party. Nor am I too thrilled about the comments about looking sexy and working your way towards a slimmer you. It's not too bad, but I did have to field a question asking me if most women want to lose weight. I think my answer was that some probably do, but I like to feel strong and healthy. Think it will work?

Today's workout sample was Self - Dance Your Way Slim. I only did half the tape (another aspect of exercising around the kids is I need/want to keep it to 30 or 40 minutes and this is a 52 minute workout. I like the 10 minute solution series because it's easy to stop a complete workout). I like this tape, 3 very normal looking women in normal clothes. It really reminded me of the exercise classes I used to take (gulp) 9 years ago. It was fun enough, easy enough, and gave me a nice little workout (might be too simple for some). What I also liked was there was no commentary in the first half about body appearance or being sexy. Well, not until around the 30 minute mark when she started saying something about sexy.

I guess I'll keep up my exercise tape sampling, I just wish I could find more aerobic workout tapes that omit references to body appearance and sexiness. Why must everything in our culture always be 'sexy'? It's so annoying. And how am I going to field those questions from my girls?

Yeah, yeah, I know the most important role models are the parents but why must our culture make things more difficult? I think an ABBA song addressed that topic (money, money, money).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Schizophrenic Christian

I don’t understand the crucifixion. Most of the time, I don’t think about it, but Lent and Holy Week and Good Friday, especially, are just so in your face about it that I feel I must have some sort of response.

Over the years, I’ve had different responses. During my evangelical years, it was so great that Christ died for our sins and gives us hope for salvation. That’s easy enough, you tow the party line and everyone is happy.

Later, it was, well, I’m not sure that really makes sense to me, but how about I chalk it up to ‘mystery of faith.’ That satisfied for a few years.

And then the darkness fell and I really struggled with the idea of the crucifixion being the ultimate passive-aggressive act. “You are bad and I have to suffer this horrible death for you. But it’s okay because, though you don’t deserve it and can never earn salvation, I’m doing this for you because I love you.” Looked at in that light, it’s really twisted. So I had to dispense with that view – not sure how I did it, but I know I wrote a blog post on it.

Then there is the metaphorical/psychological view. Christ shows us the importance of dying to our ego/our self, so that we can reach transcendence. Nice, sort of an East meets West view. That could work but for a long time I was hung up on why such a nasty story was written if it didn’t actually/literally happen. Maybe reading Joseph Campbell on the Power of Myth would help with that, but then why do I choose this particular myth? Maybe because it’s the one I’m most familiar with and it takes a lifetime of meditation on it. That is my closest understanding right now but I don’t seem to have the time or energy or interest to read Campbell or Marcus Borg. Lamb, actually, was pretty satisfying with Jesus cast as a bodhisattva to his people and the crucifixion being his reaction to the practice of sacrifice. Yes, I think truth can be found anywhere and much of my religious understanding springs from fiction (I love Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series).

I’ve said that pondering the crucifixion makes me sad and angry and confused. Sad, because it’s so much suffering – the violence is almost pornographic. Angry because, well, maybe that’s the natural response to violence and sorrow. Angry also because I don’t know why I’m so bad that some poor man/God hundreds of years ago had to endure what he did. Confused because why must there be substitutionary atonement or why there must such a useless atonement as killing? Confused because maybe I’m not a Christian and then what? Where would I go? My religion is only partly about my beliefs, a large part is my heritage and my family and, at bottom, I feel that Truth runs through everything – all religions, all ethics, everything. Which is probably something else that makes me not Christian.

But I’m active in church and that embarrasses me because I’m not sure I believe what I’m supposed to and I feel like a faker. I also am embarrassed because I know to some, church involvement is interpreted as an assertion that I think I’m holy or want to be holy or have any clue what holiness might entail. So I make jokes.

Why do I go to church? Is it because I was raised in the church or have a longing for a religious community or I thirst for God? Well, I might have all of those, but that’s not why I go. I go because I had a Baptist boyfriend in college who mentioned once that when you move to a new town, you join a church, it’s the best way to get connected and involved in the community. Strange, huh?

I don’t feel the need to church shop or religion shop because I do have faith that anywhere I go I will find myself lacking, sad, angry and confused. And maybe that is the point of faith, to lead you there so you can let go and relax a little. I really don’t know.

Ultimately, much of my belief rests on what an on-line friend, a Quaker, said to me. He said that he thinks God tells us all something and that maybe what God wants is for us to talk to our neighbors and find out what God told them. I really like that and maybe that explains why I’m posting this note.

Well, I feel better now, thanks.

Friday, March 06, 2009

10 Minute Solution - Fat Blasting Dance Mix

I've checked out a bunch of aerobics DVDs from the library because I'm bored with my Reebok Hi/Lo tape from 1996. My selections involved a lot of bellydancing offerings but I wasn't in the mood today, so I tried this one - I shall call it TMS for Ten Minute Solution.

I liked it -- the leader, Jennifer Galardi, has a nice energy. She's pleasant but not overly perky and she doesn't seem to mess up her counting (a complaint I have with Denise Austin, who is also annoyingly perky). Then again, Jennifer doesn't do more than about 4 reps at a time, which is nice; she mixes the moves together, so nothing is going on "for the count of 8." The music worked for me, it wasn't popular dance music, but had a nice beat. The DVD is broken into 5 10 minute segments, each with it's own short cool-down, so you can mix and match or do the whole thing. This is key for me because my exercise time varies. The first 3 workouts are all aerobics, so it makes a nice 30 minute workout but even if I stopped after the second, I'd feel like I got some good exercise.

