Monday, December 30, 2013

A Family Christmas

A week or so before Christmas, Apple aired a commercial that caught my eye and tugged at my heart.  The narrative begins with family unfolding from a car while greeted and welcomed by other family members, clearly celebrating Christmas together.  The scene cuts from activity to activity of family togetherness; yet, in the midst of all these Christmas card moments, there repeats a constant image of the teenage son occupied with his phone.  From the outside looking in, he appears disengaged from all the tender telling moments of building family memories.   However, at the end, he connects his phone to the big screen television, and plays a montage of the family moments his has recorded on his phone--his gift, a filmic homage to his family.  The ad, titled by Apple as "Misunderstood," serves to reminds us that from the outside looking in, things often are not as they seem. 

And so it is with most holidays and most families.  As our family spilled and piled in differing permutations into our daughter's country home, it was a bit wild and sometimes boisterous and always busy.  There were tumbles, spills, broken tree ornaments, stomach aches, and tired toddlers. There were mounds of dishes, piles of laundry, and scattered toys abounding.  But there were also the sounds of a Christmas Eve choir

and the taste of Aunt Margie's famous (and family favorite) Christmas cookies.

There were stockings hanging on the fireplace

and Alex's paper snowflakes decorating the windows.

There was the traditional giving and receiving of gifts (finally my knits and quilts can be shown on this page!)

and serendipitous gatherings around the tree

or in the kitchen
 or on the couch.

There was time for Alex to perfect flying his new remote controlled helicopter

and for him to build Legos with his Uncle Rob.

And was there time for this

and this

and this

and this

Christmas is never quite as idyllic as Apple or Hallmark may portray it, but fleeting moments sprinkled throughout our time together ultimately capture and represent the love, constancy and bonds of our family at its core.  Upon returning home yesterday, our son Rob pronounced it best, "..and my heart is full."  So full indeed.

p.s.  A few weeks before Christmas Alexis sent me this link, a gift suggestion for Rosie.  The day I finished knitting this "Baby Love Sling," Matt came home with a bear he had made for Rosie at Stuffing Town. Perfect!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Nears

Tomorrow is the fourth Sunday in Advent. Three days after is Christmas! The big day comes, and we are almost ready.  Only a few more gifts to deliver, a few more to wrap, and only two yet to finish.  I might even have time to knit one more hat for a gift that would be nice to give (there is always one more knit that would nice to give).

This week was warmed by connecting with friends and neighbors.  We gathered at church for the annual Christmas dinner, I partook of an elegant Christmas buffet at Centre Hills with sweet teacher friends, I sat to knit with needle friends, and I rocked Patty's new grandbaby after a delicious bowl of her chicken noodle soup. I always like this week, this cadre of calm celebrations before the big event.  We are so blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives, our friends, church family, and neighbors who make our life here so rich by grounding, supporting, and loving us. 

Today, I plan to make up a yoga class, bake some cookies, and finish wrapping the gifts. The biggest challenge may at last be Jim's--how to squeeze all the gifts, luggage and us into our car so we can drive Christmas to North Carolina where our daughter's family will host us all. I remember my mother and father arriving bringing Christmas stacked and packed to overflowing in their car.  Now we are the ones traveling to children and grandchildren with gifts and food in tow.  Another woman, my mother's beloved granddaughter and my amazing daughter, now directs the family show. The torch passes from my mother to me and now to Barbara.  It feels so good.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Quilt Story

Two months ago when our sewing circle was preparing to display our mission quilts, we discovered two folded quilts stacked on a rear church pew. Two quilts of vibrant beauty, both works of art by a skilled designer and stitcher.  I was mesmerized and fascinated.

No one knew who made them or how they ended up in the church sanctuary.  After asking a dozen individuals, I finally uncovered one clue--our custodian said she recalled seeing a man come in holding them.  She remembered asking him who made the quilts and he replied that he did.   She didn't know him and couldn't provide much more information than that.