Her routines weren't too complicated for someone used to doing aerobics and she builds them together well, I think.

The last 2 workouts are butt/thigh and abs. I like these because they are all done standing up. I don't like doing floor work on all fours because it hurts my wrists and I feel like my balance is off (maybe that's why my wrists hurt). I had done some butt buster tape which was mostly on all fours and it didn't work for me. Anyway, I like the TMS butt/thigh work. I only did half the ab workout, I just couldn't get the moves down and I am the queen of crunches, anyway, so I didn't feel I needed this tape for abs.

I liked the women on the video, they were young and cute and I liked the outfits -- they changed at least for the first four segments, I really don't remember what they were wearing for abs. The first three aerobics outfits were super cute -- hey, if that keeps me going, so what? That other butt workout video I mentioned had the sluttiest looking workout girls I'd seen, plus, I couldn't look at their chests without feeling for them, they did not have the support they needed and they all looked like they had been surgically augmented. Anyway, that tape was some man's workout program, so go figure that his workout girls looked like reformed porn stars. Actually, being a "workout tape" was probably a cover -- slutty looking girls with big hair, huge chests, and unsupportive clothing on all fours, I was suspicious.

The main thing I did not like about this video was the "fat blasting" banners before each section. The aerobics sections are "simple slimmer," "calorie meltdown," and "fat burning party" and I think each time it had the little "fat blasting" logo. One of my daughters asked me, "Mommy, do you want to burn fat?" I just said "no, but some people might want to." My big thing is to always tell my kids that I like to exercise because it makes me feel healthy and strong and good about myself. ***

I liked this video, I may just buy myself a copy and skip the bellydancing videos. But maybe I should try them to see.

*** WaPo had an article in its Health section about watching what we say about what we eat around our daughters -- it didn't strike me as any news flash, but I enjoyed reading it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Message is More Than the Medium

A friend of mine who reads beyond the Style section told me about an editorial in yesterdays' WaPo lambasting the banality of the status line (thanks Laura!).

I think the author of the editorial misses the point. She seems to think we're all obsessed with the minutiae of our daily lives "Is it just me or isn't it a bit presumptuous to think that if I'm scrambling an egg, you'll want to know about it?"

Well, I assume no one cares what I do. I may not even care myself. Or maybe I write it on the off chance that one of my friends will read it and laugh, maybe lifting them out of a glum mood, or making them feel that their lives at least aren't as tedious as mine.

Or maybe it's a version of cogito ergo sum. I write status lines, therefore I am. My life has some meaning because I accomplish a number of tedious, meaningless actions throughout my day and I live to greet another, full of more tedious, meaningless actions. Along the way, maybe I make someone laugh, or they share a thought or they see a bit of themselves in me and feel a sense of connection. Maybe they see nothing of me in them and feel a huge relief.

Doesn't she see the spiritual thread running through all this? We connect - sometimes in deep, meaningful ways when we debate religion or politics or values. And sometimes we connect in the fact that we love blueberry smoothies. There is God in that -- whatever you may consider God, the Spirit, the Universe, common humanity. We are not alone - not all the time, sometimes there is a glimmer that there is something more there.

Maybe status lines sometimes approximate something of a Buddhist mindfulness. I am aware that I am scrambling eggs - I am so aware of it that I type it into my status line. Whether it is read by anyone or not does not matter. Status lines offer us a chance at introspection - to look at what we are doing and state it simply, or maybe make light of it, or maybe call out to others for help. "I want to know what you think," is a message conveyed in some status lines I've seen. I've been honored for the chance to share. I've been honored when I've written in the messages and gotten a response - not just to learn something about a subject, but that someone out there cares. Ever hear of the voice crying out in the wilderness? Facebook may provide a clue as to what happens when that cry is answered. I tell you, there is God in there -- it is in each other and I see it whenever anyone takes a moment to talk to me. No matter how brief, no matter how mundane.

Interestingly, McManus' editorial appears on the page right above an editorial by Emily Yoffe. Let's go all wavy lines in a flashback of Ms. Yoffe's writing. Yoffe spent some time as a volunteer at The Claude Moore Colonial Farm. In an article about her experience, she wrote about some of the 18th century tasks she did as a reenactor and how it affected her.
But as I sat on the shaving horse and pulled, my mind began to quiet. I finished my first stick, and as I stroked its silky finish I felt an inordinate sense of accomplishment. I put in another, and I found the scrape-scrape-scrape of the knife lobotomized the usual chattering in my head.
As she closes the article, she quotes another reeanctor, "As Elizabeth Rolando says, "There is a satisfaction in the accomplishment of the mundane.""

So maybe status updating is simply a recognition that our lives, even in their smallest actions, have meaning. Just because it comes via Twitter or Facebook, does not make it less meaningful, it just gives us the chance to recognize that this same meaning occurs in the lives of others and maybe we feel connected or less alone for a moment. It's so beautiful, I wish McManus could see it.