Rarely, have I been so captivated by a quilt; the last time was when I first saw the quilts made by the women of Gee's Bend.  These quilts spoke to me through the fabrics selected, the way the pieces were cut and arranged, the colors, and the manner of assembly.  The artistry of them both was riveting.  I kept asking around, ticking off a mental list of people in the church who quilted.  No one admitted to their making.

Last week when downtown on a mission to buy a tea set for Rosie, I walked by the Senior Center, housed in the heart of our little burg.  Prominently displayed in the window was a holiday quilt for auction.  I recognized the artistry immediately…our mystery quilter appeared again.  I had to find out and I did.  The elusive (and apparently reclusive) quilter does the same thing he did for us for the benefit of the Senior Center, quietly donating his art to help others. Here is the story I uncovered, along with the quilt I bought (at a bargain price, I must say).

The artist who makes these glorious fabric tapestries is a retired professor of theater.  His specialty, of course, costume design.  When he retired, he was caring for an aging and ill mother who herself was once a quilter.  Together they cut squares, patches, and strips of fabric to assemble their  common quilts.  Apparently, he pieced and she tied.  When his mother died, he abandoned quilting only to discover that he missed it.

So he returned to his craft and his art, cutting up her clothes to incorporate into his quilts.  He continues today, using discarded clothing.  It is easy to see what was clearly shirt fabric of all ilk included--prints, oxford stripes, wild Hawaiians, as well as a multitude of sparkly, shiny, and plush pieces.  He even includes the button holes! Putting things together I would never think to do, it all works and works so majestically.

 Even the backs manifest his artistry.

Relatively new to this craft, I am still coming to uncover who I am as a quilter.  I have taken classes and followed patterns to create some quilts.  I have appliquéd and hand quilted.  But perhaps the practice that resonates most with me is the work we do in sewing circle, creating quilts out of donated fabrics and thrifted sheets.  I never tire of looking at these beautiful quilts made in the same manner of reusing, repurposing and rearranging.  His work inspires me--this is exactly the kind of quilter I aspire to be…even just a little.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Sunday marked the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of the official church year calendar, signal of the coming Christmas, the birth of the Christ Child.  We lit our first advent candle both in the sanctuary of Grace Lutheran and here at home. The annual mitten tree appeared, and I clothes-pinned a set of mittens, hat, and cowl on a bough of the mitten tree standing in the narthex.  Destined to go to the local Youth Service Bureau, they will help keep someone warm.

Advent, a quiet season of watching and waiting, contrasts starkly with a consumer-driven season of shopping and indulging.  Online discussions abound on this tension, as caring and searching people seek to live meaningful lives.

Although I am not Catholic, I am captivated by Pope Francis and his endeavor to change the status quo within the body of the Catholic church.  He chooses to live simply, touches the "unclean," eschews the trappings of his position, and uses words that edify rather than disenfranchise. Last week, I read an article describing the church office of the "almoner," the Vatican almsgiver.  Traditionally, a rather benign job held by aging senior clergy, Francis has reconfigured the position from a desk job to an active presence in the world, responding to those in need.  The current almoner simply describes the job: "Be with people. Share their lives, even for 15, 30 minutes, or an hour."

Last week and this week, our church is hosting our community's Out of the Cold Program, a coordinated effort by local faith groups to provide shelter and food for those who live on the streets of our town.  I thought of Francis last week when Jim and I took our turn with countless others who open church doors, set up cots, welcome guests,  prepare food, chat and sit to simply "be" together.  

Isn't that what the incarnation means?  Christ coming to "be" with us, to share our live.  And isn't that what we to ought to be about as well?  Leaving our homes to go out and "be" with people, the people who need us, even for just a brief time.  This season of light and waiting and watching surely is more than the daily flyers stuffed inside the newspaper and the lists of promotional emails crowding my inbox.  Truly, it must be more quiet, more thoughtful, more meditative, more  contemplative and the same time...more intentional and more active.  A hurting world needs it to be.